Inglorious Basterd

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Inglorious Basterds, (2009), Quentin Tarantino. It’s an alternate history story about an assassination plot on Adolf Hitler that succeeded. In actual history, none of the assassination attempts on Hitler’s life succeeded.

According to history, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin while hiding in his underground bunker on April 30, 1945. According to several of my former patients, Adolf Hitler was alive and well living in a compound somewhere in South America run by the US Government with John F. Kennedy.

That was back in the 1990’s. Given the passage of time, I’m thinking both Hitler and JFK have to have gotten dead by now…

My former patients who spoke of this claimed that they had been kidnapped by an unknown agency of the government, probably the CIA, and taken to the top secret South American compound to participate in a double top secret drug test. Once the testing was over, they were returned to the US, and, of course, no one believed their story afterwards.

You’re going to have to decide which of those two versions of history you want to believe. I find the latter credible simply because more than one stark-raving mad lunatic told me the same story. My question to them was this: Was Elvis in the compound, too?

None of my former patients had seen Elvis, but they had heard he was there at one time. He either escaped or was set free after the government was done experimenting on him.

* * * *

I get a chuckle out of the Facebook posts that compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, mostly because there’s nothing to compare.

The Adolf was a puppet master with a twisted agenda whereas The Donald is merely a puppet who has no idea what the hell he’s doing.

You’re probably wondering where the hell I’m going with this. You’re not the only one. This is either going to be an illuminating and entertaining post, or it’ll end up being the worst thing ever written by anyone.

* * * *

Have you ever heard of The Trolley Problem? It’s a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this:

You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the tracks. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track and the five people on the main track will be saved. However, there is a single person lying on the side track. You have two choices:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?

* * * *

There’s a similar problem called the Killing Baby Hitler Test. If you had a time machine, would you go back in time and kill infant Adolf Hitler? This was a question I debated with a few of my co-workers one night when we were bored.

I was working with a couple of nurses, Randy Easter and Russ Bacon. Randy was kind of a spacey dude. Now that I think about it, everyone I’ve ever known named Randy has been kind of spacey.

Randy was the guy who initiated the debate. He was taking a course on Ethics. If I remember correctly I told him, “Personally, I don’t have any ethics or morals, but I’ve always admired people who do.”

Little Known Fact About The Killing Baby Hitler Test: it’s a test designed to figure out how much of a psychopath you are. I’m guessing The Trolley Problem serves much the same purpose.

I’ve previously written about the hazards of time travel to change the course of history. One of my former patients, Forrest Gump’s Smarter Brother, needed a time machine to go back and fix some horrendous deed he had committed in his youth.

I finally convinced FGSB that if he went back in time to fix something, he’d end up creating even worse problems in the future. He decided he didn’t want make things even worse, and finally stopped asking to use the time machine he knew the government had installed in the basement of the Minneapolis VAMC.

If my theory about time travel is correct, we can flush this whole thought experiment down the toilet. If you knew killing Baby Hitler would only result in someone worse than Hitler, why bother?

There are other considerations. Killing Baby Hitler might prevent the Holocaust, but it probably wouldn’t have prevented World War II. And there’s this: Hitler wasn’t the only twisted sister governing a nation at that time. And there’s also this: you’re not going back in time to kill grown up, evil men. You’re going back in time to kill babies.

Apparently, that makes a difference.

* * * *

If you don’t know anything about World War II, you might want to brush up on your history before you read this. If you really want to understand the causes of WWII, you should start by reading about the end of World War I, which was without a doubt the most significant event of the Twentieth Century.

You also have to factor in the rise of Fascism in not only Germany, but in Spain and Italy. You have to consider the imperial designs of the military government of Japan. Plus a shitload of other socioeconomic and cultural factors far too numerous to mention in this hopefully short blog.

When you take all of those things into consideration, killing Baby Hitler probably doesn’t accomplish much of anything. From my point of view at the time of this discussion, if you were willing to go back in time to kill Hitler, why stop there? Why not kill all of the crazy motherfuckers who started the war?

Hitler didn’t rise to power in a vacuum, and he had a bunch of equally unbalanced assholes in his Inner Circle. Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess. Any one of those guys were equal to Der Führer in terms of political ambitions and mental instability. Clearly, they needed killing as much as their boss. And that was just the tip of the iceberg in Germany. Seriously. Most of the highest ranking Nazis were batshit crazy.

Japan was an equal dilemma of who do you start killing and how deep do you go? Hideki Tojo was the Supreme Military Leader who started his country on the road to ruin, so he clearly needed to got dead, and probably most of his high command, too. The Japanese weren’t just crazy, they were fanatically crazy.

The Japanese army is responsible for the Nanking Massacre, the Bataan Death March, and a thousand other war crimes and petty misdeameanors. What scale do you use to compare atrocities? Are those events lesser than the Holocaust?

But wait, there’s more.

Benito Mussolini was the fascist dictator of Italy during WWII. He was Hitler’s ally during the war, and that might be reason enough to kill his ass. Beyond that, I’m sure he did some hinky shit to secure power. But I’ve always looked at Mussolini as if he were a caricature. And if he had been stupid enough to start the war, it wouldn’t have lasted a year.

The Italian army in WWII was nothing like the Roman legions of old in terms of fighting ability. I’m not sure the Italian army won a single battle, let alone helped win a global war. A troop of determined Girl Scouts could probably have defeated the Italian army. When the Allies invaded Italy, they didn’t battle Italians. They fought against the Germans.

Therefore, I failed to see the need to enact retroactive birth control on Il Duce. He probably would have self destructed if left to his own devices.

Maybe that makes me less of a psychopath, but I’m not done.

Joseph Stalin was the psychotic despotic leader of Communist USSR, and depending on whom you talk to, he might have been worse than Hitler. So killing him to death certainly fell into my criteria for saving humanity. The fact that he was our ally during WWII shows you just how desperate the situation was.

Stalin’s paranoia is legendary. He saw almost everyone who worked for him as a political rival. His solution to this problem was brutally simple. He had pretty much everyone around him executed. More than once.

There’s a story that one of Stalin’s aides handed him a sheet of paper with a long list of names on it. Stalin looked it over, and put a check mark in the corner, then handed it back to his aide without saying a word.

The aide was too afraid to ask what the check mark meant, so he ordered everyone on the list to be executed. You know, just in cases.

So, yes. I would have killed Baby Stalin, too.

And what about the Allied leaders? Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had to know that they were dealing with the devil in the form of Joseph Stalin. Does that make them also culpable for his crimes? Shouldn’t they also be considered for time traveling justice? Or was the fact that they were fighting the evil Nazis enough to make blind Justice look the other way?

Why stop with WWII? You have a time machine. You could stop any number of assholes all throughout history. The problem with this problem is it never ends. Once you start down this path you have a seemingly never ending list of sanctioned murders you can commit, all for the sake of preventing others from being killed to death.

* * * *

I’m pretty sure I flunked the Are You A Psychopath Test conducted by my spacey co-worker in the middle of the night almost thirty years ago. Or, I passed it in so many flying colors that I’m an off the chart psychopath of unprecedented depth. If the Minneapolis VAMC really had a time machine in the basement, Randy probably would’ve felt compelled to have me locked up for the good of humanity.

And then I would have had to kill him, too. Probably. I’m not sure I would have actually killed anyone back then. It was just a question we debated to stay awake, and I took the most provocative stance I could. Randy and Russ were stunned by my responses. It was worth it just to see the looks on their faces.

And yet…

Part of me thinks that Young Idealist Me really would have killed all of the baby future Nazis, all of the baby Japanese future fanatics, and Baby Stalin if I had been given the means and the opportunity. The Me that argued for doing it didn’t have any qualms about the details. My only question was how I’d get away with it, even with a time machine.

And, would I be paid for my efforts as the savior of some of humanity. Hey, I was on a fair amount of drugs back then. And I liked to drink. A guy’s gotta make a living.

The reverse is also possible. You could conceivably save the lives of people who would have otherwise been lost. Anne Frank. Mahatma Gandhi. I’d add John F. Kennedy, but he might not have been killed after all…

That scenario is also probably some sort of kooky test designed to figure out some aspect of the human personality. Clearly, there are people who have way too much idle time on their hands…

With age comes wisdom. I hope that’s actually true. I’d answer that question much differently now. And I’d probably be willing to go back in time to prevent Young Me from killing a bunch of babies who would grow up to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

Everything happens for a reason.

That’s the only reason I need now to let history stand pat. And now you have a better idea of why I want to stay outside of my mind.

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A Day in the Life

I started writing this a couple of days ago. This morning, thanks to the wonders of technology, I lost everything I had written. It’s very frustrating. It’s like unto spending hours talking your date into going to bed with you, and the moment she starts taking off her clothes, her kid walks in and says he needs a glass of water.

Okay. That’s probably a lots worse than losing my blog installment.

I almost decided to quit writing forever, and then I decided to quit acting like a Borderline and quit crying, and get back to work. It’ll be interesting to see how much my fractured mind can remember of the stuff I had already written.

* * * *

The rainy season is in full force here in the Lakeside Area. Las montañas de chino resemble heads of broccoli once again. Everything is green, lush and growing. It’s probably the most beautiful time of the year to be here.

After nine years of living in the Arizona desert, I love watching the storms rumble in. I’m still enchanted by rain. Yep, I’m very easily entertained.

But the rainy season is not without its drawbacks. The roads here essentially become rivers in a heavy downpour, especially on the mountainsides. The cobblestone roads are never in great shape, and rainfall doesn’t do anything to improve their condition. Potholes doesn’t begin to describe some of the craters that have emerged.

The rains also have effected a change on the conditions on the golf course. In the dry season you get a much more friendly roll, if you know what I mean. Even on a bad shot you can get an extra fifty yards. In the rainy season the Velcro grass grows thick and grabs your ball, more or less holding it hostage. Without a ransom demand. I’ve added one or two strokes per hole because the golf course suddenly has something like unto a goalie helping to impede your shots.

Neither my new and improved golf clubs nor my magic golf shoes have been effective tools against the prolific flora spawned by the seasonal Mexican rains. I’ve been a bit dismayed by this. Prior to becoming the epitome of suckdom, I had fired off the three best consecutive rounds of my life. A 45, and back-to-back 48’s. And I almost shot a hole in one. I thought I had figured out this golf thing once and for all.

You know what? I started thinking I was good. Well, at the very least, not as bad as I used to be. I should know better by now. Pride always goeth before a fall.

On Sunday, I worked up a sweat on the driving range. I haven’t been on la platforma de practica in months, but I went out to practice because I’ve pretty much sucked from start to finish the last couple of times I’ve golfed.

The weird thing was most of my shots on the driving range didn’t suck! I was killing it out there. My drives were long, and straight for the most part. My chip shots had arc and trajectory, and landed on or near the green. I actually looked like, you know, I knew what I was fucking doing with a golf club in my hand.

Go figure.

This is apparently a very common problem for most of the retired gringos at the Country Club de Chapala, which probably helps to explain the high volume of alcohol sales in the clubhouse after a round of golf. Everyone I talked to Sunday said that they sucked at golf, too. I think they were trying to tell me to get over it. And possibly to have a beer.

Golf, perhaps more than any other athletic endeavor, requires a tricksy set of skills. Strength, concentration, precision, finesse, and something nebulous called touch. And sometimes you need all of those things, plus luck, just to make one shot.

No wonder golfers drink.

Hell, if I were to ask Tiger Woods, he’d probably say, “Dude, sometimes I suck at golf. And I’m Tiger Woods!”

I’ve started imagining God talking to Jesus, telling Jesus that his earthly ministry was to invent golf and teach everyone in Judea how to play. And this is how Jesus responded: “Oy vey, what do you think I am? Meshugana? Just crucify me and get it over with!”

I went golfing with my golf wife today. If it’s true that misery loves company, we have the market cornered. Phyllis has also been suffering from a golfing slump. Her best shots of late have been coming out of the trees that line some of the fairways. Granted, it takes a pretty lousy shot to get into the trees, but her recovery shots have been nothing short of brilliant.

Where’s there’s a problem, there’s always a solution. Phyllis and I have decided to go to one of the golf shops in Guadalajara. Maybe we’ll buy a couple of more better gooder clubs. It can’t hurt. Right?

I wonder if there’s a Twelve Step program for golf…

* * * *

As an aside, Phyllis and Lea were talking about me the other day, and Phyllis said, “Don’t get me wrong. I love Mark dearly, but sometimes he’s just so oblivious.”

I didn’t dispute Phyllis’ assessment when Lea told me. But I was curious about what she meant by it. “Oh, you’re kind of in your own world, and you’re just so chill.” That’s how Lea interpreted it. And yes, my lovely, super conservative, supermodel wife called me chill. I couldn’t believe it. Lea has gone gangsta. 

The only thing I can think of that’s funnier is listening to Queen Elizabeth rap.

* * * *

The rains have also impacted the population of the hummingbirds that my lovely supermodel wife has taken under her wing, so to speak. Hummingbirds are migratory. Apparently, they aren’t big fans of the rainy season here, so they go somewhere else in July.

We had about four birds at our feeder at the beginning of the year. Then the population jumped to four thousand when Lea’s boyfriend came to visit in April; we hung another feeder. And then it exploded to four hundred million after Todd returned to Idaho in May, and we added a third feeder.

We’re down to maybe forty birds now, and two feeders. Hummingbirds are territorial little bastards. One of them has claimed overlordship of one of the feeders, but he’s not badass enough to control them both. Hence, two feeders. It’s kind of a relief. Even Lea feels that way. It’s kind of a full-time job keeping the feeders filled when the ravaging horde is in town.

* * * *

Speaking of my lovely supermodel wife, Lea mysteriously injured her left wrist a couple of months ago. With a normal injury, you know how you hurt yourself. It hurts like hell for a few days then gradually gets better.

It’s been the reverse for Lea. She woke up with a vague ache in her wrist, and a month later she was in agony. She went to see our doctor, Carlos García Díaz del Castillo. That’s his real name. He’s probably the descendant of a Spanish conquistador. He’s an affable guy. I’m not sure how skilled he is as a doctor, but the people here either love him or hate him, so there’s that.

When Lea went in to see him for the first time about her wrist Dr Garcia ordered a boatload of labs, and he had her wrist x-rayed. As you might know, coming up with a diagnosis is basically a process of ruling shit out until you can rule something in. Injury is the usual suspect in a situation like this, however, there was no identifiable injury. Just in cases, she started wearing a brace on her left wrist to minimize any further aggravation.

Lea’s situation has given me the opportunity to think like a real nurse again, so that’s been kind of fun. Most doctors aren’t interested in hearing what you think is wrong with you, like they’re so goddamn smart or something.

The radiologist who interpreted Lea’s x-rays saw signs of inflammation consistent with a sprain. Dr Garcia hasn’t offered an opinion, other than he doesn’t have any idea what’s going on yet. He seems confident that he’ll figure it out.

He started her on a combination medication of a corticosteroid, an NSAID, and a muscle relaxer. The medication made Lea’s wrist feel a lots better, but the side effects were hell.

Lea couldn’t sleep. She was hyperactive, hyperreflexic, and irritable. She stopped taking it after one week, thank God, and went back to Dr Garcia. El medico Garcia wasn’t pleased with this, but he understood. He switched Lea to a COX-2 inhibitor.

COX-2 inhibitors are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Lea’s lab results showed an elevated SED rate, which indicates an inflammatory process, and a slightly elevated rheumatoid factor. Maybe it was arthritis…

Lea is sixtysomething. She’s going to read this someday, and I’m not in a big hurry to die. Arthritis is commonly associated with aging. In addition, Lea has fractured her left wrist before. Twice, to be exact. Arthritis has a real affinity for joints that have been previously injured.

Little Known Fact About Rheumatoid Arthritis: it’s an autoimmune disease. If you don’t know what that means, look it up on the Interweb. Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: Lea has Crohn’s Disease. It’s also an autoimmune disease. One autoimmune disease can trigger another. So this possible diagnosis and treatment actually made sense.

There were only two problems. It was only her left wrist. Rheumatoid Arthritis is more of a systematic inflammation. It’s more likely that all of her joints would have hurt. Additionally, Lea’s Crohn’s Disease has remained quiescent. That’s not very probable. And the second thing was the COX-2 inhibitor didn’t work. So, it couldn’t be arthritis.

Lea went back to see Dr Garcia a third time. He put her on a stronger NSAID and an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat malaria. And he gave her a cortisone injection, not in her wrist, in her hip.

I’ve seen crazier things. In cases of extreme psychosis we sometimes administered a drug usually prescribed to treat leprosy. And it worked! I am confused by the injection. I’ve never heard of it being administered like that before.

And then I came up with this brilliant diagnosis. Lea has a bone spur, or bone spurs, in her wrist. It was a localized reaction, and it has gotten progressively worse over time. There’s only one problem with my diagnosis. There were no bone spurs visible on her x-rays.

A CT scan would provide better imaging. An MRI would be even better. And if we need to get one, there are facilities in Guadalajara we could go to. And she made an appointment to see an orthopedic specialist at Dr Garcia’s clinic. Maybe he’ll have a better idea of what’s going on…

* * * *

In a few months I will have been retired for two years. I’ve had ample time to reflect on my career, the good and the bad of it. The few successes I’ve had don’t bring me much joy or satisfaction. The failures I’ve had still make me uncomfortable. A couple of them will haunt me until the day I got dead. Possibly longer.

Can a ghost be haunted? There’s a philosophical question for you.

And I contemplate on my life. If I were intuitive, I could probably have skipped this altogether. But, I’m not, so…

I said earlier that my mind was fractured. That is one of the most truthful things I’ve ever said about myself. It’s probably the biggest reason why I’m so oblivious most of the time. I’m not sure that I live in my own little world. I think I spend a great deal of time making sure I don’t fall into the cracks in my mind.

It’s a fairly chaotic mess in there most of the time.

It’s possible that I’m becoming crazier, and by crazier I mean saner. My thoughts are probably becoming more linear and possibly more logical. I don’t have to try to get into the head of a crazy person to try to figure out the best way to help them anymore. I just have to try to stay out of my head.

My patients used to tell me they thought they were going crazy. And I had an answer for them: Only a sane person questions their sanity. I believe that statement to be true. Really crazy people don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. It’s everyone else that has a problem.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that I had to make life or death decisions on a daily basis, but I was frequently faced with decisions where the safety of others was at stake. Those decisions had to be made quickly and decisively.

The only urgency I feel now is if I’m playing too slowly on the golf course and I let the group behind me play through. My life has become so simple that it astonishes me. I don’t miss my work life, but it’s possible that I’m starting to want more out of my retirement life.

Or maybe I just need new golf clubs.

Grumpy Old Men

It’s a rainy day here in the Lakeside Area. Muy lluvioso. I didn’t really have any plans for today, but it just became the perfect day to write. I’m going to have a lots of water to suck out of our supersized rain gauge once it stops raining.

I’m just hoping I don’t spend five hours rewriting this post after I finish writing it like I did with my last piece. The one thing I have going for me is that I actually know what I want to write about this time.

Believe it or not, that actually helps when you’re writing stuff.

* * * *

Historically, the Franks (Latin: Franci or gens Francorum) were a collection of Germanic peoples and tribes living along the west bank of the Rhine River since the 3rd century or so. Just in cases you didn’t know, the Rhine forms part of the border between France and Germany. And another just in cases, the country of France got its name because of the Franks.

When I was a psych nurse, the Franks were a collection of elderly male patients I cared for during my occasionally illustrious career. There were several of them, and in retrospect, you probably shouldn’t name your kid Frank. It’s seemigly a very popular name for crazy guys. There were a lots of Franks in my career. These are a few of my Most Memorable Frank’s. I could probably write a book about all of them if I ever get tired of writing my blog.

I met most of my Franks at the Minneapolis VAMC. The female nurses I used to work with there thought most of the old guys were cute, but as my buddy and former co-worker, Darrell, used to say, “There’s no such thing as a cute old veteran. I should know. I am one!”

You know what? Darrell was right. He wasn’t cute. I’m an old veteran now. I tend to agree with Darrell. I don’t think I’m all that cute either.

* * * *

Frank Bee was one of my patients at the Minneapolis VAMC. He was an old farmer guy who would check in periodically when he became depressed. He was a mostly quiet, round, little man who liked to hang around the nursing station and talk to the girls, especially the Night Shift nurses.

Part of the reason Frank was depressed was he lost his farm. He got old and he couldn’t keep up with all the stuff farmer guys have to do. And there was another thing. He told us his story one night when he couldn’t sleep.

Way back when Frank was a kid living on the family farm, he was the youngest child in a huge family. He had ten brothers and sisters. You need a lots of hands to get all chores done on the farm, so farmer guys tended to have a lots of kids. And the kids helped work the farm until they were old enough to leave the farm.

Farmer guys might love farming, but most of the time their children didn’t. They’d do anything they had to do to get the hell off the farm, even if it meant going to war in a country they’d never heard of before.

At any rate, young Frank had a pet rooster back on the farm. I didn’t know you could have a pet rooster, but according to old Frank, he and his rooster were inseparable when he was a kid. His rooster followed him around like a dog and they did everything together.

Being the youngest in his family, his older siblings would pick on him from time to time, and if their teasing ever got too physical, Frank’s pet rooster would have his back.

“He would fluff his feathers out and rip out with his spurs. He attacked more than one of my brothers. And at least one of my sisters. That rooster was kind of my guardian angel. He used to meet me at the end of the driveway when I got out of school. He was the only one that was happy to see me…  I would’ve let him sleep with me in my bed at night, but Mama wouldn’t have it.”

And then one day, Frank’s rooster didn’t meet him at the end of the driveway when he got home from school. He went inside to find his beloved pet rooster had been translated into a fried chicken dinner for the family while he was at school.

“You wouldn’t kill one of the hens, because they lay eggs. So if you butchered a chicken, it was always a rooster. But we had lots of roosters. Mama didn’t need to butcher my rooster.”

I can’t remember how or why Frank’s rooster got chosen. Maybe because Frank’s rooster had become too protective of Young Frank. But I do remember that Old Frank had carried a grudge against his mother for the rest of his life.

“I couldn’t eat that night. I loved that rooster, and everyone knew it. I never spoke to my mother again. She knew I loved that rooster. She didn’t have to butcher him.”

* * * *

Frank Dee was the first crazy Frank I met when I started working as a psych nurse. He was one of my patients at AMRTC, the Minnesota State Hospital. You had to be certified crazy by a judge to be there. I’m not sure how long Frank had been there when I started working there, but it was almost as long as I had been alive. I was thirty-one years old at the time.

Frank was bipolar. He was generally a genial guy, except when he wasn’t, and then he was like unto an angry bear. Come to think of it, he kind of looked like a bear. He had a thick beard, and bushy mad scientist eyebrows.  I learned a lots about the mood swings of bipolar people from Frank. Mostly what I learned was to tread carefully around Frank until I found out what mood he was in, and then continue to tread carefully because I never knew when the switch was going to flip.

Before he became committed to AMRTC for the rest of his life, Frank had been a high school football coach, I think. He was probably a teacher, too. He was certainly smart, and he knew a lots of stuff. He was married, and had two young girls under the age of ten. It was during that time in his life that Frank had a manic episode and became psychotic.

Very extremely psychotic.

Due to his illness, Frank began to believe that something terrible was going to happen to his daughters. Something very extremely terrible. They were going to be abducted, raped and murdered. My memory isn’t certain, but it was something along those dire lines. Frank was understandably distraught by this. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. Nor could he come up with a plan to protect his girls from this terrible fate his mind had convinced him was going to happen.

What Frank finally did is much less understandable. To protect his daughters from being harmed at the hands of malevolent stranger, he stabbed his oldest daughter to death and severely wounded his youngest before he was stopped by his wife.

You get to hear a lots of sad, sometimes tragic stories when you’re a psych nurse. Frank’s story was one of the most tragic tales I would ever hear.

* * * *

Frank Pee was a patient of mine at the MVAMC. He was almost ninety when I met him, and he was one of the few World War I veterans I cared for. Frank was a gentle old man, soft-spoken, and kind to everyone. He would periodically get depressed and come in for a tune up. His wife of seventy-odd years, Eunice, would come to visit him every time he was in the hospital, and she always brought homemade goodies for the nurses to eat.

We liked Frank, but we loved Eunice.

Frank wasn’t a great story teller, but he had a lots of stories to tell. I was his nurse many times. He was a guy you only needed to ask one question to, and he would ramble on through his memories for hours.

Frank was seventeen when he went over to Europe to fight in the Great War.

“I was young, and stupid. All I really wanted to do was get the hell offa my dad’s farm. I never wanted to see another horse or a cow or a pig again for as long as I lived. I thought going to war was going to be, you know, dashing and glamorous, compared to working on the farm.

“Yah, I was wrong about that. There’s nothing glamorous about war. And trench warfare is even worse. It’s nothing but mud, and bugs and rats, and sickness. And artillery bombardments. And fear. And stench. And loneliness. And death. I saw a lot of good young men die, and it turned out that they all died for nothing.

“That was supposed to be the war to end all wars, remember?

“And you know what I thought the worst part was at first? When I got to France, my sergeant found out I worked on a farm. Well, a lot of us boys had. But I was real good with the horses. I could gentle them real easy when they were spooked. And that’s what I did during the war. I took care of the horses.

“The one thing I ran away from home for, I ended up doing in the Army. Life is funny like that, isn’t it?”

After the war, Frank was part of a military exercise pitting horses against machines. The military saw promise in all those newfangled automobiles and trucks. In 1919, the Army staged a cross-country race, animals against machines. Frank was still working with the horses. Despite the frequent mechanical breakdowns and the sorry state of most of the roads, machines easily outperformed horses, and the modern Army was born.

Frank didn’t return to the farm when he got out of the Army. I can’t remember what he did, but I know it wasn’t farming

* * * *

Frank Vee is the last of the Frank’s I’m going to write about today. He was the oldest of all the Franks. He was in his mid-nineties when I met him. He was also a veteran of the Great War, like the previous Frank. But this Frank didn’t have any stories to tell. It wasn’t that he couldn’t speak. He could. But he only said one thing. And he said it at the top of his lungs.

“HELP!!!”

It wasn’t a polite, “Excuse me, but could you help me.” This was much more of a terrified demand. It was as if Frank Vee was being stabbed to death by Frank Dee. It was like Frank had fallen into quicksand and he couldn’t get out. It was like he was being gang raped by the Oakland Raiders. It was that kind of a primal scream.

It was hell to live with. Nurses started calling in sick in record numbers, and no one volunteered to stay for an extra shift. Eight hours of Frank yelling in terror was actually more than anyone could take. No one wanted to go through it for sixteen hours straight.

For at least an entire month, that one very loud word became the mantra of my unit, and the bane of all of our collective existences. We heard Frank scream it almost every thirty seconds for roughly twenty hours a day or more. I’ll give it to Frank. That guy had a lots of stamina.

You try screaming at the top of your lungs for awhile. See how long you last.

It made no difference what we did. Frank shouted that he needed HELP!!! so we did everything we could think of to make sure Frank that knew he was being helped. Maybe he’d stop yelling. But still he yelled and shouted and screamed, even while we were frantically trying to help him. All day, and all night.

We put a radio in his room and played soothing classic music. Frank continued to yell. We put a TV in his room and played movies. I tried to get him to shout, “Stella!” just for a change of pace. We had a nurse sit at the side of Frank’s bed, holding his hand, saying anything comforting she could think of, and Frank still screamed.

I’m pretty sure I suggested we hire strippers to entertain him. Everyone thought I was joking, and laughed. I was serious. It’s a good thing no one took me seriously. My idea probably wouldn’t have worked. But if it had, we would’ve had twenty guys yelling for HELP!!! at the top of their lungs.

We had to admit defeat. There was nothing we could do to help Frank enough to get him to stop yelling for HELP!!!

Well, there was maybe a couple of other things we could’ve done. We could have medicated him into a coma, I suppose. There were certainly a lots of people who argued for it.

His psychiatrist was Dr Bob. He would occasionally order Thorazine 25 mg. (PO) on days when Frank was especially loud, but mostly he said we all had to learn to live with Frank. It was a low dose, but it would knock Frank out for hours, sometimes up to an entire blessed day. Dr Bob refused to order it on a regular basis, or even as a PRN. He didn’t think it was ethical to put Frank into a coma every day.

As much as I found the constant cacophony that was Frank unsettling, I had to admire Dr Bob for not crumbling to the course of action that all of the nurses demand he take.

We searched Frank’s old charts and records, looking for a clue to his distress. We contacted everyone listed in his chart. Maybe they knew something. We talked to the staff at other facilities Frank had been at. Did Frank scream and shout while he was there? Did anything work to make him stop?

Someone told us Frank used to hang around with a guy named John Dillinger, and might have been his driver for a time before Dillinger became Public Enemy #1. One of the Evening Shift nurses was convinced that Frank knew where Dillinger had buried some of the money he had amassed robbing banks, and spent hours trying to get Frank to tell him where it was.

We had the VA Corps of Engineers come to the unit to assess the situation. They attached noise absorbing mats to the walls of Frank’s room. Frank seemingly only yelled louder. After a couple of weeks, I don’t know who was more miserable. The other patients who were on the unit, or the staff.

This was a VA facility. At least seventy-five percent of the patients on my unit had a diagnosis of PTSD. It’s a complicated disorder that can be triggered by any number of external stimuli. And one of those triggers can be noise. Frank triggered every one of the patients on my unit. And at least half of the staff. Including me.

I have a bitch of case of PTSD. It’s gotten better the longer I’ve lived with it. But there’s no cure for PTSD. Sometimes it still catches me by surprise.

The only one who didn’t appear to be miserable during that time was Frank, who contentedly yelled for HELP!!! as loud as he could, no matter what. And the only reason I say contentedly is yelling seemed to be the only thing that made him happy. And yet, he sounded so fucking terrified.

I’ve spent years wondering just what it was that he was so afraid of.

More than one of our patients had a solution for Frank’s constant shouting, “Leave me alone with him for five minutes. I guarantee you he’ll stop yelling.” I don’t think that was an idle statement. A few of those guys probably would’ve snapped Frank’s neck, or smothered him with a pillow, without a second thought.

And don’t think we weren’t tempted. Frank’s verbal onslaught probably could have been construed as cruel and unusual treatment by the Geneva Covention. Too bad we weren’t actually prisoners of war. It just felt like we were. By the third week of Frank’s screaming, a few of the nurses weren’t just thinking about killing Frank anymore. They wanted to kill Dr Bob, too.

We eventually started moving Frank off the unit at night and had one nurse sit with him while he yelled for HELP!!! At least the other patients could get some sleep after that.

Our only hope was finding a place we could send Frank to. Our social workers called every facility they could think of. None of them wanted a guy who screamed for HELP!!! all day and all night.

A few facilities sent case workers to take a look at Frank. They didn’t need to even take a look. All they had to do was hear him for a minute or two. One of them said, “I don’t know how you’ve been able to put up with this, day in and day out. How long has he been here? Man, you’d think he would’ve lost his voice by now…”

That was something we couldn’t understand either. Frank, it seemed, had a superpower. He was The Voice. And nothing could silence him.

All good things must come to an end. So it is with all bad things as well. We eventually transferred Frank to the St Cloud VA for long-term care. They actually had a long-term care unit, and at the moment none of the nurses felt they could endure one more minute of Screaming Frankie Vee, a bed opened up at St Cloud.

I’m sure Frank yelled through the entire ambulance ride, and he probably continued to yell for HELP!!! right up to the moment that he got dead. I know we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy so see someone leave my unit as Frank. I’m pretty sure I got drunk for a week.

I still have flashbacks from my time with Frank. I can still hear him screaming if I even think about him.

* * * *

Mad Max was probably one of the most aggravating guys I’ve ever met in my life. I didn’t give him his nickname because he was crazy/mad. Max had a real talent for irritating almost everyone he came into contact with. He made everyone around him mad.

Max was kind of an anal old guy. He was obsessed with neatness, which was unusual for an old veteran guy. Most of them weren’t. But Max wanted everyone to be as obsessed with neatness as he was, and that’s what most everyone found to be really annoying. Max had no sense of tact or decorum when it came to being neat.

He always made his bed. The area around his bed was spotless. If Max had cleaned the rest of the unit, we might have been able to tolerate him easier. But what he tended to do was point out the flaws he saw in everyone and everything else in a form of speech that was more or less incomprehensible, and he spent hours lounging in his bed like unto psychiatric royalty or something.

I don’t know what Max had done for a living, but he had a lots of really nice, stylish clothes, and a really expensive pair of shoes. He was a snappy dresser, no doubt. He was tallish, had a slim, kind of athletic looking build. I didn’t like Max much. I can’t think of anyone that did, but I liked his fashion sense. It’s something I picked up being married to a supermodel.

The main thing about Max that annoyed everyone the most was the way he talked. It was a cross between a whisper and a mumble. I called it a whumble. I probably even charted it that way. As a result of his difficulty saying anything understandable, anyone who actually wanted to know what Max said usually had to say this:

“What?”

And then there was thing: no matter how clearly anyone spoke to Max, no matter how specifically and precisely the words were enunciated, Max always whumbled this in response:

“what?”

I doubt that Max ever misunderstood anything that was said to him. I think he took a kind of sadistic joy in making everyone repeat what they said to him. I’m just guessing, but he might have done simply because everyone had to make him say everything twice because hardly anyone could understand his initial whumble.

Well, there was one more thing, but it only applied to nurses. About every fifteen minutes or so, Max would come up to the nursing station and whumble:

“is it time to eat yet?”

Max could have just finished eating a meal, and he would whumble that question. All of the meals were delivered to the unit by the Dietary Service in a huge stainless steel cart about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. They were cumbersome things to maneuver, and were about as quiet as a tank.

It was a mystery to everyone how Max didn’t weigh five hundred pounds, given his obsession with eating, but there was never any mystery about when meals were served on the unit.

Never.

You might think that Max would be first in line whenever a meal was served. The fucking dietary tank went right passed his room. He watched his goddamn tray roll by his room three times a day, but Max would purposely lay in bed until he received a personal invitation from the staff to dine–the staff he had interrogated all day about when he’d get his next meal–and we would always tell him when the next meal would be served, to which he always responded:

“what?”

Seriously. The guy didn’t know how many times he was almost assaulted by the nurses. Max usually stayed in the hospital for about a month. None of us missed him when he was gone. None of the female nurses thought Max was cute.

My favorite Max memory is the day we had an old drunk guy admitted to the unit, and because he was an old guy, I put him in the same room as Max and the other old guys. Max didn’t whumble when he saw the guy. He actually spoke understandable English when he saw the guy.

“Does this drunk Indian have to be in my room?”

I probably responded the guy was a Native American. Not only that, he was a veteran, and was as deserving of the same level of excellent care as any other patient on the unit. And if Max wanted to be in charge of bed placement, he could go to school, get his nursing degree and take my job. Otherwise, he could just keep his comments to himself. To which he responded:

“what?”

The old drunk Indian guy was a semi-frequent flyer on my unit, and I liked him. Too bad I can’t remember his name anymore. I liked most of the drunk guys, except the asshole drunk guys. After all, the only difference between me and the drunk guys was the side of the nursing station we were on. I knew I’d want someone to be nice to me if I ever ended up as a drunk guy in the hospital, so I was nice to them.

I checked on the old drunk guy frequently, and Max always whumbled something to me, and everyone else in the room, about not liking the drunk Indian guy. Max didn’t think that guy was neat and clean enough to be near him.

And then one of the funniest things I ever saw in my entire life happened.

The old Indian guy might have been drunk when he was admitted, but he wasn’t deaf. He heard every whumbling complaint Max had registered, and he decided to let Max know that he knew.

And that resulted in the second time that Max didn’t whumble. He came running up to the nursing station and said, very clearly, “That guy pissed in my shoes!!”

I went to Max’s room go see what had happened, and sure enough, someone had pissed in Max’s shoes, his very nice, very expensive shoes. All the way to the top of each of them. But that’s the only place he had pissed. There wasn’t a drop of urine on the floor.

“Man, that’s impressive! How the hell did you do that?” I asked Max’s roommate.

“I don’t know how that happened. But I’m an Indian. We never miss when we shoot.”

Max was furious! He kept on not whumbling about his shoes, and what were we going to do about it, and stuff. I carefully carried Max’s shoes to the bathroom, poured out the urine into the toilet and rinsed his shoes out in the sink. And I laughed my ass off the entire time. I had tears running down my cheeks. I laughed so hard I almost pissed my pants. And my shoes. When I thought I had probably rinsed all of the urine of the shoes, I gave them back to Max.

“You should let those dry out before you wear them again.”

“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to do? That guy pissed in my shoes!”

“He says he doesn’t know how it happened. But if I were you, I’d apologize to him.” I chose my words carefully, and enunciated each and every one of them. “If you keep this up, and you keep making those disparaging remarks about your roommate, someone will probably shit in your shoes the next time.”

To which Max replied:

“what?”

I knew Max understood what I had said. He had never not known what anyone had said to him. His roommate clearly understood what I had said. He had a kind of wry grin on his face, like he wished he had thought of that first. And judging by the look on Max’s face, he knew that too. He kept looking at his shoes as if he were seeing them filled with excrement, then he looked at his smiling roommate, and then he looked back at me. And he stopped whumbling bad things about anyone.

I don’t know if Max ever apologized to his roommate. But he never spoke clearly again. He went back to whumbling about food and saying,

“what?”

But his roommate never had to shit in Max’s shoes. So maybe Max did apologize. He did like those shoes a lots…

All of the nurses loved that old Indian guy after that, even if they didn’t especially like alcoholics. Even Darrell thought what he had done was kind of cute.

* * * *

The Duke of Earl is the last of the old guys I’m going to write about today. Earl was an old farmer guy who returned to the farm after he got out of the Army. He worked the land for as long as he could, then sold the farm and moved into the closest town in rural Northern Minnesota when he retired.

Earl wasn’t a big fan of ‘city living.’ He’d check into the VA every six months or so when staring out the window and yelling at the kids who walked on his lawn got to be too much for him.

Earl was one of those nondescript guys that I probably wouldn’t even remember anymore if it hadn’t been for one encounter I had with him. Earl came in for a tune up, and we sent him back home after a week or two in the hospital. But instead of returning in six months like he usually did, Earl came back in six days.

I was up for the next admission that day, so I went to talk to Earl to find out what had happened. And this was the reason Earl gave me for coming back to hospital so soon:

“My wife is having an affair!”

“Well, you’re, like, eighty years old. How old is your wayward wife?”

“She’s the same age as I am.”

“Okay. Your eighty year old wife is having an affair. Why would you think that?”

“Well, I was here the hospital, you know–“

“Yep. I was here too. Then what happened.”

“Well, when I got home, there it was!”

“There what was?”

“The turnip!”

“I have to ask this, Earl. Where was the turnip?”

“Sitting right there, on the kitchen counter!”

“And then what happened?”

“What the hell do you mean? I already told you what happened!!”

“Yeah, you said your eighty year old wife is having an affair…  Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You think your wife is having an affair… because of a turnip?!?”

“You damn right I do! Wouldn’t you?!?”

You better believe I told my wife that story. She knows better than to leave any turnips just laying around where I can see them.

Variations on a Theme

I’m going to give you advance warning. My thoughts are pretty scattered today. Hence, the photo. Case in point, the title. It’s the second title that popped into my head. I’ve rewritten this installment more after I posted it than anything I’ve written in the last year. My new title vaguely hints at what I’m about to write. And, it’s also the title of a musical arrangement…

I’m going to guess I have a specific something in mind that I want to say. I have at least one sentence I know I’m going to work into the story.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to get there yet.

* * * *

It’s a cloudy day here in the Lakeside Area. The weather app on my lovely supermodel wife’s phone says it’s supposed to rain on and off all day. But this is Mexico. Forget what I said in my last post about the weather being predictable. La clima no siempre sigue las reglas. The weather is about as predictable as a Mexican driver, unless you assume you have no idea what the other guy might do.

Then you’ll be correct every time.

It’s not just the rainy season in Mexico. It’s also the election season, for a few more weeks, I think. I know it’s a big election for a lots of high profile positions. President, governorships, stuff like that. There’s been a lots of campaigning in the Lakeside Area; rallies, informative lunches and brunches, billboards, TV and radio ads, and the megaphone mobiles.

The specially equipped, audio-enhanced vehicles drive around the village blasting political messages like unto the megaphone cop on TV telling the suspect to drop the gun, and come out of the house with your hands up. There’s no escape, you’re surrounded.

All of these messages are directed at the locals who will be voting in the elections. The candidates here all claim that they’re the only hope for a better Mexico, much like any other election in any other part of the world. Unlike other parts of the world, the politicians that actually are the only hope for a better Mexico have as good a chance of getting killed to death as they do of getting elected.

Quite a few candidates want to make Mexico a better place, and the drug cartels are getting nervous. The best way to make Mexico a better place is to get rid of those sons of bitches.

So far, none of the presidential candidates have been killed to death, nor have any of them proposed rounding up all of the American ex-pats and locking us up in internment camps.

See? I told you most of the people here are very polite.

* * * *

We are still supporting half of Mexico’s hummingbird population with the three feeders in our backyard. Lea calls them her babies. It’s so cute! It’s kind of fun to watch one hundred million hummingbirds in action. They buzz all around our patio from early dawn to dusk.

I have a memory. It happened at least twenty years ago. Lea and I were driving to Ettrick, WI to see our in-laws, Bill and Leslie Pfaff. I can’t remember if Andy, their troubled teenage mutant miniature horse was still alive or not. I’ve written about him before. You can look him up in my archives if you’re interested.

I remember it was winter. It might have even been Christmas. At any rate, the road we were driving on tended to follow the Mississippi River. The river was mostly frozen over, but somewhere around Winona, MN there were several vast open spaces dotting the ice. And around these open water spaces, hundreds of bald eagles had congregated.

Some of the eagles were flying lazily/gracefully in the gray sky, circling the open water. Others were sitting on the ice, starkly outlined near the open water. More were perched in the leafless oak and maple trees lining either side of the road.

It was breathtakingly beautiful and cool.

Seeing one eagle, in my opinion, is an event. Seeing hundreds of eagles at once is like unto seeing a dragon. It’s one of my favorite best all time memories.

* * * *

My praying mantis, Ferngully, has gone missing. I knew I should have taken a picture of her! Now I won’t be able to make one of those Missing/Reward Offered posters…  I guess that’s one of the hazards of having an insect for a pet.

I’m pretty sure my mantis decided to leave our patio because of Victor. He’s our exterminator guy, and he sprayed the patio the other day. Actually, he sprayed the entire house and the front and backyard, too.

Victor uses a combination of garlic, cayenne pepper and vinegar solution to get rid of insects, and it certainly seems to have worked on them.

Oddly enough, it also worked on squirrels. There have been zero squirrels eating the plants on our patio since Victor was here. They would scamper across the stone wall in our backyard, but they wouldn’t come into the yard. It seems that squirrels hate cayenne pepper even more than I hate squirrels. You can buy cayenne pepper by the ton down here for next to nothing. I sprinkled that stuff on all of my plants, and on the top of the stone wall.

I have seen zero squirrels since.

However, if this interdict ever stops working, El Walmart merely moved their display case of air rifles. I found it the other day when we were shopping there. That made me smile.

Mischief managed, for now. And, Plan B is still an option, you know, just in cases.

* * * *

It’s only through hindsight that we’re able to see where most of the paths we’ve chosen in life have taken us. Maybe some of you are able to visualize this without hindsight. I never have. I’m not that intuitive. I’ve always needed time and perspective to understand these things.

I need to do that even with simple things, like movies. Therefore, it’s a good thing I didn’t become a film critic. It would take me thirty years to write a decent review. Who needs to read a movie review three decades after the fact?

Take, for instance, Star Wars®. I’ve written about at least one of the movies before, but I have a plot twist that you probably haven’t considered this time.

I’m a big fan of the franchise. There are a lots of us. Some of the superfans know all about the Star Wars® universe, and are able to see plot holes and continuity lapses as they occur. It has taken me forty years to figure out that The Force isn’t anywhere near as cool as it was originally portrayed.

See? I told you I wasn’t very intuitive.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced all of us to The Force this way: “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

Not only that, it was the source of power for the Jedi Knights, and all of the spooky stuff they could do. Move objects, influence thoughts and behavior…  You know, things that here in the real world only women can do when they use a certain tone of voice.

Yet for all of the vaunted power of The Force, the Jedi appeared to be unable to figure out who their real enemy was until they openly revealed themselves. Count Dooku. Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. They remained hidden from the sight of the Jedi until they chose not to be.

If The Force binds everything together, you’d think an adept Master trained in its use would have been able to discern another someone trying to, you know, un-bind everything with it.

Apparently not.

Nor was it true when Obi-Wan said this, “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Obi-Wan got dead and essentially became a bodiless entity that occasionally reminded Luke to “…use The Force!” And that appears to be the extent of his lame-ass unimaginable power.

Finally, there was this: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Obi-Wan uses that Jedi mind trick on a couple of Imperial Stormtroopers to make them go away and then gives this explanation: “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

Big deal. You know what else can have a strong influence on the weak-minded?

EVERYTHING.

Seriously. Why else do we call stupid people stupid? Because they’ll believe fucking anything! Go ahead, try it. You’d be surprised how easy it works.

And that revelation led me to believe that Donald Trump must somehow be a twisted Jedi.

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Darth Ignoramus. As kooky as it sounds, it’s the best explanation for his Presidency I’ve been able to come up with.

Lookin’ Out My Backdoor

Hey. How’s it going?

It’s been warm here in the Lakeside Area, like, low to mid 90’s warm. As the locals say, muchos calor! Lea and I lived in Phoenix before we moved here. That, was hot. The temperature can climb to 120° there. Even if it’s a dry heat, as Arizonans claim, it still feels like unto being in an oven.

One of my former patients at Aurora Behavioral Health sustained second degree burns from laying down on the sidewalk in the dead of summer. In the interest of full disclosure, the police made him lay on the sidewalk after they put handcuffs on him. I can’t remember all of the details, but even if he was guilty of whatever the cops busted him for, laying him down on a sidewalk hot enough to fry an egg seems a bit extreme to me.

The rainy season should start soon, and the temperature will drop back into the 80’s. We had a false start to our seasonal rains. It rained for about a week a couple of weeks ago. Las montañas de chino started greening up, and then the rains stopped. The Chinese Mountains don’t quite look like heads of broccoli yet, but they don’t look like unto a wasteland anymore either.

The rain here is kind of monsoonal, and kind of not. It’ll rain here almost every night until roughly October. Yeah, it usually rains at night, and only sometimes during the day. Even the rain is polite here. I’ve never lived any place before where rain was so seasonal. And predictable.

Arizona has a monsoon season, but it’s not a monsoon like the monsoons in India where it rains day and night for months on end. An Arizona monsoon is a monster storm of wind and dust that pops up, followed by torrential rain, then the storm abates and dies. Consecutive days of rain in Arizona are a rarity.

The only downside to the rainy season is I have to suck all of the water out of the pool we don’t use every time it rains. It’s basically a really big rain gauge. Rain water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and I’m not a big fan of mosquitoes, so the water must go.

However, it’s not like I don’t have the time. I have a shop-vac. It’s not a big deal, and I like the way the pool looks afterwards. It’s the cleanest vacant pool you’ve ever seen.

And, well, you get kind of tired of the rain after awhile. I know Lea does. This will be our second rainy season. I’ll have to pay more attention to how I feel about the rain this year.

* * * *

My golf game remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. I shot the best nine hole round of my life few weeks ago, 45. Then I followed it up with a 54. I haven’t come close to equaling my best score since. It’s kind of frustrating, but that’s golf.

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I’ve gotten better at the Big Three aspects of golf. Most of my drives are things of beauty. I’m getting better at chipping. I’ve had a lots of almost great shots. They would’ve been really great if they had only gone in the hole. I can actually hit a ball that rolls very close to the pin at least half of the time now. And I’m getting better at putting. Most of the some of the time.

It’s those times when my shots aren’t beautiful or almost great that are killing me, and I have at least ten of those in every round I play. Every goddamn stroke in golf counts, even the ones that suck. The trick, according to everyone in the know, is to put all three of those pieces together.

Drive. Chip. Putt. It’s a simple game.

Unless your game is more like this: Drive. Chip, chip. Putt, putt, putt. Oh well. It’ll keep me focused on something besides getting old and fat and bald-er. I have to believe that I’ll continue to improve, and all of those things will fall into place one of these days. Or months. Or years.

* * * *

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We have a ga-jillion hummingbirds at our feeders! They arrived en masse at about 10:00 AM last Saturday morning. We started out the year with about four hummers. When Todd came down to visit, that number jumped up to around one hundred, and Lea happily hung a second feeder on the patio.

On Saturday, we hung a third feeder because there was a cloud of ten to twenty hummingbirds swirling around each feeder, waiting to get a chance to drink. And it’s like that all day. A voracious herd of hummingbirds can empty a feeder in about two hours. Keeping our feeders full and all of our hummingbirds happy has become kind of a full-time job.

Our feeders have six ports for the birds to drink from, and when their numbers are vast, the hummingbirds are actually pretty good at taking turns and sharing. When there’s only a few, one bird tends to become a monopolist, and will chase all of the other birds away.

We had one of those before Saturday. Lea named him King. He perched himself on the edge of my hammock, close to his feeder, and he guarded it with ferocity. When Lea hung the second feeder, he tried to keep all the others away from that one, too. That lasted about an hour.

He still sits on my hammock, but there’s nothing ferocious about him now. He actually looks kind of depressed. I’m wondering if I need to put him on suicide precautions.

Lea made a special trip to El Walmart yesterday, just to buy a half a ton of sugar. It’s a good thing that sugar is inexpensive here…

* * * *

Lea has her hummingbirds back, and I have a praying mantis living on my fern on the patio. I call her Ferngully because, you know, she lives on a fern. 

I think she’s a girl. She was less than an inch long when I discovered her. She’s about twice that size now. I catch bugs and stick them between the leaves of her fern frond. Sometimes she eats them. Others she won’t touch.

Who knew that bugs were picky eaters?

I can’t really say Ferngully is my pet. She doesn’t come when I call her, and she doesn’t know any tricks, unless you think hanging upside-down on a leaf is a trick. She’s very good at doing that.

I want to train her to walk on leash…

* * * *

Not everything on the patio is peaceful and serene. There’s the squirrels. The Spanish word for squirrel is ardilla. I have a different name for them. Pinche hijos de putas.

I hate squirrels more than I hate any other animal on this planet. They’re essentially rats with fluffy tails, and if not for that fluffy tail, no one would think they’re cute. Squirrels are agents of evil. In the Bible it says that Satan is disguised as an angel of light, and so it is with squirrels.

We had hundreds of squirrels in our neighborhood when we lived in Minneapolis. They lived in our trees, and frolicked in the yard. They chewed their way into our neighbors’ house and caused them thousand of dollars worth of damage.

I wanted to buy a machine gun and kill all of the squirrels after that, but my lovely supermodel wife vetoed my idea. She thought they were cute. You what else Lea thought was cute? Flower gardens. She wanted gardens with lots of flowers, so I became a gardener. I removed half a ton of grass from our backyard. I bought a lots of flowers, and our backyard looked like unto a picture postcard.

It was darlingpreshadorbs!

And then one day, for no particular reason, the squirrels decided to dig up all of Lea’s begonias. “Kill them! Kill them all!” my lovely but pissed off supermodel wife hissed. I bought a Red Ryder Pump Action Carbine BB Gun®, and commenced to start to begin to kill every squirrel that entered my yard.

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I gave my air rifle a name. Ol’ Squirrelkiller. I set up a sniper’s nest from the window of our bedroom, and I got really good at shooting squirrels. I killed hundreds of them over the years. But there’s this one thing about squirrels: for every squirrel you kill, there are seemingly two more that move in to replace it.

Just before we moved to Phoenix, I gave Ol’ Squirrelkiller to my neighbor, Lyle, so he could kill all of the squirrels in his yard. I didn’t miss my air rifle when we lived in Arizona because there were no squirrels in our neighborhood. But I miss it now.

There’s a rule of thumb for gringos in Mexico. If you see something you want, or you think you’ll ever need, buy it. It won’t be there the next time, and you’ll never find anything like unto it again.

When we first moved here, El Walmart used to sell air rifles. I wasn’t at war with squirrels back then, but I still wanted to buy one, you know, just in cases. Once again, my lovely supermodel wife vetoed my idea because she thought it was foolish to buy an air rifle I didn’t know I was going to need until about a year and half later.

A week ago, I went to El Walmart to specifically buy my Mexican Viejo Asesino de Ardilla, but El Pinche Walmart no longer sells air rifles.

Madre de Dios!!

We don’t have hundreds of squirrels here. I think we only have two, maybe four at the most. And as much as I hate squirrels, I didn’t want to kill them until they started eating the plants on my patio. When we moved here we started decorating the patio. We bought a lots of ceramic pots and soil, and we bought a lots of plants to put in the pots.

One of the plants I bought was a greenish-yellowish vine with medium huge leaves. It loved its new home, and it grew like a weed, except it was a lots prettier than a weed. It was absolutely gorgeous last year.

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This year, it looks like unto Charlie Brown’s forlorn Christmas tree because the fucking squirrels have eaten every leaf off of it. Repeatedly. As Bugs Bunny used to say, Of course you realize, this means war!

Seeing how I may never find another air rifle, I may have to build one of these:

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I can bombard the house Seigfried and Roy is building below our house with squirrels.

My war with squirrels isn’t the only war that’s being waged in our backyard.

* * * *

We live in a development called Lomas del Lago, Hills of the Lake. The guy who started building here is a guy I call Seigfried and Roy. He’s an ancient German guy who has more money than Croesus. His name is Seigfried. I added the, and Roy.

Seigfried and Roy were a once famous duo of magicians and entertainers in Las Vegas who became known for their appearances with white lions and white tigers. Until Roy was, you know, accidentally almost killed to death by one of their tigers.

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Just in cases you’ve never heard of Croesus, he was the king of ancient Lydia, and is generally accredited with minting the first true gold coins.

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Seeing how he more or less invented money, he had more of it than anyone else in the world. Hence, the term.

Earlier this year, Seigfried and Roy started to construct a house below our house. We weren’t too happy about that, so we mentioned it to our landlady, Planet Janet.

She was something way beyond furious when she heard that.

According to Janet, she had a verbal agreement with Seigfried and Roy. He wouldn’t build anything on that lot, and she wouldn’t have him killed. I’m not sure if those were the exact terms they had agreed to, but they had an agreement of some sort.

Despite their agreement, Seigfried and Roy decided to build a house in the lot more or less right below our house. While the new house won’t completely destroy our scenic view of the lake, it certainly won’t do anything to enhance it.

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And the only way the occupants of the new house below us will be able to see their scenic view of the lake is by hanging out on their mirador. That will totally destroy any privacy we have when we hang out on our patio, and we spend a lots of time on our patio.

Everyone in our development has a mirador. It’s basically an outdoor lounging area on the roof, like unto a balcony. We have a mirador on our roof that we never use. Our patio is huge, and shaded, and you don’t have to climb any stairs to get to it.

Planet Janet has one of the best attorneys in the Lakeside Area on retainer. He has a couple of legal orders to cease and desist any and all construction on the house below us, which have accomplished absolutely nothing thus far. The consensus is that Seigfried and Roy has bribed pretty much every public official in the state of Jalisco, and half of their cousins for good measure.

Janet and her attorney are optimistic that they will eventually find someone that hasn’t been bribed, and at the very least they’ll be able to obtain some monetary compensation from Seigfried and Roy for obstructing the one time scenic view that our house used to offer. At the most, they might have the house taken down.

All of that remains to be seen. No matter what happens, we’re not planning on going anywhere. We love this house. We love this place. We love this time we have here together.

As Duke Leto Atreides once said, “Here I am, here I remain!” So, watch out squirrels. I have resources you’ll never be able to imagine because you’re just a rodent with a fluffy tail, not a highly trained assassin with years of military experience in taking dental x-rays.

Stop eating my plants. Or else!

Weekend Update

Happy Royal Wedding Weekend!

To commemorate the occasion, I did absolutely nothing. Many of my virtual and real friends got up early to watch all the festivities. They’re all girls, of course. Seemingly, there’s something about marrying a prince that makes girls go more than a little crazy. It’s probably all of those animated Disney® movies…

You could take a guy with the name of Dork Numbskull. No woman in her right mind would want to be caught dead with him, let alone become Mrs. Dork Numbskull. But put Prince in front of his name, and women will stand in line for a chance to go out with him.

Yeah, it don’t get it either.

My fascination with the British royal family pretty much ends with Elizabeth I, and she died in 1603. Seeing how the first Queen Elizabeth never had children, I’m not sure the current royal family is even related to her by anything save position. In fact, I’m not sure Elizabeth II is even human. What is she, like, 190 years old? I think she went to high school with Prince Tut.

And Prince Charles has to be the most disappointed man on Earth. He’s gone from thinking, When I become king to Will I ever be king? Seriously, he’ll probably got dead before his robotic mum does. He may go down in history as the only King of England who was never the King of England.

All the same, I wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joy and happiness. It doesn’t seem that being a member of the royal family comes with much of that.

* * * *

There hasn’t been a whole lots of anything going on around here since my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend went back to Idaho. We crammed a lots of stuff into the time he was here, and as much as I like Todd, it’s also nice to resume my usual boring lifestyle once more.

Not there hasn’t been anything happening in my world. There was another school shooting back in the States. As terrible as this is going to sound, I felt absolutely nothing when I heard about it.

Nothing.

I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t surprised. No sadness, no outrage. It’s like unto the part of me that died a little each time this has happened finally got dead from dying a thousand tiny deaths.

Two of my FB friends had babies. Congratulations, Kara and Cassandra. One of my friends is still massively pregnant, and I thought she’d be the first one to give birth.

Weekend Update update: My third pregnant FB friend just gave birth this Sunday morning. Congratulations, Serena!

One of my FB nurse friends just got engaged, and she is thrilled. Congratulations, Ally. I’m sure you’ll be just as beautiful as Meghan on your wedding day.

We had an elegant celebration of Brother Al’s 80th birthday last week. Almost all of our friends were there, and his kids came down for the party. Brother Al is a distant relative of William the Conqueror and the current British royal family. Be that as it may, he didn’t receive an invitation to the Royal Wedding.

Such is life…

I’ve been doing some online therapy with a friend of mine who has been struggling with PTSD, panic attacks and anxiety. I’m trying to help her find a bit of balance. She’ll probably be okay if she ever starts believing in herself. People in this type of situation tend to discount all of their strengths, when in reality they’re just about the strongest people that ever lived.

You need to remember that.

A few weeks ago, I got a friend request from a young woman who lives in Madrid, Spain. I’ve grown very leery of accepting random requests, but she was also a friend of a guy I went to high school with, so her request wasn’t completely random. As a result, I figured she probably wasn’t a nutcase, like unto most of the women who send me requests.

About two weeks ago, she sent me a message. We exchanged a few bits of information, and then out of the blue, she asked me to send her a picture of my penis. I’ve never had anyone ask me to do that before. Back when I was a nurse, when faced with an unusual request, I always asked what is called a clarifying question.

So, let me get this straight. You want me to help you escape from the hospital, is that right? So, you think your wife is having an affair because of a turnip?

That’s a story I might have to tell someday…

Anyhow, that’s what I did with this young woman. So, let me get this straight. You want me to send you a dick pick? Yep. That’s what she wanted alright.

I sent her a picture of Donald Trump.

And she had the nerve to Unfriend me!

* * * *

Some might think that a boring life would be a fate worse than death. It’s not. I was a psychiatric nurse. I’ve had enough excitement to last me a couple of lifetimes. I could come back in my next life as a mushroom and probably still feel overly stimulated sometimes.

Someone once described being a combat fighter pilot as hours of boredom with moments of sheer terror. That’s kind of what being a psych nurse is like, minus the hours of boredom.

In fairness, it wasn’t all terror either. It was actually quite a bit of fun. That’s probably why I loved my job as much as I did. When I first started writing my blog, all of my stories were about psych nursing. I had a lots of stories to tell. Nowadays, I rarely think about my work life. Hardly anyone asks me anything about mental illness or taking care of crazy people, even if they’re just asking for, you know, a friend.

It’s okay. It’s part of the pattern. Unless thinking about your old job is all you do once you retire. Then you should probably go back to work. You’re clearly not ready for this step.

* * * *

Life. One thing happened after another, and before we knew it, we were dead.

That’s a line from the National Lampoon magazine, which was hands down the greatest satirical publication, ever. I first read that line when I was seventeen years old, and I probably laughed for a month. I no longer laugh when I think of that line, but I don’t dispute it.

There’s far more truth to it than the average person can appreciate.

I heard a theory that when we die, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light in a hospital room where we are reborn to a new life. The reason we are born crying is because we remember everything from our previous life, and we’re grieving because we died and we’ve lost everything. As we grow, we forget our previous life and focus on our current life.

But patches of memory remain, and those memories create deja vu.

It’s an intriguing theory. I’ll try to remember it in my next life. I’m not sure I’ve ever had something happen and thought I’d seen that in a previous life. I’ve had plenty of things happen more than once in this life, but I’m not sure that’s deja vu anymore. That’s just the pattern repeating itself, which it has to do, or it can’t be a pattern.

Life and death are subjects you can ponder for a lifetime and still be totally confused by them. Life no longer confuses me, mostly because I’ve stopped spending a lots of time thinking about it. And death is one of those things you can’t truly understand until it happens to you.

At this point, I’m just hoping in my next life that I don’t have to repeat the same mistakes I made in this life. That’s a deja vu that needs to become a jamais vu. Otherwise, I think I really would prefer to be a mushroom.

And I think I’d like a break in between lives. A few hundred thousand years to do some planning, come up with some goals, maybe even learn something. Stuff like that. Maybe there will be more planets to choose from by then, and one of them might be worth checking out.

If I wait long enough, I might be able to figure out a way to start my life out being retired…

Mexico

Hey, loyal reader. How’s it going? I hope all is well with you.

I’m a bit more focused of late, I think. It’s hard to tell with me, even for me. I’ve actually been busy for the last week, so I haven’t had as much time to idly ponder the vicissitudes of life. Or kumquats. I haven’t even been thinking about golf!

I played golf last Saturday with Todd and Phyllis, and I shot the best round of golf I’ve had in probably twenty years. So, I figure I just have to keep doing whatever it was I did on Saturday and in a couple of years I probably won’t suck at golf as much as I do now.

It may not sound like much of a plan, but that’s pretty elaborate for me.

Todd is my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend, and he’s back in town. I should probably qualify that statement. Todd and Lea have known each other since junior high. And as Lea pointed out, if I can have three wives, there’s no reason why she can’t have one boyfriend.

Todd and Lea have been good friends for something like unto forty-five years. They never dated each other, which might be one reason why they’re still very good friends. At any rate, Todd came down to visit us last year, and we all had a blast. I told him he was welcome back anytime.

Todd has been here for a week, and he’s staying for at least one more. Lea and Phyllis have a lots of fun things planned for Todd while he’s here. Todd and I are ready to jump into action whenever Lea or Phyllis tell us we’re going somewhere. In the meantime, we watch the NHL playoffs in the evening and talk about Guy Stuff.

It’s something I don’t get to do much of anymore, so that’s been a lots of fun.

Todd lives in Northern Idaho. He’s almost a Canadian, eh. The weather in the Lakeside area has been a welcome change for him from the everlasting winter of 2018. It was 28° in Idaho last Wednesday, the day he arrived. It was 82° here.

Todd has been smiling a lots for the last week.

He brought a lots of goodies from the States. Stuff for Lea. Stuff for Phyllis. And he brought me a Rocketfish Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit, which performs perfectly, and balance has been restored to the Force once more. My stereo actually sounds better than it did before.

And there’s one more thing Todd brought back to Mexico. Hummingbirds. We had thousands of hummingbirds at this time last year. My lovely supermodel wife loves hummingbirds. We were refilling two feeders three times a day. Lea thought she was going to spend all of our savings on sugar to feed her hummingbirds.

Then, one day last year, for no apparent reason, damn near all of the birds vanished. We were down to maybe four birds for several months, and my lovely supermodel wife was bummed to the max. But when Todd returned, so did the hummingbirds. We’ve had hundreds of them at our feeders for the last few days.

Todd isn’t the only one who has been smiling a lots of late.

* * * *

In 1975, James Taylor sang a song about Mexico. Maybe you remember it. I do. It was called Mexico. Imagine that. It got a lots of radio play back in the day. I played it on my new and improved stereo system the other day. Unlike Sweet Baby James, in 1975 I wasn’t thinking about Mexico. I wasn’t planning on ever moving here, or remotely contemplating even visiting the place. I don’t think I was even planning on doing either of those things as recently as 2015, and yet, here I am.

Someone at the golf course explained it this way, “Ajijic calls to certain people, and if you’re meant to be here, everything just falls into place for you.”

That was certainly the case for my lovely supermodel wife and I. The opposite appears to be equally true. We’ve met a few people whom Ajijic didn’t call, but decided to move here anyway. They hated it here and are leaving or have already left. Those people are the exception, not the rule. I almost wish Ajijic would stop talking to strangers, but she is a very friendly village…

Mexico is both more and less than what I originally thought it would be, not that I had much of an idea of what it would be like before we visited here the first time. It’s much more diverse than I imagined it would be in population, culture and landscape. It’s a melange of color, music and gastronomic delights. Mexico is like unto the Minnesota State Fair, except it’s like that everyday here.

The image I chose to illustrate this installment is an accurate depiction of the festival life here. Mexico can party with the best of them, and with a style and class that is truly second to none.

But if you think this is going to be a promotional essay on why you should move here, it’s not. You shouldn’t move here. Don’t even come to visit. The roads are terrible. The weather sucks. Everyone speaks an incomprehensible language and they hate foreigners.

Stay wherever it is you are. You’re better off there.

* * * *

We’ve been showing Todd around the Lakeside area, going out to eat at some of the fine dining establishments. You know, actually getting out of the house. I’ve been posting a lots of pictures of the places we’ve visited and the restaurants we’ve patronized on my Facebook page. As a result, I’ve accidentally become a local Google Maps guide, and my photos have been viewed almost a quarter of a million times.

Yes. It’s true. I’m kind of a big deal. Kind of. Maybe.

Being virtually famous hasn’t changed me in the least. I’m still the same self-absorbed, superficially introspective mystic that I’ve always been. That’s because being virtually famous is essentially the same thing as not being famous at all. I don’t have crowds of adoring fans. I don’t have to wear a disguise if I decide to go into the village. I have yet to sign so much as even one autograph!

I should probably thank Social Media for making me the semi-legendary non-sensation that I’ve become, but why?

I’m sure I spend more time on Facebook than I need, but a few of my virtual friends are massively pregnant, and will probably deliver any day now. I wouldn’t normally describe a pregnant woman that way, but I don’t think any of them read my blog. Not on a regular basis anyhow. If I’m wrong, I’ll probably find out very soon…

One of my work daughters and all time favorite people just got married. Congratulations to Nancy and Jake. She was radiant on her wedding day. And that dress…  Holy mutha!

A couple of my friends and former co-workers are going to nursing school. They’ll make excellent nurses once they graduate. I’m happy for them.

I’m becoming less tolerant of the posts I’m willing to be exposed to on my FB page, and I’ve been making the really annoying people disappear. Too much drama. Too much use of the word nigga. I really can’t handle that shit. My generation grew up during the Civil Rights movement. It was a time when a whole lots of people were willing to risk their lives because they were sick and tired of being called that name. It was a traumatic time for my generation and the entire country.

It’s sad to say, but I don’t think some young people now are aware of that fact. And if they are, they don’t seem to care. I find that thought to be even more disturbing than my original disturbing thought.

Be that as it may, I haven’t had this many best friends that I’m never speaking to again since I was in grade school. Given the times we live in, I’m not sure if that’s weird or just the way things are now…

* * * *

For reasons that I will never understand, I’m still semi-popular with single, unemployed, seemingly clueless, attractive young ‘Christian’ women of high moral standards who want to have a deeply personal relationship with a married grandfather figure that they’ve never met before. I hear it’s because of the hat I’m wearing in my profile picture.

I’ve become convinced that all of these girls are actually the same person because their stories are all the same. Seriously. Their parents are dead. Their last boyfriend cheated on them, and they just quit their job because their boss was sexually harassing them.

I don’t believe in coincidences, so I’m pretty sure one person is behind all of this, and that person is really a thirty-eight year old guy named Stewart who lives in his parents’ basement in Dubuque. He probably doesn’t have anything better to do. After all, it’s Iowa.

I’m from Minnesota. When we don’t have anything better to do, we make fun of Iowa…

* * * *

Perhaps you’ve noticed this: Life is a series of routines that change somewhat from day to day, year to year, decade to decade. School routine. Work routine. Weekend routine. Marriage routine.

Like it or not, we are creatures of habit. We find comfort in familiarity. We might complain about the monotony of our daily rituals, but deep down inside we’re not dismayed by them. We tend to like our routines, most of the time. Some of the nurses I used to work with actually worshipped them. Those nurses tended to work on the Night Shift.

“How was your day?” My lovely supermodel wife and I had that conversation almost every day for almost thirty years. It’s something we rarely have to discuss anymore because we spend pretty much every day together, so there’s not a lots of mystery regarding what either one of us are doing at any given time. It’s a good thing that we still like each other.

I’m sure I’ve fallen into a daily routine even in retirement. Granted, it’s much less regimented than it was when I was working. And that was mostly because of work. Employers are so unreasonable sometimes. They hire you, and then they expect you to show up and do your job, like, every day!

Almost everything I do now is dependent on whether I want to do it or not. I’ve never been my own boss before, so I’m really liking this new approach to doing stuff or not. I’m married, so, technically, I may still not be my own boss. Spanish lessons and doctor appointments are just about the only things I  go to no matter how I feel about them.

I’m not sure if learning a new language is ever easy. I have never been a slow learner before, but I am when it comes to Spanish. I took three years of French in high school, and I’m not sure I would’ve been able to speak to a French person and be understood, even back then.

I’ve been living in Mexico for roughly a year and a half. I can speak about ten sentences in Spanish now, and I have a buttload of random Spanish words bouncing around inside of my head. I’m getting to the point where I’m forgetting words in two languages. I’m becoming Byelingual.

Like unto my golf game, I figure the whole Spanish thing will fall into place if I don’t try to force it. Everything clicks at it’s appointed time. And if Ajijic called me here, it did so for a reason.

Perhaps someday that reason will be revealed. Hopefully, not in Spanish…  If someone comes up to me and starts rattling off a torrent of Spanish, and that happens more often than I like, I still get that Deer in the Headlights look in my eyes. But now I can tell them, in perfect Spanish, that I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about, which is probably kind of confusing to the person talking to me, now that I think about it.

Oh well, we’re at least on the same level then.

For good or for ill, I’m in Mexico for the long haul. I’m planning on leaving here the day after I die. And even then, I might hang around for awhile. There’s a huge City of the Dead in Mexico. The only downside I can see is you have to got dead to live there. Other than that, it looks like a nice place. I could live there, I think.

Unless you have to be able to speak more than ten sentences of Spanish in order to be admitted…

I hope I don’t have to discover the admission criteria anytime too soon. I’m kind of loving it here right now.

Idle Musings of a Rambling Mind

I’ve been thinking about writing something for awhile. However, I’ve been having one major problem. I can’t stay focused on any one thing long enough to form two cohesive paragraphs. I’ve lost track of how many posts I’ve started, deleted, and started again.

Is it possible? Could I be a distracted geezer?

I have to consider the possibility, but it’s not like I have a lots of stuff on my mind. Back when I was a psych nurse, I had a lots of stuff flying through my head. Did I sign off all the meds I passed? Why do they call them woodchucks? Don’t forget to order labs on the Clozaril patients tomorrow…  Who came up with the word kumquat? 

Maybe that’s part of the problem. I live an essentially stress free life now. I no longer have to wonder about much of anything, though I do still think about kumquats from time to time.

Seeing how I’ve been unable to focus on anything in specific, I’m reduced to trying to write about nothing in general. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I’ve been told it’s something I’m quite good at. I hope that holds true today. And probably the next time, too.

* * * *

There has been one thing that’s been on my mind, and that one thing is golf. Which, in retrospect, shows how narrow my focus of thought has become. I seem to have hit an impasse regarding improving my game. My score has been more or less stuck in the mid-fifties for several months, which is roughly twenty over par.

Twenty over par is the score of a bad golfer, and even though I know I suck at golf, I am not a bad golfer. And, yes, I’m aware of the contradictory nature of that sentence.

I watched The Masters Tournament last week. I wish I could golf as bad as Tiger Woods. One of the commentators said something about the mental aspect of golf. As Yogi Berra once said, “Half of this game is ninety percent mental.” The commentator said something very much like unto that about becoming a better golfer. The answer, it seems, lies hidden somewhere in my head.

My fundamentals are improving. I need to focus my mind. I’m still unsure about what that entails. I’m trying to remember what my dad used to tell me back when we used to play golf.

“Get your goddamn head out of your ass, McOffspring!”

Well, it’s a start…  I’m sure he said other things, too. I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

* * * *

When Phyllis and I were golfing last week, our caddy kept talking about my clubs. I’m used to having people make fun of my clubs. So I assumed he was also making fun of them, except he was doing it in Spanish, and that was something new.

Our caddy is a Mexican guy named Salvador Allende Ribiera del Lago Hernandez. He’s tall and lanky, with teeth like a mule. As with many Mexicans, his age is hard to determine. He’s somewhere between fifty and one hundred and fifty years old.

Salvador was our caddy the first time we played here. Phyllis almost killed him with one of her shots. I almost killed him twice. Despite our attempts on his life, Salvador continues to willingly caddy for us. He actually seems to like us, and I make sure I say hi to him and shake his hand every time I see him.

I get a kick out of Salvador. He tends to talk to himself a lots in broken English and fluent Spanish while he caddies. Maybe he hears voices(?). It’s possible his voices are telling him how much we suck, and he’s defending us. I’m just guessing. I know enough Spanish to know he’s talking about our shots, but not enough to understand all of the context.

At any rate, Salvador kept saying something to me about “two clubs” last week. And the next time we golfed, I found out what he meant. He had two golf clubs that had been made in the 21st Century. And he presented them to me.

“Try. Try the clubs. You like, you keep.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were beautiful clubs. Callaways. Metal woods. They weren’t brand new, but either one of them would’ve originally cost more than all of my antique clubs combined.  All of my woods are so old they’re actually made of wood. So I put the clubs in my bag and tried to figure out how to say, Thanks, but no thanks, in Spanish.

I played the first two holes using my antique clubs, then Phyllis pulled me aside and told me to try Salvador’s clubs.

“What do you have to lose? Give ’em a try. You might actually like them.”

So I grabbed the oversized driver that looks like a clown’s golf club. It’s called a Big Bertha, but I gave it a new name: The Terminator.

My drive went one hundred yards farther than I have ever hit a golf ball. I was so happy I think I might have humped Salvador’s leg. And Phyllis spent the rest of the game smiling that I Told You So smile of hers.

At the end of our round, I asked Salvador how much he wanted for his clubs.

“For you, señor, nothing. I give to you.”

What a guy! But I couldn’t let him just give me his clubs, so I gave him one thousand pesos for his caddying services. The usual and customary fee for a caddy is around one hundred and fifty pesos. 

I have no idea how or where Salvador acquired the clubs, but he seemed pretty happy with the fact that he had given me two golf clubs that I liked, and that I had given him the best tip he’s ever had caddying for gringos.

Then another unexpected thing happened. Phyllis looked at my antique clubs and said, “You know, I have another set of clubs. They’re a man’s set, and they have to be newer than yours. Five hundred pesos.”

I know that sounds like a lots of money, but it’s roughly twenty-five bucks.

My antique golf clubs were made in the early 1960’s. John F. Kennedy was President when they were new. They’re almost as old as I am. Phyllis’ other clubs are probably from the 1980’s. And like many people my age, I love the Eighties. It’s the last time we remember being young.

I now have what essentially amounts to a new set of golf clubs that are considerably younger than me for about seventy-five bucks. And none of my woods are actually made of wood anymore.

For the longest time I’ve resisted embracing any new technology. Computers. Cellphones. CD’s. DVD’s. Mobile devices. Golf clubs. And once I finally took the plunge, I’ve always ended up wondering why I fought such a pointless battle against something I actually like and seemingly makes my life easier.

It’s probably an old guy, old school thing, even though I know was doing it long before I became officially old. Resist change at all costs, even though it’s the only constant in life. Therefore, there’s no logical explanation for it. Much like life itself.

* * * *

And now, on to the random thoughts that have been occupying my mind:

If humans are the most advanced species on this planet, why are we the only ones that need toilet paper? And what would a real bear do if you gave it a roll of Charmin®?

What’s the opposite of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Advertisers use a lots of rock and roll songs to promote their products. Maybe rock bands should start writing songs about the things we buy. Orajel is the Answer. My Mercedes. Pass the Polygrip. It’d probably make life easier for all of us.

What the hell is a kumquat? It sounds pornographic…

Do you ever make up nonsense lyrics to songs? There’s one group you can’t do that to. America. Remember A Horse With No Name? The lyrics are so inane that anything nonsensical you come up with makes more sense than the original lyrics. Go ahead, try it.

We’ve been living in the End of Times ever since the death and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder how much longer that will go on?

* * * *

I could probably ramble on for a few more hours about random thoughts in my head, but they’re too ethereal for even me to keep track of. Yesterday’s profundity is today’s mystery. It’s like unto a kiss in dream. Did that really happen? It seemed real.

Now that I’ve gotten some of my idle thoughts out of my head, maybe I can focus on something that isn’t quite so…frivolous. Maybe. Only time will tell.

How do you say kumquat in Spanish?

My Right Foot

For those of you who read my last post, I have an update. For those of you that didn’t, I had purchased a defective component for my stereo system and had been trying to get some sort of resolution of my problem through the Customer Support team at Best Buy®.

I had talked to a couple of the support people on the phone early in March, and while they were polite and friendly, they weren’t able to do anything to rectify my problem. So I sent several emails to the executive members of the Customer Support team. And nothing happened until March 10th when I received an email from one member of the Executive Resolution Team assuring me that I was a revered and extremely valuable customer. And then nothing happened. Again.

Yesterday, I sent another email to Best Buy®, and I finally contacted the one person I had initially resisted contacting.

Mr. Herbert Joly, the CEO.

I outlined all of my conversations with the Customer Support team, verbal and written, and asked Mr. Joly if he’d be kind enough to, you know, kind of light a small to medium sized fire under a few asses and get someone to do something to resolve my problem in a bit more timely manner, like, this year.

I told Mr. Joly that I had been a nurse, so I had a very basic understanding of customer service. I likened my experience with his company to having one of my patients ask me for a couple of Tylenol for pain, then me responding, “I’m sorry, revered and extremely valuable customer. If you could check back with me in six to eight months, I might be able to help you.”

This morning, I received a telephone call from Mr. Eleazar Kovalov, the guy who had assured me that I was revered and extremely valuable. He said that he was going to send me a refund check in the amount of $81.96. In his mind, it was the easiest, quickest resolution, and this thing had clearly been stretched out too long already. And he informed me that I would receive my check in ten days.

But wait, there’s more. My lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend is coming here to visit at the end of April, and he’s going to bring me a new wireless rear speaker unit.

You can breathe easily once more, Jane. Balance has been restored to The Force, at least as far as this situation goes.

And one last thing. I sent another email to Mr. Joly thanking him for his assistance.

However, there always has to be something else that gets messed up, creating a different imbalance, otherwise my life would be perfect. It would appear there’s a plan in place to make sure that never happens.

* * * *

I’ve mentioned my affection for movies and music in previous posts. Little Known Fact About My Blog: many of the titles of the posts I write are also song or movie titles. Or at the very least, a play on words that reflects a song or movie title.

Coming up with a catchy title is the most critical part of the writing process. Well, it is for me. Suppose that Erich Maria Remarque wanted to write a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front. He’d need another catchy title to grab his readers’ attention.

I’d suggest this: Still Pretty Quiet on the Western Front. 

Mr. Remarque will have to figure out the rest…

* * * *

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, My Left Foot, 1989, Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s the story of Christy Brown. He was an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, and the only part of his body he could control was his left foot. About a week ago, my right foot started bothering me and it steadily got worse until it became the only part of my body that I couldn’t control.

I’m fairly used to having at least one part of my body bother me on a daily basis, so I wasn’t too concerned about my newest pain issue. It wasn’t too bad. Most of the time. Unless I was golfing.

Until yesterday.

I went to my weekly golf lesson with my buddy, Tom. By the way, my golf coaches are reasonably satisfied with the mechanical improvement in my swing. I still have a bunch of stuff to figure out, but as they say, it’s job security for them.

My golf lesson is a group lesson. A bunch of old, white gringos gather on the driving range and hit golf balls while Romero and Cesar critique our swings and stuff. Yesterday, I hit golf balls for about an hour. And that’s all I did. I didn’t practice putting. I didn’t run laps around the golf course, or do any push ups. To be honest, none of us do any of those things. Most of the old gringos hit golf balls, then go drink beer in the club house afterwards.

My right foot was aching on a medium-ish scale when I arrived at the golf course, but by the time I got home I could hardly place any weight on my wildly throbbing foot. On a scale of one to ten, my pain was a nine. It climbed to thirteen if I tried to walk.

I’m not a doctor. I’ve never even played one on TV, but I once was a very good nurse. So I decided to diagnose myself.

Okay. I need to document a couple of disclaimers. First, and foremost, do not try this at home. I am a highly trained healthcare professional with decades of experience at speaking very complex medical terminology.

Second, and secondmost, do not, under any circumstances, ever ask me to diagnose you. I’ll tell you that you have cancer.

Okay. Let us begin.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Nurses: whenever something goes wrong with our bodies, we automatically assume the worst. We know all of the terrible things that can go wrong. Therefore, I immediately came to the conclusion that I had somehow stepped on a landmine.

Little Known Fact About Medical Diagnoses: finding the correct diagnosis can be a very complicated and tricksy thing. It’s basically a process of ruling out shit until only one thing can be ruled in. Unless there’s more than one thing…  Seeing how I hadn’t actually stepped on a landmine, it was easy to rule this out. The only thing about this diagnosis that was remotely accurate was it conveyed the level of pain I was in.

So I moved on to the next most probable scenario. I had stepped in a bear trap. Again, fairly easy to rule out because there aren’t any wild bears in Mexico, and even if there are, there aren’t any living in the Lakeside area, so there aren’t any bear traps to accidentally step in.

Trauma would certainly be a good cause of the pain I’ve been experiencing. But I’m pretty sure I’d remember injuring myself, and I have no recollection of doing anything to fold, spindle or otherwise mutilate my right foot.

Back when I was drinking myself to death, I would wake up in the morning with multiple areas that ached with pain. And the first thing that popped into my head was, Did I jump out of a car on the highway again?

Once I got through the impossible possibilities it was on to the less improbable possibilities.

* * * *

Gout.

Gout is a complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone, but is more common in older males. Like, well, me. It’s characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in the joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe.

It is precisely that part of my right foot that has been screaming in something like unto agony.

Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joints, causing inflammation and intense pain. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.

Okay. I just had a bunch of labs done last week, and none of my lab values were abnormal. While gout isn’t as ridiculous of a diagnosis as landmines or bear traps, it still doesn’t appear to be very probable.

If you’re experiencing a gout flare up, urate crystals accumulate in all of your joints, not just your big toe. I have varying degrees of arthritis in my back, shoulders and knees. And also in my hips, ankles and hands. Yet none of those joints are screaming in pain. The only thing that is gout-ish about my symptoms is the point of origin of my pain.

I might not be able to completely rule out gout, but neither can I completely rule it in. There’s a couple of more possibilities.

* * * *

Bunions.

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. Bunions can also hurt like hell.

Little Known Fact About My Right Foot: it has a bunion. It’s not a big bunion, and as far as I know it has never caused me this much discomfort before. So whatever it is that has gone wrong with my foot, it probably isn’t the bunion’s fault.

My right foot hurts almost as bad as my first kidney stone did, which made me think that maybe I was passing another kidney stone, except this one is leaving my body via the big toe on my right foot. As intriguing as this idea is, I drink a lots of water now, mostly because I never want to have another kidney stone. Even in my foot.

I’m pretty sure I can rule out my bunion. And a pedal/plantar renal calculus.

See? I told you I knew a lots of fancy-sounding words. And then I remembered something that sounds uber-fancy.

* * * *

Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain. It involves an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes, the plantar fascia. Hence, the name. Plantar fasciitis typically causes a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel.

However, my heel is the only part of my right foot that doesn’t hurt. The rest of it fucking hurts like unto two goddamn hells. It feels like I’m walking on razor blades while dropping a bowling ball on my foot.

I have a very high pain tolerance, but this has been beyond my ability to effectively cope with, so I did what any logical guy in my position would do. I begged my lovely supermodel wife to amputate my right foot with my power miter saw. She said no, which wasn’t all that surprising. She would probably tell you that she spends one-third of her time saying no to things I suggest.

Perhaps A Little Known Fact About Plantar Fasciitis And Nurses: nurses are at a high risk level of developing plantar fasciitis because they spend long hours on their feet walking on hard surfaces. Several nurses I know have had it. Their descriptions of their symptoms are what made me think PF was the root cause of my aching foot.

Like unto almost every disease process, there are multiple factors involved in contracting and/or developing PF, and I have almost none of them. I don’t exercise. I sure as hell don’t run. I’m not obese. I’m not working as a nurse anymore. Still, there’s one possible indication that applies to me.

Shoes.

Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause PF. I recently bought a new pair of Skechers® golf shoes. I absolutely love Skechers®. I have five pairs of their shoes. They’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. That said, I’m not sure why I bought new golf shoes. I didn’t need them. I already have two pairs of golf shoes. My new shoes are a bright neon green. You need sunglasses just to look at them. I never buy stuff like unto that.

My new golf shoes are the most expensive shoes I’ve ever purchased, but they’re just a bit too big for my feets. My feets slip and slide, just a little, inside my new shoes when I’m walking downhill. Otherwise, I don’t really notice any issues with my golf shoes. Maybe, just maybe, they might have some culpability in the current status of my right foot.

And then there’s this: the recommended treatments for PF have made my right foot feel better. Rest. Ice packs. Motrin. Stretching exercises. Elevation.

Something I found interesting is one of treatments for plantar fasciitis is ESWT.  Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy. It’s what my urologist did to break up two of my kidney stones.

I’ll probably spend the next few days doing those things, minus the ESWT, and not much else. My right foot actually feels pretty decent right now. I hope it works. I’m going golfing on Sunday.

If the shoe fits…  In my case, it’s the opposite. At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever wear my amazing Technicolor golf shoes again.

Perhaps A Little Known Fact About Me And Shoes: I rarely wear shoes around the house. I prefer being barefoot. So this makes the case against my flamboyant golf shoes that much stronger. My feet have been seen associating with them more than any of my other shoes.

* * * *

And there you have it. We have explored several possibilities. Some of them even made sense. What we ended up with is Non-traumatic Non-traditional Delayed Onset Pseudo-Goutal Plantar-Facio Bunionitis with Possible Idiopathic Displaced Renal Calculus Syndrome.

Ta-da!!!

If I had gone to see my doctor back in the States, that diagnosis would probably have cost me a few hundred dollars. In Mexico, it would’ve been seiscientos pesos. Roughly thirty bucks.

I love Mexico.

Does anyone want a pair of Technicolor golf shoes? Sunglasses not included.

Keep the Customer Satisfied

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve been playing a lots of golf. I don’t think I’ve gotten any better, but I haven’t gotten any worse. Golf, as I like to say, is like being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back.

If you’ve dated more than one person in your life, you might have dated someone like unto this. That kind of crazy person who gave you incredible thrills and lots of laughs one day, and then treated you like a homeless person with Ebola the next.

I have yet to meet anyone who plays golf that disagrees with my analogy.

I’ve been getting some positive feedback from the people I’ve been playing with lately, and that’s been a bit of fun.

“You have the most beautiful swing.” 

I heard that about a month ago when I played in my first Go-Go tournament. I finally started listening to my golf coaches, well, some of the most of the time at least. I’ve slowed down my backswing, so I sometimes make better contact with the ball I’m trying to hit. When it all comes together the results are are very gratifying. And, apparently, very pretty and graceful.

I still lack consistency, and I may never achieve that. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to get more better gooder. I asked my doctor to write a prescription that would improve my golf game.

He wrote me a prescription for Haldol.

I think the only thing that would help me improve would be to play more golf, and I’m not sure I want to make that kind of commitment to something that loves me not in return. Too bad I just can’t download a program from The Matrix. Then I’d be able to golf, and karate the hell out of bad guys at the same time.

“You’re the most relaxed golfer I’ve ever seen.” 

That was from yesterday at the Amigo Tournament. The team we played against was impressed by my equanimity and casual, Zen-like coolness. I attribute that to being a psych nurse for three decades. My affect rarely changes. I look about the same whether I hit a drive twenty feet or sink a twenty foot putt. And I did both of those things yesterday.

However, I’m not sure I want a bunch of people down here knowing that I used to be a nurse because they’ll start showing me body parts and asking me if I’ve ever seen anything like this before. So this is what I told the team we played against yesterday:

“It’s the heroin.”

* * * *

If you know me personally, you know I love four things above all others in this world. My lovely supermodel wife and her darling daughters. My Sleep Number® bed. The heated seats in my Buick Encore. And my stereo system.

Well, maybe you didn’t know all of that. I don’t like getting overly emotional about anything, and bursting into tears talking about my bed…  Well, it’s kind of awkward and embarrassing.

I have an awesome stereo system. I have eight sets of speakers, and two subwoofers. It’s a beast. That might seem like a lot, but I had fifteen sets of speakers when we lived in Minneapolis. That one was a beast on stereo steroids.

When I got drunk and cranked up the tunes back then, my whole block was rocking. I don’t do either of those things anymore. My neighbors here will never know how good they’ve got it.

I’m not sure how many CD’s I own. A couple of hundred at least. Everything from ABBA to ZZ Top. Classical to Classic Rock. Some Country Western. Jazz. Blues. I think I even have one Rap CD.

Given my deep and abiding love of music, I should have been a rock star. I probably would’ve gotten dead years ago if I had become a rock star, so it’s probably not the worst thing that didn’t happen to me.

The biggest reason I didn’t become a rock star is I don’t play any musical instruments. Not even the tambourine. Luckily for me I can play the stereo, and it has all the other instruments in it.

Back in Minneapolis, I must have run a half a mile of speaker wire throughout our cute little bungalow house. But when we moved to Surprise my lovely supermodel wife didn’t to see any wiring. So I went to the nearest Best Buy® and bought a Rocketfish Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit.

I didn’t have to run a bunch of wires throughout the house. My wife was happy. I had surround sound for my home theater system. Life was good.

We moved to Mexico seventeen months ago. About two months ago my Rocketfish unit died to death. And that’s when my troubles, if they can be called that, began.

There are Best Buy® stores in Guadalajara, three of them to be exact. However, the Rocketfish unit I want is only available in the US. So I ordered a replacement unit on the Best Buy® website and had it shipped to some friends in Arizona. My golf wife, Phyllis, picked it up when she went there earlier this month, and gave it to me last Saturday.

I hooked it up, and nothing happened. The sender unit was defective, and I was essentially screwed.

I decided to call the Best Customer Support Team. I had a very nice conversation with Cindy in Virginia. However, given the fact that I live in Mexico, there wasn’t much she could do.

So I wondered if someone higher up on the Chain of Command might be able to do something that Cindy couldn’t. You know, like, the CEO. So I Googled him. The CEO of Best Buy® is Hubert Joly. And I found a website with the contact information of every executive officer in the Best Buy® Corporation.

Any guesses what I did next? This is the email I sent to Trish Walker, President of Services:

Dear Trish,                  

I hope you’re having a good day. I thought about writing to Mr. Joly, but I decided he’d probably send my email to you and ask you to look into it. So here goes…                       

A brief back story. About ten years ago, I bought a Rocketfish Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit from one of your Best Buy stores in Arizona. About a year ago we moved to Mexico, and about two months ago my Rocketfish unit died.

I really liked the product, so I went to one of the Best Buy stores in Guadalajara, but it seems these units are only available in the US. So I ordered a replacement unit online from a Best Buy store in West McAllen, TX in early February, and had it shipped to a friend in Arizona. Another friend picked it up and brought it to Mexico. I got it today.

Order Number: BBY01-805530149954. The price was $81.96.                             

That’s when I discovered the unit I had ordered was defective. The sender unit wouldn’t send a signal to the receiving unit. Therefore, my rear speakers still don’t work.

I am a huge stereo buff. Words do not suffice to describe my disappointment. In addition, I lived in Minnesota for thirty years, and am an avid Vikings fan. Unless you’re not. Then I can be flexible. I have no shame in trying to resolve this matter without having to fly back to the US.

I called the number listed on your website and talked to Stu in the Geek Squad Support team. He gathered information, then passed me on to Cindy, whom I must have spent at least an hour talking with.                                                                                               

It seems Best Buy has a deadline of fifteen days to return a defective online product, so in my case that time period expired before I ever actually received the product. Cindy suggested I return the item to the store in McAllen. That’s about 1200 miles from here.

I asked Cindy if it was possible to send another Rocketfish speaker kit to one of the Best Buy stores in Guadalajara. And if that had been possible, this email would simply be a lot of praise for your Support Team in general, and Cindy in specific. And I would care less about the piece of junk I just bought, as long as I could get a unit that worked.

Alas, I guess that’s not possible.                                                                                           

Then Cindy gave me the number to the Rocketfish Support Team. She said the product was under warranty, and the manufacturer should honor that.

Alas, I guess that’s not possible either.

I talked to Ed at Rocketfish, who told me it was his birthday. Twice. I wished him a Happy Birthday three times, then he transferred me to the department that was supposed to help me. Her name was Cassandra. She essentially said there was nothing she or anyone else at Rocketfish could or would do, warranty or not, then asked if she could help me with anything else.

I actually had to laugh at that.

And that’s the end of my story. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to surprise me by doing something to try to fix this, but not so surprising that I have a heart attack.If  you need additional information you can respond to this email or you can call me on my US number: (623) 234-xxxx.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

* * * *

Have you ever watched The Good Doctor? It’s about this autistic young man who becomes a surgeon. And he has a very…unique…speech pattern. Both of the people I talked to at Rocketfish sounded like that. I don’t know if that’s how they really talk, or if Rocketfish has voice altering technology in play.

This is the number for Rocketfish Customer Support: 1-800-620-2790. If you’re really bored, you can call them and check for yourself. Tell them I said hi.
* * * *
I didn’t hear back from Ms. Walker. So I sent an email to Sarah Labbé, Senior Executive Resolution Specialist. With a title like unto that, you know shit is going to get done. I received no response from her either. But I did receive a response from Mr Zar Kovalov, Best Buy Corporate, Executive Resolution Team.
Hello Mark!
 
I am truly sorry that this has been such a frustrating process! Emphatically, perception is reality! It does matter how you feel!
 
I am sending you my direct contact information ( which is below). This the highest level of escalation. So always feel free to contact me if there are any questions, problems or concerns.
 
In sincerity – You are a Revered, and extremely Valued Customer!

My response:

Dear Zar,
 
Thank you for following up on my email. Clearly, the easiest thing to do would’ve been to ignore it. I’m not sure there will be much you can do to resolve this matter, but I’m glad you’re willing to discuss it. 
 
In addition, I don’t think I’ve ever been viewed as a revered anything before. I kind of like the sound of that. Given the fact that I live in Mexico, I’m not sure what solutions are available. I’m going to offer some possibilities. You can decide if any of them are feasible.
 
From my point of view, the easiest solution is to ship a replacement Rocketfish Universal Wireless Rear Speaker Kit to one of the Best Buy stores in Guadalajara, preferably the one at the Gallerias Mall. It’s about fifty miles from where I live. I don’t even care if I have to pay shipping and handling and pay for the replacement unit. 
 
I just want my sound system to work the way I want it to again. If you are able to do that, my problem is essentially solved, provided the replacement unit works.
 
Option #2: I’ll be traveling to the States in August. With your approval, I could return the defective unit I bought at one of your stores in Minnesota and then pay the difference on a new unit which I would bring back to Mexico. It’s a longer wait for me, but I’m a patient man. End result, my problem is solved and you become revered to me.
 
Those are the two solutions I have. My wife says if you can’t send me a replacement unit, could you at least refund my money. This is how single-minded I am. I hadn’t even thought about that. 
I hope you have a good day, and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience. 
 
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
 
* * * *
And that’s as far as this has gotten. Stay tuned to this channel for updates, if any, as they occur.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

It’s been a quiet week here in the Lakeside area. My golf wife, Phyllis, is in Phoenix, so it’s even quieter than usual. She’ll be back on Friday, so maybe we can get a couple of rounds in before she takes off on her next adventure.

Thank God I have Facebook to keep my life interesting.

One of my real friends is getting married in about a month. She’s been having wedding showers, and she’s really happy and excited! I used to work with her. She was one of the best nurses I ever worked with, but I won’t be going to her wedding. She’s getting married in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, which is almost impossible to get to from where we live in Mexico.

Seriously. If we took the bus, it’d take three days to get there. If we drove, it’d be about a fourteen hour drive. Neither my lovely supermodel wife nor I have any desire to spend that much time in a car on Mexican roads.

The easiest way to get there from here is to fly to Phoenix, then drive back down into Mexico to go to the wedding. Then we’d have to drive back up to Phoenix to fly back to Guadalajara. At any rate, it’s too complicated and too expensive for us this year. I waited until the last possible minute to call her to let her know we weren’t coming. I think she took it better than I did.

Back when I was a nurse, if I needed some extra cash all I had to do was pick up an extra shift or two. Now that I’m retired, I suppose I could pick up an extra shift of doing nothing, but I don’t get paid anything extra for it…

Another one of my real friends just broke off her engagement. I think she found out her fiance cheated on her. On the bright side, I won’t have to call her to tell her I won’t be coming to her wedding…

Yes, it is all about me.

That’s actually kind of funny because this blog is probably the only area in my life where my opinion is actually a factor.

Two of my virtual friends are traveling in Africa. One is in Nigeria, the other is in Ghana. Well, they were my virtual friends. They asked me to send them money, and I had to say no to them. I did what any good virtual friend would do, and wished them the best of success. And I added I’d say a prayer for them. Neither of them were very pleased with my response, so I suggested they learn how to speak Swahili.

I haven’t heard from either of them since.

One of my virtual friends is a nursing student who was possibly being evicted from her apartment. She also wanted money from me, and I haven’t heard from her either ever since I told her no.

One of my virtual friends is working in the Ukraine. His wife died from cancer, and his daughter is in school in England. We probably aren’t virtual friends anymore either because he wanted me to buy him an iTunes card so he could talk to his daughter, and I don’t do that either.

Why not? You can buy them at any store all over the world! he replied. So I pointed out to him there were probably a lots of stores in the Ukraine. He could buy one himself.

I’m pretty much immune to these kinds of requests from people I don’t actually know. I was a psych nurse. I’ve heard every sob story known to man. And woman. Twice. And there was a very interesting thing I learned about people. People lie, or at the very least, distort the truth all the time.

As a result, I tend not to believe anything my virtual friends tell me until it can be corroborated by a second party. We used to do that all the time in Psychiatry. We were like unto cops. We would call family members, employers, landlords, roommates… Seeing how I can’t easily do that now, I’m probably not a very good virtual friend to have if you actually need any help.

Another one of my virtual friends got dead. She was about ten years younger than me. She has a daughter who is probably twelve or thirteen years old. Alicia worked at a healthcare facility on an Indian reservation in Montana. She was being treated for a heart condition, and had been posting about all of her frustrations regarding her treatment and how lousy she felt, and how she just wanted to feel better and live her life again.

Vaya con Dios, Alicia. I hope you’re finally at peace.

* * * *

We put our kit-ten down a couple of weeks ago. Her advanced age finally caught up with her, so we asked Dr Betty if she would make a house call. We didn’t want to put Samantha through any more stress than necessary. Dr Betty graciously agreed.

That was a very sad day.

I think we’re getting used to the fact that we don’t have a kit-ten anymore. I cleared out Sam’s office, removing her litter box, food bowls and water fountain. But we still look for her, and Lea misses her, especially at night.

Like a lots of cats, Sam slept in our bed. She would cuddle up next to Lea and rest her head on Lea’s arm like unto a pillow. She would purr contentedly and they would sleep like that all night.

Back when Lea used to travel for work, Sam would sleep in bed with me, but she never rested her head on my arm. We were friends, but we weren’t that close.

I sat on the couch next to wife the other day. I hadn’t done that since we moved to Mexico. Sam had essentially claimed the other cushion of the sofa as hers. Maybe one of these days I’ll remember there’s no longer a cat sleeping on the couch and sit there again someday.

We won’t have to share our food with the cat anymore, and Lea won’t have to wonder if what she’s cooking is something kit-tens will like. We won’t have to make sure we bring something home for Sam if we go out to eat.

We’ve talked about getting another cat. Lea even went to the Cat Orphanage in Ajijic last week to look at cats. She’s not ready for another kit-ten yet. Probably later this year, maybe in October. That’s my prediction.

* * * *

I know I react differently to death than normal people do. Part of the reason for that is what I did for a living. Nurses have to deal with death more frequently than most people do on a daily basis.

Yeah, you kind of get used to it in a way.

This is not to say that I haven’t been deeply affected by losing someone in my life. I have been a total emotional basketcase because of a loss for extended periods of time. Like, you know, a decade or more. The extravagance of my reactions has given me reason to question my sanity more than once.

Another part of the reason is my Christian beliefs. If we’re all going to resurrected someday, then I’ll see all of my dead family members and friends again eventually. And then I can tell them how pissed I was at them for dying. In all honesty, I still want to kick my mom’s ass for dying the way she did.

But mostly, I think it’s the whole grieving process. I fucking hate it. And that’s the most honest reason I can give you.

I’m not comfortable feeling uncomfortable. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m not sure if it ever worked for me, but I know enough about me to know I’m a total wuss when it comes to being overly emotional about…anything. I can work through all five steps in the Grief and Loss process in about twenty minutes. And then I’m done.

Be that as it may, I still miss Samantha. I see her sometimes out of the corner of my eye. But it’s not her. It’s something else, and that sucks.

Last night when we were going to bed, I turned off the lights in the living room. And I found myself in front of Sam’s cushion on the couch. I reached down to pet her, and there she was, lifting her head, craning her neck so I would scratch the right part of her ears. And she purred contentedly.

She seemed to be happy and healthy once more. That made me smile.

Vaya con Dios, Samantha Rachel. You really were the best kit-ten buddy ever. I hope there are a lots of lizards to chase in Kit-ten Heaven. And maybe I’ll see you again someday, too.

Tears in Heaven

There was yet another mass shooting in a school in Florida the other day. Or as they say in America, “Sounds like a typical Wednesday.”

I wrote about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and I’m pretty sure I said it wouldn’t be the last shooting, and therefore, not the last time I’d have to address this issue. Unfortunately. I’m not a prophet, but it didn’t take any special ability to be able to predict that.

There’s been the usual show of outrage and support on social media. There’s a renewed call for the banning of all assault weapons in the US, something I believe should have happened at least ten years ago.

One of my friends posted pictures of US Senators offering “prayers and support” for the victims and their families of the shooting in Florida. And she also posted how much money those Senators accepted from the NRA.

It was hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another friend posted a picture of a check she wrote for the re-election campaign for one of the Senators. The dollar amount was “thoughts and prayers.”

I loved that.

* * * *

Words do not suffice to express how tired I am of hearing about these events. Or how tired I am of hearing the arguments of the pro-gun lobbyists. Yes, they have the right to own firearms. Yes, they have the right to express their opinion.

But the victims and their families have rights, too. The latest mass shooting silenced seventeen voices forever. So let’s take what I hope will be my last examination of this issue.

I do not blame our current President for what happened in Florida. Mass shootings have been around longer than Trump. And if something isn’t done to change the current status, they’ll be around long after he’s gone.

If you want to know where I stand on this position, read my previous post on this subject, Viva Las Vegas. I tried to be somewhat balanced then. Today, I am over that.

This shit needs to end. Now.

* * * *

Teachers should be armed to protect our children

Yes. That’s an actual solution.

Right now, school funding is so poor that schools can’t provide pencils and notebooks to their students. A box of one hundred #2 pencils costs about ten bucks. A six pack of two hundred page spiral notebooks costs about twelve bucks.

One Glock .9 mm handgun costs about six hundred dollars. Let’s say for the purpose of this argument there are five million teachers in America. It would cost three billion dollars just to arm all of the teachers. That doesn’t include safety training, marksmanship, or any other special training they would need. Or ammunition.

Who’s going to pick up the tab for that?

I pick the NRA. If nothing else, it would decrease the amount of money they have to buy our politicians.

One of my friends suggested that school sports budgets be used to pay for arming the teachers. Why not? Everyone knows that no one has ever learned anything by playing any sport.

Sports serve no purpose. They have never created any opportunities for anyone. That’s why no sports stars ever came from a background of abject poverty. Everyone knows athletes are nothing but a bunch of pampered narcissistic morons.

So yes, let’s rape our scholastic sports programs. And while we’re at it, we might as well get rid of band and music, speech and debate, and every other extracurricular activity currently in our schools. Let’s get rid of all that crap and put that money where it will do the most good by giving our teachers handguns.

When I was a psych nurse, I witnessed many acts of workplace violence. I can’t remember how many times someone said we should be issued guns so we could safely do our jobs.

This was my response:

“Because if they gave nurses guns, we would use them.”

And I have no doubt some teachers would do the same thing. I’m pretty sure that several of my teachers wished they could’ve shot me.

There’s another popular solution on social media. America has a shitload of unemployed combat veterans. Let’s hire them as security guards for our schools!

Sure. Why not? Because nothing says freedom like having an armed guard watch you. And this is seemingly the big issue for the pro-gun argument. Infringements on their civil rights.

News flash! Your civil rights have been infringed since way before 9-11. The government was finally transparent about what they were doing after the World Trade Center was blown up.

So go ahead. Create a police state. Just finish the job and get it over with. Do whatever it is you need to do so you can still play with your precious fucking guns.

* * * *

Mass shootings aren’t the problem. They’re a symptom of a bigger problem.

The obvious answer as to what the bigger problem is is the moral and social decay of American society. My question is this: Has America really fallen that far off the map?

All of the American people I know, both here and back in the States, are decent people who would go out of their way to help someone in need. I have yet to see anyone actually applaud the fact that people are being killed to death by the dozens on an alarmingly frequent basis. This is hardly the indication of a country that has lost its moral compass.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s true. You can’t perform a heart transplant on a societal level. You cannot tranfuse a new ethos into a culture. If this argument is true, there’s nothing that be done to make America great again. And nothing should be done. In fact, America should be euthanized, and the sooner the better.

This is a conversation I had today with one of my virtual friends who thinks society is the problem:

VF: I see more value in addressing the actual issues surrounding problems in society as opposed to unnecessarily limiting our options.

Me: Don’t stop now, you’re on a roll. How would you address the actual issues?

VF: Individually, with reason and logic. A good understanding of the Constitution….

I’ve been trying like hell not to say this, but the people who promote this argument sound like Donald Trump to me. They identity a vague and nebulous problem. They tap dance around it, and when you ask them how to fix it they have no fucking idea.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this argument is nothing more than a diversion, nothing more than an attempt to distract us from the real issue. And that issue is all about people being killed by automatic assault weapons.

If someone tries to pull this crap on you, kick them in the balls as hard as you can.

* * * *

If someone gets a DUI, do we blame the car or the driver?

Yet another misdirection play aimed to befuddle and confuse.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a concentrated effort to get people to stop drinking and driving. And there’s a simple reason for that. Drunk driving used to be something like unto a goddamn epidemic.

I got a DUI in 1980, I think. My BAL was .28, almost three times the legal limit of .10. I didn’t go to jail. My fine was $400. Four months later, I got my driver’s license back.

You could check this out. My generation, and my parents generation–we drove drunk all the time! And then around 1980 or so, MADD was founded was founded by by a woman in California named Candy Lightner. And why was she against drunk driving? Her daughter had been killed. By a drunk driver.

Thanks to Candy Lightner and the organization she founded, the legal blood alcohol limit for a DUI is now .08. If I were to get a DUI today under the same circumstances, I would probably be in jail for one year. My fine would be at least $3000, and my license would be suspended for at least one year.

Drink responsibly

Do you really think the companies that make alcoholic beverages actually care how you drink? Sure they do. That’s why they encourage you to buy so much beer. And vodka. And rum.

Dilly-dilly on that for a moment.

Corporations have only one overriding concern. Making money, and a lots of it. But they’ve come up with some creative advertising to foster the illusion that they actually care about people and social causes. So please drink responsibly so you can continue to buy more Bud Light®. We don’t want you to start having to go to any Twelve Step meetings.

And here’s the biggest flaw in the DUI argument. No one who gets a DUI is proud of it. Everyone I know who was involved in an automobile accident after drinking regrets it. Everyone I know who was responsible for killing someone when they were drunk– Man, if there was just one thing I could do over in my life…

It’s something you never get over.

As for the guys who open fire on a group of people for no rational reason, not one of them has ever apologized for their actions.

Drunk drivers don’t get behind the wheel because they want to kill as many people as they possibly can. On the contrary, they’re praying they make it home safely, without hurting anyone or anything.

Guys armed with automatic assault weapons on whatever day of the week it happens to be, in whichever state they happen to be in, have no other purpose in mind.

This week it was a Wednesday. In Florida.

We can’t know when or where it will be next week, or the week after that, but we’re pretty sure it’ll happen again. And it will continue to happen. Until something is done to change it.

* * * *

I have one solution that I haven’t heard anyone else offer up yet. And it’s so simple you’re going to slap yourself for not thinking of it.

We should just ban schools.

Listen, the kids in school now are all idiots anyhow. They don’t actually need to know anything. They can Google it, or look it all up on the Wikipedia and the YouTube if they need to figure something out. They don’t need to go to school for that!

No schools, no more school shootings.

I can’t believe the NRA hasn’t suggested this to Congress yet.

Virtu-ality

I once heard this bit of advice when I was interested in becoming a rich and famous writer.

Write what you know.

Unfortunately, I didn’t follow that advice at the time, and it may be at least one reason why I became neither rich nor famous as an author. I’ve probably gotten better at following that advice. Most of my blog posts have been about things that I know. Psychiatric nursing. Getting drunk. Doing stupid stuff…  However, I doubt I’ll ever become rich or famous no matter how many Rules of Writing I follow.

The most important thing, according to the people in the know, was to just keep writing. Just in cases you were wondering…

I’ve had a lots of time to ponder the wisdom of those words, but I think you actually have to be a good writer in order to achieve fame and fortune.

I doubt I’ll  ever attempt to write another novel. I’m content with an occasional post in my blog. And is there such a thing as a rich and famous blogger? I suppose it’s possible, but only because I believe almost anything is possible.

I have a lots of time to ponder life; its many facets and mysteries. I get a lots of different points of view from my friends on social media.

One of the things I started pondering recently came from a post on Facebook from one of my friends:

Is it just me, or are people getting stupider?

Technology is a wonderful thing, but with so much knowledge and information available at our fingertips, maybe we are getting stupider. Well, not my generation. The ones that followed us.

I’m pretty sure every generation thinks they’re the only cool generation. The preceding generation is over the hill. The following generation doesn’t have a clue. And there may be some truth to that.

And then again, maybe my generation is responsible for producing a couple of generations of moronheads. They may not know shit, but they are technological wizards when it comes to finding what they want/need to know.

There’s an app for that.

That bit of advertising genius was aimed at Generations X, Y and Z. Not at me or my generation. We’re still trying to figure out if the Snapchamp is cute or creepy.

* * * *

I used to belong to a lots of groups on Facebook, but I’ve bailed on almost all of them. I found myself getting annoyed by the things the stupid people in the groups posted. It’s one of transitions you go through when you retire.

I used to belong to a Classic Movie group. I like classic movies. I thought there might be some valuable insights posted by other classic movie fans. I was wrong. This was one of the insightful posts from that group:

What’s your favorite Doris Day movie? I like Pillow Talk

There were literally thousands of posts like unto that, just change the name of the actor, and the movie.

But this post still has me scratching what’s left of the hair on my head:

I love Robert Redford. I love all of his movies! My favorite is Paul Newman!!

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That was pretty much my reaction, too. I’m no longer a member of that group.

* * * *

The Winter Olympics started a few days ago. I love the Olympics, too. So I became a member of the Official Winter Olympics Facebook page last Friday. And then I waited for the Opening Ceremony on come on at 8:00 PM.

While I waited, I read posts from my fellow lovers of the Olympics. There were a lots of posts like unto this:

Hello from Seattle! Go Team USA! Where are you and who do you want to win?

And I was okay with that. I mean, it’s the Olympics. Of course you’re going to root for your country. Who doesn’t? I responded that I was in Mexico, rooting for the Mexican Bobsled/Curling/ Ski Team.

Someone from Nigeria posted that she was proud of the Nigerian Bobsled team, the first African bobsled team in history. And a guy from the US responded, I think Jamaica was first.

And I responded, Yes, the African nation of Jamaica!

I could feel the Sands of Stupididity starting to flow into the hourglass, and then it happened, at 4:00 PM. Someone posted this:

I can’t find the Olympics on my TV! Am I missing something?

My first response was this: Yes! Your fucking brain! But I toned it down and said this instead: Yes, the Olympics.

And then I bailed on that group, too.

If there’s a message in this post, it’s this:

Never underestimate the power of stupidity

* * * *

I spend a lots of time on Facebook. I’m retired. Time is a resource that I have in abundance. I keep up with all of my virtual friends; their triumphs, their heartaches.

A couple of them just got married. A couple more of them are pregnant. One of them might be going to prison for some things she did several years ago when she was strung out on drugs.

When I read her post, the first thing I thought was, There but for the grace of God…

I’ve become much more selective about the people I send Friend Requests to. I haven’t had anyone ask me if I want to see naked pictures of them or sex chat in months. But I have been getting requests for something else.

Money. Or an iTunes card, whatever that is. I’ve only given serious thought to sending money to someone once, but I actually knew her, and she’s a sweet girl. I’ve never seriously considered sending money to someone I’ve never met.

And there’s one other thing some of my virtual friends are looking for:

A relationship.

Yeah, I don’t get it either. I’m not sure I could ever admit I met my wife on Facebook. I know online dating sites have become very popular, but I’m not sure I would ever use one.

And the thing I don’t get the most is Why me? I mean, there’s nothing on my Facebook profile that indicates that I would be interested in dating anyone. Maybe I should have a few people look at it, just to make sure…

This is an amalgamation of several conversations I’ve had over the last six months or so. I doubt any of them have been this long or detailed.

Random Girl: Hi  where are you from

Me: That information is on my profile page. If you don’t mind my asking, why did you send me a friend request?

Random Girl: Im looking for a serious relationship with a serious man.

Me: Sorry. I can’t help you. I’m not a serious man. You can ask around. I’m probably the least serious man on the planet.

Random Girl: lol your funny

Me: It’s you’re, not your…

Random Girl: what ever I want to meet you

Me: Are you on drugs?

Random Girl: no when can we meet

Me: Let me ask my wife. She doesn’t think that’s a good idea.

Random Girl: your married

Me: It’s you’re, not your… Yes, I’m very married. My wife is a supermodel. You would’ve known that if you had read my profile page.

Random Girl: thats okay. I still want to meet you send me a picture

Me: No. There’s a picture of me on my profile page

Random Girl: okay your really handsome

Me: It’s you’re, not your. That’s not my real picture. I look hideous. I was blown up by a bomb during the war.

Random Girl: you were in the war which one

Me: All of them since the American Civil War. I was almost killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Random Girl: okay I still want to meet you

Me: No, you don’t. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in 1863. Besides, I live in Mexico. You’d hate it here.

Random Girl: Ive never been to mexico do you live on the beach

Me: No, I don’t live on the beach. I live in the mountains. It’s boring here, you’d hate it here after twenty minutes. Besides, I’m probably old enough to be your father.

Random Girl: how old are you

Me: I’m 62. How old are you?

Random Girl: Im 28 age isn’t important

Me: Jesus! I’m old enough to be your grandfather! The only people who say that are stupid young people!

Random Girl: lol I don’t like boys my age  I want a mature man who will treat me nice like you

Me: You don’t even know me! I could be a serial killer!

Random Girl: lol what do you do in mexico

Me: I just told you, I’m a serial killer. Why else would I be in Mexico?

Random Girl: I dont think youd hurt me

Me: That’s what the last three girls like you said. I’m running out of room in my backyard

Random Girl: for what

Me: To bury bodies

Random Girl: okay when can I come see you

Me: You can’t. I’m married. And if I don’t kill you, my wife will.

Random Girl: why would you’re wife want to kill me

Me: It’s your, not you’re. She’s a serial killer, too. That’s why we make such a cute couple.

Random Girl: but I want to take care of you

Me: I weigh five hundred pounds. I haven’t had a bath in a week. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.

Random Girl: its okay

Me: Oh, that’s different. I just shit my pants. How long will it take you to get here?

So far no one has hung in there after that line, no matter how much they said they wanted to meet me.

Youth-in-Asia

It’s been cold here in the Lakeside area this week. And for those of you who live in Northern climes, I get it. This isn’t really cold. -30°F. That’s cold!

But cold is a relative term, and 57°F with overcast skies and a cool wind down here feels like the onset of the next Ice Age. The Mexican locals dress like Minnesotans in January. Big down-filled parkas. Winter hats and caps. Scarves wrapped around their faces. Gloves. And if you ask them, they will tell you they’re fucking freezing to death.

Ten years in Phoenix has effected the way my body reacts to and adjusts to the weather. I haven’t broken out my winter parka and scarf yet, but my reaction for the last couple of days has been to turn on the gas fireplace, camp out in the living room, and try to stay warm.

That’s not entirely true. I went golfing on Monday with my golf wife. Phyllis and I decided we don’t need wind and cold to impact our game. We’re bad enough on good days. And I went to my golf lesson with Tom yesterday. It was even colder and windier, and even less fun.

It’s supposed to be back up in the 70’s next week, and that will be a welcome change. And everyone can talk about how they survived the Winter from Hell in Ajijic. According to people in the know, this has been the coldest winter in recorded history in the Lakeside area.

* * * *

Euthanasia is one of those words that doesn’t mean anything close to the way it sounds. It sounds like you’re talking about children in China. Or anywhere else in the Oriental East.

Just in cases you don’t know what euthanasia means, here’s the definition: Euthanasia (from Greek: εὐθανασία; “good death”: εὖ, eu; “well” or “good” – θάνατος, thanatos; “death”) is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.

It’s kind of like the Spanish word disfruta. In English, the prefix dis is associated with bad things. Dis-ease. Dis-tress. In English slang, if you diss someone, you’re saying not very good things about them.

In Spanish, the word for fruit is fruta. So if you try to Spanglish the hell out of the word disfruta you come up with bad fruit. And you’d be totally wrong because it means enjoy. 

Yeah, go figure.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this. Given my style, that’s a good question to ask. The central figure in the beginning of this story is our very old kit-ten, Samantha. Sam is going to be twenty years old in April. We’ve had Sam in our house for roughly one-third of our lives. She has survived three moves with us.

Like unto most any creature of advanced age, Sam isn’t doing as good as she did when she was younger. She used to run and frolic and hunt lizards. Now, she mostly sleeps and eats, and goes back to sleep. She had a couple of days when she couldn’t keep food or  water down, and that was very disconcerting. She has arthritis in her hips, and when she moves she does so slowly and deliberately.

I’m not sure, but I think she’s developed a cataract in her right eye, and she’s probably developing some degree of deafness as well. Maybe she can still hear as well as she ever did, but she simply cares less about what people are saying.

Who knows? She’s a cat, and cats are, well, mystical.

I don’t know if it’s her limited mobility, or possible vision problems, or something else entirely; but Sam has developed some issues when she uses the litter box over the last month or so. The biggest problem is she doesn’t appear to be actually using her litter box. I think she’s still trying, but she’s developed some serious accuracy problems.

I have a couple of plastic mats in front of the litter box that generally gather and corral her errant urine, and we have ceramic tile floors, so clean up is a breeze. I used to be a nurse. I’ve cleaned up a lots of urine and other body fluids in my lifetime. Still, it’s not a task I can say I relish doing, no matter how much I love our kit-ten.

As a result, my lovely supermodel wife and I have had several End of Life conversations about her beloved kit-ten. These are not easy conversations. Lea really loves her kit-ten, and she always starts crying. I really hate seeing her cry. We’ve had to say farewell to other kit-tens, and those were painful events.

When the day finally comes that we have to put our kit-ten down, that will be a very sad day in our household. On the bright side, that day will not be today. Sam only vomitated once today. She’s still having trouble in the litter box, and I’ve come to the conclusion that’s probably not going to get any better, not that any of her other problems are likely to improve either…

I think Lea has decided to take Sam to our veterinarian, Dr Betty, tomorrow to get her opinion on Sam. Dr Betty is a cute young Mexican woman. She looks like she’s thirteen years old, and barely stands five feet tall. I like standing near her because even I look like a giant compared to her. I’m going to go to the vet, too. Just in cases…

* * * *

When it comes to End of Life decisions, we have much better options with our pets than we have with ourselves. Lea and I have had this conversation, and several variations on it a few times. We’re not interested in the quantity of our lives, only the quality. Lea has often told me she doesn’t care about living to be one hundred. I’m not sure I’ve told her this, but there are days when I’m not sure I want to live another ten years.

You might think that odd, seeing how I’m retired and living in paradise with a supermodel, but it’s a vast improvement over the days when I did didn’t want to live another ten minutes.

Living Wills and Advanced Directives are legal documents where you can outline what types of medical treatments and interventions you would like in the event that you become incapacitated and can’t tell anyone that you don’t want to be placed on a respirator. Or that you don’t want any heroic measures taken to save your life.

My lovely supermodel wife and I have Living Wills in both the US and in Mexico. All we want is comfort meds to control pain. And that’s it. No CPR. No intubation. Nothing. Nada.

But you can’t request that a lethal combination of drugs be given to you when the quantity of your life exceeds the quality of it. And that’s where our pets have us beat all to hell. Their lives can be ended for humane reasons.

When it comes to our pets, we have the option of essentially putting them out of their misery and ending their suffering, an option that we, as people, do not have.

Pets can be euthanized.

* * * *

My youngest daughter, Abigail, once told me a story about her friend and his hamster. The average lifespan of a hamster is somewhere around two years, give or take six months to a year. So I’m guessing Herbie the hamster was around two years old, roughly, when her friend approached his dad one Sunday morning. And for some context, the kid was probably nine years old.

“Dad, something’s wrong with Herbie! We have to take him to the vet right away!”

Well,  it was only a hamster…  I mean, who takes a hamster to the vet? Hamsters are like unto goldfish, with fur. When they die, you flush the old one down the toilet and you buy a new one. And it was Sunday. The Vikings game was going to start any minute.

So dad did some quick thinking and explained the concept of Life and Death to his son, and the fact that the veterinarian’s office was closed, and emergency veterinarian services are very expensive.

“I think we need to do the humane thing, son.”

The humane thing dad came up with was gassing his son’s hamster. He pulled a kettle out of the cupboard, blew out the pilot light on one side of the stove top, placed Herbie under the kettle on one of the unlit burners, and turned on the gas.

“Are you sure Herbie’s not going to suffer?” the kid asked.

“No, he won’t suffer. In fact, this is how the vet would do it…” And he went into a detailed explanation of oxygen, carbon monoxide, hemoglobin and maybe even Krebs Cycle. That last part is something I vaguely remember from nursing school. It might have something to do with this topic, but don’t quote me on that.

Dad might have had the right idea to humanely terminate Herbie. He might have even been incredibly kind while he carefully described how death in the absence of oxygen occurs. But he was very stupid about one thing.

He forgot to blow out the pilot light on the other side of the stove top.

So, while dad was patiently and compassionately going through his explanation, gas fumes were traveling across the top of the stove to the burning pilot light. When they became concentrated enough…

You know what happens when propane gas fumes hit an open flame, don’t you?

There was a small explosion on the stove top. The kettle flew to the ceiling with a BANG! then clattered across the floor, followed by the shape of a hamster with patches of fur on fire flying through the air. Herbie the Flaming Hamster landed on the floor right in front of dear old dad, and he did what any guy would do when he sees a hamster on fire on his kitchen floor.

He stomped on the hamster.

Well, that reflexive reaction put the flames out. It also killed Herbie, if he hadn’t already died to death from being old, then gassed, kind of exploded, and sort of set on fire.

Okay. This might not be the best example of humane euthanasia for a pet. However, I thought this was one of the funniest true stories I’ve ever heard in my life, and it popped into my mind as I was writing.

I tend to go where my Muse takes me when I write. This is probably the only story I’ve written lately that I’ve given any thought to for more than half an hour, actually giving my Muse an opportunity for input. I should probably be more mindful when I write. A couple of my latest posts are incomplete because I forgot to write half the things I wanted to. Maybe I’ll go back and finish them someday…

I can only speak for myself, but I like the results much better when I listen to my Muse. Or Muses. Seeing how this may turn out to be tragic, Melpomene will be involved. But it’s also kind of funny, so let’s give Thalia a warm round of applause.

* * * *

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I have wanted to be a prophet for quite some time. And you also know it’s something I’ve essentially failed to achieve. So I doubt that I could predict the exact circumstances surrounding my death even if I wanted to.

Be that as it may, it doesn’t stop me from speculating about them.

I used to read the obituaries when I was a psych nurse, mostly to see if any of my former patients had died. Especially the ones I didn’t like very much.

There were a lots of people that died from an “unexpected heart attack.” Does anyone ever expect to die from a heart attack on any given day? And if you expected a heart attack, wouldn’t you do something to prevent it?

“Hey! Do you want to go golfing?”

“Okay, but we better go early. I’m planning on having a heart attack around two o’clock today…”

A lots of people died after a “courageous battle with cancer.” You won’t be able to say that about me. Nope. That sonuvabitch pretty much gave up when he found out he had cancer, and just surrendered to his fate. No chemo. No radiation. No surgery. He just wanted morphine.

In the event that the quality of my diminishes greatly before the quantity of it does, I’ve come up with a scenario to effect an humane end for my life. It involves my two darling daughters, Gwendolyn and Abigail, and a dog costume. And it goes something like unto this:

Gwen and Abi will come down here to Mexico, dress me in the dog costume, then take me to the veterinarian’s office.

“Buenos dias, I’m Doctor Ramirez. How can I help you ladies today?”

Abi: “It’s our dad, I mean, dog.”

Gwen: “Yes. Our dog is very old, and he’s in a lot of pain. He needs to be put down.”

Abi: “We thought about doing it ourselves, but I don’t think the stove top is big enough.”

Gwen: “And we don’t have a kettle big enough.”

Abi: “And we might accidentally blow up the house.”

Gwen: “And we really don’t want to do that…”

Abi: “It’s a rental house. The landlord probably wouldn’t appreciate that.”

Dr Ramirez: “I see, I think. How old is your dog?”

Abi: “He’s, like, eighty…”

Gwen: “In dog years.”

Dr Ramirez: “Yes, of course. He is old, then. What sort of symptoms is he having?”

Abi: “Well, he isn’t eating.”

Gwen: “He mostly sleeps a lot. And he’s incontinent. Can dogs be incontinent?”

Abi: “He doesn’t enjoy any of the things he used to do anymore. He doesn’t even watch football.”

Dr Ramirez: “Your dog watches football?”

Abi: “He used to watch it…with our dad…”

Gwen: “Back when he watched football. They did a lot of stuff together.”

Dr Ramirez: “Okay, can I see your dog? This doesn’t look like a dog! This looks like a man in a dog costume!”

Abi and Gwen: “No! He’s really a dog! He’s really old! And sick. He used to look better when he was younger! He really did!”

Abi: “And he spent so much time with our dad, they kind of started looking like each other, maybe.”

Dr Ramirez: “Well, yes. I have seen this before. Dogs and their owners can be very similar sometimes…  What’s your…dog’s…name?

Abi and Gwen: “Mark.”

Dr Ramirez: “This is a very strange name for a dog.”

Abi: “Well, he…has a cleft palate!”

Gwen: “Yes! And that’s the noise he made when he barked!”

Abi: “So that’s what we called him. Back when he used to bark…”

Gwen: “Yeah, he doesn’t even enjoy barking anymore.”

Abi: “He’s really old, and sick.”

Dr Ramirez: “Yes, and he needs to be put down. I get it. What kind of…dog…is he? I’ve been a vet for thirty years, and I have never seen a dog like this before.”

Abi: “Well, he’s Irish, so maybe Irish Setter?”

Dr Ramirez: “That is not an Irish Setter, I can assure you.”

Gwen: “No, he’s more of a mixed breed, right? He isn’t very big, so maybe he’s more of a Cocker Spaniel…”

Abi: “Those weiner dogs are short, too. Maybe he’s part weiner dog…”

Gwen: “Labrador?”

Abi: “Beagle?”

Gwen: “Collie?”

Abi: “Poodle?”

Gwen and Dr Ramirez: “What?!?”

Abi: “Well, everything is part poodle now, right?”

Gwen: “So, he’s an Irishcockerweiner…labra-boodle.”

Abi: “Probably.”

Dr Ramirez: “Okay! Let’s go into the exam room.”

Abi: “Come on, daddy, I mean, doggie. Get up on the table!”

Gwen: “You can do it, dad! I mean, boy. Good boy!”

Abi: “Oh! And he used to be an alcoholic, so you might have to double the meds when you put him down.”

Gwen: “Yes! He might have a greater tolerance! We don’t want to take any chances.”

Dr Ramirez: “Your dog…was an alcoholic?”

Abi: “Well, kind of…”

Gwen: “Um, yeah. He used to drink beer with our dad…”

Abi: “And watch football.”

Gwen: “You know, before he became old.”

Abi: “And sick.”

Gwen: “And stuff.”

Abi: “Okay. Let’s get this over with. Goodbye, da–doggie.”

Gwen: “Goodbye! We love you and we’ll miss you!”

Abi: “You were the best Irishcocker–  Oh, fuck it! You were the best golldarn dog we ever had. Vaya con Dios!

* * * *

And that’s how I’d like to go. As if I were in a skit by Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It would only be fitting.

🎼Turn Out the Lights,🎶 the Party’s Over🎵

Hey there, sports fans.

I went to my first golf lesson today. My instructors were…impressed. Kind of. But I think what impressed them most was how bad I was at times.

“Señor, you have two swings. One swing is muy bonito. One swing is no muy bonito.”

They’re so polite here. It’s actually kind of cute. Well, they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. What I’m not sure of is where my ugly swing came from.

However I acquired it, acquire it I did. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get rid of it. Hopefully, the lessons will help with that. The lessons cost 75 pesos, around four bucks. Life here so incredibly… economical. Among other things.

Last week, my golf wife, Phyllis, came up with a plan for world golf domination. Now that we’re both members of the Chapala Country Club, were going to play nine holes on Monday. I take golf lessons on Tuesday, she goes on Wednesday. Play nine holes on Thursday, and eighteen holes on Saturday.

We’ll see how that goes. My scores right now vary anywhere from the low fifties to the low sixties for nine holes, depending on how many times I utilize my very ugly swing, I suppose.

If I actually get any better at golf, you’ll be the next to know.

* * * *

Well, in case you weren’t aware, the Minnesota Vikings ended their run to the Super Bowl last Sunday by playing their worst game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Final score: 38-7. The Eagles scored 38 points, not the Vikings.

It wasn’t the best way to finish what had been a pretty remarkable season for them. The Vikings scored on their first drive, and that was probably a good thing. I don’t think they came close to scoring for the reminder of the game.

On the bright side, it wasn’t a nail biter/heartbreaker kind of loss. You know, where the game was tied and Philly scored late to win. This game was probably over before halftime. Vikings fans had a lots of time to come to terms with the fact that their team was going to get its ass kicked. Soundly.

That part does kind of suck. If only the best teams make it to the playoffs, how does a really good team get beat by 31 points?

Good question. Watching the game, I noticed a couple of things. The Vikings were out of position on most of the plays in that game, and the Eagles weren’t. Minnesota couldn’t do much right, and Philly didn’t do much wrong.

It’s rare, but sometimes it happens, and you never want to be the on the wrong side of that equation, especially in the playoffs. I look at it as good incentive for the Vikings next year. That loss is going to stick with them a long time. Far longer than it will with me.

I’m not a football player, or a coach. I just love watching the games.

My lovely supermodel wife and I used to attend Vikings games when we lived in Minneapolis. The Metrodome was five miles from our house. We went to one of their games when we lived in Arizona. University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Cardinals, was eight miles from our house.

By the way, the Vikings clobbered the Cardinals that day. By the start of the fourth quarter, almost all of the Cardinals fans had left. When we walked out of the stadium at the end of game, it was all Vikings fans.

That memory still makes me smile.

* * * *

Being a sports fan in Minnesota isn’t easy. Minnesota has at least four men’s professional sports teams. The Vikings in football. The Twins in baseball. The Wild in hockey. And Timberwolves in basketball.

Additionally, Minnesota has a professional soccer team, I think. I suppose I could look on the Interweb and find out, but I’ve never been a big soccer fan. It is very popular here in Mexico, so maybe I’ll start watching it. Someday.

And, Minnesota also has a professional women’s basketball team. The Lynx.

Professional sports are a big deal not just in the US, but worldwide. If you doubt this, take a look at the salaries some professional athletes make. They’re outrageous! Be that as it may, it’s part of the world we created.  And without the presence of these teams, Minnesota would essentially be, you know, Iowa.

Minnesota sports teams have historically let their fans down. Not just once. A lots of times. All of them.

It’s so bad that all of the Minnesota teams have nicknames denoting their high level of mediocrity. The Vikings/Viqueens. The  Twins/Twinkies. The Timberwolves/Timberpups. The Wild/Mild.

I outlined the Vikings history of falling apart in the playoffs in my last post, and I don’t have the heart to repeat it again. If you’re at all interested, you can read about them there, or on the Wikipedia.

* * * *

The Minnesota Twins were a small market, mediocre team for a good part of their history. They did make it to the postseason a couple of times in the Sixties and Seventies, but they lost in the ACLS at least twice. But then there was a magical three year period from 1989 to 1991. The Twins won two World Series, beating National League teams from St Louis and Atlanta.

The Twins haven’t performed all that well in any of their subsequent postseason appearances. They haven’t been back to World  Series since. Be that as it may, the Twins have given all of Minnesota something we don’t have to be athletically embarrassed about, and for that, I will always love the Twins, even if I’m not a big baseball fan.

I always thought baseball was kind of boring, especially on TV. Lea and I went to several Twins games back when they were really good. The Metrodome wasn’t the best venue for baseball. It probably wasn’t all that great for football, to be honest. I was very happy when the Dome was destroyed and both the Twins and the Vikings now have new stadiums.

We’re planning a trip back to Minnesota later this year. I definitely want to see the new stadiums. I’ve heard they’re both beautiful.

* * * *

The Minnesota Wild, our professional hockey team, has a history much like unto the Vikings. They play good hockey, sometimes even great hockey, during the regular season. Once the playoffs begin, they become mediocre at best. I don’t think they’ve ever made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I like hockey, but I’ve never been a huge hockey fan. It’s fast paced, and the puck goes about two hundred miles an hour. You really have to keep your eyes open to follow the game. There’s one strange thing about Canadian TV. We can see every Vikings game here in Mexico, but the Wild are almost always blacked out for some strange reason. If not for that kooky fact, I might be a much bigger hockey fan now.

I don’t watch much baseball or basketball. I might watch more if either the Twins or the Wolves were broadcasted by Canadian TV, but they aren’t. And there’s my lovely supermodel wife. While she does love football, she doesn’t love all sports equally.

I’d probably watch any sporting event, even knitting, if it was in an arena…

Lea and I used to go to hockey games when we lived in Minneapolis, and in Surprise. Arizona also has a hockey team, the Coyotes. Their arena is across the parking lot from University of Phoenix Stadium. I think I loved hockey fans far more than I loved hockey. Those guys were fucking hilarious.

Minnesota used to have a different hockey team, the North Stars. Much like the Wild, they tended to fall apart in the postseason, until they moved to Dallas and finally won the Stanley Cup. However, by then they were no longer a Minnesota team.

* * * *

The Timberwolves are the NBA team. They were a very bad basketball team until roughly 1997, when they made it to the playoffs several times, but never advanced to the NBA Finals. Ever.

They have a good, young team now. They might become a force to reckon with. Someday. Hopefully, soon.

I used to take my nephew, Michael, to Timberwolves games. He liked basketball, and their arena was maybe seven miles from our house. I can’t remember how many games we went to together, but I never saw the Wolves win a game in person.

Minnesota used to have another basketball team. From 1947 to 1959, the Minneapolis Lakers were a great basketball team. They were the one of the best teams ever in the NBA, and because they were so good they clearly didn’t belong in Minnesota, and they moved to Los Angeles. Where they have continued to be a very good basketball team.

The bastards.

* * * *

The Lynx are without a doubt the most successful current professional sports team, male or female, in all of Minnesota. The Lynx have qualified for the WNBA playoffs nine times. With four championships, the Lynx are tied with the Houston Comets for the most titles in WNBA history, and they have won more Western Conference championships than any other franchise.

Those gals are good, so they’ll probably move to New York. Or Florida. Or anywhere but Minnesota soon.

* * * *

Yah, and that’s about it from here regarding the Minnesota sports scene. The Vikings can practice their golf games, much like me, until August when their season starts again. Maybe they’ll win it all next year.

Basketball and hockey seasons are in full swing. I have no idea how either the Wild or the Timberwolves are doing. If either of them make it to the playoffs, I’ll probably watch their games, and cheer for them.

Baseball season probably starts in a couple of months. The Twins had a pretty good team last year. They might make some noise this year.

The Lynx will probably win their conference, and they might win another championship.

You never know. This might be the year for one of those teams, but they are Minnesota teams. And almost every sports season in Minnesota ends with these words:

There’s always next year…

Divine Intervention

Hola, amigos.

I’d apologize for not writing more often, but I have no regrets about not writing, so I won’t. I hate receiving insincere apologies, so I hate giving them, too. I’ve been busy working on my golf swing with my golf wife. Judging by our scores, we’ll both be busy refining that aspect of our games for awhile.

If you thought this story was going to be about the miraculous hole in one I shot the last time I played, you’re going to be disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was, but still…

I’m not sure why I love doing something I’m so mediocre at, but life is full of mysteries. Golf is but one of them. I might feel the same way about bowling, but there aren’t any bowling alleys here, so I can’t fall in love with bowling.

I broke down and joined the Chapala Country Club a couple of weeks ago. I was spending roughly the amount of my monthly dues there anyhow, so it seemed like the thing to do.

I hear membership has its privileges, but I have no idea what they might be. I got a membership packet when I joined, but I haven’t read it. I figure if there’s something important, Phyllis will tell me. Phyllis is my golf wife, and she reads instructions.

And there’s our Spanish lessons. I think I’m picking up Spanish about as quickly as I’m improving in golf.

There are basically three types of gringos here. The ones who spoke Spanish before they got here. The ones who have no intention of learning Spanish, and act like fools when they go to the Telmex® office. And then there’s the ones like us who feel they have an obligation to learn the language of their new home.

We’re probably the minority of those three.

Poco y pinche poco. It’s a slow process, and frustrating at times. But it’s not like I have all that much on my schedule anymore. And the money we pay to learn Spanish is donated to help pay medical expenses for needy children.

As Lea says, at least someone is getting something out it.

* * * *

How’s everyone doing?

Life is still pretty sweet down here south of the border. It’s been chilly enough for us to use the fireplace, but seeing how someone who reads this might have actually frozen their ass off this winter, I’m not going to make too big a deal about the weather.

I’m still not sure how we ended up here when we did, so I tend to attribute wondrous things I can’t understand to God. If I didn’t believe in God I might attribute them to our cat, but I’ve never seen her do anything I could remotely call miraculous, so that’s too much of a stretch even for me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever outlined the chain of events that led us here in my blog. I’ve told the story a lots of times, and I’m too lazy to go back and read through my previous posts to find out…

I’m pretty sure all of this started when we moved from Minnesota to Arizona in 2007. My lovely supermodel wife became Phyllis’ boss. Phyllis, as in my current golf wife, Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis worked together for several years and eventually became good friends. In 2012, Phyllis and her husband, Max, were getting ready to retire. They were thinking about North or South Carolina because they were big NASCAR fans, and there’s a lots of race tracks in that part of the country.

Max has a brother, Rick. Rick was living in Ajijic, and he suggested Max and Phyllis come check the place out before they moved to either of the Carolinas. And that was the end of that plan. Max fell in love with Mexico. When Phyllis returned to work, she put in her notice, and my wife just about had a heart attack. Six weeks later, Max and Phyllis jumped in their car, and their retirement days began.

And that was almost the end of this story, except Phyllis sent Lea an email at work long after she moved away, I think it was 2014. A lots had happened in a couple years. Max had died. Phyllis missed her friend, and really wanted Lea to come visit her. After multiple invitations, we decided to check the place out in September of 2015, and flew to Guadalajara.

Phyllis had a little party for us while we were visiting. We met all of her best friends, and we listened to the promotional speeches they gave about why we should move to Mexico. We liked the Lakeside area. It was as pretty as a picture. However, at that time, neither of us were thinking about retiring, not for several years at least. And neither of us had even remotely considered retiring in Mexico. But it was certainly something to consider.

And then a whole lots of kooky things happened in rapid succession. In February of 2016, Lea’s company went through a major reorganization, and Lea found out she was going to be reorganized out of her job.

Just. Like. That.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. Please clear out all of your personal belongings by the end of business today.

Lea called her daughter, Gwen, who just happens to be our financial planner, and Gwen crunched some numbers. Gwen told her mother based on our savings and our Social Security income, Lea didn’t need to work anymore if she didn’t want to. And by virtue of that fact, neither did I. That memory still makes me smile.

It was at that precise moment that moving to Mexico started looking like a very real possibility.

Lea called Phyllis and they would have a lots of conversations over the next several months. Phyllis was instrumental in helping us navigate the obstacles of moving to a foreign country. Additionally, our landlord, Planet Janet, and all of Phyllis’ friends have been a great resource in assisting us in our transition. We haven’t had to face most of the pitfalls many expats run into when they move here.

Getting back to my story, we put our dream house in Surprise on the market and sold it in seven days.

Lea flew to Mexico and found a very spacious rental house three doors down from Casa del Phyllis. And she met Janet, who has become one of my favorite people.

The Mexican Moving Company came and packed up all our stuff, and headed south.

We rented a condo about five miles from the hospital I worked at and stayed there for three months until I retired at the end of September. Our furniture was waiting for us in our house when we arrived.

Everything that happened in this process fell into place so neatly. If we had planned it for years, it still wouldn’t have happened so perfectly. It was that slick.

Some might say it was nothing more than a series of coincidences. But I tend not to believe in coincidence. I’m more of an everything happens for a reason kind of guy. Besides, it’s more romantic when there’s a reason.

And that’s how we ended up in Mexico. I had a vague feeling something devastating was going to happen, you know, like unto a natural disaster. The Yellowstone Supervolcano was going to explode. That’s why we needed to get out of the US as quickly as we did.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. See? Still not a prophet…

Also, the fact that nothing terrible happened has left me wondering why we needed to get here so quickly. Well, Trump was elected President…  And however tragic I might view his election, it still wouldn’t have added up to anything equalling imminent danger to myself or Lea.

I’m not complaining about being here. I’m merely curious about the why.

Lea says that God is blessing us with this time together because we worked hard and we’ve been granted some peace and relaxation time.

It makes more sense than the volcano thing…

* * * *

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that almost everyone that believes in God has a Divine intervention story, and if it weren’t for God, they wouldn’t be here right now. We have, all of us believers, certainly prayed for divine intervention for any number of reasons.

Health. Illness. Love. Relationships. Life. Death.

The Bible is full of stories about God interceding for his people. There’s a lots of stories about prayers being answered by God and lives being changed for generations. I might write more about those someday. I spend more time thinking about that kind of stuff than anything else.

Lea’s not a big fan of my spiritual/ religious ramblings. She thinks it makes me appear, you know, crazy.

When I was a nurse, I used to pray for my patients. I used to pray for personal patience, understanding, and wisdom. When I was drunk I used to pray for a life changing intervention. Or death. And then I realized that’s one prayer that will always be granted, eventually.

It just never happens at the moment that you’re praying for it.

I see a lots of divine intervention in my sobriety. I doubt it’s an achievement I could have done on my own. Something greater than myself or my addiction came into play, and without that, I shudder to think what my life would be like now.

You can think what you like. For me, God saved my life, though I often wonder why He chose to do so.

* * * *

If you know me personally, or follow me on Facebook, you know my lovely supermodel wife and I are Minnesota Vikings fans. The Vikings had a very good season and are in the playoffs this year.

If you know anything about the Vikings history, you know the Vikings haven’t had the best results in playoffs. I have drowned many gridiron sorrows back in my drinking days, and celebrated scores of regular season wins. The Vikings have been to the NFC Championship game ten times. They’ve been NFC Champions four times. In their four Super Bowl appearances, they’ve come away with exactly zero Lombardi Trophies.

Divine intervention hasn’t been on the Vikings side in the playoffs. Miraculous plays always happened to the other team. But all that changed last Sunday night when the Vikings came from behind to beat the New Orleans Saints by scoring a 61 yard touchdown with ten seconds left on the clock.

The Vikings played a perfect first half, scoring seventeen points and shutting out the Saints. The Vikings defense was stellar, intercepting Drew Brees twice and keeping two of the best running backs in the game out of the end zone.

The second half was another story. The Saints scored twenty four points. The Vikings only six, and with twenty five seconds left in the game, the Vikings were down by one, and their season was about to end.

Lea and I were devastated. I was trying to figure out if we had enough medications to successfully overdose.

And then came the Minneapolis Miracle.

images (1)

For once, God decided to favor the Vikings. For a brief moment, Jesus wore a Vikings uniform, and as Stefon Diggs trotted into the end zone, there was surprise and disbelief, then jubilation! Even the players couldn’t believe what happened. You can Google® it if you haven’t seen it. It really was incredible. And beautiful.

On Sunday, the Vikings play the Eagles for the NFC Championship. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, which will be played in Minneapolis this year. The Vikings might be the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.

It could happen. Hopefully, they won’t need any miracles to beat the Eagles because there were at least three miracles involved in the winning touchdown play last Sunday. It was kind of an Angels in the Outfield thing. Seriously.

I’m not sure how much more miracles they have left.

I don’t know how much God has to do with the outcomes of football games. Personally, I’d think he’d have bigger fish to fry. But if God truly orchestrated a miracle or three to beat the Saints, then please keep the miracles coming for two more games.

I’ve never prayed for something as trivial as a football victory before. Like I said, I think God has better things to do, but I’m going to pray for not one, but two more wins for the Vikings this season. Let there be any number of miracles, and let the Vikings win just one Super Bowl, before I die.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us. Just because the Vikings had a great season this year doesn’t mean they’ll have an equally impressive season next year.

I’m not getting any younger, so they might as well do it now.

Just Like In The Movies

Prior to retirement, there was a moment in time that I seriously considered becoming a professional movie watcher. Okay, that might be a bit of stretch regarding my career aspirations. Professional would imply that I would get paid to watch movies, and that’s not going to happen, especially in Mexico.

I don’t have a work visa here.

There’s another thing that inhibits me from becoming a professional movie goer. I don’t tend to go to the theater very often. In fact, it’s usually once a year to see the latest Star Wars® movie. I used to go see the Hobbit movies, but I think Hollywood is done making them…

Be that as it may, I’ve seen more movies in the last year than any previous years. I have an XBMC MART box, or something like unto that. Thanks to that little black box, my lovely supermodel wife and I can watch a seemingly unlimited number of movies almost any time we like.

And in an unprecedented move, Lea decided to binge watch pretty much every Hallmark Channel Christmas movie last year, so I’ve become something of an expert on them by default. Christmas movies are a lots like Elvis movies in my opinion.

Perhaps a Little Known Elvis Fact: Elvis Presley made thirty-one movies. They were essentially all the same movie, except for the location and the love interest. In an Elvis movie, Elvis was always the hero. He sang a few songs, fell in love, probably got into a fight or two, lost the girl, then won her back in time to sing one last song.

Elvis made two movies that didn’t follow the above formula. They weren’t as successful as the singing Elvis movies, and Hollywood wasn’t interested in making movies no one wanted to see. I guess it would be like unto watching a porn flick without any porn…

“An Elvis Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.” Hal Wallis actually said that. He produced a whole lots of movies, including Casablanca, so he probably knew what he was talking about. Despite being a huge box office success, Elvis Presley never won an Academy Award. He wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.

Everyone loved Elvis movies. Everyone, it seems, but Elvis. He hated almost all of them.

Hallmark Christmas movies, like Elvis movies, are also essentially all the same movie, albeit with different locations and main stars. The main character in a Hallmark Christmas movie is always an attractive young woman. She ends up in Small Town, America for the holidays. The sets are so over the top Christmas that even Santa would be jealous.

I’m not kidding. Lights, trees, trinkets, wreaths, bedding, even outfits. It’s like manic Christmas took performance enhancing drugs. And meth.

Once ensconced in rural America, our heroine meets her love interest, then she discovers the family business is in peril. And she has about an hour and a half to save the business, fall in love, lose her love, then somehow make everything work out. Because it’s Christmas, and there’s always a Christmas miracle or two up Santa’s sleeves.

Despite the predictability of Christmas movies, I found I actually liked most of them, and I’m sure I even shed a few tears of comfort and joy at the end of most of them. Which only proves the point that there really must be something magical about Christmas because there’s nothing that magical about Christmas movies.

* * * *

Motion pictures were developed in the mid to late 1800’s. There were a whole lots of moderately famous people involved in the process. You  could look them up if you want more information. In the early 1900’s the film industry became based in Hollywood because of the climate and the diversity of the surrounding terrain. There was a lots of sunshine, not a lots of rain, and scenic backgrounds up the wazoo.

The first motion pictures didn’t have a sound track, hence the term The Silent Era. Some  of the biggest movie idols that ever lived worked during the Silent Era. Rudolph Valentino was such a huge star that several women killed themselves when he died at the age of thirty-one in 1926.

Around 1925, Hollywood produced the first movie with sound, and I guess the rest is history. The Talkies, as they were originally called, were a huge sensation, and they have been ever since.

There are a whole lots of things in my life that I can’t remember, but I remember the first movie I saw. Babes in Toyland, 1961. Walt Disney. Tommy Sands. Annette Funicello. Ray Bolger.

We were living in Little Rock, AR. We had a black and white TV. I’m pretty sure that movie was the first time I had watched something in living color. It. Was. Magic.

That’s the biggest and best reason I can think of why people love movies.

* * * *

I like movies. I generally find them to be very entertaining. A lots of people do. A good movie can turn a nobody into a star, and make a whole lots of money. A successful movie franchise can be worth a ridiculous amount of money. In the short time that it’s been out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has already made almost a billion dollars in the US alone.

Lea and I went to see it last week. I like the last three Star Wars installments. They’re probably the three best movies in the Star Wars universe. The first movie will always be the best. I mean, it changed the world. The second movie was even better, and then they went downhill from there.

So, there is balance in the Force once more. And that’s a good thing.

Hollywood loves blockbuster movies. While some might say much of the entertainment produced these days is driven by computerized graphic imagery. I say it is what it is. Let’s face it, Wonder Woman would’ve been a boring movie without CGI. There wouldn’t have been any reason to see The Lord of the Rings. Or any of the movies in the Marvel Universe®. And I loved all of those movies.

But even CGI has its limits. Dialogue is still what makes a good movie flow. Well, except porn movies. No one watches porn for the dialogue.

According to Cracked.com, modern porn movies don’t even have scripted dialogue. Speaking, if there is any, is completely ad libbed. And presumably brief.

When it comes to dialogue, this is one area where art doesn’t imitate life, at least, my life. I rarely have the right answer at the moment that I need it. I might have it five minutes after I needed it, or five days later. I’m usually impressed by the dialogue in most movies I watch, and I envy the characters sometimes.

And then I realized that the scene I loved had been written by someone years before it ever appeared on screen. That scene had been written, then edited, and rewritten, and tweaked until it was so perfect. That’s why people in the movies always say the right thing at the right time.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”  Casablanca, 1942.

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone With The Wind, 1932.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The Godfather, 1972.

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Cool Hand Luke, 1967.

“Go ahead, make my day.” Sudden Impact, 1983.

Five instantly recognizable lines from five iconic movies. Lines that have become part of our collective psyche. Movies have impacted our lives. In a sense, they’ve become a part of the fabric of our lives.

If you were to ask, I’m sure most of the people who saw the last Star Wars® movie would tell you their favorite part of the movie was one of the CGI action scenes. But for me, my favorite part was a line.

Rose Tiko saves Finn from sacrificing himself to save his fellow rebels. Afterwards, he asks her why she stopped him.

“We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.”

I don’t know if that line will ever become classic, and timeless, and iconic. But it should be. It might just be the greatest movie line ever written.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Part II

Two people I know, or knew, have died in less than a week. There’s a saying that these things tend to happen in threes, so I’m almost afraid to breathe right now. If that’s true, there’s one more to go…

On Saturday, I found out my cousin, Jimmy Clark, had been killed to death. He had been hit by a car while crossing the street in Rapid City, SD. He was 64 years old.

But getting hit by a car? Cancer, I get that. Heart attack or a stroke, I’d understand those. Getting hit by a car, in Rapid City? That just seems to be the most unlikely way a person can get dead.

I guess they knew what they were talking about when they told us to look both ways before we crossed the street when we were kids.

Jimmy had a great sense of humor. I’m sure he’d see the irony in that if he were still alive to talk about it. And then he’d laugh. He had just about the greatest laugh of anyone I’ve ever known.

Jimmy’s family lived in Wall, SD. It’s arguably the most famous town in the US with a population of less than one thousand people. And its’ notoriety has everything to do with an advertising gimmick, and one small pharmacy.

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Wall Drug?

Wall Drug hasn’t always been world famous, but it started becoming famous because of a billboard sign campaign advertising free ice water to tourists heading to Mount Rushmore. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I think it was Jimmy who told me there were two kinds of people in Wall. Tourists, and people who hate tourists.

The once humble pharmacy is now a tourist magnet drawing in a couple of million people a year. The drug store has become a mall that includes a cowboy department store, an art museum and a chapel, I think. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. In fact, I’m not sure there’s even a drug store there anymore.

Wall is pretty much in the middle of fucking nowhere, South Dakota. It’s on the edge of the Badlands, and if there was ever an apt name for a terrain, that’s a good one.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, I just saved a couple of dozen paragraphs trying to describe the Badlands. It’s a wild land that has been shaped by wind and water for centuries. Not much of anything grows there, meaning not much of anything can live there. And that’s where my family would go every year or two when my dad wanted to see his sister.

When we were kids, we’d play King of the Hill in the Badlands with our cousins while our parents sat around the kitchen table drinking a lots of highballs, smoking cigarettes, and laughing their asses off. The hell with Disneyland®. When I was a kid, Wall, SD was the happiest place on Earth.

I was always sad when we had to leave Wall and head back to wherever we were living. And once I grew up, I lost contact with my cousins. Its probably been over thirty years since the last time I saw Jimmy. Maybe longer.

Vaya con Dios, primo. The world will be a sadder place without you. With your passing, I think I become the oldest male on the paternal side of our family. Another reason I’m afraid to breathe. I might be next.

* * * *

The other person I knew was one of my virtual friends. We had never met in person, and now, we never will.

Mercedes was young. And pretty. She was from Canadia. Facebook suggested I send her a friend request, and she accepted. I liked her posts. She seemed to have a lots of energy, and she posted a lots of photos of herself smiling as she traveled around the Great White North. She had a pretty smile.

One of her posts was different from all her other posts. No pictures. No smiles. She stated she was fighting a battle against depression. She said she was okay. She had a lots of friends and family, and was taking antidepressants. She was going to be okay. She just needed some prayers and support.

That was about a month ago, maybe two. I told her I would say a prayer for her, and I offered my services, such as I could. After that, her posts always showed her smiling, apparently having a great time and enjoying her life.

Someone who probably knew her in person posted an update about her for all of her virtual friends today. She was found dead yesterday from an apparent overdose. She was 23.

* * * *

It’s hard to end on a high note when you’re writing about a topic like unto this. Death will come for us all, soon or late. But twenty-three is too goddamn young to die, and it’s even worse when the cause of death is suicide.

Please, think twice before you chose that as a final option. There is help available. All you have to do is ask. I know it’s hard, but do it anyway. It’s only by doing the hard things that you can truly grow.

And look both ways when you cross the street.

The Dreaded Annual Performance Review

This is the first year of my life that I haven’t had to endure one of these asinine assessments of my performance on the job, and there’s a simple reason for that.

I’m no longer working.

Be that as it may, I should probably take a look at how my first year as a retired guy has gone, and share my results with the ten people who consistently read my posts. I’m sure they’re dying know. But first, a little background stuff.

For the last thirty years or so, I was an RN. I like to think that I was a really good psych nurse, and most of my performance reviews reflected that. My managers tended to love me, and generally said really nice things about me. Their main concern regarding my performance was that I wasn’t always conventional in my approach with my patients.

“I’ve held my breath more than once watching you in action, but I can’t argue with your results. Keep doing what you’re doing, I think.” one of my managers told me once during my review. That was when I worked for the Minneapolis VAMC.

Performance reviews are basically the same, no matter where you work. You’re rated on a list of criteria. Your boss makes an assessment of how well you’ve met said objectives. Sometimes your colleagues are asked for their input. In the healthcare field, sometimes your patients are. Add it all up and you’re either a valued employee, or you’re not.

Back then, the VA wasn’t concerned with Patient Satisfaction Surveys. I’m pretty sure that has changed quite a bit in the last few years, mostly because millions of people started listening to the thousands of people who had been complaining about the VA system for decades.

Working in the private sector was vastly different. They were very concerned with how satisfied their patients were, and almost everything we did at those facilities was driven by those goddamn surveys.

We were expected to have high positive ratings from our patients 80% of the time, and that’s just crazy when your patients are in a psychiatric setting. These are chronically unhappy people. Getting one such person to feel 80% positive about something is a monumental task. Getting a group of them to consistently do so–it’d be easier to build a suspension bridge from Baltimore to Paris.

Especially when you consider that you’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own. Try telling that to a bunch of suits when they ask you why the survey results for behavioral health are twenty points lower than the rest of the hospital.

There’s probably a couple of good reasons why I didn’t last long as a manager…

Performance reviews are legion, and they essentially begin the moment you’re born. Ever heard of an APGAR test? It’s nothing more than a performance review for newborns. If you don’t pass that initial review, you probably won’t have to worry about any of the others.

Employers use performance reviews to motivate their best employees, and also use them to rid themselves of their worst employees. This is something I learned from my days as a manager. I also learned that performance reviews are purposely skewed, even with your best employees. You never want to tell someone the don’t need to improve, nor do you want to rate anyone too highly because then they’ll merit a performance based raise, and there’s seemingly nothing that employers hate more than paying someone what they’re actually worth.

My Boss from Hell at BannerHealth discovered that I really sucked at this part of my job when I was a manager. I rated my direct reports honestly, especially the really good ones, and more than one of them found their paycheck a little more generous for at least one year.

So my fucking boss repaid my honest assessments by giving me the worst performance review I’ve ever had in my life. It was at that precise moment I realized I needed to find another job, and left BannerHealth.

I’ve written about this previously, so I’m not going to go into any further detail here, but you can rifle through my archives if you don’t have anything better to do.

* * * *

If there’s one overwhelming reason to retire, it’s this. Your employer can no longer tell you that you’re not meeting their high standards of mediocrity. In all honesty, you can set the bar as low as you want once you retire. There have been days when I haven’t changed out of my pajamas, like yesterday.

In my defense, I have Minnesota Vikings pajamas, and yesterday was Football Sunday. I was supporting my team, and it must have worked because the Vikings destroyed the Rams. I’ll probably do it again next Sunday because you never mess with something that works when you’re rooting for your team.

Also in my defense I should point out that I actually do take a shower and get all spiffed up most of the time, even if I don’t leave the house, which happens quite often. We have a beautiful house, and my lovely supermodel wife and I are very comfortable here.

It’s not always easy being married to a supermodel. They have very high standards, so there is that. Luckily, I’ve been married to Lea for almost thirty years, so I’ve been well indoctrinated as to what I need to do to keep her happy.

Happy wife, happy life. Any guy who has been married longer than a Kardashian knows that truer words have rarely been spoken.

Lea tells me she’s never been happier, so I should probably be getting a raise for an outstanding job. Oh, wait. There aren’t any pay raises after you retire…  You know what? I’ll learn to live with it.

* * * *

Moving to Mexico was something I couldn’t have imagined myself doing as recently as three years ago. It more or less happened without a great deal of planning on my part. The door opened, and it seemed prudent to me to just go with the flow, rather than resist something that unfolded so perfectly.

My first task upon arriving was to help my wife set up our house. It was really my first chance to try being her assistant design assistant, and it went better than either one of us expected.

I’m going to take credit for most of the foyer at the front of our house. And for Samantha’s office. Sam is our kit-ten, and she uses the office far more than either Lea or I do. Hence the name. Sam appears to be pleased with the way her office turned out, and if she isn’t, she hasn’t mentioned anything to me about it.

So, that went well, and I seemingly passed my first test with flying colors. I’m going to give myself an excellent rating as an assistant design assistant.

* * * *

But as I recall, my transition to retirement didn’t all go smoothly. About one month after I retired, I mysteriously screwed up my back, and I was in serious pain. I rate it worse than my first kidney stone, and that just about killed me to death.

I use the term mysteriously because I don’t remember doing anything to injure my back. I woke up one morning with a stiff neck and limited range of motion turning my head. Nothing serious, and I figured it’d go away. Two days later, I could barely move, and when I did it felt like I was being stabbed with a very long, very sharp sword.

One of my sisters told me God had afflicted me thusly to remind me that I still had defects that I needed to address. I do not disagree with that at all. As a Christian, it’s an argument that’s hard to dispute. After all, how many times did Jesus ever say this to anyone?

“Um, nope. You’re good. I can’t think of anything you should do differently. Keep up the good work.”

That would be none. If you don’t believe me, read the Gospels.

However, when you’re afraid to move because you’ll end up in so much pain that you might piss your pants, it tends to limit your course of action. I certainly didn’t spend a lots of time thinking about what I needed to do to make myself right with God. I remember that I mostly just prayed to die to death. Quickly.

Thankfully, the worst of my back pain lasted only about a month, and then I started cleaning out my closet of skeletons in my blog, and whether that was what I needed to do or not, it happened, and I didn’t got dead. And my back pain went away.

I attribute that to Diamond Dave, my Bowen Therapist, far more than than anything I did. He thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction to no longer working in a high stress environment. Personally, my sister’s diagnosis makes more sense to me than his did.

My only issue with this is how it was presented to me at the time. Would it have killed God to be a bit more subtle? Couldn’t He have sent me a text, or an email? And if I wasn’t attentive enough, He could have given me a warning. I might have paid attention to that. If nothing else, I am highly motivated to avoid excruciating pain.

I know I still have a lots of stuff to work on, so I clearly have room for improvement. Ten minutes after I die, I’ll probably still have a lots of stuff I should have worked on. But I don’t have to fix everything at once, and there are some things I’ll never be able to fix. It’ll all work out. Probably…

I’m going to say I’m meeting my performance objectives, but will need to be monitored.

* * * *

After roughly six months of being a retired guy, I took up golf again. I hadn’t picked up a golf club in about ten years when I decided to I needed to do something with all of the time I had on my hands.

I’ve never been a great golfer, and I didn’t get any better at it by not playing any golf for a decade. The first time I played in Mexico, I shot a 57. In the first six holes. As a point of reference, par for nine holes is 32. As another point of reference, par is the score a good golfer could have at the end of a round. A really good golfer can have a score that’s under par.

I’ve spent many hours hitting golf balls at the driving range. A bucket of balls here costs roughly four bucks. Practice may never make me perfect, but I’m not going to go broke on the driving range no matter how hard I try.

Playing golf isn’t exactly cheap. Most golfers own at least one set of really nice, very expensive clubs. I appear to be the exception to this rule. My clubs would be seen as antiques by any serious golfer. And there’s the greens fees. And the caddy. And sometimes golf lessons. And weekly sessions with your therapist. It all adds up.

I’m slowly getting better at golf. Last month I shot a 49. In nine holes. It’s possibly the best score I’ve ever had. It’s also possible that it’ll be the best score I ever have. I’d like to improve on that score, but it’s not the most important part of my life, or even my golf game.

Again, I’m meeting my objectives, but will need monitoring. Fortunately, my lovely supermodel wife occasionally acts as my swing coach, and I have a retirement golf wife who is very good at getting my ass off the couch and on the links.

Golf also serves an important service in my life. It keeps me humble, and I have every confidence it will do so as long as I can swing one of my antique clubs.

* * * *

I take a lots of pictures now that I’m retired. I have two cameras and a smartphone, and I use them frequently. I post most of my photos on my Facebook page. Sometimes I post pictures on Instagram, but not as often. I’m a pretty decent photographer, but it’s ridiculously easy to take amazing pictures here. This place is prettier than a postcard.

I’m going to say I’m doing an acceptable job as a photographer. One of my friends down here posts his amazing photos every day. I’d rate myself higher if I were as consistent as he is.

I write semi-frequently, and while I tend not to be greatly impressed by my writing ability, there are a few people who disagree with me, and they’re probably smarter than me. So maybe they’re right.

Noteworthy or not, I do enjoy writing. Thankfully, my ability to stay retired has nothing to do with the quality of my prose, so it’s not like anything important depends on me writing stories of varying degrees of readability.

I’m probably the last person who should evaluate my performance in this area, so I’m going to take the easy way out and leave that to anyone willing to offer any input.

* * * *

The remainder of my retirement duties involve household chores. Taking out the garbage, washing dishes, cleaning Sam’s litter box, vacuuming the floors, taking care of the plants in my patio garden. Stuff like unto that. I believe I do a mostly outstanding job in this area, and all I need to do is keep doing what I’m doing.

There is one issue that keeps me on my toes. Leaf cutter ants. These little bastards can strip your garden to nothing but twigs in one night. I have been at war with these pinche hormigas ever since we moved here. I’ve destroyed thousands of them, without any discernable drop in their population.

I had the same problem with squirrels when we lived in Minneapolis. I killed hundreds of them with my trusty air rifle, and there was always more of them to shoot…

I have to give myself high marks for attention to detail and immediacy of response, but I can’t rate my interventions as being hugely successful.

* * * *

And, thankfully, that is the extent of my retirement proficiency evaluation. I’d have to say it’s about what I expected, and that’s a good thing. You should never be surprised at a performance review, and if you are, your manager hasn’t been doing their job. That how I viewed it back when I was a manager.

Granted, I took my job a lots more seriously than I take my life now. I had high standards for my performance. I took a lots of pride in my work, and I mostly loved what I did.

I totally love what I’m doing now, and if I’m not meeting my much lower standards in retirement, I really have no one to blame but myself.

Gulliver’s Travels

Unlike Jonathan Swift, I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything that could be deemed noteworthy. I don’t think I have the proper amount of seriousness to do something like that on my own. I’m pretty sure I haven’t written anything that could even be called interesting of late. If you’re looking for something noteworthy in this post, let me save you some time. You won’t find it here.

I might write something noteworthy someday, but if I do, I’ll probably be the last person to know it. And it’ll probably be the biggest mistake I’ll ever make. If you don’t believe me, read some of my previous posts. There’s over one hundred of them to choose from…

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that my lovely supermodel wife and I recently took a trip back to the States. It was our first return trip since retiring in Mexico.

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, you can send me a friend request, but my life on social media probably looks a whole lots more interesting than it actually is…

Other than me having a couple of allergic reactions to environmental stimuli in airports and sneezing into my shirt sleeve for about a thousand miles, and the cold that Lea came down with upon our return, our trip was a lots of fun and we had a great time.

We flew back to the States on Volaris Airlines. I don’t have a lots of experience flying on Mexican airlines, but from what I do know, Volaris is kind of the Mexican version of Frontier. The only difference is I don’t hate Volaris, and I loathe Frontier. The people treat you better in Mexico.

It’s a bit more complicated when you fly from Mexico back to the States. There’s the whole Customs thing. Not that it’s a big deal, because it’s not. There’s a show called Border Security on TV, and it makes international travel look like a blind date with the KGB. We’ve never had any problems flying to Mexico or back to the States.

In fact, the Culiacan airport had the most lax security I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Half of the staff looked like they were sleeping, and the other half looked like they just woke up. I probably could have smuggled an entire mule into the US from Culiacan if I could have trained it to sit in a chair and fasten a seat belt. If I owned a handgun, I probably could’ve taken it on the plane if I had told the sleepy looking young woman at the desk that it wasn’t loaded.

The main purpose of our trip was to attend Brea and Charlie’s Endless Wedding Celebration. I suppose it could be like unto Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, except I’ve never seen that movie, so I can’t really say what it’s about, but I’m going to guess that no one gets married in it.

We kind of figured Brea and Charlie would have a traditional wedding, you know, like normal people. I should have known better. I know Brea. I used to work with her. She’s one of my work daughters. My other work daughter was one of her bridesmaids. Brea is anything but normal. She’s extraordinary.

Brea and Charlie were married at Stonebridge Manor. It was without a doubt the most beautiful wedding I will ever attend in my life. Martha Stewart would’ve thought she’d died and gone to Wedding Heaven if she had been there. An elegant reception and brunch followed the beautiful and brief exchanging of vows and rings. In the evening there was an hors d’oeuvre bar and drinks at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub in the very fashionable Scottsdale Fashion Mall.

I ran into a few of the doctors I used to work with. A couple of them have been busy buying Ferraris. I know, right! Where the hell are you going to drive a Ferrari? You’re not taking it to the store when you run out of paper towels!

The next day, which I think was Friday, there was a party bike tour in downtown Scottsdale for the younger people who came to the wedding. If you’re like me and you have no idea what a party bike is, it’s essentially a bar on wheels propelled by any number of people pedaling while they drink at the mobile bar. You can Google it if you need more detailed information about this. On Saturday evening, there was a barbecue for anyone still able to stand at the Scottsdale Rotary Park.

I’ve had nothing but problems trying to figure out which day it is since we flew to Phoenix. Part of it is the change from Daylight Saving Time. I’ve never had this problem before, but that’s when it started. Mexico changes back to Daylight Standard Time one week before the US does. I’m still not sure how this one hour change ended up making me unsure which goddamn day of the week it is, but there you go.

And then Volaris changed the date of our return flight without telling us. If Lea wasn’t as OCD as she is, we wouldn’t have found out about that until we arrived at the airport on the wrong day. We were supposed to fly back on Tuesday, but ended up coming back on Monday. I think.

I thought yesterday was Friday, but now I’m pretty sure today is Friday. Lea tells me it is, and I trust her.

At any rate, there might have been more fun stuff associated with what will probably known as be the Social Event of Season, but that’s as much as I know. Lea and I had a great time, so thank you very much to Brea and Charlie. And we hope you two are as happy together as we are. May your marriage be blessed, and both of you as well.

* * * *

We had multiple reasons for traveling back to the States. As amazing as it is living in Mexico, there are some things that are difficult to obtain down here. A lots of ex-pats return to their country of origin to shop for things they can’t find and presumably can’t live without.

The first thing we did after we arrived in Phoenix and got into our rental car was drive halfway to California and ordered the largest pizza we could at Rosati’s Pizza, which is something I haven’t been able to find in Mexico, then we went to see Nikki and Jay and all of the stuff Lea ordered.

Lea bought a whole lots of things online and had them delivered to Nikki and Jay’s house. There were a whole lots of boxes. And bags. And bags in boxes. Our stuff covered one of Nikki’s kitchen counter tops. And then it filled the entire backseat of our rental car.

Rosati’s is our favorite pizza, it was the main reason we went there, but there was another reason. It was kind of a peace offering. Nikki and Jay are Packer fans. Lea and I are Vikings fans. Our team broke their all-star quarterback, and as a result the Packers are going to mostly suck for the rest of the season.

Pizza. It makes everything more better gooder. Even losing, maybe…

* * * *

If you’ve never been to the Phoenix area, it’s fucking huge. Our Packer fan friends live in the West Valley. The condo we had rented is in Fountain Hills, which is in the East Valley. It takes about an hour to drive from one side of the valley to the other.

The distances you had to drive are one of the things that fade from memory if you don’t do that kind of stuff on a regular basis. Almost any place we need to go in the Lakeside area is a five minute drive from our house. Another thing you forget is how wide and smooth the roads are. Honestly, driving on those roads was one of the most pleasant surprises about our trip.

Thankfully, we got to spend a whole lots of time driving on the very wide, very smooth and flat roads of the Phoenix area. In six days, we drove close to seven hundred miles, which is probably three hundred miles more than we’ve driven in the thirteen months since we’ve moved to Mexico.

After we ate a really big pizza, then packed all of our boxes and bags and stuff into our rental car and then drove for an hour as we headed east, we stopped at a supermarket near our condo in Fountain Hills and bought two pints of ice cream, coffee, coffee creamer and a bottle of Claritin. It cost over sixty dollars. That was an unpleasant surprise. Life is so much more inexpensive in Mexico. You could probably get all of those things, and a couple of tacos, for ten bucks down here.

Fountain Hills is a very beautiful, very affluent city. You really have to see the mansions built into the hillsides to truly appreciate them. Words, in this instance, just aren’t going to do it justice.

And, of course, there’s the fountain. It’s in a park near the downtown area. Our condo was right across the street from it. The fountain more or less erupts every hour from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM for about fifteen minutes, and shoots jets of water roughly 300 feet into the air. At night, it’s lit up. It’s pretty cool, for a fountain.

We did have some official business to take care of while we were in the States. We had to have our new Last Will and Testament notarized. Nikki and Jay graciously agreed to be our witnesses. Afterwards, we all went to the bowling alley to eat walleye. I guess you can find bowling alleys in some of the larger cities in Mexico, but there are none in the Lakeside area, nor can you find a walleye dinner here.

* * * *

So, there was a fabulously elegant wedding. Shopping. Pizza. Friends. Walleye. And more friends. Lea and I saw as many people as we could in the short amount of time we were there.

I even did something I wasn’t planning on doing. I went back to work. Okay, I didn’t actually work. I only visited my last employer, but one of my former co-workers did ask me if I could work for her on Friday.

Nurses. Gotta love them.

Work, it seems, has changed quite a bit since I retired. We rarely had any open beds when I worked at Aurora Behavioral Health, but several new hospitals have opened, and a couple more are being built. While this is good news for the people who need psychiatric help, it’s not good news for the people who manage psychiatric hospitals.

Something has to give, and not all of those places are going to survive. You can oversaturate any market, and that will very likely happen in Phoenix in a year or two. And then there won’t be enough psychiatric beds available, and everything will be right back where it was once more.

I know I’ve said this before, but I do not miss working for a living. At all. However, I was more than a little surprised by how many people said they missed working with me. That was actually very humbling, and anyone who knows me knows that I am not a humble guy.

So thank you all so very much for that, but I’m more than satisfied with my current position and I have no intention of changing that any time soon.

* * * *

Along with all of the cyber-shopping Lea did before we returned to the States, she wanted to do some real time shopping, so we did that, too. There are no Target® stores in the Lakeside area, nor are there any Kohl’s®. I’m not sure I can say I missed shopping at either one of those places.

I’m a guy, and guys don’t love shopping. Most of the time. Unless it’s for big screen TV’s or home theater systems. There were plenty of things I could have purchased, but there wasn’t anything I needed, so I ended up wandering around a lots looking at things I wasn’t going to purchase.

It was still kind of nice to sort of go shopping. All of the stores had their Christmas displays up, and some of the stores might have been playing Christmas music.

I love Christmas, even if it starts right after Halloween nowadays.

Lea bought a few things, on sale of course, but not as many as I thought she would. Even she was surprised by how little she bought in the stores. I’d have to call that a pleasant surprise as well.

In between traveling from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley, we hung out at our cozy condo in Fountain Hills and watched American TV. The only real difference I could see between American and Canadian shows is they don’t talk about Canadia as much on American TV.

* * * *

With what time that remained in the States, we spent catching up with our friends and our spiritual family at Joe’s Church. Okay, it’s really called Just Church, and it meets at Imagine Prep in Surprise, AZ. Lea and I used to be greeters there. I wandered over to Einstein Corner where I used to greet and took a selfie of myself and Brother Al.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: she has really weird dreams. Prior to our return trip to the States, she had a dream that we went to our old church. And no one spoke to us. Not the pastor. Not his wife. Nor any of our friends.

Luckily, my wife doesn’t have any prophetic talent either, and a lots of people talked to us, including the pastor. And his wife. And all of our friends. We invited all of them to come to Mexico, just not all at the same time.

* * * *

It’s football season, and the Vikings played the Redskins while we were in town, so we went to a sports bar to watch the game. Bill Sbiliris, one of the docs I used to work with met us there. So did Deb Goral, one of the nurses I used to work with.

Bill is a Vikings fan, so we had a great time watching the Vikings beat the Redskins on a really, really big TV. Deb is a Packers fan. Maybe I should have bought her a pizza…  But her team won that day, too, so she was happy, even without pizza.

There was another person/former co-worker who was supposed to meet us. Karen Rae Goff, one of my favorite social workers. But Karen forgot she was going to a NASCAR race when she said she’d come to the game, and then she remembered the race when she remembered that she hates football.

Maybe next time, Karen.

* * * *

We deliberately packed light when we flew back to the States so we’d have a lots of room in our luggage for the stuff Lea had purchased to bring back to Mexico, and that was a very good idea. We bought a lots of stuff. When we first saw all of the boxes and bags and more bags and boxes, Lea and I both thought we’d have to buy another suitcase to get all of our stuff home. Thanks to some creative packing, we were able to fit it all in our existing luggage, and even more surprising, we weren’t overweight on any of our luggage.

That was a very pleasant surprise.

And now we’re home once more, and it’s good to be home. No matter where you go or what you do, it’s always good to be home. I have grown accustomed to my very stress-free lifestyle, and so has my lovely supermodel wife.

Everyone we talked to said Hell had a more mild summer than they had in Phoenix this year. It does get incredibly hot there.

Yeah, really unfortunate we missed that…

I’m sure we’ll travel back to the good old USA again someday, but neither Lea nor I want to be in Minnesota during the winter, or in Arizona during the summer. I’m sure Lea will plan accordingly, unless it’s some kind of dire emergency.

Life can do that to you sometimes. No matter how well you prepare for it, Life will surprise you.

‘Tis the Season

Tomorrow is Halloween, the official start of what I call the Holiday Season. Well, other people probably call it that, too. All of the Big Ones are coming up now in rapid succession, and Halloween kick-starts it all. Fun for kids and even more fun for adults who love to wear costumes and go to parties. I have a few vague memories of some epic Halloween parties, and it’s probably best that they stay that way.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Romans added a couple of their holidays to the Celtic festival, Feralia and the Festival of Pomona. If you’re curious about these things, you can look them up on the Interweb. The Catholic Church added a couple of twists, mostly to water down the pagan aspects, and we eventually ended up with the current holiday we celebrate and all of its trappings.

I tend to think of Halloween as a mostly North American, Canadian/American holiday, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe kids ‘Trick or Treat’ in Pakistan. Or China…  I doubt it, but it’s possible. I don’t think they do much of that in Mexico.

Halloween is still pretty much of a gringo holiday down here, but that’s probably starting to change. You can buy costumes at Walmart here in Lakeside, so it’s starting to creep into the culture. The big Mexican holiday down here is Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead. It’s a three day celebration, and when it comes to celebrating, Mexico takes a back seat to nobody.

From the beginning of October until New Year’s Day, there will be endless barrages of cohetes and bands and parades and fiestas, pretty much every day. Hardly anyone here will sleep for the next two months. It’s a really good thing I quit drinking before we moved here, or I’d rarely be sober. There’s something like unto a couple hundred of holidays down here, and half of them begin tomorrow.

I used to really love Halloween. When we lived in Minneapolis, my lovely supermodel wife and I used to carve pumpkins. We handed out tons of candy and sometimes shoveled snow. We had at least one huge honker of a blizzard on Halloween.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I love the Holiday Season. Granted, as a nurse I tended to celebrate most of those occasions by working, but that’s the way it went. Be that as it may, we always celebrated the holidays, even if we had to wait until I finished my shift.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: Lea is an excellent cook, and she has served up some awesome Thanksgiving feasts over the years. And I have loved them all.

According to legend, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in November of 1621. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts and their Native American buddies got together and had a feast, and it kind of caught on. Until the white settlers decided they needed to get rid of all the natives, but that’s another story for another day.

George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, a National Day of Thanks and Gratitude kind of thing. Abraham Lincoln issued another proclamation in 1863, and set the date for Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. I’m not sure when a turkey dinner became synonymous with the holiday, but I’m sure my Uncle Don was pleased. He raised a lots of turkeys.

Little Known Fact About Turkeys: they originated in Mexico. Another funny thing, turkey isn’t a very popular item at any Mexican restaurant. The Mexican people are very gracious and will cook a traditional gringo Thanksgiving feast at many of the fine dining establishments down here. Lea and I went to one last year with a lots of our friends, but we’re planning on celebrating at home this year.

Traditional American holiday or not, we love get together at least once a year to give thanks, and eat ourselves  into a coma, and watch football. Well, that’s more or less what I do…  And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I shoveled a lots of snow. Until I got a snowblower.

I don’t miss snow at all, but I do miss my snowblower. Go figure.

* * * *

Christmas is arguably the biggest holiday of them all, and the only reason I say that  is because everything is arguable nowadays, even things that shouldn’t be.

Christmas, on a superficial level, is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. On a deeper level it’s a combination of that, the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of the Saturnalia and a melange of any other number of beliefs and customs.

Anyone ever heard of Santa Claus? You can no longer have Christmas without Santa Claus. I can’t think of another person more closely associated with a major nonreligious holiday than Santa, and that includes Jesus, and St Patrick. No one dresses up like St Patrick. No one even knows what he looks like. Does Jesus come down the chimney and give you presents? Nope, he does not.

Christmas has become a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Decorations, presents, wrapping paper and trees. It all adds up. Christmas is big business. Entrepreneurs live for Christmas. And it’s probably kudos to them, and Coca-Cola®, and Hollywood for making Santa Claus the superstar that he’s become.

I lived for Christmas when I was a kid, even though half of my presents were stupid things like socks and underwear. Eight kids. We all got a lots of socks and underwear for Christmas.

But then there was the good stuff. Toys. Games. More toys and and games. It was sweet. I tried like hell to be a good person simply because of Christmas. I didn’t want to be on The Naughty List.

Christmas became less magical as I got older, but I can’t think of anything that didn’t. Being so far from my children and family has had an impact. If nothing else, Christmas is a time for family. And yet Christmas still retains something special to me–maybe it was the memories, maybe it is something more.

And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I used my snowblower. I think Lea bought me my first snowblower for Christmas. I used to clear all the sidewalks on my block.

Merry Christmas to all, and your sidewalks are clean!

* * * *

New Year’s Eve is another worldwide celebration, and the reason for that is simple. The last year probably sucked and everyone is hoping the next year will be better. It can’t get any worse, can it?

Oh yes, it can.

This has been the most relaxing, least stressful year I’ve ever had since I was a kid, and I can’t wait for this year to end. We’ll be one year closer to getting Donald Trump out of the White House.

This is simply my opinion, but Donald represents everything that’s wrong with the world, and he’s proud of that. If God ever needed a reason to speed up His timeline…

When I was much younger, I used to go out every New Year’s Eve to celebrate with my friends. And then there was one year when I went out all by myself. I was in nursing school, standing at a bar in downtown St Cloud, drinking a beer. When midnight came, everyone started cheering and hugging and kissing.

The guy standing next to me said, “Hey, I’m Tim. Happy New Year.” I introduced myself, and we shook hands.

It was one of the loneliest moments of my life. It was also the last time I ever went to a bar to celebrate that holiday.

* * * *

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t felt much like writing. I started out writing about my nursing career, but the longer I don’t do that anymore, the less I think about the days when I did. I might get back to writing about that again someday, but we’ll see. Part of me believes I’ve already written all of the best stories I have to tell about being a psych nurse.

I spent a fair amount time writing about what an idiot I was when I was drinking and doing drugs for a living. I have a lots of stories to tell about those days, and some of them are really funny. For that reason alone, I might be tempted to say more, even though I’m not sure I want to remember more about those days…

There’s not much to say about my current life, other than it doesn’t suck at all, and yours probably does, simply because you may still be working for a living. Start feeding your 401K now. You’ll thank yourself later.

I have never enjoyed being alive as much as I do now. I get to spend every day with the woman I love, and I cherish this time we have together. I played the best game of golf I’ve probably ever played a few days ago. It doesn’t get a whole lots more better gooder than this.

The only reason I wrote this is because the last time I talked to Jane Castleman, she told me to keep writing, and I respect her opinion. Not my best work, for sure. Probably not my worst either.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Eat your kid’s candy. Watch out for the sugar buzz. Have another helping of everything for Thanksgiving. If you’re too full for dessert, eat pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning. Yeah, you can do that, unless your mom tells you you can’t.

May your Christmas be perfect. If there were ever a time for perfection, it’s Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family. You never get it back, and you don’t get a do over. Remember the reason for the season. Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas Day, but he was born, and he was born to be our King. And just like Aragon, son of Arathorn, someday he will return, too.

Stay safe, and more or less sober, celebrating the new year. Each year has the potential to be better than the last, but will probably be just as tragic as the last. What will be, will be. Anticipate the best, but steel yourself for the worst. You’ll probably find both no matter what you do.

And, just for fun, may your team win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a national holiday anywhere, but it should be, and it should be the official end of the holiday season. Maybe some day it will be…

Attitude really is everything. If you can remember that, you’ll get through anything life will throw at you. And I with that, I wish you the best of success until the next time. Whenever that might be.

Viva Las Vegas

I love Las Vegas. My lovely supermodel wife and I have been there several times, and we’ve always had a blast. We don’t go there to gamble. And now that I’ve quit drinking, we don’t go there to party. We like staying in the luxurious hotels. We love the shows, and fine dining, and the people watching.

But the other day, something happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas.

Dear God, where were you that day? There are a whole lots of hurting people down here who could have really used your help and protection.

On the offhand chance you haven’t seen the news, a lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of people attending a concert in Las Vegas with multiple automatic weapons, killing over fifty people and wounding something like unto five hundred.

And while we are left feeling stunned and shocked, and filled with dismay; there’s one thing none of us are.

Surprised.

It’s a sad fact of our lives that these occurrences have become all too commonplace. If a mass shooting can be described as four or more people, do you have any idea how many of those have happened in the last ten years? I don’t know the exact number, but I know there have been hundreds of them.

Hundreds. Let that sink in for a moment.

And the even sadder fact is almost all of us have come to believe that nothing can be done to change it. I am one of those people. And there’s a reason for that. The most obvious solution to this problem is the hands of our elected officials in Congress.

Need I say more?

It’s a gun issue! No, it’s a mental health issue!

Both of those arguments have merit, but the solution, if there is one, is hardly that black and white. So let’s take a look at them.

* * * *

It’s a gun issue.

We need better gun control.

That seems like the most obvious solution, doesn’t it? But there’s that whole Second Amendment thing. And the icing on that cake is the NRA. There are many powerful lobbyist organizations at work in America, but not many of the them have the political clout and power of the NRA.

What seems to be missing in this issue is another inalienable right, and that is all about not having to live in fear that you might got dead going to the movies, or to a concert, or going out to dinner.

If there weren’t a multitude of reasons for term limits in Congress, this issue in and of itself should be enough to mandate its implementation.

Guns don’t kill people!

Oh yes, Virginia, yes they do. And in the violent country of my birth, they kill a lots of people on a daily basis.

Personally, I’m not sure gun control is the only answer, and I don’t own a single gun. I know a lots of people who do, and none of them have killed so much as one person. And that’s true for the majority of gun owners. If this were strictly a gun issue, the gun owners living in an area as small as Northern Idaho could’ve killed everyone in the US already, twice.

That said, I can’t think of any reason why anyone would need to own an automatic assault weapon unless they needed to kill a whole lots of people to death at once in a very short amount of time. Without the arsenal he had, the guy in Las Vegas would’ve been hard pressed to kill even one person attending the concert from where he was.

Should there be a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the the United States? In my opinion, yes there should be. Will that be enough to stem the tide of future occurrences like what just happened in Las Vegas?

Good question. Let’s find out.

* * * *

It’s a mental health issue. 

I used to be a psych nurse, and this argument pisses me off so much I want to kill someone. If it’s only the crazy people killing everyone else to death, then working in Psychiatry would be the most dangerous job on the planet, and pysch nurses would have gone extinct years ago.

Most of the craziest people I’ve known have been too disorganized to figure out how to turn on the fucking shower, let alone plan and carry out a massacre of dozens of people.

There’s a whole lots of people working in law enforcement right now who are trying to figure out why the shooter in Las Vegas did what he did. Why don’t we ask him?

Oh. That’s right. He’s dead.

And that’s what has happened to almost every person who has chosen to take this course of action, so we’re never going to know exactly why he, or any of them, did what they did.

Was he mentally unstable? We’d certainly like to think so. Sane people don’t do these kinds of things, do they? No, they most certainly don’t! When trying to put the pieces of an investigation like unto this together, law enforcement officials generally find out the person they’re investigating is:

Well, he was a quiet guy. He kept to himself. He seemed like a normal person, you know. He liked to eat pizza. And burritos. No, he never said anything about wanting to kill anyone. I didn’t know he even owned a gun…

In other words, there were no warning signs, nothing that even hinted at any danger. In general, most mass murderers don’t seem to be anything beyond nondescript, until they do something that isn’t nondescript. It’s too bad because they’d be a whole lots more easier to stop if they were more up front about their intentions.

Oh yeah, he was always talking about killing people. In fact, that’s just about the only thing he talked about.

And did you take any actions to stop him?

We sure did! We got rid of all the hammers! And his mother hid the cheese grater in her underwear drawer in the bedroom!

For some reason, that part about the cheese grater seems to be something that actually happened with one of my former patients, but I might be wrong about that…

I have a theory about why people decide to kill a whole lots of people to death before they kill themselves, and Andy Warhol summed it up when he said, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”

We can’t all be Paris Hilton or one of the Kardashians…

Let’s suppose for a moment this actually is a mental health issue. What are we as a society doing to combat this crisis? Has there been an increase in resources to provide better care?

Um, no.

In fact, Congress has been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And if you follow that logic, it’s probably because the NRA told them to do it.

* * * *

I felt like dying yesterday. If my lovely supermodel wife’s birthday wasn’t today, I would’ve been happy to check out, but that probably would’ve ruined her birthday today, so I’m glad to still be alive and be together with her.

The horrifying events that happened in Las Vegas will fade from our memories, and in a few months we’ll probably be collectively shocked and dismayed by another equally terrible and senseless event.

And nothing will be done to prevent it from happening again.

Back to Basics

The rainy season continues. It’s incredibly green down here. The Chinese Mountains in front of our house look like heads of broccoli. I’m not sure what the real name of the mountains are, but I call them the Chinese Mountains.

Las montañas de chino, in Spanish.

I think they look like the mountains in old Chinese paintings.

* * * *

Remember the movie, Mr Mom? 1983. Michael Keaton. Terri Garr.

Michael Keaton’s character loses his job and becomes a stay at home dad. After a few months of misadventures, he becomes disillusioned. He gives up taking care of the house. He gains weight, grows a beard, and spends most of his days drinking beer and watching soap operas on TV.

That’s kind of where my lovely supermodel wife and I are at right now.

Okay, it’s not that bad. Lea hasn’t grown a beard, and I haven’t started drinking and watching soap operas, so at least we caught it in time. And now that we’ve been able to identify what’s happening, we can come up with a plan of action to do something about it.

And we haven’t lost our jobs. We’re retired. Lea’s been retired for over an year. My one year anniversary will be here at the end of next month. The issues we face are vastly different than if we were still trying to remain gainfully employed.

We don’t have any debt. We don’t have any institutions we owe money to. We have monthly expenses, and that’s all. It’s pretty damn cool, and I haven’t been free from debt since I was twenty-one.

That was forty years ago. And as weird as this might sound, it’s time to get back to basics.

* * * *

I enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. The first stop in my military career was Fort Ord, CA for basic training. Fort Ord was located around Monterey Bay. It opened in 1917, and closed in 1994, twenty years after I was there.

If the Federal government has any common sense, they’ll sell the land to developers and make a ton of money.

From what I remember, Fort Ord was a nondescript place, mostly sand and ice plants, scrub oak and poison ivy. And of all those, sand was predominant. I once described Fort Ord as a sand trap on the fourth hole of Life.

I’m pretty sure that description stands the test of time.

I arrived at Fort Ord in July of 1974. I was eighteen years old. The one thing I was sure of after I had been there for a couple of days was that I had made a terrible mistake. After talking to a few of the other guys, I knew I wasn’t the only one who had come to that conclusion.

I still remember some of the guys in my squad. Day. Moreno. Marthaler. Dennison. Mramer. I remember those guys better than I do most of the people I went to nursing school with ten years later. We all joined the Army for a myriad of reasons, but none of us were overly gung ho about it.

Marthaler and I were both from Minnesota. We were bunk mates. He slept on top. Dennison was probably my best friend in boot camp. We talked about a lots of stuff. We had similar interests. It helped the time go by. Day and Moreno were my buds. I helped them survive the obstacle course, and they helped me survive everything else. Day taught me how to play chess. Moreno made me laugh. Mramer and I hated each other. I’m not sure why. We never discussed it. I’m not sure we ever spoke to one another. But I’m pretty sure he hated me, and as a result, I know I hated him.

* * * *

I was assigned to Company A-4-3, fourth platoon, first squad. Our company commander was Captain Heller. He had a painting of a a bunch of marching penguins placed right above the mess hall doors. He thought penguins were the epitome of military attention. We were the Marching Penguins of Fort Ord, and all of the other companies laughed at us.

We hated those fucking penguins.

Our instructor was Drill Sergeant Byrum. DS Byrum was from North Carolina. He was slender and short, maybe a little taller than me. He wore glasses, and had a mustache. He looked like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. Despite his meek and mild looks, he wasn’t a man to mess with. He had killed more than one enemy combatant with nothing more than a knife and his hands.

DS Byrum had been a tunnel rat in Nam before becoming a drill sergeant, just like Forrest Gump. He had been wounded several times, and had lost several feet of his small intestine as  can result of one of his wounds. All our training cadre had served at least one tour of duty in Vietnam, and they all had quite a bit to say about it.

The Vietnam War had become very unpopular in the US, and I can’t remember a single guy in my platoon that wanted to go there. I certainly didn’t. The war was a topic of heated discussion whenever we weren’t being run into the ground, learning how to be soldiers.

There were two groups. The guys who thought it was our duty to fight for our country, no matter where that might be, and the war was right. And there were the guys who thought America had no business being in Vietnam, and the war was wrong.

I was one of the latter. So was Dennison.

In addition, whether by accident or design, all of the fuck ups were assigned to the fourth platoon. We all knew we were fuck ups because DS Byrum told us we were. We were the platoon of misfits from Stripes.

Our first meeting with DS Byrum went something like unto this:

It was 4:00 AM on a Monday morning in late July. Everyone in my platoon was asleep in the barracks. And then I heard the sound of an empty metal garbage can being thrown down the middle of the barracks floor, echoing as it bounced off the floor and metal bedframes. And a voice was shouting, “Get. The. Fuck. Up!”

His voice continued as my platoon slowly roused itself and started getting dressed.

“I am Drill Sergeant Byrum, and you will address me as such if you want to live! Do not call me Sergeant! Do not call me Sir! Every rotation of new recruits has a platoon of fuck ups, and gentlemen, you are that platoon! You might be fuck ups now, but ten weeks from now you are going to be the best platoon in this company, or you will die trying! Now, rise and shine! Get. The. Fuck. Up!”

And for the next ten weeks, that’s more or less how every morning started.

* * * *

DS Byrum is memorable to me for at least one particular talent. He couldn’t correctly pronounce anyone’s name. Well, he could say Day’s name correctly, but the rest of us fuck ups got a fucked up name. My last name is Rowen. I became Private Roland.

Basic training serves a series of important military functions, probably. Initial processing. There’s a ton of paperwork that has to be filled out in triplicate, and processed on each new soldier. We were issued a literal ton of military equipment and uniforms that we had to sign for. In triplicate. With each step and each signature, we became a little less civilian, and a bit more military in thought and appearance. That process reached its fruition when we all received our trainee haircut which made all of us look like unto Bryan Baeumler.

That haircut was a rite of passage. Before it, we were still individuals with an unique identify. After it, we were officially soldiers, all equally bald and bereft of identity and individuality, and our real training began.

* * * *

The three most important aspects of boot camp are to brainwash each new recruit to stop thinking like a civilian, to start them thinking the way the Army wants them to think, and to get them into the best physical shape they could be in to die in the service of their country, if necessary.

“Men. There are two ways to do something. The wrong way, and the Army way. You are here to learn to do everything the Army way, and you will learn to do so without question, or your Army career will end somewhere in the next ten weeks. Do. You. Understand. Me!

“Yes, drill sergeant!”

And the first thing you better learn is that sentence. Or you’ll end up doing a whole lots of push ups. Even if you learn that sentence better than anyone ever has, you’ll still end up doing a whole lots of push ups. There might be things drill sergeants enjoy more than making everyone do push ups, but I’m not sure what they could be.

“Give me fifty.” was one of the most popular lines spoken in boot camp. After a couple of weeks or so, doing fifty push ups was nothing. Another favorite line was, “Give me one hundred.” The worst part about this line was it was usually said at 2:00 AM, and it was generally prefaced with a speech.

“Men! I heard some of you have been crying to your girlfriends and to your mamas on the phone. My drill sergeant doesn’t like me because I’m black! He doesn’t like me because I’m Mexican! Men! That’s a bunch of bullshit!  I don’t care if you’re black! I don’t care if you’re brown. Or yellow. Or white. I hate each and every one of you motherfuckers equally! Do. You. Understand. Me? There’s only one color in this Army, and that color is green! Now, get down and give me one hundred!”

Or there was this speech from Drill Sergeant Camacho in the early morning hours, in the pouring rain while the entire company stood outside in our underwear. A couple of guys got into a fight earlier in the day, and DS Camacho didn’t want any of that shit going on on his watch.

“Men! I heard some of you guys think you’re tough. I heard some of you guys think you’re real badasses. I heard some of you guys like to fight. Is that true? Do we have any fighters out there? Because I want you tough guys to know one thing! If any of you fuckers want to fight, you can fight me and I’ll beat the living shit out of you! I’ll kick your fucking ass! Are there any badasses out there now? Are there any tough guys out there that want to fight me?”

“No, drill sergeant.”

“I. Can’t. Hear. You.”

“NO, DRILL SERGEANT!”

“That’s more like it! Now, get down and give me two hundred!”

* * * *

We had a whole lots of drill sergeants. Each platoon had a primary and secondary instructor. We had Byrum and Camacho. There were at least six other instructors who collaborated to make all of our lives as miserable as legally possible, plus a rotation of instructors in training. I can’t remember all of them anymore.

The only one of them I can remember clearly is DS O’Connor. I think he was one of first platoon’s instructors. His father was an American serviceman stationed in the Pacific, and his mother was a Polynesian native. He was half American and half Polynesian. He was…Amnesian.

* * * *

Boot camp is a new miserable experience for everyone that has to endure it. The only free time you have is when you go to bed, and sleep is your only escape mechanism, unless you decide to try to escape from the Army. And there’s always at least one guy who tries to go AWOL in boot camp.

In my unit, it was Calvin. That was his last name. No one has a first name in boot camp. He was most definitely a fuck up, but I don’t think he was in my platoon. I wonder how that happened? In addition to the mangled names DS Byrum gave us, almost everyone had a nickname. And Drill Sergeant Byrum helped me get mine one day when my platoon was in formation.

“Private Roland! I understand you had a meeting with the company commander this morning.”

“Yes, drill sergeant!” Everyone in the company knew about it. I was called to Captain Keller’s office while we were eating breakfast in the mess hall.

“Why did the captain want to see you?”

“I’d rather not say, drill sergeant.”

“Did I ask you if you had an opinion, Private Roland? Get down and give me fifty. Now, tell the rest of the platoon why the captain wanted to see you.” 

“He…he asked me if I wanted to go to West Point, drill sergeant.”

“And what did you tell the captain?”

“I told him I wasn’t interested, drill sergeant.”

“Do you hear that, men? Private Roland turned down an appointment to attend the finest university in the entire world, just so he could stay here with you. Is that correct, Private Roland?”

“Yes, drill sergeant!”

* * * *

Captain Heller was more than a little surprised when I told him I wasn’t interested in going to West Point.

“Take some time, think about it for a day. Talk to your parents. This is a great opportunity, son. You’re not going to get another chance like this again, ever. I can guarantee you that.”

“Yes, sir. You’re right about that, sir. But I don’t need any more time to think about this. I’m not interested.”

“Well, okay. But I think you’re making a big mistake with your life, son. Dismissed.”

* * * *

“That’s the stupidest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever heard, Private! Why would you turn down the opportunity to have a free college education at the best center of higher learning in the entire universe?”

I had at least one good reason for not wanting to go to West Point. I already knew I hated being in the Army, and the sooner I got out of the Army, the happier I was going to be. West Point was a four year commitment, plus another four years of service in the military on top of that.

Eight years in the Army was five more years than my enlistment. At that time in my life, it seemed like unto two eternities. All I wanted to do was serve my three years, and go back to Montana and marry my high school sweetheart.

But that wasn’t anything I wanted to tell Drill Sergeant Byrum, so I told him something I was pretty sure he’d like to hear.

“Permission to speak freely, drill sergeant.”

“By all means, Roland. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say.”

“I didn’t want to end up being a goddamn officer, drill sergeant.”

“Well, Private Roland. The captain told me you were smart, but that is fuckin’ genius! That is the best reason I’ve ever heard!” And he smiled, and laughed. He might have even clapped me on the back.

I think DS Byrum actually liked me for a minute there. And that was a bad thing. The last thing you wanted in boot camp was to be seen as someone your drill sergeant liked, for any reason. And another bad thing was being considered better than everyone else. Before I even knew it was my turn to bat, I already had two strikes. In one fell swoop I had developed something like unto leprosy as far as almost everyone in my platoon was concerned.

They started calling me Captain. It might sound cool, but in boot camp it’s like unto the Kiss of Death. It wasn’t a sign of respect, but rather, contempt.

* * * *

You get to do an endless amount of marching in boot camp. You march everywhere. And while you march, you sing. The Army has a buttload of a shitload of a ton of marching songs. Most of them have something to do with pretty women, getting drunk and killing things. Singing helps you find a rhythm to the mindless task of marching, and it helps you move in unison with the guys around you. Doing everything in unison is not only critical to the smooth functioning of your unit, but the entire Army.

If you can’t learn to march in unison as a platoon, you’ll never be able to march in unison to the Army way of life. And the first thing you have to do in order to be a good soldier is to stop asking questions.

“Private Roland, the Army is not paying you to think. You decided not to go to West Point, remember? The Army is paying you to do whatever I tell you to do! Now, get down and give me fifty!”

If I had one hundred dollars for every time DS Byrum told me that, I probably could’ve retired at the end of basic training. That was easily the hardest part of boot camp for me. Accepting something as the truth from a guy who couldn’t even pronounce my name correctly was tough.

All of the training we received was designed for a dual purpose. To keep us alive if we were ever in a combat situation, and to pass all of the testing we would have to endure in boot camp. It made sense, even back then. All that testing tended to weed out the weakest members of the herd. We were being tested, and all of us had to pass a battery of tests along the way. Weapons training. Shooting range. Hand grenades.

We were trained and drilled. Retrained, and redrilled. Then trained and drilled some more. On the days of our final testing, we were driven to the ranges to test out on weapons. The M-16 rifle. The M-60 machine gun. Hand grenades. Whatever. The Army wanted us rested and relaxed on those days.

The rest of the time it wanted us miserable and exhausted, and probably the most exhausting endeavor of boot camp was bivouac. Think of camping while you’re in the Army, then add automatic weapons and live ammunition. And drill sergeants yelling at you. It was supposed to be the closest thing to actual combat experience training we would receive.

I was paired up with Moreno, we would share a tent for the next week while we were out in the field. I think Moreno chose me because I was smaller than he was, and I didn’t snore.

“You won’t take up a lot of room, and you won’t keep me awake at night, like Day. He snores like a fuckin’ chainsaw.” Moreno said. He was one of the few people that didn’t treat me differently after I chose not to go to the Military Academy. Even Dennison did. I think he was pissed he didn’t get asked if he wanted to go to the Military Academy. “What the fuck do those morons know? How many of them were asked to go to West Point?” 

That was a good question. There were plenty of other guys that were easily as smart as me, like Dennison. He was probably smarter than I was. And yet…

For the first and only time, we didn’t march in close formation, but were spread out in a long column. Drill sergeants ran up and down the line, telling some to spread out, others to hurry up  and close ranks a bit. Moreno and I stayed near the back of the column and talked. Moreno was a funny guy. He joked about almost everything, and that made the long march tolerable.

Bivouac maneuvers started out benignly enough. We marched. That was nothing new, but this march didn’t stop. We marched for four hours straight. For lunch we ate C-rations, then marched for another four or five hours.

At some point in the afternoon, we were ‘attacked,’ and had to dive for cover. Live ammunition was being fired in our general direction, about fifty feet above our heads. The area I ended up in was a few scrub oaks surrounded by a field of poison ivy, so I decided I needed another place to dive for cover.

“Private Roland! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m getting out of this poison ivy, drill sergeant.”

“Private, we are under attack! You need to drop to ground! Now!”

“We are not under attack. I’m not in any danger of being killed. There’s a place without any poison ivy right there! That’s where I’m going.”

“Private Roland! You drop to the ground right where you are, right now, and that’s a goddamn order!”

I’m not sure I have ever hated a man so much as I hated DS Byrum at that moment in time. I dropped to one knee.

“All the way down. To the fuckin’ ground, Private! Now, goddamnit!”

I ended up with the worst case of poison ivy anyone has ever seen, including the bivouac doctor at Sick Call the next morning. He gave me a tiny bottle of calomine lotion, and told me to come back if I needed more. I started every morning standing in line to get more calomine lotion, trying not to scratch any part of my body.

Oddly enough, having to dive into the poison ivy ended up being kind of a blessing. Arguing with DS Byrum wasn’t something new for me, but the fact that he had to give me a direct order made the other guys in my platoon dislike me less. It proved to them I wasn’t an asskissing egghead who probably should have been smart enough to go to West Point.

Plus, I had an ugly ass rash all over my body, and there wasn’t a more miserable looking person on the planet than I looked that week.

It was one of the longest weeks of my life. Ever. Even now it was probably only exceeded in emotional misery by the week my mother-in-law died, and even then, I wasn’t covered by the itchy rash of poison ivy, nor did I have to march ten miles a day.

* * * *

If boot camp is nothing but an endless test, the final exam of boot camp is the Fitness Test. I can’t remember how many different sets of exercises we had to complete beyond several of them, but every skill was measured, timed and graded. Your final score determined whether or not you would be able to leave Fort Ord, boot camp, and continue onward in the Army. The final component of the Fitness Test was the mile run.

You could run as fast as you liked, but the slowest acceptable time was eight minutes.

Some of the guys I was in boot camp with were phenoms at certain skills, and their scores were legendary. Like Mramer. He could run like a sprinter for at least a mile. I wasn’t spectacular at any of the Fitness skills, but I was consistently average. Not great, but good enough to pass.

That pretty much sums up my entire academic career. And my military career, for that matter.

After that, boot camp was essentially over. There was a ceremony. A general gave a speech. I shook DS Byrum’s hand, and thanked him for making my life a living hell.

And for those of you who think I should have jumped at the chance to attend the Military Academy, maybe you’re right. But the judgement I had to endure in boot camp is the same thing I would’ve had to endure if I had decided to go to West Point. The You Don’t Belong Here Judgement.

I would’ve been hated by a better class of people. Instead of being too good to be an enlisted man, I wouldn’t have been good enough to be an officer, but that’s the only difference.

* * * *

As much as I hated boot camp, I’m sure I learned some important lessons there. It is only through facing adversity that one truly grows. I learned discipline. I learned how to persevere. I learned how to focus my diffuse anger. Unfortunately, I learned to focus it at the Army. And I learned something about patience. Those were all good things to know, and they came in handy over the years. But it would take me a very long time to learn all about patience.

Patience is the least of my concerns. Waiting is probably the last thing I need to do. However, just what it is that I’m supposed to do isn’t immediately clear. I have a few ideas that I’ve been mulling over, and Lea has a couple of things she wants to do. Everything will fall into place.

It always has so far.

And it’s not like my whole world has fallen apart. It simply hasn’t fallen together. There’s a big difference between the two.

Maybe I’ll get started by doing some push ups…

The Writer’s Almanac

Before I get into whatever this piece is going to turn into, I’d like to say, Hi, Jane! And just so there’s no confusion, the picture isn’t me. That’s Garrison Keillor. Among his many achievements and accomplishments, Garrison Keillor is a very good writer.

I’ve been enjoying writing lately. It’s a good thing, I suppose. I could certainly do worse things with my time. And if the opening line of this installment leaves you feeling bewildered, welcome to the club. That’s how I usually feel when I start writing.

I sometimes have a very good idea of what I’m going to write about, but more often than not, I don’t. I usually have a topic or theme floating around in my head, and sometimes I have a sentence I like, and want to use it somewhere in my post. That’s about it. It’s like unto taking a sink to an architect’s office and saying, “Design and build a house around this.”

And if you’re wondering, Jane is probably the most ardent reader I have, so I thought I’d acknowledge that.

* * * *

The rainy season has impacted my latest hobby, hitting golf balls. I can’t golf in the rain. But it has given me something else to do. Drain our pool. Our rental house came equipped with an hydropool that we don’t use, so there’s usually no water in it. It’s essentially become a gigantic rain gauge and deathpit for insects. We got about an inch of rain yesterday, but we got an additional four inches this morning.

Rain water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so I grab my shop vac and suck all the water out of the pool. I do not like mosquitoes. It’s a relatively simple procedure, so I don’t mind doing it. And the pool always looks great when I’m done.

The rainy season has brought forth a whole lots of tiny Mexican tree frogs. They come out at night, and sing in a chorus of peeppeeppeeppeep sounds. It’s kind of soothing, and it’s pretty cool to fall asleep to.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I went shopping today. We found everything we were looking for, except coffee filters. You’d think they’d be in the same aisle as the coffee, but that’s not the case at El Walmart.

Esto es Mexico…

I’m sure that news made a couple of hearts skip a beat, but fear not, and be of good faith. Coffee filters are available down here. I know I’ve bought them somewhere down here, probably not at Walmart, but somewhere. Most, if not all, of the retail stores down here go out of their way to cater to the gringo population. We are here, and we are legion.

This place really is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.

* * * *

A few days ago, one of my virtual friends asked me if I missed the United States, and the simple answer is no. Not at all. There are only two things I really miss. Rosati’s pizza and paved roads. Before my friends get offended, you are not things. 

Yesterday, I was notified by Facebook that I have 650 friends. I might’ve had around 300 friends before I retired, so I’ve been busy expanding my social circle. I accepted a virtual friend request from a gal yesterday, then waited. Within a matter of minutes, I received a message. I almost always get a message after I accept a request from someone.

Thankfully, she didn’t want to send me naked pictures. She wanted to sex chat, I think. I’m guessing about that, mostly because I’ve never been in this swamp before. She asked if I wanted to Skype and we could chat. She said I looked like an interesting guy and she wanted to know more about me.

I sent her link to my blog and told her anything she’d ever need to know about me was in here. I haven’t heard another word from her. I guess I’m not that interesting after all.

I’m not sure why, but I think that’s one of the funniest things, ever. And I should stop accepting friend requests from people I don’t know.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I are going out tonight with some friends. We’re going to Perry’s Pizza. He’s making his chicken fried chicken dinner especially for our group. I’m totally looking forward to that. There will be photos posted on my Facebook page.

I love being retired. I’m not sure how rewarding it is, but it’s most definitely a nice reward for all those years of working my ass off toward this end.

* * * *

One of my real friends and former co-workers has been writing something like unto her memoirs. She’s a nurse, and she’s one of the good ones. On her Facebook page this morning she confessed how difficult this process has been for her.

I knew going into writing this book that healed scars would be opened up again and feelings that I haven’t had in years would resurface. I was prepared for that. I was prepared for raw emotions and ready to share the deepest, darkest parts of my journey…  Or so I thought. 

Ah, Tiffany. I know your pain. I wasn’t planning on writing today until I read her post. I accidently ended up writing some Tales From the Darkside of my life after I started writing my blog. Unlike Tiffany, I wasn’t aware of what that can do to your soul, but I would find out quickly. It’s like unto crossing a swamp. It looks daunting when you get to it, but you tell yourself it won’t be that bad.

Look! There’s a little path here! If I just stay on that, I’ll be fine…

But that path will disappear quickly, and in front of you will be dark, fetid water of an undetermined depth and a shitload of mud and muck. Then you’re faced with a decision. Turn around and try to find a way around the swamp. That’s not going to be easy. It’s a big swamp. Or, you can keep going forward and try to get through the swamp as quickly as possible. You almost always decide to go forward. The mud sucks at your feet and legs as you try to slog your way forward, and the water is full of leeches.

That was the paragraph I had in my mind when I started this post.

Opening up old wounds is mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically draining. It hurts like hell. It’s like unto passing a fucking kidney stone, and I know that pain, too. Seeing how none of your old wounds were obtained in a vacuum, it’s not just your wounds that end up being opened.

After you’ve decided to go into that swamp once, you know what it looks like when you’re going to venture into it a second time. I’ve been there intentionally a few times. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost at least one reader of my blog by going there. And there’s nothing funny about that.

She was a real friend of mine, probably my oldest friend.

I like to joke about how no one ever reads my blog, but I’ve probably had a couple of thousand people who have at least visited my site, which isn’t all that bad. I follow a couple of other bloggers who are vastly more successful than I am. They have more visitors to their sites in a day than I get in a month.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous.

But I remind myself that I not doing this as a competition, and those bloggers have been doing this for a long time. Their blogs also have a more specific focus than mine, so their audience is there for a more specific reason.

I originally started writing my blog about my nursing career in Psychiatry, and it has gone off on some pretty weird tangents over time. While I’m sure there were compelling reasons for doing this, though they haven’t always been immediately recognizable to me. It’s one of the hazards of going through most of your life unconscious…

Waking up is hard to do.

I’ve been in the process waking up for about ten years now, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Be that as it may, the life I was living before that was a lots less pretty. I still get flashes of memories that hit me out of nowhere, leaving me wondering where that came from and what am I supposed to do with it now? Sometimes those flashbacks are unsettling and disturbing. Sometimes they’re just annoying. Sometimes they’re really funny, and I laugh out loud. If my life before was an almost endless binge, part of my healing process has involved a fair amount of purging.

And in the process, I’m sure I opened some old wounds that weren’t only mine. Many people have said I simply did what I had to do get all that poison out of my system, You did what you had to do! they said. And I probably said something like unto this at least once, It was never my intention to hurt anyone.

That said, if that’s your defense, you knew someone was going to get hurt in advance.

Life, and its many facets, can be an incredibly beautiful and poignant thing. It can also be very ugly and sordid. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between. Life, for lack of a better description at this point in my waking up process, is what it is. It’s a description I’ve never especially liked because it’s so banal.

And yet…

Life, as messy as it can be, still beats the alternative. And before you get the idea I’m a tortured soul in search of peace, that would be wrong. I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been. I have learned to appreciate all that I’ve been given, and to see the Bigger Picture. I have a more balanced view of my life, and myself.

And I am mostly content.

In the long run, cleansing your soul and ridding yourself off all that unnecessary baggage is ugly and dirty work, but it’s worth it.

Night has fallen, and the frogs are peeping. This seems like a good place to stop. Good night, and sweet dreams to you.

Living in the Virtual World

¡Hola! ¿Que pasa?

Things are pretty chill down here in Mexico. The rainy season is still in progress, though it hasn’t rained for the last three days. My lovely supermodel wife and I are still in love with being retired. We’re still mostly happily adjusting to our new lives and the new culture in which we’re living.

The most significant change we’ve encountered at Casa del Selva has been the hummingbird population. We used to have seventy thousand hummingbirds at our feeders, and we’d have to refill them eight times a day. Lea was worried we’d burn through our pension funds buying sugar.

I wondered if we could claim them as dependents…

It turns out Mexican hummingbirds are migratory, and they go somewhere else to raise their young, probably Texas. I wonder if President Don Jon Un knows about the illegally immigrating Mexican hummingbirds, and how he’s planning on stopping them…

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We’re down to about seven hummingbirds. One feeder will last for eight days or more. Lea is really bummed out. I kind of miss the ravenous horde, too. They were fun to watch, and they kept me on my toes whenever I wandered out on the patio. But I’m sure they’ll be back this fall, and we’ll be happy to see them again.

* * * *

I’ve been working on my golf game by going to the driving range when the weather permits, and playing the occasional round or two. I spent a month working on my drives on the range, and I made a startling discovery the last time I played golf. You only hit a ball off of a tee once per hole.

Some of my drives were so pretty it almost brings a tear to my eye, but the rest of my shots were so abysmal it practically makes me cry to think about it. It took me five strokes to reach the green of the par four first hole. And then I three putted. After that, my composure was pretty much gone, and the next seventeen holes were mostly a nightmare with flashes of brilliance.

The other thing I discovered was I’m not as young as I once was. A shot I could easily make with a five iron ten years ago no longer has the distance it used to. I’ve had to come up with a completely new strategy to play the game I love that doesn’t love me in return.

So this week I’ve been practicing on the range with fairway woods and irons, and I’ve come to the conclusion I’m going to need a whole lots more practice.

My lovely supermodel wife has been coming to the driving range with me this week, and she’s been a voice of encouragement to me. It’s been very sweet, and I appreciate my adorable wife even more because of it.

And then there’s putting. I’d probably be a pretty decent golfer if I didn’t have to putt. I’ve been doing some putting on the practice green. I sank a forty foot putt yesterday, and the best part was Lea saw it. I’m not sure who was happier, me or her.

* * * *

As for the rest of our life, we’re very slowly learning the language of our new country. Our landlord and Spanish teacher is Planet Janet. Back when she worked for a living, Janet taught English as a Second Language and Spanish as Another Language at university in Canadia before she retired in Mexico, so she graciously agreed to teach us when we moved into one of her houses. She charges us $200 pesos for a two hour session, once a week, and donates the money to buy wheelchairs for children whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.

It’s a win/win/win situation. Janet gets to do something she loves, teach. We get to do something we need, learn. And we all get to help out someone in need.

And seeing how Janet’s been here for a quarter of a century, she’s been showing us some of the ropes and helping us find our way through some of the tricksier aspects of living in Mexico.

Legal things, like Wills, Advanced Directives, health insurance and residency visas. She has recommendations for doctors, dentists, mechanics and veterinarians. And reviews of the latest awesome restaurant she’s eaten at.

And then there are the unexpected things that happen out of the blue.

We ran out of water last weekend. Our main water supply line sprang a monster leak a couple of weeks ago, so we turned the main off and called Planet Janet and El Don Padrino. We have two huge water reservoirs under our carport, so we had plenty of water to tide us over until the leak could be repaired

Don and Janet sent their plumber, Mani, over the next day to fix the leak, then he called SAMAPA, the local water authority. SAMAPA said they had to send a guy over to turn the water back on–Mani was forbidden to open the valve–and the SAMAPA guy would come over ahorita.

Ahora is the Spanish word for now, but now isn’t a highly regarded reality based concept in most of Mexico. Even the Mexicans think it’s funny that there’s generally no such thing as now, especially when it concerns the government and some of the utility companies.

There’s another Spanish word, ahorita. It can mean really soon, however, in Mexico, ahorita can also mean something a whole lots closer to never than it does to now.

Well, the SAMAPA guy never showed up, and no one told us our water main hadn’t been turned back on. So, two weeks later we ran out of water, at 9:00 PM on a Saturday night. I turned the water back on, probably illegally, and that solved the problem.

These kind of things happen, and not just in Mexico. When they happen here, we laugh and shrug and say, This is Mexico/Esto es Mexico, and move on. If you don’t like it, leave.

Mexico is not like the United States. Spanish isn’t the same as English. The language of Mexico is an amalgamation of Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, English and Arabic, as well as some words from the fifty-four indigenous languages of the native people who lived here before the Spaniards arrived and fucked up everything.

If you’re wondering how Arabic got thrown into the mix, the Moors invaded Spain in the year 711, and ruled the country for eight hundred years. Spain invaded Mexico in 1519, or roughly about the time the Spaniards finally kicked the Moors out of power in their own country. It took the Spaniards only two years to topple the Aztec empire and steal as much gold and silver from the Mexicans as they could.

Little Known Fact About the Spanish Language: there are probably four thousand Arabic words or phrases that are now part of the modern Spanish vocabulary.

The language barrier is certainly the tricksiest part of living in Mexico, especially since neither Lea nor I spoke any Spanish before we moved here. After almost nine months we can now say hello, how are you, goodbye and thanks, and a few phrases here and there, but we’re hardly fluent, and mostly lost with someone who speaks no English.

It can be kind of comical sometimes.

* * * *

Like unto practically everyone else on this planet, I probably have a form of addiction to my mobile devices and social media. I have a blog that maybe seven people read, including me. For my last installment I posted a picture of one of my former co-workers, and it was seemingly an huge hit. I had a lots of people reacting to the picture on my Facebook page. They loved it! But I don’t know if any of those people actually read the accompanying article.

Oh, look! A picture of Brea! That’s such a cute picture!! What’s this stuff? Eww! Words!! OMG, there’s, like, a thousand of them! Ick!

I have a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a Twitter account. Unlike our current President, I’ve never figured Twitter out, and I dislike being limited to the number of words I can use. I doubt anyone has ever read even one of my seven Tweets.

My lovely supermodel wife isn’t as addicted to social media as I am. She views Facebook the same way I view Twitter, and I doubt she knows Instagram is even a thing. Or SnapChamp.

Social media has become almost a necessary evil to me, now that I’m a retired guy living in a foreign country. It’s the most convenient way for me to stay up to date with the lives of my friends and family, and it’s the easiest way for them to keep tabs on me.

Before we retired, Lea and I discussed what we’d like to do after we retired. Travel was one of the things we both agreed on, but now that we’ve traveled to Mexico, I’m not sure how much more traveling we’re actually going to do. We’ll see what the future holds. Be that as it may, whether we embark on a tour of the world or not, thanks to the Interweb and social media, the world now comes to me. And so do all of my virtual friends.

I have far more friends now than I did back when I really had friends, people I knew and hung out with and did stuff with. My virtual friends come from all over the world: Canadia, England, Ireland, Spain, France and Italy. Poland, Croatia, Greece, Russia, Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Ohio. I doubt I’ll ever meet any of them face to face. But because of them and our virtual friendship, I get to see what their part of the world looks like, and what their lives are like.

By the way, Ohio is evidently a whole lots more interesting than I thought it was.

Back when I was a kid, the only way you could accomplish something like unto this without being a world traveler was with a National Geographic subscription. If you don’t know what that is, Google it.

My virtual friends post a lots of pictures of themselves, so I also get to see a lots of pictures of tattoos. Back when I was a kid, the only people who had tattoos were drunken sailors, biker gangs and criminals. Tattoos were the mark of low life scumbags and losers.

Nowadays, almost everyone has at least one tattoo, even my lovely supermodel wife, and she’s probably the most conservative person I know. Tattoos have moved out of the darkened alleyways that only a fool would enter, and have become a legitimate mainstream art form of individual statement, beauty and color. Some of them are really quite stunning.

I don’t have any tattoos. I think tattoos look pretty cool on other people, but I’ve never wanted to get one. I’ll admit I don’t understand what the attraction is. For me, the same thing is true of Disneyland®. I have no idea why anyone would want to go there, unless you really like standing in line for hours.

Having a tattoo isn’t a requirement for me to send a friend request to someone on Facebook. I automatically receive an infinite number of profiles of people that I’ve never met every day with the suggestion from Facebook that I might know some of them. Ironically, Facebook will then ask me if I actually know the person I’m randomly sending a friend request to before I can submit it.

I don’t receive as many friend requests as I submit. If a guy sends me a request, it’s usually because he has a great business proposal and he wants me as an investor. If a woman sends me a request it’s usually one of those Click here to see naked pictures of me things. I have yet to knowingly accept one, but I always wonder, Where the hell were these girls when I was twenty? And the answer is they weren’t even alive.

Some of my newest BFF’s that I’ve never met send me personal messages and ask a few questions about me and my life. This always surprises me because it never occurs to me to do that with any of them. Some of my virtual friends disappear from my profile after they discover how boring I am, or that I don’t want to see any naked pictures of them, or I don’t want to invest in a ground-breaking business opportunity.

Many of my virtual friends live what appear to be interesting lives, and their careers run the gamut. I’m still partial to nurses. I have a lots of virtual friends that are nurses. It’s a brotherhood thing, or more probably a sisterhood thing.

A couple of my virtual friends are witches, one of whom does tarot card readings. Another one of my virtual friends sells cars in the GTA. If you’re not an intrepid, sophisticated virtual world traveler like me who watches Canadian television in Mexico, the GTA is the Greater Toronto Area.

Yet another of my virtual friends is an activist, warning the world about every possible conspiracy ever conceived. I used to have two friends like unto this. I could say I unfriended one of them because she was too crazy, but almost everyone on my FB page admits to some level of insanity. And, I used to be a psych nurse, so craziness in and of itself isn’t something that bothers me much.

It was her unstable anger/rage that I found so unsettling. Her rants/raves hit the airwaves every five minutes, and each was more outrageous than the last. I tried joking with her a couple of times to get her to lighten up a little, but she didn’t appreciate my humor. Clearly, we had unreconcilable differences, and something had to give.

I’ve become virtual friends with a whole lots of motivational speakers/health gurus/life coaches. They post videos of their exercise workouts, recipes for healthy meals and daily motivational quotes and videos. Several of them post live feeds of themselves giving motivational talks to break out of your rut and improve your life.

To be honest, I’m not personally interested in most of that stuff. I don’t exercise. I think my diet is healthy enough for me, and I don’t need to make any significant changes to improve my life. If I did, I’d likely already know what it is that I need to do differently. However, I do listen to them and take their advice into consideration.

Mental and emotional health are things that require a certain amount of intentional maintenance. They are perishable commodities. It takes an effort to keep your goddamn mind right. It’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel and end up in the ditch, and before you know it you’re wondering how the hell could this happen to me?!?

So it’s good for me to be reminded of the things I used to preach lest I start backsliding. I’ve worked too hard to get away from that shit to ever want to go back again, even by accident.

* * * *

Before I retired and moved to Mexico, I would occasionally have breakfast with Brian. Brian Leach is the former lead pastor of one of the churches we formerly attended in Surprise. I liked Breakfast with Brian. He’s a pretty smart guy, and he’s the closest thing to a friend/pastor I’ve ever had.

We used to attend a small group/Bible study at Brian’s house. It was Brian who first made me a virtual celebrity by saying something like unto this at one of our group meetings: “I’m not a big fan of social media, but I think everyone should check out Mark Rowen’s Facebook page at least once a day.”

And I didn’t have to pay him to say that.

Just before we departed Arizona, I had one last breakfast with Brian. He spent the last few minutes trying to convince me to do a video blog.

“There’s a kid on YouTube who’s making a six figure income, just by posting videos!”

I replied that the kid was probably smart. And funny.

“Well, you’re smart and funny.”

I replied that the kid probably had a personality. If you’ve never met me in person, once you did, you’d probably wonder if I was ever going to come out of that coma. I don’t have an affect, and my voice lacks inflection. I posted a video on Facebook once. One of my real friends said I sound like Eeyore. Ben Stein sounds like Sam Kinison when compared to me.

I blame my life as a psych nurse for that. When you’ve seen as much strange stuff as I have, it’s hard to be surprised by anything. Also, I’ve been a Minnesota Vikings fan for fifty years. Therefore, I find it almost impossible to get too excited about anything anymore. If the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl, I might get a tattoo…

My virtual friends who post inspirational videos are excited by what they’re doing. They smile. They have a fire in their eyes, and they clearly have a passion about their messages. If you’ve ever read any of my blog posts, most of them don’t have an inspirational message. I’m not sure any of them have even had a point.

In addition, the video blogs I’ve watched are short, or at least, short-ish. My written blogs don’t seem short to me. Even the shortest blog I’ve written has taken me hours to complete. And while I am sometimes spontaneously witty, I’m not a great impromptu speaker. I would probably end up writing a script that I would essentially end up reading, and I’d probably stumble through everything I’d written.

I’m trying to imagine that being entertaining to anyone. I might become the first person YouTube paid to stop posting videos…

It could be argued that if I started making video blogs, I could save myself a ton of time. If I weren’t retired, that argument might carry more weight. But I am retired. If I don’t have anything else, I have plenty of time, and very little of it is scheduled with any recurring activity, except my Spanish lessons.

A real friend of mine occasionally posts The Manitowoc Minute Vlog on his Facebook page. It’s a very funny commentary about life in Wisconsin, which, in retrospect, probably goes without saying. The idea of posting El Minuto Mexicano certainly has its appeal. I could ramble on incomprehensibly in a mixture of Spanglish, Latin and Japanese about life in Mexico.

“Buenas tetas, amigos y amigas! Bienvenidos a mi vlogarito lo que nostrodamos vidas fabulosos en Mexico! Nosotros tiene relocatado de los estados unidos. El gente de Mexico estás las más amable de todos los gente en el universario! Ellos tienen los más paciencia! Ellos dicen, “Poco y poco,” y sonrisa. Beauty, eh. A todo madre, la roma no está hecho en uno dia! Ergo, quid pro quo. Shigata ga ni, es los más awesomosa cosa en el mundo actualmente! No es mentira! Si, es verdad, daddy-o! Entonces, adios y omne datum optimum untiliarmos los hasta luego, y domo arigato por tu atención y de nadamashite.”

Maybe I’ll stick to writing. In English. It’ll greatly decrease the chances of me accidentally starting the next world war…