Sleep study? Is there no end to this enforced education?

Follow the blue line!

During the most recent HawaiiCon I shared a room with a friend, who mentioned that I sometimes stop breathing when I sleep. Apnea. Since I live alone and my bedmates are of the four-legged variety, nobody had told me before. (Nobody told me that I snore, either, but as of last night it seems apparent that I do.) So I checked the Mayo Clinic’s website for the symptom list for apnea and discovered that a majority of them apply, and told my primary care doc, who said he’d recommend a sleep study. I could have this done in Honolulu or Hilo. I chose Hilo, of course, and yesterday I made sure the beasts were fed, watered, and walked, as needed, early. The appointment was for 8:30pm. It’s a two-hour drive. I don’t know my way around Hilo very well, so I left home at 6:00pm, just before sunset.

I haven’t been comfortable driving at night for quite a while now. In my youth it never bothered me. I was happy driving at any time, through any weather, to anyplace but in the past decade my night-vision has suffered and my eyes dazzle easily. When I’m not dazzled I’m peering, and usually end up with a headache. If I can find a reasonably-driven vehicle to follow, I can relax and concentrate on keeping a sensible distance between us, while being aware of what I’m driving past. You know, practical solutions.

In order to get from here to Hilo, you drive south on the Mamalahoa Highway, past Na’alehu and Whittington Beach, then up the other side of the island through Volcanoes National Park, through the Puna district, past Kurtistown and Mountain View and the turnoff to Pahala, and at long last Hilo sits there, ready to confuse me. Until then, it’s a straight shot on Highway 11.

Unless it’s raining.

Unless it’s raining and foggy together.

Unless it’s raining and foggy and your windshield de-fogger decides to become an Object of Great Mystery.

All of which enlivened my drive through the night up one side of the volcano and down the other. I did find sensible drivers to follow, but there is, naturally, a huge distinction between a sensible leader on a clear night and the same leader on a night when visibility is, in a word, kūleʻa. The only not-awful part was near the very top, where Kīlauea is acting up and Halema’uma’u is putting on a light show that paints the foggy sky red and orange and is amazing. The calderas are not visible, so the image is even more mysterious.

Marta, Wired.

By the time I reached the sleep clinic, having lost my way the requisite number of times and called for help twice, I was ready to collapse. This was a good thing, considering how Justin, the tech, hooked me up. Electrodes on my calves, on my ribcage, on my shoulders, up my neck and across my face and on my scalp – you can’t see those very well because there’s hair in the way. Oxygen thingies in my nose.  I was, I thought, in condition to be propelled willy-nilly into some alternate universe, perhaps where politics make sense and you can eat anything without gaining or losing weight. But no, I was instead in condition to face the prospect of sleeping while wired, strapped, and as a final measure, having my finger secured into an blood-oxygen monitor. Goodnight, apnea poster. Goodnight, “soothing” artwork. Goodnight, web of wires and electrodes. Goodnight, coqui frogs. Goodnight, world.

To my surprise I was indeed able to get something approaching sleep (probably brought on by the stress and exhaustion of getting there) punctuated by trying to find a comfortable position (no sleeping on your stomach!) I slept until 2:15, when Justin re-entered the room to plug me into a CPAP machine. Not comfortable, but I am here to tell you that when Justin turned off the light and left the room, I slept deeply, happily, finally.

Up at 6:22, not of my own volition, to be unplugged from everything. Sticky tape used to hold electrodes onto my face and neck – ow! Glue used to hold electrodes to my scalp – ick! The rest of them peeled off with no problem. Into my clothes, into my car, down the dawn-lit roads through a sleeping town. I found an open gas station to refill the tank and I bought a cup of gas-station coffee, which was execrable but provided the needed caffeine punch to get me over the mountain and down the other side.

Oh yeah, down the other side. When you drive north out of the National Park you face a smooth, curvy drop to the coast, and then an entrapment, an unfairness, a deliberate method of boosting the income of Hawai’i County: a long, straight, gently undulating road, miles of visibility, decent shoulders, a seductive invitation to, well, speed. But I have been entrapped by this section of road before (did you know Hawai’i cops have radar that works in both directions? I didn’t).  Technology came to my rescue! I don’t like cruise control because I do like to drive, but this time I set it and laid my hands upon the wheel, not worrying about gas or brake until I came to lower speed limits, then could speed up again. To 60mph. The speed limit’s 55. Yeah, it’s only a two-lane road, but do you have any idea how flat-out boring 60mph is?

Home a little after nine, to a chorus of feline and canine complaints. Fed the cats, fed the kitten, walked the dogs, fed the dogs, fed myself, put dogs in dog run, showered to get the glue out of my hair, climbed into bed, and dozed until 11:00.

Apnea? A bit, enough to qualify me for a CPAP machine. I don’t know what I think about that. Maybe they make one that fits a bit better than the one at the sleep clinic – I know I’ve grown wider as I’ve aged, but my nostrils aren’t that big!


Il gattino di Kauhuku

This was originally posted in Living on Lava on 10/10/2015, back when we thought that Francis was Frances.


The composer and diva.

Frankie is composing an opera, Il gattino di Kahuku and is in a ferment of constant creation and rehearsal. First thing in the morning, she works on “Sto morendo di fame.” She experimented with the key and has settled on Squall Major. This is followed by the recitative “Mi elevare ora,” staccato con sentimento, accompanied by acrobatics which always bring down the house. In fact, this morning she experimented with hooking her claws into my shorts as I was trying to put them on, which certainly brought down the pants. This may not make it to the finished work.

The opening aria.
The opening aria. Note the pathos.

She then leads the rest of the cast in the Breakfast Chorus. The big dog, as always, maintains a dignified silence (that is, a basso so profundo that it is beneath the range of human hearing); the small dog, our alto, cavorts on her back legs, performing amazing backwards jetés, and the boy cat, the tenor, leaps onto the kitchen counter, is grabbed and thrown off, leaps again, is thrown again. All this time Frankie leads the company in “Miao miao adesso” or, in the small dog’s case, “Yip yip adesso,” come un rondo.

Basso and soprano in Act
Basso and soprano prepare for Act 2

Act Two is a true innovation in opera, as it is entirely in mime. The cast weaves along the floor, barely avoiding each other. The big dog collapses first, on the floor under the computer desk. The small dog makes sure Frankie has cleaned her plate, then stretches out on the big dog’s bed. The boy cat disappears and Frankie, after running from my shoulder to the keyboard and back again, curls up in the in-tray and falls asleep.

20151009_140751 (1)
Triumphant conclusion to Act Two.

After a few hours Frankie rises to perform “Gioca con me,” insistentemente esigenti, directed to the rest of the cast, turn and turn about. Eventually the boy cat knocks her over, holds her down, and performs acts of cleansing upon her best left to the imagination and not to the operatic stage.

The scene for which the opera was banned in Boston.
The scene for which the opera was banned in Boston.

She takes them stoically, like the classical heroine that she is. She makes her escape and reprises the opening aria as “Ora sono morti di fame,” frenetica ad alta voce.

Our tenor.
Our tenor

The fourth and final act commences with yet another reprise of the opening aria, this time reconfigured as “Sto davvero morendo di fame,” staccato e bellicoso, followed by another round, “Anch’io,” from the rest of the cast. The tenor then takes center stage to perform “Muoio, muoio di disattenzione,” while the soprano weeps. The tenor moves offstage sadly, and our splendid diva commands the stage for the denouement. She performs the aria “Filato giocattolo piede palla di punta” dancing piqué allegro before finding a nearby basket of yarn and diving face-down into it. The applause is tremendous.

All in all, a most satisfying operatic experience. This critic is advised that the work itself mutates slightly from day to day, so multiple viewings are recommended.