Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It is time once again, dear readers, for one of my old scribblings, which I wrote about three years ago. As always it is based on fact, but with a bit of embellishment to keep you from falling asleep.

* * * * *

A few days ago I went to the hospital emergency room because I had an emergency. I won’t tell you the details, other than to say it was a breathing problem—as in, I couldn’t. At times like that, the times when I cannot breathe, Dr. Lung thinks “pulmonary embolism”, but since it was his day off Martha did his thinking for him and called 911.

Shortly thereafter (1) the fire truck roared up (in case I was on fire), (2) the fire chief followed in his SUV (to certify that the non-fire was in fact fully not extinguished), and (3) the ambulance with two attendants in big rubber fire boots to kick through the non-rubble. For the first time in four years, I actually saw our neighbors—some in their front yards, but others standing much closer just in case I was soaked in blood.

Neighbor #1: “Do you think she finally murdered him?”

Neighbor #2: “Naw, the cops would be here to arrest him for provoking her.”

Everything went well at the hospital. No embolism. The doctor gave me a prescription for opiate painkillers (which I neither needed nor took since I had no pain), instead of the root beer sucker I craved. Best of all, I wasn’t admitted—I was free to go home, back to our little love nest. Alleluia! Happy days are here again! Roll me over on the carpet and rub my tummy! On the Ecstasy-o-Meter I was an eight, until Martha pointed out a rather disturbing problem: having arrived by ambulance with oxygen, I was going home by Toyota without it. Uh-oh.

“Gee whiz, we shoulda thought to bring your portable unit with us!” she said, slapping my forehead because I’m always the forgetful one.

When being loaded into an ambulance I have a tendency to give the future very little thought. Stuff like, “I wonder if I should switch our investments to junk bonds,” or, “I hope Martha cleaned out the dryer filter so there isn’t a fire.” And poor Martha had worries of her own. She was worried about me. She was worried if there was a Starbucks between the house and the hospital. Mostly she was worried if she had enough sudoku puzzles to last five hours of my bitching in the emergency room. Stuff to breathe with—who woulda thought of it amid all the worries and chaos?

So Martha came up with a plan:

1. She would drive back home, hoping there was a Starbucks between the hospital and the house.
2. She would pick up my portable oxygen pack and check the dryer filter.
3. She would drive back to the hospital. Screw Starbucks.
4. She would put me in the car and attach me to my oxygen.
5. She would drive back home, put me to bed, and let me bitch all I wanted because she was going to bingo.

While I waited for her, I sat in a wheelchair equipped with oxygen right by the emergency room entrance door. In just my pajamas, socks, and no underpants. With my hair combed with a Mixmaster. Without a shave for a few days, or a bath for the same number of few days. I was a mess. I was pathetic. All the people who walked by me, which by my unofficial count was 2,693 in forty minutes, wondered why I wasn’t in the plastic surgery ward.

Here are a few comments I picked up from passersby:

“If that man is going home they did a terrible job! Maybe we should move Aunt Myrtle to another hospital because she doesn’t look all that hot, either.”

“Hey, Mommy, look at that man’s hair: It looks just like those fluffy dandelions in our front yard! Can I go blow on his head?”

“You know, Chester, somebody ought to buy that poor man a Starbucks.”

It was then that the idea hit me. The idea was I shoulda had a sign (with a piece of string) around my neck that said,

Don't ever let this happen to you!!!

And a tin cup for donations because quarters make a lot of noise in a tin cup. They used to use tin pans in church so everyone could stare and sneer (with loving kindness, of course) at the cheap bastards whenever there was a loud TIN! Slot machines always use tin so that twenty lousy nickels falling on TIN sound like someone’s ship, the Queen Sucker, just came in.

I wouldn’t have kept the money, though, even if it were as high as one or two dollars. I mean, what would happen if the insurance company found out that I was self-insured?

[A sincere thank you to the Chandler, AZ Fire Department, the Mesa, AZ Fire Department, and Banner Desert Medical Center for the quick response and care you have given me. Your response time is amazing. I’m still pissed at the ambulance guys, though, because they never run the fancy lights and siren, even when I plead, beg, and threaten to ... hold my breath.]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dumb Begets Dumber

June 20, 2009. In Britney and Paris Einstein, I did a piece on Carrie Prejean, who was deposed of her crown as Miss California in the Miss America "Pageant." Bimbo #1.

June 23, 2009. Right on the heels of Bimbo #1 I did Bimbo #2, Black Hole, Part 2, I posted the now-famous video of Miss Teen USA from South Carolina (thanks to Meg, who is not a bimbo).

April 25, 2010. Thanks to Robert the Skeptic, who used this video on his blog last week (the balloon-commented version that I hate), I present Bimbo #3 for your amazement:

Some commenters on YouTube suggested that she's "acting," but I don't think so: that would make her the greatest actor who ever lived. We all know who the greatest actor is, don't we? I mean, who can argue with Bugs Bunny?

Whether or not she's acting is beside the point anyway. The point is, she's projecting stupid as funny.

And I wonder, quite seriously, where do young girls find role models these days?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kim Ayres, Portrait Photographer

My long-time friend Kim Ayres is having an exhibition of twenty-four photographs in May, and this is the poster he designed for it. Kim is good at a lot of things, but I think his photography is spectacular. These are more than just portraits; they are windows into human souls. Every time I see a photo like the one above in black & white, I am reminded of the great Diane Arbus.

So where, exactly, is the venue Mill on the Fleet? In southwest Scotland, which may make it difficult for some of you to attend. But with nearly 150 readers of this blog, I would be remiss if I didn't showcase the exhibit.

The photographs are under wraps right now, but here is the link to Kim Ayres Portrait Photography web site. Take some time looking through the galleries.

The best of luck, Kim, and may you sell them all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Duct Tape and Me

You know, fellow gentlemen bloggers, I don't think the female gender duly appreciates all the fixit stuff we do around the house. Nor do they understand what we’re about when we’re in fixit mode, which in turn I don’t understand. As men, we are extraordinarily creative in our approach to problem solving, oftentimes with the simplicity of a four-year-old's mind. Any woman worth her salt should understand the thinking processes of a four-year-old boy, but they get angry with us instead.

For example, the door rails on our refrigerator were cracked and broken, so that every stinking time we opened the door all the door shit fell out on the floor. Boy, what a pain in the toes that was. Martha suggested I visit Sears and buy some replacement rails, but I knew there was a much simpler and cheaper solution:

(Click on each photo to get a better view of my handiwork.)

Then there was the time our hot water heater ran out of heated water. Martha must think that hot water heaters grow on trees, but I knew that with a few minor adjustments I could fix ours for free:

By the time I was finished the hot water was positively lukewarm, a good sign, but I had bits of insulation up my nose and stuck in my teeth for a week.

Another project involved one of our idiot neighbors, but there’s so many of them I have no idea which one ran their car over our mailbox and totaled it (the mailbox, that is, the one with our name on it and everything). Once again, moneybags Martha wanted me to buy a new box and a post when I had everything I needed in the garage just waiting to be used:

Yup, that's a mason jar that once held my mother-in-law’s delicious dill pickles. And the post is from our marriage bed frame—I am, after all, a Romantic. The beauty of using glass for a mailbox is I can look out the living room window and see if there’s any mail stuck in the jar. If it’s empty, all I have to do is yell to Martha, “Nope, no papers from the divorce court yet!”

I cannot end this without defending the manhood of us male fixit guys. Maybe our projects don’t always turn out perfectly because none of us is perfect. We do it to help out, sure, but mostly we do it because we love you, be you a wife, a girlfriend or boyfriend, or a one-night stand.

So give us a fooking break once in a while, will you?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Humor and Healing

(Click for larger)

I have a fairly well developed sense of humor. Sarcastic. Dark. Dry. Dirty. Sometimes silly. Good timing for the punch line. Part of it is a gift of my Irish genes. The rest I had to work on—to develop. I need my humor, you see, to survive.

I grew up in a house of horror of skewed mirrors and moving floors and nightly terrors. I started to drink when I was sixteen “to escape” and didn’t quit for twenty-five years. I am dying of a lung disease I caused. I take medication for major depression, and I still have crippling panic attacks. To the reader, I am a mess.

But I laugh. Not the laugh of a raving lunatic, but the laughter of a man who still loves life and sees humor in it. And absurdity. A ton of absurdity. And I write about it. First, to entertain me—I crack me up—and then to share my entertainment with you.

I am not, however, the only human on earth who uses humor as a coping or a defense mechanism. There are millions of us. We are the people with damaged and scarred souls who choose life over despair and suicide. We are survivors. Many of us become people helpers instead of people haters and hurters. Many of us talk openly about our damage and scars, not to complain or seek sympathy, but so that others might know that they are not alone.

I believe that my soul is who I am: It is my personality, my uniqueness, my values and morals, the part of me that needs regular feedings of love and usefulness. It is fragile, and both others and I can damage it. Much of my soul damage is a result of my own decisions, but some of it is not. Either way blaming is useless, a cop-out and a crutch, so I get on with life the best way I know how. I laugh, and it makes me feel better.

I used a lot of humor in my work as a chemical dependency counselor. Not always of course, because then I would have been a clown and a chucklehead. But it often helped to dry the tears, and to ease the pain a little, of the women I was attempting to help.

In turn, and almost without fail, these women of the Girl Interrupted-type had their own wonderful senses of humor. Often pessimistic and self-deprecatory to be sure, but also screamingly funny and hilarious. Gilmore Girls and Golden Girls kind of stuff. The comic rather than the tragic. The ability, maybe for the first time, to laugh at oneself with child-like glee and no self-consciousness.

Humor isn’t a cure for soul sickness, and it certainly isn’t a cure for an incurable disease.

But how can anyone ever hope to heal, or to cope with the dark side of life, without humor and laughter?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hairs To You, Mrs. Callahan

MOM, for eighteen years: “Chuckie, you need a haircut.”

DAD, until 2004: “Chuck, you need a haircut and a shoeshine.” (The shoeshine was always in there, even if I was wearing basketball shoes, slippers, or barefoot.)

DR. LUNG, about three months ago: “Your lungs sound clear, but you need a haircut.” (I am not making that up!)

MARTHA, last night at supper: “Charlie, you need a haircut.”

I will be sixty-three-years-old in a little over a month and I still don’t own my own hair!

It’s not like I have a mullet, a ponytail, a Mohawk, or an Afro. It isn’t purple or green. I don’t use Brylcream or axle grease on it. Or hairspray. Or chocolate mousse. It’s just regular old hair, dammit, but everybody worries about it. (That might be a slight exaggeration.)

What really hurt was Martha, my Precious Moment, my Faberge Egg, my Beanie Baby, telling me what to do with the hair on my bean. Nearly thirty-six years of nearly good wedded bliss, and the haircut thing has come full circle: She sounded just like my mom.

Creepy, dude.

Never mind what her hair looks like every single morning when she climbs out of bed, stumbles into the dinette room, and sits across the table from me with her coffee cup clutched tightly in her hand:

That’s right, her hair looks exactly like Don King’s.

I would never dare tell her that, of course, because she would beat me to death with her good cast iron skillet as soon as she finished her coffee.

Sooner or later I’ll have to give in and get a cut, but I’m going to make it later. Maybe as an anniversary present in August. Or perhaps her birthday in November. I can tell you this for sure: I’m not going down without a fight.

It’s my hair, after all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not—So—Golden Schooldays

I went to see Dr. Potty, my urologist, on Friday. I won’t go into detail because it’s TMI (no, I don’t have an STD), but I’m now taking a med for whatever I won’t go into detail about. I will tell you, though, that I now piddle in beautiful shades of green and blue. It's suddenly fun to go #1 and see all the pretty colors—I was so damn sick of plain old yellow.

You oughta come over and see it sometime.

So what does pee have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing. But in Goofball, Heal Thyself, you all gave me permission to digress. I was truly overwhelmed by your comments (almost embarrassingly so), and in gratitude I’m sending each of you a big cyber Charlie hug.

* * * * *

The subject is school. Or rather, what passes for school. And school is downright scarifying.

My friend Linda (Laytonwoman3rd) pointed out this article Right-Wingers Write Jefferson Out of Texas Schoolbooks in one of her comments. According to the article's author, Adele Stan, "At issue are the textbooks to be used in the state’s public schools, shaped by the curriculum guidelines passed by the State Board of Education."

Stan, in turn, quoted an article from the New York Times, which to me is a stunner:

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

Even more stunning is this statement by Stan:

The new curriculum will also downplay the history of racism in the U.S., and, according to board member Mary Helen Berlenga, a board member who stormed out of the school board meeting, virtually write Latinos out of history.

I think if Texas wants to do a bang-up job they should also write (white) out slavery, women's suffrage, and the American Indians who rightfully own Texas in the first place.

I could spend all day on Texas, but I have another bee in my britches.

This is an article I found on USA Today titled, Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching? According to the article,

Some fear classic penmanship has been left behind as preparation for state assessment tests dominates class time. Others blame the rise of the Internet, combined with a push to ensure that children are technologically literate, for rendering delicate handwriting an art of yesteryear.

"With all the other subjects we must teach, we just don't have the time to spend a lot of effort on cursive," said Carl Brown, principal of Manatee Elementary in Viera, Fla.

Handwriting is an art of yesteryear? I cannot say this with authority because I don't have children in school, but my feeling is our gazillion-dollar school systems are raising a generation of illiterates—those who can neither read nor write (or count). Yes, we're returning to yesteryear when young people will "sign" important documents with an "X"—that is, if they know how to draw an X. I can see a marriage license with two Xs on it and the preacher saying, "Do you, X, take X for your ..."

When they divorce, which is inevitable because they don't know how to communicate, they will be ex-Xs.

And how many times have I heard, "With all the other subjects we must teach"? WHAT other subjects? I know they don't do physical education and they can't get lunch right, but for the rest of the subjects I haven't a clue.

I don't blame the teachers in the debacle we call public education. They do the best with what they have, which is a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit, disrespectful "students," outraged and outrageous parents, and my nemesis, cell phones.

I've barely scraped an X in the iceberg called No Child Left Behind, but there's plenty of fodder for you to think about and comment.

[Thanks, Linda, for steering me to Texas. Hah! Pretty funny stuff, huh, steers and Texas?]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Goofball, Heal Thyself

I am a digressor. This is a major problem of mine: I am chronically digressed. I belong to Digressives Anonymous. The meetings are rotten because everyone digresses so much that we never get anywhere near Step One: “We admit we are powerless over digression, that our lives have become unmanageable.”

If you ask me, I think digression is genetic. My paternal grandfather was the greatest windbag I have ever known. The man knew absolutely nothing about everything, and he could talk about it for hours. God, I loved that man. He was a walking filibuster. He could bore the paint off walls, and snow would melt three times faster when he was talking while strolling down the sidewalk.

Lucky for me, I grew up to be just like him. I love to talk because I know nothing about everything too. Whenever I manage to corner someone I can cover ten or twelve subjects in no time flat. But therein lays the major problem: I bore people. I irk them. I make their eyes glassy and some become narcoleptic. I confuse them. Many, if not most, think I’m odd. I will admit to some amount of oddness, but not to the point where it shows.

This essay is a perfect example. It is not about digression, my grandfather, or my alleged oddness. It is about “Physician, heal thyself.” Or, since I am not a physician, it is about “Goofball, heal thyself.”

That’s pretty good advice to me because no one is going to fix my goofiness unless I do it. Oh, the pills help, but mainly they keep me from humping the furniture. No, it’s up to me, and me alone, to get in touch with my inner goof.

So that’s why I write this crap. It is affirming. It is cathartic. And most of all, I like to hear me write. If I have to suffer writing it then by gum, all of you are going to suffer with me by reading it.

Gee, that’s an oldie: “by gum.” I wonder what it means. Something to do with orthodontists? A Wrigley chewing gum ad misprint? The way they talk in old Westerns?

Ah, but I . . .

Because I am a digressive, spreading my goofiness willfully among the normal makes me a serial sociopath. But because my inner goofball tells me to do it, and because I listen to him, that makes me a serial psychopath instead.

Which reminds me of another psycho I met one time, a “recovering” drug addict. “Know what PISSES me off?” he shrieked in group therapy one day. “I just can’t HANDLE crystal meth like a NORMAL person! That shit makes me CRAZY!” Imagine, if you can, any normal person who smokes or injects a drug into their veins that consists of cooked Drano, WD-40, and cat piss. The guy was a psycho.

There I went again. Or did I? Now that I think about it, I have fixed me of some pretty darn big things. My alcoholism has been gone for over twenty years. All of the anger I had as a kid and a teen, all of the rage I had as a young adult, that really deep down kind of anger and rage, is gone. So is the shame, that really deep down kind of shame, that had me believing I was worthless as a human being.

My inner goof tells me that there is no sense in getting the vapors because I tend to run off the conversational track now and then. I have done a lot of fixing me over the years, so what’s a little harmless digression—save for boring people to death?

Hmm, “the vapors.” That’s a good one. I wonder what it means . . .

[The photo is a scan of my brain in goofball mode. No it isn't. It's a new bowling ball design. Did I ever tell you my bowling stories . . .]

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


My fellow Americans,

I am READY for the

"Sweeping Health-Care Reform"

—and how badly we're going to get screwed this time around.

(Note: Blue Shield is a health insurance company)

Addendum: Want to hear something really sick? Yesterday, my ISP was down so I did our income tax returns!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Not-So-Great Escape

You know, it’s odd. Martha’s most quiet, relaxing times at home always coincide with my hospital stays. I can’t prove it, but whenever she’s told I’m being discharged, it seems like all the relaxation drains right out of her and forms a puddle around her sneakers. A metaphorical puddle, of course, except for the time I accidentally knocked my urine bottle on the floor in my haste to get the hell out of bed. Boy, was that ever a mess.

[Ring, ring]

“Hello, Mrs. Callahan?”


‘This is the hospital. Charles is being discharged today and you need to pick him up.”

“Uh, what’s the latest time I can pick him up before you charge another two grand for room rent?”

“Four o’clock this afternoon.”

“Good. Have him at the front door at 3:58 and I’ll zoom by and get him. I’ve got important crap to do today.”

Sometimes I wonder if I annoy Martha when I’m recuperating at home.

* * * * *

Home. That’s exactly where I was going the night I was convinced the nurses (or doctors) were attempting to murder me by exchanging my IV drip bags with IV bags full of poison.

This, I swear, is a true story. It was April 1998, and the first operation in my life. I won’t go into specifics, other than I sport an eight-inch scar from my stomach to my pubic bone. Luckily, the lawn grew back.

What happened was I had a very bad reaction to the anesthetic. I was ten years sober at the time, but ether is one tiny molecule away from alcohol. Time makes no difference to an alcoholic: snort ether for a couple hours and you have a full-blown drunk again.

My “bad reaction” was auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, and blackouts—I have no memory of visitors or much of anything else. (No memory of the food was a good thing.) I heard the nurses (or doctors) changing my drip bags and, paranoiac that I was, I knew there was poison in them. I had to get out of there, our house was exactly two miles south on the same street, and I was going to walk there to Martha.

I put my stuff, including my street clothes, into my luggage—a big Macy’s shopping bag—and headed for the door in my own pajamas, robe, and slippers. I didn’t get very far, though, because something stopped me short. The drips, the ones that were causing my fear, were still connected to my neck! It was some sort of modular IV (obviously Y-compatible), and I pulled the toxic lines out of the module. No blood spurted out, so I was free to flee.

Right around the corner from my room were two elevators used for transporting patients. I got on one, pushed the button for “ground,”, and got out in a small vestibule with a crash bar—it was an emergency exit. Well I had an emergency, and I crashed right through it.

If there is any humor in this long saga, this is it. I could see the street that would pass my house on my left, but my feet turned right. I was half-dead man shuffling, walking deeper into the prison complex rather than away from it. I was a bit confused, you see. There were cars passing me on the driveway I was following and one stopped. It was a nurse coming on shift, and I remember the stunned look on her face. She checked my wristband, said, “Yeah, you’re one of ours,” helped me into the building, and plopped me down in a wheelchair.

In the women’s OB unit, “The Birthing Place” or whatever they called it. At the crack of dawn, the place was doing more business than Starbucks. And there I sat among them with my luggage on my lap, unshaved, and hair that I’d combed with a Mixmaster. I was drifting in and out of real time and I remember thinking, “What are all these fat women doing in my room?”

A nurse from the unit came to get me, along with a security guard—one of Barney Fife’s many cousins because he just stood there and watched me assault her: I pushed her away three times, hard, because I was scared to death to go back. How they got me up there I don’t know.

[Ring, ring]

“Hello, Mrs. Callahan?”


“This is the hospital. There’s been an incident with Charles.”

“What has that idiot done NOW? He’s already broken two tray tables, worn out the motor on his bed, unplugged everything, beat a machine that wouldn’t stop beeping—“

“—I’m afraid it’s more serious than that this time. You need to come over as soon as possible.”

To say that Martha was annoyed is an understatement. And righteously so. Why wasn’t a Fife patrolling the grounds? Why didn’t a Fife respond to the opening of a crash door? Why didn’t Fife stop me from pushing that poor nurse, whom I apologized to fifty times? I never got an answer from the Head Hospital Guy after I detailed all this in a letter to him, so I let it go.

* * * * *

The bad reaction to ether was confirmed when I talked to the Head at a detox unit at another hospital. She’d been detoxing drunks for thirty years and she said, “The hallucinations and paranoia didn’t start for a couple days after surgery, did they.” “No,” I replied. “It’s rare, but you had the DTs (delirium tremens)—you were drunk, and then you went into cold turkey withdrawal.”

So I’m a rare bird, which we all know, but I’m also the worst Charlie Houdini on the planet.

Thursday, April 01, 2010