Friday, December 24, 2010


* * * * * * *

To me, this is the meaning of Christmas

* * * * * * *

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finally, Another Final Post

When I told Philip Dodd, The Domesticated Bohemian, I was going to write one more final post, he said, “I knew you wouldn't be able to stop at 3.”

“I had the same problem with beer,” I replied, which was apropos to nothing except a bit of humor.

* * *

After Philip read that I've hung up my blogging hat, he proposed something called "The Charlie Award". In his words,

"To cut a long story short Charlie has agreed that I can put together and give an award in his name. An award for people who write insightful and moving posts. The idea is that it goes to people whose writing reflects a certain emotional maturity and insight, a generous approach to the human condition. People who aren't scared of writing something that exposes themselves, and touches us.

Not to be given out every week, but as and when deserved. A fitting tribute. Like an Oscar, people will be awarded a "Charlie". I from now on make it my personal mission to find his spirit in others and to cherish it and nourish it." [Italics are mine]

I don’t know how many times I’ve read a post that “touched me” and all I could do was make a lame comment about it in the itty-bitty comment window. That is why I’m endorsing this award: it recognizes a truly outstanding piece of writing by a blogging peer.

The fact that I had my head bronzed ala Oscar may seem narcissistic, but when I'm at the end of life's journey the spirit of the award will remain for all of you:

If you're interested in Philip's choices, you may want to follow him or put The Domesticated Bohemian on your sidebar. He's a very nice English fellow, he really is.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wasting Away in Blogaritaville

NOTE: This is a three-part post. (Part 1 of 3)

"I'm way past my sell-by date and am on precious borrowed time. I should have gone down a long time ago. Lots of days, I wish I had."
—Ken Bruen, The Magdalen Martyrs

What the hell is this? Is Charlie giving up on life?


Rather, life is giving up on Charlie.

Is death imminent? Not that I know of, but one never knows. I do know that I feel less well, now that pain has entered the picture. At the risk of complaining, the last week has been miserable.

I have decided, then, that it is time to hang up my blogging hat. What has been a joy since 2005 is, at the end of 2010, a pursuit I have absolutely no chance of keeping up with— either writing, reading, or commenting.

There is a bit of selfishness here, too. I can still read on my Kindle, albeit blurry, but it's nothing like trying to read the computer screen. The trick with the Kindle is to hold it close to my face without getting those bothersome nose prints on the screen.

I'll still be lurking around, though, so there will be no goodbyes. I'll update my books read and favorite movies when I'm able, and I'll visit your blogs as I can.

I do want to thank you all for the hundreds of hours you've spent sharing your lives with me. I love you all.


Whispering to Martha

(Part 2 of 3)

Whispering to Martha

On August 23, 1974, you made a promise to me. You promised to take me, to have me and to hold me from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love me and to cherish me, until death do us part.

For thirty-six years, you have never broken that promise. Not once. No matter what I did, or what I did not do but should have done.

It was easy to have me and to hold me for the better, but you had me and held me for the worse as well. A lot of worse. Without thought for your own well-being, but for mine. When you came to Family Week at the alcohol treatment center you said, “I thought I was here to help you. If I had known it was to help me, I would not have come.”

And that broke my heart when I realized how badly I had broken your heart. How I had ignored your needs and wants for my own. You were always, always giving your Self away but never, ever taking anything for your Self in return.

But it was those two broken hearts, yours and mine together, that gave me the will and the strength to recover—so that, for the first time, I might give back some of the Self you always gave so freely to me.

I wanted to give you love, and respect, and comfort, I wanted to protect you from your fears—all the things I never knew how to give to anyone, including myself. Most of all, I wanted to restore the trust you gave me with your vow because, without it, anything I ever tried to give would be suspect, hollow, just another empty promise.

Twenty years later, I think I have regained your trust, and I think I have given you some of the things I promised to give: To take, to have, to hold, to love, and to cherish you.

God, how I have cherished you, only to hurt you one last time.

I picture two rocking chairs. There is one for each of us, and they are for reading, and laughing, and remembering, together. They are for our golden years, together, for watching the Creator in the mountains, in the trees, in the animals and the birds, in the clouds and the wind and the rain. They are for sharing our happiness, our contentment, and our affection—just the two of us, together, with both of our hearts and our minds finally at peace. After all the turbulence, finally tranquility.

Except I won’t be there with you, laughing and remembering and loving, together, in our two rocking chairs. I won’t be there with you, sharing a blanket on a chilly ninety-five-degree summer day when you have goose bumps. I won’t be there with you, a bitchy old bag, and a grumpy old fart enjoying every minute of our old age . . . together.

God, how that breaks my heart, thinking of you sitting there all by yourself, alone, with no one to rub your sore back for you, or to see your tears, or to see your smile, or to say, “I love you with all of my soul. I always have, and I always will.”

All because I had to smoke cigarettes until they killed me.

But you will have kept your promise, until death do us part, because you have never broken it. Not once. No matter what I did, or what I did not do but should have done.

And maybe, one night when you are sitting alone in your rocking chair, you will look up in the sky and see a skinny star with glasses and freckles, and you will hear a whisper on the wind,

“I love you, Martha, with all of my soul. I always have, and I always will.”

* * *

More than two years later, I still blubber like a fool at my own writing. I can't stand the thought of leaving Martha alone—and that thought is what makes the waiting so goddamn hard.

Swan Song

(Part 3 of 3)

Swan Song

I, mere mortal, have no more songs to sing except this, the final one, my earthly swan song.

Very soon my soul will leave this breathless body behind and soar, unburdened, toward home.

Very soon my soul will fly, finally free, into the heavens and take its rightful place in the Universe.

Very soon its past and present and future will be over and my soul will wait, patiently, for its lover.

And until she arrives I, immortal soul, will be singing the best I can.

* * *

"Smile" was written by Charlie Chaplin and is sung here by Nat King Cole. Charlie could smile in the worst of circumstances. And so can I.

And so can you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ask Me Anything Answers, Part One

Per my post Ask Me Anything! (paragraph 2, sentence 1), I invited the community to ask a question about me, any question,. . ." Furthermore, in the same document and paragraph, sentence 2, I stated "I'll post my answers on Monday or Tuesday . . ."

You know, Martha's right.

I'm a dumb shit.

I should have known that the village would come through for one of its sons with questions galore. I should have realized that this particular village is too damn intelligent for its own good and the questions would be hard. With sight of the hind, I should have set this thing up like Jeopardy! on TV: I give simple answers and the contestants (y'all) give simple questions.

Your host, Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek: "And the answer is, 'beer foam.'"
Alex Trebek: "Mapstew."
Mapstew: "What is Charlie's second most favorite crayon color?"
Alex Trebek: "That's right! His favorite color is 'sewer gas.'"

So much for the should haves. If my Muse, my fickle Greek goddess, wasn't fooling around somewhere in Michigan, I wouldn't be begging you people for blog fodder in the first place. I'll answer all your questions as advertised, but it will take several posts to do it; otherwise, this thing would be longer than an all-day sucker.

* * *

Question 1 is from Robert at Plead Ignorance: "If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently and what would remain unchanged?"

As I gaze into my Pensieve, there is nothing I could do differently to change the formative years of my life. The clay of Who I Am was in the sculpting hands of an alcoholic father, a mentally unstable mother, and nuns who constantly promised eternal horror. I didn't have a chance against abusive adults because what child ever does?

If I could change the formative years, the first eighteen years of my life with a wizard's wand, I would rid it of ninety percent of the adults I knew and could not trust, including my parents, especially my parents, in which case I would be an entirely different person sitting here, maybe for better, maybe for worse, but in any event a stranger who couldn’t answer this question because I wouldn’t know Who I Would Be.

Take a breathing break with me. [Good air in, bad air out, good air in, bad air out]

I don’t need Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (way back) machine to know what I would do differently as an adult. I wouldn’t re-smoke the 468,000* cigarettes I smoked and end up with lung disease all over again. I wouldn’t drink again, not even socially because there was never anything social about it; I drank to get drunk because it was my medicine.

The non-drinking thing bothers me, though. Due to my recovery work, which is due to my alcoholism, I know Who I Am. Due to my recovery from alcoholism, I was (and am) able to help others with their drinking and drug problems. Without alcohol, I wonder what my new medicine would be to self-discovery and altruistic helper. (I know, Robert, that you won’t suggest religion, self-help books, or Dr. Phil.)

Fini. While it may not make much sense, I'm glad that I was able to provide an unintelligible answer.

*Calculation: In the US, there are 20 cigarettes in a pack and 10 packs in a carton, for a total of 200 cigarettes in a carton. 45 years times 52 weeks per year equals 2,340 weeks. I smoked one carton a week for 2,340 weeks, for a total of 468,000 smokes. Minimum.

* * *

Question 2 is from Jan at DJan-ity: "Who is your favorite author? Why?"

Tickle Me Elmo Chuck
"The first objects that assume a distinct prescence before me, as I look far back, into the blank of my infancy, are my mother with her pretty hair and youthful shape . . ."
—Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

What an idiotic statement by Dickens, writing as Copperfield. How does David look into the blank of his infancy? He can't because, well, it's blank. Dickens must mean post-infancy, then, perhaps when David was two. But how does a rug rat in the throes of the "terrible twos" notice anything other than all the breakable shit on the coffee table? He may remember a tiny snippet here and there, a flash in the brainpan, but David has a distinct memory of his mother's "pretty hair and youthful shape." Since when does a two-year-old use adjectives—and know the difference between a youthful shape and a banana?

Gee, I might use this for a book report if I ever need to send one in.

To answer your question, Jan, Charles Dickens is my favorite author. I forgive him of illogic (see my book report, above), wanton use of coincidence, and the cliffhanger story line that disappeared in Little Dorrit. He was a master of characterization, dialect, and emotion. He was a window to Victorian England, writing often about the social ills and inequities between the haves and have-nots.

Most of all, he wrote stories that capitvated me.

Especially David Copperfield.

* * *

I was planning on answering a third question, but my verbosity has done me in. I've spent parts of four days writing this much and my eyes are pooped from constant squinting and refocusing. The other fifteen questions will all get answered sometime in time, so until then you'll just have to keep your shorts on. Please.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ask Me Anything!

Since my Muse has temporarily gone north to Royal Oak, Michigan to be a cafe, I am temporarily barren of creative thought. To say it differently, I am not amused.

I have decided, then, to put the (read this carefully) onus on the village. In the comment section ask a question about me, any question, that you've been dying to know the answer to but have been afraid to ask. I'll post my answers on Monday or Tuesday after the American looooong weekend.

I realize this is hardly an original idea, but all the good ideas have been taken for centuries. Except, maybe, for the veg-o-matic vegetable chopper.

11/26 Comment: Drat! I foiled me again! These questions are hard, people. Whatever happened to easy stuff like "What is your favorite crayon color?" (Answer: sewer gas.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad News Good News

The bad news first. Attila the Mom, my long-time blog and reality friend, has to put her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Molly, to sleep in the next day or two.

Putting a beloved pet down, a full-fledged member of the family, is one of the hardest and most horrible things life throws at us. I feel so badly for Attila and her family—if you get a chance, drop by her place and offer a word or two of comfort.

Molly went to Dog Heaven yesterday, Nov. 24, 2010. I sure hope she's met my beloved Punkers because they'll make great pals.

* * *

The good news is that Philip Dodge and his blog, The Domesticated Bohemian, is this week's Blog of Note. Raised in Yorkshire, Philip now lives near London, a city which surprised him when he saw that "it has streetlights and everything!"

Don't let that bit of yokel fool you. Philip is a fine writer and deserves the recognition of his Blogaritaville peers. Check him out.

I now have the honor of knowing two Bloggers of Note: Philip and Kim Ayres, who still has over 900 followers. Pretty neat, huh.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Couplea Videos

A couplea videos for Saturday night.

This is a music video by Band of Horses called "Dilly". I may be behind the times in the music vid department because I found this one seriously eerie. It wasn't until I watched it two or three times before I realized what was missing and got the creepazoids.

Maybe you've all seen this trailer already but, non-TV watcher that I am, it's new to me—and looks like a fun movie. Especially with Cher, who was so great in "Mask" and "Silkwood."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"War" Update

Snippets from a Google News article dated today, 11/16/10:

"At the [NATO] meeting in Lisbon that kicks off Friday, Obama and his NATO partners are expected to formalize a plan to hand over security duties to Afghan forces by 2014."

"A year ago, Obama boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 troops but promised to begin transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces by July 2011."

"The timetable for withdrawal has had to adapt to conditions on the ground, in the face of a fierce and persistent Taliban insurgency."

"Also, even if the combat mission comes to an end by 2014, observers stress that some US military presence in Afghanistan is likely beyond that point -- similar to the situation in Iraq."

"Over nine years since the conflict began, and with this year the deadliest year for NATO forces there . . ."

"But he [John McCain] maintained that in Lisbon, Obama should give a "very, very strong statement that we're in this thing to win, that withdrawal to the middle of 2011 is notional, but 2014 is really the year that we would expect to have significant withdrawals."

Snippets from an article by Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press and printed in The Arizona Republic this morning, 11/16/10:

"President Hamid Karzai has interfered in corruption cases and even threatened to join the Taliban if foreigners didn't stop meddling."

"Now he is demanding that the U.S.-led coalition begin reducing its military operations and stop what the military believes is its most successful tactic—night raids against suspected Taliban commanders."

"Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar ... appealed for funding from Muslims around the world—a sign that NATO's campaign may be hurting the militants far more than acknowledged."

"Karzai remained unconvinced. "I would like to have an end to these nighttime raids in Afghan homes no matter how effective they are in the sense of the military in the United States or in NATO."

In my non-humble opinion, President George W. Obama is breaking another promise (health care for every American was first) and, on the advice of Rush McCain “that we're in this thing to win,” is committing we, the people, to years more of human injury both physical and mental, human death, and billions more dollars that belong here at home.

If President Hamid Karzai wants the US and NATO out of his fifth-world country because the coalition is capturing and killing too many of his Taliban friends, THEN LET’S GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!

This heartfully-rendered rant is brought to you by a sad member of

Addition, 11/18/10: From Daniel Maxson at Newsy after he read this post:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

College of Film

As I get further behind in my mail, reading, and writing, I feel this blog slipping away from me. I no longer have that creative spark I once had—that sudden flash of humor, of goofy stories and dialog, or of brutal honesty about me, my family, and my past. I am, in two words, frustrated and discouraged.

To keep some of you snoops hanging around, however, the University has a new College of Film. I’ve been working on it in bits and pieces throughout the summer and, now that its reached 50 movies, I think it’s ready for unveiling. You may praise, ridicule, laugh, or snort at my choices, but I don’t give a crap—nothing can make me un-like them.

The College has its own page, which you’ll find in red below the blog header.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Odds & Ends, Mostly Odds

This is a regular monthly feature, except I haven't featured it since August, which means I'm not at all regular.

Lettuce see. September, October, this is November, which means three months since August, which further means a quarter of a year. A quarter!

This is a regular quarterly feature . . .

* * *

You might be uninterested to know that I had a palindromic experience in bed the other night. I opened one eye, looked at the digital clock on the dresser, and it said, "10:01". The numbers were blurry and I could have been reading them half-backward with one eye closed, but I don’t think so.

* * *

Irish's adoption mug shot
Identity crisis. Not mine but Irish’s, our little Pomeranian rescue dog. I have a tendency to call him Earl because, well, he looks like an Earl to me. When he’s in a yappy mood, I call him Bob Barker.

He doesn’t answer to Earl, and he certainly doesn’t answer to Bob Barker because he’s too damn busy barking to hear me. And that’s as it should be: the little guy only needs one name.

Since he has red hair and freckles, I thought Irish was a pretty good name. He slowly came around to it, especially once he associated it with his food bowl.

Now, if Martha would just stop calling him Beer Barrel and Pork Chop . . .

* * *

Speaking of Martha, I have my “holiday shopping” started and completed. I found exactly what I wanted using Google Images and Better Homes & Gardens website—a beautiful new melon baller!

And notice its intricate design—it almost looks like a hummingbird! Fifteen bucks, free shipping, made in China—heck, it should last a good two weeks before the baller breaks off the hummer—so how could I go wrong?

I’ll tell you how I could go wrong. Big time. Rule number 68,264 of Marriage for Male Dummies says, “NEVER give your wife kitchen appliances for her birthday, anniversary, or the ‘holidays’—elst you’ll find yourself sleeping in the doghouse with Pork Chop.”

I’ll let you know how things turn out in the next monthly quarterly whenever issue of Odds & Ends when I’m rooming with my good buddy, Earl.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Original Matt!

Have I mentioned that I love this guy? Matt is just the ticket to cheer things up around here at Casa la Dumpa.

This is his first dancing video—short, solo, and getting his complex leg and arm movements down pat.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Leaving the Past in the Past

From Trina, who has a wonderful blog called MomMeVille.

* * *

Letting Go
by Trina

I'm turning 40 next month, started up yoga again and have had some "stuff" arise
inside of me that has made me take a look at my life and my abandonment issues.

I starting today...

will not hold onto the past pains
will not subject family members whom i love to my anger from what others have done to me in the past
I will not allow my heart to stay closed when I know it should be open
I will focus on being nicer - because my family isn't out to get me
I will set boundaries towards people who hurt me... or let's say just get rid of them from my life 
that includes people who may be family who hurt me
move forward and know that I can choose to be happy and not allow the past to have all the power
I will win and I will smile I will feel love and give love
what people have done to me in the past is the past and should not affect me today or tomorrow

I am not alone, I am loved and I love myself ( that is tough )

I am going to get a tattoo before or on my birthday to celebrate me and my life. To remind myself 
to live my dreams, keep moving forward and to never let my past hurt my future!

Used by permission. Visit the site to view the accompanying photographs.

* * *

For the past two weeks since Trina wrote this, I’ve had my nose—proboscis, snout, honker—pressed against the computer screen so I could read it (and write this). As an advocate of personal change, I’m happy as a clam because of her decision to deal with "stuff." It has me doing a little “YES!” dance around my desktop, similar to my Arizona rain dance. Most of all, it tells me that she is not content to live in the past (or as I call it, die in the past), but is determined to meet the past head-on and let the bad shit go.

It won’t be easy, getting rid of the pain and the hurt, and it won’t happen overnight, but Trina’s determination, commitment, strength, and courage will all help her heal. As will medication for depression or anxiety, and professional counseling—whatever it takes to get over the really rough spots, to exorcise the demons who persist in haunting the dark corners of the soul.

Trina told me in an email that writing “Letting Go” made her feel better already. I’m so glad. And she deserves to reward herself because she’s doing the work and not an invisible Higher Power.

Here is Trina’s advice to herself that I’ve turned around for all of you:

Remind yourself to live your dreams, keep moving forward, and never let your past hurt your future!

* * *

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coming Soon

Coming soon to this blog near you: a REAL post!

So where the hell did October go, anyway? Boy, I must take a lotta drugs.

And Happy Birthday to Kim Ayres, who is just a kid of forty-four today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whine and Cheese

It has come to my attention that my last post, I'll Be . . ., came very close to a whine and cheese festival. I’ve given myself a good talking to, so that won’t happen again.

What we really need around here is a smidge of humor.

Like the very literary blog name I came up with on the spur of some miscellaneous cogitating:

TITLE: Stream of Unconsciousness
TAG LINE: I wish I knew what I was thinking.

Clever, isn't it.

I think we need some more music too. I was surprised by the response to Jimmy Durante, the "Schnozzola" (as Pat correctly identified him), so I chose this blurry but short video of Jimmy with Ella:

What’s that you say? The lady could SING? Of course she could sing, and so could Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson . . .

Nowadays, what passes for “singing” are American Idol winners mashed on gigantic mixing boards by wizard sound engineers. Their albums, to me, are decidedly poo.

But wait a minute.

It almost sounds like I’m whining.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'll Be . . .

I haven’t posted anything in a week. Or answered any emails. Or read any blogs. Or made any comments on your comments. Or read any of the great articles in my back copies of Nudist Quarterly.

There's a terrible reason why I’ve done none of these things because everything looks like this:

And this:

No, I don't see eye charts everywhere I look. I see regular stuff, but in its BLURRED and DOUBLE VISION format. Font size, which I can control from my keyboard, makes no difference—the blur and dv are just larger.

Sadly, the deterioration of my eyesight is the result of drugs I take for my lungs and heart. Prednisone, the major culprit, has caused the irreversible damage to my optic nerves. This photo is an example, but my own photos look remarkably like the one on the right.

Until I figure out a workaround so I can actively blog again, a Plan B as it were, I’ll leave you with a song by Jimmie Durante, a television pioneer in the 1950s and one of my kidhood favorites.

I’ve reduced the YouTube video to a Podbean kind of thing because it’s all about the song, dedicated to each and every one of you.

[End of health update #2,567.]

Saturday, October 02, 2010

What War Hath Wrought

Like Poop from the Pope, I wrote this piece on May 14, 2010 for another blog but it never made it to this one. Also like Poop, it fits Worm's "Believe It or Not" perfectly because it's a disgrace.

* * *

No Suicides Allowed

"Thousands of soldiers, their bald eagle shoulder patches lined up row upon row across the grassy field, stood at rigid attention to hear a stern message from their commander.

"Brig[adier] Gen[eral] Stephen Townsend addressed the 101st Airborne Division with military brusqueness: Suicides at the post had spiked after soldiers started returning home from war, and this was unacceptable.

" 'It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our Army and our country and it's [sic] got to stop now,' he insisted. 'Suicides on Fort Campbell [Kentucky] have to stop now.' "
I quote from an article written on April 24, 2010 by Kristen M. Hall of the Associated Press. She goes on to tell the story of twenty-one-year-old Adam Kuligowski upon his return from Afghanistan. Adam loved the Army and his job, but he became increasingly depressed and angry. Finally,
"Adam wrote a note telling his dad, [Mike], 'Sorry to be a disappointment.' Then he shot himself inside a bathroom stall with his rifle.

"When the Army closed their investigation into the soldier's suicide, his father said an investigator told him that Adam's problem was that he was unable to conform to a military lifestyle. Mike Kuligowski did receive a personal note from the general who was commanding the division at the time: 'We don't know why this happened,' he wrote.

"Kuligowski was not appeased. 'It reminds me that officers know absolutely nothing about the plights of the soldiers who are under their command,' he said. 'What kind of leadership is that?' "
What kind of leadership is that? Off the top of my head and in one word I would say, typical.

The plight of these soldiers was called "shell shock" in WWI. In WWII and Korea, it was called "battle fatigue." Since Vietnam, the psychiatric diagnosis is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. But disregarding the labels, the symptoms are the same. For military leaders and investigators to scratch their heads over the increase in suicides is ludicrous, and General Townsend's proclamation "to stop now" is way beyond asinine.

According to Hall's article, Fort Campbell is responding to the crisis.
"The number of patients being treated at the behavioral health clinic has increased by 60 percent, from 25,400 in 2008 to nearly 40,000 in 2009. To handle the expanded need, they've also increased the number of counselors in that clinic to 60 last year, compared to 36 in 2008. In all, Fort Campbell has about 100 counselors, some of whom work in areas like social work, family advocacy, substance abuse and children's behavioral health."
40,000 patients and 60 counselors equals a caseload of 667 to 1. It cannot be done. Furthermore, who is writing psych med scripts and monitoring 40,000 people?

We train our soldiers to defend our country from a hostile invasion. We train them in all types of weaponry, to kill to protect the civilian populace. And then we send them to fourth-world countries like Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan that don't want them there in the first place, and our soldiers kill to protect themselves from an enemy they cannot distinguish from a non-enemy. Amid the chaos they see atrocities no human should ever have to witness, including the bombing of innocent children and infants.

Eventually the soldiers come home and are discharged from service. Most of them adjust to their old lives again, but many don't—the ones who need help.

As someone whom I can't remember said, "We make them into killing machines, but unfortunately there is no 'off' switch." Yes, yes there is: it's called suicide, a very effective off switch. But not at Fort Campbell, Kentucky because suicides are not allowed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Charlie Redux

I breathe, therefore I am.

I win skirmishes as well as battles—even though I know the war is being lost, that there is no way the war will be won.

I fight, therefore I am.

Quality of life. While quality deteriorates, there is still plenty of life all around me.

I live, therefore I am.

Nurse’s chart: “3 a.m. Patient is snoring and drooling comfortably . . .”

I laugh, therefore I am.

I have Martha, the dogs, and all of you incredible people in Blogaritaville.

I love.

Therefore, I am.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Different Church, Same Phew*

* Wandering Coyote here.  Martha asked me to post this, a direct quote from Charlie.

Charlie was admitted to the hospital Monday night, September 13th and is tentatively scheduled for discharge on Monday, September 20th but not looking too good.

Will keep you updated.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poop from the Pope

I wrote this piece on June 13, three months ago today. I posted it here, and it was picked up here. The problem is, I never posted it here here because on June 14 I began my 2½ hospital stay.

I seldom write about religion, but this transcends religion and enters the realm of the truly outrageous.

* * *

Poop from the Pope

As the celebratory "Year of the Priest" draws to a close, the pope had this to say on Friday, June 11 [AP Newswire]:
“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy’. He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.”

The term “the enemy” is a traditional Catholic way of referring to the Devil.
Translated from the traditional gobbledygook, the pope is saying the devil made the pedophile priests do it so people would turn against God, whom we all know is represented on earth by the One, Holy and Apostolic Roman Catholic Church.

If anyone knows about pedophiles in the church, it is Joseph Ratzinger (his real name, or Bennie for short). From 1981 until his coronation in 2005, he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation is a direct descendant of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, formed in 1542. [From Wikipedia]

Yes, that Inquisition, still alive and well today, rooting out evil and heresy wherever it is found. To believe that Bennie didn't know about the thousands of pervo peds within his ranks for twenty-one years is a crock of pope poop. German hardliner that he is, it was his job as the Inquisitor to defrock these sickos—not play 52 card shuffle with them. But that, of course, would have tarnished the church's impeccable image and cost a lot of silver coin. About thirty of them.

Understandably, the thousands of victims of pedophile priests aren't very happy with Bennie's celebratory speech. Ruined lives, theft of innocence, and betrayal by a trusted adult cannot be dismissed and forgotten by such an idiotic statement by Commander-in-Chief Ratzinger.

Still, people flock to his church like bewildered and compliant sheep.

I'm not one of them.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Johnnies, Doctors, and Hypochondria

How in the world of hospital fashion did this schlump get a johnnie with a tie in back?

To all the rest of us who never get a tie:

Edgy Poetry

Some women topless dance,
Through hospital corridors
I bare-assed prance.

* * *

Charlie Goes to the Doctor
A Fable

"Holy shit, Doctor, I think I have Diversion of the Spleen with Morbid Aftermath! And if that's not bad enough I have a sniffle, and you know how prone I am to Chillblains with Frozen Consequences!

"You've been reading your Guide to Every Disease, Disorder, and Discomfort Ever Known (and Not Known) to Mankind, Complete with Handy Checklists, Charts, And Cheat Sheets, 89th Edition, Revised again, haven't you, Charles."

"Uh, yes sir."

The doctor was really nice when he threw me out of his office with instructions to never come back. He even sent along a note, stapled to my shirt, to Martha:

Dear Mrs. Callahan,

Here is a prescription for Charles.

1. PLEASE throw away his Guide to Every Disease, Disorder, and Discomfort Ever Known (and Not Known) to Mankind, Complete with Handy Checklists, Charts, And Cheat Sheets, 89th Edition, Revised.

2. Better yet, have a bonfire for it with kielbasa-on-a-stick and a little potato salad.

3. Put him to bed—preferably in a hospital johnnie with no tie in back.

4. Keep him there.

5. If he happens to get bedsores then, for the first time in his life, he will really have something to complain about.

With utmost compassion I am,

Your husband's former physician

MORAL OF THE STORY: If you haven't got it, don't complain about it. And be thankful.

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Second in My Life

Philip Dodd, in his post Memory Glimpse — One Second in Your Life, asks:

"If you had to remember just one second of your life, which one would it be? By 'remember' I mean the full detail of that one second. Every last little bit of it, in high definition. How would you go about choosing such a moment? . . . Maybe it's one of those instances in your life that you have no choice but to remember."

This is my response.

* * *

It was sometime in June 1988 and I was in the throes of alcohol “treatment.” Throes, because it was painful work, attempting during endless group sessions to look at me through sober eyes. As snippets of the previous twenty-five years constantly popped into my mind, I liked myself less and less. “No wonder the only ‘friends’ I ever had were other drunks like me,” I thought, not in self-pity but stating a truism.

Both staff and group members could tell that I was struggling with me, and to assuage my feelings of guilt and shame they repeatedly told me that I had the “physical disease of alcoholism.” Bullshit. That was The Great Escape clause and I wasn’t having any of it (and I still don’t). It is only right, after a quarter of a century of chaos and mayhem that I caused, that I feel remorse for my behavior.

One bright spot of treatment was the desert. The Mojave, in southern California. At five a.m., when I sat on the patio in just my boxers—smoking, thinking, and watching the sun come up. It was my first-ever time in a desert (I lived in Denver then, not the neighboring Sonoran like now), and I was fascinated by the trees and bushes and flowers and birds—

—and the hummingbird. The "one second in my life."

There were three of the tiny creatures flitting around red-tinted blooms searching for nectar. I was amazed by their aerodynamics: zoom here, zoom there, stop on a dime, hover like a helicopter, fly backward, dive bomb like a kamikaze and then pull up at the very last moment, their flapping, humming wings a blur.

Time is man-made, so it doesn’t matter whether it was one second or several of them. One of the little birds flew within several inches of my face and hovered there, one eye locking onto mine as we stared curiously at each other.

The hummingbird had a message for me that I will not, cannot ever forget: “Everything will be alright.” No, it wasn’t a basso profundo voice like James Earl Jones's, but a feeling. A feeling I will not, cannot ever forget: a sense of warmth and safety, of acceptance and forgiveness, a feeling of HOPE where hope had never been before. “Everything will be alright” was like a hypodermic shot to my broken heart, and thereafter I never gave up on myself or my recovery. Receiving a message from a bird sounds a bit like crackpottery, but looking back after twenty-two years, everything has been alright.

Like Philip says, it's one of those instances in my life that I have no choice but to remember.

Nor would I if I could.

* * *

It is said that theft is the sincerest form of flattery (or something like that), so I've stolen this from Philip: "So - One Second In Your Life - imprinted on your brain. Now, tell me about yours...."


Monday, August 30, 2010

Odds & Ends, Mostly Odds

Okay, folks, you really got to me this time with your comments on A Life Lived. I say comments, but they were more like testimonials. Or damned good eulogies. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were praising Caesar. But I do know better: I’ve never ever worn socks with sandals.

I admit to being inspirational at times, but I’m far from the only one who tries to stay high on life. The Good Cook recently lost her husband quite unexpectedly, and her post On, On is an inspirational masterpiece. Please take time to read it.

* * *

Dumb. Occasionally, I do something really dumb. Take last night, for example, and the simple act of taking two Advils for a headache. I took a BIG drinka water, swallowed it, and then popped the Advil in my piehole and swallowed ‘em dry. It’s a good thing they were gel caps because they slithered right on down my drain. It’s also a good thing Martha didn’t see it:

“Dumb shit,” she would have said, snorting at my dumbity.

* * *

Thank you, Jan (or DJan) for introducing your sister and BIL to my blog. And welcome, Norma Jean and Pete.

I notice that Jan and I have a lot in common hobby-wise. She jumps out of airplanes. I collect stamps.

* * *

Tchaikovsky's grave. Are you in there, Pete?
From the “Eerie R Us” department.

Murr Brewster, one of my favorite storytellers, said that she was air conducting Tchaikovsky's “Violin Concerto in D” while driving through the Columbia River Gorge. A spectacular and perfect setting, I suspect, but conducting with one hand often leads to carpal conductor’s conundrum (CCC).

CCC aside, two whole hours later, she read that one of the little pleasures in my life is air conducting Tchaikovsky's “Violin Concerto in D”.

Now what are the chances of that happening? Huh? Huh? Would the same thing have happened if I were conducting rappers like M&M or Snoopy the Dog?


* * *

I travelled around reading blogs yesterday, but I left few comments on them. By the time I get to a two- or three-day-old post with anywhere from four to seven thousand comments on it, there isn’t much left for me to say. I’m not the type to comment just to hear me comment, so I content myself with reading the meat and potatoes.

Similarly, I used to respond regularly on comments made on my own posts because people like acknowledgement and enjoy witty repartee. It’s a time-consuming process, though, so my responses have fallen by the wayside. (If you look closely, you’ll see my fallen responses strewn along the wayside with the other rubbish and plastic Walmart bags.)

I’m giving serious thought to experimenting with the Disqus commenting system, which is similar to the Wordpress system. If any of you have had experience with it, please let me know.

Uh, you should know that I have a rather dismal history of experimentation. An explosion or two, a couple of small fires, electricity on when I thought it was off—nothing too serious, but enough to make me wary and wear safety goggles.

* * *

For those of you who are interested in Leahy’s (Ragtime) concert DVD, it’s available in their web site store. The concert was recorded in 2006 in Gatineau, Quebec.

* * *

So there you have it, dear friends, all my odds for August. See you next month.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Life Lived

So. Has it been worth it? I’m talking about life. My life, the sixty-three years I’ve spent living here on planet Earth.

Not an easy question to answer, especially when I’m sitting here feeling and watching my body slowly self-destruct.

I see my life as a journey, an obstacle course of events and emotions, of roads taken and not taken. I see it as a ceaseless series of decisions, in effect allowing me to create the life I have lived.

Yes, I have been the creator of my own destiny; who (or what) else has the power to make my decisions for me? Certainly not a loving God because how would I explain his bad decisions? Would I give him credit for all the good decisions while I took the blame, or blamed others, for all the bad ones? No way. I alone am responsible for the life I have lived, I take credit for both the good and bad decisions, and I accept the consequences of those decisions.

So. Has it been worth it? My life, that is.

There has been mental pain, and fear, and grief, some caused by me and some not. A childhood of abuse both by my parents and the church, the death of my mom when I was eighteen, the putting down of beloved dogs, a hundred other things I had no control over. The pain I have caused me (and others) was my decision to drink and to smoke—the latter one is killing me as I write.

I am hardly unique when it comes to earthly suffering. Every human, everyone reading this, has known pain both mental and physical, fear, and grief—many, many of whom have known it much worse that I. It is part of life’s obstacle course this suffering, and it is up to each one of us to choose which road to take: either overcome it by working on change, or continue to wallow in it with self-pity.

I made a choice, a decision, a long time ago to let good things dominate my life. Asking Martha to marry me was the best decision I ever made. Helping sick addicts, in fact helping anyone, comes in second.

But so do all the little things that cause joy, and happiness, and delight. A phrase from a book or poem. Air-conducting Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D”. The squirrel I trained to shell and eat sunflower seeds out of my hand.

And therein lies the answer to my question.

Has my life been worth living?

A resounding yes, because the good has always outweighed the bad.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I'm busy composing a "think" post, which is really making me think, so I've decided to take a break from thinking and offer y'all this bit of enjoyment before I get a thinkache.

Yes, another video. I know they make the page sluggish and screw up scrolling, but the content makes up for it.

The group is named Leahy, the surname of a family of eight brothers and sisters. They are Canadian, and another example of Canada's super-rich musical heritage and talent. Ponita featured them in her last blog post, so I went searching for them on YouTube—in lieu of having to think.

Leahy performs much more than Celtic music—in this video it's ragtime, a uniquely American forerunner to jazz. I prefer rag (and its offspring honky tonk) played on an upright piano, but that's just quirky me. Watch the video, marvel at how good the ladies are, and I dare you not to tap your toe.

I'll be back later in the week, but I have to do some thinking first.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Farm Girl

Martha, my beloved, was born and grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, not far from Mankato and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. Actually, it was grew up on farms, plural, because her folks were the nomadic type: There was always a cheaper and better place just down the road. Don’t believe it. Cheaper, maybe, but never better.

Like the farmhouse that came with a skunk in the dirt cellar. Martha’s father, who normally used his shotgun for blasting holes in the barn roof so he could get at the pigeons (no bird lover he), blew the poor skunk to kingdom come. In the middle of the night. In the aforementioned dirt cellar. Guess what happened.

Yeah, Martha and her sisters walked around for days reeking of the very exotic Eau de Pepe le Pew. The odor was everywhere: on her clothes, in her hair, between the pages of her schoolbooks. Even her lunch smelled worse than usual. It was mortifying to say the least, but there was an upside to the downside: all six boys at school instantly fell in love with her. The offspring of hog farmers, these lads had finally found the woman of their dreams: a girl who smelled just as putrid as they did.

* * *

After thirty years of living in big cities, then, I thought my beloved had long ago overcome her farm girl "roots." But when she started digging holes all over the yard like a crazed Golden Gopher, I realized

You can take the dirt out of the girl,
but you can't take the girl out of the dirt.

It’s all because we have a house with a yard, a few hundred square feet of rocks and scraggly desert plants that just won’t die—unless you’re a farmer, in which case you use a mule or a backhoe to dig them up. Or, if you’re like Martha’s dad, you just shoot ‘em with a shotgun in the middle of the night.

In the old days, we used to enjoy doing big-city things like going out to dinner, to a concert, or taking our lives in our hands on the freeways. Sundays used to be a day for resting, lollygagging and, uh, fooling around. But Martha’s innate passion for trans- forming her tiny piece of the desert in to a vast prairie changed all that.

A typical Sunday morning nowadays goes something like this as she leafs through the advertising supplements in the newspaper:

“Holy shit! Home Depot has mulch on sale, the good kind with the cow flop in it, and the shovel I really really really want is half price!” (You can always tell when she’s excited because she exclaims in bold italics.)

During the week, Martha is a serious, well-dressed, professional businesswoman. Come Saturday, however, she looks like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon. Only worse. Unlike Pigpen, there is a certain . . . odor . . . that accompanies dirt and hard labor. Something along the lines of . . . Eau de Pepe le Pew.

* * *

Today, August 23, 2010 my Farm Girl and I are celebrating our

36th wedding anniversary

(I can do flower gardens too!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Apologetics and Where's Matt?

If it seems like a coon's age since I've visited your blog (or visited but didn't leave a comment), you're probably right. For some its been a month of Sundays, while others have experienced a cold day in Hell.

The problem isn't at your end, of course, so please, do not adjust your sets. 'Tis me on this end of the Intertubes. I'm dancing just about as fast as I can dance, but I'm not getting anywhere—just like poor Matt in this outtakes video. (I love this guy.)

You know the reasons for my slowity: not breathing on all cylinders, a nasty medication, and increasing damage to my eyesight. I know I'm missing a TON of good stuff and it's frustrating as hell. Stressful, even—I want to know what is going on in the lives of all my Blogaritaville friends.

But all I can do is the best that I can do, and I have to accept that.

You know, as long as I'm here, I might as well bitch about something. I know I have the original "Where the Hell is Matt" video around here someplace, but I'll be dang nabbed if I can find it. Professor Organized ain't as organized as he thinks he is because he's cheep, cheep, cheep with the labels.

Did I mention that I love this guy?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie Review: Jerry Andrus

Andrus: The Man, the Mind & the Magic (2008)

A film by Robert Neary and Tyson Smith

Producer and Director: Robert Neary
Co-producer and Cinematography: Tyson Smith

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 78 minutes

Film Website for purchase options

You may not recognize the name Robert Neary; he is not a major filmmaker, you won’t see him strolling around Cannes or Sundance, and he doesn’t have a footprint at Grauman’s Chinese. What he does have is a blog titled Plead Ignorance, written under the moniker Robert the Skeptic with an avatar of Dr. Strangelove.

Let there be no mistake, however: this film is no amateur effort. It is a first-rate production throughout—from sound and lighting, editing and graphics, to cinematography and music. I was surprised,  frankly, by its professionalism.

What Neary and Smith have put together is a compelling look at a truly unique individual named Jerry Andrus—a “magician” if you want the short description, a “modern-day da Vinci” if you don’t. Patrick Martin, a fellow illusionist, describes him thusly: “Jerry is a kind of a combination of Albert Einstein and Walt Disney.”

Jerry tells much of his story himself (he didn’t live to see the finished film, however), while fellow magicians and others who knew him, along with archival stills and film footage, fill in details and facts about his life and work.

Jerry, the man, is described as a “fanatically honest person” by magician Jamy Ian Swiss. Andrus refused to tell a lie, and Swiss backs this up: “. . . even the little white lies, the theatrical lies that a magician routinely tells, are objectionable to him.”

I think Jerry reveals himself for who he is when he tells a small audience:
"Now if what I’m doing as a magician primarily doesn’t fool you then I am not doing my proper job as a magician; but if I do or say anything that makes anyone feel foolish then I am not doing my proper job as a human being by my standards. So I want to pause and explain to you why we can all be fooled. I can probably fool you for the same reason I’ve been fooled because you’re the most wonderful thing I know of in the universe that I’ve seen and that’s a human being. And you have an incredibly wonderful human mind. And a lot of our mind is on autopilot; and most of our, a lot of our thinking is absolutely beneath the conscious level, it has to be. You don’t look at a dog and wonder what it is. You don’t look at an automobile and wonder what it is; we’re on automatic pilot making these decisions and they’re usually right but sometimes they’re wrong. And because of that we don’t need to feel foolish." [Italics and bold are mine.]

To me, Jerry Andrus was an eighty-eight-year-old boy who never lost his insatiable curiosity about people, the power of the brain, or the world around him. Through hundreds of inventions and observations, he designed incredible tricks meant to fool (but never belittle) his fellow humans.

Jerry disdained the common “magical” practice of misdirection because it violated his policy of honesty. Rather, he invited onlookers to watch his hands very closely as he performed sleight-of-hand with either optical illusions or a common deck of cards. He went straight for “the burn,” which in magician’s parlance means, “catch me if you can.”

Neary and Smith have created a work much larger than I can cover here—Andrus’s genius, his Skepticism, the Castle of Chaos—but this is a review and not a documentary of their documentary.

Jerry Andrus:
"We’re each a unique mixture of sub-atomic particles. And so the only thing that’s left other than our remains is the effect that we might have had on other people or maybe will have on other people."

In my opinion, Jerry, this film attests to the affect (present tense) you have, and will continue to have, on other people. Well done, Robert and Tyson.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm Gonna Be Rich!

I just received this email at 7:30 p.m. and I'm beside myself with joyfulness! Imagine Mrs. Faiza, a good Christian woman who has a ton of fucking problems, choosing ME to receive Two Million Great Britain Pound Sterling! I'll let ALL of you know the minute I get the check in the mail—maybe as soon as next week before she kicks the bucket from the stroke she's having.

Boy oh boy oh boy—I can hardly wait—I'm gonna get a whole shitload of these!!!

23, Hawley Crescent,
Camden Town, London,
NW1 8NP, England.

Dear Beloved,

Here writes Mrs. Ghayth Faiza, suffering from cancerous ailment. I am
married to Watson Ghayth an Arabian who is dead. My husband was into
private practice all his life before his death. Our life together as man
and wife lasted for three decades without a child. My husband died after a
protracted illness. My husband and I made a vow to uplift the down-trodden
and the less-privileged individuals as he had passion for persons who can
not help themselves due to physical disability or financial predicament. I
can adduce this to the fact that he needed a Child from this relationship,
which never came.

When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of Two Million Great Britain Pound Sterling which were derived from his vast estates and
investment in capital market with his bank here in UK. Presently, this
money is still with the Bank. Recently, my Doctor told me that I have
limited days to live due to the cancerous problems I am suffering from.

Though what bothers me most is the stroke that I have in addition to the
cancer. With this hard reality that has befallen my family and I, I have
decided to donate this fund to you and want you to use this gift which
comes from my husbands effort to fund the upkeep of widows, widowers,
orphans, destitute, the down-trodden, physically challenged children,
barren-women and persons who prove to be genuinely handicapped

It is often said that blessed is the hand that giveth. I took this
decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and
my husband's relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons and I do not want my husband's hard earned money to be misused or invested into ill perceived ventures. I do not want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner, hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be with the Almighty when I eventually pass on.

The Almighty will fight my case and I shall hold my peace. I do not need
any telephone communication in this regard due to my deteriorating health
and because of the presence of my husband's relatives around me, I do not
want them to know about this development. With God all things are
possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of
the Bank in UK. I will also issue you a Letter of Authority that will
empower you as the original beneficiary of this fund. My happiness is that
I lived a life worthy of emulation. Please always be prayerful all through
your life.

Please assure me that you will act just as I have stated herein. Hope to
hear from you soon and God bless you and members of your family.

Reply to my mail through my email address: [I deleted it because I ain't sharin'.]

Yours Faithfully in Christ,

Mrs. Ghayth Faiza.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ma & Pa Kettle

How best to describe my mother- and father-in-law?

The Kettle movies were cornball comedies shot in the 1950s, but to my in-laws they were documentaries on farming, child rearing, fashion and the social graces. To Mom and Dad, there was nothing funny about them: a Kettle movie was as serious as an Army training film on digging latrines that drain away from the troop tents.

I tell myself that my in-laws are different from other people because they are from another time and place. Like characters from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, they grew up during the Depression and the Dust Bowl: he on a hardscrabble ranch in Montana, she on a desolate farm in South Dakota.

But unlike most of their peers, my in-laws live in a perpetual 1933, smack-dab in the middle of a Depression that has never ended for them. At eighty-six years apiece, this is just a small sample of their Kettle-like wisdom:

  • Never ever throw anything away—including anything molting in the back of the refrigerator. Never mind if it's broken, burned-out, or smells like a mis-dug latrine: there might still be a use for it someday. If by chance there isn't, it will end up on one of Mom's semi-weekly garage sale tables for 25¢.

  • Never ever buy anything new. This is one of Dad's major wisdoms. No matter what it is, from a lamp to a sofa, he can get one that is "just as good" for four bucks. Tops. If it happens to be broken, burned-out, or smells like the back shelving of the refrigerator, it will end up on one of Mom's semi- weekly garage sale tables for 25¢.

  • Never ever pay anyone to repair anything. There is an important "until" clause in this one: Never ever pay anyone to repair anything until it is so incredibly fucked up that only a professional fixit guy can fix it. If the fixit guy just laughs his head off and walks away, then buy another already-repaired one for four bucks. Tops.

Having witnessed their wisdom a thousand times, there is a whole lot I don't tell my in-laws. I don't tell them that I pay to have my oil changed, my tires installed, and my brakes replaced. I also don't tell them that I do not keep the old oil, the bald tires, and the filthy brakes lying around the yard, even though I might need them for something someday.

Because of her parents, Martha and I have our own family wisdom. Never ever tell Mom and Dad that we knowingly, willingly, and with thought aforethought, actually throw our broken old shit away.

The reason people laugh at Ma and Pa in the movies is because they are pure yokel. We laugh at their ignorance and naïveté, but never at who they are as people: dirt-poor, unschooled, simple country folk who make do with what they have.

And so it is with Mom and Dad. I shake my head at some of the things they do, but I also know who they are and where they have been. Life has never been easy for them, a life of backbreaking work with mostly no return. And very little play because I suspect no one ever taught them how to play—or allowed them any play time.

The Depression of the 1930s is long over, the farming days are gone, and the fake Kettles live on only on film. So too will my in-laws pass, the real-life Ma and Pa, who have given me their beautiful daughter, a ton of laughter, and a sense of how hard the life of two have-nots can be.

* * *

Since I wrote this piece my father-in-law has passed away. My mother-in-law is 90 and still lives on her own in southern Colorado.

Monday, August 09, 2010



FOUND: In the worldwide village of Blogaritaville, in my itty-bitty corner of it, the family and friends I never had. Inquire within.


FOUND: In my desk drawer, the postage stamps I claimed in March 2008 the US Postal Service never delivered. Oops. Inquire within.


ANNOUNCMENT: When the consulting pulmonologists agreed that I’m in the “final stage” of emphysema, they were correct. The daily, sometimes hourly, struggle to breathe is getting harder. We are in the process of checking out hospice services so I can stay with Martha and the dogs. Inquire within.


ANNOUNCMENT: The hearing in my right ear is getting harder, too. Inquire within.


PERSONAL: As my earthly sail gets ever closer to the other-worldly wind I wonder, in The Great Scheme of Stuff, where I’m going next. I want to go home, but where, exactly, is it? Inquire within.


Friday, August 06, 2010

How Insulting!

This has been a heavy week around here, so it’s time to lighten up a bit for the weekend. And what’s brighter and cheerier than a few good insults?

I’m not talking about insults to your intelligence; journalism, politicians, advertising, and television already do a superb job of that. I’m also not talking about personal attacks— the kind that are meant to hurt—which seem to be the order of the day and creatively require the F-word in some form or manner.

Rather, I’m referring to the great insults of yore, when insulting was an art instead of a text message or a finger salute. Immensely witty and clever, I think Winston Churchill was the Master Insulter:

Lady Astor: "If you were my husband, I'd give you poison."
Churchill: "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

"Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right."

"When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticise or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home."

On Neville Chamberlain: "He looked at foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe."

George Bernard Shaw to Churchill: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend ... if you have one."
Churchill, in response: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second ... if there is one."

Oscar Wilde, an outstanding Irish wit:

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."

Mark Twain could fill a few books with insults (and he did), but just a couple for now:

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."

Other insults I like:

Clarence Darrow: "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

Irvin S. Cobb: "I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."

Moses Hadas: "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."

Billy Wilder: "He has Van Gogh's ear for music."

I did not forget the women:

Mae West: "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."

Dorothy Parker (a Harvard woman): "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be surprised."

To summarize this post:

Groucho Marx: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

* * *

Do you, dear students, have a favorite insult or quote you would like to share with us in the comments? If not, I may be forced to call on someone.

And in case you're wondering, my favorite of these sixteen insults is Dorothy Parker's.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Thankful: The Flip Side

To continue with my post Thankful, here are some I purposely left out so I wouldn’t ruin a perfectly good and heartfelt essay:

I am thankful that I have health insurance to pay for good medical care and modern technology.

Unlike other civilized countries like Canada and Great Britain, the United States does not provide health insurance to its citizens—except for some half-assed benefits for the disabled and those folks who are over 65 (Medicare). Americans have to purchase health insurance through private companies, and are at the mercy of those companies regarding cost, coverage, and annual rate increases.

I am thankful that Martha has a job, and a job that pays her monthly health insurance premiums.

I am thankful that we’ve had the $5,688 in cash to pay for deductibles, co-insurance, co-payments, and drug co-pays since January 1. (If you don’t know or understand these terms, don’t ask.)

To repeat a comment Robert the Skeptic made last night on Thankful:

"Yeah I'm marking time until my aortic valve starts giving me 'symptoms', the stenosis is 'severe' so I am on the long countdown. Will probably need to take out a second mortgage to pay the copays and deductibles but as you say, I'd be dead meat if the technology weren't available. Guess we are lucky bastards."

Robert and I may be lucky bastards, but there are millions of Americans who don't have jobs, health insurance, or the cash the insurance companies require (or very likely, they don't have all three).

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From an article in USA Today on July 22, 2010:

"Non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans stockpiled billions of dollars during the past decade, yet continued to hit consumers with double-digit premium increases, Consumers Union found in an analysis of 10 of the plans' finances.

"Examples cited include:
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona: A $717.1 million surplus in 2009, seven times the regulatory minimum. The plan raised rates for individual market customers by as much as 18 percent in 2009. Company Spokeswoman Regena Frieden said, 'We believe the amount we have in reserves is appropriate.'

"Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon: A surplus of $562.2 million in 2009, about 3.6 times the minimum. The plan revised rates on some plans an average of 25.3 percent in 2009 and 16 percent in 2010. Spokeswoman Angela Hult said the surplus is 'essential to protecting our members from surges in claims costs.'"

Our health insurance carrier is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois by way of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (don't ask). On January 1, 2010 they ruled it necessary to institute a new co-pay: every time Martha or I visit a "specialist"—Dr. Lung, Doc Potty, Dr. Eyeball—we pay another $50 out-of-pocket to help defray the insurance company's "losses."

Addendum: A chart of ObamaCare changes for your perusal and refusal.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thankful . . .

Yesterday, July 29, 2010. Just another day, just another hospital, just another procedure, a two-hour outpatient operation to rid my bladder (not kidneys) of stones formed as a result of my enlarged (but not cancerous) prostate gland, which was microwaved a couple years ago to shrink it, but then the stones started forming, big honkers that Doc Potty broke up with a laser so the fragments could be flushed through the urethra, and everyone in the operating room had to wear special glasses, including me because I had a spinal anesthesia (not a general) so I was awake the whole time and waiting for the laser light show like they have in downtown Las Vegas but there wasn’t one, just exploding sounds and I think Doc Potty was having fun zapping the stones even though Santana was on the sound system, and then he was finally done and sent me to the recovery room where I recovered some (but very little) of my dignity, and once I was dignified they sent me home where I sit now with a catheter and a leg bag (until Monday) and a lot of blood, but I’m


Thankful, because I had a skilled doctor like Potty, a concerned young anesthesiologist who monitored my breathing and heart throughout the procedure even though I had a spinal painkiller, and a whole crew of surgical nurses who knew what to do when it needed doing.

Thankful, because we have the technology to repair our body parts when they’re repairable and with as little pain as possible. I think back to the hundreds of years of mankind when the practice of medicine was nonexistent or rudimentary at best, and the excruciating pain people endured even for a bad tooth.

Thankful, because even though I have plumbing problems and I’m in end-stage emphysema, I’m still alive as ever.

Alive as ever, but slower than ever in Blogaritaville, so I’m really thankful that you’re all still hanging in here with me . . .


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making Cocaine

This post will hopefully be of interest to some of the 50 people who responded to my essay, Alcoholic. Actually, I hope it's of interest to everyone.

* * *

This morning’s newspaper had a front-page story about drug trafficking, this time involving Venezuela. Accompanying the article was a photo of the U.S. Coast Guard’s interception of a nondescript boat allegedly containing $55 million-worth of cocaine.

The production of cocaine and crack cocaine has long been the major export of Peru and Bolivia, but it’s nice to see another banana republic breaking into its manufacture and sale: God knows the poor people of Venezuela can use the money, and I think it’s swell that American coke addicts are so willing to support this worthy cause. [This is my small bowl of sarcasm; I have larger sizes upon request.]

The reason I bring the subject up is it reminded me of a story from the time I was working with drug addicts. The process of making cocaine fascinated me, so I read the following account during a weekly men’s group.

How Illicit Cocaine is Produced*

Drying leaves (illegally)in Bolivia
"First, the coca leaves are harvested. In some parts of Bolivia, this is done as often as once every three months because the climate is well suited for the plant to grow. Second, the leaves are dried, usually by letting them sit in the sunlight for a few hours or days, and although this process is illegal in many parts of South America, the local authorities are quite tolerant and do little to interfere with the drying of coca leaves."

A little authorly humor. Har. The process continues:

"In the third step of cocaine production, the dried leaves are put in a plastic-lined pit and mixed with water and sulfuric acid. The mixture is crushed by workers who wade into the pit in their bare feet. After the mixture has been crushed, diesel fuel and bicarbonate are added to it. After ... workers reenter the pit several times to stomp through the mixture, the liquids are drained off. Lime is then mixed with the residue, forming a paste known as cocaine base. It takes 500 kilograms of leaves to produce 1 kilogram of cocaine base.

"The fourth step involves adding water, gasoline, potassium permanganate, and ammonia to the paste. This forms a reddish brown liquid, which is then filtered. Adding a few drops of ammonia produces a milky solid that is filtered and dried. Then the dried base is dissolved in a solution of hydrochloric acid and acetone. A white solid forms and settles to the bottom of the tank. This solid material is the compound cocaine hydrochloride. Eventually, [it] is filtered and dried under heating lights. This causes the mixture to form a white, crystalline powder, which is packed and shipped usually in kilogram packages. Before sale to the individual user, each kilogram is adulterated and the resulting compound packaged in 1-gram units." [Highlighted text is mine.]

At the end of my reading, the addicts in the men’s group were as stunned as I had been. Diesel fuel and gasoline? Hydrochloric and sulfuric acids? ACETONE? Dangerous chemicals all, supposedly filtered a few times, but who can attest to the quality control of illicit drug manufacturers?

And even though these fellows were in "treatment," in "recovery," I sensed that they were proud of what they'd snorted, smoked, or injected into their bodies.

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*Doweiko, Harold E. (2002, Fifth edition), Concepts of Chemical Dependency, Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth Group, pp 140-141.