The Impermanence of Memory

It’s been another good day here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. 

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They’ve all been good days.

Most of the our kit-tens are getting along well with each other, most of the time. Todd and Julia and Lea and I are all getting along well with each other. Julia is Todd’s girlfriend. She doesn’t live here, but she spends a fair amount of time hanging out here. In that regard, things are going about as smoothly as they can.

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The Minnesota Vikings have won four games in a row now that I’ve become a Detroit Lions fan. Unfortunately, one of the teams my old favorite team beat in that stretch is my new favorite team.

My lovely supermodel wife is actually upset with me for changing allegiances. She says it’s disgusting! I’d think she’d feel a bit of gratitude…  At any rate, I’m still rooting for the Lions. And if things continue on this arc, the Vikings might win a Super Bowl before I die.

* * * *

Todd and I bought a golf cart last week, officially making us serious golfing guys. Now all we have to do is start golfing like serious golf guys. And get the brakes fixed on our cart. And probably the steering…

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Presentando el carrito nacional de golf de México

We had all of the batteries replaced when we bought it, so it runs great. Stopping has been somewhat problematic at times…

Seeing how my life is as close to perfect as it will ever be, the Universe has to provide a few areas for me that aren’t ideal, otherwise there would be an imbalance in The Force, and we all know what happens after that.

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Whoa. It’s even worse than I thought…

Right now, all of my problems start and end with golf.

Problem #1. The Rainy Season has essentially turned our golf course into a swamp. Swamp Golf might sound like fun, but it’s not. In my case it has everything to do with wet socks. When my socks get wet, all I want to do is sit down and cry. The seasonal rains should end in a couple of weeks, then everything will start drying out and Allergy Season can begin again.

That should benefit my score. 

Problem #2. Todd and I have been taking golf lessons because we’re serious golfing guys now, and that’s another thing serious golfers do. I’ve been trying to tweak a few things with my swing to improve the consistency and quality of my shots. I seriously want to get rid of those shots of random suckdom that plague every golfer at pretty much any level of skill.

If I can do that, that will definitely benefit my score.

Problem #3. My biggest problem has been vision related. I now have three pairs of glasses with the same prescription, but each of them is just a little bit different. Depending on the weather conditions, I was shuffling my corrective lenses around when I golfed.

Between minor variations in how I was seeing, golf lessons to change my swing, and then trying to remember all of the things I was supposed to be doing — I wasn’t having random shots of suckdom. They all sucked!

That hasn’t benefitted my score at all!

I quit shuffling my glasses. I’m wearing my newest pair all the time now, and my eyes are getting used to them. I stopped thinking about the seven things I’m supposed to be doing and focused on a three. Keep your head down. Slow down your back swing. And follow through.

I played nine holes with my golf wife, Phyllis, this morning. I shot a 47. I one-putted five greens because my chip shots were so deadly. And, I replaced the black laces in my magic golf shoes this morning with bright neon green laces. That might have been a contributing factor. Julia needed black laces for her Medusa costume, so I gave her mine.

My caddy, Francisco Flores Bernini, told me I was fun to watch. It’s the first time he’s said that to me. I’m not sure there are any words to describe how pleased I was to hear that.

* * * *

Lea has been helping Julia with her zombie costume much more than I have. The Thrill the World dance is this Saturday. A bunch of people all across the world dress up like zombies and dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Julia is going to be zombie Medusa. 

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In Greek mythology, Medusa was one of the Gorgons, three beautiful sisters — Medusa, Stheno and Euryale — who were turned into dreadful, horrifying monsters with live, venomous snakes for hair by the goddess Athena. They were so hideous that anyone who gazed upon them was turned to stone.

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If you’ve never seen the featured image of my latest blog, you really need to get out more. It’s The Persistence of Memory, by the Spanish artist, Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol. He’s one of the best known Dadaist artists of the 20th Century.

Dadaism was an art movement that began in Europe after World War I. Dadaists thought the modern world was stupid and meaningless, so they set out to ridicule it as much as they could before they got dead.

Little Known Fact About Salvador Dali: he hated paying for anything, and whenever he wrote a check he would draw something on the back, knowing the person he wrote it out to would never cash it.

There’s a whole page of his check art on the Interweb. You could look it up if you’re interested…

* * * *

Memory is a tricksy thing. How tricksy is it, you might ask. Well, scientists have been studying memory ever since one of them tied a string around his finger, way back in 1885, so he wouldn’t forget to start studying it. And after all that time, no one understands the exact mechanism of how memory works.

Originally, many experts were fond of describing memory as a sort of tiny filing cabinet full of individual memory folders in which information was stored away. This cabinet was in a select part of the brain.

As technology adanced, researchers likened memory to a neural supercomputer wedged under the human scalp. One with an undetermined amount of RAM. And memory was stored in more than one area of the brain.

Today, experts believe that memory is far more complex and elusive — and that it is located not in one particular place in the brain — but is instead a brain-wide process.

* * * *

I used to think I had a great memory. I no longer think that. Aging affects memory. So does drug and alcohol abuse. And trauma. When I take all of that into consideration, I’m impressed that I still remember my name.

I’ve kind of written about some of the aspects of my particular flavor of insanity. I admitted that I have thought insertions. You can read about it in my archives if you like. Or you can Google it…

In a manner somewhat similar to the way that other people’s thoughts can somehow be inserted into my mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that they can also seemingly be extracted. I could give you an example, but how do you explain something that you can’t remember anymore?

Let’s find out.

* * * *

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Behold, the Pleiades

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, are a star cluster in the constellation Taurus. They’re somewhat west and north of the constellation Orion. You should be able to recognize Orion. It’s one of the most conspicuous constellations in the night sky. If you’re awake at around 5:00 AM this time of year, look up. It’ll probably be right over your head.

* * * *

In Greek mythology, Orion was a supernaturally strong hunter of ancient times. He was the son of Euryale (Yep, the aforementioned hideous sister of Medusa), and Poseidon, the god of the sea.

Everything I’ve read about Orion indicates he was a complete asshole. He liked getting drunk. He raped Merope, the princess of Thebes. And then he decided he wanted to kill pretty much everything that moved. So Gaea, the goddess of the earth, killed him to death.

In the Bible, there once was a mighty hunter named Nimrod. Orion and Nimrod are probably one in the same. Interesting side note: Nimrod allegedly ordered the construction of the Tower of Babel.

* * * *

Hey, that’s really cool and all, but what does this have to do with you not being able to remember stuff? That’s what we were talking about, right?

If you look at the Pleiades with the naked eye, the only way you can see them somewhat clearly is with peripheral vision. When you look directly at them, they practically disappear.

That’s what it’s like with some of my memories. I know they existed. I even know the context in which they existed. But when I try to find them, they are gone. I’m not sure that explanation makes any sense to you, but that’s as close as I can get.

* * * *

Back when I was a nurse, other nurses, girl nurses — real nurses — would sometimes ask me what the essence of my job was. Real nurses don’t tend to have a lots of respect for psych nurses. They think psych nurses are essentially babysitters for icky people. And I would tell them a story.

It was about a mother talking to her child. And that’s the extent of what I can remember. I can’t remember how I came to know the story. It might have been something I actually experienced. I know I told the story at least three times that I can remember, and you’d think I’d remember something I did that many times.

There’s one other thing I remember: that story was fucking perfect. 

Those real nurses would look at me and think, Damn! I totally want to have sex with this guy! Okay, they probably didn’t think that, but they had a higher level of respect for pysch nursing and psych nurses for at least a few minutes after they heard it.

* * * *

I don’t know how explain Donald Trump’s frequent lapses of memory, especially in terms of geography. In his latest gaffe he apparently thinks Colorado is one of the states bordering Mexico because he said part of his Great Southern Border Wall is being built there.

He called the European country of Belgium a beautiful city. And he thinks Paris, France is in Germany. Nor does he understand the differences between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

The Donald said this during an interview with Piers Morgan in August of this year:

TRUMP: You have different names — you can say “England,” you can say “UK,” you can say “United Kingdom” so many different — you know you have, you have so many different names — Great Britain. I always say: “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?’
MORGAN: You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?
TRUMP: Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that. But you have lots of different names. The fact is you make great product, you make great things. Even your farm product is so fantastic.

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There are a few possible explanations for Trump’s general lack of geographical knowledge.

Theory #1. He’s old. He’s 73. As stated earlier, aging does impact memory. So that’s a remote possibility. Plus, all those places. They’re never in the same place twice. If only the planet would stop spinning. Then locations would finally settle down and stay in one place.

Theory #2. He fabricates stuff all the time. Maybe he thinks he can do the same with geography because it’s so difficult for anyone to actually ascertain the exact position of any particular place on this planet. It might also be a symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome, so there’s that.

Theory #3. He’s an idiot.

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The prosecution rests.

Halftime Adjustments

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin.

* * * *

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

* * * *

“All battle plans are perfect, until the first shot is fired.” ~ Variation of a quote by Prussian military commander, Field Marshall Helmuth van Moltke.

* * * *

“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” ~ Old Yiddish adage. It means, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”

* * * *

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. Don’t be a damn fool about it.” ~ Mark Twain.

* * * *

Back when I was a psych nurse, I used to encourage my dysfunctional patients to come up with a plan to make some positive changes in their lives. Write down the steps you need to make. Review your plan daily. Most of all, follow through with your plan of action. Otherwise, we’ll see you here again in six months or so…

Before you get the idea that this is going to be one of those self-improvement seminars, relax. You’re probably not going to learn anything here that you don’t already know, and I’m not at all interested in helping you become a better person.

That’s your job. If that’s what you want to do, get off your ass and do it.

Back to strategic planning. It’s a bit ironic because I’ve rarely made any plans, and I sure as hell never wrote any of them down. As I look back on my life, I’d have to say that I was fairly successful. I’m married to supermodel. I’m retired, living a luxury resort lifestyle in a gringo mansion in paradise. 

I must have done something right despite the fact that I put so little effort into planning any of it.

As confused as I am by life, I’m not sure if that statement is an accurate assessment. As for the secret to my success, I’m even more confused by that. The most useful piece of information my father ever gave me about life was this: If you dress professionally, people will automatically assume that you know what you’re doing. And they’ll continue to think that until you prove them wrong.”

I didn’t have any sense of fashion until I married a supermodel. After that, I was dressed to kill. If I had only been able to keep my mouth shut, there’s no telling how far the Peter Principal would have taken me…

* * * *

There’s little doubt that plans are useful tools, but all plans have one fatal flaw. Success is never guaranteed, not matter how comprehensive your plan is. Except in those Mission Impossible movies.

Good planning is nice, but in my humble opinion, the most important attribute for success is the ability to adjust quickly on the fly. And be persistent. Look at your objective from different angles. I  have never had a Plan A go off without a hitch. But I have had a couple of Plan G’s that worked out pretty good.

* * * *

Nursing is an occupation that requires a lots of different talents, and time management is one of the most valuable skills you can have. Back when I was a psych nurse, I learned there are essentially three types of nurses when it came to managing their time.

Some nurses developed a routine. Well, it’s more like they worshipped the routine.

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Rigid seems to be the best word to describe them. Any deviation from the routine spelled disaster. For everyone.

Some nurses didn’t develop any routine. Trainwreck seems to be the best word to describe them, for many reasons. They were hell to work with, and their personal lives were disaster areas.

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They appeared to have no real concept of Time. They were always running ten minutes late for everything, including getting to work on time. When their shift ended, they still had to finish charting on all of their patients. Which spelled disaster for the oncoming shift.

Most nurses tend to fall in a third category that’s somewhat hard to define. They just went with the flow and got shit done. Flexibly competent is the best term to describe them. Those are the nurses you wanted to work with. No matter what happened, you knew it was to be a good day when they were on duty.

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They were Rockstar Nurses. If there’s anything I miss about Nursing, it’s them.

* * * *

I have a few updates on our retirement lives. The only reason I’m ending with this and not starting with it is because I didn’t plan anything that I’ve written so far, as usual. But it just might illustrate the importance of being able to adjust on the fly. Here’s a free pro-tip for you: If you can’t do that, you do not want to move to Mexico.

One of the biggest adjustments people have to make after they retire is something I call Spousal Fatigue. It happens when you start spending every moment of every day with the person you married. You didn’t have to do that when you were working. You had time apart. You got to talk to other people.

And in one day, all of that changes. You don’t have to go to work anymore. You don’t have other people to talk to. It’s just you, and your spouse, and no one else. All day. All night. Every day and night, until death do you part.

It’s not a big deal for Lea and I. We actually like each other. And we don’t feel we have to do everything together. We understand that sometimes it’s just nice to do something all by yourself.

My lovely supermodel wife and my golf wife are flying to the States next week. They’ll be gone for ten days. But on the day they depart, Lea’s boyfriend will be flying in. Todd has been trying to sell his house in Idaho and move to the Lakeside Area, but that plan hasn’t gone according to plan, which sucks.

He says he needs a break from all that crap, so he’s going to take a vacation for a few weeks and come hang out with me. And his girlfriend. It’ll be great for all of us. Lea and Phyllis can go shopping and visit family. Todd and I can go golfing and throw wild pool parties. That will end at 6:00 PM because no one wants to drive home in the dark.

Retirement living. It’s every bit as exciting as you thought it would be.

* * * *

Our refrigerator is working again! So is the freezer!! And the ice maker!!! 

It only took three weeks to fix this time. But it’s the third time we’ve had it repaired in nine months. Maybe they got all the bugs out of it this time. The technicians were here for almost three hours, and it was a different team of technicians. Maybe the LG Service Department decided to send their A Team…  They were probably getting as tired of having to fix their piece of shit refrigerator as we were of having to move all of our perishable food from the house to the casita.

We’ll have a better idea of how successful they were in a few months.

* * * *

The motion sensor for the magic lights in the hallway to our bedroom died. Big deal, right? Just replace it. Yep, sounds simple, but I can’t find another one. And I have looked everywhere that even remotely looks like it might sell electrical equipment. Except the sex shop in Ajijic.

I did find another sensor, but it wasn’t an exact replacement for our dead sensor. It cost about five bucks. It doesn’t work because of the way the lights in the hallway are wired. I know this because I had a guy who knows a helluva lot more about electricity than I do come over and try to hook up the new sensor. In order to get my new five dollar sensor to work, I’d probably have to spend three thousand bucks to rewire the entire fucking house.

If we owned this house, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But for the first time in thirty years, we’re renting. I’m not sure there are written construction codes for this part of Mexico. Even if there are, not every contractor follows them. Obviously…  

We’ve had to resort to physically turning the lights on and off, by hand! I know right, that totally sucks! But yesterday, a glimmer of hope previously unplanned for appeared out of nowhere, like so many other times in my life.

My golf caddy, house painter, and good friend, Francisco Flores Bernini, called me and told me he had ordered a replacement sensor from the hardware store in San Nicolás de Ibarra. It’s a small village right next to the golf course I belong to. Most of the caddies live there.

The sensor he ordered might be in stock in a few days. I hope it works. I’m not sure how much longer we can go on living like this.

* * * *

Speaking of golf, it’s the only reason I can think of why we’re here right now. When we decided to retire, we weren’t really sure what we going to do, or where we were going to go. The only thing we knew for sure was we couldn’t afford to stay where we were.

Then the universe opened every door that led us to the Lakeside Area. Rather than swim against the tide that would bring us here, we decided to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Our Christian friends in Arizona suggested that we were “…following God’s Will.” Yeah, whatever, I guess. If we’re here because of God’s Will, He hasn’t been very vocal about what He wants us to accomplish for Him now that we’re here.

So I started playing golf. And as near as I can tell, that’s what God wants me to do. I figure He must be getting more than a few laughs out of watching me golf because He hasn’t given me any other instructions so far.

* * * *

I’ve asked my lovely supermodel wife why she thinks we’re here. She said God wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor and live happily ever after. Yeah, from what I can tell, that’s pretty much the last reason God would ever have.

Lea asked me why I thought we were here. Clearly, God wanted us to get out of Arizona in a hurry because the Yellowstone supervolcano was about to erupt, California was going to tumble into the ocean, and God wanted us to be in a safe place so the people He really cared about would have a place of refuge to go to.

* * * *

So, we’re back to golf. Of all of the reasons, it appears to be the only one that makes any sense.

I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to be God numerous times. I would need some serious comic relief to keep me from coming down here and knocking some goddamn sense into most of humanity. I might be performing a valuable public service to all of mankind. Or not…  It depends on your point of view.

My golf game lately hasn’t been anything to write home about, but I have taken on a couple of new…duties, I guess, at my golf course. I became a contributing editor to the Country Club de Chapala Facebook page. (@golfinchapala)

You can check it out. It’s a public page. Since I took it over, viewership has gone up something like two hundred percent.

I wish I could say the same thing about my blog page…

Additionally, I kind of became the Unofficial Official Photographer of Events and Stuff at CCdC. I posted a bunch of photos on the above mentioned Facebook page of the last two tournaments. They’ve been well received so far.

One of my friends commented that she didn’t know I was so talented. That made me laugh because I interpreted it to mean that she didn’t know I had any talent. Well, she has seen me golf, so it’s understandable.

And I’ve been attending some the Golf Tournament Committee meetings for the last several months. Of all the things I’ve been doing at the golf course, this is probably the most confusing one. Even more confusing than trying to read a green.

I hate meetings. I don’t care what they’re about. Meetings carry a connotation of officiality. People take notes at meetings. Plans of action are put forth. And stuff like unto that.

I worked for the Federal government for two decades. I went to a whole lots of committee meetings. Committees that took a simple issue and turned it into a problem that was so fucked up we had to meet once a month to discuss possible solutions to a problem that never existed for three years. Maybe it was five years…  I was a long time ago, and I’ve been trying to forget that it ever happened.

Dude, if you hate committees so much, why do you go to the meetings?

That’s actually a good question. It’s all Naisby’s fault.

Dave Naisby is a member of the country club. He’s one of the first members I met after I joined. He’s from Scotland, so he’s fun to listen to even when he doesn’t have anything interesting to say, which is rare. Anyway, he asked me to come to one double-secret golf tournament sub-committee meeting five months ago. I have no experience organizing anything more complicated than my sock drawer, so I’m still not sure why Dave asked me. But I like Dave, and for that reason alone, I agreed.

It would appear that attending one meeting is the only prerequisite for being allowed to attend more meetings because now everyone who is officially on the tournament committee thinks I’m on the committee, and they ask me questions, like, Why weren’t you at the meeting last week?

As innocuous as all this sounds, I see the potential for disaster. Once you’re on a committee, people tend to start asking you to do, you know, things.

Could you bring this up at the next meeting? How would you like to be the next president? We’d like it if you would start singing at Karaoke night.

Any of the above would be enough to make me reconsider my membership. I might even quit golfing. And that would create conflict with the Will of God. And we all know what happens after that:

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The Bells

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably noticed something. For a guy living in paradise with a supermodel wife, I tend to complain about a lots of stuff. Yeah, it’s weird, but there’s little doubt that I live the life of Riley.

Unless you’re a geezer like unto me and others in my generation, you might not have any idea what that phrase means. Basically, it means a carefree, peaceful, easy life. The phrase came into common usage around the time of World War I. And  it turns out that it probably refers to the life of a real person–Willy Reilly– who lived in Sligo, Ireland during the late 1800’s.

Yeah, who knew?

In hipster lingo this phrase most likely translates into Easy Peasy Mac and Cheesey. Possibly. I wouldn’t really know. I’m at the age where talking hip probably means you’re talking about your hip replacement.

In my defense, if I didn’t have anything to complain about, I probably wouldn’t have anything to write about. No one wants to hear about how much better your life is than theirs is all the time. And I don’t care how great your life is, mine beats yours every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Besides, complaining is a time honored pastime of retired people. It’s probably a force of habit. We did it all the time. We used to complain about our jobs, our annoying know-it-all bosses, and our fucking annoying idiot co-workers. So there’s that. Habits are hard to break.

Granted, I have less to complain about than probably anyone else I know, including my lovely supermodel wife. After all, she is married to me. I’ve stated that my sole purpose in life is to keep her happy. But I think my unstated purpose is to also drive her a little bit crazy from time to time.

There was that fan thing…

We don’t have air conditioning at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We don’t really need it. But a couple of months ago Lea decided she wanted a fan for the bedroom because the hottest month of the year in the Lakeside Area is May. She thought if we waited until May to buy a fan, there wouldn’t be any fans for sale when we needed one. That’s kind of how things work down here.

Walmart had a veritable mountain of fans available in March. All I had to do was buy one fan that would help keep the bedroom cool at night. There was nothing all that complicated about my mission. I knew which fan Lea would buy if she had done the smart thing and gone to the store herself. I even put her fan in my shopping cart. 

And then I saw it.

An industrial strength, turbo-charged fan with a hemi engine. And that’s the fan I bought. It’s a thing of beauty as far as fans go. It has three speeds: Gale Force Wind, Category 2 Hurricane, and Blown Away. I had a feeling I had made a mistake when I was assembling it. It kind of sounded like unto a jet airplane taxiing down the runway when I turned on. 

Yep. Lea hated it.

Well, it wasn’t a total loss. I moved it out to the North Wing of the patio. From there, it directs a reasonably manageable stream of air toward the South Wing of the patio. Lea spends a lots of time out there. I thought it would help cool the patio down in the heat of the afternoon. The best result has been that Lea doesn’t hate it out there.

I bought a second fan for the bedroom, the one I had originally planned on buying, and it works perfectly. I really should pay more attention to that little voice in my head that tells me when I’m about to do something stupid…

* * * *

If you’re a Game of Thrones aficionado, you’ll understand the title of this post. If you’re not, go away. You have no business being here.

Speaking only for myself, I think HBO made a huge mistake when they filmed only six episodes for the final season. There’s just too much stuff to try to distill down that quickly.

It’s like trying to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and everyone’s birthdays over one weekend. It can be done, but it’s probably not pretty.

* * * *

“Here. Open this gift.”

“What holiday is it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even care. Look at the wrapping paper.”

“But this isn’t for me. It has someone else’s name on it!”

“Oh well, now it’s yours. Shut up and open your goddamn present, or I’ll cut you open from belly button to brisket.”

* * * *

The Bells is the title of Episode 5 of the final season. It was the climactic battle in the war for the Iron Throne, the seat of power in Westeros that everyone with a claim to has staked their lives on.

When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.

Truer words were never spoken. The series has gone from dozens of main characters to a handful. Maybe less. Almost everyone, both good and bad, have been killed to death. Some of them more than once.

There’s one episode left, roughly eighty minutes of opportunity for the producers to kill off two or three of the remaining characters who have somehow avoided getting beheaded, stabbed, shot, executed, poisoned, assassinated, or burned to a crisp until now.

And there was plenty of that in the last episode.

There was only one small, tiny, insignificant detail. It wasn’t supposed to work out that way. It was a given that some people would have to got dead. Queen Daenerys Targaryen had assembled all of her remaining armies outside of King’s Landing, the seat of ultimate power in Westeros, to battle the armies of her remaining enemies, Queen Cercei Lannister and King Euron Greyjoy.

The Good Guys would storm the city. The Bad Guys would see that they had no hope of victory. They would surrender, lay down their arms, and ring the bells. And a whole lots of bloodshed could be avoided. That was the plan.

Queen Daenerys had always said that she wanted to change the world, to actually make it a better place. She wanted to end slavery, oppression, and tyranny. It’s the reason why everyone fell in love with her. That was her fucking mission statement!

But then a funny thing happened on her way to the top. She was betrayed multiple times, most recently by Cercei Lannister, the lying-ass bitch currently sitting on the Iron Throne. Cercei promised to send her armies north to fight against the Night King and his horde of zombie warriors.

She didn’t.

Ser Jorah Mormont, trusted counselor and body guard to Good Queen Daenerys, was indirectly killed to death by Evil Queen Cercei’s treachery when he fell during the Battle of Winterfell. To add insult to injury, Evil Queen Cercei publicly executed Good Queen Daenerys’ other trusted advisor, the sweet and beautiful Missandei of Naath. That happened right after Evil Queen Cercei and Even More Eviler King Euron killed Daenerys’ second dragon to death.

As if that wasn’t enough, Dani threatened to kill one of her few remaining advisors if he fucked up one more time. Then she had another of her advisors executed because he really fucked up one more time. And then her boyfriend told her that he loved her, but he couldn’t have sex with her anymore. Probably because he’s her nephew.

So it was a very different Daenerys that we saw Sunday night. She was more than a little emotionally unbalanced as she went into what she called The Last War. She climbed onto the back of her one remaining dragon.

And. It. Was. On.

I’ve had mixed emotions over just about every episode this season, but this one was probably the worst for me. And just about every other fan on the planet.

Daenerys single-dragonedly destroyed an entire fleet of ships and most of the sailors aboard them. She destroyed the main gates of the King’s Landing, killing most of the army defending those gates, then barbecued all of the defenders on the walls and ramparts. So much for the pivotal role the highly vaunted Golden Company would play in this story. That was probably the most disappointing part of this episode.

Once the gates had been breached, the rest of the city’s defenders surrendered. The bells started ringing…

And, Daenerys didn’t care. She and her dragon systematically destroyed the city block by block, then she destroyed the castle. Neither did most of her invading armies. They slaughtered everyone they saw. Soldier, civilian, man, woman and child.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died in the process.

There is some good news in this. For once, Jon Snow didn’t need to be rescued during a battle he commanded. And some very non-innocent people finally got killed to death. Euron Greyjoy, Qyburn, and The Mountain all got the deaths they needed. Cersei probably got dead, too, but maybe not. Lea thinks she somehow survived having ten tons of brick fall on her, so we’ll see. But her death was certainly not the death she deserved.

But now the big question is this: Did Daenerys simply vent a considerable amount of repressed anger and rage at her enemies when she went combustible, or did she go one step beyond batshit crazy when she ignited an entire city on the back of her fire-breathing dragon?

The producers have certainly been pushing her character in that direction, which is really disappointing. How can you trust someone who says, Trust me. I won’t kick you in balls. And then kicks you in the balls. Really hard.

If that’s the case, someone will have to kill Evil Queen Daenerys to death to ensure that she doesn’t become the one thing she started out meaning to destroy. And she would potentially be worse than any of the tyrants she threw down when she was struggling to reach the pinnacle of power. A psychobitch with PMS, and the last living dragon. And someone will probably have to kill that goddamn dragon, too.

Eighty minutes. It’s not a terribly long time. How much can happen? In this case, next Sunday night, everything is on the line. A lots of right things have to happen, and they seemingly have to happen in rapid succession. The producers only have one chance to get it right. So, you know, no pressure.

And they all lived happily ever after…

Yeah, definitely not going to happen.

Some of them lived, and it wasn’t the most ludicrous ending we’ve ever seen.

Speaking only for myself, and eighteen million other people, that seems to be the best we can hope for right now…

The Glamorous Life

It’s been a quiet week here in the Lakeside Area. Most of the weeks are quiet here. It’s kind of a bucolic place. That’s probably why so many people decide to retire here. However, it is Mexico. And it comes to celebrating just about anything, the locals don’t take a backseat to anyone.

Holy Week, Semana Santa, is coming up. Ajijic hosts a passion play every year. I hear it’s very good. You could check it out if you’re interested. Just in cases you don’t know what a passion play is, it’s a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s a very Catholic tradition. Mexico is a very Catholic country.

During Holy Week, the Lakeside Area is going to be packed with tapatios, pilgrims, and tourists, which is why I’ll be at home. There’ll be the passion play, and bands playing at the bars and los eventos, and the eruption of cohetes will fill the air.

Tapatío, in general terms, is a colloquial Mexican term for someone from Guadalajara. In more specific Lakeside terms, it’s someone from Guadalajara who comes down here to escape from the Big City for the weekend.

We used to do something similar when lived in the States. When we lived in Minneapolis, we’d go up to the North Shore. It’s still my favorite place on Earth. When we lived in Phoenix, we’d go up into the mountains to Prescott or Payson.

Urban living certainly has its advantages. Jobs. Entertainment. Shopping malls. Fine dining. Paved roads. It also has it disadvantages. Air pollution. Traffic jams. Crime. Mostly, all of the other fucking people that also live there. The population of Guadalajara is around seven million people. If you lived there, you’d want to get the hell out of there, too.

* * * *

We go to Guadalajara every couple of months to shop at Costco. Or the high end malls. It’s an adventure every time, mostly because of the traffic. Guadalajara was a little town that became a huge city with little to no civic planning. If you live there, you’ll eventually learn your way around. If you don’t, you hire a driver, or you have to depend on GPS to get from Point A to Point B. You are not going to just drive around and hope you find what you’re looking for.

We’ve lived in big cities before. We’re not daunted by traffic. And we have a system. Lea drives and I navigate. I’m a better navigator than she is. And Lea loves to drive. She’d probably love it more if she still had her sportscar. But the roads here make a vehicle like that impractical. And you can’t load a lots of stuff into a 370z.

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Our current vehicle is a Buick Encore. I’ll probably keep it for a couple more years, then get an Audi Q3. I’ll have to get rid of my American plated car and buy a Mexican plated car at that time. The Audi Q3 isn’t a sportscar, but it’ll still be a lots fun for Lea to drive. And it has a great stereo system, which is the only thing I care about when it comes to cars.

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I actually bought a car once because of the stereo. I didn’t even take it for a test drive. I played with the radio for a couple of minutes without ever leaving the sales lot. I told the salesman to write it up, I’d take it.

“Don’t you want to take it for a test drive?” he asked, a bit dumbfounded.

“No. I want to drive it to work. Today. My shift starts at 3:00. You have two hours. You better get busy or you’re going to miss a sale.”

* * * *

I still have no idea what I’m going to write about. Maybe this will end up being a general update on our glamorous retirement lives…

We haven’t had to deal with any major issues at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa lately. Jaime says he’s still looking for a replacement faucet for the kitchen, but the longer this goes on the more I think he’s decided he’s decided he can live with our temporary faucet, too.

It’s not a big deal. We love it here. The most annoying thing about living here revolves around our satellite TV service and the download speed for our Interweb service.

As I’ve said before, we don’t actually watch a lots of TV, but we almost always have the TV on for background noise. Silence might be golden to some people, but it drives me crazy. After thirty years as a psych nurse, I’m accustomed to noise. The absence of noise disturbs me greatly.

Wow. I can’t believe I just said that. I don’t think I had realized how much I hate silence until now.

We have Shaw Direct for our satellite TV. Shaw is a Canadian company. We had next to no problems with them at our last house. Here, our satellite feed seems to be somewhat sketchy at times. Again, not a huge deal. I’ve become very skilled at rebooting our PVR box.

If there’s one thing that seems to drive all ex-pats crazy, it’s a slow Interweb connection. Hey, we’re spoiled. We didn’t have this issue before we moved here. There aren’t a lots of options when it comes to this suddenly vital service. Basically, you can go with Telmex® or Telecable®. Compared to speed-of-light fiber optic cable, they both suck. And neither of them seem to care.

Telmex® is essentially the Mexican version of the American communications giant, AT&T, before it was broken up into a bunch of smaller companies. Telmex® is a telecommunication monster down here. It owns eighty percent of the telephone lines in the country.

We had Telmex® service at our last house. I guess it was okay most of the time, though we consistently had issues whenever we wanted to stream movies through our KODI box.

We have Telecable® at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. I wasn’t enamored with our service when we first moved in. So I tried calling the office, and that’s when I discovered there isn’t an office phone. You actually can’t call the office unless you have the cellphone number of one of the service reps, and I doubt they give their numbers out to anyone.

On their website Telecable® lists two levels of service available in the Lakeside Area: 5 Mbps and 10 Mbps. So I went down to the office to talk to one of their service representatives about upgrading my package. That’s when I met Carmen and Marisol. And I wasn’t quite so pissed off anymore. Okay, they’re young, and beautiful. And they have really big eyes. And nice smiles.

Carmen said yes, I could upgrade my package, except for one small detail. They only offer 5 Mbps in the Lakeside Area. I’d have to live in Guadalajara to qualify for the 10 Mbps service.

There is a fiber optic cable company that is getting started in Lakeside. ILOX started running lines in specific areas late last year. I have no idea when there service will be available here. Maybe I’ll wander into their office one of these days, except I doubt their service reps will be as attractive as Carmen and Marisol…

Given the limitations of available Interweb service, and the sudden sketchiness of our satellite service, we talked to one of our friends, Donald Stordahl. Donald has a streaming TV service here in the Lakeside Area. We rented one of his boxes for a month, and then I remembered I already had two streaming devices, and they were already paid for. I hooked them up and gave Donald his box back.

And everything was great until I blew up my Amazon Firestick. I had tried to download the latest update, and after that it wouldn’t work. I have no idea what went wrong, I only knew that I felt like I accidentally hit that red LAUNCH button, and there was nothing I could do to stop the missiles.

Seeing how I couldn’t repair my Firestick, I decided to buy another one, you know, eventually. But then Donald bought a used Firestick and asked me if I wanted it, seeing how I had just destroyed mine. He seems to be a pretty savvy businessman, from my perspective.

My previous Firestick had been jailbroken. The one I bought from Donald wasn’t, so I channeled my inner Millennial, and went online to learn how to do stuff.

There are a lots of online tutorials about tweaking your Firestick. I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to do this, given that I’d just destroyed my last Firestick by trying to update it. But all you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions, and I’ll be damned, it worked!

I’ll tell ya what, I was pretty goddamn proud of myself for a couple of days there. I successfully downloaded and installed the most recent KODI app, and the Mobdro app. Then I got my lovely supermodel wife addicted to Game of Thrones, and the rest is history.

* * * *

The final season of Game of Thrones airs this Sunday. Like every other fan, Lea and I have been speculating about who’s going to win the Great Game and sit on the Iron Throne. I don’t care who it is, just as long as it isn’t Cercei Lannister. She needs to got dead, soon.

Will the Golden Company help her maintain her grip on the reins of power, or will they break a contract for the first time ever and go fight against the Night King and his army from Hell? And how many of my favorite characters are going to get killed to death…

How are Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen going to defeat an army of animated dead warriors, White Walkers, and a zombie dragon? And what will they do when they discover that they’re related? Will Jon freak out when he finds out he’s been having sex with his aunt?

Who will kill The Mountain? What the hell is a Three-eyed Raven, and what sort of spooky superpowers does Bran Stark really have?

The good news is we’ll all find out soon. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

¡Hola amigos! ¿Cómo están?

I know I haven’t written anything lately, so I’d like to thank my faithful readers for stepping up and demanding that I get back to work. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I don’t know how I’d respond if it ever did.

I’ve been busy. My lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend has been here for the last couple of weeks, so we’ve been kind of occupied with him. I say kind of because we haven’t seen him as much this time around. Todd has decided he’s going to move here, so he’s been busy sorting out the details of his eventual relocation.

We hooked him up with our beautiful and talented Immigration Attorney, Julia Vargas. They’ve had several meetings to discuss what his best plan of action should be. And they’ve gone out on several non-business dates. They’re spending the weekend together at the beach.

I hope it works out for them. They’re both good people.

* * * *

Several of my latest posts have been of a political nature, which implies that I’m a global thinker, or at the least, far more global in my thinking than I actually am.

I’m a guy. Guys, by nature, tend to be shallow, superficial, and think only about themselves. Clearly, I need to get back to basics. I’m going to try to keep this post generally within the confines of our yard. More specifically, it’s about the joys of home maintenance.

I’m fairly competent at doing minor repairs around the house. I can replace light fixtures and faucets. I can fix leaking pipes. I’m really good at building shelves. I also know when I can’t fix something, and when it comes to home maintenance, that’s probably the most important thing to know.

To be fair, we had home maintenance issues at our last house. We’ve been very fortunate that both of our landlords have been very responsive to our wants and needs, whenever I couldn’t manage them myself, and that’s not always the case here. Or anywhere else for that matter.

* * * *

I have a theory about life. If there’s nothing going wrong in your life, God will bless you with car trouble, just to keep you humble. I call it Mark’s General Theory of Life and Stuff.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About And Stuff: It’s an unofficial nursing term. Way back when I was in nursing school, some of my much younger female classmates used it to describe the symptomatology of their patients.

“My patient was vomiting fecal material, and stuff…”  Which begs the question, If your patient was essentially vomiting shit, what else can there be? You’d think anything that had been in front of it would be, you know, gone already. Well, that’s the first thought I had…

Believe it or not, that’s actually a true story.

* * * *

Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. That was before I retired and started playing golf.

I don’t need any help from God staying humble anymore. Golf has all of the bases covered as far as that is concerned. My fairway game has improved. I’m consistently getting on the green in three strokes.

My drives are mostly beautiful. A guy I golfed with the other day commented that I must have a low handicap after watching one of my gorgeous tee shots.

“Wait til we get closer to the green.” I replied.

To paraphrase my nursing school buddy, Don Nelson, I can’t sink fuckin’ putts.

If you’re on the green in three, and you three putt, that’s always a six. It’s my new favorite score. I’ve become so good at it that one of my golf buddies said this after we finished the seventh hole last Sunday.

“Give me a Mark.”

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Jesus H. Tiger Fuckin’ Mickelson!

According to people who are reasonably good golfers, there’s only one way to improve your golf score. And that is to keep playing. I’ll be on the course tomorrow. I’ll let you know if there’s any improvement.

* * * *

Okay. Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. Again. The proof of this is we haven’t had any car trouble since we moved to Mexico, other than having to buy new tires. Twice. I attribute that to the roads here in the Lakeside Area more than anything else.

However, we have been blessed of late with a few issues at our new home that have been keeping us on our toes. The two biggest problems are in the kitchen.

The first is the refrigerator, which has mostly been nothing but trouble ever since we moved into our new home. I’ve written about this previously, if you’re really bored and want to check out  any of my other posts…

Our landlord, Lord Mark, Duke of San Antonio Tlayacapan, upgraded all of the kitchen appliances before we moved in, and moved the old appliances out to the casita. They’re old, and a faded almond color; clearly outdated in terms of modern decor. We were thrilled to see them replaced.

The new refrigerator is a shiny, stainless steel LG. We had an LG refrigerator at our house in Surprise, and we loved it. The first thing our shiny, new Mexican LG failed to perform consistently at was the water dispenser on the door. Both Lea and I drink a lots of water, so we’ve developed a great affinity for this handy gadget.

The water line in our refrigerator kept freezing up. It was easily fixed. Remove the frozen filter, let it thaw. Grab one of Lea’s hair dryers, melt the ice in the water line. Put it all back together, and violá! It worked like a charm.

There was only one problem. It kept freezing up.

The refrigerator is under warranty. Jaime Mendoza, our property manager here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, eventually convinced the LG Service Department in Guadalajara to send a technician to the Lakeside Area to fix it. Lakeside is about forty miles south of Guad. That took about a month. And all was well, until the ice maker died.

* * * *

I don’t use the ice maker much, but Lea does. She loves drinking really cold water. We’ve discovered she isn’t the only one. Our kit-tens, Mika and Mollie, do too. And Mollie is absolutely fascinated by ice cubes.

Another thing we’ve discovered is our rapidly growing kit-tens are really good at knocking things over, like, lamps. And ceramic chickens. And terra cotta armadildoes. And glasses of ice water. I started using a plastic water bottle because they can be resealed. And if the kit-tens knock that over, no clean up is required.

I think the only breakable things they haven’t already broken are the things we put on top of the book cases in the living room. And the only reason they haven’t broken those things is they haven’t figured out how to get up there yet.

* * * *

Jaime had to enter into another series of negotiations with the LG Service Department on our behalf, but before he was able to convince them that they needed to repair the ice maker on their warrantied product, the refrigerator stopped refrigerating, and then the freezer stopped freezing.

We moved everything that had been in the shiny, new refrigerator/freezer out to the ugly old refrigerator/freezer in the casita. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the way that old piece of junk works.

There was one bright spot with the bright and shiny LG. The water dispenser still worked.

It took Jaime about a week to convince the LG Service Department to send another repair technician to come look at the almost totally malfunctioning major appliance in our kitchen, but first we had to do The Twelve Hour Test.

Lea’s response was, “We’ve already done a one hundred and twenty hour test! This is bullshit!!”

My response to her was, “Honey, do you want your refrigerator fixed or not?”

So, yes. We performed the requisite testing. It was simple to do. Turn the cold settings up to maximum warp, put one glass of water in the refrigerator, and another in the freezer. And, twelve hours later, nothing had happened. The water in the refrigerator didn’t get cold, and the water in the freezer was still water.

Once LG was informed of the test results, they agreed to send out another technician. That was on Thursday. The LG repairman is supposed to be here next Tuesday. If we’re very fortunate, our refrigerator problems might be sorted out by the end of the month.

* * * *

The other kitchen issue is the faucet. We had asked Jaime to upgrade both the sink and the faucet, and he was willing to do that. The kitchen sink is stainless steel, but over several decades of hard use, it’s no longer stainless. The faucet was a mishmash of parts that didn’t match, and it leaked.

Jaime manages more than one property for Lord Mark, so it sometimes takes a while for him to get back to this property. Lea and I eventually decided to go look at new sinks on our own. That’s when we discovered that modern kitchen sinks are much smaller than our vintage sink.

Installing a new sink would have entailed completely redoing the countertop, and we didn’t think that was something Lord Mark would be willing to do.

No problem, we’re flexible. We informed Jaime we were willing to work at rehabbing the vintage sink, but we still wanted a new faucet. He sent us pictures of faucets he liked. Lea found one that she loved, and we had that installed a couple of weeks ago.

It was a weird-looking contraption, like unto the Terminator of Faucets. And the spray nozzle could really project jets of water.

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I think it performed flawlessly for about a week before it fell apart. It was easy enough to put back together because even I could do it. Unfortunately, a few days later it came apart at a different junction, and a few days after that it fell apart at the first junction I had already repaired. That was enough for Lea.

“Tell Jaime I want a new faucet. Now.” she said. Jaime is generally very easy to work with, but just so I knew he’d understand the urgency of the matter, when I told him we needed another new faucet, I added, “You don’t want me to put my wife on the phone.”

He’s a smart guy. He said he’d get another faucet.

The new faucet also has a warranty. We’ll see how long it takes to get that issue settled. In the meantime, Jaime had his crew install a temporary faucet, which works perfectly. So, that problem is sort of settled for the time being.

Fortunately, there are a few hundred excellent restaurants here. Another fortunate thing is it probably doesn’t cost any more for us to eat out than it does to cook at home. I’ll continue to post restaurant pictures on my Facebook page.

* * * *

The only reason I named our new house the Chula Vista Resort and Spa is because it has a swimming pool. I’m not sure I’ll ever use it, but Lea probably will once the temperature starts to climb. Whether we use it or not, it looks cool. And it doesn’t cost us anything to maintain it. That was included as part of our rent.

Well, it looked cool. Until the water turned green.

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I know next to nothing about pool maintenance. The first time I touched any of our pool equipment at our house in Surprise, I broke something. It was also the last time that I touched any of it. After that, I hired a pool service to manage everything related to the pool.

Our gardener is also responsible for maintaining the pool, so all I had to do was talk to Miguel, and he took care of everything else. However, I was curious why the water turned green. Miguel said the water here sucks; it’s too acidic, and that’s why the pool turned green.

We’re really glad we decided to install a water filtration system for the house now.

It took Miguel three days to shock the pool and vacuum all the crap out of it. The pool looked pristine for several days before the greening process started up again. He’s been testing the pool water daily and adding a series of chemicals to balance the pH levels. It looks beautiful today. I’m not worried about the pool. Miguel knows what he’s doing. If I try to help him, I’ll probably have to buy a new pump and filter system. Again.

* * * *

There’s one more thing that we’ve had to contend with, and that’s the water heater for the South Wing of Casa Tara. We have two small propane water heaters. We’ve never had any problems with the heater for the North Wing. It’s an older model with a pilot light, and that sucker can seriously heat up some water.

The other heater is a newer model. It’s an on-demand heater. The only time it runs is when you turn on the hot water in either of the bathrooms in the main house. I’ve had the opportunity to learn that the ignitor is battery operated, and if you know anything about batteries, you know that they have to be replaced eventually.

I discovered this when my lovely supermodel wife tried taking a shower with cold water.

If there’s one thing I know about propane heaters it’s this: If you fuck up playing with gas, you’ll probably blow up half of the neighborhood. I know how to relight the pilot if it goes out, but this sonuvabitch didn’t have a pilot light, and I didn’t know about the battery powered ignitor. Yet.

So I called my buddy, Elvis. He used to be a security guard at the golf course, but now he works for the gas company. It was Elvis who showed me where the battery compartment was. We put new batteries in, and voilá! Mischief managed. Or so I thought.

It seems the battery compartment is somewhat of a temperamental bitch. I’ve had to go outside and fiddle with the damn thing several times since we replaced the batteries. I happened to be in the shower the last time the hot water died, so Lea went out and whispered something to the effect of, Do this one more time and I’ll replace more than your goddamn batteries!

We haven’t had a problem since.

Maybe she should try that with the refrigerator…

The Real World

It’s another beautiful day in the Lakeside Area. The gas shortage appears to have stabilized. All of the gas stations have gasoline again and the long lines of vehicles clogging the roads waiting to get fuel have disappeared.

That’s a good thing.

I started my apprenticeship as a pool guy last week. The only thing I’m allowed to do is clean floating debris out of the pool with the long-handled net. I’ve been getting in a lots of clinical practice. It’s the dry season here, and the mature trees lining the fairway behind our house have been dropping leaves by the ton.

Todd, my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend, will be arriving here tomorrow, provided he doesn’t encounter any weather delays at the airport. It’s been snowing like unto a bastard up in Pacific Northwest for the last few days, so we’re all praying for a break in the weather.

Todd has decided he’s going to move down here. Eventually. Todd is a cerebral guy. He likes to over think everything. Twice. The hardest part for him is over. He’s finally made up his mind.

Todd is going to be busy arranging as much of his future life as he can while he’s here, but when he has some free time we’re going to the National Chili Cook Off. Food, entertainment and shopping. It’s a lots of fun. And we’ll get in as much golf as we can.

Beyond that, there isn’t much of anything else going on down here.

* * * *

I was talking to my buddy, Brother Al, a few weeks ago. He mentioned that he doesn’t read many, if any, nonfiction novels. As he put it, he prefers reality.

I used to read a lots of fantasy/sci-fi/adventure novels. And the Bible, which contains all three of those genres. I’ve never been a big fan of reality. I mostly find it very confusing. I rarely need help to be confused. So much of what we deem to be reality may be nothing more than fantasy anyway, so I try not to split hairs over what’s really real and what isn’t.

About a year before I retired, one of my patients was a young man who thought he was being watched by the government.

“It’s not just you.” I told him. “The government is watching all of us. There are cameras on almost every street, and spy satellites everywhere.”

“Yeah, that’s what my dad says, too.”

“Listen to your dad. He’s probably smarter than you give him credit for.”

One of my colleagues overheard me, and suggested that my interaction might not have been the best thing I could’ve said in that circumstance.

“So, you think the government isn’t watching what we do?”

“I’m not saying that, but maybe you shouldn’t have fed into his paranoia…”

“Yeah, but if it’s really happening, it’s not paranoia, is it.”

* * * *

I rarely read anything anymore. If I didn’t have to write my blog posts, I probably wouldn’t even read them. I’m not sure what happened to me; why I developed an aversion to reading. I haven’t tried to analyze it until this precise moment. Most likely I lack the ability to make a long-term commitment to a novel right now. Another reason is the fantasy genre storylines are all essentially the same.

And then, along came Game of Thrones. Because of my current inability to read, I started watching it on TV last week. I was hooked in about five minutes.

Somewhat fortunately for me, TV and movies have jumped on the bandwagon and there’s a lots of fantasy/adventure shows out there for my viewing pleasure. I can’t say that I watch a lots of these shows, but I will l admit that I’ve kind of become addicted to the Marvel Universe. And Star Wars®.

Thanks to technological improvements in CGI, the cinematic versions of these stories are visual tours de force. Superheroes versus supervillains. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s Third Law of Motion is also Stan Lee’s and George Lucas’s First Law of Storytelling.

But it’s not just computer generated action scenes and explosions. The Marvel Universe movies, and the latest Star Wars® movies are very well written, and the dialogue actually makes you think.

Perhaps the biggest attraction for fans of the Fantasy/Sci-fi/Adventure genre is that we’re transported to a world vastly different from the world in which we live. It’s not necessarily a better world. I mean, there’s no WiFi in Middle Earth.

However, there’s plenty of ale. And pipeweed. Two things I once was very fond of.

These alien dimensions or worlds are populated with exotic alien races, plus Men, Elves and Dwarves. And mythological monsters, beasts and creatures. And dragons.

Dragons are without a doubt the coolest of all the mythical creatures. There are hundreds of legends and tales about dragons from dozens of races and cultures. Asia, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Europe and Mesoamerica all have dragon myths.

My personal favorite is Tiamat, a Babylonian goddess who took on the form of a massive sea dragon to wage war on her enemies.

And there’s always the Dark Entity of Ultimate Evil who wants to conquer and subjugate the entire world. I guess we have one of those here, though by Evil Dark Entity standards, Satan appears to be more of an underachiever than anything else.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12.

Angels. Demons. God only knows what else. There’s evidently a war going on all around us that we can’t see. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen an actual angel. I sincerely doubt that I’ve ever met a demon. But I have encountered more than a few evil human beings.

I don’t have a lots of faith in God. I don’t believe in the devil. But I do believe in Good and Evil. And who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…

I’m trying to remember a fantasy novel that doesn’t have a bad-ass bad guy, and I can’t. Probably because if there wasn’t an evil villain, there’d be no need for a hero to step up and save the day. That’s one thing you can always count on in fantasy adventures. Good always triumphs over evil.

I never imagine myself as the hero in these stories. I’m the least heroic person I know. For one thing, deep inside of my chest beats the heart of a fucking coward. I’m not especially skilled at sword fighting, or any other type of fighting for that matter. I don’t have any magical powers. If I actually found myself in one of these stories, I’d probably be a red shirt guy in Star Trek.

In an epic battle between Good and Evil, there are going to be a few casualties of war. I’ve almost died to death a few times for significantly lesser causes.

Be that as it may, I’m sure part of the reason I originally wanted to be a prophet was I thought I’d end up with a whole lots of magical superpowers.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s this: Never read the Book of Revelation after you’ve dropped a few hits of acid.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife is a huge fan of the Crime/Mystery genre. Shortly after we got married, I jokingly told Lea the only reason she watched those shows was to figure out how to kill me and collect my life insurance.

“Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.” she replied, with a totally serious look on her face. I don’t think I slept well for a month.

Law and Order. The Closer. Major Crimes. CSI:, NCIS, and Inspector Gadget. We’ve watched those shows so many times we both know the dialogue of almost every episode. I would never want to be questioned by any of those spooky smart TV cops. I’d probably confess to the Kennedy assassination, even though I was only seven years old when it happened.

We started binge watching True Detective yesterday. Apparently you don’t have to travel to another dimension to find monsters…

* * * *

I used to watch a lots of TV. I loved The History Channel back when they used to air shows about, you know, history. Now their programming is a bunch pseudohistorical, quasi-reality-based crap.

People will always debate what caused the demise of modern day civilization, but for my money it all started with the creation of Reality TV.

Nowadays I mostly listen to the TV. There are very few things that I actually watch. To me, television is essentially radio, with occasional pictures. It’s mostly white noise to me. I use the TV to distract me from the ringing in my left ear. The medical term is tinnitus. I developed it after I was assaulted at work and my jaw was broken.

See? I told you I wasn’t any good at fighting.

The ringing in my ear might be lessening. More than likely I’ve just gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’ll never go away. It’s a reminder of how parts of me are broken and will never work the way that they used to.

Don’t get me wrong, most of me still works pretty good. Like me, the world is certainly less pristine than it once was. I’m concerned about the reality I perceive, and I’m not sure it’s going to change for the better.

But the last scene in Episode 8 of the first season of True Detective gave me a glimmer of hope.

Marty Hart and Rust Cohle have just closed the case on a crime they had started investigating seventeen years earlier. Their personal lives have been all but destroyed in the process of solving a heinous and horrific crime that turned out to be a series of heinous and horrific crimes. And they were both almost killed to death.

* * * *

Rust: “I tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it’s just one story. The oldest.”

Marty: “What’s that?”

Rust: “Light versus dark.”

Marty: “Well, I know we ain’t in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.”

Rust: “Yeah, you’re right about that…  You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing.”

Marty: “How’s that?”

Rust: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”

* * * *

I hope that’s true. The light is winning…

I can’t tell anymore.

Tumbling Dice

Hola, amigos. How’s it going?

I decided to try to write something today. I’m not sure what, so that always adds a degree of difficulty or two to this task. I have a lots of random thoughts rolling around inside of my head. The tricksiest part is putting them all together so they have a modicum of synchronicity.

Whenever I find myself in this dilemma, I tend to begin with updates about what’s been going on in our lives lately. I’m pretty sure that’s all this post is going to end up being, so if you could care less about that, you might as well do something else.

We’re retired. I doubt anything about our lives is all that interesting. But I did discover something cool the other day. The Spanish word for retirement is jubilación.

That’s right baby, jubilation. It sounds even more better gooder in Spanish.

* * * *

Retirement has been the most blissful time of our lives. I’ve said this before, it’s the least stressful time that I can remember. I literally don’t have a schedule, or an agenda, or an itinerary. There are very few things that I have to write on my calendar anymore. If I feel like doing something, I do it. If I don’t, well, there’s always tomorrow. Or next week. Or whenever…

And then two things happened that impacted our stress-free lives.

One, we adopted kit-tens.

This hasn’t increased the stress levels in our lives. Unless they’re attacking my feet, which they do like little furry ninjas. Little Known Fact About Me: my feet are incredibly ticklish. I just about fly through the roof if anyone touches my feet. I’ve had to practice godlike restraint to not punt them halfway across the living room.

Mika and Mollie have been growing up fast. Too fast. At this rate, they’ll be going to college by Christmas. They have adjusted to moving in with us, and they now rule the house. Anyone who has had a cat will know the truth of this statement.

I don’t really remember much about the last time we had kit-tens. It was twenty years ago, and I was still working. Plus, I wasn’t as much of a cat lover then, so I had other things on my mind.

I’ve had a lots of time to observe our kit-tens this time around, and it has been a blast. They were learning how to walk when we brought them home. They’ve graduated from that and are testing out what else they can do now.

I’ve been documenting the progression of kit-ten growth and development with videos on my Facebook page. Kit-tens are simply darlingpreshadorbs! Their antics are so entertaining. If you’re depressed, watch kit-ten videos. You won’t need medications.

Mika and Mollie have become very good at jumping, which is evidently something kit-tens love to do. Because the kit-tens have become so good at jumping, they can now get onto our bed. They join us at night and wrestle for an hour before their batteries die out and they fall asleep. When they wake up in the morning, so do we.

They love to help us, no matter what it is we’re doing. Folding laundry is something they can’t resist. They are absolutely fascinated when I clean out their litter box. They look up at me like they’re asking, What the hell are you doing? We buried that stuff in there!!

That reminds me. I should probably buy another litter box. Soon.

They love to add their perspectives to my blog. And Mika actually posted a picture on my Instagram account last week. The thing that pissed me off about it was she did it faster than I ever have.

The only thing the kit-tens have an aversion to is vacuuming. I vacuum the floors at least once a day now. It’s the only time I don’t have to worry about accidentally stepping on a kit-ten when they come racing out of nowhere to attack my feet.

* * * *

The second thing that happened is we have to move, and that has increased the stress levels in our lives. We’ve looked at several houses so far, but haven’t found anything we’ve fallen in love with.

One was way too small for us. The rest of them were large enough, but… A couple of them were gorgeous, but one was way out of our budget. Another looked like an art museum, but the owner wanted to keep all of her very expensive custom art and furniture in the house.

I would’ve been afraid to sneeze in there. And Lea said she would never feel like she was living in her house.

Another was reasonably close to what we wanted, except it felt like a prison yard, minus the armed guards. And someone had painstakingly painted verses of Scripture on several of the walls, so you could get your mind right with the Lord while you served out your term in solitary.

One was undergoing a major renovation. It’s going to be gorgeous, but that process is going to take several months. Also, the owner wasn’t sure how much he’s going to need for rent to get a return on his investment.

We looked at close to fifty houses before we bought our house in Surprise. I’m hoping we won’t have to repeat that process this time around.

That was more or less because of Lea. She had a detailed wish list of what she needed in a house. Open concept. Huge, modern kitchen. Split floor plan. Master suite with a spacious walk-in closet. A swimming pool.

Our realtor, Cynthia McNicol, understood Lea’s desires, and agreed all of those were requisite.

I’m a guy. Guys essentially live like bears with furniture, and not necessarily nice furniture. The only thing I wanted when we were looking for a house was a three car garage.

“That’s it?” Cynthia asked. If there’s a word that describes something beyond stunned, that’s what Cynthia was. She probably thought I was a moron. “As long as Lea is happy, that’s all I need.”

“Smart man.” Cynthia replied, and her opinion of me changed in a heartbeat. “Happy wife, happy life.”

Exactly. Happy husband–no one cares! They didn’t even bother to come up with a word that rhymes with husband. I didn’t see the house we’re living in before we moved here. I told Lea to find a place she liked and wrap it up.

Our friends here have been keeping an eye or two open, looking for potential houses for us. We got an alert from Cheryl about a house in Chula Vista. It’s a development a couple of miles east of where we live now, on the mountainside. It doesn’t have a scenic view of the lake, but the backyard looks down on the Chula Vista golf course.

I’ve never golfed there, and I doubt that I ever will. The course was carved out the side of the mountain, and there are no golf carts. If I still wanted to march over hill, over dale, and hit the dusty trail, I would have never left the Army.

The Chula Vista house is huge, much larger than our current home. Four bedrooms, four bathrooms. More closets than I’ve ever seen in one house. There’s a swimming pool in the backyard, and a casita. It’s like unto a little apartment where guests you don’t really like can stay if they come to visit.

The best part, it won’t cost more than the house we’re currently in.

We went to see it this morning. Lea loved it. And just like that, our home search ended. We can start moving in on November 1st. That was easier than I thought it would be.

* * * *

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me lately, but something feels amiss. It’s not a physical thing. I don’t feel any worse than I normally do. I’m not battling an infection, or an illness.

Last week was the anniversary of the death of Lea’s mom. I’ve written about that series of events in a previous post. I’m not going to say much about it here, but it was easily the worst week of my life. That could be the cause of my unease. Those ghosts of traumas past. It doesn’t matter where you go, those fuckers will always know where to find you.

There’s a good chance I was emotionally bindsided. Given my relatively stress-free life, I haven’t needed to expend much energy maintaining my defense system. That’s one of the hazards of PTSD. All it takes is one little trigger and things can unravel quickly.

My activity level is down, too. I used to golf three times a week. It’s been more like once a week lately. And it hasn’t been that much fun. The rainy season should be winding down soon… Probably.

When you know what the problem is, you can start working on a solution.

* * * *

If you’re still reading this, thank you. It hasn’t been easy to write, so it probably hasn’t been much fun to read. I may not have much time to write once our moving process kicks off.

But writing about my angst has helped me regain my sense of balance. And finding our next place of residence has removed that uncertainty. Things tend to have a way of working out in life if you don’t panic.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

‘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.

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…

The Myth of Aging Gracefully

Remember when you were a kid, and all you wanted to be was old? You know, like, eighteen, or twenty? Twenty-one was even better.

Old people had it made, right? No one told them to eat their vegetables, or clean their room, or when to go to bed.

Eventually we all got older, and we discovered adulthood isn’t anywhere near as much fun as it looks on the weekend. Being an adult is all about responsibilities. Get an education. Get a job. Make money, so you can pay bills. A whole lots of bills.

Adulthood is a prison. No one tells you this when you’re a kid, and if someone does, you don’t believe them. Just about the only good thing about being an adult is you can eat chocolate cake for breakfast if you want to, and no one can stop you. Given that fact, it’s a miracle any of us age gracefully.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything gracefully, so I’m probably the worst person to try to tackle this subject.

Aging, if you don’t know what that means, is simply the process of growing older and maturing. It doesn’t take any special talent. All you really have to do to grow older is not die young.

Like most young people, I didn’t give any thought about getting old. That was the furthest thing from my mind. You don’t ponder this question much when you’re young, mostly because you’re too busy having fun, and there’s nothing fun about getting old.

Don’t believe me? Ask an old person, they’ll tell you.

My generation is the most influential group of people in recent history. We invented Rock and Roll, Frisbees, Woodstock, and the Summer of Love. I’m not sure if Baby Boomers are the product of modern advertising, or if modern advertising is a byproduct of us, but we are certainly joined at the hip.

We were a rebellious bunch of long haired guys and gals who burned draft cards, bras and flags. We didn’t trust the Establishment. We questioned everything, and changed societal norms. In the process, we changed the world. And we were a worldwide phenomena. It was fun at the time, but now I’m not sure if all that change was good.

I’m not the only one of my generation who thinks that.

To say I was somewhat wild in my youth would be an understatement. I had a lots of undisciplined energy, a veritable ocean of anger inside of me looking for an outlet, and a short attention span. I still have a short attention span, but I no longer have a whole lots of energy, and my anger has burnt itself out. In their place I now have pain.

As Mickey Mantle once said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

I was recently asked how I spend my days now that I’m retired. When I wake up, I spend a few minutes figuring out which day of the week it is. Then I take my morning meds. I drink a couple cups of coffee, and watch the news from Toronto. And I spend a couple of hours trying to figure out how I got that bruise, or what could I possibly have done to my shoulder?

The next thing I know is it’s 10:00 AM. Or 2:00 PM. If it’s 2:00, I take more meds. Around 5:30 PM, I eat dinner, either at home or at one of the hundreds of great restaurants in the Lakeside area. I read, or write, or take a nap while watching TV. Around 8:00 PM, I take more meds, and I’m probably in bed by 10:00.

Time actually flies by relatively quickly.

* * * *

Aches and pains are a given when you get old, and in my case, they are mostly directly correlated to stupid stuff I did back when I was young. After all, I did jump out of a speeding car on the highway once.

If you ever get really pissed off at me, and want to drop me in my tracks, kick me in the right knee. I will hit the ground so fast you’d think I’d died to death. I originally hurt my knee in the late Seventies, maybe early Eighties. One case of beer, one moving motorcycle, and one stationary car. Yeah, not the best combination. I reinjured my knee in 2005. And again in 2013. I can walk on it without any problems, most of the time. But if I bump into anything with that knee, I just about soil my pants.

My right ankle is equally touchy. I’ve blown that sucker up at least five times. My left shoulder has good days and bad days. I’ve never been able to figure out just what I did to my back, but it occasionally lets me know I must’ve done something to piss it off.

Some of my current aches and pains are related to injuries I sustained while I was a psych nurse. My jaw, for sure. My hands and wrists, possibly. It’s hard to pinpoint what happened to them exactly, mostly because so much has happened to them. And I was usually drunk when I injured them.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I have recently been going through the process of getting health insurance. Our insurance agent is a darling woman named Ava. Almost all of her clients are retired ex-pats from the US and Canada, so she helps organize seminars on living in Mexico to make our lives easier. One of the things she’s involved with now is the concept of aging gracefully.

She mentioned it in a conversation we had today. Those two words, aging gracefully, had been in my mind, and they were the impetus for this post, even though I have no idea how to do that.

And then it occurred to me that no one does. If you go to your first seminar on aging gracefully when you’re already old, you’ve kind of missed the boat. And I’m sure if I were to ask my friends in the Lakeside area they’d agree.

Yeah, I wish I’d started doing that about twenty years ago!

When you’re twenty, you think people in their forties are old. People in their fifties are really old. But by the time you reach forty, you develop an entirely different attitude. Forty isn’t that old! And seeing how you’re not old, you don’t need to think about aging gracefully for Christ’s sake!

And the next thing you know, you’re sixty. And then there’s no denying it anymore. Goddamnit! I’m old! How the hell did that happen?!?

I suppose it’s possible for some people to look graceful when they’re surprised, but it’s not something most of us can pull off. Most of us open our mouths really wide and just about jump out of our clothes. Some of us even scream like a little girl.

And if you examine this situation logically, growing old should be the last thing that surprises any of us because we are all going to get old if we live long enough, and we know that in advance. If you know something ahead of time, it’s pretty fucking hard to be surprised by it.

Have you ever watched a movie twice and been caught off guard by what happened? If so, I’m not sure you should have been allowed to grow old…

We’ve seen what happened to our parents. They were young once. According to them. And our friends. Have you seen Mary lately? My God, she looks so old! We scratch our heads and wonder how such a thing could happen, especially when we still look so young.

And yet…  It seemingly happens to all of us when it comes to this subject.

Yes, it’s true. We all get old eventually. And if my generation has any questions about this, all it has to do is look at the advertising geared for us. That’s right, sister. Those sensitive bladder leak undergarments, they’re talking to you.

And Generations X, Y and Z, you fuckers are next, so just sit down and shut up. We trained you not to trust anything either, but you can trust this. Maybe you guys can learn something from our mistakes, and take this to heart.

Aging gracefully is more of an attitude than anything else. If attitude is a component of success in life, and it most definitely is, that continues into retirement. And retirement is a whole lots more than simply not working for a living anymore.

Just as you made plans for your life when you were young, make plans for your retirement. Before you retire. It’ll make the transition look graceful, even if it isn’t. And remember, winning and losing aren’t important. Looking cool is. Goals aren’t as important once you retire, but you’re not going to stop having goals simply because you retire. If you don’t have any goals, you are going to have a lots of problems.

The one thing I hated the most about working was all the politics and drama and angst at the workplace. So take this bit of unsolicited advice: if you find your life is still filled with all that bullshit after you retire, you have totally failed. You might as well keep working.

If there’s any cohesive theme to what I’ve been saying, it might possibly be this: be nicer to yourself when you’re young. You’ll thank yourself later.

Go West, Young Man

The rainy season has officially begun here in the Lakeside area. It’s rained pretty much every day or night for probably the last couple of weeks.

My lovely supermodel wife and I lived in Surprise, AZ for nine years before we retired in Mexico, so rain is still somewhat of a novelty to us. Everything has turned green and verdant, and the rain and clouds have moderated the heat, but the driving range at the golf course has been mostly closed of late, and that kind of sucks.

I’ve had a lots of time to contemplate writing, and I have a few hundred ideas bouncing around inside of my head, like unto super balls thrown at a concrete wall.

Yeah, I better get busy.

* * * *

My first official work for a living and get paid for it job was at the Go West Drive In outside of Missoula, MT. My two best friends in high school, Dave Nelson and Andy Hyde, worked there. When a position opened up, they suggested I apply for a job.

I had an interview toward the end of my sophomore year with one of the two gay guys that owned the Go West, Ed Sharp. The other gay owner was Robert Sias. Eddie and Bob. They were semi-legendary in Missoula’s history, mostly for their eccentricities. Especially Eddie. You can look him up if you like. At one time I think he and Bob owned every theater in Missoula. The Wilma. The Roxy. And Bob and Eddie’s Go West Drive In.

I worked in the concession stand with my high school buddies, selling soft drinks, popcorn and candy, hot dogs, hamburgers and pizzas. Initially, I was a lackluster employee at the Go West. So much so that Dave and Andy had a little talk with me.

“We think we might have made a mistake with you.” Andy said.

“Yeah. We’re not sure you’re Go West material, Rowen.” Dave added.

“You really need to step up your game, man” Andy said.

I got the message. Bring your A game, or go home. I brought my A game from then on. It was a message I never forgot. Do your job, and do it to the best of your ability, even if you’re mopping the goddamn floor.

* * * *

I have fond memories of the Go West. Working at a drive in when you’re in high school was just about the coolest thing, ever. I got to meet a lots of people–we had our regulars–and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had working for a living.

My first date was at the Go West. I took three of my four prom dates there, two on the same night. I probably fell in love for the first time at the Go West. I can’t remember how many times I went there with my high school sweetheart.

It was a very popular place for young people to go in the Seventies–there wasn’t a whole lots of places to go in Missoula back then–and Bob and Eddie made a ton of money showing R and X rated B-list movies, and selling overpriced concessions to our patrons.

The concession stand at the Go West was huge. The walls looked like unto a log cabin, painted with a dark brown stain. Tanned animal skins and trophy heads adorned the walls. There might have even been a picture of Horace Greeley saying, “Go west, young man!” If there was ever such a thing as a classy drive in, the Go West was it.

A great deal of alcohol was consumed at the Go West. That was probably its’ greatest attraction for most of our patrons. Underage drinking was generally accepted at that time in Montana, and the drive in was almost every underage drinker’s favorite place to drink. And as the guys that worked there, we got a lots of invitations to “…come out to the car and have a beer!” We didn’t get the opportunity to do that very often, but when we did…

Getting shitfaced drunk at the drive in was pretty much par for the course. I helped more than one person stumble back to their car. There was one night a man got so drunk he couldn’t find his car. I think we waited until all the other cars left and took him to the only car that remained. I hope he wasn’t driving…

There was the night that my gay boss Bob came up to me and said, “Um, Maarrk, could you go to the Men’s Room and find out what happened. It smells like someone, umm, died in there…”

So, I did. And I found one of my classmates–his name also happened to be Bob–sitting on the toilet.

“Hey! Mark! I shit my fuckin’ pants, man!” Shitfaced Bob said when he saw me. And he laughed. Man, did he ever! From his waist to his ankles he was covered with shit. More shit filled, and I mean filled the legs of his jeans. I wouldn’t see that much shit covering one person again until I became a psych nurse.

And that wasn’t the only thing. In his drunken process of trying to clean up, Shitfaced Bob had smeared and flung crap all over the floor and walls of toilet stall. The stench of one thousand unwashed asses hung in the air. Guys stopped coming into the Men’s Room and drained their bladders of recycled beer wherever they pleased.

“Oh, for the love of God!” Gay Bob said when I told him what had happened in the Men’s Room. “Well, don’t just stand there! Umm, do something! After all, he is your, umm, friend!”

I spent the greater part of an hour getting Shitfaced Bob cleaned up. I probably ended up wearing half of his shit because I had never had to clean up someone in his condition before. Eddie had a spare pair of pants in the office, just in cases, I suppose, and I helped Shitfaced Bob climb into them, then helped him back to the car where his buddies were waiting with all the windows down.

They told me later the windows stayed down the entire trip to Bob’s house.

Dave, Andy and myself spent another hour cleaning up the Men’s Room. I think I took a two hour shower when I got home, and I probably burned my clothes.

* * * *

Speaking of windows, there was the night I saw a car I recognized parked close to the concession stand. I was taking out the garbage, and there was Tom’s car! I went to school with Tom. We were buds. He drove a white 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon, and as far as I knew, it was the only one of its kind still on the road.

I would buy that car from Tom at the end of my junior year for three hundred bucks. It was my favorite car, until I bought my red MR2.

I went to Tom’s car and tapped on the steamed up driver’s side window. The window slowly rolled down.

“Hey, Tom! I didn’t know you were here! Why didn’t you come in and say hi?” And a guy I had never seen before looked up at me and smiled. I vaguely saw movements inside the car so I looked deeper inside of the dark car. What I saw were the rhythmic up and down movements of a girl’s head right above the guy’s naked crotch. His pants were somewhere in the neighborhood of his knees. So I looked up at the guy’s face again.

“You’re not Tom!” I said to him.

“Nope.” he replied, and rolled his window up.

I was stunned, and impressed. That was the first time I saw a guy getting a blowjob. But what impressed me was his girlfriend. She didn’t miss a beat, not even one. All I knew as I walked back into the concession stand was I wanted a girlfriend, and I wanted her to be just like that girl.

There was one other sentinel night that left me feeling stunned and impressed, and that was the night I saw two really cute girls making out! In their car! I mean, deep kissing without coming up for air! And feeling each up and everything!! I had heard of lesbians, but I didn’t think they were real.

I was pretty sure I wanted to be a lesbian after that night.

* * * *

I don’t think anyone ever came to the Go West to watch the movies. If you didn’t come to the drive in to get drunk, you came to the drive in to get laid.

We cleaned the lot before each movie because most people at the drive in threw their garbage on the ground, rather than carry it to the nearest garbage can.

Food wrappers, candy boxes, and a whole lots of beer cans and bottles. We picked up everything we found. But there this one…thing…none of us wanted to touch.

That thing was an inflated condom, tied off like unto a balloon, filled with air and semen. And here’s the really weird thing. There was almost always an used condom balloon that needed to be picked up every time we cleaned the lot.

“Clearly, this is the work of one of our regulars,” Andy decided, and there was no argument.

“But, who could it be?” Dave asked.

That, was the question, and we spent hours discussing whom the culprits could be. We eventually decided it had to be a couple that came to the drive in almost every night.

They were an incredibly attractive couple. I’ll call them Tim and Tammy because I can’t remember their names anymore, and I don’t think I know any current couples named that.

Tim was a trim, handsome, muscular guy, probably in his early twenties. Tammy was probably around the same age as Tim, maybe a year or two younger. She was pretty much the stuff that wet dreams are made of–so stunningly beautiful it was almost like unto a superpower.

The only problem we had with our hypothesis was the car Tim drove. It was a red Volkswagen Beetle. It wasn’t the kind of car you think about when you think of having sex in the back seat. And if they weren’t in the backseat, they must’ve been gymnasts, like, Olympic Gold medal winning gymnasts. And, they nailed the dismount.

And then there was the matter of who blew up the condom and tied it into a balloon…  We were pretty sure that had to be Tammy.

* * * *

Our gay bosses, Eddie and Bob, weren’t just semi-legendary in Missoula. They were also semi-legendary in Las Vegas. Well, according to them they were, and they knew all kinds of famous people.

“We had dinner with Bob Newhart and his wife the last time we were in Vegas.” Eddie told us one evening as we were driving out to the drive in. Bob and Eddie drove us out to the drive in every night it was open. The Go West was almost twenty miles outside of Missoula, and they didn’t want us wasting our money on gas.

“I know him! He’s a comedian, and he’s really funny!” I said.

“He’s even funnier in person. I almost pissed my pants I was laughing so hard!” Eddie went on.

“God, is his wife ever an ugly woman! Umm, you couldn’t pay me enough money to sleep with her!” Bob said, which made all of us bite our tongues. Like he would sleep with any woman.

“Yeah, but she’s a sweet woman.” Eddie continued.

“Hmph!” Bob added.

I wasn’t sure if I could believe any of their stories. I mean, they were talking about people from Hollywood, like movie stars hung out with regular people…

“Yeah, it’s probably true. Everyone in Hollywood is gay!” Dave said.

“Not John Wayne!” I countered.

“Yeah, he’s probably not gay. That’s why Bob and Eddie haven’t had dinner with him.” Andy agreed. “And, our gay bosses are richer than Solomon…”

There came a night when we were cleaning up the concession stand, getting ready to go home. I was near the back entrance when someone knocked on the door. This wasn’t something that happened very often, so I cautiously opened the door.

“Hi.” a guy that looked a lots like Carroll O’Connor said. “Are Bob and Eddie here? Could you please tell them Carroll is here?”

Little Known Fact: Carroll O’Connor attended the University of Montana in Missoula. Another Little Known Fact: he evidently returned to town from time to time. And he was friends with Bob and Eddie.

“Um, just a minute…” I replied, and made Archie Bunker stand outside in the dark while I tried to figure out what to do next.

“Well, Jee-sus Christ, Maarrk! Umm, let him in!” Gay Bob almost yelled when I told him and Eddie who was at the back door.

That’s how I met Carroll O’Connor. He was a very nice guy, and greeted all of us, shaking our hands. He mentioned he was hungry. Dave, Andy and I cooked him one of our crappy pizzas, but we were so starstruck we burned it to a crisp, and had to start all over.

National Lampoon was a magazine back in those days, and as far as I’m concerned, it was the funniest magazine, ever. For all time. As fate would have it, their latest issue when this happened was a spoof of All in the Family. I had bought a copy at the magazine shop near the Wilma Theater, and read it while I waited for my gay bosses to show up, and I brought it to work that night.

Carroll O’Connor saw the my magazine and asked if he could look at it.

“Sure,” I said, and handed it to him. He laughed so hard he had tears running down his cheeks.

“Can I have this?” Archie Bunker asked me, wiping tears out of the corners of his eyes.

“Yeah, absolutely! It’s yours!” I replied.

Come to think of it, that was another night at the Go West that left me feeling stunned, and impressed.

* * * *

It wasn’t all shits and giggles and celebrities and booze and sex and mysteries of the inflated condom at the Go West. There was the night the Vietnam vet brought in a porcelain bust of a skull with a porcelain rat crawling on the skull. He had a beer in one hand, and he slid the skull down the counter, so the skull could get a good look at everything available. He talked to the skull as he walked down the concession line toward the cash register. He bought a few items for himself, and even more items for the skull.

“I have to ask,” I said to the guy. “What’s up with the skull?”

“This? He’s my best friend. He didn’t make it home from Nam, so now I’m going to buy him all the stuff he never had.”

“Wow. I don’t know if that’s cool, or creepy.” I replied, adding up his purchases on the register.

“Neither do I, kid. But it’s the only thing I can do right now.”

I still get goosebumps when I think about him, and it took me a long time to forget him. In a lots of ways, he was my first Nam vet, even though I met him at least fifteen years before I became a psych nurse. It was his memory that made me want to write this story.

There was that night, the Night of the Skull. And then there was the Night Randy Was Murdered. Randy was one of Dave and Andy’s friends. I think they went to grade school with him. I talked to him casually a couple of times at the drive in, but I could never call him my friend.

On that night, the first movie had ended. It was Intermission, the concession stand was packed. People were stretching their legs and stocking up for the second show.

Randy and three or four of his friends were gathered together inside of the concession stand, shooting the breeze, flirting with the girls that walked by. A long haired guy that nobody had ever seen before walked in, wearing a pair of flowered pink colored bell bottom pants.

Randy and his friends went silent, watching the guy, then burst into laughter.

The guy with the outrageous pants didn’t like being the object of their laughter, and walked over to them. There was a brief, heated exchange, and one of Randy’s friends said, very loudly, “Those are the pussiest looking pants I’ve ever seen!”

There was another, even more heated exchange of words, and then everything went into slow motion. Randy made a fist, took one step, and punched the guy wearing the flowered pants in the jaw, sending him flying to the floor.

Randy and his friends turned their backs on the guy, and started laughing again. The guy in the flowered pants jumped up, pulled something out of his pocket, and ran toward the group of men that had insulted him. He appeared to punch Randy in his left pectoral area from behind, then ran out of the concession stand into the darkness.

I’m not sure how long it took for Randy to collapse to the floor. He didn’t do it right away. I don’t think he looked like he’d  even been injured. Then he kind of stumbled, and then he fell like his knees had been cut out from beneath him. A dark red spot appeared on his shirt. That’s when everyone realized Randy had been stabbed. In a matter of moments, he was dead.

Cardiac tamponade.

And then the world moved swiftly, once more. And it moved really fast. Randy’s friends were shouting, yelling. Then crying. There were screams, there had to be screams. People running. People gawking. I was one of those. I couldn’t move. I had no idea what to do, and my brain was frozen. I think Dave had to shove me to get me moving, and even then I didn’t know what to do.

I know Gay Bob called for an ambulance. And the police. Even if the Go West hadn’t been halfway to Idaho, the EMT’s wouldn’t have been able to do much to save Randy if they had been standing next to him when it happened. The police ordered us to lock the gate and keep everyone there until they arrived to take control of the situation.

We chased everyone out of the concession stand. I think we let Randy’s friends stay.

An army of cops descended upon the Go West. They took witness statements, got a description of the assailant, then started a car by car search for Randy’s killer, looking for the long haired guy in the pink pussy pants.

We knew a few of the sheriff’s deputies. They dropped in whenever they were in the area because Bob and Eddie comped them food and let them fill their thermoses with coffee for free. In return, the cops would make a few random trips around the lot to make sure nothing too illegal was going on.

One of the cops we called Dudley Do-Right because he looked like Dudley Do-Right. He was actually a pretty decent guy. There was another cop we called Studley Do-Right. He liked to tell tall tales about his life in law enforcement, and he always had his perps right where he wanted them.

And then we waited. And, in advance, please excuse my wording in the next sentence. The only other time the concession stand was as…dead…after the first movie was the night we showed Last House on the Left and Night of the Living Dead. After the Intermission that night, not a single person entered the concession stand.

An ambulance crew eventually took Randy’s body away. I think the police escorted Randy’s friends back to their car and made sure they stayed there. They didn’t want any vigilante justice being handed out. The police eventually let us start cleaning up. I thought there would be more blood. I mean, Randy had been stabbed in the heart!

We were all somewhere beyond stunned. I can’t remember much of anything we said to each other, except we all hoped Dudley would find Randy’s killer, not Studley.

But it was Studley Do-Right that brought the long haired guy in the flowered pink bell bottom pants to the back entrance of the building so he could be identified.

“I got my man. I always do.” Studley Do-Right said.

I think we were all surprised the guy was still there. I mean, why hang around the drive in after you killed somebody? Unless you’re getting the greatest blowjob ever given…

But that wasn’t the case. He knew he had stabbed one of the guys that had been making fun of him, but he didn’t know he’d stabbed Randy in the heart, killing him almost immediately. He simply returned to his car, and his boyfriend, once he realized no one was chasing him, and watched the movie. He was probably the only guy in the history of the Go West that actually watched a movie.

In retrospect, that was probably the first time I thought the world wasn’t as safe as they made it look on TV. Bad shit could happen to you anywhere, even in bucolic, boring-ass Missoula, MT.

* * * *

That was a long time ago, and the Missoula of my childhood no longer exists. The last time I was there, I barely recognized the place. Bob and Eddie both got dead about three decades ago, and much like its semi-legendary owners, the Go West no longer exists.

Missoula is no longer the quiet refuge of redneck cowboys. Back in the Eighties, a bunch of aging hippies from California started moving in and transformed Missoula into an eclectic, diverse, much more urbane, and possibly, quite a spifferooney place to live. I think of it now as the Austin, TX of Montana.

And a river runs through it.

Actually, three rivers run through Missoula. The Blackfoot, the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork. It’s a beautiful place, and I still dream about it from time to time.

I may go back again, someday, before I get dead. My fiftieth high school reunion is coming up in several years. I might actually attend that one. We’ll see. Shitfaced Bob won’t be there. He got dead a few years ago. Tom won’t be there either, he got dead, too.

Sad to think that my generation has already started gotting dead at such a young age. You’ll have that, I guess.

Some trips down Memory Lane are more enjoyable than others. This one was mostly good, and I take solace in that. Not all of them have been.

You’ll have that, too.

From the Odds and Ends Department

Have you ever watched something on TV, or read something, and thought, Man, I could do so much better than that! You might even be thinking that right now…  Especially if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts.

I mean, all this guy writes about is getting wasted, his slutty girlfriends, and how all of his relationships fell apart! There was that story about his nympho Russian girlfriend, Ivana Sukyurkokov. And his heartbroken Chinese girlfriend, Wat Wen Wong. Jeez, his blog is dumber than putting wheels on a ball! I liked him more when he wrote about crazy people!

And I hear you. Before I started writing my blog, I thought bloggers were people who needed to get a fucking life, man. They were probably people who thought Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were the epitome of American society and they all wanted to be Paris-ites, or biffles, or twat waffles with them or something.

I’ve started reading some of the blogs that are out there on the Interweb, and I was wrong about bloggers. Most of them appear to have lives.

Except me.

I’m retired. If I were to write about my day-to-day life now, my blog would consist of restaurant reviews in the Lakeside area, and stories about how much I love my Sleep Number bed®.

And to be honest, I probably liked me more when I was writing about crazy people, too. But those stories are relatively easy to write, and like everything else in life, it’s only when you step outside of your comfort zone that anything meaningful happens. It’s the stories I didn’t want to write that taught me the most about myself. It was the stories that hurt like hell that showed me how far I’ve come.

And how far I still have to go.

And the other thing about writing about my nursing career is not every person I cared for resulted in a story worth telling.  Knife wielding homicidal maniacs were the exception, not the rule, thank God. Most of my patients were never a problem, unlike medical dramas on TV. I’d probably hate being a TV nurse, unless my work partner was the hot nurse with the big tits…

The majority of my nursing career was pretty ho-hum. Mischief was managed. Shit got done. No one died. And that was that. But there were a lots of snippets and moments and oneliners, and if I could patchwork a lots of them together, I might be able to spin a tale or two…

* * * *

I’ve discovered that time management is still necessary once you retire. I certainly have more time to do things I enjoy now, like reading. And because other bloggers sometimes read my posts, I feel a certain obligation to read some of their posts, too. My favorite blogger is a young woman in New York who writes about her struggle to overcome her eating disorder. Her blog is called Beauty Beyond Bones. And while I love her now, I probably would’ve hated her as a patient.

Back when I was a psych nurse in Arizona, there were a couple of eating disorder treatment facilities in the little town of Wickenburg, about thirty miles northwest of Surprise. Remuda Ranch and Rosewood Ranch. She’s never come out and said if she was a patient at either of them, but I’m going to guess she was at Remuda. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that. I interviewed at both facilities, but decided not to take a position at either one of them. I absolutely sucked at working with eating disorder patients.

Remuda is a Christian based treatment facility. One of the questions they asked me in the interview was did I think the Bible was the sole source of truth. I said no, it wasn’t, and I wasn’t even sure all of the things written in the Bible were true. After my interview, they told me I wasn’t Christian enough to meet their criteria. I told them that was okay. They weren’t the first Christians to tell me that.

A few weeks later they called me back and told me that they had changed their mind about me, and asked if I was still interested in working there. I wanted to say something like, God, you guys must be fucking desperate! But instead I thanked them for thinking of me, and told them I had found another position and I wasn’t available anymore.

Well, it was the truth…

Like most every psychological/psychiatric disorder, eating disorders are caused by a multitude of complex factors, and as with every psychological/psychiatric disorder–except dementia–the successful treatment of anorexia or bulimia depends completely on the patient. If they don’t want to change their behavior, there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do for them once they’re discharged from the hospital.

It’s like alcoholism or drug addiction, only worse. Just as the drinking and chemical use are usually a symptom of a deeper, darker pathology, eating disorders are about far more than food.

Eating disorders are incredibly difficult to treat, mostly because eating disorder patients are the spawn of Satan. I mean that in a Christian way. They are sneakier than a ninja. They can vomit silently so they can purge without anyone knowing. They stockpile food so they can binge feed when no one is looking. And if their lips are moving, they’re probably lying.

The other thing I remember most clearly about most of these women, and they were all females, is the majority of them were gorgeous. And that is truly one of the great mysteries that used to keep me awake at night when I was learning how to be a psych nurse. How could someone so beautiful be so fucking miserable?

One of my first posts was about one of my patients at the MVAMC. I called him the Piano Man because he liked to play the piano. About the time he walked onto the unit for one of his many admissions, we had just discharged a gal with anorexia. She had been on our unit for a couple of weeks, and none of the staff were sad to see her go.

After we got the Piano Man admitted, he sat down at the piano and started playing, and the piano sounded like a wounded moose. We opened the top to find the eating disorder girl had hid enough food inside of the piano to feed Hannibal’s entire army when he crossed the Alps to attack Rome. Including the elephants.

For someone who has never worked in a psychiatric setting, it would be easy to say that we, as staff members, totally sucked at our job, and I really don’t have much of anything to say in our defense. We were hardly specialists at treating eating disorders, and the fact we were so happy to see that particular patient leave speaks volumes to the level of struggle we all had with her.

* * * *

To be sure, it’s very easy to be an armchair quarterback or a wheelchair general, and criticize someone doing a job you’ve never attempted. And when you’re in a service oriented occupation like Nursing, you are never going to be able to make everybody happy. No one is that good, and people can be incredibly demanding/entitled. And it is generally the people who were making the least positive contribution to anything who were the most demanding and entitled.

You guys have to be the worst fucking nurses I’ve ever seen! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. And it was usually a guy that you and your team had spent a month busting your asses trying to arrange housing and follow up for, who had been discharged from your unit forty-eight hours earlier, and was already back because he chose to drink as much alcohol and smoke as much meth as he possibly could before he came crawling back to the hospital.

Most of the time it’s better to just agree with someone like that, and walk away. But there were times when I couldn’t.

“Maybe you should get out more…  That means a lots coming from you…”

I said something like unto that to one of my unhappy frequent flyer guys at the MVAMC who probably spent as much time in the hospital as I did. His name was Ray. I’m going to guess that the total bill for the many, many times we detoxed him off of alcohol, sobered him up and set him up to succeed was in excess of one million dollars, and he had this response, “You used to be a good guy, but you need a new job. You’ve been inpatient too long.”

“So have you.” I replied.

He froze to death one cold December night in Minneapolis. He had gotten drunk and was walking to the hospital so he could be admitted again. His body was found propped up against a tree across the street from the hospital in the morning. He had stopped to rest before making his final stumbling trek to the ED, and had fallen asleep.

You meet a lots of guys like unto that when you’re a psych nurse. There was Charles. He was another MVAMC guy who spent an inordinate amount of time getting drunker than fifty guys combined, and the rest of his time detoxing on my unit.

We had safely detoxed Charles for the umpteenth time, and discharged him at 9:00 AM on a Friday morning. At 2:30 PM that same day, I answered the phone. It was Charles.

“Hey, I don’t think this discharge thing is going to work, man. I’ve been out of the hospital for about six hours, and I’m pretty fuckin’ wasted, man.” he slurred.

“Hey, Charles. Has it ever occurred to you that you need to quit drinking?” I decided to ask. There was a long silence, and then Charles said this,

“Is there anyone else there I can talk to?”

For one of the few times in my life, I had no response. I handed the phone to one of my co-workers. Charles would also die to death as a result of his alcohol abuse.

Sometimes the disease wins.

* * * *

You never know what you’ll see or hear as a psych nurse, and there’s a reason for that. People are capable of an infinite amount of kooky stuff, not that you have to be a psych nurse to experience the full spectrum of kookiness available out there.

All you really need to see that is a family.

But one thing you may not experience unless you’re a psych nurse is the dreaded Dissociative Identity Disorder, or more commonly, Multiple Personality Disorder. In my thirty year career, I met a lots of people who claimed to have multiple personalities, but none of them ever seemed to be legitimate to me, or anyone else I worked with.

Multiple Personality Disorder was virtually unheard of until the 1970’s. That’s when the book Sybil was published, 1973 to be exact. Three years later, the TV movie of the same name was broadcast on NBC, starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward, and like magic, suddenly everyone had multiple personalities.

For my money, all of the people I met who claimed to have multiple personalities were just assholes looking for an easy excuse for their behavior.

* * * *

I was working nights at the MVAMC fairly early in my career. I was the Med nurse that night, so anyone needing any medications had to see me. Enter Sam. It was around 2:00 AM. We had detoxed Sam off of alcohol with a Valium protocol. Once someone had been safely detoxed, the protocol was discontinued.

Sam had been off the protocol for a day or two, but he wanted more Valium. I explained to him how the protocol worked, and Sam had a five star meltdown. He screamed at me, waking up everyone on the unit. One of the other nurses called the POD and got a one time order of Valium for Sam, and he went back to bed.

At 6:00 AM, Sam came up to the nursing station to get his morning meds. He was quite pleasant, and I remarked that he was much nicer than he had been at 2:00 AM.

“Oh, that. That wasn’t me. That was Samuel.”

“No kidding. He looks just like you.” I said.

Sam gave me, and anyone else willing to listen, a detailed description of his three personalities: Sam, Samuel and Sheryl. A line of patients had formed behind Sam. They were waiting to get their meds so they could go smoke. According to Sam, Samuel was the troublemaker. Sheryl was the lover, and Sam was the drunk. I listened to Sam, and gave him his meds.

“Well, the next time you talk to Samuel, give him a message.” I said. “If he ever talks to me like that again, I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ mouth.”

Sam’s jaw dropped. He turned to the guys standing behind him, “Did you hear that! He threatened me!”

“Hey! Take your goddamn meds and get the hell out of the way! And if you ever pull that shit again, if he doesn’t punch you in the fuckin’ mouth, I will.” one of the Nam vets growled.

Yeah, not one of my better moments, but Samuel never made another appearance.

* * * *

I think the last time I met anyone who claimed to have multiple personalities was at Aurora. I walked onto the Canyon Unit, and Nikki was on a 1:1. She was a frequent flyer, and I was usually her nurse.

A 1:1 is a special precaution, usually reserved for patients that are acutely suicidal. In essence, one staff person is assigned to one patient, and that patient is never more than an arm’s length away from the person assigned to watch over them.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but it’s rarely played out that way.

I went over to talk to Nikki. She had scratched her wrist with a plastic spoon on the evening shift. She didn’t even break the integrity of her skin, and her nurse had placed her on the 1:1.

I’m shaking my head while I write this. I don’t usually like to criticize the actions of other nurses, but that was a lazy-ass intervention. If the evening nurse had taken even five minutes to talk to Nikki, that ridiculous waste of manpower and resources wouldn’t have been needed. We barely had enough staff to cover the units, let alone have one staff assigned to watch someone for no good reason.

I asked Nikki to tell me what happened.

“I didn’t do anything! It was Alexandra!”

“And whom might that be?”

“She’s one of my three personalities! She–”

“Stop. Cut the crap, Nikki. You’re on a 1:1. You can’t smoke if you’re on a 1:1.” I said.

“But they let me smoke last night, and this morning!”

“I don’t care what they did last night. This is my unit, my rules. If I can’t trust you to be safe on the unit, I’m sure as hell not going to trust you to be safe off the unit, with a lit cigarette in your hand. What if you decide to burn yourself?”

“It wasn’t me! It was Alexandra!”

“I don’t care who did it. None of you get to smoke.”

“I’ll be safe, I promise! Please!!”

Less than five minutes. Mischief managed. And I never heard another word about Alexandra again. Ever.

* * * *

There was a fairly consistent response whenever I told someone that I had just met that I was a psychiatric nurse. Their eyes would widen, and they would say something like unto, “I bet you’ve seen it all, huh.”

I would reply, “No. I’ve seen a lots of strange stuff, but the kookiness of humans is infinite.”

And that is the fucking truth.

Every time I thought I had seen it all, something I didn’t think was humanly possible walked through the door. I eventually made peace with the fact that I would never see it all, and I was okay with that. My two other personalities are still sulking about that a bit, but they’ll get over it.

Or I’ll punch them in the mouth.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I think I might be suffering from writer’s block. Hence, the ridiculous title for this. I decided to steal it because I couldn’t think of anything on my own, and because I have writer’s block I have no idea what I’m going to write about.

I purposely took a break from writing for a couple of reasons. One, it was just about the only thing I was doing, and writing about your life is hardly the same thing as living your life.

Two, my back was pretty much a disaster, and sitting on my ass all day was only aggravating my problem. In addition, my sitting posture pretty much sucked, so I was throwing gasoline on a blaze that hardly needed any more fuel.

I’ve been doing anything but writing lately. I haven’t even been thinking about writing, which is probably one reason I have writer’s block now.

I had an Ung Fu Chinese massage by a Mexican masseuse last week. I had my lovely supermodel wife walk on my back. I went to see my PCP, Dr Garcia, on Monday. He started me on muscle relaxers to calm the spasms in my back. I went to see Diamond Dave on Tuesday for hopefully my last Bowen Therapy treatment. And I’ve been exercising for the last two weeks.

This has been somewhat of a novel experience for me because other than kidney stones, I’ve never had anything physical go this wrong for this long, and even my kidney stones weren’t this bothersome.

And prior to this, none of my ideas about exercise actually included exercise. My idea of exercise at one time was drinking beer and playing Frisbee. Then I quit drinking. And I quit playing Frisbee. I gave all of my Frisbees to Two L Michelle before we moved to Mexico. She has two boys. I figured they might get some use out of them…

My other idea of exercise was watching Fitness Beach. If you never saw the show while it was televised, it was the greatest exercise program ever filmed. The title sort of sums up the show. Three or four hot babes in bikinis jumped up and down on the beach for half an hour.

I loved that show.

There are no beaches anywhere in the Lakeside area, and therefore there are no bikini babes jumping up and down anywhere near here. So this whole exercise thing, you know, me actually exercising, has been somewhat of a mystery to me. And I look absolutely ridiculous in a bikini.

Diamond Dave gave me a few exercises to do several times a day. They’re low impact, and mostly designed to stretch my spasming back muscles, hopefully chilling them out a bit. I’ve also been doing some stuff with light weights. And I haven’t been writing, forcing myself to do something/anything else.

My lovely supermodel wife and I have been doing some decorating around the house, so that means we gots to go shoppin’. While shopping isn’t technically exercise, it did get me out of the house, and we bought a lots of decorative vases and stuff to go inside of the vases.

And a lots pots and plants for the patio and Lea’s bathroom, turning the patio into a sort of a garden, and totally transforming Lea’s bathroom into a spa. This stuff is ridiculously inexpensive in Mexico. I could create a fucking rain forest if I wanted to for about a thousand dollars.

My new routine has been to stretch when I get up, water the plants on the patio, lift some weights, stretch some more, then take some muscle relaxers and pass out. Those suckers pretty much put me in a coma for the first few days.

My body is adjusting to the meds, and I’m taking them less often. My back is finally starting to feel better, and I’m liking the hell out of that.

Spoiler alert: Being retired has decreased my activity level. I’m not doing anywhere near as much as I did when I was a nurse, and I’ve clearly struggled with the transition. I’m relearning how to sit, however crazy that might sound.

But I’m starting to get a grip again, and I’m sure I’ll figure this whole retirement thing out. It’s not nearly as simple as it appears on paper.

Everyone that works for living dreams of the day they will retire, and not have to put up with all the bullshit that goes along with working for a living.

When I retire, I’m not going to do a goddamn thing for the rest of my life! I know a lots of people that said that. I probably said it myself. But of all the myriad of things our bodies were designed to do, nothing isn’t one of them.

I’ve discovered that going from running my ass off for eight or more hours a day to doing essentially nothing hasn’t been good for me. And I’m sure this is why Diamond Dave has been preaching to me about balance.

You’re preaching to the choir, dude. was my original response. It’s a line I heard a lots when I was nurse. It’s a phrase that means you’re trying to convince someone of something they already believe, therefore, you’re wasting your time.

But then I took a look at that phrase from outside the box, and came up this. What does a choir do? Well, they sing. And can a choir actually hear anyone preaching to them while they’re singing? Probably not. So that means you’re trying to convince someone of something they’re not listening to. Either way, you’re wasting your time by preaching to the choir.

Seeing how I have an abundance of time to think, I’ve been doing a whole lots of that of late, and I’ve been doing a serious root cause analysis of my back problem and how to fix it.

While I might have a high pain tolerance level, I’ve never found high levels of pain to be all that much fun, so I’m highly motivated to change that.

* * * *

I’m not the first person in the world to retire, and I’m certainly not going to be the last. But I’m beginning to think I should’ve given more thought about my retirement plan beyond the financial aspect of it.

Granted, the financial part is critical. If you can’t afford to retire, you pretty much have to keep working, and if you’re forced to keep working, you won’t have to worry about what you’re going to do with your free time. So, problem solved, I guess.

The fact that we unexpectedly retired may have played a part in my lack of planning. Neither Lea nor I were planning on retiring last year. The only reason we did was because Lea was suddenly reorganized out of her position, and Phyllis and her friends had filled us in on the benefits of living in Mexico.

I’m not the kind of guy that does a lots of research into this kind of thing, so even if I would’ve had more time, I doubt I would’ve utilized it by looking into the Lakeside area. My lovely supermodel wife does that kind of stuff. She did all kinds of research before we moved here, so I would’ve ended up singing to the choir.

Back when I was working for a living, I always gave myself six months to adjust to a new job or a new position. In six months you’ll know almost everything you’ll need to know–whether you can can perform the task, what kind of people your co-workers are–that kind of stuff.

I’ve been in Mexico for four and an half months. My probation period is still in effect, but it’ll be over soon. I have a short amount of time to figure a few things out. Luckily for me, I have a really good group of people helping me out.

A New Year

2016 was a strange year, for a multitude of reasons. Celebrity deaths by the dozens. And somehow, none of them were Kardashians. How the hell did that happen? Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. How the…

I could go on, but…why?

While I can’t predict much of what’s going to happen next year, I’m absolutely sure more famous people will die in 2017. But it doesn’t take any special talent in prediction to be able to make a statement as bold as that.

None of us are getting out of this game alive.

2016 was an especially strange year for me and my lovely supermodel wife. At the beginning of the year, we were planning on remaining in the workforce for five more years, give or take. Then Lea’s employer decided to go through a major reorganization, and she was reorganized out of her job.

Our oldest daughter, the beautiful and talented Gwendolyn, is a Certified Financial Planner. I had given her the keys to my 401K many years ago, and also gave her a little motivational speech.

“If you make a lots of money for me, I won’t move in with you.” 

It would appear that Gwendolyn was very motivated by my speech, and she did quite well managing our retirement plans. When Lea found out she was going to be reorganized out of her job, the first person she called was her daughter/financial planner. Gwen crunched the numbers, and suggested we retire.

It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

Fast forward seven months, and we’re living in Mexico. If you had asked me five years ago where I’d be today, this place wouldn’t have even been on the list. Now, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

I’m clearly not a psychic. As my wife is fond of reminding me, I can’t read your mind! I’m not sure I can either. Hell, I don’t know what I’m thinking half of the time.

This is perhaps one of the reasons I have not yet become a prophet. My track record for predictions hasn’t been all that impressive, not that I’ve predicted a lots of things.

In fact, I can think of only one thing. I predicted the Green Bay Packers would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl five years ago.

I was walking to my car after work on Super Bowl Sunday in 2011, when a voice in my head informed me the Packers would win. And I know that probably sounds a little weird, but I have no other term to describe it. I am not a Packer fan. I had not given any prior thought to the outcome of the game. And out of the blue, The Packers will win the game today.

My first response was, Seriously? Of all the things you could tell me, this is the best you could do? Then I called my buddy, Paul Anderson, because he’s a huge Packer fan, and told him his team would win. If you don’t believe me, you can ask him. Here’s his cellphone number: (715) 222-8120.

According to the Bible, it’s quite easy to determine if a prophet is a true prophet or a false prophet. If the event a prophet predicted happens, that’s a true prophet. If not…

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

That said, I’m not sure I qualify as a prophet of any significance. I’m sure there were a lots of people that predicted the Packers would win that game. But I’ll let you know if that voice in my head ever has anything else to say.

* * * *

The Lakeside area we retired to is pretty much heaven on earth. In fact, if I hadn’t had a spinal meltdown, I might think I had died and went to Heaven. Except I don’t believe we go to Heaven after we die.

So it’s probably a good thing I fucked up my back. I’m not sure I’d be able to reconcile my reality with my expectations.

Lea and I have been adjusting to our new lives. We’ve met a lots of really nice people that retired down here, so we decided to invite a few of them over tomorrow. We’re hosting a New Year’s party that my second retirement wife, Phyllis Gholson, is planning.

And yes, you read that correctly. Not only did I collect an harem of work wives back when I was gainfully employed, I’ve started collecting retirement wives now that I’m gainfully unemployed. I have no explanation for this phenomenon. Other than the fact that I’m irresistible to women.

One of my female bosses actually told me that during one of my performance reviews back when I worked at MVAMC.

Or, I’m the gender neutral, nonthreatenng big brother/spouse they never had or lack now.

Phyllis and Lea are best friends. They’re actually quite a bit alike. Their tastes and sensibilities are similar. They’re both very logical and analytical. So now I have two women telling me I can’t do something.

And if not for a series of events that revolved around Phyllis, we wouldn’t be here now, or probably ever. Nor would our transition to Mexico have gone anywhere near as smoothly as it has. Phyllis more or less found the house we’re living in for us. She introduced us to her friends, and they’re becoming our friends. As a result, I more or less adopted Phyllis as my second wife, and I’ve started introducing as such.

It’s good for a laugh.

I am a comedian at heart. I often thought of going to a comedy club and taking the stage, but I never got around to it when I lived in the States. There’s no such thing as a comedy club in the Lakeside area, so the likelihood of it happening has greatly decreased. Besides, my Spanish isn’t all that muy bien yet.

And everything is funnier in Spanish for some reason…

* * * *

May 2017 be kind to you, especially if you read my blog. I sometimes wonder if anyone reads what I write. I’ve received a few comments about some of my posts. One guy told me I didn’t have enough pictures, and my stories had, you know, too many words.

I replied that I wasn’t trying to entertain, you know, fifth graders. I haven’t heard back from him.

I hope the next year will be a good year, though I’m sure it will have its share of challenges, trials and sorrows.  They all do, don’t they? And if the worst befalls you, may you have the strength and support you need to see you through.

I hope 2017 will bring the fulfillment of some of your dreams, but not all of them. A life without dreams isn’t much of a life.

I hope you will have all the wealth you need next year. And that your health isn’t a major issue. Never take good health for granted. It is a gift beyond measure.

Find peace and beauty in the simple things, and you will find an endless supply of both. You will be happier and more content than you could believe possible.

Don’t forget to thank God for your blessings, and remember this: many blessings initially look like a crisis. Don’t panic. Take a couple deep breaths. Most of the things I thought were castastrophic when they happened turned out to be no big deal a few months later.

Never be afraid to learn something new, like, speaking Spanish.

You may unexpectedly find yourself in Mexico someday, too.

Feliz año nuevo, one and all.

Horrible Bosses, Part II

I’m struggling to figure out how to start this installment of my blog. Maybe if I acknowledge that, I can get started.

My lovely supermodel wife was in the hospital recovering from her fourth, and most devastating surgery of the five surgeries she would have in that time period.

My mother-in-law had died on the table in the Operating Room. Lea’s dad and her sister, Leslie, were using my house as their headquarters to contact their family to inform everyone about Wanda’s passing, and plan her funeral.

I can’t remember exactly how I ended up being chosen to write her eulogy…  It might have been because of all the things I said about her when we went to see her body the night she died. Dave was touched, and may have asked me to say something at her memorial service. I would spend a few days camped in front of my computer monitor, writing and editing and rewriting what I wanted to say.

My boss and her boss, Marj and Mary, had done the unthinkable. They had questioned whether I really needed to take a week off after the sudden death of my mother-in-law.

And that’s how this story gets started.

* * * *

I wasn’t particularly close to anyone in Lea’s family at that time. Her parents lived almost two thousand miles away. I hadn’t actually seen them in person more than a handful of times. I liked Wanda, she was a sweet gal. Dave was a difficult guy to like. Even the people that knew him best agreed on that.

This was my first time meeting Lea’s sister and her husband. She didn’t come to our wedding, she didn’t approve of Lea marrying a man she had known less than six months. Leslie and Lea were as different as two sisters could be. I didn’t quite know what to think of her the first time we met. But I really liked her husband. Bill was a really sweet guy, and he had a great sense of humor. We became friends almost immediately.

The relatives started arriving. They dropped by the house to see Dave and Leslie and Bill.

Shirley, Dave’s sister. Pat, Wanda’s sister. Gene, Dave’s brother. And Joan, Gene’s wife. I met them all and listened to their stories about Wanda. And that’s how I learned about her life and what kind of woman she was. And those stories would become the eulogy I wrote.

I focused on that, but in the back of my mind I started writing another paper. One that would take my horrible boss and her even more horrible boss out at the knees.

I split time that week between my house and Fairview Medical Center. Lea’s fourth surgery had resulted in the removal of all of her colon, and about ten feet of her small bowel as well. And there was one more thing. She had an ileostomy with an external pouch.

My lovely supermodel wife was devastated.

It was a difficult time for us. Lea was reluctant to tell me the result of her surgery. She was distant and distracted. I attributed her response to the death of her mother. I knew I would’ve been distraught if my mother had died. Her surgeon had informed me about the results of Surgery #4, so I wasn’t completely in the dark about what had got happened.

I spent hours at the hospital, saying nothing, watching my wife sleep. She slept more after that surgery than any of the others. I had many whispered conversations with her nurses and the visitors that dropped in to see her.

It was maybe toward the middle of the week that she told me she had an ileostomy. Tears rolled down her face like rain. I think I asked her what took her so long to tell me.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t think of me as a whole person anymore.”

“Honey, if wanted someone who was all there, I never would’ve married you.”

Sometimes, a guy just has to reassure his wife.

* * * *

Lea’s doctor had to write an order for a pass so Lea could go to her mother’s funeral service on Friday. I brought an outfit she requested to the hospital. It was probably the first time she’d worn something besides an hospital gown in a month.

Wanda’s service was held at a funeral home. Dave wasn’t a big believer in God. He never went to church, and he wasn’t about to start now.

Bill had also been selected to say a few words at Wanda’s service. The gist of his words was knowing when you’ve had enough and when to say when. And that was one of Wanda’s graces. She knew when she’d had enough.

And then I took the podium.

I first met David and Wanda the day before Lea and I got married in 1988. I got the impression on our wedding day that Wanda was quite a character, but it wasn’t until the first Saturday after we were married that I truly realized how much of a character Wanda was. And that was when the telephone rang at 6:00 AM.

Lea says she has been trying unsuccessfully for 22 years to get her mother to call her at a later hour. Lea’s sister, Leslie, had been lobbying for 30 years. It’s a certainty that what the two of them couldn’t achieve in a combined 52 years, I wasn’t going to change in the 6 years that I knew Wanda. Dave and I were talking the other day and he said, “The girls are really going to miss their mother calling them on Saturday morning.” I think I can speak for Leslie and Lea when I say, “Dave, if you want to call us at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning, please pick up the phone and give us a call.”

Speaking only for myself, I’d like to point out that 8:00 AM is a very fine hour. 9:00 AM is a good hour, also. Seriously Dave; anytime, any day, you want to call, call us. Any time.

I remember the trip Lea and I took to Harlingen, TX a couple years ago to see her parents. You can practically spit into Mexico from their mailbox, so of course we took a trip to one of the border towns nearby. Dave and I found we aren’t very good at haggling with the street vendors in Mexico. I’d see something I like and ask how much it cost and the vendor would say, “$50.00.” And I’d say, “Okay.” Wanda came to my rescue. And she was a tough negotiator, so Dave and I did the only sensible thing we could do under the circumstances. We left the shopping to Wanda and Lea, and we went to go have a few beers.

Another story I have of Wanda is one that Dave told me recently. When Dave and Wanda lived up here in Minnesota, they had season tickets to the Vikings games. Back then, the Vikings played football outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium. It was out in the elements, and football was football. The players got their uniforms dirty and everything. Also back then, the fans would have tailgate parties out at the Met, set up their barbecues an partied in the parking lot at Met Stadium–did all that stuff that no one can do now that the Metrodome is here. After one of the games Dave and Wanda and their group had their tailgate party going, and there was another group or two not far away. Back then, some of the Viking players would stop in and have a beer and a burger with the fans, and a former Vikings wide receiver named Gene Washington was doing that with a group not far from where Dave and Wanda were at.

A crowd of young boys had gathered around Mr. Washington, hoping to get his autograph, but Mr. Washington wasn’t in an autograph signing mood. He told the kids to leave him alone. When Wanda saw that she went over to Mr. Washington and told him, “Those boys idolize you, you’re their hero. All they want from you is an autograph–You should be ashamed of yourself!” And I can just see Wanda doing that.

I won’t repeat Mr. Washington’s reply to Wanda, but needless to say he wasn’t very polite, nor did he sign any autographs for those boys.

I was probably the same age as some of those boys were when that incident happened. When I was a young boy I worshipped the Vikings, I watched all their games, I idolized the players. They were my heroes. And Gene Washington was one of my heroes. But I have a different hero now.

There’s a saying that goes, “When you’re Irish, you know that sooner or later the world’s going to break your heart.” And it is true. It is so true.

If there’s any consolation for those of us gathered here to remember Wanda, it is this: Heroes, true heroes, never die. Their actions, their deeds and their legacies live forever. 

It would be the first of the four eulogies I’ve done in my life. It was the most difficult public speech I had ever attempted. Only my dad’s eulogy would surpass it terms of personal heartache for me.

Lea returned to the hospital almost immediately after the service. I didn’t take her back–I think Gwen drove her–but I remember walking into her room when I got to the hospital after the meal. There’s always food after a funeral in Minnesota. Lea’s clothes were strewn on the floor. Lea never did that. I knew her suffering vastly surpassed mine. I was afraid this blow might be too much for her to take. She was asleep in bed, again. I folded her clothes and hung them in her closet, then sat down and watched her sleep.

But in my mind, I was writing the paper I would send to my Director of Nursing at the MVAMC. A paper that would more than even the score against the heartless bitches that were making my life miserable at work, and get them off my back.

It would be the greatest thing I ever wrote.

* * * *

There’s only problem I have with my greatest work of prose now. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote anymore, and I didn’t save a copy of it.

I know I outlined the situation regarding my wife’s lengthy illness, and the life and death situation it had become. And I was especially clear about what Marj and Mary had said after my mother-in-law died, and how she had travelled up to Minnesota from the bottom of Texas to see her daughter one last time.

I know I talked about the qualities of caring and compassion that nurses are endowed with, except when regarding our colleagues. That’s really all I wanted. I wanted to be treated with a little compassion, and I wanted my goddamn bosses to stop hitting me with a guilt trip every time I needed to take time off because my wife was in the hospital fighting for her life.

I think my write up was about five pages long. I returned to work to another stretch of nights. I put my paper into an intraoffice mailing envelope, and addressed it to the DON. I would hear from my co-workers about its effect.

The DON at the MVAMC was a gal named Betty Theis. She was a no-nonsense, tough as nails administrator. Steel wished it was made of Betty, and when she got angry, grown men had been known to start crying under her unrelenting gaze.

I really wish I could have been present when Betty summoned Marj and Mary to her office. My co-workers told me Marj looked like she had seen two ghosts when she returned to the unit, and closed the door to her office. Her eyes were red from crying when she left.

Marj called me into her office when I returned to working days.

“I know you’ve gone through a lot lately, and I haven’t been as supportive as I could.” That would be the closest thing to an apology I would receive from Marj. Mary would only speak to me one more time while she worked at the MVAMC, and it would not be an apology.

But it was what Marj said next that truly surprised me.

“I think you’re depressed and suicidal, and I’m sending you see an EAP counselor.” I think I may have started laughing at her, and at the very least, I had to have flashed her a smile of amusement. Of all the things I anticipated she might say, this was one thing I most certainly hadn’t expected.

Nurses might have a lots of duties and responsibilities, but no part of a my job description, or Marj’s for that matter, had anything to do with diagnosing anyone. I probably could have gotten her dumb ass fired for that remark, but that had never been part of my agenda.

So I went to the EAP Office to meet with my counselor. He met me at the door. He was a nice guy that had trouble believing I was the suicidal guy he was supposed to save.

“You drove here yourself? No one accompanied you? I heard you were an imminent suicide risk!”

“Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.”

I told my counselor my story. By the time I finished, I think he wanted to kill Marj.

“I don’t think you’re depressed, or suicidal. I think you’ve been through a lot of stress, for an extended period of time, and I think both you and your wife need some time to just take everything in so you can put your lives back together.”

I was hoping his recommendation would be for me to take a month off.

“Look. You won the battle. Don’t lose the war. Go back to work. Keep your head down, and I’d look for a new position if I were you. Your boss,” he said. “Is nuts!”

That guy gave me some good advice when I needed it most. The more I thought about Marj’s response, the more I started thinking maybe I should make getting her dumb ass fired part of my agenda.

But the last thing I needed at that time was to fight a war on a second front. I took his advice. I went back to work and kept my head down. I tried not to turn my back on my horrible boss, just in cases she had a knife in her hand.

And I took the first opportunity I had to apply for another pysch position at the MVAMC,. A staff nurse position opened up on the other psych unit, and I interviewed with Kevin. It would end up being the smartest career move I made at the VA, and once free of Marj, I would start to become a great psych nurse.

And more importantly, my wife would finally start getting better, and our lives together would finally begin to achieve some measure of balance.

But that would be in the future, and there would be plenty of challenges waiting for us to face. And one in particular that almost destroyed our marriage.

Balancing Act

I’ve been retired for a little over two months now. I live a life of relaxed luxury in a beautiful villa on a hillside overlooking scenic Lake Chapala in Mexico. I honestly didn’t think my life could get any sweeter.

Everything happens for a reason. God, in his infinite wisdom, made straight our path to Mexico. But I never trusted the voices that said You guys have worked hard all your lives. God wants you relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. There’s only one problem with that line of thought.

It’s patently false.

Lea and I both believe there’s a deeper purpose at work here, but we haven’t discerned it yet. We aren’t driving the bus, but we do have to be able to recognize our stop. We’re keeping our eyes and minds open. And we totally enjoyed our first two months here.

And then I fucked up my back. A lots.

I didn’t do anything to injure my back. It was fine when I went to bed two weeks ago, but it felt… different…when I woke up. Two days later, I thought Freddy Kruger was massaging my neck. I was in agony.

When I was as a nurse, I was required to do a pain assessment on all of my patients. It’s a 0-10 scale, with 10 being the worst possible pain imaginable.

I know for a fact my pain hit 15 a couple of times. And I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. I mean, I’m the guy that once walked at least a mile on a fractured ankle.

Yeah, it actually did hurt like hell.

I’m a guy. Guys do not go see a doctor unless they’re dying. In truth, they will usually wait until after they’re dead before they’ll call to make an appointment. I’m also a nurse, and nurses dislike doctors even more than guys do. Dealing with the doctors is sometimes worse than dealing with the patients.

So, it may come as a surprise to hear that I went to see not one, but three healthcare providers in the last two weeks.

Doctor One was naturopathic practitioner. She didn’t do any sort of an exam, but based on my symptoms, she concluded I had an herniated disc. D1 gave me a cold laser treatment, an electrical muscle stimulation, and she gave me a prescription for some pain meds. Her treatment was… well, it wasn’t ineffective, but it wasn’t greatly effective either. Her bill was roughly 350 pesos, plus whatever the pain meds cost. My symptoms improved, but the pain persisted, and eventually got more better worser.

Doctor Two was a chiropractor. D2 palpated my cervical spine, and concluded my herniation was at C7. He had an impressive looking contraption for spinal decompression in his office. He told me the machine cost one hundred thousand dollars. And he has two of them. He did a minimal exam, then agreed with Doctor One’s assessment.  His idea of treatment was for me to use his contraption, and his bill was thirty seven thousand pesos.

In his defense, he does have two decompression machines to pay for.

Doctor Three does modified Bowen Therapy. Google it. That’s what I had to do. He did the most thorough medical history of this trio. He’s not merely a therapist of the physical realm, he’s a therapist of the soul.

“The right side of your face is really swollen. Have you had any dental work done lately?”

“My jaw was broken earlier this year.”

“Well, there you go.”

“But the fracture was on the left.”

“Yeah, that would explain it.”

Perhaps, but not to me.

He thought it was weird I had apparently herniated a disc in my sleep. It’s possible, I guess, but unlikely to occur that way. He asked a lots of questions about my life and stuff, and then he went to work. He’s probably had clients that were as messed up as I was, but I think it’s been awhile.

He thought discs C7 and T1 were locked together, then feared all seven of my cervical vertebrae were locked together. Getting all those little bones moving independently once more was a complicated process. When he wanted to loosen up a specific area of my body, like my neck, he started by focusing on an area nowhere near my neck, before he turned his attention and magic fingers on it. And before too long I could actually turn my head.

I felt like I had been hit by a truck by the time he finished. The session lasted two hours, and cost five hundred pesos. My still whole body aches this morning, but it’s not in agony anymore.

D3 talked about seemingly random stuff while he went through his progressions. He was just throwing ideas out there, food for thought. Like cosmic energy vortices and stuff. Some people are highly intuitive, and the energy vortices here are almost as intense as they are in Sedona, Arizona. That could be part of the problem.

“You worked in a high stress area. What are you doing now?”

“Dude, are you telling me I’m stressing out because I don’t have any stress in my life?”

I can honestly tell you I wasn’t too thrilled by that idea. I was a psych nurse. And now, I’m a…psych… patient? Seriously, I was having an existential spinal meltdown because I wasn’t hanging out with crazy people anymore.

I am shaking my head as write this, and it doesn’t hurt one bit.

This change has evidently been so stressful to me that the left side of my body is trying to pull my spine away from the center of my torso. My right shoulder is messed up, probably from the time I wiped out running across that old lava flow on the Big Island  of Hawaii. And I shanked up the left side of my rib cage, possibly when I jumped out of Raoul’s car after he turned into Satan when I was tripping on acid in Texas.

For whatever reason or reasons, my body has become profoundly unbalanced, and as a psych nurse and alcoholic, I understand the importance of balance.

The most depressing aspect of this circumstance is I thought I had a pretty good feel for the whole balance thing, and that illusion just got blown all to hell.

I know that I’ll never reach a point where I don’t need to work at improving myself, but I didn’t know I needed this much calibration. And yesterday was my 61st birthday. Not a present I would’ve chosen for myself, I can assure you.

So, what tools do you need to fix yourself?

Step 1. Awareness. If you’re not aware of the problem, you’re not going to do anything to fix it.

Step 2. Insight. How does it apply to me? Understanding cause and effect.

Step 3. Action. Come up with a plan and attack. If you’re not willing to make some changes, get comfortable where you’re at. You’re not going anywhere…

I need to exercise more–not this week, thank God, but soon. Drink more water. Even after three kidney stones, it’s still an issue. And I need to use better body mechanics.

That’s the structural stuff.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’m sure I couldn’t list all the stuff I need to do there, but off the top of my head, I’m sure stress management will rate pretty high on that list.

Poco y poco.

I’m not sure God has a sense of humor, but I like to think he does. It would explain a lot. God certainly has a finely tuned sense of irony because there are so many ironic moments in all of our lives. It would appear that God has an endless appetite for those types of scenarios.

What better tool to use to teach us awareness?

He’s got my attention.

Everyone thinks retirement means you can put your feet up and kick back. Your work is done. But that’s not how it’s looking to me right now.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like my work has just begun.

Glenda K

Glenda was one of our patients at the Banner Del E Webb Medical Center. Prior to being acquired by BannerHealth, Del Webb and its sister facility, Boswell Hospital, were managed by SunHealth. SunHealth was a very small fish in the large healthcare pond in the Phoenix area. When Banner offered to purchase their facilities, SunHealth quickly agreed.

The employees weren’t thrilled with the acquisition. SunHealth was a very good employer. The mostly elderly population that used and staunchly supported the SunHealth facilities were extremely upset. Del Webb and Boswell hospitals were their hospitals. They didn’t want a bunch of strangers roaming the hallways of their getaway retreat hospital spas.

That’s exactly how they thought of them.

Those little old ladies even had bake sales to raise money for a new MRI machine! Do you have any idea how many cookies that is? That’s, like, a trillion fucking cookies!! Maybe they should’ve put on some cute outfits and stood on the corners in Sun City and Sun City West…

Gero/Psych nursing is a sub-specialty area of Psych nursing. Elderly psych patients generally come pre-equipped with a whole slew of medical issues, and all of those issues have to be effectively managed, as well as the psychiatric disorders they are admitted for.

Glenda was an older gal, all of our patients had to be at least fifty-fifty years old. Most of our patients were closer to one hundred seventy-fifty years old. Glenda was married, and she was a hot mess. Her husband was a sweet, supportive, long suffering man.

Glenda had asthma, emphysema and COPD. As a result of her respiratory disorders and diseases, she suffered from chronic anxiety and depression. She was a very frequent flyer on the SAGE Unit, the Gero/Psych Unit at Del Webb. I would get to know her and her husband very well in a relatively short amount of time.

In all honesty, I was extremely uncomfortable in Gero/Psych. I was not a Real Nurse. I was a psych nurse. I had worked in a strictly psychiatric setting for twenty years. When we had patients that were that physically sick at the VA, we transferred them to a Med/Surg Unit. I had to learn how to start an IV, how to draw blood all over again–even do blood transfusions. 😓 In order to transfer one of our SAGE patients to a Med/Surg Unit, they essentially had to be dead.

If you don’t use those skills, you lose those skills. I had to be retrained in almost everything. It was good to be able to master all those skills again, but I had the same underlying fear that I’d had way back in nursing school. I was sure I was going to kill one of my patients, or in a worst case scenario, all of them.

When my senior manager offered me a clinical management position, I took it out of self-preservation.

Glenda was probably what you would consider a difficult patient. We certainly did. She was anxious and depressed at home, so she desperately wanted to be hospitalized. She was depressed and anxious once she was admitted to the SAGE Unit, and she’d demand to be discharged. That’s where I came in. The staff nurses would call me and ask me to come try to reason with Glenda.

As a clinical manager, I didn’t have anything to do with her patient care, but I had a lots to do with patient and family education and satisfaction. One of my managerial duties was to round on a random sample of the patients on the SAGE Unit to assess their rating of the service being provided to them. In the world of BannerHealth, everything revolved around Patient Satisfaction Surveys. And do you know what I discovered? Old people suck!

Man, they hated everything!! That’s when I started calling them Raisins, the sunbaked asshole/bitches that they were. It was almost impossible to get them to give us high satisfaction ratings on any service we provided on those goddamn surveys, and we needed at least an eighty percent satisfaction rating or there was hell to pay! 😭😭😭

I had worked in healthcare for twenty years by this time. I knew when we were doing a great job. I knew when we were doing a bad job. The SAGE staff was extremely talented, and they did an amazing job. They should’ve gotten elevens on a scale from one to ten.

My Filipino Posse, that’s what I called them–a lots of the RN’s were from the Philippines–Al, Julius, Liligene, Wei, Jing. Julie and Ethel. I loved them all. Well, most of them. Almost all of them were great nurses. Except two. And everyone knows who they were. And they weren’t Julie and Ethel. Those two were so darlingpreshadorbs!!

I worked with another rockstar nurse there, Rhonda Dolatshahi. Rhonda told me she wanted to be listed in one of my Reflections posts someday. Well, Rhonda, today’s your lucky day.

I told she’d have to be naked in the story I wrote. So I want to thank Rhonda for coming into my office, closing the door, and taking off all her clothes and saying, “You’re a nurse. What do you think this is?”

Yeah, that never happened. Unfortunately.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Glenda.

Glenda was unhappy about everything. The nurses were rude. They weren’t doing anything to help her. They never answered her call light when she turned it on. And so on, and so forth. Blah, blah, blah.

I did a lots of redirection and refocusing with Glenda. I doubt I did much of anything to actually change Glenda’s mind, but I did spend a lots of time with her, and that’s probably all she really wanted.

But there was that one thing about Glenda. And that one thing was her tooth.

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Glenda had one tooth. And it seriously looked like that picture. She had dentures, but she rarely wore them. So when I went to listen to her litany of complaints, her tooth jumped into my field of vision, and it was the only thing I could see. It was like her tooth was talking to me. It was like watching a train wreck. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.

I stared at her tooth as if it were the only thing that existed in the world. I knew I was staring at her tooth. And so did Glenda. She eventually started putting a finger to her mouth when she talked to me, obscuring her mutant tooth. I actually laughed the first time she did it. So did she, come to think of it.

Glenda’s respiratory problems eventually got the best of her. She died at home, thank God. You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork involved when someone dies on a psych unit. And there’s always a follow up investigation, even if the person dies from natural causes.

Vaya con Dios, Glenda. I have to believe you went to a better place, and you’re at peace now. And you have all your teeth once more.

Sorry about that whole staring thing.

The Jawbone of an Ass

My jaw has been bothering me quite a bit lately. It’s been a little over eight months since I was assaulted, resulting in the nondisplaced mandibular fracture that certainly doesn’t feel all that nondisplaced to me.

My dentist at Surprise Smiles 😆 told me it could take up to a year for my jaw muscles to realign to the new profile of my bite. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear back then, but if it will truly take that long, the good news is I have a mere four months to go.

I have sustained several physical injuries during my career as a psychiatric nurse. I also sustained several more injuries during my career as a drunken moron. These two careers overlapped each other for at least ten years, so it’s hard for me to separate them sometimes. The net result is pain, and for anyone that lives with daily chronic pain, it really doesn’t matter where or how it originated. You simply have to learn to live with it.

I was physically assaulted on three separate occasions during my nursing career. That averages out to one assault roughly every ten years. Somewhat oddly, I was struck in the face each time.

The first time, I never saw the punch coming. I was working at the MVAMC. My back was turned to the guy that hit me. Merrill came up behind me and suckerpunched the right side of my face because he wanted to go smoke, but I had taken away his smoking privileges because he was being an asshole.

It took me a moment to figure out what the hell got happened, and then it hit me, so to speak. That sonuvabitch punched me! My first response was to immediately punch him back. Yeah, guy logic, if there is such a thing.

My co-workers intervened. Merrill was quickly whisked into a seclusion room. I was sent to Employee Health be evaluated. I sustained no serious injury, but the doctor gave me the rest of the day off, just because.

The second assault occurred at Aurora. It was my second year there. I remember it as The Year of the Borderlines. My unit was generally designated as the  Marginally Functional Psychotic Unit, but that year we got hit with a tsunami of patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.

One Borderline can be enough to stand your unit on its head. A gaggle of Borderlines (?) A gossip of Borderlines…  I like that! A lots of Borderlines gathered together is rarely a good thing, particularly if you’re a psych nurse. And especially if the gossip is gaggling on your unit.

It takes an awesome skill set to effectively manage that.

The patient in question was Melissa, maybe. I used to remember everything about every one of my patients, but they eventually melded into one multi-headed mutant patient. Mel was having a difficult day obtaining the level of attention she desired, so she decided to go full on Drama Llama and had a VPM–Very Public Meltdown. Mel was good for usually one of these a day. She would set off a chain reaction with the rest of her Borderline buddies, and chaos would ensue.

On this particular day, I didn’t respond the way she wanted me to (I didn’t call the doctor to get injectable meds), so she stormed off to her room to slam the door and scream.

Karen Rae Goff, social worker extraordinaire, happened to be on the unit at the time. Karen also happened to be Melissa’s social worker, so we went to her room to see what Mel had planned for her next move.

“Get out of here!” Mel screamed at us as I opened the door.

“I need to know that you’re going to be safe.” I said, from the doorway.

“Leave me alone, or I’ll kick your fucking ass!” she screamed. And then I did something stupid:

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Melissa launched herself at me and started swinging. I blocked her first punch or two, but then she caught me with a left jab that knocked my glasses askew on my face.

That stirred something inside Karen, and she let loose on Melissa with her Mom Voice, and Mel was so stunned she stopped acting like a temper tantrum toddler.

“I can’t fucking believe you did that.” I said, and calmly readjusted my glasses.

“You asked for it.” Melissa replied.

“Are you going to press charges?” Karen asked me. It’s a felony to physically assault a healthcare worker in Arizona. Melissa let a momentary look of panic escape, and that’s when I fell in love with Karen. We never had another problem with Melissa. She was a little angel for the remainder of her stay.

And that brings us to Assault #3, which also happened at Aurora.

That day started out like any other day. Dr Sbiliris, the psychiatrist assigned to the Canyon Unit, came onto the unit to meet with his patients. One of them, a young kid named Desean asked to be discharged. Dr Sbiliris kind of laughed and said, “No, probably Friday. Maybe Wednesday.”

Desean seemed to accept that, even if it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.

And then something happened that should’ve sent my Spidey senses tingling. A patient on the Canyon Unit started loudly acting out, and when the staff from other units rushed over to aid and assist, Desean bolted out the unit doors and made a break for freedom.

We took care of the Yelling Guy. Desean fell short in his sprint to escape. He returned to the unit with an escort, and went to his room. And there was peace in the Canyon once more. Until 2:00 PM.

That’s when Desean entered the dayroom and started yelling and throwing stuff.

My boss of bosses, Lori Milus, must’ve been having a rare quiet day because she had come down to chat. I went into the day room. One of the BHT’s was trying to verbally redirect Desean, and I provided back up. But Desean wasn’t having any of that shit.

“Come on, man.” I said. “You know how this works. Sbiliris says that to everyone. He wants to see how you’ll respond. You know acting like this isn’t going to get you out of here. If anything, it’ll extend your stay, and you clearly don’t want that. Use your head, think about this!”

Desean and I were standing in the doorway of the dayroom. The nursing station and the unit doors were behind me. The hallway leading to the patient rooms was behind Desean.

He didn’t say anything, as if he were contemplating the veracity of my words. He appeared to me to start turning to his right, and I thought he would keep on going and go back to his room. I also started turning to my right, thinking my work was done. But Desean was merely loading up. He stopped turning to his right and reversed direction. His right fist came flying at me at about the speed of light, catching me squarely on the jaw.

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I was launched into space, much like that. I landed by the unit doors, seven or eight feet away. Desean may have howled in triumph. He ripped off his shirt, daring me to get up and fight him.

Like that was going to happen.

I didn’t lose consciousness. I even kept my head elevated so it wouldn’t hit the floor. But I don’t think I could’ve gotten off the floor just then if my life had depended on it.

One of the darling nurses I worked with, Lindsey Stirling, picked up my glasses and protectively leaned over me as I lay on the floor, trying to out figure out what I should do next. Another nurse, Brea Bils, one of my darlingpreshadorbs work daughters, tried to check my blood pressure. She later told me she no idea what she was doing. She thought I had gotten dead.

I knew I didn’t got dead, so I think I even said that.

“I’m not dead. I didn’t lose consciousness. My jaw…is really sore, but other than that, I’m okay.”

A group of BHT’s had escorted Desean into one of the Overflow rooms. Aurora was the only psychiatric facility I worked at that didn’t allow the use of seclusion and/or restraints to manage a behavioral crisis. Desean got several injections. And he was kept under close observation by several large men.

Once Desean was medicated and no longer actively assaultive, my boss asked me if I wanted to press charges. I did.

If Desean had been psychotic and responding to internal stimuli, that might’ve changed my decision. But Desean wasn’t psychotic. He didn’t get what he wanted, and he decided to act like a thug. That definitely was a factor in determining my decision.

The police took my statement. They took Desean into custody. Thankfully, Frankie Baby wasn’t there, or the police would’ve had to arrest him for murder. And there was peace in the Canyon once more.

I didn’t find out my jaw was broken until the following day when I had a CT scan. Because my fracture was nondisplaced, there wasn’t much of a treatment. I was on a soft diet for six to eight weeks; nothing but soups, smoothies and ice cream.

I bought the world’s most expensive smoothie. I lost ten pounds. I gained all of them back once I could eat real food again. And now I’m learning to live with my new occlusion pattern. It’s a process. Some days are better than others. Today, it hasn’t been too bad. Yesterday fucking sucked.

And as Forrest Gump said, That’s all I have to say about that.

Get out and vote.

La Vida Fantástico

I’ve been retired for a little over one month. My lovely supermodel wife and I sold our house, decluttered and divested ourselves of a bunch of stuff, and moved to Mexico. Our stunning retirement residence, Villa del Selva, is the featured image above.

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Arriba, baby!

I’ve got to tell you, retirement has been velly velly good to me. Now that I can sleep again and don’t have to worry about dying to death from Malignant Insomnia, I really don’t have anything to worry about.

My days are about as stress free as life can be. I wake up early, I’ve never been much of a late sleeper. My day starts around 4:30 AM, give or take. I turn on our Ninja® coffeemaker, feed Samantha (our kitten) and watch the Morning Show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I didn’t know Canadians were funny, eh!

This is perhaps the most surreal part of my life now. I had to move all the way to Mexico to learn all about Canadia. Our satellite TV provider is from Canada, so we get a lots of Canadian TV shows. We also have an Amazon Firestick and an XBMCMART box. We can binge watch movies or pretty much any TV show all day if we don’t want to leave the house. Yesterday we watched all of Season 14 of NCIS, Lea’s favorite TV show.

We have the most minimal set schedule we’ve ever had in our lives. We have Spanish lessons on Tuesdays at noon at the Lake Chapala Society. And November 12-13 we have to travel back to the border with our Padrino, Javier Guardado, so I can get an FMM. (It’s an Immigration form that I didn’t get when I entered the country. I think that makes me an illegal immigrant in Mexico!)

That’s it. Everything else is determined by when or if we want to do it. Lea has a pampering/beauty/spa day today. Hair and a mani/pedi at Christine’s European Salon.

The only thing we actually need to do on an occasional basis is go shopping. Groceries, household goods, furniture, stuff. As my friend and mentor, Sondra Roberts-Johnson used to say, “Gots to go shoppin’!”

And let’s not forget dining out. There are a lots of restaurants and places to eat here in the Lakeside area. There are something like four or five small to medium sized towns that basically run together in what the locals call Lakeside. If we focused on just the restaurants in Ajijic, it’d take us over a year to try them all. It would probably take a lifetime or two to hit every dining establishment down here.

We have yet to find a place we’d never consider returning to.

And for those of you that don’t follow me on Facebook, and you haven’t seen the hundreds of pictures of the Lakeside area that I’ve posted, this place is gorgeous! It’s so incredibly beautiful here!! Ajijic is pretty much heaven on earth. So if you have to do something, you couldn’t pick a more scenic place to do it.

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Ajijic Village

Sometimes we’ll go down to the village and just walk around, and I’ll take pictures, when Lea feels up to it. Apparently this aspect of my personality drives my wife crazy. She doesn’t mind it any other time, except when we’re strolling through Ajijic. In a way, that’s really a shame, seeing how this is where we live… And I have two digital cameras… And a smartphone, with a camera…

Well, there has to be something, I guess, otherwise you wouldn’t need to die to death to get into Heaven, if Heaven is where we go once we got dead. I personally believe Heaven is the abode of God and his angels, and that’s it. We, or what remains of us, go to an entirely different realm once we enter the afterlife.

Well, that’s it for today. I ended up spending about eight hours or more writing my post yesterday. I’m not always an inspired writer, but I am a diligent editor and re-writer. I don’t have any plans after finishing my daily blog for this day. I still have trouble believing I’ve become a blogger guy. Maybe I’ll go for a walk with my camera while Lea’s getting all pretty and cutey.

Film at ten.