Wednesday, December 26, 2007

You must read Wally, now!

Just in case you haven't been around for a while, I am repeating this one because I REALLY want you to read it and I am afraid that you may give up before you get to Wally my pal.

Here is another Holiday reminder from
our favorite furry friend.
Wally the Wolverine.

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Twenty One

Early December 26th 1986 just past midnight and the anesthesiologist has finally arrived. He is very crabby because it IS Christmas, but the surgeons have spent time warning us that Old Doc Weiderhold is ALWAYS crabby when he is called in for an unplanned surgery, he is really good, but he WILL yell at us. (and he did)

When everyone was ready, the surgeon who had been taking a nap in the little on-call room (where I was figuring out how to tie up my scrubs) suddenly sat up, looked at the clock and said “Good! It's the 26th, the kid gets his own birthday! Everybody should get their OWN birthday.”, and off we went down the hall to surgery. Me and my new surgeon buddy Dr. Brodkin.

At the time I was thinking that it was too bad that things got stuck, I had been counting on the 25th. Beth had been in a lot of pain for a lot of hours, but Derek was inexplicably stuck in the play-doh fun-factory of life and the doctor didn't know why. Plan-B would be a little more difficult to implement than usual because it was Christmas day and the doctors were kind of busy. It would be four hours before they would be in “operating” condition (so to speak).

I should have known.

It had been foretold by Lindsay.

On Christmas Eve we had hosted Joe and Lindsay for a nice dinner. Beth's due date was in January and Lindsay was already a wee bit overdue, and to hear her tell it,
she was months behind schedule. During dinner Lindsay shared her ultimate fantasy with us.

She would go into labor very early Christmas morning but wouldn't tell anyone. She would go to her in-laws to have the traditional opening of gifts and then she would say “I have an announcement to make: We are going to have one more present today... we are going to have a baby!” Everybody would fuss and get excited, and Joe and Lindsay would wave goodbye, go to the hospital and squirt out the kid.

I was horrified.
As I am prone to do, I told her so.

That is an AWFUL fantasy. No No No” “Your kid would NEVER have a decent birthday!” I had experience with this type of thing because my mother had me induced to beat the tax-break deadline, she was a very practical woman, she saved some cash but she could NEVER remember my birthday.

We had a wonderful evening despite my big mouth, Hours later we waved goodbye as they drove off into the Christmas Eve darkness.

Beth and I finished whatever it is that we used to do on Christmas Eve and went to bed.

Beth didn't think that she could get out of the waterbed to get to the bathroom in a reasonable amount of time anymore, so she wanted to try sleeping in the guest bed.

We tried it. I was sleeping away on the hard mattress, minding my own business when Beth woke me up at two am. She wanted to tell me something.

Her water broke. Once my sleepy brain got wrapped around that, I found that I no longer was sleepy but had developed a sudden, very severe case of Tourette's syndrome. I was only using one word but I was using it continuously. I may have mentioned Lindsay's name and my feelings about her fantasy once or twice also. It totally ruined my ability to sleep for the rest of the night.

We spent the rest of the morning pacing around. OK, I paced and Beth probably did some constructive stuff. When the sun came up we drove to the hospital and after being checked out, we were told to come back later. Then we drove to Keene where Doug, Leslie, and both sets of parents were.

We opened our presents for a couple of hours and then we made the announcement.

Nana (Beth's mom) said “Have you seen a doctor?”

Beth and I started explaining the situation until Nana would interrupt with “Have you seen a doctor?”, we would say “yes” and continue with the story until Nana would interrupt with “Have you seen a doctor?”, and we would repeat as necessary. This continued for quite a while until eventually Nana's question would get a loud “YES” from seven of us in unison each time she asked. Her record was skipping and there was nothing we could do.
Eventually Beth and I packed up to go to the hospital again.

I still remember Leslie standing in the driveway all teary eyed as we drove away.

The damn hospital told us to come back later. Again.

We went to our house in Antrim and Beth handled the pain in her own way, she rearranged the furniture. She was trying to find a comfortable position and it seems that chairs that are uncomfortable in the living room might be more comfortable in the kitchen. Or perhaps not. Lets try a hassock... here... or here...

After several phone calls to the doctor to check on “times between” and other such things, I was just waiting for permission to return to the hospital, every piece of furniture had been moved at least four times and I was afraid that she was going to ask me to paint the house. Finally they allowed us to come.

I don't remember the details, but I am sure it was a pleasant trip.

Finally we were going to get some action. We had great nurses, a great doctor and... nothing.. Things were progressing. We would have a kid by 4pm. OK, Five thirty.

There's something wrong, not serious mind you, but you will be all done by Seven. The baby monitors reported that everything was okydoky. Beth wasn't. She was
tired. She had been pushing for hours. Two shifts of nurses. Other mothers coming and going.
Warren was hungry (of course), we had headed back to Peterborough before Christmas Dinner so I had to forage at the hospital. I had become skilled at racing down to the
nursing station, getting cookies, and racing back before the next contraction.

Beth wasn't hungry, she had other things on her mind. We would talk between contractions, but she never made a sound during the pushing. Not a peep.
Hours and hours of pushing. At 8pm they started making arrangements for surgery, and Beth was not supposed to push anymore, which was even harder. We weren't told that it would be several hours before the various people involved with Plan-B could be at the point that we were at now. Beth was rolling on a gurney, and the doctors and
I were walking.

Good ol Doctor Brodkin gave the tongs one last try.

If you have never seen a doctor using tongs, it is a sight to behold.

There is a sheet up over Beth's knees and Dr. Brodkin has a different viewpoint than I do.

He holds these two metal salad tongs and surveys the situation.

The tongs are jammed under the sheets and clanked against each other for five seconds and pulled back. Toss the salad and retreat. Stare, toss the salad and retreat. Stare.

No baby popping out, he announces that he is going to start cutting.

Dr. Boxer (with the purple pants) comes over and stands next to me while they start carving. I didn't know who he was, he seemed nice. He was our brand spankin new pediatrician. I didn't know why we needed a foot doctor, but that was because I didn't know what a pediatrician was yet.
Bright lights. I hold Beth's hand and try to explain what is happening on the other side of the sheet where everybody seemed to be so busy. They were busy and
they were talking about all kinds of medical type stuff that I didn't understand. Beth wasn't even scared. Something was finally happening. There are a lot of layers to go through. The lights were bright.

The doctors were about two layers from the goal when the Dr. Brodkin said “Hey LOOK, he's looking right up at us!”. Derek was seeing the bright lights and as the layers were being peeled back things were becoming clearer and clearer. The doctors and nurses were all laughing and the mood in the room changed completely. It also explained why things didn't go as expected: Derek was looking UP while the manual says that he should be looking at the floor. Independent Cuss. They had to yank and tug to free the top part of Derek's head that Beth had spent many hours working so hard to push where it was.

Finally the little cone-head popped out. After celebrating for a while I kissed Beth goodbye and carried Derek down the hall to get weighed and measured. I walked very carefully so that I didn't walk into a wall while I was looking down at him. Dr. Boxer used a little tape measure to get the important data. One of the measurements that he was supposed to measure was the circumference of Derek's head. He measured around his eyebrows, he measured up where a beanie would be, and then he put the tape around the waistline of his very long head. Dr. Boxer turned towards me and seeing the look on my face, said “You'd be surprised how fast these things fix themselves...”

Ohhh thaaaat makes me feel better. My kid looked like Yoda with a cone-head. I figured that Beth and I would adapt to having a kid like this, isn't that why they created PhotoShop?

I put out my pinky and Derek wraps his fingers around it. At that instant I became a
dad. Everything will be just fine. The nurses let me sleep with Beth and Derek
that night.

Over the next two days all of the Nurses would run up to our floor so that they could see the “adorable little cone-head”. Dr. Boxer was right, it did fix itself.

Beth and I had a very nice week at the hospital. Lindsay baked a cake for my birthday and we had a little party in the “day room”.

Beth, Derek and I all went home for the first time on New Year's Eve 1986.

We all slept in the living room. We woke up at midnight and watched the ball drop on TV. We then promptly went back to sleep.

Our new life. Pretty cool.

A week later Lindsay was pleading with Dr. Brodkin to make her baby happen when she told the doctor how Beth had “stolen” her fantasy. The Dr. Brodkin jumped all over Lindsay telling her that nobody should wish for a delivery like Beth had gone through because it was the toughest he had ever seen. The doctor didn't really seem to understand what part of Beth's ordeal was the “fantasy” that Lindsay was referring to.

That tough day and tougher night gave us the greatest reward.

That was 21 years ago tonight. I remember it like it happened last week.
In fact I remember it better than anything that happened last week, but that
wouldn't surprise anyone that knows me.

Twenty One.

It is odd how there are certain MAJOR ages. Derek was convinced that his life was going to change dramatically on his 16th birthday. The world was his oyster, although he was a vegetarian, so the world was his can of chick peas.

The freedom of driving, he would be able to do anything he wanted, etc. etc..

Sixteen really didn't create the kind of radical changes that he was imagining, but Eighteen! Just wait!

I'm sure that twenty-one would be the same type of major event, although I can't really think of ANYTHING that changes at that age except that you can legally drink.

It's legal. Gee. I guess the thing you would do is buy a beer for your kid. Hmmm.

What a festive occasion.

Derek always went out with us for Chinese Food on his birthday (which we NEVER forgot). Tomorrow/today Beth and I are going to take some of Derek's friends out for Chinese Food again. Should I buy the usual Roy Rogers that Derek always ordered (a non-alcoholic fancy drink) for the center of the table or should I order a Suffering Bastard?

Well I may still order the Suffering Bastard because it is soooo much fun for the guys to hear the waiter repeat “sufffffrin baaaasstahhd” back to me, but I think that I will stick to the Roy Rogers for “Derek's drink”. Who knows what Derek would have ordered.

Happy Twenty First Birthday Dude. Thank You.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family.
Please have a wonderful time and enjoy everything that this season has to offer.
Hug everyone around you and then hug them again.
Thank you for your support throughout this year, we could not have done it without you. Really.
We hope to see you as soon as we can. Our schedule is very clear, please call us and make arrangements for us to visit.
Call us. We want to see you.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Thank you for listening,
Beth & Warren

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Barrington Bunny

A Christmas Story that Beth and I used to look forward to hearing on the radio every year.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wally the Wolverine

Here is another Holiday reminder from our favorite furry friend.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Feeling lazy in the snow (in Antrimville)

We dropped D&L off at the airport in Florida and Beth and I headed North.
While Beth was driving, I was talking to Stu on the phone and he mentioned that his mom used to use the AutoTrain. I said that it is probably expensive and he said that his mother was really cheap, so it must have been cost affective. I hung up, fired up the computer and checked out Amtrak. I did some calculations and after subtracting gas expenses, an overnight stay, food, and the cost of some miscellaneous expense (like South of the Border gift shops) and the train seemed like a good idea. The train was scheduled to leave at 4pm from a spot in Florida that was two hours away from where we were. It was 2:10pm. I jumped in the driver's seat, we bought two Dairy Queen sundaes for vitality, stamina, and mood enhancement and we turned right and headed East in a straight line to the Amtrak station. We made it to the "WineBarrel Express" which was a very exciting adventure on it's own that I will talk about later. We squirted out of the other end and were reunited with our car in Virginia and then started heading North again. We steered directly into the "Northeast Corridor". Whew. Traffic, tunnels, bridges, Washington DC. We crossed the lower level of the George Washington Bridge into NYC and were looking at the huge grimy brick walls of the undershorts of the city when we saw our first icicles of the year. Huge 20 foot tall things stretching down the black walls towards the eight lanes of honking cars. Jimmy Buffett's song about wasting away in Margaritaville was playing on the radio and caused Beth and I to do a final check to confirm that the mission was a "GO". We could veer right and sneak back across the Verrazano to warmer weather or veer left into the black hole of Route 95. The tail lights in front of me were narrowing into a blur of red, everything becomes compressed in a black hole, you know.

We went for it. We turned up the radio to drown out the honking horns and crept when necessary and lurched and sped along when the opportunity presented itself. We almost jumped on the Hutch which was pretty crowded and instead went for Rt 95. We hadn't been on the Connecticut stretch of Rt 95 for twenty years, it HAD to be better by now.
Nope. It's not any better. Two hours later we had traveled twenty or thirty miles and the traffic reports were saying "everything was normal".
We took an exit and drove the back roads to the sanity of the Hutchinson Parkway, which had evolved into the Merritt Parkway at this latitude.
We spent an hour getting to the next exit. Then I just gave up. I set Lorraine (our trusty navigation system) to a spot in Northern Connecticut and we drove though residential neighborhoods and single lane back roads for an hour until we hit route Rt 84 and then started cruising again.
Traffic was still thick, but it was moving.
We had spent four hours or more getting from the Hudson River in Manhattan to Stamford Connecticut, and we weren't phased at all. Nope. It didn't bother us. We knew we didn't want to turn around and flee to warmer roads, nosiree, there were waaaaay too many cars blocking the portal to "the warm side". We were committed to the mission. We were hungry and I started asking Lorraine to look for motels, but Beth wanted to push on. McDonalds gave us calories and caffeine and we plunged back into the darkness. We called to check up with D&L so we could get a little sympathy about the stresses of our trip and they had JUST arrived at the airport in Manchester and were filling out the forms so that their luggage could be shipped to them, someday. We had dropped them off in Florida, driven four hours, rode a train, drank gallons of wine, slept a little, ate breakfast, sat around reading, drove to NYC, entered the black hole of tail lights, busted out of the other side, were three hours from D&L's house and D&L STILL had to shovel out their car and drive two hours home. Nope, we weren't going to get any sympathy from them. We cranked up the radio even louder and sang songs until we crossed the New Hampster border. We held hands as we crossed the line and took a deep sigh. We found a couch and Beth took a nap from 10:30pm Monday until 7:30am Wednesday. Tuesday didn't exist.
We have since found a place to live and are going to go there now.
We may be taking it easy for a while. There is a beautiful snowstorm right now. Whooops, Beth fell asleep on the couch next to me. I'm going to wake her up so that we can eat some lunch and drive to Marlborough to check out the couch in our new living quarters.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Heading Nawth

This is fairly typical. Wonderful weather all week long. Flat seas. Dolphins swimming by, a manta ray leaping in a graceful arc, and then yesterday afternoon the wind picked up.
The waves perk up. Actually they stand up and come crashing down. Huge strings of waves with three second intervals. Very impressive, and warm. This morning before the sun came up Doug and I were wandering around on the beach until the rain started. We were able to watch a palm tree out by the street create all kinds of sparks by trying to become one with the power lines.
So we are packing (well Beth is packing while I am typing) and will be leaving town in bad weather again. We will be leaving the warm Florida weather and heading towards the cold cold cold Northeast. It's time for hugs, we'll just have to do it with big bulky winter coats on. Our lack of planning and innate sense of timing will assure that we will arrive up North when the mercury is embarrassed by the amount of shrinkage it has endured.
Load up, move out. Dump D&L at the airport in Florida and because of the storm we can probably pick them up at the airport in Manchester New Hampster as we drive through.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

December 14th

This is the Birthday day. December 14th.

J.R. jr. is the young one. Thirteen today. He is a teenager but from what I understand, he is still nice to be around.

Everett is the "middle aged" one. OK, the one-third aged one. Make sure that you talk VERY loudly if you are around him tomorrow. It will help his headache. You may want to call him extra early on the morning of the 15th to wish him a happy birthday. He likes that. He may be older, but at this point he doesn't have to add any coloring to his hair "product". He still loves his mirror.

And then there is David. He is three quarters age. Older than Dirt. That is meant in the nicest possible way, of course. Old, very old. Cranky too. His only thrill in life is that he is so very much younger than Ted. David doesn't like mirrors, they lie. Talk loudly to him too, but not because he has a headache, do it just to get his attention. He enjoys phone calls early in the morning too. Be sure to talk loudly. He likes that. I am not sure, but I believe that by law, he is required to surrender his Massachusetts drivers license because of his advanced age or else he has to take an on-the-road driver's test every two weeks. Please remind him of this. It should be easy to pass since all of the local cops know him by name.

Happy Birthday Boys.

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Tim, Part I, Good ol Tim

In Freeport Maine today, 1600 miles away from us, our family is having a memorial for Cousin Tim.
As I am editing this, I am inserting this in front of all of my other “Tim” paragraphs, the line below says: “My cousin Tim passed away at 4:30 this morning. His son Karl was with him.”

I have written many paragraphs about Tim since then. Some of them have been coherent and some have been little snippets of memories. I haven't been able to post any of them, and I don't know why. Since today is his funeral, and I can't be there, I will post these now. It still perplexes me why Tim's passing has bothered me so much. I probably got less time with Tim than any of his other cousins, but he had a profound impact on my life that I will never forget. I think that I am so deeply affected because his children, whom I don't really know, would have had more time with him if I had done things differently.
I only got to see Tim up at Roland Park during the rare times that we were up there at the same time, and I saw him at funerals. Tim was ten years older than my sister and I, and from tales that I have heard I get the idea that he was the kid that would tattle on Judy, Betsy, Ted, and David when they were up to no good, which they usually were.
When I was a little kid, one of my biggest thrills up at the lake was going for a ride in Tim's hot-rod boat. Tim had made a very small, very fast, flat bottomed plywood boat many years ago. I wanted to have a little fast boat like Tim's when I became a teenager. When Tim was done playing with it, he took it downtown to the boat dealer to sell it and it was stolen from the boat yard the first night that it was on the lot.
Tim took that as a compliment. He lost the money, but it was a compliment nonetheless.

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Tim, part II, Birthdays and Funerals

Birthdays and Funerals

I enjoyed chatting with Tim because we were both engineers, although in different fields (I was into metal cutting and software and he worked with “New and Used Water”).
At group events like birthday parties and funerals I would always seek him out so we could chat. We both were caretakers of cars that were purchased by our Grandfather Percy. I had the Marmon and he had the Ford. We both loved each other's cars and were both glad that the other one had “rescued” them. Tim had also ridden in my car many years ago, and for many years I still had not experienced such a thing, so I enjoyed hearing about his experiences.
Tim still has a couple of small parts that belonged to my Marmon. He would always tell me about them, but when you are getting dressed for Aunt Libby's funeral you just don't remember to put Marmon wing nuts in your pocket. I would always nag him to start working on the station wagon and he would tell me about his basket-case Jeep that he was going to work on someday. We talked about making the Jeep the front part of the “Roland Park large-crowd mass-transit system”, because we both liked jeeps, trailers, contraptions, and the ride to and from the lake more than actually swimming IN the water. Someday he was going to give me the Ford when he was sure that he wasn't going to work on it anymore. He had lost the back seat forever when he was using the car to haul firewood for several seasons. I was suposed to find a grill that got wiped out on the day that Granpa Percy gave up driving forever. You know, all those things that we knew were never going to happen.

With the cars being the reliable ice breaker we would quickly move on to “zen and the art of cottage maintenance” because we were both very involved with this losing battle of cottage life and I would always get some useful nugget from him.

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Tim, part III, Porch Talk

Porch Talk, Chatting with Scorched Earth Tim

I have fond memories of sitting on any one of the cottage porches drinking a beer, and quietly chatting together while everybody else would be making noise at the “kitchen end” of the house, and he would make me laugh so hard with his no-nonsense approach to dealing with things.
I called him “Scorched Earth Tim” which would always make him smirk.
“The trees will grow back faster than you can mow them down.”
”Clear the view!”
“Pine trees rot roofs, cut em down.”
He had radical opinions on the width of roads, drainage, blueberry bushes, porch railings, roofs, sheds, porch steps, and porcupines.
There was no sentimentality when it came to cottages, furniture, barns, trees. If it didn't work, replace it with something that did.
When I was considering building a new cottage to replace our old one that had burned to the ground, Tim shocked me by suggesting a contemporary house. A REAL house, no cottage, forget cottages, they are cold, they are hot, quaint isn't comfortable. Cottages have too many problems. I think Tim would have made a house and furniture out of concrete to reduce maintenance if his family would go along with it. Yessiree, he wasn't afraid of change like some of us in Roland park.

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Tim, part IV, My last Visit.

My Last visit

I was very fortunate to sneak in one last visit with Tim before we left on my Adventure this year.
Martha was going to take Edith. I asked if I could hitch a ride.
Then Betsy was going to be able to go too. Martha was overbooked and couldn't go and Edith wanted to “save her visit” until next week. So Betsy and I went together. It was great. Not only did Betsy and I get to answer each other's questions about family history, but we got to see Tim. He was having a good day. He looked good (to me). Betsy asked her brother some technical questions that she had saved up for her visit, which Tim answered for her. Tim was always her “technical” source. We chatted about cottages, kids, vacations, and health. His voice was getting weaker and aimed at the floor, so Betsy was having some trouble understanding him, but I was able to interpret what he was saying without any problem.
Tim wanted to know what my Father had died from.
I told him that it wasn't Parkinsons. “Parkinsons doesn't kill you, it just wears you down.”
My Father had been held down by Parkinsons since he was thirty five years old, by the time he was sixty two, he was very very tired. I asked Tim how old he was and his original answer was too high, which Betsy was exceedingly quick to correct (since Tim's age is related to Betsy's age).
We decided that Tim was about 63, the same age my father was when he passed. He told me that he suspected that the Parkinsons wasn't going to kill him, but boredom would. He was getting antsy to take a nap so we said our goodbyes, I complimented him on his model car on his dresser, and we left.
Betsy was crying like she always did when leaving Tim, but I felt oddly happy. I had a feeling that I would never see him again, so I didn't really understand my mood. As Betsy and I were driving back to New Hampshire I figured out that it was because it was just like visiting my father. Intelligent, fun to talk to, and funny. Very funny. A conversation with Tim was always productive. He didn't talk just to make noise, he talked when he could add something. I felt sorry for Betsy because she had to watch her brother being taken away, but I didn't feel sorry for Tim, he made me feel that he had spent a lot of time reviewing the situation and was at peace with it.

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Tim, part V, Spotting Parkinsons

Spotting Parkinsons

The most important thing that Tim had taught me was how I had failed him.
I didn't know him well enough to tell him what he needed to hear and I shortened his life. He would be alive today if I had spoken up. I will never make that mistake again.
My sister Leslie and I grew up with Parkinsons disease. My father was diagnosed at 35 years old, so ALL of my memories of my dad are a picture modified with the broad brush strokes of parkinsons.
You may have noticed that people with downs-syndrome look like brothers and sisters of other downs-syndrome patients more than they look like their mothers and fathers. Well Parkinsons patients all develop the same “look”.
Leslie and I can pick out Parkinsons patients from a crowd. My older brothers can not spot the symptoms because they were already out of the house when the signs developed.
I would see Tim once in a great while at Birthdays or Funerals and it was obvious to me that poor Tim had Parkinsons. What I was too stupid to realize is that just because something is obvious to you, does not mean it is obvious to everyone else. I would see Tim deteriorate and feel sad after seeing him, but I never mentioned it to him because I assumed that he already was being treated.
Then there was the summer of funerals. All of us were getting together once a week to bury another family member and I was spending more time with Tim. I realized that I was never being asked to hold his tilted drink while he fished pills out of his pocket. Was it possible that he wasn't taking pills? Hadn't anybody noticed that Tim was aging at five times the normal rate?
I was still a wimp, so I talked to his brother Wink.
“Isn't Tim being treated for Parkinsons?”
“You DO know he has it, don't you?”
I still remember Wink looking over his shoulder at his brother Tim. At that moment, Tim was standing by himself, hunched over, and trying to juggle a plastic cup of punch while stuffing something sweet up into his mouth trying to avoid having too much falling onto the floor. Wink looked back at me with the lightbulb look. “You know, SOMETHING seemed wrong.” and we started tossing things back and forth. “I told him that Tim should get treatment immediately so that the aging process can be tempered a bit. Wink was still assembling pieces of the puzzle that explained why Tim would take five hours to do something that he used to do in twenty minutes.
That evening I received a phone call from Cousin Ann telling me that they had all discussed Tim that evening and wanted to thank me. I felt good temporarily.
Tim went to the doctor for a “test”.
The doctor asked Tim to walk across the room, Tim did, and the Doctor said “You've got it!”.
Tim started treatment, everyone adjusted to the new Tim. The rapid deterioration was squelched, but a huge amount of damage had been done. He had already skipped thirty years and he wasn't going to get them back. I want to cry when I see the porch pictures of the family hanging on walls of the cottages and comparing them. Tim ages five years while everybody else ages one. If I had spoken up to mention what was obvious to me (but not to anyone else), Tim would have not lost as many years.
During this same time period there was someone in my car club that obviously had Parkinsons too.
I vowed that I would confirm that they knew about it the next time that I saw them, but it was too late. She had a very rare, very aggressive variation that destroyed their life within a couple of years.
Since I learned my lesson with Tim I have been more “aggressive” with my amateur diagnosis.
There is a chance that I am wrong, the person finds out that they are okay and is angry at me for the rest of his or her life that I scared them so much for absolutely no reason, but there is a reason: My cousin Tim. If I spot the symptoms in someone that I know, I WILL tell them. For Tim.
What I am still struggling with is whether I should ever tell people on the street. If they already know, they don't need to be reminded by some jerk walking by, but what if they don't know?
I have never done it, but it tortures me every time.

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Tim, part VI, The Symptoms

Parkinsons Symptoms that I see.

A Parkinsons person will hold a glass at a tilt with the liquid almost spilling. Other people would automatically level out the glass, but with Parkinsons, unless it is actually spilling, it is not worth the extreme effort to adjust your wrist.
The Parkinson's mask: Limited facial expressions that limit interactions with new acquaintances. The family doesn't even notice because they read the eyes, which still dance and laugh just fine.
The hunch. People that have always had good posture will start drooping. I think gravity wins and you don't have the energy to keep telling the shoulder muscles to do their job.
The fish was thiiis big. If they are explaining the size of something, a Parkinsons person cannot just hold a finger on each hand six inches apart. They will touch their thumbs to create a bridge that keeps the two hands steady.
Rotating your hand. Try this at home. Hold your hand out with the palm down. Now rotate it to the palm up position. Notice that the whole assembly rotated around an axis that is almost at your middle finger, your “driving finger” if you are a New Yorker. To simulate how Tim and my Father would rotate their hands, try locking your thumb in one spot in the air and rotate your arm and hand around your thumb. Curl your fingers into a cup shape and you will approximate the look of a typical conversation. Both hands are connected by an invisible cable that goes up and over the shoulder so both hands will rotate simultaneously. Isn't that tiring? Are your arms sore? That is how every movement is when you no longer have an auto-pilot. You have to send a message to each muscle to tell it to move. They will still do it, but it is a lot of work. Sitting quietly and listening is much easier.
If you could bring me some food, it is even better.
Tippy toes. The knees bend, the arms reach forward, but you aren't able to shift your weight to actually lift one foot to slide it forward. You end up leaning into a crouch that looks like you are ready to jump off a dock, and then everyone stops and turns around to watch you jump off the dock, which makes it that much harder. Try walking across the room and concentrate on a few steps to take note of how you shift your weight from one leg to the other one, lift, slide, place, shift weight. It's very complicated.
Obstacles. When you have parkinsons you can step up over a curbing, but you can't walk down the sidewalk. A long hallway can stop you cold because there are no obstacles. Walking down railroad tracks would keep your mind from wandering so that you can concentrate on which muscles need moving. When you are in a long hallway, the person next to you will ALWAYS start chattering because THEY have gone into auto-pilot mode, and if they expect a reply from you, forward movement has to stop while you are talking. Very frustrating.
An interesting tidbit: Parkinsons patients do not burn. In nursing homes where parkinsons patients have been bedridden for years, if the fire alarm rings, the patient who couldn't walk will run to the sidewalk. They can't stand up when they are out there and will keep falling down, but they can run down stairs faster than anyone. It seems that adrenaline can make auto-pilot work for anyone.
Intelligence. This isn't official, but most people that I have seen with Parkinsons are very smart and very funny. The kind of people that I like to hang around with.

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Tim, part VII, Goodbye.

I am sorry that I couldn't make it to Freeport today. I hope that his entire family knows that we were thinking of you today. I am sorry that I didn't raise my voice sooner when I first spotted the problem, I have learned from it, and I hope it will never happen again.

I will miss Tim. He was fun.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The goat farmer.

The goat farmer needed supplies. He had bought one of those fancy label printers to keep track of his inventory.
He was the proprietor of a modern state of the art business that could boast of customers that were some of the biggest names in goat farming.
This label printer was the perfect addition so that those little vials could be tracked, sorted and shipped without errors. The old technique of hand-writing the labels caused errors, tied up employees whose hands could be doing more important things, and didn't convey the image of a modern operation like he was running.
He was happy with the printer, felt that the prices for the ink and labels were reasonable, but there was a question about the taxes.
How come he was being charged a sales tax on his ink and labels?

The farmer was transferred to the tax department. Betty would get to the bottom of this.
“OK, so what is your product?” Betty asked.

“Goat sperm” the farmer said.
“Excuse me, did you say goat... sperm?”

“Yep, I'm the largest producer of goat sperm in the tri-state area.”

Betty regrouped. She would have liked to pass this research off to somebody/ANYbody else, but no one was available. Act calm, stay in control... “Oh? And how large would that be?”

“We ship twelve hundred units a day” the farmer said proudly.

“My my, that sounds big all right.” Betty said, sounding as knowledgeable as she could, “and you use our machine for what?”

“To label the vials.” The farmer replied “We keep track of the sire, the date of the collection, and the sample number.”

Betty kept thinking 'twelve hundred per day', 'twelve hundred per day'. She was having trouble wrapping her brain around that. “You 'milk' one thousand two hundred goats per day?” She paused, “is 'milk' the correct word?”

“You can use that” he chuckled, “I'll know what you mean.” “How come I'm paying taxes on labels that are for use in my plant, these supplies should be exempt!”.

Betty assured the farmer that she would contact his states' tax department.
Betty called the correct department and went through the entire dilemma with them. The woman on the other end was sympathetic to the difficulties of sorting through this, but they worked out the details between them based on what they understood of the process. Armed with this information she felt that she was better prepared to deal with the farmer without being embarrassed.

She called the farmer and told him “You may be eligible for an exemption based on where in your process you use your labels.” “I have to know if these labels are used for the vials that are shipped to the customer or if they are used for storage or inventory.” “It makes a difference in your state whether the labels are for marking 'per goat' or 'per customer'.
Betty was pulling it off. She was professional, in control...

The farmer said “Well I don't know exactly where you draw the line?”.

Betty suddenly felt that she might be forced into delving into the details. She popped up to look around her cubicle to make sure that no one was approaching.
She crouched over so she could talk quietly into the phone. “It makes a difference WHEN you put the label on the product.”

The farmer was still talking at the same volume but Betty was sure that he was yelling loud enough so that everyone in the other cubicles could hear.

He said “you mean the vials of sperm?”

Betty waited for “sperm” to stop echoing around the office. EVERYBODY heard that, didn't they? “yesssss” she hissed. “I mean the vials of...”
“product”. Deep breath. Keep going. “At what stage of the process do you affix the label?”

The farmer said “we print em out as we need em so they don't get mixed up.” “Each goat has a bar code on his collar and the label is printed to match.”

Betty lowered her head even lower so that the phone was clunking against the keyboard
“No no, I mean do you label each batch or is each vial kept separate?” she said in a very low voice.

“I told you, twelve hundred per day.” he said. After Betty's disappearing volume, the farmer's voice sounded like it was booming on a speaker phone. “Twelve hundred per day means twelve hundred glass vials, twelve hundred labels, and of course, twelve hundred goats.” “You can't really do this without the goats now, could you?”

Silence. Betty was waiting for the echoes to stop.

“Could you?” “Hello Betty?”

“Yes... I'm here....”

“I was saying you need twelve hundred goats, did you hear that?”

“Yes, I heard it.” She wanted this conversation to end.

He continued “so if I'm labeling twelve hundred vials and I freeze them, and I also ship twelve hundred every day, I doesn't matter whether a vial was collected today, yesterday, or two months ago. I don't care and I don't think the state should care either.”

Betty offered “the way that they explained it to me, is that it makes a difference whether the bottles are labeled before or after the collection machine”.

Now it was time for the farmer to pause “What kinda machine?”

“You know... the 'milking' machine.”

“Honey, we ain't milking them, these are BOY goats!”

Betty blushed and drove her chin down on the M key of her keyboard and only lifted it to stop the beeping. “I know that!”. “I mean the machine that collects the sperm from the twelve hundred goats per day”.

The farmer laughed. “Honey, nobody sells a machine to do that!

Betty said "Okay, I will have to get back to you... Thank you for calling, we will have to do a little more research".

Then she stood up, adjusted her blouse, and went out for a walk. This was a call she would have to finish another day.

I wrote this story this particular week because I am spending some time with the person that originally told me this story several years ago. I wanted to have the facts checked. The dialog is not exact but it has been confirmed that this is how it happened, more or less. I was also told that Betty had just started this job when this happened. She had plenty of tax experience but not very much goat experience.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The power of film.

Beth and I NEVER get to go to the movies. When we lived in New York we used to go to the Parkway Theater quite often. Two movies for $1. Good deal if you got there early enough to get one of the 5 seats that were still kind of comfortable.
Antrim New Hampster was not the place for movie buffs. It is a long drive home when you are done. The Cinema 1-2-many Complexes have small screens, lousy sound with an equalizer adjusted by a high school kid, and such thin walls that you are keenely aware of the explosions happening in the movie next door that you should have seen.

While we have been living the hobo life, we haven't seen any movies, but more importantly, we haven't seen any advertisements for movies. We see a listing of 27 movies on the sign at The Cinema 1-2-many Complexes as we drive by, and it looks like coded messages for the enemy.
We have no idea what anything is.

Cris G. likes to go to movies. She goes with her friend Jeannie every Friday. Jeannie went to TWO movies on Thanksgiving with her daughter and was telling us about them during our 2nd Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. One was a story about Disney movies that come to life. It has a lot of talking animals. Jeannie says that Cris loves movies with talking animals.
She also saw August Rush. A story about a kid and music. It has an ending that just stopped. She wasn't fond of the ending. The Disney story has talking animals. I asked Jeannie if we were only going to see ONE movie, which one would you recommend? "Well August Rush is a great movie, but Cris really likes talking animals." Later Jeannie suggested to Cris when we weren't in the room that August Rush might be too hard for us to see becuase of our background with Derek and all, but I didn't hear that suggestion and Beth doesn't enjoy animation (even though I happen to LOVE it, go figure), so I made the decision to see August Rush. Music, no animation, what could go wrong?

August Rush was fantastic. The music was awesome. The story was good without being excessively sappy. The ending was perfect. I was having some trouble with seeing the screen because my eyes were very watery from some pollen that was in the theater, but it was dark, so no one noticed. My nose was running badly, I needed a box of tissues, but that was the pollen too, I assume. I thought that it was SUCH a powerful movie. I loved it. You should see it at a theater before it goes away OR see it at someone's house that has a good screen and sound system when it comes out on DVD in another 27 days or so. Do NOT see it with someone who likes to talk during movies.
I can't prove it, but I think that it was a great movie even for people who are NOT parents without a child. Wow.

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A quick rant.

This morning I started my day with a quick little rant about those emails that want you to spread the word -- NOW. It isn't very good, and it is full of false information, and serves no purpose, but maybe you should read it before a lightning bolt hits you.
Why are those spotted dogs sitting out in the yard? W-w-what are they? Are they smoking? What is that smoke? Are those? They are! Hellfire and dalmations! Aaaaaaaargh!
Here is my rant: Chainmail from a bully

chemo sabe said...
OH I AM SOOOO with you!! I am personally insulted by chain mail. Especially the religious ones. I TOTALLY believe in the power of prayer. BUT those stupid "if you send this within 5 minutes to 10 people, God will grant your wish!" letters make me nuts! As if God were a puppet on YOUR string!!!
I will admit to having forwarded a couple--ONLY with the caveat that as a chain letter this is stupid, but perhaps the message alone had some merit.
Love your rants!!!
chemo sabe,
December 6, 2007 11:51 AM

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Voice of Reason.

I was recently listening to a lady named Leddy Hammock telling a story about a difficult time that she had with a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper was in a foul mood, the customer quickly got into a foul mood and they had a blowout. The customer stomped out, and long story short, after determining that this store was the only store that had what she wanted, she had to return to the store and apologize. The shopkeeper apologized, and everybody lived happily ever after.

I learned this lesson a long time ago from an unlikely source.
Now to make a short story long again.

I was working at a small company of about 35 employees. There were two owners (the grownups), a large group of 18 to 25 year olds (the kids), and then four of us that played the role of day to day management (the teenagers).
We were inexperienced but we were constantly trying to improve ourselves.

There was something that Paul was doing on a regular basis that concerned me.
No big deal, just using his signature to give his favorite kids more leeway than the others.
Paul and I were having a discussion when I happened to voice my opinion that I felt that he shouldn't be doing what he was doing. We delved into it further.
I explained to him why what he was doing was inherently wrong. He surprised me by explaining that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing, it was MY problem.
The discussion continued for a very long time. I was up in my office and he was standing in my doorway. While our discussion was happening everybody else in the company had gone home and we were the only two left. He usually opened the place up and I usually closed it, so he was losing his steam. He had to go.
We ended our “dialog” with both us stating our beliefs on the subject. He holding firmly to his knuckle headed concept that it was no big deal, and me stating from my all-knowing pedestal that what he was doing was no less than stealing. And I meant it too.

I didn't sleep well that night.
I didn't want to go to work the next morning.
Paul and I worked very closely every day. We disagreed on a lot of little things and we had no problem telling each other. We would adjust our thinking to the side of whomever presented the best logic. Paul was big on logic, the big knuckle head was just on the wrong side of ethics with this issue. I was on the correct side, and he was wrong. I couldn't apologize because when you are arguing about ethics and you are on the right side, to apologize would step over to the wrong side. This sucked. I saw no way out. It's tough being right.

The next morning I was out in the shop fixing a problem on a Mazak. My stomach was churning, I was cranky, I didn't want to be there. Paul was late.
The control panel on this Mazak hung from a high swinging arm so to program this particular machine, you had to perch yourself up on a very tall stool that was on top of the operator's platform. You looked like a British schoolmaster looking down at the kids when you were working up there poking at the keyboard. Or a dunce sitting on a stool.

Paul eventually came in. I kept typing.
I was cringing as Paul Reason came up to me that morning. Paul is a big guy, six and half feet or so and twice as wide as me. He marched right up to me on my little wobbly stool, looked up and said “Hi Warren, It's a new day!”
I shook his hand and said “Yes it is, isn't it.”
The anxiety was gone, I felt better. We never mentioned that subject again.
Time to get a snack.

I still remember that experience. The feeling of relief, the feeling of forgiveness, the reminder that differences of opinion are just a puff of smoke from a skidding tire. It should be forgotten by the next lap. If you keep creating puffs at the same spot on every lap, then it is up to you to tweak your approach, or speed, or do whatever you have to to avoid repeating the same mistake the next time around.
I have used Paul Reason's technique MANY times. It has made my life easier to forgive and TRULY forget, and to do it as quickly as possible.
It has certainly made life a little bit more pleasant for some of those that I have exchanged “viewpoints” with in the past.
I hear that Paul lives in Brattleboro Vermont now. He still is having a good time working at the same place with most of the same “kids” who have grown up now.
I ran into Paul a couple of years ago and we snapped right back into the same warped sense of humor that allowed us to connect when we worked together.

Now when I have a conversation that ends in a way that should be “corrected”, I always try to listen to “The Voice of Reason”, and clear the air as soon as I can.
Forget the ego, do what's right, none of it is important, it really isn't.

Mr. Reason, if someone tells you about this article, I would like to say “Thank You.”
Be sure to say hi to the gang of misfits for me.

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Got Gators?

Reverend Rick contacted me to tell me about a couple of spots in Sarasota that we should see. He started reading this Blog after I wrote that little story about him in Florida Men, Part I.
He likes it. When he gets time he pokes further and further back.
I am especially pleased that, because of that story, he now has an official online "handle".

He signed off on his notes with his new name: Dances-with-Gators.

It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

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Haircut time again. A double issue.

Haircut time again.

My last haircut was a dud. I went to a WallyWorld to have it done because it was such an odd experience before that gave me so much to write about.
My timing was just a little off. A customer was just paying his stylist at the register. He was a jovial fellow that had just gotten a wiffle “because he was going home to see the little woman”. Well, you can be pretty sure that “the little woman” wasn't going to have to wonder who it was that was knockin' on her door with a dollar-ninety-nine-bunch-o-flowers in his hands. As she approached the door she was going to recognize the smell.
He might have been so durn happy to be goin' home because whereever he came from, sure did stink. That happy guy that didn't leave a tip was leaving a trail of distorted faces all of the way out of the WallyWorld entrance. Why the WallyWorld greeter actually missed a few folks as everybody was looking around for the source.
Well I was standing at the counter just simmering in it, waiting for my chance to move to a new location to get my haircut. Any location. Beth had quickly decided to go “shopping” and was nowhere to be seen.
There was a delay before I could be served because the young woman that had cashed out mister “Jovial Air Freshener” was using the little sink back there to frantically wash her hands. Then she washed her face and neck. Then she started washing her hands and arms again.
Her coworker, who was busy doing some chemical process to another customer, reminded the girl (that at this point, looked like a raccoon preparing a Thanksgiving feast), that she had a customer waiting. The girl toweled off, stamped out, collected me, and started hacking away. She had a scowl on her face that I read as: Unless I was a plastic surgeon that could give her an immediate nose transplant to replace the freshly assaulted one that she had on her face, I should keep my mouth shut.
So I talked. She was hacking and jabbing with those scissors. I noticed that they weren't the grade-school round-tipped things, they looked sharp. She looked like she hated her job, her profession, and her customers. Those scissors looked very sharp.
I talked to her about her family, because I figured that if I reminded her that she had a family, then she may not want to go to jail. Well it seems that there were some things about her childhood that seemed to bubble up a little quicker than they normally would during the course of a standard haircut, but at least the speed of the snip-snip-snip was slowing down a little. Before she was done, her mood had improved, she was laughing, I felt less like a hostage and more like a customer, although when I looked in the mirror it was obvious that I was a WallyWorld customer. An All-American haircut, yes sir. That hostage period had created damage that all the skill of a laughing beautician couldn't undo, I would have to wait for it to grow.
When I found Beth on the far side of the store, she looked startled. She asked me what happened and then started doing that wifely thing of pulling individual pieces of hair with the thought of “well maybe if I just move THIS piece, it will look better” until finally she just tries flattening it with her palm. I explained that my 'stylist' was in a very foul mood when she started. Beth said “why didn't you walk out?”.
I realized then that if I was in a hostage situation in a bank and the bad guys said “If you don't trust us, then you should just leave now!”, I probably wouldn't raise my hand because I wouldn't want to be rude and make the poor [bad guys] feel that I didn't have faith in them. I had better work on that. Fortunately I haven't had to cash a check since May, so I have avoided any bad guys in a bank.
Back to my story. Remember the haircut?
My hair grew out and it was time to look dapper again.
So I went to two different WallyWorlds here in Florida, and they didn't have a place to get a haircut, so this morning after Beth and I got our flu shots, we found a “Generic Haircut Chain”. We walked in. There were two bored people. I was going to get a cut and Beth wanted her bangs trimmed. The lady asked the guy standing behind her which one of us he wanted to do. He didn't want to do either one of us, so the lady took me and told Beth to wait.
I'm glad the guy wasn't busy because that left him free to man the phone.
A coworker of theirs, I'll call her Ms. Dip, had told a customer the day before that she would pick the customer up today and take her someplace, but Ms. Dip had lost the customer's name. Ms. Dip had remembered that the customer had written a check to pay for the cut, so she wanted Mr. Phone to open the deposit bag from yesterday and tell her what name and number was on the check. Mr. Phone explained to her that he wasn't going to open the deposit bag, if she wanted to, Ms. Dip should come in and do it herself. Then the fun started. Ms. Dip launched into a very long story about why she was too busy to come in. Mr. Phone was literally hitting his head against the cash register until he realized that Ms. Dip was just going to keep talking. So Mr. Phone went back to the computer, doing what he was doing before the call and would pick up the phone, say “uh-huh” and put the phone down. He was doing this “uh-huh” thing about twice a minute. He wasn't even pausing to listen. Just “uh-huh” and drop the phone. After about three or four minutes of this he finally picked it up and said “I gotta go, I've got a customer!” and hung up. You know how you get the feeling that sometimes someone isn't listening when you are telling a long story (like this one)?
Well maybe Mr. Phone is on the other end.
We all were laughing. My 'stylist', I'll call her Ms. Calendar, asked Mr. Phone what THAT was about.
Mr. Phone repeated what I already told you, and then said that she was just going on and on and on...
“Man, she is just crazy...”
Ms. Calendar then stated that in this business she has worked with more “shot out” people than you could believe. I asked “shot out”? She said “Yeah, shot out. You know, in the hair cut business, it's the same small group of people that work at all of the different places, and we move around all the time.”
“I have worked with more burnouts and people that are just crazy.”
My mind immediately flashed to my last haircut person frantically trying to scrub the stink off her skin and decided that there might be a reason for this.
Let's pursue this... “Give me an example?” I said (tossing the bone out)
“Well there is this girl Wanda, that I worked with at [Generic-Haircut-2] that was a pretty good stylist, but she was really into cocaine. She would lose a job at one place and get hired by another. She's still bouncing around.”
“Well one day the girls decided to have a special lunch, they were going to order from Red Lobster, you know, a good lunch. So they ordered all of the food and Wanda said that she would go pick it up. She took the lunch money, and ran away with it.”

“She ran away with the lunch money?” I said.

“Yep” “It was just too much of a temptation.”

All four of us were laughing hard now.
I was saying “imagine weighing the choices, my job, my coworkers, or a little bit of cash? Hmmmmm”
Mr. Phone was saying that some people “only bring their lunch money to work, that's ALL they have with them”. Typical guy, he's thinking on terms of “Well, NOW how am I going to eat today!!!”.
I said that it is very important to chose the correct day to rip off all of the people that you work with, a McDonalds day, doesn't cut it, Subway, no, no, wait for it...
Red Lobster, THAT's the day to throw away your job and all of your coworkers.
I asked if she had gotten her next job at Brinks so that she could steal their lunch money.
“hey, wait a minute... what are they carrying around in those bags? More lunch money?”
The manager of “Generic-Haircut-3” was going to hire Wanda but all of “the girls” said that they would quit if she was hired. Mr. Phone said that Wanda was the one that got locked in the mall all night. I pursued, because I have to: “Locked in the mall?”
“Yeah, she parties a lot and on a Sunday she was having trouble standing up, so they told her to go lie down in the back room. When it was closing time, they couldn't wake her up because she was so blasted. So they left her in the back room, and when she woke up, she was the only one in the mall”.
I expressed my opinion that “Wanda would be the LAST person that you would want wandering around a mall all night. The person that unlocks a door in the morning has Wanda rushing by with a shopping cart full of stuff as she runs to her car.”
At about that time, my haircut was done, Beth came over to tug on some pieces and move them around, and then I got approval to go sit down while Beth got her bangs snipped. A few minutes later, we paid and left Ms. Calendar and Mr. Phone to finish up the day. I wonder which one ran to pick up lunch.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peacocks in the cemetary.

Now sometimes you see something that is wonderful, but a little difficult to explain.

Dunedin Peacocks

There is a cemetary in Dunedin Florida that has peacocks. I don't know why. They are wild, they fly around, they could leave if they wanted to, but they like it there. There are a lot of them. When you drive in they run up to see you. Once they figure out that you are an amateur without any cracked corn they ignore you. Go ahead, take your pictures and go.

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Black Friday in warmer climates.

I have participated in the craziness of Black Friday for the last few years because it's... well... crazy. You get up early, stand in line in the cold, when the doors open you run in, buy your stuff, rush out, drive to the next place and do it again. You fill up your car with $600 to $1200 worth of stuff, and then drive home and fill out the rebate slips and end up with a huge pile of semi-useful stuff for less than $99 after rebates. Most of it would be given away to people during the year. I was free of this newfound obsession this year because I no longer have a place to store all of the junk.

Well it turns out that in areas of the country that don't have frigid weather, things are even crazier. We had heard that people start camping out at closing time on Wednesday.
So on Thanksgiving day on our way to Dee and Rick's place for dinner I drove through the Best Buy parking lot. Sure enough, there was a long line of tents. These two pictures were taken 17 hours before the store was scheduled to open on Friday morning. Best Buy now brings in Porta-Jons because of the lessons learned after the first year.

Many stores have now started offering the exact same deals online to avoid the crush.
By the way, that Friday is called "Black Friday" because for some stores, it is the symbolic first day of making a profit (or getting in the black).

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Keeping up with the news.

So I stopped in a little neighborhood store near Clearwater Florida, you know, one of those stores that sells beer, lottery tickets, cigarettes, and various odd things on the counter to keep you awake, put you to sleep, or make you more manly. I didn't buy the milk that I had gone in for because the expiration date and today's date were on the wrong side of each other, but I spotted something at the counter that I had never seen before. Two stacks of newspapers. One of them was called "CELLMATES" and the other one was called "BUSTED!" or something like that. I didn't want to, but I had to pick it up to look. Yep, right there in living color, mug shots. It promised "See what the charges are inside!!". I thought THAT was an opportunity that I didn't want to miss. But I did because you couldn't actually look inside because it was carefully stapled shut and there was a yellow warning on the binder that said "$1.00 THIS PUBLICATION COSTS ONE DOLLAR $1.00". I put it down.

When I was able to ratchet my jaw back up to the closed position,
I asked Vandeep behind the counter
"Why?", "Why would anyone buy this newspaper?".
Vandeep shrugged his shoulders and said
"To check up on your friends?".

I laughed, and left without it. The next morning I ran back into the store to buy it, not because I wanted to, but because I HAD to, and Vandeep was still behind the counter, adjusting a new display of a pair of NIKE sneakers that was added to the inventory. One pair, brand new with the box and tags and everything. If you were size 11 and you wanted that type of sneaker and happened to walk into THAT store to buy some very old milk, it was your lucky day. Anyhow, I grabbed the "Cellmates" news, but I couldn't get the other one for comparison because the entire stack had sold out the night before. Really. I confirmed that with Vandeep. At that point I felt disappointed that I was stuck buying the "loser" version. The "other" variety must have had pictures of "hotter" shoplifters and cocaine addicts.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Wandering again...

OK, we are on the road again. Sort of.
Headed East to Gainesville for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. We headed South to Clearwater for another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. and Alice... remember Alice?

Today we headed East to the Atlantic Ocean and I ate Rock Shrimp.
There were pictures along the way and other stuff. Eighty degrees today. They say it is abnormally warm for this time of year. Fine by me.

I was severely stalled by cousin Tim's passing a few days ago, but with the proper editing, I will work through it. The two Thanksgiving dinners with good friends really helped me.

We will be driving a lot tomorrow but I will get back on the stick as soon as we park. Honest.
...but, after I write my column for the Marmon News, then new stuff. Honest.

I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin.
You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
love chemo sabe November 27, 2007 10:37 AM

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

other MEN of note

While I am on the subject of MEN and some of the crazy things they choose to do...
Here are two photos of Blake W. in Iraq.
He hasn't had much time for chatting lately.

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Florida MEN, Part III

We went down to the waterfront to see the sunrise.
Most sunrises that we see are quiet peaceful events, we don't talk much although we have been known to snore.
Being on the west side of Florida usually means great sunsets over the water but usually limits sunrises to waiting for the sun to peek over your local strip mall. (If you haven't been to Florida in the last five years or so you would be surprised to see that there is a statewide ratio of an entire stripmall for every 32 residents, so when the sun rises in Florida there is a very good chance that you will see it rise over a nearby store).

A sunrise at Cedar Key is very different.
It is an actual island, which is where the "Key" comes from (I will explain the sad story of the "Cedar" part another day). This island is far enough out that you can watch sunrises and sunsets with only a very leisurely ONE block walk between them.
We were on the East end of Dock Street to watch the sunrise and things were not quiet and peaceful. This is a fishing town.
On weekends there are charter boats heading out at 6:30 to catch grouper. This was a Wednesday so all of the clammers were going out instead. There were a few families going on some charters, but there was a continuous stream of pickup trucks with clam boats in tow backing down the two boat ramps. The old timers were wearing rubber aprons and rubber boots and the younger ones were wearing wet suits.
The clam boats are very long, low, and wide with a large outboard motor mounted through a hole that is about six feet from the bow. The bow curves sharply up and has a little steering wheel right at the point. The captain, which is usually the old timer with the rubber apron, stands up in the bow and drives, while the younger guys with the wetsuits operate the overhead winch in the back.

The sun came up at about 7:10 and the boats were all gone by 7:15, each of them heading off in different directions.
I got distracted watching a construction barge setting up shop while Beth walked away to get a coffee.
A second wave of boats started arriving in the parking lot at about 8:10. These were the man/woman couples. Husbands and wives or fathers and daughters repeated the same process although at a more casual pace with a little more complaining involved. Load the boat in the water, do a little chatting bow to bow, and then drive off in different directions. Gone by 8:25.

At 8:30 the boats from the first wave all returned loaded down with big bags of clams. They made arrangements to meet for drinks as they hauled their boats out of the water. At 8:40 they all drove away.
I assume that after a drink or two they were going to unload the bags of clams from the boats, wash them down, sort them, and prepare for tomorrow's trip. I have no idea how long that process takes, but I assume that it would take a good part of the day, factoring in the drinking and all.

Now this is civilized fishing. Lobstermen in Maine are required to check their traps every day no matter how bad the weather is, and it is bad 11 months of the year.

These guys plant the clams in their growing bags when the weather is nice. If the weather is bad they don't need to go out, the clams don't care, they are still eating and although they probably aren't that worried about their future, they aren't being eaten either. They are as happy as clams just waiting out any storm. The clammers keep themselves busy doing other clammer-type things indoors to prepare for better weather, or they drink.
When the weather is wonderful again the clammers plop their boats in the water and do the harvesting. Very civilized. LOTS of clams.

Cedar Key sunrise and barge

(Click on the picture to see more or go straight to the SLIDE SHOW)

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Florida MEN, Part II

Beth and I returned to Cedar Key from Gainesville just in time for the First Annual Cedar Key Charity Male Revue. $10 includes dinner and "The Show". the dinner was homemade lasagna. It was good. Then things just got weirder and weirder. These weren't just ANY men. These weren't New York or L.A. metrosexuals or transexuals. These were clammers and fishermen in drag. Ugly men don't make beautiful women, but they ARE funny.

Normally seeing Milton Berle, Bugs Bunny, or every British television personality dressing in drag doesn't make me laugh as much as the laugh track suggests that I should. Well, maybe Bugs Bunny does, but I don't think that a man dressed as women is inherently funny, but when somebody that looks like a Yonkers New York hooker is telling you quietly how hard it was earlier that day "to unzip my durn britches with these durn long fingernails on" you just have to giggle.
These were the regulars of a bar called "Coconuts" (voted best bar in Florida 2006, 2007). The regulars aren't tourists, they are locals. Locals either sell to the tourists, or they fish for a living.
Beth and I had never seen any of them before so we were basing our first impressions of these folks on the way they looked tonight. They were stunning! Walmart Chinese self-defense Stun-Gun stunning, but it definitely kept all of the customers very alert.
The old adage of "everybody looks good at closing time" would not apply here.
"Red" had a long slinky dress, large black high heels and a red wig with Bette Midler curls, a little pocketbook, and a Budweiser bottle.
"Key Lime Pie" had very long legs, nice shoes and a very short dress. A large mane of black hair, black eye makeup, and a large nose, and just a hint of five o'clock shadow showing through the white pancake makeup made me think of Alice Cooper in 1972. I told him how much he looked like Alice and he said in a VERY low hoarse voice, "I'm getting a lot of that tonight".

More "girls" and their "pimps" kept coming in. Most of the "pimps" were the wives or girlfriends of the "girls" that were competing tonight. The "pimps" were dressed all flashy and had facial hair.

When the event finally started the "girls" would be introduced and then would stroll around to a soundtrack that they chose, and try to get tips. They had 5 or ten minutes or so to do their magic. The one that collected the most money would win the competition.
After the evening gown competition, each one came out in a bikini. There was a lot of dancing on tables and each one collected a lot of money in their bras, bottoms, or garters.
Then there were the awards. There were certificates given out. Third place got a sparkly tiera. Red was the second place winner and received a tiera.
First place went to the only "girl" that didn't have a wig on. He had long bushy gray hair and a very large gray mustache. He looks just like David Crosby (in drag). His gown looked like a maid-of-honor's nightmare with big gold poofy shoulder thingamabobs. He/She received the biggest tierra and a dozen roses and a long royal looking cape/train that was at least ten feet long. As the First Place Queen was being crowned "Red" suddenly fell off his high heels and almost took out the drumset. He REALLY fell. I saw his shoes in the air BEFORE I heard the clunk on the floor.

The band started up and the place was hopping. A really GOOD band with a great guitarist that we had seen before (playing in a different band), who looked just like a guitarist friend of mine named Kramer who lives in New Hampster.
Unfortunately Beth and I had to leave because we were both feeling really ill. Unlike most states, Florida still allows smoking in their bars, and everybody smokes. They all talk with VFW voices and are either sucking on a cigarette or are lighting one up. There was a solid cloud of smoke from our knees up. We went out to the bar's fishing porch many times during the "event", but the smoke was winning. We had to leave.

They raised over $750 for Children's Cancer Research.

Red and Beth
(Click on Red and Beth to see a slideshow)


chemo sabe said...

I just hate it when a guy has nicer fingernails than me!!!!

November 19, 2007 9:09 AM

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Florida MEN, Part I

We were visiting Rick and Dee in Gainesville Florida. They were alternating shifts of the "ya gotta move here" tour. Dee gives one tour and Rick gives an entirely different one.

I had told Rick that I wanted to see some gators. He told us that in this area ANY body of water that isn't surrounded by a fence will have a gator in it. Cool. I wanted to see some.

Rick took us to a place that he hadn't been to in about 5 years. It is in a section of Gainesville called Payne's Prairie. It has all kinds of wildlife. Many years ago a movie was shot there and they brought in Buffalo/Bison for the filming. When the filmmakers left town they just let the buffaloes roam (this was before the days of "carry in -- carry out"). There are also wild horses, more birds than you could imagine, and gators.

We walked on a path that had warning signs at the trailhead that had some token "gator warnings", like what to do if one is blocking your path and especially the fact that you should NOT be out there at dusk because of an interesting fact about a gator's diet: During the day, gators select their meals according to size (Poodles, no Great Danes), but once it is dark, size doesn't matter, "everything is supper". OK. I will pay attention to the height of the sun.

I was looking forward to seeing a gator or two in their natural environment. Rick brought us to his favorite "gator hole". We peered through the moss draped branches and saw a big gator tail. After we adjusted to that, we spotted more, and more. We backed out and walked partway around this 50 foot round pond. It had non-muddy water that was brown with tannic acid, so it looked like a primitive cup of tea. Very primitive. Prehistoric primitive. There were at least 10 gators in view at any one time and more kept appearing.
Beth kept looking behind her to make sure we weren't being stalked.

I was taking a lot of pictures while Rick, who grew up in the South, kept trying to get me to follow him down the steep embankment to get a "closer look". Since I grew up waaaaay up North, I thought that I didn't really need a "closer look" that had the possibility of being from the inside of a gator. So I took pictures from a safe(r) distance.

When we were done at that hole we continued on a pleasant walk past bird watchers with binoculars. We watched long beaked birds poking in streams. We listened to large quantities of "cooing" birds that stayed out of sight. Very pleasant.
Then we came upon a much larger pond. It had gators too. Not as many per square foot as the small hole but it seemed to be enough to eat a large quantity of anything.
Rick, being a Southerner, felt obliged to go down and introduce himself. Beth and I stayed behind taking pictures and trying to convince Rick to throw us his car keys before he went any further.
It was going to be a long walk home.
As he got closer and closer to the edge, more and more eyes kept appearing on the water. Now I want to clarify something here: Us Northerners don't think of eyeballs as particularly dangerous by themselves but, in my opinion, eyeballs that seem to be attached to a huge set of teeth, hundreds of pounds of muscle, and perhaps most importantly, a large stomach that may be feeling hungry at the moment, should be allowed a certain amount of "personal space".

Rick is a Southern-Preacher-Man. He might have connections that I don't, but I think that his "Southern-Man" was leading the way at the moment. The "Preacher" part wasn't involved.

It takes a long time to step through the grasses and brush when you are trying to avoid stepping on water moccasins, so I didn't try to rush him or distract him, although I DID keep pleading for the car keys. He has a good arm, I knew he could get them to me, but I also knew that if he was busy being eaten, he may not have the presence of mind to put his house guests first and pull his keys out of his pocket.

When he was down there by the water, he kept pointing out various gators that were popping up here and there, just looking at the menu, I suppose.

Suddenly Rick snapped his arms over his head and screamed!

The gators all splashed into the water at the same time. The water was churning and there were NO gators to be seen. The Southern-Man was happy. He looked around with a posture that said "come on, you want a piece of me?". I jsut wanted his car keys. Beth kept checking behind us.

Rick climbed back very carefully.

We had a nice stroll looking at birds, turtles, and other gators in the marsh.

We went back to Rick's house. When Dee (Rick's wife) looked at the pictures I thought that she would be angry and bawl Rick out for being "such a knucklehead/macho/typicalman", but no, she's seen him do this a LOT of times. If she was walking with him, she wouldn't even slow down to watch him confront the gators, she just keeps walking.

But then again, she probably has her own set of keys to Rick's Mustang.

(Click on the picture to see a slideshow)

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