From A Million Miles

From a Million Miles is a technopop/electronic dance song by the Australian trio Single Gun Theory. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but I do have that song on one of my playlists. If you don’t have anything else to do, you can listen to it on The YouTube®.

It’s kind of a catchy song. And the title more or less sums up how living in a foreign country can sometimes feel when you miss your family and friends. And stuff…

 * * * *

How’s everybody doing? I hope you’ve all been able to stock up on toilet paper, bottled water, and hand sanitizer so you don’t get killed to death by the Coronavirus. We’re safe here in Mexico because we drink Corona® beer. It contains all the antibodies you need to develop immunity to the pandemic that’s wreaking havoc everywhere else on the planet.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s really going on out there in the real world. I don’t watch the news. Social media seems to be the most effective way to spread misinformation. Ever.

I figure most of us will survive this latest crisis, much like we’ve survived everything else that was supposed to destroy the world. Or we won’t. And life will go on.

The bottom line is this: there’s a bunch of rich, white, seventy year old men in America with dementia and intransigent political alliances, and they are going to fix everything.

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What could possibly go wrong?

* * * *

I am seriously embarrassed by the current state of American politics, and if you aren’t, you should be. Even if you’re not an American. I’ve come to the conclusion that the current system of government isn’t just broken, it’s FUBAR. For those of you that are unaware, it’s a military acronym that means: Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.

I’d like to be able to blame Donald Trump and his political sycophants for destroying the country of my birth, but all they did was drive the final stake in its heart.

It’s no secret that I dislike President Trump. He has taken being a hypocrite to a whole ‘nother level. A hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, or principles that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie their stated beliefs.

The Donald is more of a triplocrit. And here’s how he does it: 1.) He says or does something outrageous. 2.) He denies that he did or said anything. 3.) He smugly admits to doing/saying that which he had previously denied, but says it’s not a big deal. Or it’s not illegal. Or what are you going to do about it. Or something…

I haven’t been following his antics as closely ever since my Twitter account was permanently suspended last year. I still get updates from my friends on Facebook about what The Donald has been up to. Okay, they despise Trump, too. So they never have anything good to say about him. 

Trump, if nothing else, has clearly defined the lines of divisiveness that separate the two major American political parties. He probably used a Sharpie®…

The People With Brains, my name for the people that oppose Trump, are absolutely mystified how the Walmart Intelligensia, my name for the people that worship Trump, can be so taken in by this two-bit charlatan.

There might be an explanation in the Bible: “…they look but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13.

But one line in the Bible can be used to support almost any argument.

“They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. I could claim that this bit of scripture prophesied the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.

God, if He had anything to do with Donald Trump being elected, is clearly working in mysterious ways because that’s apparently the only way He knows how to work. And if this is going to be one of His lessons for humanity, there are going to be a whole lots of dunces facing the corner wearing funny hats when this is over.

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As I’ve said before, guys are not typically known for their profound thoughts. Guys are simple creatures. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. That’s a guy thought. If it is broken and you can’t fix it, it’s time to get a new goldarn thing. That is also a deeply profound guy thought.

It’ll probably require another American revolution to fix this goddamn goldarn mess of a thing, but that political/socioeconomic battle won’t be fought until long after I’m dead.

I tried to warn the Millennials, but they haven’t heard me yet. It’s time to vote every fucking member of Congress from my generation out of office, and put them out to pasture where they belong.

I’m not going to tell you little bastards that again.

* * * *

One of the best things about living in Mexico is we don’t have to watch or listen to any American political ads if we don’t want to. We did have to endure Canadian political ads last year. Yep. They were annoying, too.

I love living here. The climate is temperate. The people here are genuinely sweet. The food is amazing! The cost of living is doubly amazing!! We live in a beautiful gringo mansion that we wouldn’t be able to afford back the States. I get to hang out with the love of my life and enjoy spending this blessed time of our lives together. And we have kit-tens!!

Some of my Facebook friends have told me they are fascinated by my decision to live in Mexico. Well, if they’re that interested, I hope they start reading my blog. That’s right, Ryan McKenzie, I’m talking to you.

He was my first boss at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. I accepted the job because of him. He was highly regarded and recommended by my co-workers at St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix. I decided to find a new job after my first work wife, Deb Goral, left the Evening shift and started working Days. It wasn’t as much fun without her, so I decided to move on.

Ryan is the Program Director of the SAGE Unit now. That’s the Gero/Psych unit I worked on at Banner Del Webb Medical Center in Surprise, AZ. As one of the doctors I worked with at Del Webb told me when I left there, “It’s a small world in Psychiatry here in Phoenix. We’ll probably run into each other again.”

He was right about that. I worked with him again at Aurora.

* * * *

If you’re one of the seven people that have ever read any of my blogs, you might have noticed that I changed the title of my page. I originally started writing about my career as a psych nurse, and I called it Reflections. As time has progressed, I’ve been less reflective about my nursing career and more reactive to just about anything. I’m all over the spectrum with what I write now.

If I can’t think of anything else to write about, I tend to ramble on about living in Mexico, so I decided to add that to the title to emphasize it a bit more. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea about what they’re going to find here.

* * * *

As much as I love living here, life in Mexico isn’t without its challenges. Case in point, the fireplace in our living room.

In my last post, I mentioned we were shopping for a gas insert for the fireplace in the living room. We have three fireplaces here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. They all have gas lines installed, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable.

We found an insert at Baja Grills, and Lea was able to negotiate a sweet deal on it with Kat. It was one of those Just Between Two Supermodels Things…  Lea bought the insert for less than five hundred bucks, which is about half of what you’d usually pay for one down here.

However, before we bought it Lea wanted to know if the gas line to the fireplace actually worked. I suppose I could have just turned one on, you know, to check. But I don’t like playing with gas, so I decided to call our property manager, Jaime Mendoza.

And there was this: I thought Lea was being ridiculous because the gas lines were already in place! And who would be stupid enough to run a gas line to the fireplace and not hook it up to the propane tank???

So, I talked to Jaime, and he talked to Lord Mark. He’s the guy that owns the house we’re renting. They were both pretty sure all the fireplaces worked because Lord Mark’s parents had burned wood fires in all of them. When I asked again about the gas lines, Jaime couldn’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t work.

Based on that information we bought the insert, but when the guy came to install it we discovered that none of the gas lines to any of the fireplaces worked. At some point in time in the past, the original gas line had been replaced with a new and improved gas line. But the new line ran from the propane tank to the water heater for the bathrooms in the North Wing of the house.

And the fucking fireplaces had not been reconnected!!!

The installer from Baja Grills was a Mexican guy named Saul. He took one look at how the new line had been installed, and said, “Fucking Mexico.” And then he said, “It takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.”

l love that because truer words have never been spoken.

Saul gave us an estimate to run a new gas line from the propane tank to the living room fireplace. Fourteen thousand pesos. That’s roughly equivalent to $700 US. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s more than Lea or I wanted to spend on a house that we don’t own.

So I talked to Jaime again, and he came over to eyeball the situation for himself. Jaime said he didn’t know about the replacement gas line. And if Lord Mark had known about it, he had forgotten all about it. And Jaime had had the same thought I did. He couldn’t imagine the gas lines not working either.

However, Lord Mark thought it was important that the living room fireplace actually worked like a fireplace, so he agreed to pay for the installation of a new gas line. And it would be much cheaper than the estimate Saul had given us. “I think that guy gave you a gringo-face price.”

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I had never heard that term before, but I don’t doubt that it’s true, too

It took Tacho, our general fix-it guy, two days to hook up the new gas line. Tacho loves working here because I let him use any of my tools that he needs, and I always tip him well for his services.

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And there you have it

One working fireplace! I don’t know if Lord Mark would’ve been willing to run new gas lines to all the fireplaces here. I doubt we’d ever use the other two, and we love it here, so we don’t want to create any undue expenses for stuff we don’t want or need.

We painted the fireplace in the master bedroom to make it pop! Seriously, you wouldn’t have known it was even there before we added the accent color to the chimney. They both turned out great and we’ll probably never have to mess with either of them again.

* * * *

Mexico. The land where things that you think will be easy to do or find end up being Herculean labors of frustration. And things that you think are going to be almost impossible to accomplish end up being easier than tying your shoes.

That’s what happened when we found this house. And when we needed to get a new car. Lea and I are changing our living status in Mexico from temporary to permanent this year, and once we do that we are required by law to drive a Mexican plated car. 

In order to be legally registered and licensed in Mexico, every car has to have been manufactured in Mexico, Canada, or the United States. I think it’s part of the NAFTA treaty, or whatever it’s called now. Our American made Buick Encore was actually assembled in South Korea. We couldn’t get it licensed here even we we wanted to.

Buying a car in Mexico isn’t the same as buying a car in the States. Prices for almost everything in the States are fixed, except cars. You can negotiate the sales price of the vehicle you want, and salesmen will literally kiss your feet if means getting a sale. In Mexico, a lots of prices are flexible, except cars. The dealer has one price, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s too bad for you.

On the bright side, cars are about 40% cheaper in Mexico than they are in the States. Yep, you read that correctly. The car we’re thinking about buying will cost us roughly $18,000 US.

In America, no one pays cash at a dealership. Cars are financed, and you have a monthly car payment for years. In Mexico, financing is something they’re still trying to figure out. If you really want to buy a decent car, you better be able to pay cash for it when you go to the dealership.

And, you should have a reputable mechanic look over any car you want to buy here because not everything is as advertised. Odometer readings are often changed to reflect lower mileage, so if nothing else, there’s always that. Additionally, cars that have damaged by floods in the US are frequently shipped to Mexico to be sold. So there’s that, too.

We hired a local guy named Antonio Regalado to find a new car for us. He owns and runs a business called R &R Car Sales and Rentals to help gringos find good cars, and comes highly recommended by everyone we know that has done business with him. He’s kind of a mercenary car salesman — he doesn’t work for any dealership — but he works with a few of them and they usually pay his fees for hooking up gringos looking for cars with dealerships that have a lots of cars to sell.

Antonio does all the talking to the salesmen, the managers, and anyone else who might be involved in the sale at the dealership. And he kept us updated on everything that was happening.

We met with him Monday for about half an hour at his office, and told him what we were looking for. We gave him a list of the options we wanted and the year, make, and model of the SUV’s we were interested in. Half an hour later, we had a list of six SUV’s to choose from, along with Antonio’s perspective on which was the best buy.

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These are our top two choices

The first is a 2017 Kia Sportage GT. It has 45,000 kilometers. The GT package means it has a bigger engine and comes with a fair amount of bells and whistles. The second is a 2018 Nissan X-Trail. It has 59,000 kilometers and it has almost every bell and whistle available for that model. And it’s red.

Antonio drove us to Guadalajara today to the dealership to take a closer look at both of them. Personally, the only thing I care about in my automobiles is that they have a great sound system, which makes me the least qualified person on the planet when it comes to buying a car. So it’s a good thing I have people around me who know what the hell they’re doing.

This process has transpired a helluvalot faster than any of us thought it would. I thought it would take a couple of weeks at least, not two days! Our financial planner didn’t think it would happen this quickly either, so she has had to scramble to get us the funds we need to buy Lea’s new dream car. 

There’s an unwritten rule for shopping in Mexico: If you find something you like, buy it. It won’t be there the next time. We’ve failed to do that enough times that we don’t question it anymore. Lea loves the X-Trail. And it has a Bose® stereo sound system. Done deal.

And here’s where the really weird part comes in. Before a Mexican dealership can sell you a car, the Mexican government requires that you have to prove you actually live in Mexico. And proof of residency, according to the government, is a utility bill. An electric bill. Telephone, TV, or Internet. All you need is a bill with your name on it, and you could buy a whole fleet of cars if you wanted to.

We don’t own the house we’re living in. None of the utility bills we pay have our names on them. We have a signed copy of the rental contract, but the Mexican government doesn’t recognize it as legal proof of residency. They don’t recognize driver’s licenses either.

Yeah, go figure on that!

Seeing how we live here, but don’t have the required documents of proof, we’re trying to figure out how to make this work. A bank statement will suffice, but first we have to open an account in a Mexican bank, then wait until we receive our first bank statement. This being Mexico, and assuming that will be an easy thing, it could take months for that to happen.

But we do have an Antonio. And as everyone knows, it takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.

He Said, She Said

It’s a scientific fact that men and women communicate differently. I didn’t even need to research this statement. I simply asked my wife it if was true, and she said it was.

That’s all the proof I needed.

Lea and I have been married for 31 years, which is kind of amazing when you realize that we don’t speak the same language.

I could ramble on about this for a few paragraphs, but the easiest way I know how to illustrate this is with an example:

* * * *

Me: “Hey, honey. I’ve been thinking about building a goldarn thing.”

Lea: “You’re going to have to be a bit more descriptive. I hate that fucking word!”

Me: “Well, it’ll have an open shelving system. And maybe it’ll have a couple of manually operated storage concealment apparatuses. Or is it apparati?”

Lea: “So, you’re building a…bookshelf?”

Me: “I guess you could put books on it, but I was going to put it out here on the patio.”

Lea: “And what are you going to put on it?”

Me: “Another good question. I don’t know. Whatever I want to, I guess.”

Lea: “And what was the second part?”

Me: “There isn’t a second part. I’m only building one goldarn thing.”

Lea: “You said open shelving, and then something about concealing…”

Me: “Ah, yes! Manually operated storage concealment apparatuses. Or is it apparati?”

Lea: “Do you mean…doors?”

Me: “Yeah, I guess you could call them doors.”

Lea: “Are you going to put handles on the doors?”

Me: “I hadn’t really thought about it. What kind of handles do you want?”

Lea: “Why are you asking me?!?! I’m not building this!”

Me: “Then why do you want handles?”

Lea: “Never mind. Just forget it. I don’t think we need anymore shelves, but if you want to build more shelves, go right ahead. Just don’t ask me to help you with any part of it.”

Me: “I might need some help moving it when I’m done…”

Lea: “Fine!”

And that’s when I decided to go back inside of the house and not build anything. Because I still remember the first time my lovely supermodel wife said, “Fine!”

* * * *

Lea and I got married in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November of 1988. We were going out for Christmas, or New Year’s, or something. I was already dressed, and was waiting for Lea to finish doing her hair.

When she finished, Lea stepped into the dining room, smiled, and spun around. Then she asked me this: “How do I look?”

And I said: “You look fine.”

The smile on her face vanished, and she fired me a look something like unto this:

young woman making a very angry face

She was PISSED!

“Excuse me, but did you just say I look fine?!?”

* * * *

Time stood still. A gellid wind blew through the house. And the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse materialized in our living room.

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For those of you that don’t know, the Four Horsemen are: Pestilence, War, Famine and Death

War: “Human man, what did you say to your wife?”

Me: “Nothing! She asked me how she looked! And…and…I told her she looked fine!”

All Four Horsemen: “BLOODY FUCKING HELL!!!!”

Famine: “You did what?!?”

Pestilence: “You never tell a woman she looks fine.”

War: “You might as well tell her her ass is getting big.”

Me: “Can I…do…that?”

All Four Horsemen: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

War: “What are you trying to do? Get us all killed? Look at her!

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“I’m the Avatar of War!! I’ve killed billions of people. I’ve waded through a sea of gore, and even I wouldn’t fuck with her!!”

Me: “Well, what do I do now?”

Death: “Seriously? He just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s an idiot. I vote we kill him now and get this over with.”

Famine: “You say that every time!

Pestilence: “When you’re a hammer…”

War: “Wait a minute. How long have you been married, human man.”

Me: “I don’t know. A month? Maybe two…  And my name is Mark.”

War: “We have to give him a break this time, guys. Don’t you think?”

Death: “I vote no. Trust me on this, if we let him live, we’ll be back.”

Pestilence: “I vote yes. Maybe we could give him some advice…”

Famine: “That’s three against one, again. Listen…Mark, is it? You never tell your wife she looks fine. Tell her she looks beautiful. Tell her she looks stunning! And when you tell her that, you better sound like you fucking mean it. You don’t hesitate. You don’t equivocate. Do you understand?”

Pestilence: “Tell her she looks darling!”

War: “And compliment her shoes. Women like that.”

* * * *

I thought fine meant exceptional, like, fine china or fine dining. Lea thought fine meant acceptable, like, McDonalds will be fine.

There’s another meaning of the word “fine” in womanspeak. When a woman says, “Fine!” it means nothing is fine and all hell is about to break loose.

* * * *

Women have a whole ‘nother language that guys have no idea exists until sometime after they get married. How fast a guy can synthesize this new language will be a huge factor in how long he stays married.

Do whatever you want. It would make more sense if she just drew a line in the sand. Guys would understand that. In guyspeak, this phrase is interpreted as a form of permission.

The classic scenario for this is after you and your buddies have had six or seven beers. You come up with a stupid idea and you ask your friends if they want to participate. They think about it for a minute, then decide they’re not ready to die, or go back to jail. But they’re not going to tell you what you can or cannot do because it’s not their place, so you can do whatever you want…

In womanspeak, this is a test. In fact, it’s the ultimate test. Failure to get your head out of your ass and reconsider your decision could very well end in divorce. 

When your wife says this, she’s not only not okay with your plan, but you have about ten seconds to change your your stupid-ass mind. Or else. Because she will make your life miserable for months if you go through with it. Even if she doesn’t divorce you and eventually forgives you for it, she will never forget it and could use it against you for the rest of your life.

That’s not exaggeration. Ask me how I know.

We need to talk. I fucking hated this line when Lea and I first got married because we didn’t need to talk. She did. And the one thing I better not do was open my goddamn mouth while we talked.

If you go ahead and do whatever you want, you will definitely hear these words.

I’m almost ready. No one knows what this translates to in real time, not even women. It could be five minutes, it could be an hour. What it really means is, I’ll be ready when I’m ready, so shut up and leave me alone! Go ahead, turn on the game. It’ll keep you out of her hair until she’s ready.

Does this make me look fat? Or, Does this make my butt look big? When your wife is finally ready, you’ll probably hear this question. It is easily the most unfair question ever invented, and if you don’t know why, it’s the reason why you’re still a bachelor.

There’s only one correct answer for every variation of this query, and that is No!!! And it better come out of your mouth without any hesitation, equivocation, or qualifiers.

By the way, I’m married to a supermodel, so this question isn’t even an issue for me. My wife has a very cute butt, and I tell her that almost every day.

Maybe. There’s no maybe about it. That means No.

We’ll see. No, we won’t. That also means No.

Yes. One of the tricksiest words in all of womanspeak. It could mean yes. It could mean maybe. But it probably means no.

No. This one’s not open to interpretation. Always, always, always assume that when you hear this word, she means what she’s saying, even if she doesn’t. If you get it wrong, that’s on her, not you.

* * * *

There are many components to a lasting relationship. Trust. Stability. And probably a few more intangible things that I can’t think of right now. But at the base of the foundation is communication. Good communication.

If you can’t understand each other, you’re not going to be able to live with each other. Learn to speak the same language. 

Don’t be an eejet, ya numpty gowk.

20/20 in 2020

¡Hola, amigos y amigas! ¡Feliz año nuevo! 2019 was a good year for us. I hope 2020 is equally kind to us and all y’all, though it hasn’t started out smoothly for me.

During the holiday season, my lovely supermodel wife and I took our first Mexican vacation and went to Mexico City for nine days. Going on a guided tour is kind of like being back at work. You have to get up early and leave your house.  And there’s a timetable. And a schedule. And other people. And stuff…

And I got a Christmas present I didn’t want. In Mexico, it’s called la gripe.

* * * *

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include: high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, headache, coughing, and fatigue. These symptoms can be mild to severe, and all of them combined can kill you to death, possibly from something called a cytokine storm.

Infected lung cells create an overstimulation of the immune system. Excessive amounts of cytokines are subsequently released into the lung tissue. This leads to a massive leukocyte migration into the lungs which, in turn, causes major destruction of lung tissue. In layman’s terms, your lungs turn into a soggy mush and you essentially drown to death in your own fluids even though you’re not under water.

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It is a terrible way to die.

The worst influenza outbreak on record occurred in 1918. It was a worldwide pandemic that killed anywhere from fifty to one hundred million people, depending on whom was doing the statistical analysis. In comparison, World War I, which ended in 1918, resulted in only forty million people getting dead from bullets, bombs and mustard gas.

* * * *

I shouldn’t have come down with the flu. I rarely get sick or catch colds. I like to think I have a good immune system. And I did all of the things you’re supposed to do to prevent getting the flu. I got a fucking flu shot! I guzzled liters of Emergen-C for two days before I got on the tour bus!! I took zinc. And Zycam. And Theraflu. And I still got sicker than a dog.

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Maybe two dogs…

I was in a fog of delirium the entire time we were in Mexico City. If I hadn’t taken so many pictures of the sights we saw, the whole thing could’ve been a dream to me. I can tell you this: Mexico City is incredibly beautiful. And huge. The largest city I’ve ever lived in was Phoenix. Mexico City makes Phoenix look like Dubuque.

I’m finally sure that the flu isn’t going to kill me to death this time. The only symptom I still have is what seems to be an endless case of head/sinus congestion. As result, I’m mostly deaf in one ear and I can’t hear so good out of the other one. Everyone around me sounds like they’re talking underwater. The only thing I can hear clearly is the ringing in my left ear.

This, too, shall pass eventually. That which doesn’t kill you simply gets out of the way so the next thing in line can take its turn…

* * * *

There was one notable passing in our household while we were on vacation. Our LG refrigerator broke down for the sixth and final time. Fortunately, our roommate wasn’t on vacation and literally saved our bacon.

Our property manager, Jaime Mendoza, was true to his word and bought us a brand new GE refrigerator. It was installed last Friday. I’m hoping I’ll never have to write another word about any of the refrigerators here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa.

* * * *

Our roommate experiment with my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend has gone just about as smoothly as it can thus far. Todd and Lea have been friends since middle school. When he decided to relocate here, we invited him to move in with us.

Todd is a good guy, and he’s multi-talented. He loves to garden, and has started growing a whole lots of vegetables and flowers and roses and stuff. He’s also one helluva cook, and has taken over half of the meal preparation for us. For Lea, this is something like unto winning the lottery.

I love to eat. I don’t cook, but I do dishes. With a smile on my face. Winner, winner chicken dinner for me. And pork chops. And ba-sketti, too. Life. Is. Good.

Todd also loves to golf. We hit the links three or four times a week. More golf equals more practice. More practice tends to lead to more better gooder scores. I’m consistently shooting in the nineties now, and frequently in the low nineties. My goal is to shoot 80 by the end of the year.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

* * * *

While our roommate experiment has been a success, our four kit-ten experiment was not. We have two darlingpreshadorbs super cute kit-tens, Mika and Mollie. When a friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer, we took in her two kit-tens, Sadie and Sammy.

Our new kit-tens were sweet and loving. With people. But they developed some serious animosity toward Mika and Mollie. I had anticipated some initial friction between the kit-tens, but I figured they’d eventually get used to each other and peacefully coexist. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

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I was not prepared for the feline turf war that ensued

Sadie and Sammy became gangsta cats, and systematically terrorized Mika and Mollie. All of our ex-pat friends down here are Dog People. None of them wanted a couple of badass thug cats that might terrorize their dogs. So I talked to my good friend and caddy, Francisco Flores Bernini. His neighbor was willing to take in Sadie and Sammy and give them a good home.

There’s peace at our home once more. Mika and Mollie no longer live in fear on top of the refrigerator or the kitchen cabinets. They’ve resumed running and frolicking all throughout their huge playground. It’s good to see them so relaxed again.

Our experiment didn’t turn out the way I expected, but it all worked out in the end.

* * * *

My former, and somehow, still favorite NFL football team, the Minnesota Vikings, finished their regular season by losing their last two games to divisional foes: the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. Their 10-6 record was good enough to get them into the postseason playoffs. Then they surprised almost everyone on the planet by stunning the New Orleans Saints in overtime on Wild Card Weekend.

I predicted both of those outcomes. You don’t have to be a prophet to do that. The Vikings are a very predictable team. Over the last three decades, the Vikings have generally been pretty good in the regular season, and they’ve been really good in one playoff game. The last time they won two playoff games in a row was 1987.

Yesterday, they played thirty minutes of decent football before they got  beat up by the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of the game. There will be no Super Bowl rings for the Vikings this year. Again. Good thing I didn’t got dead from the Mexico City flu. I might still have a chance to see it happen…

I’ve come to the conclusion that my experiment with rooting for another football team was a dismal failure. I’ve been married to the Vikings for too long to start dating any other teams. I kind of felt like I was cheating on them by rooting for someone else. Win, lose or draw, I will always hope for the best for them. Even if they break my heart. Every fucking year.

* * * *

According to WordPress®, this is my 200th post. By my own admission, I’ve had some serious input from my Muses on a fair amount of of them, so I can’t take credit for all of them. No doubt some of you are wondering how that is even possible. I’m going to try to explain it.

Thought insertion isn’t a very common thought disorder, unless you have schizophrenia. Even then, thought insertion is viewed as more of a delusional disorder by medical professionals than it is as an actual occurrence.

I’m okay with that. However, sometimes I get insights into things I know absolutely nothing about, like the time I proved the Pythagorean Theorem.

* * * *

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Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who lived roughly 2500 years ago. His geometric theory has been proven numerous times – possibly the most for any mathematical formula, some dating back thousands of years.

I hate math. So, yeah. That was a joke.

* * * *

Back to the way my dysfunctional brain works…  When these thoughts unfold inside my head they feel…different.

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It’s like unto this, except I don’t know Ung Fu Chinese…

Something similar happens when my Muses take over writing my blog posts. I am aware that it’s happening, but I have yet to find a way to stop it. In my last post I had no intention of writing about being bullied back when I was a kid. I had been planning on writing about old manic guys, and we all know how that turned out.

It’d probably piss me off if it weren’t for the fact that my Muses are much better writers than I am. My major concern about my Muses is they want to write about subjects I’d rather forget.

* * * *

And that’s about it for this installment. Be safe out there this year. Look both ways before you cross the street. If you live in Mexico, do it even if you’re crossing a one way street. Go ahead, buy those cute shoes. And order dessert. Enjoy this life as much as you can. There will always be something out there waiting for you that will break your heart.

Social Misfit

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings from Mexico!

I wish it felt more Christmassy this year. As I am constantly reminded by every Hallmark Christmas movie, this is a time of snow, family, and love. That’s one of the downsides of living in a temperate climate. Thousands of miles away from everyone in your family. In a foreign country.

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To be honest, I’m not sure anyone in my family would visit me even if we lived across the street from each other. That’s probably my fault. I burned a lots of bridges back when I was drunk all the time.

Some fault also has to be allocated to my siblings. We’re all fairly fucked up, and almost everyone in my family has decided it’s way easier to just keep drinking than it is to try to fix all of those broken personalities and relationships.

That’s just one of the many upsides to living in a temperate climate, thousands of miles away from everyone in your family, in a foreign country.

* * * *

Speaking of burning bridges, I’ve discovered that I don’t need to be drunk to do that. For those of you who placed bets on how long it would take for my Twitter account to be permanently disabled, if you picked December 4, 2019, you win.

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Even I thought it would take me longer than that.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Twitter. It was the domain of mystic poets and nude selfies. I fucking hate poetry and no one wants to see me naked. Including me. Twitter is the social media equivalent of a moral wasteland. I never understood the language of the Twitter, which no doubt makes me the Ultimate Twit.

So? What did you do to piss off the Twitter police, dude?

According to the Twitter police, I was guilty of engaging in a pattern of hate themed speech, which was a repeated violation of the community standards that Twitter sometimes takes seriously.

In the interest of transparency, I am totally guilty of everything Twitter accused me of doing. But there was another person who consistently violated Twitter’s community standards, and he did so without any fear of repercussions.

Donald Trump consistently lied about his accomplishments, blamed his political opponents for his failings, and fired off endless insults, taunts, and disparaging names at anyone that didn’t kiss his ass.

I pointed out Mr. Trump’s pattern of inflammatory fabrication to the Twitter police more than once. They had a response. If I didn’t like the things that Mr. Trump wrote, I should simply stop reading them.

That was their official stance on the matter.

That was something I couldn’t do, so I called out The Donald every time he bragged about a success, or projected his shortcomings off onto others, or insulted Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, or any of his Democratic opponents.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar. I could live with that if not for one, small, tiny, insignificant detail. He’s also the President of the United States. Because of his status, I find his actions morally reprehensible, even though I have often stated that I don’t have any morals or ethics.

Yeah, I know. It doesn’t make any sense to me either.

Unfortunately, and I honestly feel it was an unfortunate course of action on my part, I tended to end the majority of my rebuttals to Mr. Trump with …you lying cocksucker! Or, …you motherfucking piece of shit!!

My Twitter account was temporarily suspended three or four times for saying bad things about the 45th President of the United States.

I was a psych nurse for thirty years. The one thing I hated more than anything was when someone started name-calling. I’m sure that can directly be tied to all of times I had to endure it when I was a child. That, and spitting. I really hated being spit on.

In a nutshell, because it was something I wouldn’t want to happen to me, I should never have engaged in that sort of behavior toward someone else. Even a fucking douchebag like Donald Trump.

Christians call it The Golden Rule. Everyone else calls it not being an asshole.

At some time during the day of December 3rd, I called Melania Trump a whore. And a mindless cunt. There’s probably not any evidence supporting my claim that The Donald ever literally sucked any cocks or had sex with his mother. And for that, my Twitter account was temporarily suspended several times.

However, there is a veritable ocean of evidence that indicates Melania Trump is both a whore, and a mindless cunt. And because those accusations were true, Twitter shut down my account forever the very next day.

I’m okay with that. I was engaging in behavior that I would never condone in another. Besides, getting into a Twitter war with The Donald isn’t just stupid, it’s a fruitless cause, and I already have one of those.

It’s called Golf…

* * * *

I’ve been a social misfit almost all of my life. I may still be one, but there’s one major difference between the old guy me and the young kid me. I no longer care what other people think of me.

Being an outsider looking in was easy for me when I was a kid. I was almost always the new kid in town. We moved a lots when I was in grade school. Minnesota, at least twice. Michigan. South Dakota. Arkansas. North Dakota, twice. California, twice. Missouri. And finally, Montana.

Eleven different school districts to complete eight years of school. I was either so far ahead of my classmates that they thought I was some kind of genius, or so far behind them that everyone thought I was a total moron.

Moving from one place to another in the Midwest was bad enough, but moving from the North to the South was absolute hell. Not only are you the New Kid in Town, you’re a Damn Yankee to boot. And back then, the only thing white southern kids hated more than damn Yankees was niggers.

Yes, I know I’m not supposed to say that anymore. But as I write this, it’s 1963. I was in the second grade when we moved to Little Rock. I was picked on so much in Arkansas that I shit my pants in school. Twice.

I vividly remember both of those incidents. What I don’t remember is why it didn’t happen more often. It’s possible that my heartless tormentors started feeling sorry for me, but it’s far more likely that they thought they might end up covered in shit, too.

Third grade, we were living in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was the only time I was considered the most popular kid in my class. And the only reason I know this is because my teacher whispered it into my ear one day.

I wasn’t the most popular kid in my class in Michigan. Or South Dakota. Or at either of the schools I attended in California. And I wasn’t even close to the most popular kid in my class when we moved back to Grand Forks because we lived in a different school district on the other side of town. 

1967. I was in seventh grade. That was the worst year of my grade school career. I started out the school year in Minnesota, spent something like six months in Missouri, then finished up the year in Montana.

Missouri might have been even worse than Arkansas when it came to being bullied because I was the New Kid/Damn Yankee in town, but that was one of the school districts where I was so far ahead of my classmates that even my teachers were in awe of me.

* * * *

There were no anti-bullying initiatives way back in the Middle Ages when I was a kid. As I reflect on this period of abject humiliation of my life, it’s a good thing my dad didn’t own any handguns.

I doubt that I ever would’ve been able to shoot anyone, but I’m pretty sure I thought about it. When I was a kid, there were probably a dozen different Western TV shows. Bonanza. Gunsmoke. The Rifleman. Conflict resolution was usually handled with a six-shooter.

But it’s far more likely that I wouldn’t have been able to hit the broad side of a barn even if I had access to a handgun. I got my first pair of glasses when I was in the third grade because I was essentially blind, but I refused to wear them because it was just another thing the other kids could use to make fun of me. I didn’t want to give them any extra ammunition.

That changed when I started the eighth grade. My new teacher introduced me to my latest set of new classmates. And then she said this, And class, please remind Mark to wear his glasses. His mother told me he doesn’t like to wear them, but he really needs to wear them… 

It was something like that. I stopped listening when I started playing for God to quit fucking around and kill me to death for real this time.

* * * *

It was probably around the time that we were living in Missouri that I started utilizing a few defense mechanisms that would keep me and all of the people around me alive.

The first is called a reaction formation. It’s a complicated Freudian concept. In essence, negative emotions or impulses which are mastered by substituting the opposite emotion or impulse. The substitute reaction is usually overly exaggerated.  I’m not an expert in psychoanalysis, so I’m not sure if this is commonly used or not. I do know this: my substitute reactions are not overly exaggerated, and I’m pretty sure that’s not very common.

Another is mirroring, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. One person unconsciously imitates the gestures, speech pattern, or attitude of another. Almost everybody uses this, especially with family and close friends.

And the third is humor. People are less likely to want to punch you if you can make them laugh.

* * * *

When I was a freshman in high school, I achieved the dual distinctions of being both a genius and a moron in just a matter of months. The first semester of the year, I was in the Honor’s Math class where I struggled to get D’s. My math teacher actually announced to my entire class I had no business being in his class, and told me to get out of his classroom.

I didn’t need a second invitation. I picked up my books, walked out the door, and kept on walking until I got home, five miles later. I’ve told this story to my lovely supermodel wife. She said I must’ve felt humiliated. I suppose I did, but what I mostly remember is feeling relieved.

I was called into the Principal’s office the next day. I fully expected to be suspended or expelled. Instead, I received an apology and I was placed in a different math class. The second semester was an entirely different story. I was a straight A student in the Math for Morons class.

I’ve tried not to make a big deal out what happened to me on that day so long ago when Father Weiss told me to get out of his classroom. I’ve tried, but I still hate math.

* * * *

I didn’t really have a best friend until my freshman year of high school. That’s when I met Dave Nelson. We’re still buds. I didn’t have a girlfriend until my senior year. That’s when I fell in love with Maureen Browne. I think we’re still friends.

She asked me if I was going to attend our fifty year class reunion in 2024. I told her I was thinking about it, but I was terrified of seeing her face to face again. She said I should be. And then she said she was joking.

I told her I wasn’t. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Dave and Maureen both gave the best gifts I have ever received from anyone. Acceptance. Friendship. Love. They were the first people outside of my family that showed me there was also beauty in the world.

* * * *

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That might be true, but from my point of view at this precise moment, examining your life doesn’t increase its value by any appreciable amount.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is supposed to be. No doubt there’s an Aesopian moral of the story that’s supposed to enlighten me. There’s only one small, tiny, insignificant problem.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t write it.

My writing process isn’t this organized. Nor is it usually this specific. My Muses apparently have a much better idea of what they’re doing than I ever will.

I hope they’re happy. Maybe they’ll take some time off for the holidays. My lovely supermodel wife and I are going to Mexico City. I’d like to be able to to enjoy it.

But you have any ideas for the moral of the story, leave me a comment.

Technological Wonders and Blunders

On the offhand chance that you’ve become addicted to reading nonsensical blogs written by retired, bald, handsome guys living in Mexico, check this out: https://eldavesexistentialshit.home.blog

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It’s written by my buddy, Dave Naisby. Dave is a funny guy. And he’s Scottish, so when you read his blog make sure you have that whole Gaelic accent thing going on inside your head. It’s just so cool!

You probably shouldn’t try to imagine my voice if you read my blog. I sound like a cross between Ben Stein and Eeyore. I could put a meth addict into a coma in ten minutes.

My beautiful and talented daughter, Gwen Markes Henson, has also started writing a blog. Unlike me, she’s a serious writer. https://gwengetsreal.wordpress.com 

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She is on a mission to change the world. I admire her greatly. Best of success to you, honey. And good luck. You’re going to need it.

* * * *

The Rainy Season endures in the Lakeside Area. Seeing how it’s a season, there’s an implied beginning and end. Theoretically, the end is in sight. It has historically always stopped raining around this time of year. It might continue for another week or so, but then it won’t rain again until next June. However, the rain this year isn’t going out with a whimper. It’s been raining like a bastard down here. We were hit by two of the biggest storms we’ve had all year last week.

The first storm hit Thursday night, which just happened to be the same night as the Halloween Night Golf Extravaganza at the Country Club de Chapala. How do you play golf in the dark? you might ask. Probably about as badly as I do during the day, except it’s harder to see how much I suck because it’s dark.

Ah! Now I understand. We use special golf balls that emit light. And we have flashlights. And stuff. Like, booze. So that’s how you play night golf.

Some of my Christian friends might be tempted to say, I guess Satan didn’t want you to play golf that night. But c’mon, man! It was Halloween night! Something wicked this way comes. Witches, ghouls and goblins. Things that go bump in the night. The scariest fucking ghost you’ve ever seen…

I’d think Satan would’ve been all over that idea…

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Clearly, someone or something didn’t want us playing golf because the sky opened up and it rained down a deluge of epic proportions, cancelling the tournament. We got at least five inches of rain in a couple of hours. And it rained like two hells again on Saturday night, turning the golf course into a veritable quagmire.

I golfed on Sunday. In wet socks. I sucked from the first tee to the eighteenth green. My caddy told me it wasn’t me, it was the golf course. So I gave him a really nice tip for lying to me.

Being a serious golfer has turned to be a lots more work than I thought it would be. Though I should have been smart enough to figure out at the very least you have to be serious. Yeah, it does appear to be rather obvious now that I think about it. I’ve taken some lessons. I’ve even gone to the driving range to practice doing the stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

My lovely supermodel wife came out with me yesterday to record my swing so I could review the videos. Thanks, honey! You’re the best!! I’m not sure what to think about my swing, other than I look like I’m in a coma. I do talk to myself a lots when I’m on the driving range, so that might be part of it…

There’s a reason for the practice. The Cruz Roja Tournament is this Thursday.  It’s a charity event for the Mexican Red Cross. I don’t think my team has any chance to win it, but I don’t want us to finish in last place, again. And the Night Golf Extravaganza has been rescheduled for the following week.

I’ll let you know what happens.

* * * *

Technology is an amazing thing. The greatest invention of the modern world is arguably the flushable toilet. My grandparents had an outhouse at their farm. Like unto Salvador Dali, my grandfather hated paying for anything. Every time someone flushed the toilet, that was money out of his pocket as far as he was concerned, so he made everyone use the outhouse, except at night.

But turning on the lights in the bathroom was also money out of his pocket, so if you had to use the bathroom, you better be able to do your business in the dark.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Indoor Bathrooms: According to Allan Burnett, historian and author of Invented In Scotland, the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae in Orkney boasted the world’s first indoor toilet. There is evidence of stone huts equipped with drains built into the village walls, dating back to around 3,000 B.C.E. The sewer system was basic – waste was flushed into a drain with pots of water – but the basic principle remains to this day.

* * * *

Everyone thinks Thomas Crapper invented the toilet, but Sir John Harington first conceived the idea in 1596. Another Englishman, Alexander Cummings, was granted the first patent for the flushable toilet in 1775.

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Thomas Crapper also invented a flushable toilet, which improved on Cummings’ original toilet design. But Crapper gets all the credit, probably because his name so aptly describes the function of the product.

The next greatest modern invention has to be the toilet plunger, and it was probably invented one day after the toilet was.

Mrs. Crapper, come and seest what thine brilliant husband hath invented! I just took the biggest dump in the history of mankind, but looketh! All I hast to doeth is depress this clever lever and — sonethofabitcheth! Run! Runeth for thine lives!!

Plungers are rarely impulse purchases. They are mostly bought out of necessity, and when you need one, you’d be willing to pay $500 for one. I know I would.

* * * *

There’s at least one thing that modern technology should’ve made obsolete, and that is warfare.

War used to be a fairly primitive thing. You’d get pissed off at your neighbor because he stayed up all night listening to that newfangled music, and he couldn’t stop banging on those goddamn things he just invented. What did he call them? Oh yeah. Drums.

So, you sneak over to his yard at night, and you knock over all of his garden gnomes.

And that’s kind of how wars began way the hell back when.

Then technology came along and weapons were invented. And improved on. Over and over again. Until the ultimate weapon was invented.

Now, if you sneak over to neighbors’ yard and knock over his garden gnomes, your neighbor just might retaliate. From space.

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Way back when I was a dental x-ray technician in the US Army, I received highly specialized combat training. I know at least a dozen ways to knock over garden gnomes. But how do you defend yourself against bombs? A lots and lots of bombs?

* * * *

Excuse me, Drill Sergeant Byrum. All this training in knocking over garden gnomes has been real enlightening and all, but how do we defend ourselves from tactical and/or strategic carpet bombing from the enemy?

Private Roland, there ain’t no viable defense against carpet bombing! If you ever find yourself in that situation, you run! You run like the goddamn toilet is overflowing and you need to get a plunger! Do you hear me!! Now, get down and give me fifty!

* * * *

Mankind has produced some truly amazing inventions over the centuries. It has also perpetuated some of the most stupidest beliefs and practices that should died off with the dodos. Because, you know, we killed them all to death and it didn’t take so much as one bomb to do it.

It’s time to take a quantum leap, people. It’s time to go back to the 1960’s, and remember what might be the smartest idea that my staunchly noncomformist generation ever conceived.

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The Three R’s

Greetings from Casa Tara, the Chula Vista Resort and Spa in beautiful San Antonio Tlayacapan, Mexico!

We’ve been busy here of late. Todd has been getting his room organized so it doesn’t look like a warehouse for half of his stuff anymore. And we’ve been going golfing a lots. Todd and I mostly suck at golf at about the same level most of the time. Our games are mildly competitive, but mostly relaxing. It’s been a lots of fun having him here.

I thought there would be more of a differentiation in our lives, you know, a Before Todd/After Todd kind of thing, but that hasn’t been the case. I almost think he found a way to use the top-secret time machine in the basement of the Minneapolis VAMC to alter the TimeSpace continuum so it seems like he’s always been here.

And it’s not just me. Todd and Lea both say the same thing. Right now, Todd is on his way to Minnesota to visit his kids and stuff. He’ll be gone about a week. I might be able to gain a bit more perspective about our new living arrangement by his absence, but probably not. I’m not all that interested in analyzing this. I have plenty of other things to ponder deeply.

My lovely supermodel wife has been working out some of the details for the window treatments for the master bedroom. She’s decided the job is too big for her to handle on her own, so she’s has enlisted the help of my third retirement wife, Susan. She’s an interior decorator, and she has some local contacts who can help complete Lea’s design vision.

I have no idea how long it will take. I don’t really care, either. Our bedroom looks fine to me the way it is, though I’m sure Lea’s design will be beautiful.

As for me, I have litter boxes to keep me busy when I’m not doing anything else. Four kit-tens produce roughly ten times as much waste products as two kit-tens. Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

I think all of our kit-tens are starting to get used to each other, but it’s hard to tell. One day they appear to be peacefully coexisting. The next day it’s something like unto a feline version of WWE Smackdown. They’re all trying to figure out how they all fit into their new world. You know, kind of like high school.

Except Sammy. He’s the king of the house, and he knows it.

Mika and Sadie seem to be the two kit-tens at the center of the remaining confrontations. Mika was the most vocal in her displeasure with the new kit-tens when they moved in. Now that Sadie has adjusted to this being her new home, it’s payback time.

No one has died yet, but one of Lea’s antique red glass vases became a casualty of war the other day…

I find it hard to believe that our new kit-tens have been here for less than a month, so it still seems feasible to me that after they’ve all been together for six months or so, they will actually all get along.

I’ll keep you posted.

* * * *

Way, way back when I was a kid, there were Three R’s: Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmatic. Way back when I was middle aged, there was a new set of Three R’s: Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.

Now that I’m an old guy, there seems to be an even newer set of the Three R’s. They appear to be the platform upon which Donald Trump has based his popularity: Religion, Racism and Ratings.

The Donald didn’t coin these terms, I did. Well, I think I did. They might have been someone else’s ideas and were somehow inserted into my mind. It happens to me all the time.

* * * *

I can’t say that Donald Trump is the most religious President in the history of the United States, though he claims to be a good Christian. He actually seems to be the least religiously grounded man that has ever sat in the Oval Office, but that hasn’t stopped him from using religion as a tool for his own ends.

* * * *

The Donald actually got into a pissing contest with the Pope because of his Great Southern Border Wall. The Pope said something to the effect of …any man who would rather build a wall than a bridge doesn’t seem like much of a Christian. And Donald replied with something to to the effect of Oh yeah? Who asked you? Who do think you are, the fuckin’ Pope?

The Pope kind of apologized, possibly because he thought Trump would invade The Vatican City. And The Donald kind of apologized, saying he thought the Pope was …a great guy.

* * * *

When Citizen Trump was running for President, he brought a Bible to the podium in September of 2015. All he did was show it to his audience to prove he had one. He didn’t read anything out of it. It was merely a prop, displayed with a flourish, then quickly forgotten.

In August of this year, he was asked about his love of the Bible because he said it was his favorite book. When he was asked what his favorite Bible verse was, he refused to answer the question. He said the Bible was too deeply personal for him to talk about, you know, in public.

Let me translate that for you. He doesn’t know even one verse in the Bible. Even atheists know at least one Bible verse!

* * * *

Interviewer: Can you tell me who wrote the Four Gospels?

Donald Trump: I’m not answering that question. You want to know why I’m not answering your question? A sixth grader could answer that question. It’s a no-brainer, so I’m not going to answer that. Ask me a tough question. What? We’re out of time? My people are telling I have to get to my next appointment…  By the way, the answer to your question is John, Paul, George and Ringo!

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I know a lots of Christians. All of them have a favorite Bible verse. Even the ones who suck at being good Christians. Like me. What’s my favorite Bible verse? Romans 12:2. See? That was easy.

Evangelical Christians are The Donald’s biggest middle class supporters. They are very conservative and fundamental in their beliefs. These are the people who see Donald Trump as their last bastion of hope for the world they want. He is the Chosen One that will protect their God-given rights and freedoms. 

Adamant Amendmentalists. That’s the best term I’ve been able to come up with to describe them, and I’m not sure that last word is even a word. But as far as the Constitutional Amendments go, they’re only interested in two. Maybe three.

The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, and the Second Amendment: the Right to Bear Arms. That’s it. Those are the only two amendments they care about. If you were ask them if they support the Thirteenth Amendment…

Um, I want to take the fifth.

That’s the Fifth Amendment. And that’s as far as this road goes.

Oddly enough, these ardent defenders of some of the amendments don’t seem to understand that all of the amendments apply to all of the people, not just to them. Nor do they seem to be all that interested in listening to anyone who has an opinion that differs even a fraction from theirs. Much like unto their revered leader, their great and unmatched wisdom brooks no criticism.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About the US Constitution: there are twenty seven amendments. The only reason I’m saying this is because 37% of the people polled couldn’t name any of the rights protected by any of the amendments. The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights. And the thirteenth amendment? That abolished slavery.

* * * *

Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he is not a racist, which I find laughable. Almost everyone in my generation was raised to be a racist because our parents were totally racist.

My dad was Archie Bunker. He didn’t like black people. He had no black friends, and none of his children did either. Roughly forty years ago, one of my sisters almost dated a black guy. I think we had to replace part of the roof when my dad found out about it.

I’ve spent a good part of my life trying not to become the kind of man my father was. I can tell you this: the things you learn when you’re young, they take forever to un-learn.

Donald Trump’s dad was probably a member of the Ku Klux Klan, so, no history of racism there…  Maybe The Donald doesn’t see himself as racist because he has never openly called black people niggers. Be that as it may, his politics are based on racist ideals, and the Walmart Intelligensia that supports him is most definitely populated with racists.

To quote myself, These are the people who see Donald Trump as their last bastion of hope for the world they want. And what they want is a world with good old fashioned 1950’s segregation. Of all the embarrassing things that America has become, this is easily the most embarrassing.

We fought one horrific, bloody civil war in the 1800’s to end slavery. One hundred years later we fought an equally horrific, though much less bloody battle to enforce the constitutional and legal rights for African Americans that white Americans already enjoyed.

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The fact that this still even an issue — I have no words for that.

White privilege. That’s what Trump’s supporters expect him to defend. They are better than these goddamn non-white immigrants who are sneaking into the country to steal their jobs, rape their daughters, and get their sons hooked on drugs. They are better because they’re white. That’s their justification.

The America our forefathers envisioned doesn’t exist. It can probably be argued that it never existed. America, apparently for the most part, is bitter. And cruel. And small-minded.

I didn’t move to Mexico because I disagreed with American politics, but I will never reside in the country of my birth again because I now strongly disagree with American politics.

You can quote me on that.

* * * *

Given the fact that The Donald is the least presidential-acting President that the United States of America has ever had, I’m not sure he understands that he’s actually the President. From my point of view, he acts like the star of reality TV show would act if that was the role he had to play.

That’s what he was, is, and forever shall be. A reality TV star who somehow ended up being arguably the most powerful person on the planet. His words and actions only make sense when viewed in the context of man getting advice from his producers to increase the market share for his failing TV show:

Say outrageous things! No, even more outrageous than that! It’ll boost our ratings!! Go over the top with your Twitter account! People love that kind of stuff!! But maybe you should use Spell Check…

For those of you who don’t follow @realDonaldTrump on the Twitter®, he misspells almost everything. Including the word outrageous. And moat. 

Ratings. That’s where it’s at, man. Ratings make the world go ’round. That’s what The Donald is really all about. He’s constantly posting poll results that show how much people love him. That’s why he’s your favorite President.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Dallas

He’s actually called the himself that in a couple of his tweets.

* * * *

Just in cases you haven’t figured this out already, I am beyond sick of Donald Trump. My most fervent hope right now is that the Democrats aren’t as stupid as the Republicans, and if/when they decide to file Articles of Impeachment, they better not fuck this up.

If Donald Trump is as corrupt as I imagine him to be, the Democrats are the last hope America has. Trump has as much as admitted he did all of the things the Democrats want to investigate. That’s his defense. Yeah, I did it. And you know what? I’d do it again! And after he admitted his crimes, he said he wouldn’t do anything to cooperate with any investigation.

Americans expect greatness from their Presidents. And if they can’t get that, the very least they expect is humility. We have gotten neither from Donald Trump. He has done more, in less time, to tarnish an office that once was the most respected and admired office on the planet.

Time to wrap this Thanksgiving turkey up and get him the hell out of the White House by Christmas. It would be the best present America could ask for, and give everyone with a brain and a heart a renewed hope for the next year.

When the Bough Breaks

I’m going to figuratively go out on a limb and say that everyone has heard the lullaby Rockabye Baby. Even Millennials. If you haven’t, you should know the drill by now. That’s right, look it up on the YouTube®.

It’s a cute little song to fall asleep to, except for the whole crashing to the ground from the top of the tree part. That would startle you awake no matter how deeply you were sleeping.

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See? I told you.

A lots of bad shit can happen when the bough breaks. It’s like unto the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. You take as much as you can for as long as you can, and then you snap.

Like I did last Sunday.

* * * *

The Minnesota Vikings played their fourth game of the season. In yet another dismal performance against a divisional rival, they looked absolutely pathetic as they were manhandled by the Chicago Bears and lost, 16-6.

Four games. The Vikings are 2-2. Hey, that’s no reason to jump ship, Mark!

I actually had people tell me that. But I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well. Being a Vikings fan is like unto dating a really hot girl that fucks you like a nympho pornstar one weekend, then shits all over the bed the next.

I finally got tired of having to clean up the mess. Halfway through the Chicago game I decided it was time to cut my losses and change allegiances. I became a Detroit Lions fan. I’ve been thinking about doing it for two years, so it shouldn’t be a complete surprise to anyone.

If there’s one team in the NFC North that sucks more than the Vikings, that team is the Lions. They’re so bad they only have one great player, but he is their quarterback. Matthew Stafford is a fourth quarter wizard. He is a master of the fourth quarter comeback, and finds a way to almost win a lots of games.

In the last ten years, the Lions have lost more games by three points or less than any other NFL team. You better check that. I may have made that statistic up.

I decided I’d rather root for a team that no one expects to ever win a game and almost always does, than root for a team almost everyone expects to dominate their opponents and looks like the Keystone Kops more often than not.

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I. Am. Done.

There were few notable events in the game that contributed to my meltdown. The first was Chase Daniel. He’s Chicago’s backup quarterback. He came into the after Mitch Trubisky, Chicago’s starting QB, was injured. Backup quarterbacks don’t usually win a lots of games in the NFL. There’s a reason why they’re backups.

Chase Daniel looked like Tom Fucking Brady against the Vikings defense, which is supposed to be one of the better defenses in the NFL, but Mr. Second-string Junior Varsity moved his team up and down the field with relative ease.

The Vikings revamped offense looked terrible against a depleted Bears defense. That’s right. Chicago didn’t play a few of their best players because of injuries, and they still shut down Kirk Cousins and friends.

The Vikings had one of the best rushing games in the league prior to last Sunday. Against the Bears they rushed for forty yards. If you can’t run the ball, you have to pass it. And if you’re going to that, you better protect your quarterback. Kirk Cousins was sacked six times, and spent most of the game running for his life.

Kirk Cousins is the $84 million man. He was supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Vikings’ Super Bowl aspirations. The Vikings hired at least two coaches to come up with plays just to make Kirk look good. And as long as he’s playing against teams that aren’t very good, he looks awesome.

However, when he plays against good teams with winning records, he looks like the biggest mistake the Vikings have made since the infamous Herschel Walker trade.

The Purple and Gold are the new Browns. You heard it here first.

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This is what my social media meltdown mostly amounted to…

* * * *

Last week, the House of Representatives began an impeachment inquiry into some of President Trump’s more questionable actions. The Donald may have abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the Democrats trying to become the next President of the United States.

The Donald has said and done a lots of questionable things since he became President. Some of them have been reprehensible, in my humble opinion. But you can’t be impeached simply because someone thinks you’re an idiot. Or an asshole. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have any Presidents that weren’t impeached.

Bill Clinton was impeached because he got a blowjob from one of his female interns in the Oval Office. It’s ironic because I’d be willing to bet every dime I own that every man who voted in favor of impeaching President Clinton was also guilty of getting blowjobs from their interns in their offices.

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I know it’s hard to believe that a guy who acts like he’s a Mafia boss would actually do something that you’d expect a mob boss to do, but that’s what appears to have happened. According to several diverse sources, this is just the tip of the iceberg of Trump’s illegal activities, and they are seemingly legion. We’ll see how all of this plays out…

The Donald denies any wrongdoing. This weekend he had a Twitter® meltdown that made my meltdown look like the beginning of the last Ice Age. He posted over eighty tweets saying he was the victim of a witch hunt and was being harassed and bullied by the Do Nothing Democrats. Then he demanded to know the identity of the whistleblower who exposed him, and threatened everybody associated with the inquiry with vague retribution and severe punishment. 

That, is witness tampering, and it is most definitely a crime.

He said the country would be torn apart in a civil war if he were to be impeached, which may cause some of his more loosely-hinged supporters to shoot a whole lots of other people. We’ll have to see how that unfolds, too. He added this wasn’t an impeachment, but a COUP intended to take away the God-given rights and freedoms of all Americans. And he said he’d be willing to fight with his supporters, but he has bone spurs and a note from his doctor, so there’s that.

At any rate, there has been a paradigm shift in American politics that will likely only increase the huge divide that already separates the Republicans and the Democrats. Though if you were to ask Republicans how they feel off the record, many of them would probably say they support impeachment and are secretly relieved.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I had lunch with a friend of ours last week. She was an attorney and a political lobbyist in New York State. During lunch she told me her theory about why the American political system fell apart.

White wine.

Remember when everyone started drinking white wine because they heard about some study that said white wine was good for you?

Before the release of that study, people drank whatever they wanted. Beer. Gin. Whiskey. Vodka. Tequila. Whatever. And that included politicians. That’s how legislative deals were made. After a political session ended, all of the legislators would get together in an office and have a few drinks, and voilà!

Shit got done.

Then everyone started drinking white wine, and going to the gym, and no one could eat gluten anymore…

Now nothing gets done.

I hadn’t heard this theory before, but chronologically, it makes sense. And I never thought I would ever hear myself saying these words to anyone, but you goddamn politicians aren’t drinking enough alcohol. Get your heads out of your asses. Drink a couple of glasses of Scotch, and do your jobs.

Drink, drink, and vote yea.

That, and nothing else, will make America great again.

Headline Action Breaking News Live! Update … Report

If you were thinking about creating a news show and you needed to come up with a catchy title, you’re clearly not going to want to hire me as your slogan guy.

* * * *

There was yet another mass shooting in the US last week.

I’m actually too emotionally exhausted to even get outraged anymore. I’ve come to the conclusion that if the lawmakers in Washington DC aren’t going to do anything to change this, then there can be no more tragic mass shootings in America. They are simply the price you might have to pay for living in the Land of the Free.

And if the American people aren’t going to elect representatives that actually represent them, then they can go fuck themselves, too.

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Damn you! God damn you all to Hell!

* * * *

My Twitter® account was suspended again because of some comments I posted in response to Donald Trump.

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It appears there are some limits to my hypocrisy. I found I couldn’t encourage The Donald to be more of an asshat than he already was and continue to sleep well at night. So, I kind of went off on him the other day.

Apparently, you’re not allowed to call the President a dumb cunt…

Twitter® made me delete my posts, told me to play nice with others, and wouldn’t let me do anything on their site for a day.

It’s ironic because the one person on the planet that shouldn’t be allowed to post anything on their site never gets his hands slapped…

* * * *

I’m assuming the fucking rat I tried to kill to death in our carport, then disappeared into the engine of our car, decided to move to a safer location. One that doesn’t have broom-wielding maniacs. Or two dozen hungry cats. I haven’t seen it again, and believe me when I say I’ve looked.

I haven’t seen any rats anywhere, but I have seen a lots of the many semi-feral cats that live in the neighborhood.

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They like hanging out in our carport, too. And I’m reasonably sure they’d pursue the rat if it was still hanging around. If I thought there was seriously a chance the rat was still living in my car, I really would set it on fire.

* * * *

The NFL football season kicks off this week! This is the best time of the year for me. The Minnesota Vikings have looked good in their preseason games, so hopes of a stellar season are running high with their fans right now.

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Well, after last year, they can only go up…

To say that the Vikings struggled last year is an understatement. They were supposed to be an elite team that would be in the running for another Super Bowl appearance. Instead, they barely finished with a winning record and were mediocre at best.

This year should be different. The Vikings have a rejuvenated offense. They have two of the best receivers in the NFL, and they finally cut Laquon Treadwell, who was one of the worst receivers in the league. If the offensive line gives Kirk Cousins the time he needs, the passing game could be a force to be reckoned with.

The Vikings appear to have a veritable herd of decent running backs. If Dalvin Cook can stay healthy for an entire season, their offense might be an absolute powerhouse this year.

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Defensively, the Vikings appear to be solid, but historically they almost always have. Last year the defense seemed to play with a lack of intensity. And in more than one game they seemed to just not care. All accounts indicate they’ve got their goddamn minds right, and they are poised to dominate on that side of the ball again.

Might. Maybe. If only…  Every football season starts like this for me. Every year, this could be our year. But every fan of every NFL team is right there with me right now. If only — this might be the year — maybe…

I’m excited to see what happens. I’m another year closer to getting dead, so the clock is ticking, guys. I want to see you win a Super Bowl before I die. If it doesn’t, I’m coming back as the scariest fuckin’ ghost you’ve ever seen and I will haunt your asses until you do.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

* * * *

We’ve been busy here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. Todd, my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend, has finally arrived with all of his worldly belongings and has taken up residence in one of our guest rooms. He’s going to be our roommate for an as yet undetermined amount of time. I think of it as an experiment in communal living for all of us.

It’s not like we don’t have the room. Our house is huge, way bigger than anything we need for the two of us. And our kit-tens. Mika and Mollie turned one year old last month! I sang them the Happy Birthday song in Spanish. Our kit-tens are bilingual. That means they can ignore what we say to them in two languages.

Space here wasn’t an issue. The only concerns we had was how this arrangement would work in reality. If you exclude spouses and children, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one of the three of us that has ever had a roommate.

I’ve had a few people ask me how our new living arrangement came to be. I think it was my idea. Todd and Lea have known each other since middle school or something. They’ve been friends forever. Todd came down here to visit Lea a couple of years ago. That’s when I met him. We’ve been friends ever since.

We were fortunate when we moved here. We had a great network of people we could talk to. We didn’t have to endure many of the glitches that can occur when you move to a foreign country.  In my mind, having Todd move in with us seemed to be the best way to ease his transition into his new life.

Todd speaks no Spanish. I know the look that he gets on his face whenever anyone speaks to him en español. Lea and I have shared as much as we can with him about our experiences here. We’ll continue to help him as best we can until the deer in the headlights look goes away. After that, we’ll see.

As they say on TV, what could possibly go wrong?

* * * *

The Roommate is a 2011 cinematic psychological thriller about a deranged college freshman who becomes obsessed with her new roommate.

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Okay. I guess there’s that…

Experiment IV is a song by the English singer Kate Bush. The song tells a story about a secret military plan to create a sound horrific enough to kill a lots people.

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I can honestly say that this scenario had never occurred to me

* * * *

If you combine those two themes, this looks like unto the worst cohabitation idea, ever. Fortunately, Todd is not deranged, nor does he possess any of the intense, technological dental x-ray combat training that I received from the Army. He’s a good guy.

It should be fun. Todd loves to cook, so Lea will have some help in the kitchen. And, he plays golf. I love to eat, and I love to play golf. This appears to be a win-win-win situation for everyone, but especially for me.

And we still have the casita/guest house for anyone who wants to come visit. We’ve had a few people ask if they could come down, so we’ll see. We might eventually get some visitors here.

* * * *

Speaking of golf, I’m still getting accustomed to my new clubs. The fairway woods I bought have been nice additions to my arsenal. They haven’t produced any noticeable reduction in my score yet, but I attribute that to my other new club.

The chipper is unlike any other club I’ve ever had. It has next to no weight, so I’ve been struggling with the “how hard do I have to hit the ball to get it to the pin dilemma.” My results with it have been very hit or miss.

Mostly miss, so far.

In a few days I can start getting accustomed to my new putter. I’m waiting for it to be delivered from Amazon. I decided if was going to get serious about improving my game, I better get the right tools for the job.

In a recent interview, Brooks Kepka said this: “I’m putting pretty good. I’m just not making any putts.” It sounds like just about the most stupidest thing anyone could ever say, but it makes perfect sense to any serious golfer.

My new putter is red, and it looks like a spaceship from Star Trek.

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See? I told you.

Once I figure out how to use it, I’ll probably never miss a putt again.

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Lol! More lol!! Snort lol. Stop it, you’re killing me!!!

Endgame

¡Hola, amigos y amigas! ¡Buenos dildos! That means, “very good day,” en español. I have to admit, I’m getting pretty damn good at conjugating nouns and stuff in the language of our adopted country of residence.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I were knocking down wasp nests on the patio a couple of days ago. When we finished in the back, we decided to check out the front of the house. Lo and behold, there was a fucking rat sitting on a ledge in the carport!

Probably Not So Surprising Little Known Fact About Me: I hate rats. I hate rats more than I hate bats. Even more than I detest Donald Trump.

* * * *

I read The Donald’s Tweets every morning. I used to call him out for being the reprehensible slob of humanity that he is. And then a couple of absolutely stupefying things happened, even by Trump’s standards.

I will say one thing about America’s current Commander-in-Chief. He is the most accidentally funny President, ever. Too bad his ego won’t let him list that as one of his many great accomplishments.  He’d actually be telling the truth about something.

First, Trump tried to buy Greenland. When the deal fell through, he said he was joking, but yeah, he actually wanted to buy a country! Denmark essentially laughed at him. They probably checked his credit rating…

Second, Trump tweeted his thanks to one of his supporters who said the people of Israel love The Donald like he was the King of Israel, and they love The Donald like he was the second coming of God.

And without a drop of humility, Trump agreed with him.

Since then, I’ve had a change of heart. Instead of chastising the President, I now wholeheartedly encourage him to double down on every petty insult and slur he can’t stop himself from tweeting, to raise his bet on every inane thing he says. I’m hoping his unfettered madness will make him say something that will make even his most ardent, hardcore, comatose, lemming-like supporters stop, scratch their heads, and think:

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* * * *

Sorry. Back to the rat story…

I just happened to be holding a broom in my hands at the time, and my dental X-ray combat training took over. I charged the rat and smote it mightily with the broom handle, delivering a death blow to the odious rodent.

The rat, who was apparently not even close to being dead, jumped down from the ledge, then jumped up into the engine compartment of my car, disappearing into the maze of components under the hood of my Buick Encore, which was even worse than having a rat living in the carport.

I had a dilemma. I wasn’t about to let that rat continue living, but I had no way to easily confront my enemy to finish it off.

“Now what do we do?” Lea asked. She doesn’t like rats any more than I do.

“I need a gallon of gasoline.”

“Why?” she asked.

“So I can set the car on fire.”

* * * *

Many years ago, I admitted a young guy that had been a patient on my unit a couple of times. I think he was schizophrenic, and he usually came in because he was drunk and needed to be detoxed. But this time was different. He was sober, but his neighbors had called the fire department because he had set his motorcycle on fire at the end of his driveway.

After they had extinguished the fire, the fire fighters had called the police.

If you don’t mind me asking, why did you set your motorcycle on fire?

Oh, there’s a simple explanation for that. I couldn’t get it started! I had been working on it for the last couple of weeks, and I just kind of snapped today and poured some gas on it and, you know, set it on fire.

Was it an expensive bike?

No, it wasn’t a brand new Harley or anything. It was a piece of junk that had been in my garage for at least five years. I think I paid maybe fifty bucks for it. It wasn’t running when I bought it. I’m a pretty good mechanic. I figured I could get it running and use it to get around town. Cheap transportation, you know.

Was there a rat in it?

What?!? No, there wasn’t a fucking rat in it. It wouldn’t start!

And that’s when you decided to set it on fire…  

Yeah, well, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do…

Because your neighbors called the cops..

No, the firemen called the cops! Like it was any of their goddamn business. It was my motorcycle!

Imagine this: You’re driving down the street and you see a motorcycle on fire. What’s the first thing you’d do?

Yeah, okay. I see where you’re going with this. (There was a long silence while he thought about everything.) Say, how long do you think I’m going to be stuck in here?

I don’t know. It probably depends on how many more motorcycles you have.

* * * *

In our situation, suffice it to say that cooler heads prevailed. Lea and I eventually came to the conclusion that the rat would probably, hopefully, abandon its’ hiding place in our car once night fell, and it would scurry off into the dark. Hopefully, it would get killed to death by one of the two dozen semi-feral cats that live in the neighborhood.

Our neighbors to the south of Casa Tara feed all of the wild cats in Lower Chula Vista. They have a veritable herd of cats that congregate in their yard. And ours. I always thought our neighbors were a little crazy, but now I think they might be geniuses. The best defense against a rodent infestation is a herd of cats.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Cats and the Black Death: Sometime around the year 1230, Pope Gregory IX issued a papal bull called Vox in Rama. This piece of papal bullshit declared cats to be the instruments of Satan, especially black cats, who were particularly Luciferian in this infallible Pope’s mind. Thousands of cats were killed to death at the order of the Pope, and the rat population of Europe exploded.

The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, tend to live inside of fleas that live on rats. Adult fleas live on blood that they suck from their host animal. The plague is generally transmitted by the bite of an infected flea that has abandoned its’ rat for a new food source. Anywhere from 75 to 200 million people in Medieval Europe died from the plague.

As if that wasn’t enough, Gregory IX also established the Inquisition. He was probably the deadliest Pope that ever lived. He could have been the prototype for Thanos, the brutal supervillain in Endgame who had wiped out half of the population of the universe with a snap of his fingers in the previous movie, Avengers: Infinity War.

The only reason I qualify that statement is this planet has had a lots of historical figures that were immensely good at killing.

* * * *

For those of you that didn’t know, or who could care less, Avengers: Endgame is the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®. There have been 23 films in the series, and I’ve seen them all.

The Avengers franchise is the highest-grossing movie series of all time, having grossed over $22.5 billion at the global box office. Endgame is the highest-grossing film of all time, having netted almost $3 billion all by itself.

If you think this is going to be a movie review, you’re going to be very disappointed. Okay. I liked the movie; despite its many flaws about how the TimeSpace continuum works in the quantum universe.

The Radiolab guys would have a blast trying to fill in all the holes in the storyline of Endgame, but that’s their problem, if they choose to accept that mission, not mine. And that’s not what this post is going to be about.

Despite all of their box office success and superpowers, the people of my generation know these modern-day Avengers are nothing but a bunch of posers and wannabes.

These, are the real Avengers: They didn’t need any superpowers. They were British.

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John Steed and Emma Peel, portrayed by Patrick Macnee & Diana Rigg

The Avengers was a British espionage television series that aired from 1961 to 1969. It initially focused on the duo of Dr. David Keel, aided by John Steed, investigating and solving crimes.

Dr. Keel left after the first series; Steed then became the main character. Over the years, he partnered with a succession of intelligent, stylish, assertive women: Cathy Gale, Emma Peel, and Tara King. Emma was the cream of the crop in my mind. Witty, beautiful, and she could kick some serious ass. I fell in love with her at first sight.

And, there was that dream I had about her when I was fifteen. Diana was very, very…  friendly. She was my first celebrity crush. I wonder if she has a Twitter® account?

Diana Rigg also played Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. She may no longer be young and beautiful, but her biting wit hasn’t lost any of its sharpness. She was an immediate fan favorite, and her character was responsible for the death of the sadistic King Joffrey Baratheon, an act for which I will feel eternal gratitude.

* * * *

The results of my colonoscopy are in. No polyps! First time ever for that. I think it’s the Mexican diet. Polyps apparently live in fear of jalapeños, which are used in almost all of the local dishes down here.

I had my procedure done at the Hospital San Antonio, a brand new healthcare facility at the bottom of the hill below our house. The hospital was built by Dr. Carlos Garcia del Castillo, our Family Practice physician. He’s kind of the Milo Minderbinder of Medicine around here.

“Brand new” implies “state-of-the-art,” especially when it comes to medicine. But this is Mexico. The new hospital had the only MRI machine in the Lakeside Area — until they plugged it in — and it kind of exploded, turning several people into giant, mutant green-skinned hulqueros.

It was probably made by LG…  At any rate, you’ll have to go to Guadalajara for an MRI, until Dr. Carlos can get his machine repaired or replaced. It’s probably still under warranty.

The procedure room where my colonoscopy was done is right next to the loading dock in the back of the hospital. The massive door to the loading dock was open wide as I was escorted into the room. A curtain was the only thing separating the procedure room from the rest of the hospital. It was also wide open.

As the medical staff — two doctors and three nurses — were getting ready for my procedure, two dogs trotted into the room and laid down on the floor to watch. The janitor wandered in, mop in hand, to see what was going on and say Hello to everyone. Some random guy selling hats wandered in with him.

I asked the anesthesiologist, his name was Hector, if he could just please put me under. Once I was unconscious, I wouldn’t care who else came into the room to check out my rear end. And who wouldn’t want to see that? Lea tells me I have the cutest butt she’s ever seen, so there’s that.

That’s the “end”game this post is going to be about. My ass is about as American as it gets.

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* * * *

Just in cases you were wondering, the total cost of my my procedure was $10,500 pesos. Roughly $525 US. You might want to read that again. Five hundred twenty five dollars. Service dogs included at no extra charge.

That’s about how much it costs for one visit to the Emergency Room in the US. Add a lots more money if any actual procedures are done during that visit. That’s probably how much it cost me, monetarily, the last time I was in the ER.

I went to the ER because of my third kidney stone. I knew I had a kidney stone, but this stone was possibly worse than my previous two renal calculi combined. What I didn’t know was I also had a kidney infection and prostatitis.

I got checked in, turned in a urine sample, then waited however long it took for the doctor to see me. The ER doc was a pleasant, older man named Josef Mengele. Just in cases you don’t know who that is, Dr. Mengele was a German SS officer and physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. His nickname was The Angel of Death.

He took my history, typed his notes into the computer, then said the words that every guy in a doctor’s office dreads to hear, “Okay. I’m going to have to do a prostate exam.”

He said he was going to be gentle. He made a fist with his left hand and demonstrated how slowly and carefully he was going to insert his right finger into my rectum. That was actually reassuring.

I dropped my pants and assumed the “Bend Over” position on the exam table while the good doctor donned gloves and lubed up with K-Y Jelly.

“Take a couple of deep breaths and relax. Oh, and you should probably take your glasses off, too.”

I had never had a doctor suggest that before. I almost questioned why, but I did as he asked. And then I knew why he had suggested it.

True to his word, Dr. Mengele was slow and careful with his digital insertion. Until he got to his first knuckle. Then he shoved the rest of his finger into my rectum like it was making the jump to lightspeed.

And I’m almost positive that I heard something like unto this:

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Pain! Pain worse than a dozen goddamn kidney stones filled my being. My face smashed into the exam table. Hard. Like I was having a seizure hard. I vaguely remember thinking, Oh, that’s why he wanted me to take my glasses off! After that, all I wanted to do was cry.

“Oh yeah. You definitely have prostatitis.” Dr. Mengele gloated. It felt like he had put his foot up my ass and he was kicking my prostate. “Your prostate feels like a grapefruit! So, you’re a nurse, huh? What’s your specialty? Where do you work?”

I couldn’t have responded if I had wanted to. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. But these words formed inside my head:

Get…your…arm…out…of…my…ass…you…motherfucking…Nazi!!! I seriously would have confessed to the Kennedy assassination if that’s what Dr. Mengele had wanted. That was the longest five hours of my life. Five seconds later, it was over.

I’m pretty sure I collapsed to the floor in relief. Dr. Mengele washed his hands, told me he’d write some prescriptions for antibiotics, and cheerfully bid me Auf Wiedersehen.

The nurse thought I had had a heart attack when she entered the room with Dr. Mengele’s prescriptions. Fortunately, I could speak by then. As I was getting dressed I was able to convince her she didn’t need to call a Code Blue.

Besides, I’m DNR/DNI.

* * * *

My first kidney stone and my third kidney stone were large, like, 6 mms each. They had to be broken into little tiny bits by extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. It’s one of the few medical interventions I’ve experienced that might be worse than the initial condition.

I felt like I had been hit by a bus afterwards, and it took about a week to get to the point where I stopped wishing my kidney stones would have had the decency to just kill me to death and get it over already.

I had my last kidney stone in 2013, I think. Since then, I have conscientiously done everything I can to prevent getting a fourth kidney stone.

It’s not all that difficult. Drink a lots of water. That’s the most effective thing you can do. And eat a lots of jalapeños. I don’t think kidney stones like them either.

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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Resort Style Living at its Finest. And Stuff

Greetings from the Chula Vista Resort and Spa!

Life is still mostly idyllic here, but as you and I both know, there’s always something.

Before I begin to start to commence to complain about my almost perfect life, I should mention the good things.

Lea finally got her curtain rods for our master bedroom! It only took about two months. And about a dozen visits to the ironworks shop to talk to the Moron Twins. I think she wore them down and they eventually realized the only way they were going to get rid of esta gringa loca was to give her what she wanted. I’ve got to hand it to her. I didn’t think she’d ever get anything she’d be remotely satisfied with from those bozos.

Way to go, honey. You’re still a force to be reckoned with.

She still has to make the curtains, but my lovely supermodel wife is more than just a pretty face. She has some pretty serious crafty skills. She’s made a lots of stuff over the years. She already has most of the materials she needs, and she has a plan to procure the items she lacks. I’m sure they’ll turn out great. I’ll post pictures of the finished product.

* * * *

We had to replace the toilet in my workshop because the water tank fractured and flooded the floor. I think it had been cracked for years and finally succumbed to the pressure. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. It’s not a high traffic area. It probably hasn’t been regularly used for more than ten years.

The floors are all tile, so no significant damage occurred. Jaime, our property manager, bought a new toilet. Tacho, our general handyman guy, installed it. Mischief managed.

The only weird thing is this is the second new toilet we’ve had to have installed in the short time that we’ve been here.

I’ve also asked Jaime and Tacho to construct some water diversion devices for the corners of the eaves by the pool. This is our first Rainy Season at this house, and after the first couple of serious rainfalls, we discovered that we had a problem.

I’ve written about the Rainy Season before. People that live here might tell you the rain is very polite because it mostly falls at night. I’d tell you there’s nothing polite about the rain. It’s true that it mostly falls at night, but when it rains here it rains like a bastard. Maybe two of them.

We basically have two waterfalls pouring off of the roof into the patio when it rains. The tiles on the patio are polished porcelain, and when they get wet they’re just about the most slipperiest surfaces on the planet. I bought a giant squeegee the last time we were at Costco. I think it’ll come in very handy for the next few months.

The patio is open to the weather, so there’s no way to keep all of the water off of the floor. I don’t want anything extravagant. I just want something that will direct most of the water into the pool. But if we can divert both of those sources, we might not slip and accidentally kill ourselves to death.

* * * *

Our LG refrigerator has been acting up. Again. Well, the refrigerator part is still working. It’s the freezer part that has been acting up. Essentially, it’s not freezing anything. Luckily, we have two freezers, so we just moved everything from the kitchen to the casita. Again.

Lea is as close to furious as she ever gets.

The refrigerator is still under warranty, and after all the work we’ve had done on it, the LG Service Department in Guadalajara no longer gives Jaime any crap when he calls to tell them they need to come repair their piece of shit refrigerator. Again. They didn’t even ask us to do another 12 Hour Test this time.

They’re supposed to be here next Tuesday. And they won’t have the part they need to fix the problem, so that will take another week. It might be fixed by the middle of July.

Thankfully, the restaurants here are mostly excellent, and affordable. Dining out is going to be an ordeal, but we’ll get through this somehow.

* * * *

We received our WiFi Super Booster about a month ago. As near as I can tell, it doesn’t even mildly boost our WiFi strength or speed. I’d actually go so far to say that our ambiguous signal works better when it’s not being boosted. So, if you were planning on purchasing this technological wonder, I’d advise against it.

It’s too bad. I doubt that Telecable® has any plans to improve their service, and they have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any communications company in the Lakeside Area. Telmex®, the other local communications company, has the second lowest.

It’s like having to choose between having cancer or leprosy.

This is easily the most frustrating part of our new lives. And by our lives, I mean mine. I don’t think Lea finds this anywhere near as irritating as I do.

Ask any blogger you happen to see and they will tell you in order to post anything they write, they absolutely need an Interweb connection. And if they like to research their topics, it’s an invaluable resource.

Research is too much like work for me, so I mostly make shit up. I might be lying about that, but I’m a very good liar. And yes, I could be lying about that, too.

* * * *

Despite the fact that our WiFi mostly sucks, I have binge watched a couple of series on Fire TV®. Catch-22 was quite good. Chernobyl was even better. It was so refreshing to watch something where there was no question whether or not the government was lying. It was one of the best qualities about communism. They lied about everything! And you could trust that.

* * * *

I started watching Good Omens yesterday. It’s produced by Amazon and the BBC. Interestingly enough, a bunch of offended Christians sent a petition to Netflix trying to get them to stop airing the blasphemous series. Clearly, Satan had a hand or two in that.

Good Omens is yet another fantasy TV series based on the book of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s the story of an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowle, who form an alliance in an attempt to stop the approaching Armageddon.

I guess there are plenty of reasons why Christians could be upset. Adam and Eve are black in the TV show. Everyone knows all of the people in the Bible were white. Even the Egyptians. And the Queen of Sheba. And they all spoke English.

In the TV show, God is a woman, so that could be another point of contention for the uproar. That’s the only part I find hard to believe. A female God would never have made all the mistakes that our solidly paternal God has.

Hey, mister! I thought God couldn’t make mistakes!!

Yeah, I used to think that, too. But for an entity who is supposed to be All-Knowing, it’s pretty hard to describe some of His actions as anything but mistakes. Granted, He probably has the ability to fix all of this shit because He’s also, you know, All-Powerful. In that case, He’s right. There are no mistakes, just clever corrections.

Back to the show: The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley have been friends from the beginning of Time, and over the centuries they’ve essentially gone native, preferring life on Earth to life in either of the respective realms from whence they originated. They were supposed to be keeping an eye on the Antichrist, but through a series of semi-comical events, they lost him and have been taking care of of the wrong kid. It’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

In Christian eschatology, the Antichrist will fulfill Biblical prophecies about someone who will oppose Christ and substitute himself in Christ’s place, just in cases you were wondering. “…Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Revelation 13:15-18

I have no idea what that means, so I hope you’re not looking for any great insights here. On the TV series, it turns out to be a telephone number. Little Known Fact About My State of Minnesota Nursing License Number: It’s a six digit number. The first three numbers are 111. Any guesses what the last (6) three (6) numbers (6) are?

I once desperately wanted to be a prophet, but I have to be honest. When I looked at my nursing license for the first time, I damn near died to death. I used to be obsessed with the End of Times. I even wrote a book about it. It probably wasn’t a great book, and I base that assessment on the fact that none of the publishers I contacted were interested in publishing it. I used to have a stack of rejection letters that was more than a foot tall.

Seeing how I wanted to be a prophet, but had somehow been branded with the infamous Number of the Beast, the premise of my book was simple. The true identity of the Antichrist couldn’t be known because all suspicion would roll off of him like water off a duck’s back. Being the super-spooky twisted genius guy that he was, he could literally say anything and everyone would believe him. It’s one of his evil superpowers.

All he had to do was accuse his sworn enemy,  the True Prophet of God, of being the real Antichrist. And the people of the world would blame him for all of the crazy shit that happened during the turbulent End of Days, which made life more than a little complicated for our righteous hero.

And just to complicate matters further, both the Antichrist and the Prophet of God do a fair amount of crazy shit. The Antichrist does it because, you know, that’s his job. The prophet does it because, you know, that’s what God tells him to do.

It’s too bad that I was such a lousy writer back when I was trying to be a serious author. There was some pretty good stuff in that book.

I doubt that I’ll be able to get Lea interested in watching this series. It’s too bad because the show is fucking hilarious. She’s probably afraid that I’ll go crazy again, and start preaching to the multitudes on the shore of Lake Chapala, telling them to Repent! Or, ¡Arrepentirse! in Spanish.

Historically, that’s what prophets have done, no matter which language they spoke. Clearly, it’s a method that hasn’t worked. Past performance is sometimes a fairly good indicator of future results. I’d try something different. I’d hire the BBC to produce another comedy show, and take it from there.

However, I should point out that this is a subject I doubt I could ever get serious about again, even if the long foretold events actually started happening. I’m not sure I could muster the necessary energy again. Lea will read this someday, and maybe she’ll relax a bit.

Yeah, you’re right. I could tell her that. I’m just not sure she’d believe me.

I’d call my show Seven Trumpets. It was the title of my book. It’s still the best name ever for a series about the End of Times. According to Revelation 8:1-2, seven angels will sound the seven trumpets after the breaking of the seventh seal. Seven is a very popular number in the Bible.

It’s God’s favorite number.

The Year of the Cat

It’s Sunday. I usually reserve Sundays for watching football. But today, the Minnesota Vikings took the day off. It’s too bad, because they were supposed to play the Buffalo Bills.

Way back in the day, professional football was something a select few guys did for a few months, then went back to their real jobs when the season was over. Nowadays, professional football is a year-round endeavor. For the coaches and players, it’s their only job. It’s not just a job, it’s a career.

From that point of view, there’s no excuse for a football team that’s allegedly this good to look so bad against a team they were supposed to beat by sixteen points. There’s no doubt that there’s a lots of talent on the Vikings roster, but you didn’t see any of it on the field today.

In an upset of epic proportions, the Vikings lost to the Bills, 27-6. The Bills, who lost their first two games this season by a total of fifty five points. I don’t know how to explain this, except it’s possible that the Vikings thought they were already in the Super Bowl. Then their performance is easily explained.

They haven’t looked this bad since the NFC Championship game last year. The only good thing about this game was the new Vikings kicker didn’t miss any field goals. As far as I know, he wasn’t even given the opportunity to attempt one. Anyone who knows anything about sports will tell you there’s a name for good teams that don’t beat bad teams.

Losers.

It’s nothing new for my team. They’ve played like this for as long as I can remember. Look like true Viking warriors one week, then look hungover drag queens the next. It kind of sucks. I am a big fan of professional football, and the Vikings. This NFL season is only three weeks old, and I’m already kind of over it.

If this truly is the Year of the Cat, the Jacksonville Jaguars should win the Super Bowl.

This year’s football roller coaster ride went south in a hurry.  My lovely supermodel fanatic wife was so disgusted she didn’t even yell at the TV once. She just quit watching the game and went out on the patio. I quit watching, too. I changed the channel to the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods won! It was an amazing comeback for him, and for his sport. He’s clearly the most popular golfer in the world.

I could say something about my golf game, except I don’t have any meaningful updates. I haven’t even been golfing much. It’s been tremendously wet down here, in terms of water. I guess it doesn’t matter who says that line, it still sounds stupid.

* * * *

Year of the Cat is a song by Al Stewart. It got a lots of air time on the radio back in 1976 or so. It’s about a guy who’s taking a guided bus tour through the Middle East. During one stop, he and his fellow tourists go out to look around at a local marketplace. The surroundings remind the guy of scenes he saw in the movie Casablanca.

As he wanders around the bazaar, he sees a beautiful, “mysterious” girl. She’s not a local, but has been living in the area since the Year of the Cat. I guess that’s what makes her so mysterious. She leads him back to her room where they make love for hours, of course. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds that the tour bus is gone. So are his luggage, his clothes and his money.

It’s a very pretty, cautionary song about the hazards of leaving your group when you’re a tourist in a foreign country, apparently.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I retired to a foreign country, but I doubt either of us will ever have a misadventure at any of the local bazaars like unto the one outlined above.

Neither of us are in the market for any random hook-ups at this point in time of our lives. The only thing we have been in the market for since we got back from vacation, is a kit-ten. Or two.

We used to have a kit-ten, Samantha. She lived with us for twenty years. Sadly, we had to put her down in February of this year. I figured Lea would last about six months without a cat. I was more or less correct in my timeline. When Lea started her search she said she would be willing to take two kit-tens if they were from the same litter.

I don’t think I predicted that, but I can’t say that I was surprised to hear it.

Lea went to the nearest kit-ten rescue shelter a couple of times after we returned to Mexico and checked out the kit-tens, but she didn’t find the right one. We went to a place called Casa Miau, another cat rescue shelter in Jocotopec, the westernmost town in the Lakeside Area. It’s run by Don and Anita. They own a house in Joco, and rented another house just for their twenty-some-odd rescue cats.

There was only one problem. Anita seemingly didn’t want to part with any of her cats, even though she said all she wanted to do was to find good homes for them, and get her life back.

“I’m here everyday. I had to hire helpers because I can’t keep up with it anymore. That’s Chola. She’s not the right cat for you. That’s Paco. He’s not the right cat for you either. That’s Chance. He’s not going anywhere.”

We didn’t come home with a cat, but we accidentally heard about some orphaned kit-tens while we were at Casa Miau. We had taken a friend of ours named Randy, who has done a lots of animal rescue work, when we went to visit Anita’s herd of cats.

Anita mentioned the kit-tens to Randy because she didn’t have the time nor the energy to take care of any more cats. So Randy went to see the couple who were suddenly raising the three kit-tens whose mother had vanished. And that was how we met Rob and Pat.

They also live in Joco. They’re artists, quite good artists, in my opinion. Roughly eight weeks ago, a stray cat wandered into one of their art studios and decided it would be the perfect place to have her three babies, two females and one male. She would go hunting every day, but always returned to take care of her babies. Until the day she didn’t.

Rob and Pat knew nothing about about being kit-ten foster parents, but Randy did. She taught them how to bottle feed kit-tens, and all the other stuff you need to do when you’re a pet foster parent. Rob and Pat have four or five dogs. They like cats, but didn’t feel they needed more pets. Mostly what they wanted was to find good homes for their orphaned kit-tens.

And that’s how we met Mika and Mollie. They’re sisters, the two females in the litter. It was love at first sight for both Lea and myself. We had to wait nine days before we brought them home, but there was never any question in Lea’s mind whether she had found her new kit-tens or not.

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That’s Mika on the left. She has the cutest little kit-ten face. And that’s Mollie on the right. She’s fuzzier than Mika, and a bit bigger than her sister. The fuzzy fur is the easiest way to tell them apart. They look remarkably similar.

I’m not sure what their mother looked like, but our kit-tens almost look like Himalayans. Maybe they’re Semilayans? Whatever they are, they’re so little, and so cuuuute! They’re maybe eight weeks old at the most. They’re just learning to eat solid food. And run. And jump. And do kit-ten stuff.

They are seriously darlingpreshadorbs!

I’ve never been the parent of small  children. The only thing I’ve ever raised in my life is hell, and it’s probably the last qualification that anyone would look for in a foster parent for anything. Luckily, Lea has raised children, and kit-tens before. I’ve been counting on her expertise to get me through the first few weeks or months until the kit-tens don’t need constant supervision.

My duties so far have been cleaning the litter box and cleaning the floor. I’m okay with this. I have experience in those fields. The other thing I’ve been doing is buying things, like, cat condos, scratching posts and play toys. I think the kit-tens will eventually grow to like the play toys more than they like crumpled wads of paper, or my toes, someday…

I might grow to appreciate their help with writing my blog someday, too. I’ve had to stop writig multiple times today when they’ve climbed on top of my lap to edit what I’ve been writing about them. If I ever get tired of doing this, I might let them take over. They might be better writers than I am.

I will never get tired of watching them play. Kit-tens are kind of like furry, little wind up toys. They run around at manic speed for as long as they can, then sleep for an hour or so. They make me smile like unto a

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A Football Wife

Hey there, sports fans.

Today is Día de la Independencia in Mexico. There’s a band playing in the eventos right below our development. There will probably be a band playing there almost every night from now until Christmas Day.

I call it Fiesta Season. Bands. Cerveza. Music. Más cerveza. Singing. Tequila. Fireworks. It’s basically a four month party. I don’t mind the loud music. Most of the time I think it’s really cool, and it adds to the charm of our retirement lives.

I am not a fan of the fireworks. Mexican fireworks are essentially sky rockets made out of sticks of dynamite. That first one always catches me by surprise, and I always have to check if I shit my pants. After I crawl out from under the bed.

The following explosions aren’t as traumatic. You tend to get used to them. Or you leave.

* * * *

And, another American football season is underway. It’s basically a five month roller coaster ride for most football fans. My lovely supermodel wife is starting to believe it’s true for her. I don’t usually brag about myself much, but I won the Grand Slam of Marriage when I married Lea. Spooky-smart, beautiful, great cook, and she loves football.

I’ve been a Vikings fan since I was a kid. Lea has been a Vikings fan since she married me. She didn’t know anything about football when we got married.

“I wanted to know something about the game, but my dad and my ex-husband wouldn’t explain it to me. They said it was too complicated and I wouldn’t understand.”

Yeah, right.

I didn’t have any problems explaining it to her. Football isn’t that complicated.  It’s not like cricket, which makes no goddamn sense whatsoever. Even people who understand it can’t explain it. Lea has a very good grasp of football. She can hold her own with any guy on the planet when it comes to talking about her team. She can break down a game with the best of them.

Somewhat oddly, I think I become a little less of a fan as each year goes by and my team fails to win the Super Bowl. Again. Plus, I’ve just about had it with the NFL. Between the rule changes and the controversy over the national anthem, I’d give up on the game entirely. Except it’s football, and there’s nothing else like it.

Equally oddly, I think Lea becomes a little more of a fanatic each year. Somehow, balance is maintained, and that’s always a good thing.

Last year the Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship game. Some people think they’ll go all the way this year. They have a good team, but making it to the Super Bowl requires far more than just a good team. In every football season there are at least ten good teams, or more, that don’t play in the Super Bowl.

The Vikings had the best defense in the NFL last year. I don’t know what happened over the off season, but there appears to have been a dramatic drop off in their performance from what I’ve seen so far this year.

I have one theory about this, and I’ll get to it a little later.

To enhance their chances of winning it all this year, the Vikings added some key players through free agency and the draft, most notably, Kirk Cousins at quarterback. He might be the missing piece of their championship puzzle.

The Vikings thought they were missing just one puzzle piece before. In the end, they didn’t win the Super Bowl, but the trade they made allowed the Dogass Cowboys to win three of them.

There are a few NFL teams I don’t like. The Patriots. The Steelers. The Eagles. But I hate only one team. If Dallas never won another game, I’d be okay with that.

Elite quarterbacks in the NFL make a ridiculous amount of money. Kirk Cousins signed a three year contract with the Vikings worth $84 million US dollars. That’s something like unto a ga-zillion Mexican pesos.

But football is the ultimate team sport. One guy probably isn’t going to make your team great. I wasn’t convinced this was a personnel move that the Vikings needed to make. Until today. The Vikings played the Green Bay Packers and almost won a game they absolutely should have lost. And the reason they almost won was Kirk Cousins. He completed 35 of 48 pass attempts for 425 yards and four touchdowns.

One of the reasons the Vikings almost lost was because of a guy named Laquon Treadwell. He’s a wide receiver. He was the Vikings number one draft choice in 2016, and signed a four year contract worth almost $10 million. In two years, he’s caught 21 passes for less than 300 yards, and he scored his first NFL touchdown today.

That comes to roughly $476,000 per catch. In football terms, he’s been an absolute bust so far. In football fan terms, he totally sucks. He might have caught his first TD pass today, but he dropped at least four passes and deflected one pass directly to one of the Packers’ defenders for an interception that almost cost his team the game.

I think Lea stopped breathing when that happened. I have never been a fan of Laquon Treadwell, and I’ve been wondering why he’s still on the team for two years.

It was at this precise moment that I kind of fell in love with Kirk Cousins. Laquon looked like he was ready to kill himself, and Kirk came up to him and said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get ’em next time.”

That was a class move, and was probably worth $10 million all by itself. If Laquon Treadwell ever becomes a decent NFL receiver, he’ll probably owe it to Kirk Cousins.

As it turned out, the final score was a tie. 29-29. And the reason it ended that way was another personnel change. The Vikings released their veteran place kicker and signed a kid from Auburn named Dan Carlson. In football terms, he has a monster leg, and signed a contract worth $728,000 for this year.

Dan missed three field goals today. One attempt was 35 yards, a distance a guy with a monster leg ought to be able to hit even if he only had one leg. Two of his misses were in the overtime period. My lovely and fanatical supermodel wife didn’t take that well.

“You have one fucking job! ONE!!” she screamed at the TV three times today. I don’t think Lea likes any kicker, and she sure as hell doesn’t like Dan Carlson right now. She is just too cute for words as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve come to realize that everyone has a bad day, and this was clearly the worst day of young Mr. Carlson’s life. I’m sure the Vikings will him a chance to redeem himself, but he should realize that NFL stands for Not For Long if you’re a field goal kicker that can’t kick a field goal.

* * * *

Will the Vikings win the Super Bowl this year? Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I don’t think so. On paper, the Vikings have a great defense. But this game isn’t played on paper, and the defense I’ve seen has had moments of greatness, but they have not been consistently great.

Part of this is an attitude thing. The Vikings seem to think their opponents should fear their greatness. If they looked at the tape of the games, they should be able to see that none of their opponents have feared them yet, and they aren’t going to find many teams that do.

Not the way they’re playing right now. So it’s probably a very good thing that the Vikings spent a couple of truckloads of money for a guy who can throw a lots of touchdowns.

My lovely supermodel head coach wife agrees with me on this issue. She is far more anxious about how this year’s team is going to perform than I am, but I have a twenty year head start on her when it comes to being disappointed by the Vikings.

This year’s roller coaster ride is going to be a whole lots worse than last year. I better stock up on my blood pressure medication because I think I’m going to need to double my dose on Sundays.

Back in the Saddle

True rock and roll aficionados will know that Back in the Saddle is song by Aerosmith. Therefore, they might wonder why I chose an album cover by The Doobie Brothers as my featured image for this post.

It’s pretty simple. I couldn’t find any pictures of Aerosmith riding horses. Little Known Fact About Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry: he’s an equestrian, and owns a ranch with several very beautiful horses.

* * * *

How’s it going, eh?

My lovely supermodel wife and I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation/tour of our home state of Minnesota. As much fun as vacations are, it’s always good to be home again. I have to admit I was a little sad to leave Minnesota. It’s a beautiful place, and it’s the only place where people speak Minnesotan.

Much like unto Spanish, speaking Minnesotan correctly involves the inflection of vowel sounds, especially A’s and O’s. It sounds kind of weird if you’re anywhere except the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Yah, real good then.

I could tell you all about our vacation. Back in the day, people would have their vacation pictures developed into slides, then invite all of their friends over for a slide show presentation with commentary provided by the host.

It was even more boring than it sounds, and the only redeeming factor about it was the host always provided free booze.

I posted all of my vacation pictures on my Facebook page, commentary included. You can look at them if you like, but you have to provide your own booze.

It was good to see the old neighborhood again. It was great to see all of our family and friends again. When you’re planning a vacation, twelve days seems like such a long time to be gone from home. Once you’re actually on vacation you realize that you’re only going to be here for twelve days!

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is alive and well, and just as pertinent as ever.

We went a lots of places and got together with a lots of people, but we didn’t get to see all of the places or all of the people. Perhaps next time, people. Or, you could come visit us here.

You probably won’t get killed to death…

* * * *

For those of you who know my lovely supermodel wife, Lea’s wrist surgery appears to have been successful. And that is one of the best suturing jobs I have ever seen. You’re going to need a magnifying glass to see her scar when it heals.

Here’s the best part. Her surgery, including the MRI, cost us less than $3000 US.

Yep. You read that right.

I’m getting back to my everyday retirement routine, which amounts to doing a lots of nothing, taking naps, and thinking about golf. I’ve become very skilled at doing nothing. In fact, I’m not sure what I can actually do anymore. If I needed to find a job again, the only thing I think I could do is portray the inept person at the beginning of infomercials. You know, the guy who can’t open a jar of pickles, or put on his socks.

I’m looking forward to golfing again. It’s still the rainy season here, and it’s been very wet out on the golf course. I’ll continue to look forward to golfing until I get to the first tee. Then I’ll probably wonder why I was looking forward to it so much. Maybe the break will do me good because not doing something for a while always improves your performance the next time you try it.

I’ll find out tomorrow morning. Film at ten.

Case in point regarding my decreasing ability to do anything productful, this installment of my blog. It’s taken me five days to get to this point. Five agonizing fucking days. I can’t remember how many times I’ve started over. If this ever turns into anything, you’ll be thankful that I did. I’m not a great writer, but even I know bad writing when I see it.

Part of my problem is lack of a topic. I’ve successfully written about essentially nothing before, so it’s not my entire problem. Another part of my problem is I haven’t written anything since mid-July. And I think that blog was more or less about tits. Well, that’s the way I remember it.

Maybe I should write another story about boobs…

So, how about that President Trump guy? He’s had a rough week, huh?

I think the person who wrote the Anonymous OpEd in the New York Times should have identified him/herself. It would certainly have added more credibility to the article, and the New York Times took a huge risk publishing it in that manner. Besides, if things are as bad as the shitshow described, why stay there? It’s not like you’re going to fix it.

Seriously. Come clean. Identity yourself. Then quit your job and come to Mexico. I’ll let you stay at our house for at least a couple of weeks.

Then there’s Bob Woodward’s book, Fear: Trump in the White House. Another equally unflattering portrayal of the President. According to The Donald, it’s filled with lies. That makes me laugh out loud. Like Bob Woodward doesn’t have any journalistic credibility.

Sadly, neither of these exposés will change the minds of Trump’s supporters. They don’t read books, or the New York Times. They’re more like The Walmart Journal type of people.

I read an article in the local paper written by a psychotherapist about a new anxiety disorder that he calls TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome. People wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, terrified that President Trump is going to blow up the planet. Or worse, be re-elected.

And it’s not just Melania who does this. People all over the world allegedly admit to having this disorder.

I’m not a big fan of The Donald, but this seems to be more than a little kooky to me. And I have a suggestion for the people afflicted by TDS. There’s a simple solution. Get off your fat asses and vote in the next election.

Vote. Just do it.

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.

Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd has been smiling a lots for the last week.

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Divine Intervention

Hola, amigos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re probably the minority of those three.

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

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

* * * *

How’s everyone doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just. Like. That.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything that happened in this process fell into place so neatly. If we had planned it for years, it still wouldn’t have happened so perfectly. It was that slick.

Some might say it was nothing more than a series of coincidences. But I tend not to believe in coincidence. I’m more of an everything happens for a reason kind of guy. Besides, it’s more romantic when there’s a reason.

And that’s how we ended up in Mexico. I had a vague feeling something devastating was going to happen, you know, like unto a natural disaster. The Yellowstone Supervolcano was going to explode. That’s why we needed to get out of the US as quickly as we did.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. See? Still not a prophet…

Also, the fact that nothing terrible happened has left me wondering why we needed to get here so quickly. Well, Trump was elected President…  And however tragic I might view his election, it still wouldn’t have added up to anything equalling imminent danger to myself or Lea.

I’m not complaining about being here. I’m merely curious about the why.

Lea says that God is blessing us with this time together because we worked hard and we’ve been granted some peace and relaxation time.

It makes more sense than the volcano thing…

* * * *

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that almost everyone that believes in God has a Divine intervention story, and if it weren’t for God, they wouldn’t be here right now. We have, all of us believers, certainly prayed for divine intervention for any number of reasons.

Health. Illness. Love. Relationships. Life. Death.

The Bible is full of stories about God interceding for his people. There’s a lots of stories about prayers being answered by God and lives being changed for generations. I might write more about those someday. I spend more time thinking about that kind of stuff than anything else.

Lea’s not a big fan of my spiritual/ religious ramblings. She thinks it makes me appear, you know, crazy.

When I was a nurse, I used to pray for my patients. I used to pray for personal patience, understanding, and wisdom. When I was drunk I used to pray for a life changing intervention. Or death. And then I realized that’s one prayer that will always be granted, eventually.

It just never happens at the moment that you’re praying for it.

I see a lots of divine intervention in my sobriety. I doubt it’s an achievement I could have done on my own. Something greater than myself or my addiction came into play, and without that, I shudder to think what my life would be like now.

You can think what you like. For me, God saved my life, though I often wonder why He chose to do so.

* * * *

If you know me personally, or follow me on Facebook, you know my lovely supermodel wife and I are Minnesota Vikings fans. The Vikings had a very good season and are in the playoffs this year.

If you know anything about the Vikings history, you know the Vikings haven’t had the best results in playoffs. I have drowned many gridiron sorrows back in my drinking days, and celebrated scores of regular season wins. The Vikings have been to the NFC Championship game ten times. They’ve been NFC Champions four times. In their four Super Bowl appearances, they’ve come away with exactly zero Lombardi Trophies.

Divine intervention hasn’t been on the Vikings side in the playoffs. Miraculous plays always happened to the other team. But all that changed last Sunday night when the Vikings came from behind to beat the New Orleans Saints by scoring a 61 yard touchdown with ten seconds left on the clock.

The Vikings played a perfect first half, scoring seventeen points and shutting out the Saints. The Vikings defense was stellar, intercepting Drew Brees twice and keeping two of the best running backs in the game out of the end zone.

The second half was another story. The Saints scored twenty four points. The Vikings only six, and with twenty five seconds left in the game, the Vikings were down by one, and their season was about to end.

Lea and I were devastated. I was trying to figure out if we had enough medications to successfully overdose.

And then came the Minneapolis Miracle.

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For once, God decided to favor the Vikings. For a brief moment, Jesus wore a Vikings uniform, and as Stefon Diggs trotted into the end zone, there was surprise and disbelief, then jubilation! Even the players couldn’t believe what happened. You can Google® it if you haven’t seen it. It really was incredible. And beautiful.

On Sunday, the Vikings play the Eagles for the NFC Championship. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, which will be played in Minneapolis this year. The Vikings might be the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.

It could happen. Hopefully, they won’t need any miracles to beat the Eagles because there were at least three miracles involved in the winning touchdown play last Sunday. It was kind of an Angels in the Outfield thing. Seriously.

I’m not sure how much more miracles they have left.

I don’t know how much God has to do with the outcomes of football games. Personally, I’d think he’d have bigger fish to fry. But if God truly orchestrated a miracle or three to beat the Saints, then please keep the miracles coming for two more games.

I’ve never prayed for something as trivial as a football victory before. Like I said, I think God has better things to do, but I’m going to pray for not one, but two more wins for the Vikings this season. Let there be any number of miracles, and let the Vikings win just one Super Bowl, before I die.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us. Just because the Vikings had a great season this year doesn’t mean they’ll have an equally impressive season next year.

I’m not getting any younger, so they might as well do it now.

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…

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.

Radar and The Cosmic Kid

I’ve mentioned the names of some of the guys I shared the Dental barracks with, way back when I was in the Army. It would seem my Muse, or Muses, have decided it’s time to elaborate on at least some of them.

Today’s Muse is probably Urania, but Thalia will certainly be whispering in my other ear.

* * * *

I arrived at Fort Sill in January of 1975. It was my permanent duty station according to the contract I’d signed with my recruiter, Sergeant First Class Robin Hood.

I’m not making that up.

When I arrived at Fort Sill, I had to be processed in because I was new to Army life, and the half a ton of paperwork the Army had already generated on me just wasn’t enough. I was delivered to the Main Processing Station. It was a huge building about the size of a football field with an huge office filled with desks and clerks and stuff. The rest of the building was bunks and latrines and stuff.

It was essentially a way station, like unto the Army’s version of Purgatory. Once all your paperwork was processed, a clerk from the MPS would contact your company, and someone would come pick you up so you could begin your Army career. It usually took two or three days.

I was at the MPS for a week. The clerk handling my paperwork was new to his position, and he forgot to call my company.

I didn’t mind hanging out at the MPS. I didn’t have much of anything to do except get cleaned up and dressed in the morning, and march to the nearest mess hall to eat with the rest of the guys being processed in. The rest of my day was free time, which I spent reading, or writing to Maureen.

I would’ve been happy to do that for the next two and an half years, but someone in the MPS finally asked what the hell I was still doing there and my company was notified that I had been processed, and someone came to pick me up.

That person was PFC Randall J. Paul.

Randy was from Los Angeles, CA. If there’s such a thing as a Valley Guy, Randy would’ve been one. Totally, man. He was a tall, pudgy guy with a huge honker of a nose. He looked like an older kid that had never lost his baby fat. Or a really tall cartoon penguin…

“Hey, are you PFC Rowen?” he asked. I was lounging on my bunk, reading. I looked up at him and nodded. “Well, c’mon, let’s go! I’m here to take you to Dental Headquarters. My name’s Randy. You can be my roommate.

“Well, okay, we won’t be roommate roommates, but we’ll be kinda roommates. There’s a shared bathroom between our rooms at the barracks. You’ll see what I mean when we get there. The room next to mine is empty, so you can bunk there.

“I’m so fuckin’ glad you’re here, man! Now you can take over my job and I can become a dental lab technician! I’ve been waiting to do that for a year…”

* * * *

I’m pretty sure Randy talked nonstop for the next six hours, like he was a manic bipolar trying to tell me his life story and everything I’d need to know about the Army without taking a breath in between. Randy’s monologue was punctuated with a whole lots of “…you’ll see what I mean–You’ll figure it out–It’ll all fall into place.” And, “Fuck the Army!!”

Well, it’s not like he was trying to do that. That’s exactly what he did. And years later, when I was a psych nurse, I’d discover Randy really was bipolar…

Our first stop was Dental Headquarters, where I would learn I wouldn’t be a dental assistant, I would become the new supply driver, and Randy would train me to replace him. James Toney, the clerk who would possibly save my ass with his testimony during my court-martial, couldn’t stop shaking my hand.

“Thank God you’re here.” he kept saying.

That first day was a blur to me. We stopped off at the barracks to drop off my gear, and Randy showed me my room, and I got to see what he meant when he said we’d be kinda roommates.

I accompanied Randy as he picked supplies up at the warehouse, linens from the laundry, and he introduced me to everyone at the four dental clinics on base. And when the work day ended, he introduced me to everyone in the barracks. They actually threw a little impromptu Welcome to the Barracks party for me in the dayroom.

Don One and Don Two. Mike. There were two Mikes, but Mike Two was called The Horne. If you fuck with the bull, you get The Horne. Tommy. Johnny. Virg. Brother Al. Lightning Bob. Jesse. Roger. And, Randy.

We drank beer and I tried to remember everyone’s names. They told me where they were from, and stuff. I told them where I was from, and stuff. And Randy rambled on philosophically about anything and everything.

“So, what do you think about your new kinda roommate?” The Horne asked me, when Randy finally did stop talking long enough to take a breath.

“Yeah, well, I don’t know. He’s too…cosmic…for me.”

A stunned silence filled the room, and you could actually see it, the lightbulbs coming on over their heads.

“Yeah, cosmic!” Roger said softly, followed by an equally soft chuckle.

“W-w-wow!” Don One said. “W-w-we’ve been trying to figure him out for a year, and you fuckin’ nail it in five minutes!”

“It’s like he has radar or something.” Don Two said.

“He fuckin’ looks like Radar!” Johnny added.

So two nicknames were born that day. Randy and I became Radar and the Cosmic Kid.

* * * *

What can I say? Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then. You might think I’m overly critical of myself, and I probably am. I tend to see clearly now the things I couldn’t see at all back then, but I’ve skipped ahead, and I know how this chapter turned out.

And the things I was able to see, well, they were so obvious that probably anyone could’ve seen them.

My early adult life appears to be the perfect example of what can happen if you don’t have a plan. How I ended up faring as well as I did is probably one of the great mysteries of the modern world, but only if you don’t believe in God.

What I see looking back is a really smart guy who was seemingly addicted to doing stupid stuff. Add in loss, heartbreak, rue and regret. Gently mix in drug and alcohol abuse. Rinse. Repeat.

That’s the part that kind of chaps my ass now. I really wish I had chosen to do something differently sooner.

* * * *

So, I moved into the barracks and essentially disappeared for about a month while I painted and decorated my room. I hated the pale puke green color the interior of the barracks had been painted back in World War II. I picked up some cheap ass carpeting and folded it to fit the two parts of my room.

Then I went for a cross country night march in the rain and broke my ankle. Randy and I started spending a fair amount of time with each other while my ankle healed, and we talked a lots.

“Wow. You might have a lotta book smarts, but you really don’t know much about life, do you.” was the Cosmic Kid’s assessment of me. I couldn’t really argue much with that.

We hung out with Roger and I unknowingly became his student.

Maureen and I broke up, and my free fall into Hell began. I started smoking pot, and because it’s a gateway drug, the Doorway to Oblivion opened, and I walked through.

Hashish. Amphetamines. PCP. LSD. Cocaine. Psilocybin mushrooms. Codeine. Oxycodone. Peyote. Mescaline. Heroin.  I eventually added all of them to my resume.

I stopped learning things out of books.

* * * *

Some of my cousins did a family history, tracing back our ancestry to the 1700’s. I discovered that I come from a long line of suicidal alcoholics. The successful people in my family tree were the ones who kept drinking.

So, the question is, would I have wandered down the path I chose even if Maureen and I had stayed together? The answer is yes. I wasn’t a leader back then, I was a follower. And seeing how all the cool kids in the barracks were doing drugs, and I wanted to be cool, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have ended up where I did.

The only other question is, would I have embraced the drug culture as fully as I did if I hadn’t gone completely rudderless in the prevailing currents of the time?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe. Probably.

Yeah. That’s probably it.

* * * *

As exhausting as being around Randy could be, given his manic energy and cosmic consciousness, we ended up becoming good friends. We played Frisbee. We became storm chasers during tornado season. We played pool and fooseball in the dayroom. I helped Randy paint his room.

We drank and smoked and snorted and popped pills while we did all of the above.

Randy bought me a set of Mickey Mouse ears when he went home on vacation, and I wore them one day when I made my deliveries.

I went to dinner with Roger one evening and became a superstar the next day. I was found innocent of all charges when I was court-martialed, and became an even more legendary superstar.

“You have done well, my son.” Randy said. “Maybe you should go back to reading books…”

* * * *

“Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.” – Freewheelin’ Franklin

* * * *

The life of a marijuana aficionado revolves around weed. When it’s abundant, life is good. When it isn’t, there are no words to describe the indescribable hell that life becomes.

Back then, pot wasn’t legal anywhere, and you had to know a guy or twenty to make sure you could almost always get it. Thanks to Roger, I knew a lots of guys, and after he left, I became the guy everyone came to see when they couldn’t get what they needed.

I never became a dealer, but I became a great middle man.

There came a time when no one had any pot, and there was a great drought of weed, and a terrible famine lay all upon the land, and all the people languished.

“Man, you gotta do something!” Randy said to me. “I’m fucking dying here!”

“Let me make some calls.”

From Roger, I knew I had to be smarter than the cops, and you never knew who might be listening in on your conversations. So I invented a code word for weed with the guys I dealt with most. I would say I was looking for Bob, and had had they seen him lately?

It was perfect.

But the cupboard was bare at the home of every dealer I knew, and none of them had seen Bob in awhile. One of them said he didn’t know who Bob was anymore, and even I started panicking.

I decided to call a guy I had met once. I tended not to deal with guys I didn’t know very well, but desperate times require desperate actions.

This guy wasn’t in on my code.

“Bob? Who the fuck is Bob?”

“You know, weed.” I whispered into the phone.

“Oh! That Bob! I’ve got one ounce. Forty bucks. You get here first, you get it” Click.

I have no idea what an ounce of pot sells for now, but back then the going rate was twenty bucks, so what this guy was asking was ridiculous.

“I’ll split it with you.” Randy said, handing me a twenty.

I had a little trouble finding the guy’s place. I had only been there once, but he still had the bag when I got there. He was a Mexican guy named Felix or something. There was only one problem. The weed he wanted to sell me didn’t look like any bag of weed I’d ever seen before. It looked like dried beans sprouts or something. And the baggie wasn’t half full, it was totally full, and was as fat as a proverbial singing lady.

“Is this even weed?” I asked.

“If that shit doesn’t knock you on your ass, man, I’ll give you your fuckin’ money back.”

Drugs never come with a money back guarantee, so I gave the guy forty bucks and drove back to the barracks.

“What the fuck is this shit? This isn’t even dope! What is that? Bean sprouts?!? Give me my money back! Let’s go back to that beaner’s house and beat the shit out of him!!!”

“I have a better idea. Why don’t we try it first.”

“Well, it doesn’t taste bad…” Randy said as we smoked a bowl. “Actually, that tastes pretty good!” he decided. “Holy shit! What is this stuff? My head feels like it just floated away…” Randy said, and his voice sounded like it was floating away with his head. “Jesus, man! I think you better take me to the Emergency Room…”

I turned to look at Randy. He was pale as a winter morning, and drenched with enough sweat that he looked like he’d been standing outside during a monsoon. Swarms of beads of perspiration were literally running down his face in waves.

“I’m serious, Mark. I think I’m going to die. You gotta do something, man.”

“Where would you like to be buried?” I asked, then started laughing as if that was the funniest line ever spoken.

“Goddamn! That’s cold, man! I can’t believe you’re gonna just sit there and let me die! You’ve become a real bastard, man!”

“Hey, Cosmo, take a couple of deep breaths and get a grip. I smoked the same stuff you did, and I’m not dying. Suppose I take you to the ER. What am I gonna tell them? Well, doc, we were just sitting around the barracks, and we weren’t smoking pot or anything, when all of a sudden my buddy decided he was fuckin’ dying? I’m not taking you to the ER, try taking a cold shower or something. Maybe that’ll help.”

And, it did. Fifteen minutes later Randy returned, and he no longer looked like the world’s worst weather system.

“What’s that?” Randy asked, as I handed him a twenty dollar bill.

“You said you wanted your money back.”

“I changed my mind. Give me my half of the bean sprouts, bitch.”

I have no idea what the fuck was in that bag, but I know it wasn’t pot. And even if it was bag of baby pot plants, those suckers had to have been laced with something, but again, I have no idea what.

Whatever it was we smoked, it was enough to get to get us through the drought, and there was much rejoicing.

* * * *

Life can be unpredictable when you’re in the military, but one thing that you can count on is the people you’re stationed with are only temporary. The Old Timers started leaving. Roger left, then Don One, and Don Two, and Mike. The Horne, Virg and Lightning Bob were gone. The FNG’s came in to replace them.

Tommy, who had never been part of our group–he’d hung out with the Dons and Mike–started hanging out with me and Randy.

“I at least know what to expect from you two. Nothing but trouble. But it’s better than getting to know someone that just got here.”

Tommy was a good old boy from Texas, and that was his given name. Not Thomas or Tom. He was a big man, and he didn’t look anything like a Tommy.

Tommy and Randy actually became real good friends, I wasn’t at the barracks a whole lots by that time in my life. I had become a legendary party animal, and I had rounds to make in my community.

Randy was next up to depart, so Tommy decided we should take him out for dinner, seeing how we were the only three Old Timers left. We decided to take Randy to a place somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. And seeing how it was the last time we’d ever be together, Randy decided to pull a nothing but trouble prank on Tommy Boy.

I know it wasn’t in Lawton, it was an out of the way place that you had to know about to find, but just where it was I have no idea. It was a big place, one of those family style country restaurants that serve Mom’s Home Cooking kind of meals.

The huge restaurant was packed. The tables were filled with families, Mom and Dad, a lots of bunches of kids of every age. Gramps and Granny were sporadically dotted around the tables in the restaurant.

We had drinks. We had appetizers. We had a down home meal with all the fixin’s, and dessert, then Randy unleashed his surprise attack.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 70’s when drugs were cool and paraphernalia was even cooler, you could buy strawberry flavored rolling papers that were an electric pink color.

The only thing anyone ever smoked in a paper that color was pot, but Randy rolled a tobacco cigarette in an electric pink paper, a good old big one, and put it in his pocket.

“Man, that was a damn fine meal. Good food, good friends, cold beer, man, I can’t think of anything else that I need right now. Actually, there is one thing. The only thing that could make this better is a joint. Oh! I have one right here in my pocket, and I’m going to fire this bad boy up!”

He reached into his shirt pocket, and pulled out the electric pink cigarette. You could smoke cigarettes in restaurants back then. Tommy’s eyes just about jumped out of his skull.

“Randy! Jesus! What the fuck are doing, man!” Tommy whispered furiously at Randy. “What are trying to do, get us arrested?!?” as Randy put the monster pink cigarette to his lips. “Randy! Have you lost your fucking mind!! If you light that–”

And Randy lit it.

I wish you could have been there to see it, the range of emotions that raced across Tommy’s face as Randy lit that cigarette. Surprise. Shock. Stunned shock. Fear. Anger, rage and then relief, followed by,

“Oh, you sonuvabitch! I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you for that. Did you know about this, Radar? I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, too!”

* * * *

Randy left in early October of 1976. Only Tommy and I, and Raoul remained of the original barracks bums.

We sent Randy off in the evening, he got off to a late start for a guy that was getting out of the fucking Army! But then, he wasn’t the most organized guy I’ve ever known.

“I’m gonna miss that cosmic motherfucker.” Tommy said.

* * * *

I wouldn’t have to. Randy and I stayed in contact for years. He called me all the time when I was still in the Army. He even came to visit me once, driving from California in an old pick up truck. He couldn’t believe Raoul and I were best friends.

He’d call me at work when I was a psych nurse at the MVAMC. He called me at home. My lovely supermodel wife would shake her head and leave the room when he called. Randy moved to Wichita, KS, got married, had a daughter.

He called me at home early one morning after I gotten off of a stretch of nights. This was probably in the mid-ninties. He said he was depressed. He had a loaded gun, and he was going to kill himself.

“Where’s your family?”

His daughter was in school. His wife was at work, but she’d be home at noon. I kept him on the phone for four hours until his wife came home and convinced him to go to the VA for help. He was assessed, and sent home.

I called to see how he was doing the next day.

“Oh, they told me I was bipolar or some bullshit like that, and they wanted me to start taking a bunch of fuckin’ meds, man. I told them to go fuck themselves, and they told me to go home.”

* * * *

He called several months later at work again to tell me he had six months to live. He had cancer. It was a Friday in April. I told my horrible boss what my Army buddy had just told me on the phone, and  I was driving to Wichita as soon as my shift ended, but I’d probably be at work on Monday.

“Go! Let me know if you need anything!”

Maybe she wasn’t all horrible…

,* * * *

Lea and I arrived in Wichita at 4:00 AM. We checked into a no-tell motel, got a couple hours of sleep, took a shower, then went to see my dying buddy. His wife answered the door.

“Hi. I’m Mark. I’m Randy’s Army buddy–”

“Mark!! Oh my God! I’m so glad to finally meet you! I’ve heard so much about you! I feel like I’ve known you all my life!” she said, giving me a bone crushing hug. She was a big woman. “What’re y’all doing in Wichita?” She saw my wife, so she stepped outside to hug her, too.

“I’m so sorry,” Lea said. “This must be so terrible for you. Randy called yesterday and told Mark he had six months to live. We jumped in the car and drove all night, but we’re here!”

“What? Six months?? There’s nothing wrong with Randy! He’s not going to die!”

“The hell he isn’t!” my wife said. “I’m going to fucking kill him myself!”

“He doesn’t have cancer?”

“Oh God no! The doctor told him he needed to quit smoking, or he’d die from cancer…  I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you. Thank God you’re here. Thank God!”

I explained to Lea that Randy was bipolar, and she decided not to kill Randy. She finally calmed down, but I don’t think she’s ever forgiven Randy for that.

We spent the day with Randy and his family. As evening fell, Randy and I went for a walk so I could explain Bipolar Disorder to my friend, and the treatments available. Randy actually listened to me without interrupting every five seconds, and he appeared to be thinking about what I’d said.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked. We were sitting on a picnic table in a park near his house.

“Yeah. What was it like fucking Raoul’s wife? Man, she was hot! Jesus, Rowen, you should see your face! You look just like Tommy did when I lit up that fake joint in the restaurant!” Randy said, laughing as if he’d just uttered the funniest line ever spoken.

I have no doubt that my face perfectly mimicked Tommy’s face that night. And for a moment, I thought I might kill Randy myself.

My affair with Nadina had happened just before Randy left. I know I didn’t tell him I was tapping Nadina while her husband was out of town. Did I?

“How did you know?” I decided to ask.

“Because you went over to her house every day after work that week Raoul was at Fort Sam, and you didn’t come back to the barracks until the sun was coming up! What else could you have been doing? Playing cards? You should have seen yourself, man, you looked like you were going to die, man! And every day you looked worse! By the end of the week, you could barely walk!”

“Who else knew?” I asked, when I could finally speak.

“Only me. I was kinda your roommate, remember? I knew when you were home and when you weren’t. I didn’t tell anyone, I promise! Not even The Horne, or Tommy. And I sure as hell didn’t tell Raoul!”

I was able to breathe again, and that was good, but I couldn’t stop shaking. I stared at the ground for the longest time, unable to even think.

“Hey, are you okay? Jesus, maybe I should take you to the ER. Or maybe you should take a cold shower…”

Yeah, maybe…

I eventually looked up, and found that I could smile.

“I gotta tell you something, you’ve got the biggest balls of anyone I’ve ever known. And the most guts. Remember when we met? You were that naive kid from Montana who didn’t know the difference between pot and acid.

“You were the FNG who walked halfway across Fort Sill on a broken ankle, man! We went tornado chasing in the dark because you said you’d never seen one in person! We goddamn near died at least twice, but you never let a little thing like almost dying to death stop you!

“You were a heartbroken trainwreck that tried to kill himself and couldn’t smile for a month, and next thing anyone knows, you’re dating strippers, smoking weed, dropping acid, snorting drugs and popping pills like candy, and getting drunker than everyone else in the barracks, combined!

“You were the ultimate party animal, man! No one could keep up with you! You beat the fucking Army at its own fucking game! You took those fuckin’ fucks in Headquarters on, and you won! Remember that!

“You didn’t have a clue who you were, but you became the leader of the barracks. You fucked with The Horne, and you put that fuckin’ loudmouth in his place! Man, I still can’t believe you did that!

“And to top it off, you make love to the most beautiful woman on the planet, and then become best friends with the guy whose marriage you destroyed, and you didn’t even blink! If that doesn’t take balls, I don’t know what does!

“And look at you now, all straightened out, registered nurse, married to a fucking supermodel! You aren’t human, man. You have to be some kind of a god!”

“Oh, I’m not all that straight.” I finally replied. That was a lots for me to take in. “I still drink, and smoke pot. I’m human, man. Just like you. Just like everybody else. I don’t see myself in the same light you do. It seems pretty dark to me now, looking back. I have no idea how I survived.”

“Dude, no one else does either! I’ll tell you something, I never knew if you’d be dead or alive when the morning came. None of us did! We were going to have a pool on how long you were going to live, but Roger wouldn’t let us.”

“I miss him. I loved that guy.”

“We all did, he was the best. But you became even better than him.”

* * * *

I never saw Randy again. We talked on the phone frequently. His daughter grew up and went to college. His wife left him, she told him she couldn’t take it anymore and had to get off the roller coaster.

After that, I don’t know…

A friend of mine who reads my posts once commented that I have lived a crazy life. Well, I did hang out with a lots of crazy people.

If you ever want to know what’s happening on a psych unit, ask a patient. Randy was never one of my patients, but he had a psychiatric disorder or two. He never missed a trick, and he never forgot anything. Randy’s assessment of me was spot on.

I’ve been blessed with a lots of really tremendous friends, even when I probably didn’t deserve the kind of friendship they offered.

Thank you Randy, for your honesty and candor, and your cosmic viewpoint. I credit Roger the most for helping me become the person I’ve become. His humility and common sense were qualities I’ve tried to incorporate into the man that I am.

Okay, I haven’t done so good with the humility part…

But there’s a part of Randy in me, too. That’s the part that looks at almost everything from a different point of view. The part that looks for other solutions than the accepted ones. The part that seeks the Truth. The part that keeps searching in the dark, even if it’s dangerous.

Hey, you can’t let a little thing like the threat of death stop you. You only live once, and we all have to die from something.

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.

The Doctors

You get to work with a lots of different disciplines as a nurse. Social Work. Adjunctive Therapy. Physical Therapy. Laboratory. Dietary. Even Housekeeping.

But the most challenging discipline you’ll likely encounter is the doctor. Well, Dietary can be a real pain sometimes. You know who the sweetest people are? The housekeepers. I loved them, especially the housekeepers at Aurora.

Doctor shows are incredibly popular on TV. I have no idea why. I’ve spent years hanging around doctors, and I never found most of them to be that interesting.

TV doctors have changed a lots over the years. They used to be older, wise, fatherly figures that made house calls and took care of you and your family from birth to death and everything in between. Nowadays they’re young, pill-popping, supersexy smartass mannequins who perform some obscure lifesaving surgery, then go get drunk and have sex with another supersexy doctor or the nurse with the big tits.

From a nurse’s point of view, doctors can either make or break your day, depending on a wide variety of factors and variables. Sometimes the most difficult part of being a nurse is getting what you need from your doctor.

And as a psych nurse, mostly what you need from your doctor is good coffee in the morning, and a shitload of medications to offer your patients.

* * * *

My first psych nurse position was at the Minnesota State Hospital. You had to be certified crazy to be a patient there, and some of them were downright scary.

Vincent was a certified crazy, angry young man, and he often made threats of death and other types of destruction to the staff. I never found those situations to be especially fun, so I asked his doctor to maybe increase his meds, just a little.

Vincent’s doc was a tall guy named Bruce, who spent about five minutes a month meeting with his patients. When I spoke to Doctor Bruce and informed him how his patient had decompensated of late, and was threatening death and destruction to pretty much everyone, Doctor Bruce had this classic response:

“Well, Mark, we all have to die from something.”

* * * *

The next stop in my career was at the MVAMC, and I would stay there for almost twenty years. I would meet a lots of doctors there.

Doctor Bob was an older, wise, father figure guy who had been at the VA for eons. He was an alcoholic, but had quit drinking some years before we met. But that was all he did, and he was a mixed bag of moods most of the time.

We had a guy on our unit named Duane. Duane was a was what we called a non-compliant patient. He refused to take any medications. He refused to take part in any programming. Duane just wanted to eat and sleep and he was rather rude in his interactions with the staff.

Doctor Bob walked onto the unit one morning, and walked into Duane’s room. They had a brief, loud interaction, then Duane started screaming. Two seconds later, Doctor Bob emerged from Duane’s room with Duane in tow. He had grabbed Duane by the ankle, pulled him out of bed, dragged him down the hallway to the nearest dayroom, and told him to stay there.

Doctor Bob was investigated by the hospital for alleged patient abuse, and ended up getting a three day suspension. Anyone other than Doctor Bob would’ve been terminated immediately and most likely would’ve lost any professional licensing they had.

* * * *

Lori Suvalsky was my favorite doctor at the MVAMC, and my personal favorite doctor of all time. She knew her stuff, and was a very good doc, and she was hotter than July in Phoenix.

I’m very serious about that.

We took care of a lots of crazy people together, and she was the first doc I worked with that seriously listened not just to me, but all the nurses. As hard to believe as that might seem, a lots of doctors weren’t all that interested in what the nurses had to say. Doctor Lori absolutely loved the nursing notes I wrote. It was so refreshing working with her.

Doctor Lori spent a lots of time talking to her patients, and she almost always took the nurse caring for a patient with her to get input from the patient and the nurses. She was the only doc I worked with that consistently did that.

Doctor Lori wasn’t just the first doc I formed a professional relationship with, she was the first doc that I counted as a friend. We went out for drinks and dinner after work. We talked about the problems we had in our personal lives. She threw elegant parties and invited me and my lovely supermodel wife.

She told me I needed to quit smoking. I told her she had a nice ass. She helped me survive the traumatic aftermath when one of our patients committed suicide on our unit. When the VA decided to create an assistant head nurse position, she lobbied for me to get the job, and she had my back when I quit finally drinking.

She cried when I left Minneapolis and moved to Phoenix. Of all the people I would miss when I left the MVAMC, I missed her the most.

* * * *

I worked at several psych facilities in the Phoenix area, but it wasn’t until my third job that I found a doc I really liked. I worked with some decent doctors at the County and Del Webb, but there were some real losers, too. Especially at the County.

Hey, Dr Loser. We have a guy starting to escalate here. He’s hyperventilating and pacing. He just punched a hole in the solid concrete wall, and he’s threatening to kill everyone. What kind of injections would you like us to give him. Immediately!

No injections. Offer him Haldol 2 mg by mouth, and a half a milligram of Ativan.

Seriously? This guy is six foot five, and weighs about four bills. With all due respect, we’ve had four Code Blacks with this guy in the last three days. Yesterday we gave him ten of Haldol, two of Ativan and a hundred of Benadryl. And it finally caught up with him after we gave him a repeat dose!

Are you a doctor? Do you think you know more about this than I do? You don’t give me orders, I give orders to you! Do what I say!!

That might be an extreme illustration, but shit like that happened occasionally. The big badass guy would inevitably go off. Fifty staff members would come running, and there would be an huge wrestling match. We’d shoot the guy up with what we knew would work, and then get orders. If Dr Loser still refused to give us orders for what we needed, we’d call the Medical Director, and he’d sign off on them, then he’d call Dr Loser and chew him a new asshole.

* * * *

My favorite doctor at St Luke’s was Naveen Cherukuri. My favoritest thing about Naveen was listening to him tell a funny story. He would start laughing so hard I couldn’t understand a thing he said, but was still thoroughly entertained listening to it.

Naveen was also a really good doc, and he took care of the nurses. St Luke’s could be a really scary place to work at times, and Naveen wasn’t afraid to lock and load. I really liked working with him.

He married one of my favorite St Luke’s nurses, Stacey Supermodel. They have a couple kids now. Hopefully, they look like their mom…  Just kidding, Naveen. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again, but I hope I do.

* * * *

I ended my semi-legendary psych nursing career at Aurora Behavioral Health, and I would work with several doctors there that I would come to view as not just colleagues, but good friends.

Bill Sbiliris was the primary doc on the Canyon Unit, my home at Aurora. We didn’t get along all that great at first. We probably had a similar opinion about each other: That arrogant sonuvabitch thinks he knows everything!

And then we discovered between the two of us we really did know everything, and we were both Minnesota Vikings fans, which was rare in Arizona. After that, we made a great team. Too bad our football team didn’t achieve similar greatness…

Doctor Bill also wasn’t afraid to lock and load medications. He was pretty easy to work with in that regard, and that made it easy for the nurses to drop the Canyon Hammer if we ever needed to.

Doctor Bill wasn’t so great at spending a lots of time with his patients. They called him Dr Drive-by. Be that as it may, Doctor Bill was a good guy to work with, and we stabilized a lots of crazy people together.

Doctor Bill also took very good care of the nurses. He usually stopped at Starbucks on his way to work and brought in a wide variety of caffeinated beverages for the nurses. He bought lunch for the nurses more consistently than any other doc I worked with, and he also threw great parties.

* * * *

Michael Fermo was another Aurora doc. He was also a very good doc, and another wizard of psychopharmacological management, and he spent a reasonable amount of time meeting with his patients.

Doctor Mike used to transfer a lots of patients to my unit. Fiona, the Queen of the World, was one of his patients. The nurses on his unit used to say their patients needed to spend some quality time in the Canyon. Doctor Mike used to say this: “I think they need some quality Mark time.”

That was a pretty high compliment.

For his especially difficult patients on my unit, we would do a Good Cop, Bad Cop routine. Doctor Mike always played the Bad Cop, and would rip his patient a new asshole, and then I’d put a band-aid on it and make it all better. And then we would laugh our asses off. We were incredibly successful, and there was mostly peace on the Canyon.

“How’s my boy doing today? Do I need to get all medieval on his ass again?” he’d ask.

“Nope. He’s got his damn mind right now.” I’d reply.

“Good. I love it when a plan comes together.”

And when it came to throwing epic parties, none of the docs I worked with could hold a candle to Doctor Mike. The only thing he didn’t have at his parties was strippers, even though I lobbied hard for them the next time.

* * * *

But my favorite Aurora doc was Reyes Topete. He was the staff addictionologist, and he was a freaking dream to work with. Whatever I needed for my detox patients, El Topete delivered.

“Give him Ativan 2 mg now, and set up a taper, 2 mg QID. I’ll see him when I come in and take care of the rest.” Or “Give her Subutex 8 mg now, and set up a four day taper. You need anything else?”

If I wanted a Subutex taper extended, no problem. If I wanted one stopped, it was done. If I thought we should add something, like phenobarbital, sure, why not. It was the same if I thought we should remove something from a patient’s med profile.

“You’re my eyes and ears on the unit.” he told me one day. “And if you tell me one of my patients needs something, or doesn’t need something, I trust you.”

As far as compliments from doctors go, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I told him about my drug use history, and he had trouble believing parts of it. Mostly the quitting part.

“And you just stopped? Cold turkey? Man, don’t tell my patients that! I have kids in college!!”

El Topete is from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico–the Big City about forty miles away from where we’re currently living. He was thrilled when I told him we were going on vacation here the year before we retired.

“Really? I’m grew up in Guadalajara. You’re gonna love it! You have to go here, and there…” He was so excited he started speaking a combination of English and Spanish and probably a couple of languages no one has ever heard before, outside of a Star Wars® movie.

And when I told him we were retiring down here, he was jealous. At my retirement party, he cried. To this day, that touches me more than I can say.

* * * *

I’ve said before that I don’t miss working for a living, and that’s true. I’ve also said that I miss some of the people I used to work with. That is also true. I’ll probably travel back up to the States again from time to time, but I have no intention of staying there, and I sure as hell don’t plan on rejoining the workforce.

I’ll try to see as many of my friends as I can cram into any of our Stateside visits. But we do have a guest room here…

Till We Get the Healing Done

If you’ve never listened to the above album, I highly recommend it. Good stuff. The title of this post is one of the songs on the album.

* * * *

I’ve said something like unto this in many of my posts, I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. And while that is true on a superficial level, I’ve been a victim of the total agony of love only three times in my life.

Apparently that adage about the third time being the charm is true. Lea was the third of my deep loves. Maureen was the first. There was a second gal I might write about someday, we’ll see…

My lovely supermodel wife and I have been together for almost three decades, but there was a time when we almost didn’t make it.

It happened in 1995. We had survived our vacation from Hell in April. Lea had survived abdominal surgery #4 the year before, but she ended up having an ileostomy with an external pouch. That small, but enormous, detail changed everything in my wife’s world.

She fucking hated it and everything about it. She never felt comfortable with the external pouch, and it showed. She almost always looked tense and tightly wrapped, and she had been like that before she had anything to worry about. My lovely supermodel wife took it to a new level, and her self image was altered on a level even I couldn’t comprehend.

By chance, she saw a very small advertisement in the Sunday newspaper about the Barnett Continent Intestinal Reservoir, and decided to go to the seminar. After that, she was a woman on a mission.

The BCIR is a surgically created internal pouch. Google it if you need more information. I’m pretty sure that’s what I had to do, but the bottom line is if she had this surgery, her external pouch would be replaced by an internal pouch made out of a portion of her small bowel. There are only a few hospitals in the United States that perform the procedure. Lea’s gastroenterologist was more than happy to write a referral for her. Then she took on our healthcare insurance company.

Our insurance company thought it was an elective surgery, but Lea was able to convince them it wasn’t just a cosmetic surgery in her case, and she had recommendations from her her doctor and her employer backing her up. For all I know, Lea is the only person that has ever achieved this. Blue Cross/Blue Shield finally agreed to foot the bill and they covered the entire procedure.

All. Of. It. And it wasn’t cheap.

Lea’s boss was far more supportive of her than my horrible boss would ever be. He went to bat for her to help get the insurance company on board, and he approved the month she’d need off for her surgery, and an additional two months for recovery and rehab without so much as a blink.

The BCIR people expected anyone having their very specialized surgery to bring one support person along for the ride, so to speak. In lieu of me, our darling daughter, Abigail, flew to Florida with her mother to be at her side during the surgery and recovery program. They would be in St Petersburg, FL for three weeks in August.

* * * *

It wasn’t the three weeks apart that was the last straw. It wasn’t even another surgery. Lea appeared to be stabilizing from her lengthy major flare up of Crohn’s disease, and it was slowly becoming quiescent. But…  She had appeared to improve in the past, only to take two or three steps back each time.

My buddy, Dan, was working a job in the Twin Cities area at that time, and he crashed at our house during the week, and drove home for the weekends. We spent most evenings while my wife and daughter were out of town drinking beer and talking about guy stuff. And even our discussions weren’t what pushed me over the edge.

Dan is my friend, and a good guy, but he didn’t understand the disease or its pathology. Nor was he in love with my wife anywhere near as much as I was. But he could probably see how worn out I was better than I could. He mostly wanted to see me happy again.  So, we drank and joked and laughed, and I have to admit, it felt really good just to be able to do that.

I would turn forty in 1995. In a previous post I stated that my drinking problem started becoming more of a problem when I turned forty, and five years later it would be totally out of control. I cannot discount my alcohol abuse as a factor in my mindset, as much as I would like to. But neither can I blame everything on it, although that would make the rest of this story so much easier.

For three years Lea’s illness tore up our lives, much like it tore up her body. She almost died at least three times, if not more. We had somehow gotten through the worst Crohn’s could throw at us, and we were both still standing, if barely.

Lea was getting better, maybe, hopefully, possibly, probably–I was afraid to think anything would ever get better on the offhand chance that thinking it would jinx everything, and we’d have to start all over again. For all I know, Lea was equally spooked and gun-shy. I can’t imagine she felt any different than I did in this regard.

The simple truth was this: I was completely exhausted from three years of essentially neverending high stress levels, living in two hospitals and visiting our house, and wondering if this was the time that her illness would win out and claim another victim.

I hadn’t run out of love for my wife. I’d run out of everything else.

* * * *

I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to go to Florida with Lea. We talked every day, and she gave me daily status updates. The surgery went as smoothly as it could. She had never had such effective post-op pain control in her life. The nurses were as good as the nurses at Fairview Medical Center, or better. She was in good hands, she was doing as more better gooder as anyone could expect, and I felt like I could relax for the first time in three years.

The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the hurricane that was going to hit Florida while Lea and Abi were there. I had never been in an hurricane, and I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see that.

Hurricanes don’t make it to Minnesota. Remnants of hurricanes did make it to the Phoenix area while we were there, but the remnant of a hurricane is a rainstorm, and I’ve seen plenty of those in my lifetime. I doubt I’ll encounter an hurricane down here in the Lakeside area.

Lea said it was a pretty uneventful event to her. The hospital was constructed to withstand the winds of an hurricane; neither she nor Abi were in any real danger, but just in cases the staff were ready to evacuate everyone at a moment’s notice. Lea said she’d never seen rain like that before in her life. Abi mostly slept through Hurricane Erin.

The rest of Lea’s hospitalization went smoothly, and my girls came back home.

* * * *

I’m sure my memories of this aren’t completely clear, mostly because I don’t want to remember it. I’ve asked my wife to help fill in the blanks in my memory. It seems to me that within a couple of days of returning to Minnesota, Lea was back in the hospital.

That, was the last straw for me.

I made an appointment with a divorce attorney. His initial consultation was free, and he said it was always easier to try to work things out with your spouse than to get a divorce. Lea had owned our house before we got married, and she would keep the house if we didn’t stay married. He told me to seriously think it through, and to contact him again if I needed him.

Then I drove to the hospital to tell my wife I wanted a divorce.

* * * *

I really had no idea what I was going say. In the first two times I’d been deeply in love, it wasn’t my idea to end the relationship. And I was beyond conflicted regarding my intentions with Lea. We weren’t just in a relationship, we’d been married for almost seven years.

Not only that, I was her mother’s angel, and by default, I had become her father’s angel, too. That’s not the kind of thing you just blithely walk away from.

We had survived three years of pretty much living hell, life and death, endless illness and hospitalizations. It’s possible Lea checked herself into the hospital when she returned home because it was probably the safest place in the world for her. I have no doubt–even though she was improving and she’d just had a surgery that would greatly improve her life–she was scared out of her mind.

To this day, I am amazed and humbled by the dignity and grace she demonstrated when she was so incredibly ill. I know I could never have done that. Lea’s nurses loved her. If our positions had been switched, my nurses probably would’ve thrown me down the stairwell.

Nonetheless, I informed my lovely supermodel wife I had met with a divorce attorney. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, I just couldn’t live on the edge anymore.

Lea was probably surprised, but I think there was also a part of her that had been expecting something like unto it. Women are spooky that way. She cried a little, but mostly we talked. She regrouped quickly and gave me an option I hadn’t considered.

“Give me six months. I’ll either conquer this, or it’ll kill me. But give me that much time, and then decide what you want to do. Give me six months. If you still want a divorce then, I won’t even fight you.”

Writing this, it seems like a pretty good option to me, and I probably jumped at it as an acceptable alternative to divorce and being homeless. I didn’t really want to get a divorce, I just wanted something like my life, and my wife, back. However, at the time I didn’t think I’d have either.

Lea says I rejected her option. And left. She called her dad and told him what happened and cried on the phone for hours. As emotionally distant as Dave was, I can only imagine his response. Lea says he didn’t have any idea what to say or do.

I have no problem believing that part of her story. Dave was the Mount Everest of emotional isolation. Not even Tenzing Norgay would’ve been willing to scale that emotional wilderness.

It was probably one of the worst nights either of us had to endure. Lea probably cried herself to sleep. I’m not sure I slept. But when I went to the hospital the next day I gave her an option that must have come to me in the middle of the night.

“I can’t watch you die anymore, but I’ll give you three months.”

I had no hope I could last that long. I had no hope she would either.

* * * *

In retrospect, this is one example of God answering prayers in His perfect time. When hope fades, and all else is crumbling around you, God remains. Lea was released from the hospital. It would be the last time she was admitted for a Crohn’s related inflammatory process.

I’m not sure that was a miracle, or if the beast in her belly had finally worn itself out. But either way, our prayers were heard, and answered.

The worst three years of our lives had ended without fanfare. Even if there had been fanfare, I doubt I would’ve believed it. It would probably take me at least a year, or more, to relax and stop waiting for any more shoes to drop. I think when this chapter of our lives finally closed forever, it felt like I’d been hit by Imelda Marcos’ entire shoe closet.

Lea’s been hospitalized for other reasons, mostly blood transfusions secondary to incredibly low hemoglobin levels. Lea’s gut is kind of like unto the Kīlauea volcano, she’s more or less constantly oozing blood, and it’s something that needs to be monitored even today. But the beast in her belly had finally run its course, and while it has reared its head from time to time, it has never tried to devour her from the inside out since 1995.

Flash forward twenty-two years. We’re still together. We can’t imagine our lives any other way. And that BCIR thing Lea fought so hard for, it was worth it. It would’ve been worth it if we had had to pay twice the amount our insurance company did ourselves. It’s made an huge difference in Lea’s life. I’m not sure how she would’ve recovered to the extent she has without it.

Thank you, honey, for giving me an option that was brilliant on the level of something that only a genius could’ve come up with. Thank you for staying with me when I totally lost it and tried drinking myself into a coma. Thank you for supporting me when I finally decided to get a grip and face my demons.

It’s been mostly sweet, and you were the sweetest of all. I wish we’d have another thirty years together.

Becoming…

I started thinking about the word becoming yesterday. It can mean something flattering, especially in regard to appearance.

That’s a very becoming outfit!

That’s not the definition I’m thinking of. It’s mostly used by women and spoken to other women, and if it were directed to me, it would indicate I’m wearing something that probably makes me look very ladylike, and that’s not at all something I’m trying to achieve.

It can also be the process of coming to be something different, or of passing into a another state.

That’s the definition I’ve been contemplating.

We’re all becoming something, and hopefully, something better. I think what I was becoming was a pathetic sissifated sniffle-snaffle whining crybaby, wandering in the dark. And that’s not what I want for my life. It’s not even what I wanted when it was the only truth of my life.

I’ve been blessed with a lots of friends that took care of me when I was incapable of doing so myself. In retrospect, that’s what Raoul and Nadina did for me back when they welcomed me into their home and fed me. And there were a lots of others through the years. I doubt I’d still be alive if not for them, so to all of you, named and unnamed, thank you.

Last night my lovely supermodel wife made spaghetti, and there’s nothing that will fill the emptiness of of one’s soul as deliciously as Italian food.

And then I did the dishes. I don’t cook, so I clean up.

There’s something therapeutic about cleaning up. It doesn’t require much thought, just repetitive scrubbing and rinsing until everything is clean once more. And that’s when my epiphany hit me.

Some things need to be cleaned. Some things do not.

It would appear I started cleaning out my closet, the place I chose to store the darker memories of my life. But as I was cleaning up after dinner last night I asked myself this question: Why?

And I asked myself that because of a question a friend of mine asked after she read one of my very dark posts. Who the hell is your Muse?

Just in cases you were wondering, there are nine Muses, and it took me a moment to realize she wasn’t asking me to identify which daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne was fucking up my life, and hers.

If that had been her real question, I’d pick Melpomene.

Her real question was, What in the hell do you think you’re doing?!?

And my internal response was, What have I done lately that would indicate I have any idea what I’m doing! And that’s when things started coming into focus.

As another friend of mine observed, I have lived a crazy life. And while some of that stuff is funny, a lots of it is not.

Thank you, Maureen. Thank you, Lorrie. I’m better now. I slept something like unto the sleep of bronze last night, and sleep is one of the most restorative things ever invented.

You know what else is very restorative? A hot shower. I feel better today than I have in over a month. Today, life is good again, and I’d like to keep it that way.

* * * *

So, back to my metaphysical closet of horrors. I can’t undo what I’ve done. Unfortunately. I may have originally thought I’d be doing something therapeutic by trying to clean out that space of fifty thousand shades of black, but I’m thinking now that I may do more harm than good in the attempt.

I mean, do I really need to clean that closet out?

In terms of physical closets, why does one clean a closet? Well, to get rid of stuff one doesn’t use anymore, and to make room for stuff one does use.

I’m not planning on putting more mean-icky-nasty stuff into that closet, so I don’t really need to create more storage space, do I?

No, I do not.

One of the things I learned as a psych nurse was not to take on other people’s burdens. For one thing, they weren’t my burdens, and even if I were willing to carry them, it’s not an effective intervention. Personal burdens cannot be transferred from one person to another.

Another thing I learned was more isn’t always better. One of the things psych nurses do is dispense medications, and sometimes nurses can develop a very narrowly focused field of vision.

For example, confusion can be a common reason for someone to be admitted to a psych facility, especially if the person in question isn’t normally confused.

I think confused is my natural state.

Confusion can be caused by a lots of things, and a very narrowly focused nurse might think the only reasonable treatment is to medicate the piss out of a confused patient. But what if it was a medication that caused the confusion in the first place? More meds would only make it worse.

I’m sure there were times when I fell into that trap, but there were also times I did not, and would advocate for what is called a medication holiday. Stop everything. If it’s the meds, the patient will start improving very quickly.

It was worth a try. More often than not, it worked.

There’s another thing I learned as a psych nurse. When you find yourself at the bottom of an hole, stop digging.

* * * *

Mental illness is a tricksy beast to battle, mostly because Psychiatry is such an imprecise science. We can’t pop open the skull and replace the worn out or damaged parts of the brain. If we could, I would’ve replaced mine a long time ago.

We used medications, and talk therapy, and refocusing and redirecting. And we did a lots of reminding about boundaries because that’s an area a lots of psych patients have problems with. And sometimes psych nurses do, too.

As a psych nurse, you have to have boundaries, lest ye be pulled into darkness and lose yourself. It’s like saving a drowning person. You have to be careful or might got dead yourself in the process.

It gets even tricksier when the person you’re trying to save is yourself. Until I inadvertently fucked up my life, I wasn’t even aware I needed saving.

Life is all about choices, and I can control the choices I make. I’m sure I made a mistake when I decided to do some metaphysical cleaning, but I don’t have to compound it by continuing to do something that isn’t beneficial to myself to anyone else. I’ve already done enough damage to myself and others to last a couple of lifetimes.

When I started my blog, I did so as an avocation. It’s become more of a vocation, and that has to stop. And it most definitely has to stop going in the direction it’s been heading. The last thing I need to create is a written record of all my crimes and misdemeanors.

As I recall, I spent most of my life trying to avoid that outcome. I really need to follow the very good advice many people have given me over the years and get my head out of my ass.

I need to refocus. I need to redirect myself. I really don’t need to revisit the darkness hidden in my metaphysical closet of horrors. I put all that crap in there for a reason, and I need to respect that.

I choose a different path today. I choose the Light. I’m sure I still have plenty of available storage space for good memories, and if I don’t, I know how to make more.

I have a lots of power tools in the old tool box now, and I know how to use them.