Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons

Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons is a collection of essays, reviews, short travel accounts, and human interest stories written by Kurt Vonnegut. He was one of my favorite authors back in the day. He had a wicked sharp sense of what is called black humor in the Biz.

He’s one of the few authors that made me laugh out loud when I was reading his work.

Just in cases you were wondering, a wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve. Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls. A granfalloon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings.

I’m not sure if any of those things are going to end up being in this post. I haven’t been writing much lately. I haven’t even been trying to write. At this point in time, I’m not sure I’m ever going to finish this post. And, of course, there’s a reason for that.

* * * *

I bruised my coccyx on the golf course on May 17th. I could try to explain what happened, but it was a tricksy mishap that involved one golf cart, one wrong turn, and something like unto a ski jump.

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It was like unto this, except I ended up with a golf cart halfway up my ass

Ever since that happened, I sit down as carefully as a hen incubating a nest full of vials of nitroglycerin. I try to plan every set of moves I make, hoping I won’t put any undue pressure on my coccyx. It’s been surprising to me how many movements do. It’s also made writing this post all but impossible.

Have you ever tried writing anything of substance when you’re not sitting down?

* * * *

Another reason that I’ve taken a break from writing is I’ve been writing way too much about American politics in general, and Donald Trump in specific. And that’s pretty much the last thing I wanted to do when I decided to start writing my blog four years ago.

Unlike The Donald, I fact check everything I write when I make disparaging comments about him, or any other politician for that matter. Being an investigative reporter looks like a lots of fun on TV, but the reality of it is much less glamorous.

Research, like unto cunnilingus, is dark and lonely work. And it’s a lots less fun.

And in the case of Donald Trump, it’s probably pointless. His supporters won’t believe anything negative about their awesome leader because their faith in him is absolute. And his detractors will believe anything that puts The Donald in an unfavorable light because their contempt for him is equally absolute.

Nothing really changes. I’m wasting my time, and I know it. But one of the things that doesn’t change is the fact that Donald Trump is the most corrupt President in the history of the United States, and he needs to be held accountable for all of his crimes.

And I cannot stop myself from protesting his presence in the Oval Office. I will continue to voice my opposition to him until he is no longer the President. So I really hope that happens this November.

That said, here I go again…

* * * *

I know I’ve said this before: I don’t understand how anyone can support Donald Trump — unless you’re a rich white man — then, it’s understandable. You can say what you want about The Donald, but he has gone out of his way to take care of that demographic. But the above stated qualifier eliminates probably 95% of the people who hang on his every lying-ass word. Maybe more.

Additionally, if you are a Trump supporter, there’s no sin you can commit that’s too egregious for The Donald to pardon. You can look it up if you’re interested.

But the most confusing group of all the non-rich Trump supporters are women, and the even more most confusing group of Trump-supporting women are white, Christian Evangelicals. These women are not known for their laid-back attitudes about, well, pretty much anything.

Forgive and forget? Forget that! Live and let live? Only if you’re a God-fearing member of the Antioch Baptist Church. All the rest of you goddamn sinners can go straight to Hell where you belong!!

And yet, despite their well documented hatred for everything not Biblically endorsed, they love misogynistic Donald Trump like they love Jesus, their grandchildren, and apple pie.

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It’s too bad she didn’t actually say this. I’d take back some of the things I’ve said about her

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, white evangelicals are more likely than other Americans to say the term morally upstanding adequately describes Donald Trump despite his numerous marital infidelities and his even more numerous allegations of sexual impropriety.

They see Donald Trump as honest, even though several reputable news organizations estimate that President Trump has made close to 20,000 incorrect statements and outright lies during his time in office. Compare that to Barack Obama who averaged a little more than two falsehoods a year while he was President.

Almost two-thirds of white evangelicals see Trump as at least somewhat religious, despite his use of profanity, his sporadic church attendance, and his evident unfamiliarity with the Bible.

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This is beyond mind boggling, it’s nothing short of mind blowing

* * * *

One of my very Christian female friends posted something on Facebook about the Democrats being absolutely giddy because: the American economy has tanked, unemployment numbers are somewhere out in the stratosphere, and Trump’s popularity ratings have plummeted. All because of the Coronavirus lockdown.

Oh, and we all need to pray for President Trump because he’s God’s anointed — the greatest leader of the greatest country since David was the King of Israel. And Donald Trump has to lead America out of the hazards created by this…plague. So the Democrats don’t end up in the Oval Office again, or something…

* * * *

Evidently Little Known Fact About King David and Biblical Plagues: There are approximately 120 times the term plague is used in the Bible. David was mentioned 971 times, the second most for any person.

Every time God decided to unleash a plague, He did so because He was almighty angry about something and/or someone. Therefore, every time He sent a plague, He sent it as a punishment.

David was Israel’s greatest king, and was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was beloved by God, and this is how many plagues God sent to punish David: Zero. None. Zilch. Nada.

As noted earlier, Evangelicals are capable of ignoring facts whenever it’s convenient for them, so it’s not inconceivable that they could also ignore this Biblical certainty.

* * * *

I doubt that God was paying any attention to the election in 2016, but if the Coronavirus pandemic was sent by him, He’s clearly not pleased with much of anything going on down here right now. And that would include everyone’s favorite President and part-time golfer, Donald Trump. Oh wait, I forgot. The Donald doesn’t take any responsibility for this mess. This is all Obama’s fault!

Let’s reverse engineer the above mentioned Democratic gleefest: the Republicans wouldn’t be giddy if this had happened to President Obama? Yeah, right. I’m going to buy that when American politics has essentially become a partisan team sport. The Elephants vs. The Donkeys. The winner gets the White House and the losing team tries to steal the winning team’s signs so they can get an advantage in the next election.

One of my female friends is not a devout Christian, but she is a devout Republican. She hates all things and persons of the Democratic persuasion. Her comments on my political posts on my Facebook page have been scathing. And, well, stupid.  How we’ve managed to stay friends is beyond me. She said she was planning on coming down for a visit, but now I hope she was just talking out of her ass and never shows up here.

The bottom line is this: the partisan divide is going to be the thing that destroys America. Not the Coronavirus. Not the Great Quarantine. Not Rock and Roll music. Not the hippies. Not the Russians. Or the Chinese. Or even the Mexicans.

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Americans are going to destroy America

It’s so fucking stupid I lack the words to describe the idiocy of it all.

* * * *

Can anyone explain the Folgers® commercial to me? I don’t know which commercial is showing in the States, but here in Mexico we’ve been seeing the one with the woman walking to the shower on Canadian TV.

You’ve got something up your sleeve  Seriously, her expression indicates that she’s planning on doing something in the shower that would make a pornstar blush.

What you didn’t know was you were surprising your father-in-law, Steve  Who just happens to look like he’s in an ambulatory coma. If her husband takes after his father, that would help to explain what she might have had up her sleeve…

So much for Plan A. Thank God that choir of people popped up in her bathroom and poured her a cup of coffee.

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If seeing this doesn’t make you want to buy Folgers®, I don’t know what will

I’ve seen a lots of stupid commercials in my lifetime, but this one just might be the best of the worst.

* * * *

I don’t know what you’ve been doing to occupy your time during the lockdown, but when I haven’t been injuring what’s left of my spinal column, I’ve been randomly watching videos on the YouTube®.

One of them was an educational video about a large breasted woman buying a bra. I know, right! I didn’t know I’d be interested in that kind of stuff either!! Somewhat Interesting Note: women don’t call their breasts tits. That appears to be more of a guy term. Women call them boobs, or boobies.

And there’s another thing I didn’t know: If you have regular sized boobs, bras are beautiful, lacey, gossamer creations with adorable names: The Penelope. The Cassandra. And The Cherub’s Kiss.

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See? I told you

If you have an epic set of tits, bras are utilitarian, steel-belted, substantial contraptions, and the adorable names are gone: The Iron Curtain. The Grand Coulee. And The Arnold.

And a well made bra is not cheap. Given the amount of material needed, they are ridiculously expensive. It just goes to show you never know what you’re going to learn on the Interweb. 

* * * *

Another thing I’ve started watching is automobile restoration shows on TV, which is ironic. I became a nurse because I had no interest in becoming a mechanic. I know nothing about fixing cars. I don’t even know how to check the blinker fluid. But much like home renovation shows, which is another skill I don’t possess, I’m fascinated by every aspect of car restoration.

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🎼Baby, you🎶 can fix🎶my car🎶

Wheeler Dealers. All Girls Garage. FantomWorks. The Guild Garage. I love them all. They almost make me want to buy a whole lots of Snap-on® tools, a couple of welding goldarn things, and build a garage.

Maybe I’ll be an auto restoring/home renovating/rockstar/psych nurse in my next life. I have no idea how reincarnation really works, but it probably doesn’t hurt to do a little planning for the future.

I’ve been really lucky considering that I didn’t make many plans for much of anything in my current life. But you should never rely on being lucky all of the time.

Luck has a way of running out on you, just when you need it most.

The Waiting Game

Waiting Game is a hit song by the English pop group, Swing Out Sister. Rumor has it that Swing Out Sister was the only thing the members could agree on when they were trying to come up with a name for their group, and all of them agreed that they hated it.

SOS has had a number of hit songs over the years: Breakout, Surrender, Twilight World, and my personal favorite, Am I the Same Girl?

The answer is: Yes I am, yes I am. Just in cases you were wondering.

Their songs have catchy melodies. And Corinne Drewery has some serious pipes. I have several of their songs in various playlists. You can find their videos on the YouTube® if you’re interested. Or bored, which is highly probable.

My lovely supermodel wife was so bored yesterday that she washed both of our cars. It’s something she hasn’t done in more than a decade.

* * * *

How’s it going out there in Quarantine Land? Today is the 175th day of the month of April. Yeah, that is what it feels like. And I actually like staying at home. Vehicles equipped with loudspeakers have been cruising the streets here in the Lakeside Area broadcasting messages in English and Spanish, telling everyone to stay at home. But if you must leave your home, you better have a facemask on to avoid infection, fines, and death.

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Have a nice day! ¡Que tengas un buen dia!

Lea made masks for us a couple of weeks ago. She said they were easy to construct, and she was happy to do it. Good thing. We might be using them for the rest of the year. Maybe longer, you know, like, the rest of our lives.

The world has changed, has it not? And when this whole Coronavirus thing ends, it will not return to the way it used to be. I don’t think any of us can yet see the full impact this is going to make, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be significant.

I was skeptical about the Coronavirus initially. I thought everyone was overreacting when they started talking about social distancing, isolating at home, quarantine precautions, and cancelling every interesting sporting event on the planet until further notice.

I’m no longer skeptical, but I am bummed out that March Madness, the Masters, and, yes, every other sporting event for this year has been cancelled, postponed, or will be rescheduled for a much later date. Even the Summer Olympics!

Many of the articles I’ve read talk about extending the precautions, not shortening them or, God forbid, ending them. I’m sure this will all end someday, but I’m no longer sure that it will end soon.

We’ve been planning a trip back to the States. We were originally hoping for April. Then we were shooting for May. It’s starting to look like June, but it might not happen until July or August the way things are going.

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These advertisements sum up the current state of affairs very succinctly

A couple of our friends were planning on coming down to visit us this year. Maybe they’ll be able to get here by September, but possibly, not until next year…

* * * *

One of the things you have to adjust to when you retire is suddenly having a lots of idle time on your hands. I guess some of you could think of this time as a preview of what your retirement life will be like. If you find you’re not enjoying it much, do yourself a favor and start rethinking your plans for the future now.

Todd, Lea and I have been trying to keep ourselves busy with various projects and hobbies. Todd has been working on several goldarn things in the workshop. I know because he’s been using a variety of power tools.

Lea has reading books on her Kindle®. A lots of books. And she instituted Operation Opossum. She feeds the herd of opossums that stroll through our backyard at night. Fortunately, opossums eat almost anything, so they’re easy to feed. She even named two of them: Ollie and Opie.

If you want to know anything about opossums, ask Lea. She’s probably read two books about them by now.

* * * *

Todd created Operation Oranges for Orioles. He started by hanging oranges in the tree where Lea has her hummingbird feeder. That worked great, until the goddamn squirrels started devouring the oranges.

So we built a small wooden platform and put it in the triangle garden at the far end of the swimming pool. The birds are happy. The squirrels don’t dare come that far into the yard.

Mischief managed.

* * * *

Todd and Lea have been cooking their asses off in the kitchen. Let me tell you something, it is hell having to be quarantined with two chefs!

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The Swedish Chef and Christy Turlington. She really does look like Lea

Kind of by accident, I started listening to cooking shows on TV. I’ve listened to all the home improvement shows multiple times, and I was getting bored with them. I don’t actually do any home improvement, so it’s not like I needed to master any of the things they do. I don’t actually cook either, but Lea and Todd started watching the cooking shows. And they say things, like, Ooh! That looks like that would be fun to make!

Maybe it wasn’t an accident…

* * * *

I’ve been making sure everything is clean and tidy, and running smoothly here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We’ve had a couple of issues with the pool. All I have to do is call our property manager, Jaime Mendoza, and let him know something needs to be repaired, and he takes care of everything else.

The solar heater for the pool seems to be about as reliable as the LG refrigerator we used to have. It’s been repaired once already this year, and needs to be repaired again. The guy who installed it, and already repaired it, is supposed to be here today. We’ll see if he actually shows up. Then we’ll see how long it takes to get the heater running again. And finally, we’ll see how long this repair will last…

We’ve been hanging out on the patio a lot lately, and seeing how we’ve all been spending so much time out there, Todd and I put our heads and resources together, and we constructed a stereo system on the patio to listen to music while we do stuff outside.

I had an Aiwa® receiver/CD player, but no speakers. Then Todd remembered he had a big box with two sets of Sony® speakers and a subwoofer, somewhere. All we had to do was figure out where he put them.

We did. The patio stereo sounds pretty damn good, but I think we need at least two more speakers to make it perfect. Four would be better, but I’ll settle for two. Todd hasn’t had anything to say about my idea because Lea thinks I’m out of my fucking mind, and he, wisely, doesn’t want to do anything to piss her off.

* * * *

For me, this quarantine experience has been like unto Retirement 2.0. I have idle time that I can’t fill with any of the activities I used to do because I had nothing else to do. Like, golf. My golf course closed at the beginning of April. It will reopen again when the lockdown ends, whenever that might be.

I’ve had to resort to gardening to fill the hours until we’re given the green light to resume our lives again. I’ve written about my experiences with gardening before. In short, it involved drinking beer and playing in the dirt.

Now, it’s just playing in the dirt. And it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. It started innocently enough. I repotted a few plants on the patio because I hadn’t paid enough attention to them and they were more or less dead.

That’s on me. I never should have ignored my responsibilities for my plants. Our maid, Monica, waters the plants when she cleans the patio, but I think she’s kind of hit or miss when it comes to watering. Her main focus is cleaning.

I’ve got my mind right now. I’m refocused, and I won’t falter in my duties again. I replanted the patio plants that weren’t completely dead in the backyard gardens, and it all went downhill from there. I spent all of last weekend working in the gardens, which was just about the stupidest thing I could do.

My back and my right knee filed for divorce from me on Monday.

* * * *

My back has been a major pain in my… back… for about the last week. Normally, it’s my lower back that bothers me. Now, it’s almost my entire spine from the third thoracic vertebrae my to my sacrum and coccyx.

I can’t sit for more than a few minutes. And moving around doesn’t always do much of anything to decrease my level of pain. I eat Motrin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It helps, but nothing makes the pain completely go away. Swinging a golf club appears to have been doing my back far more good than I realized.

I’ve been working on this post for five days because I can only write one or two paragraphs at a time, and then I have to take a break. If I’m fortunate, I might finish it sometime this week.

* * * *

Okay, back to gardening…  I’m not a master gardener. I’m more of a Chance the Gardener — from the Jerzy Kosiński novel, Being There. It was also made into a movie starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine.

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If you’re not interested in reading the novel, you can watch the movie. I love it

For those of you that don’t know, Chance was the original Forrest Gump. They’re both slow-witted, kind-hearted guys, and they both unwittingly influence everything that goes on around them. I resemble two of those three attributes.

I’m not a smart man, but I know a couple of things about playing in the dirt. Annual flowering plants are a quick way to add a lots of color to your garden. If you buy mature plants. And in a temperate climate, there’s a good chance these plants will automatically reseed themselves from year to year.

Further proof that I’m neither smart, nor a master gardener: I didn’t buy plants. I bought a bunch of packets of seeds. I’ve had some impressive results with marigold  and delphinium seeds down here, so I figured I’d have equal success with other flower seeds. All you have to do is sow them and abracadabra!

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See? I told you

I don’t know what kind of flower seeds I bought. The descriptions were in Spanish, and I was too lazy to translate the words. But the pictures showed pretty flowers. And that’s what I wanted. Pretty flowers with a lots of splashes of colors.

I picked three prime spots in the gardens, and I call them prime because other flowers were already growing around them. I cleared the areas, carefully planted my seeds, and watered them daily for a week. And not one flower sprouted. It’s probably closing in on two weeks as I write this, and I still haven’t seen anything that looks like unto a fucking flower shooting up out of the ground in those areas.

Todd says it’s possible they’ll sprout later this year, or even weirder, next year. I don’t doubt that he’s right, he knows far more about this stuff than I do. However, marigold seeds do not behave thusly. You throw them in the ground and they start growing immediately! All I know is that I’m incredibly bummed out right now.

Seeing no need to make any special preparation for my remaining seed packets, I picked a neglected corner of the gardens where nothing was growing – not even weeds – and dumped all of my remaining seeds on the ground, and watered it periodically.

I ended up with two hundred flower sprouts growing in about a ten inch by ten inch area. Yeah, of course that method worked. So, yes, I had amazing success, but no one needs that many flowers growing in a small area in a part of the garden that no one can see without a map and a pair of binoculars.

That’s how I ended up working in the garden for the entire weekend. I spent hours moving random groups of baby plants to multiple areas throughout the gardens. And I water the gardens daily. In a few months, maybe more, our gardens are going to look better than they ever have since we moved in. Maybe better than they ever have, period.

* * * *

Another thing we don’t do is go out to eat at any of the fabulous restaurants here in the Lakeside Area. We did that once after the Coronavirus precautions went into place. Our youngest daughter, Abigail, grounded us. On social media. From Minnesota.

* * * *

Social media has been both a blessing and a curse for me during this time. It’s been a blessing because I can stay connected to everyone that doesn’t hang out with me here in the living room. It’s been a curse because not all news is good news.

* * * *

Our very good friend from Arizona, Nikki Scheidecker, had a stroke last week. That came as a huge, unpleasant surprise to everyone that knows her. She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and she’s only 45. It was described as a minor stroke, but she spent the better part of a week in ICU on IV medications trying to get her blood pressure under control.

I’m not a real nurse, but this doesn’t sound like a minor stroke to me.

Her husband, Justin, has been sending out daily updates on her status via Facebook. She was moved out of ICU today, and now her rehab can begin. We wish you the best of success, Nikki. And know that you are in our thoughts and prayers for a complete recovery.

* * * *

The other Curse of Social Media has been all of the political posts. I’ve been trying to decide how deep I want to wade into the mud, slime and ooze in this post. I just took a shower, and I’m loathe to get dirty again.

I don’t post a whole lots of political posts, but if I see something funny, I’ll probably share it. I’m not a political expert, I see myself as more of a political dilettante. I despise Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham. And all the rest of the Republicans. But I’m not in love with the Democrats by any means. I think both political parties suck ass, and all of the current members of Congress need to be sent packing.

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I found this newsflash to be especially outrageous, and shared it on the Facebook

The average American household lives paycheck to paycheck. The $1200 stimulus checks that some families will receive is a drop in the bucket compared to what they really need to keep their heads above water if they are unable to earn a living during this crisis.

If you make more than $99,000 to $198,000, depending on how you file your taxes, you’re not even eligible for a stimulus check. Unless you happen to be one of the above noted select number of millionaires.

President Trump fired the man who was supposed to oversee the disbursement of stimulus funds. And he has gone on record saying that he will not adhere to a portion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that would authorize an inspector general to oversee how $500 billion in business loans will be spent.

* * * *

I foolishly thought that something The Donald did would have to backfire with his supporters. I figured this would be the something that even they couldn’t ignore.

I was wrong.

Donald Trump owns his supporters; heart and mind, body and soul. He could take a shit on their living room floor, and they would have it hermetically sealed and preserved to proudly display on their mantle. And their friends would be envious.

His hold on his supporters is bulletproof against logic, facts, and the truth because there is only one arbiter of the truth. Donald Trump. And EVERYONE else is lying. I don’t know what he put in his Kool-Aid, but that stuff is 100 proof.

Today, The Donald suggested injecting disinfectants into your veins as a possible treatment for COVID-19. This is his quote: “…And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.”

Roll up your sleeves and bend over, bitches. Trump supporters, you can jump to the front of the line. We don’t mind. After all, this is your boy talking here, and he can do no wrong.

I can’t wait to see how Dr. Donald’s Miracle Treatment works on you.

* * * *

There ended up being a fair amount of discussion on my Facebook post, both pro and con. And then the personal attacks began from the Trump supporters. It’s what their hero does all the time, so there’s no reason why they can’t do the same.

One guy chimed in that I live in a shithole country, and I should just keep my mouth shut. He’s never been to Mexico, but he’s heard a lots of stories…

A couple of people wondered if I was going to get a stimulus check. The answer is no, there are people who need the money far more than I do, like, a forty thousand millionaires who need to keep making payments on their McMansions, and their vacation homes in the Hamptons. And they have car payments on their BMW’s and Mercedes.

Someone suggested that I was jealous. Nice try, but I live in a gringo mansion in the middle of Paradise, that came equipped with a gardener and a maid. And I pay less for all of that a month than you do for the house you live in that doesn’t have a support staff.

I covet nothing. I have nothing to be jealous of.

I understand the need and the hardships that people are going through. We’ve made donations to more than one of the local food banks, as well as more than one of the local organizations that are trying to help all of the people that have been unable to provide for their families because they can’t work right now.

Hey Jealousy, can you say the same?

That same person added that some Mercedes and BMW vehicles are made in the USA. They’re probably made in China, too. What’s your point? Our Buick Encore was made in South Korea. It doesn’t mean, or even prove anything.

* * * *

Pop Quiz!

Pick the American car company because you want to Buy American:

A.) Toyota

B.) Mercedes

C.) Chevrolet

D.) BMW

Please take the quiz and leave a comment. I’ll post the results.

* * * *

And then the guy that suggested I was jealous implied that I was having sex with our maid. This guy has been a friend of mine since the 1970’s. We’re probably still friends, but it’s not the same anymore. I doubt it ever will be.

So, well done, my friend. You successfully defended a man who wouldn’t cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire. And he sure as hell wouldn’t let you be a member of any of his country clubs.

Big deal! I don’t play golf, so I don’t care!

No, you probably don’t. And once again, you’ve missed my point entirely.

I’m a guy. I might forget that you hit me below the belt, Bill. But I will never forgive you for doing it.

¡Que tengas un buen dia, pinche culero!

Q & A

It’s been a busy year so far at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We’ve had illnesses, cancer scares, and various and sundry other medical issues that needed treatment.

I  had the Mexico City Flu, and a couple of precancerous lesions by my right eye that were removed in January. At the same time, our roommate, Todd, had a Shingles outbreak around his right eye. It took about three weeks, but that has resolved, so things are getting back to normal for both of us again.

Our kit-tens, Mollie and Mika, are doing great. Mollie is helping me type right now, so this could take a while. Kit-tens are apparently immune to the flu. And Shingles. They’re still the cutest kit-tens ever.

* * * *

We’ve had visitors in February. Our beautiful and talented oldest daughter, Gwen, and her husband, John, were here for a week. While they were here, we had a major plumbing problem with the kitchen sink. It started leaking. And then it stopped draining.

I can usually fix most simple plumbing leaks on my own, but this is Mexico. I’m not sure if there are any construction codes in Mexico, and if there are, they’re probably viewed in the same manner that traffic laws are. They’re more like unto suggestions than anything else.

The pipes under the kitchen sink are a perfect example of that.

traffic jam

The plumbing looks something like unto this…

So I called Jaime Mendoza, our property manager, and he called Tacho, our general fix-it guy. Tacho looked at the weird configuration of pipes and started swearing in Spanish.

“Now you know why I wanted you here.” I said.

It took Tacho two weeks to fix the leak because he would fix one leak, and another one would mysteriously appear. After the first week, we were pretty sure that dynamite would be the best solution because houses in Mexico are made of concrete. But Tacho preserved, and he eventually fixed all of the leaks and cleared out the huge clog from somewhere under the kitchen floor without having to resort to explosives.

* * * *

We also had a couple of issues with our swimming pool. The solar heater stopped heating, and there was a leak in one of the pumps. Those problems took closer to a month to fix because the replacement parts had to be ordered from Guadalajara, and then the repairmen had to be reminded that they had to come back to install the new parts, even though they had the parts that needed to be installed.

There was a defective valve in the solar heater. Once that was replaced, it worked better than it ever has. Our solar heater isn’t the top of the line model, so we ordered five solar heating lilly pads to augment the heater from a guy named Rodrigo. He owns a garden store that sells a lots of pool equipment. We’re going to pick them up later today. The total cost on those is less than $50 US.

And the leaking pump was sorted out with a new gasket.

Mischief. Managed.

* * * *

The heat shields on my propane grill needed to be replaced because they had more or less disintegrated in the eleven years that I’ve been using it. Finding replacement parts for your grill isn’t a big deal in the States. It’s a huge deal in Mexico. The easiest way to replace the three heat shields here seemed to be to buy a new propane grill, and while a lots of things are way less expensive in Mexico, propane grills aren’t one of them.

And then I met Ed and Kat. Ed is grizzled-looking gringo who kind of retired down here, but still wants to work for some unfathomable reason. Kat may or may not be Ed’s wife. She’s a very attractive Latina, probably thirty years younger than Ed. She has really big eyes, so she’s a lots of fun to talk to.

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I love the Google Image Search!

Ed opened a shop called Baja Grills that sells propane grills and smokers. And fishing bait and supplies. And hot tubs. And fireplace inserts. And stuff…  He didn’t have the replacement heat shields I needed, so he made new ones for me. They probably cost me $60 US. 

Winter in the Lakeside Area lasts about a month — from the middle of December to the middle of January. It doesn’t get freezing-ass cold here, but there’s about a ten degree difference between the outside temperature and the temperature inside of the cavernous gringo mansion we’re renting.

It’s colder inside of our house than it is outside. We have three gas fireplaces at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable. Probably because propane fireplace inserts are outrageously expensive down here, too. 

We have three portable propane heaters that we use during the coldest month of Winter. But one of Ed and Kat’s fireplace inserts might work perfectly in our living room fireplace. Lea and I are going to go take a closer look at it later today…  It’ll all depend on what kind of deal we can get.

* * * *

And there’s been golf. Todd and I play at least three times a week, sometimes more often depending on how we feel. So far, we tend to take turns having reasonably decent rounds of golf. Last Sunday, we played 36 holes of golf. I beat Todd by three strokes on the front nine with an 89. We both shot 88 on the second 18.

Yesterday, we both sucked.

I started playing golf back in my thirties because it was the only way I could talk with my dad. He loved to play golf, and he was a wicked good golfer. My favorite part about golf back then was I could drink beer and smoke cigarettes while I golfed. And there was that whole hitting the shit out of a little white ball thing…

The more I golf, the less it resembles what I thought it was in my youth. “Good golfers hit the ball as hard as they can. Great golfers hit the ball as hard as they need to.” I can’t remember who said that, but he was right. I would add this: Good golfers have a strategy. Great golfers are able to execute it. 

Golf is like unto playing chess with an opponent that never moves any of its pieces. Hitting the shit out of a little white ball has become the least important part of my game anymore.

Strategy was something I had no concept of until I started playing in the Go-Go tournaments at my country club. Go-Go is like unto regular golf, except with a twist. Or two. And that’s where all the strategy comes into play. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave Naisby and Bill Merrell. They’re the guys that organize and coordinate the Go-Go tournaments at the Country Club de Chapala.

I can’t say they’ve made me a good golfer, but I suck a whole lots less than I did three years ago.

And then there’s that whole balance thing. I need to be physically relaxed when I hit a golf ball because my fucked up back can take only so much abuse. If my swing isn’t relaxed and fluid, I’m going to be in for a long and very painful day. But my mind has to be laser-focused because half of this game is 90% mental. And trust me when I say this: I can be too relaxed when I golf sometimes, and that’s not good.

It’s an odd set of contradictions that I have to manage every time I pick up a golf club. Sometimes it works very well. And those are the days that keep me coming back for more abuse.

It’s kind of like being a psych nurse, except the pay is worse. But you meet way fewer assholes.

* * * *

I’ve spent a few days trying to imagine this post as a question and answer piece about my nursing career. Or just a question and answer thing about anything. There’s one major obstacle to this concept. No one ever asks me anything about being a nurse. Come to think of it, they don’t ask me about much of anything else either.

So if I’m going to do this, it’s going to be all my imagination.

There’s one compelling reason for me to go down this road. A couple of my former patients have been on my mind lately. And I’ve learned not to ignore those things when they happen.

* * * *

What was the most heartbreaking thing that happened when you were a nurse?

The suicides. I was a psych nurse for thirty years. I couldn’t tell you how many of the people I had a role in caring for killed themselves after they were discharged from the hospital. There were dozens of them. In 1990, twelve Vietnam veterans at the MVAMC took their lives in one month.

I remember my first patient who took his life at the Minnesota State Hospital in Anoka. He drowned himself in the Rum River. I remember the last one, too. He was at St. Luke’s in Phoenix. He had had a stroke, and the day before he was discharged he met with everyone on the evening shift to thank them and say goodbye. He shot himself two days later.

And I vividly remember each of the five patients that killed themselves while they were still in the hospital. Those are things you never forget, no matter how much you try. If I exclude the suicides, there’s one person who jumps to the top of the list. That said, I probably have a hundred stories similar to hers.

* * * *

Her name was Audrey. I met her at the Minneapolis VAMC. She was a sweet woman in her forties. She was admitted for depression, and if I remember correctly, a lengthy list of somatic complaints. She was a cancer survivor, so one possibility was her cancer had returned.

As I’ve said before, diagnosing is essentially a process of ruling out all of the things that aren’t wrong with you until your doctor figures out what’s left. The first thing her doctor did was order a full body CT scan.

One of the great things about working at the VA was the ease of doing consults with other specialty clinics. Sometimes the consulting physicians would come to the unit, but usually we had to transport our patients to the various departments, then return them to the unit when their consult was done. 

I was transporting Audrey in a wheelchair to Radiology for her CT Scan. And she told me this story:

“I remember when this began. I had just turned 30 when the pain started. I went to see a doctor. Hell, I went to a lot of doctors. And none of them could find anything wrong with me. One of them said my pain was a figment of my imagination. You know, like I was crazy. After awhile, my friends all started thinking I was crazy. It went on for months. After about a year, even I started thinking I was crazy.

“It was so frustrating. There was nothing wrong with me, but the pain was unbearable. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have a life. All I did was go from one doctor to the next, only to hear the same fucking thing: All your tests have come back negative. We can’t find anything physically wrong with you…

“And then I was diagnosed with cancer, and this is going to sound really crazy, but I almost felt happy! I think I cried genuine tears of joy when I heard that! I was so relieved because it wasn’t just all in my head. There really was something wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy!! That’s just so fucked up, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t answer her. She looked back over her shoulder to see if I was still there. I was trying unsuccessfully to choke back my tears. 

* * * *

What’s the weirdest thing you saw in your nursing career?

There’s a lots of competition for this one. Lesbian encounters in the night. Guys accidentally getting foreign objects stuck up their asses. Guys jamming foreign objects into their penises. The list goes on. And on…  But the hands down winner has to be the guy that drove his girlfriend from Arizona to Michigan. It doesn’t sound that weird, except she was dead for most of the trip.

I don’t have any other stories like unto this one.

Her name was Christine. She was 31 years old, and was a frequent flyer at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. She was a dual diagnosis patient, meaning on top of her psychiatric issues she was also chemically dependent. In layman’s terms, Christine was a trainwreck. She was one of the most exhausting patients I’ve ever met, and I wasn’t her nurse. Now that I think about it, she wasn’t even on my unit, and I probably spent more time interacting with her than I did with all of my patients combined. 

Christine lives forever in my Top Five Patients From Hell List.

In June of 2014, Christine was discharged from the hospital. She was picked up by Ray, her 62 year old boyfriend, and Ray’s 93 year old mother. We cheerfully waved goodbye as they all climbed into Ray’s van and headed off to Michigan. We prayed that they all made it there safely and never returned to Arizona again. Ever.

Christine probably accidentally overdosed on her discharge medications by swallowing the entire contents of a bottle of OxyContin on purpose, and then died to death somewhere in Oklahoma. See? I told you she was a trainwreck.

And then the weird part happened. Rather than stop and report what happened to the police, Ray put a pair of sunglasses on her face, placed a teddy bear on her lap, and kept on driving.

Across hot and humid Oklahoma to steamy Missouri, through sweltering Indiana into Illinois — you get the picture– stopping only for gas, fast food and bathroom breaks until he made it to Michigan. And then Ray decided to notify the police that something had happened to his girlfriend. It didn’t take the police long to figure out what was wrong because Christine’s body had begun to decompose. 

Police chose not to press any charges against Ray. Or his mother.

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This is Ray. The story of his road trip made National News. You could look it up on the Google…

* * * *

When I first envisioned this post, I had imagined a lots more questions and a few more stories. And then I realized most of my stories bear a lots of similarities to each other, so there’s that.

It might explain why no one asks me a lots of questions.

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.