Vision

It’s the Independence Day weekend in Mexico. El dia de independencia. 16 de septiembre. On that date in the year 1810, the cry of freedom first rang out in Mexico, and the revolt against the fucking Spaniards began.

¡Viva, México!

This weekend inaugurates what I’ve come to call fiesta season in the Lakeside Area. It’s more or less one big party down here from now until Christmas. Lea has actually looked up all of the annual national and local holidays. There’s something like unto ten thousand of them.

I call it, Los Meses Que Nadie Duerme. The Months That No One Sleeps. The locals don’t sleep because they’re celebrating! And the gringos don’t sleep because there’s no such thing as a quiet celebration in Mexico.

Neither Lea nor I got any sleep last night. A loud party nearby kept us awake until 2:30 AM. There was music. And singing. And storytelling. And laughter. And I’m going to guess all of that was fueled by a lots of alcohol. Then our four kit-tens took over when the celebration finally died down. Yes, we now have four felines and Casa Tara has become a cathouse.

I’ll get to that later.

* * * *

The Minnesota Vikings played their arch rivals, the Green Bay Packers in their biggest game of the young NFL season today. The Vikings were favored to win, so they played their worst game and lost 21-16.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Or even disappointed. I’ve learned to accept the fact that my team just doesn’t do well with high expectations. I’m going to hope that they’re able to get their act together and play better. It’s either that or give up on football and take up ballet. Or fishing. Or anything else.

The Detroit Lions won yesterday. I’m still considering them as my new team. They’ve sucked for years, so any game they win is a pleasant surprise.

* * * *

The Vision is a fictional superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®. He’s an android created by Ultron, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Thor. He possesses the Mind Stone, one of the Infinity Stones that Thanos collected so he could exterminate half of all life in the universe.

Vision is the faculty or state of being able to see. Sight is one of the five senses. It’s arguably the most important one of the bunch. Most people I know like to be able to see what they’re doing. When people talk about sight they rarely use the word vision. Vision seems to have taken on a long range connotation in the minds of many people.

Except when you’re drunk. Then there’s that whole double vision thing…

And that’s all I have to say about that.

* * * *

I haven’t been able to write lately. Actually, I haven’t been able to do much of anything. There’s a reason for that.

I recently got a new pair of glasses.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I’m more or less legally blind without corrective lenses. I’ve been wearing eyeglasses since the third grade. I probably should have been wearing them in the womb. I’m terribly nearsighted. I’m also farsighted. And I have astigmatism. Oh, and sometimes I can’t see colors so good. I probably should have learned Braille. But even if I had, the keyboard on my Notebook isn’t equipped with it, so there’s that.

* * * *

There’s nothing wrong with my old glasses. I’ve had my current pair of glasses for almost five years. The lenses are getting a little scratched up, but that’ll happen over time. I can still see out of them, and that’s really the only purpose eyeglasses serve.

I’m not sure why I decided to get new glasses. My lovely supermodel wife got new glasses this year. So did my golf wife. They both look super cute. Lea actually looks like a really hot librarian. It would appear I thought it was my turn…

Normally, something like this wouldn’t have a major impact in my life, but in this case there was one small, insignificant detail. I couldn’t see much of anything with my new glasses.

I wear progressive bifocals. Hey, I’m old, okay? I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain what went wrong, and this is the best I can do: I live in a Central Time Zone, but my right eye was seeing in the Eastern Time Zone, and my left eye was seeing in the Mountain Time Zone.

Everything was clear, then it was fuzzy, then it was blurry, then it was distorted. And then the process started all over again. It was déjà vu, jamais vu, and goo goo g’joob all rolled together into one disturbing optical illusion.

My eyes were sending so much contradictory stimuli to my brain I started hallucinating. For someone as loosely held together as myself, it was the last thing I needed. I was pretty sure a bunch of ninjas were trying to sneak up on me because that’s what I was seeing out of the corners of my eyes. When I tried to focus on them, the ninjas disappeared. It made sense to me at the time. That’s kinda what ninjas do…

* * * *

Another Little Known Fact About Me: I don’t look crazy, but I have at least four Axis I psychiatric diagnoses, and at least one Axis II diagnosis. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have more. I’m not going to elaborate on any of them, but I’ve never taken any psych meds. I’ve learned to adapt to the kooky way my brain works, mostly by trying to ignore it, and rarely taking anything that goes on inside of my head too seriously.

If you don’t know what Axis I or II are, look them up on the Google®. They’re all in the DSM-IV. It’s the Big Book of What’s Wrong With You for Psychiatry. And you should probably know that there’s no diagnosis of Normal.

Be that as it may, I…suffer…from frequent unpleasant intrusive thoughts. If they weren’t so unpleasant, I don’t think there’d be any suffering involved. It’s one of the reasons I tried drinking myself into a coma for three decades.

I don’t hear voices, but I do have thought insertions. They can also be intrusive. And unpleasant. And, they can sometimes be misinterpreted as voices. Thought insertion is a somewhat uncommon symptom: I sometimes feel my thoughts are not my own, but rather belong to someone else and have been inserted into my mind.

You know, like, whenever I actually have a good idea.

* * * *

I got my new glasses last Saturday, so that’s when my corrected vision problems started. I figured it was just the new prescription, you know, my eyes would adjust. I wore them last Sunday when I went golfing. It was the worst round of golf I’ve played since I quit drinking. I finally ended up doing this:

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As ridiculous as it might sound, this classic bit of advice actually worked for me. Once I stopped trying to see the ball, I could actually hit it better. I might have accidentally learned something from essentially being blind, and Caddyshack.

Feeling the golf course, finding a form of oneness with it. Seeing not with your eyes, but with your mind. It was oddly spiritual, and even more oddly, relaxing. I don’t recommend this method to improve your golf game to anyone. To be honest, I’d rather be able to see.

I went golfing today with my old glasses, my new Tour Edge® putter, my golf wife, Phyllis, and our friends, Tom and Cheryl. For the most part, I think I putted better today, but I also discovered I’m still capable of three putting.

Motherfucker Osmond Brothers!

The biggest problem with any golf club is they all have manual transmissions. There’s no D for drive. There’s no cruise control. There’s no semi-autonomous driver-assist features. They are all subject to user error.

But something amazing happened to me on the front nine today. For the first time in my life, I did not fuck up a single fairway shot. I nailed every one of them, setting myself up for all of the things golfers dream about: eagles, birdies, and pars.

Unfortunately, reality decided to tag along. My chipping game still needs some serious tweaking.

* * * *

I think I tried getting used to my new glasses for four days, then gave up and put my old glasses back on, then went to see Kristi, the sweet young lady that runs the optical shop where I bought my glasses. My new glasses are under warranty, so she’s going to have a new pair made with my old prescription.

I’m sure there were several factors involved in the process that resulted in my incorrect corrective lenses. There have already been a few steps in the process to re-correct them, and there’ll probably be a few more. But it probably won’t be as arduous as getting our refrigerator fixed.

By the way, that’s still working. I’m starting to believe it’s not going to break down again this time.

* * * *

Last Thursday, we welcomed two more kit-tens into our household:

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Behold, Sadie and Sammy. We’re going to rid of all our dark clothing

Planet Janet, our former landlady, asked us if we could help out her best friend, Neelam. Neelam is being treated for cancer, and she could no longer care for her three dogs and two cats.

We didn’t want the dogs, so we took the kit-tens.

Sadie is a Champagne Tonkinese mix female. I’m not sure if she’s a Mexican kit-ten, or if she’s a gringa gatita, but she is the cutest, littlest little kit-ten, ever! She’s roughly seven weeks older than our purebred Mexican street kit-tens, Mika and Mollie.

Sammy is a five year old male of undetermined lineage, but he’s probably a purebred Mexican street kit-ten, too. I think he’s half white tiger — like unto the tigers Seigfried and Roy used to have in their magic act — and half polar bear. He. Is. One. BIG. Kit-ten.

His real name is Sonny, but Lea kept calling him Sammy because of Samantha, our first kit-ten. I suggested we change his name. He’s a cat. It’s not like he’s not going to come when you call his name, you know, like he’s a dog.

Sonny/Sammy. What’s the difference? If he wants anything from you, he’ll let you know. If he doesn’t, he’ll ignore you, like any other cat.

Sammy appears to understand that he’s the only male in a house full of kit-tens, and if he plays his cards right he’s going to end up with a harem of adoring females. He already has Lea won over. He is one cool cat, and he knows it.

* * * *

The transition hasn’t been easy for any of our kit-tens. Sadie and Sammy are freaked out because they’re in a new place and the woman who had taken care of them has disappeared. Mika and Mollie are freaked because of the new kit-tens on the block and no one asked them if they were okay with this new arrangement.

If anyone reading this knows any tricks to introducing new pets into a household, I am willing to hear anything you have to say.

I know as much about being a parent as I do about algorithms, and that would be next to nothing. You could ask my stepdaughters. I’m pretty sure I sucked at it. But I figured our new kit-tens would need a safe place to readjust to their new environment, so we set them up in the den. It’s a huge room, and we rarely use it.

Sadie and Sammy essentially hid in the den for one day. We checked on them frequently so they could get used to us and sound of our voices and stuff. Then they came out into the living room and started exploring.

Mika and Mollie jumped up to the top of one of the bookcases and looked down on everything with kit-ten amazement. It’s been sort of a North/South thing ever since. Sadie and Sammy mostly occupy the South Wing of the house. Mika and Mollie mostly hold the North Wing and occupy the high vantage points in the living room, dining room, and the kitchen.

I’m not Doctor Fuckin’ Doolittle. I can’t talk to the animals and explain that we took the new kit-tens in because they would have been put to sleep if we hadn’t. I’m sure our first rescue kit-tens wouldn’t want that to happen to any kit-ten, and then they’d settle down.

There haven’t been any battles, but there’s been some aggressive posturing and a fair amount of blustery speech. It’s like unto the cold war between the US and the USSR back in the day. Except Saturday night when all four kit-tens ran into each other in our bedroom and all hell broke loose.

That’s when Lea and I decided we needed to trim the needle sharp talons of death on all of our kit-tens. That job was actually a whole lots easier than either of us thought it would be. I almost feel like a psych nurse again, trying to keep the peace on my unit. That’s basically what psych nurses do: keep everyone safe in a confined space until they’re stable enough to go home and start making bad decisions all over again.

Maybe I should try giving all the kit-tens some Cativan…

* * * *

In retirement, Lea and I have become real life versions of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers. We rescued our first two kit-tens when they were darlingpreshadorbs babies. We rescued Lord Mark’s sprawling villa from hideous interior design and general disrepair and turned it into the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We rescued Todd from having to spend another winter in Idaho. And we rescued Neelam’s adult kit-tens from having to get dead.

Life is essentially one long recovery/rescue program. We’re all recovering from something. Every now and then we get to rescue something. We didn’t know it at the time but when we got married, Lea and I would end up rescuing each other.

But that’s another story for another day. For now, this is Mark Rowen signing off. Que tenga un buen dia y hasta luego.

Lookin’ Out My Backdoor

Hey. How’s it going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

Who knew that bugs were picky eaters?

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

I want to train her to walk on leash…

* * * *

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

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

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

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

It was darlingpreshadorbs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madre de Dios!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

She was something way beyond furious when she heard that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop eating my plants. Or else!