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!

jesus-facepalm-th

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.

civil-rights-march-on-washington-27-0276a

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.

The House of Diez Doors

¡Hola! Buenas tardes, y’all.

Now that we’ve finally completed the moving process, I can sit my ass down and try to write something. Until Mollie or Mika decide to help me edit this post. The kit-tens are getting so big! They’re still cute and adorable, except when they’re getting into mischief, and they’ve gotten pretty damn good at that. Mika has shown herself to be the leader when it comes to getting in trouble. That darn kit-ten!!

It’s like my crazy Polish grandmother used to say, “If I had two assholes, yous kids would climb in one to see what was up there!” Those old Pollacks, they had a way with words, not?

Mika and Mollie have been busy exploring their new home, and racing around the rooms playing kit-ten hockey. It’s a game I invented. All you need is two kit-tens and a ping pong ball. It’s seriously fun to watch. I’ll try to take a video one of these days, if I can stop laughing long enough to hold my camera steady.

Or maybe I’ll think of something I was going to do until I got distracted by another thing and forgot to do the first thing. Then I’ll have to quit writing and take care of that dangling thing immediately before I forget that I remembered that I needed to do something. Whatever it might be.

That has happened a lots the last few weeks. And it’s likely to continue for awhile.

And there was this, too: Where did I put the hammer?!? I have five hammers. I’ve used every fucking one of them putting this house together because I couldn’t find the one I was just using. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and can’t rememberate stuff so good anymore, or because I have a very diffuse attention span. It might be both.

But another part of this equation is the sheer size of this place. I’ve posted a lots of pictures of our new house on my Facebook page. Many people have commented that our house looks like unto a resort. Yeah, it really does. But the photos fail to convey the scope of the space, and the layout. I’ve actually called my lovely supermodel wife on her cellphone when we were both in the house to ask her where she was.

I couldn’t find her, and I probably thought she had taken my hammer…

* * * *

We had no idea we’d be moving into the largest house we’ve ever had when we started our home search. Our last house was roughly 2200 square feet. This house is easily twice as large.  In Mexico, anything under a roof is considered indoor living space. Like, you know, a patio. If you use Mexican math, it’s probably closer to 5000 square feet.

I suppose the yard is bigger, too. But 90% of the lot is filled by the house. And the casita. And the swimming pool. Our backyard runs parallel to the first fairway at the Chula Vista Golf Course. It’s the other golf course in the Lakeside Area. The one I’m not a member of.

* * * *

I could say we have a great view of the golf course, but we don’t. There’s kind of a forest growing on the hillside below our house. And there’s a verdant garden growing along the fence line. You actually have to look pretty hard to see the golf course.

There are a couple of downsides to the Chula Vista course. It’s carved out of the side of the mountain, and the fairways run over hill, over dale. That in itself isn’t a deal breaker. There are no golf carts at Chula Vista. If I wanted to walk that much, I’d sell my car.

That’s not gonna happen.

On the bright side, I have found two golf balls in the backyard. I may never have to buy another golf ball…

* * * *

There aren’t many long-term rental houses available in the Lakeside Area this time of year. It’s Snowbird Season! We didn’t think we’d find a new place to live until May or June of next year. Then a kind of funny thing happened. Our friend, Cheryl, alerted us that this house was available. That wasn’t the funny part. Several of our friends had told us about available rental houses they knew of, and suggested we check them out. The funny part is Lea contacted  the property manager, Belva, immediately. Lea never does that. She has to think about stuff for awhile first.

We were the first people to contact Belva, and arranged to take a tour of the place. When we arrived for our walk through, she informed us that ten other couples had contacted her expressing interest in the property. But we had been first; we had dibs.

Belva had a fistful of keys in her hand. And she needed all of them. Two of the three exterior doors in the kitchen were on the same key. All of the other lockable doors, exterior and interior, were on separate keys. And you needed two different keys just to unlock the huge hobbit door that is the grand front entrance, that hardly anyone will ever use.

It’s an old house, probably twenty years older than our first Mexican house. It’s a classic Mexican style gringo mansion. The decor and furnishings were straight out of the 70’s. If The Brady Bunch (El Grupo de Brady en español) had been set in Mexico, this would’ve been their house. An elderly British couple had lived here until they got dead. Their son, Lord Mark, the Duke of San Antonio, inherited the place and has been renting it out as an income property.

This is The House of Ten Doors, not counting the two main gates. One gate leads to the grand main entrance. The really big gate secures the carport. There’s actually thirteen exterior doors here, but the title of this post is an adaptation of the title of the novel, The House of Dies Drear, and I hope at least one of my readers caught that. The number thirteen just wouldn’t work in my title, no matter which language I used. I suppose I could have used Gone With the Wind because the name of our casa is Tara, but that title didn’t make any sense. Not even to me.

“Well, what do you think? If you don’t want it, the next couple I show it to will take it.”  Belva said, after we saw the house. If she was bluffing, I couldn’t spot her tell.

Lea and I had a quick discussion. The place was old. It wasn’t move-in ready. The interior needed to be painted. We’d have to install a water filtration system. And there might be other surprises. It’s an old house…

As renters, that was money we’d be spending on a property that we were never going to purchase.

It had everything we were looking for, plus several things that weren’t on our list. Like, a casita, an attached exterior room that defies conventional description which could easily be converted into a workshop where I could play with my power tools, and it had a solar heated swimming pool.

* * * *

Okay. The Unconventional Room. It’s attached to the back of the north wing of the house, behind the kitchen. You can’t access the room from the inside, you have to go outside to get to it. Seeing how the only entrance to the Unconventional Room is an exterior door, it can be locked.

There were bunk beds in the room when we took our initial tour. Okay, it was a kid’s bedroom suite with a full bath. A bedroom with an attached bath that could be locked. It looked like a seclusion room to me. That’s what I called it until I converted it into my workshop.

* * * *

Back to the discussion Lea and I were having.

The house was huge, certainly much larger than anything we needed. Three bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms. Plus the casita. And the pool. And, well, everything! And it had so many goddamn doors! We were going to have to be on double secret alert for the rest of our lives to make sure we didn’t accidentally lose the kit-tens. But it wasn’t any more expensive than our first house. Plus, it came with a maid, and a gardener, and a pool guy, all of which were included in the rent.

A bird in the hand…  Yeah, we took it. Brady Bunch decor and all. It’s probably the only two times in her life that my lovely supermodel wife has made two decisions in less than ten minutes.

* * * *

By the way, Monica is our maid. She’s the best maid we’ve ever had. Miguel is our gardener/pool guy. They are both great at what they do, and we’re fortunate to have them.

* * * *

Our painter, Francisco Flores Bernini, had all of the interior rooms prepped and painted in less than two weeks, except the kitchen. Lea’s boyfriend and my golf wife painted that room. Thank you for that incredible gift, Todd and Phyllis.

Lord Mark had upgraded the kitchen appliances and had moved the old stove and refrigerator into the casita. In the process, the gas line to the stove in the casita had developed a leak. It took Moses the repairman three visits to fix it.

We moved fifty loads of the smaller household items in our SUV from our old house to our new house over a two week time period, with more help from Todd and Phyllis. The moving crew took five hours to transport the rest of our furniture here.

I spent something like unto fifteen hours setting up my home theater system. It sounds so good!! It was built for this house. It took two days to install the water filtration system. It took the satellite dish guys three visits to get our two TV’s up and running.

The locksmith we hired had to make two trips here to rekey four locks on the kitchen doors and the main entrance to one key. It took us about a week to find the key to unlock the third patio door.

* * * *

That mountain of keys! We threw them in a pile on the dining room table, and every time we needed a key we had to dig through the fucking keys until we found the one key we wanted.

Several years ago I had bought a whole bunch of oversized decorative keys. They look like the skeleton keys the head jailer might carry around in an old prison. I hung a decorative key by every exterior door, and the corresponding key to each door.

Mischief managed.

And then there were the light switches. There are a whole lots of those, too. We had to replace at least fifteen light bulbs, but now we know what what most of the switches operate, and the coolest light switch ever is in the hallway running along the bedrooms. It’s a sensor. The lights turn on and off automatically as you enter and exit the hallway. There are two switches we’ll probably never figure out. For all I know, they might turn on the lights at the neighbor’s house. Or, possibly your house.

* * * *

All in all, it took only nine days for Lea and I to put the new place together. We finished today.

Casa Tara, the House of Ten Doors, looks cool. It also feels cool. Literally. It’s like living in a cavern. The high ceilings and the brick and mortar walls make the interior feel as though it’s air conditioned, which will be very nice in the summer. But it’s actually kind of cold inside this time of year.

There are three gas fireplaces; one in the living room, one in the den, and one in the master bedroom. None of them are functional. Yeah, we need to fix that.  ¡Pronto!

There are hundreds of small jobs still left to do. I’ve completed several of them while I’ve been writing this. It’s one reason why it’s taken me so long to finish. It’s also one reason why I need a workshop.

Pretty soon I can start to get back to playing golf three times a week and doing as little as possible of anything else. I was getting really good at personal energy conservation.

Speaking of golf, Phyllis and I are playing in a tournament tomorrow. I need to visualize my one, true, authentic swing. Maybe I’ll be able to do it once or twice when the spotlight is on me…

* * * *

We’ll be taking reservations at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa soon as the Casita/Guest House is ready. Please call ahead to check availability before showing up at the front gate. Ring the doorbell if you arrive unannounced. It’s a big place. We might not see you otherwise.

Tumbling Dice

Hola, amigos. How’s it going?

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

One, we adopted kit-tens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

One Simple Thing

Do you remember when the Age of Political Correctness began?

I’m not sure of the exact date and time, and I’m not interested enough to Google® it to find out. The thing is, I’m reasonably sure that political correctness became popular because it was supposed to make our lives simpler and easier. Distill everything down to the least common denominator and we would all be on equal footing.

And then we discovered what a slippery slope political correctness actually was.

It was confusing as hell for me. There are reasons for this, of course. I was raised in a time of political unrest, not correctness. My generation was not going to be silent. We wanted our voices to be heard.

And there was alcohol. I used to drink. A lots. Drunk people tend to lack filters. Almost anything that pops into their heads is likely to come out of their mouths. I like to think that I was a pretty funny guy back when I drank. But I wasn’t always funny, and sometimes I was a real dick.

I could never survive a Congressional investigation into my past, though if I testified that I couldn’t remember a specific event, it would probably be true. Those aren’t the things that would scare me. It’s all the things I do remember. Satan, if he exists, likely held himself to a higher moral standard than I did in my youth.

However, I would be able to state with complete confidence that I have never had sex with a goat.

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings have brought the collective sins of our youth into a focus that can only be achieved through an electron microscope, prompting Donald Trump to say this, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America…”

Yes. Equal footing for our sons has been achieved. Now they know how our daughters feel.

Nor was The Donald speaking for all young men. Whether by accident or design, he was referring to young white men. It’s been a scary time for young African-American men since, well, forever.

The thing President Trump found to be the scariest was that “…you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.” Guilt, I think, is still something that has to be proven. A lots of people have accused me of being an angel, and I know they’re wrong about that.

This latest shitstorm came to light when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court. In his defense, Mr. Kavanaugh produced a calendar that didn’t note he had sexually assaulted anyone, and admitted that he liked drinking beer.

One of my female friends pointed out that he never described himself as a raging drunk. Back when I really was a raging drunk, I didn’t describe myself that way either. It’s called denial.

As for not leaving a paper trail of your crimes, that’s simply self-preservation.

Is Mr. Kavanaugh guilty? Did Dr. Blasey Ford make all this stuff up? From my experience, I can tell you when there are two disparate stories, someone is lying.

* * * *

I’ve been thinking about this post, or something like unto it, for a few months now. I still don’t want to write it. There are reasons for that, too. I’m not a political pundit. I will freely admit that I try not to think about the current political situation in the US, or any other country for that matter.

I am probably the last person you want to talk to if you’re seeking clarity about American politics.

Be that as it may, I find that I am distressed by what has been happening in the country of my birth. A lots of people are, on both sides of the divide that currently exists in the American political system.

It is this schism that I find particularly distressing. A house divided against itself cannot stand. A guy named Jesus said that a couple of thousand years ago when he started preaching his message. A guy named Abraham Lincoln repeated it sixteen hundred years later, two years before the beginning of the American Civil War.

Whether this vast political divide is the cause of all the turmoil in my former country, or merely a symptom of something deeper and more insidious would take someone far more discerning than I am to diagnose. But lack of understanding has rarely stopped me from going where I have no business being.

Ready? Here we go.

* * * *

The American political system is composed of two major parties. The Assholes, and the Other Assholes. Some of you may know them as the Republicans and the Democrats. And once upon a time they actually used to work together for the betterment of the country.

I’m not going to offer an in-depth examination of the American political system, but I’ll elaborate this much. The Republicans are the right-wing, conservative party. The Democrats are the left-wing, liberal party. If you need more context than that, read something. Or watch a video on the YouTube®.

I’m not sure when the precise moment that the political chasm that separates the two parties occurred, but as far as I can tell, the only things our elected government officials do now is say some partisan based uncomplimentary things about each other, get together once a year to approve a budget, and the rest of the time they campaign to try to keep their very cushy jobs.

Any time this guy has more credibility than anyone in Congress:

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That’s a problem.

I’m not even sure why the Republicans and the Democrats decided they needed to oppose each other tooth and nail on anything the other party proposes, but instead of seeing each other as their esteemed colleagues from across the aisle, they now view each other as the enemy from the wrong side of the tracks.

One theory I’ve heard about the lack of meaningful dialog between the parties is because the extremism of both parties is too great.

Perhaps that’s true. If you know the answers to any of the questions I’m not going to even try to answer, please feel free to fill in the blanks for all of us. You can comment on this post.

The Extremism Theory holds some water in my bucket of beliefs for one reason. And that reason is the current titular leader of the Republicans. President of the United States and Disgruntled Teenager with a Twitter Account, Donald Trump.

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of The Donald. He has done more in two years to divide the country than anyone has since the birth of rock and roll music. I don’t think President Trump created the Great Political Divide. He simply brought the boundaries into a stark relief, and sharpened the edges.

I call this new status quo The Walmart Intelligentsia v. The People With Brains.

Is he a bad President? I don’t know. Like unto pretty much every President I can remember, people either love him or hate him. And I don’t think it’s the politics or the policies. It’s who you are. If you’re liked as a person, you’ll probably be liked as a President.

Except Jimmy Carter. Great person, lousy President.

I think The Donald is a buffoon. You know who else does? The United Nations. The General Assembly actually interrupted his last speech there to laugh at him. And he wasn’t telling a joke!

There’s no doubt that he’s a narcissist. He makes fun of handicapped people. He disparages anyone who doesn’t agree with him. He’s a misogynist. He fabricates facts and accuses the media of fake news. He’s a schoolyard bully in a suit. In an age of political correctness, he’s everything none of us are supposed to be anymore.

And, he’s the President. How is this even possible?

Donald Trump is essentially the least Presidential acting President since Franklin Pierce. For those of you who don’t know about Pierce, he saw his only surviving son get horrifically killed to death. His son was run over by a train a few weeks before President-elect Pierce was inaugurated. President Pierce spent most of his time in the Oval Office in a drunken stupor.

On the bright side, I haven’t heard any reports about The Donald getting drunk. In my opinion, he’s already unstable enough. That instability has essentially drawn a line in the sand between his supporters, who absolutely love him, and his detractors, who totally despise him.

There is no middle ground here. In a world rife with gray areas, this is vividly black or white. Period.

* * * *

“Let the word go forward from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…” A guy named John F. Kennedy said that in his inaugural address. What was true then is true now.

The leaders of the current Asshole party and the Other Asshole party are straight outta my generation. We have done some great things in our time, but elevating a pissing contest into some sort of incomprehensible art form? There’s nothing great or even laudable about that.

We must remember, as Franklin Roosevelt so eloquently stated, that “…problems created by man can be solved by man, so long as we pull together toward a common end.” Therefore, it is incumbent upon the generations that have followed us Baby Boomers to vote all of those motherfuckers out of political office as quickly as possible. That’s not a joke.

It’s a call to arms.

To every forgotten male and woman out there who chooses not to vote because they feel their vote won’t make a difference, you are wrong. Your vote makes the only difference.

Distill this problem down to the least common denominator.

It’s a simple thing.

There’s a simple solution.

* * * *

FEMA recently instituted the Presidential Alert system. It’s similar to the state-level systems that let police and local authorities send out AMBER Alerts and weather warnings, except from now on they’ll come from the Commander-in-Chief.

Afterwards, Donald Trump may or may not have tweeted something like unto this: Just sent a message to 300 million people. No one responded. Oh well…

I’m sure I saw this, but I haven’t been able to verify it since. Seeing how President Trump can play it fast and loose with the facts, there’s no reason I can’t do the same. My Twitter account was actually suspended because I used to respond to the President’s tweets. A lots.

Give the people some time, Donny. I’m sure they’ll respond to you soon.

Like, November.

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.

Lookin’ Out My Backdoor

Hey. How’s it going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

Who knew that bugs were picky eaters?

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

I want to train her to walk on leash…

* * * *

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

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

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

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

It was darlingpreshadorbs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madre de Dios!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

She was something way beyond furious when she heard that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop eating my plants. Or else!

The Writer’s Almanac

Before I get into whatever this piece is going to turn into, I’d like to say, Hi, Jane! And just so there’s no confusion, the picture isn’t me. That’s Garrison Keillor. Among his many achievements and accomplishments, Garrison Keillor is a very good writer.

I’ve been enjoying writing lately. It’s a good thing, I suppose. I could certainly do worse things with my time. And if the opening line of this installment leaves you feeling bewildered, welcome to the club. That’s how I usually feel when I start writing.

I sometimes have a very good idea of what I’m going to write about, but more often than not, I don’t. I usually have a topic or theme floating around in my head, and sometimes I have a sentence I like, and want to use it somewhere in my post. That’s about it. It’s like unto taking a sink to an architect’s office and saying, “Design and build a house around this.”

And if you’re wondering, Jane is probably the most ardent reader I have, so I thought I’d acknowledge that.

* * * *

The rainy season has impacted my latest hobby, hitting golf balls. I can’t golf in the rain. But it has given me something else to do. Drain our pool. Our rental house came equipped with an hydropool that we don’t use, so there’s usually no water in it. It’s essentially become a gigantic rain gauge and deathpit for insects. We got about an inch of rain yesterday, but we got an additional four inches this morning.

Rain water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so I grab my shop vac and suck all the water out of the pool. I do not like mosquitoes. It’s a relatively simple procedure, so I don’t mind doing it. And the pool always looks great when I’m done.

The rainy season has brought forth a whole lots of tiny Mexican tree frogs. They come out at night, and sing in a chorus of peeppeeppeeppeep sounds. It’s kind of soothing, and it’s pretty cool to fall asleep to.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I went shopping today. We found everything we were looking for, except coffee filters. You’d think they’d be in the same aisle as the coffee, but that’s not the case at El Walmart.

Esto es Mexico…

I’m sure that news made a couple of hearts skip a beat, but fear not, and be of good faith. Coffee filters are available down here. I know I’ve bought them somewhere down here, probably not at Walmart, but somewhere. Most, if not all, of the retail stores down here go out of their way to cater to the gringo population. We are here, and we are legion.

This place really is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.

* * * *

A few days ago, one of my virtual friends asked me if I missed the United States, and the simple answer is no. Not at all. There are only two things I really miss. Rosati’s pizza and paved roads. Before my friends get offended, you are not things. 

Yesterday, I was notified by Facebook that I have 650 friends. I might’ve had around 300 friends before I retired, so I’ve been busy expanding my social circle. I accepted a virtual friend request from a gal yesterday, then waited. Within a matter of minutes, I received a message. I almost always get a message after I accept a request from someone.

Thankfully, she didn’t want to send me naked pictures. She wanted to sex chat, I think. I’m guessing about that, mostly because I’ve never been in this swamp before. She asked if I wanted to Skype and we could chat. She said I looked like an interesting guy and she wanted to know more about me.

I sent her link to my blog and told her anything she’d ever need to know about me was in here. I haven’t heard another word from her. I guess I’m not that interesting after all.

I’m not sure why, but I think that’s one of the funniest things, ever. And I should stop accepting friend requests from people I don’t know.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I are going out tonight with some friends. We’re going to Perry’s Pizza. He’s making his chicken fried chicken dinner especially for our group. I’m totally looking forward to that. There will be photos posted on my Facebook page.

I love being retired. I’m not sure how rewarding it is, but it’s most definitely a nice reward for all those years of working my ass off toward this end.

* * * *

One of my real friends and former co-workers has been writing something like unto her memoirs. She’s a nurse, and she’s one of the good ones. On her Facebook page this morning she confessed how difficult this process has been for her.

I knew going into writing this book that healed scars would be opened up again and feelings that I haven’t had in years would resurface. I was prepared for that. I was prepared for raw emotions and ready to share the deepest, darkest parts of my journey…  Or so I thought. 

Ah, Tiffany. I know your pain. I wasn’t planning on writing today until I read her post. I accidently ended up writing some Tales From the Darkside of my life after I started writing my blog. Unlike Tiffany, I wasn’t aware of what that can do to your soul, but I would find out quickly. It’s like unto crossing a swamp. It looks daunting when you get to it, but you tell yourself it won’t be that bad.

Look! There’s a little path here! If I just stay on that, I’ll be fine…

But that path will disappear quickly, and in front of you will be dark, fetid water of an undetermined depth and a shitload of mud and muck. Then you’re faced with a decision. Turn around and try to find a way around the swamp. That’s not going to be easy. It’s a big swamp. Or, you can keep going forward and try to get through the swamp as quickly as possible. You almost always decide to go forward. The mud sucks at your feet and legs as you try to slog your way forward, and the water is full of leeches.

That was the paragraph I had in my mind when I started this post.

Opening up old wounds is mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically draining. It hurts like hell. It’s like unto passing a fucking kidney stone, and I know that pain, too. Seeing how none of your old wounds were obtained in a vacuum, it’s not just your wounds that end up being opened.

After you’ve decided to go into that swamp once, you know what it looks like when you’re going to venture into it a second time. I’ve been there intentionally a few times. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost at least one reader of my blog by going there. And there’s nothing funny about that.

She was a real friend of mine, probably my oldest friend.

I like to joke about how no one ever reads my blog, but I’ve probably had a couple of thousand people who have at least visited my site, which isn’t all that bad. I follow a couple of other bloggers who are vastly more successful than I am. They have more visitors to their sites in a day than I get in a month.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous.

But I remind myself that I not doing this as a competition, and those bloggers have been doing this for a long time. Their blogs also have a more specific focus than mine, so their audience is there for a more specific reason.

I originally started writing my blog about my nursing career in Psychiatry, and it has gone off on some pretty weird tangents over time. While I’m sure there were compelling reasons for doing this, though they haven’t always been immediately recognizable to me. It’s one of the hazards of going through most of your life unconscious…

Waking up is hard to do.

I’ve been in the process waking up for about ten years now, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Be that as it may, the life I was living before that was a lots less pretty. I still get flashes of memories that hit me out of nowhere, leaving me wondering where that came from and what am I supposed to do with it now? Sometimes those flashbacks are unsettling and disturbing. Sometimes they’re just annoying. Sometimes they’re really funny, and I laugh out loud. If my life before was an almost endless binge, part of my healing process has involved a fair amount of purging.

And in the process, I’m sure I opened some old wounds that weren’t only mine. Many people have said I simply did what I had to do get all that poison out of my system, You did what you had to do! they said. And I probably said something like unto this at least once, It was never my intention to hurt anyone.

That said, if that’s your defense, you knew someone was going to get hurt in advance.

Life, and its many facets, can be an incredibly beautiful and poignant thing. It can also be very ugly and sordid. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between. Life, for lack of a better description at this point in my waking up process, is what it is. It’s a description I’ve never especially liked because it’s so banal.

And yet…

Life, as messy as it can be, still beats the alternative. And before you get the idea I’m a tortured soul in search of peace, that would be wrong. I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been. I have learned to appreciate all that I’ve been given, and to see the Bigger Picture. I have a more balanced view of my life, and myself.

And I am mostly content.

In the long run, cleansing your soul and ridding yourself off all that unnecessary baggage is ugly and dirty work, but it’s worth it.

Night has fallen, and the frogs are peeping. This seems like a good place to stop. Good night, and sweet dreams to you.

The Myth of Aging Gracefully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time actually flies by relatively quickly.

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go West, Young Man

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

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

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

Yeah, I better get busy.

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

“You’re not Tom!” I said to him.

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

“But, who could it be?” Dave asked.

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmph!” Bob added.

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

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

“Not John Wayne!” I countered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardiac tamponade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

And a river runs through it.

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

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

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

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

You’ll have that, too.

And Now, A Message From Our Sponsors

I haven’t been writing much of late. I’ve been out on the driving range trying to find my one, true, authentic swing. It’s not quite as lost as it once was, but I’m not completely convinced I’ve found it yet.

According to a commercial I just saw on the Golf Channel, consistency is the biggest problem recreational golfers face, and to fix that problem all I need to do is buy a new, revolutionary golf club. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the reason I suck at golf is because of my clubs. I can’t remember the name of the advertised club–it’s a bunch of numbers and letters, like unto a sportscar, so you know it has to be good.

As they say in Mexico, poco y poco. Little by little…  It’s how everything gets done down here.

Speaking of Mexico, my lovely supermodel wife and I have been doing some exploring of our new homeland. It’s not just sand, cactus and sombreros, as many people north of the border think.

It reminds me of Hawaii, and that was the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been.

And then there’s our fabulous social life. Dining and hanging out with our posse, our peeps. We celebrated 54 years of mostly wedded bliss with Brother Al and his darling wife Jane last night. I love those guys.

Al and I talked quite a bit last night at dinner. He just finished writing his memoirs, About Being Different. I think that was the title, and before you get the wrong idea, Brother Al isn’t gay. At least, I don’t think he is.

Several people who have read my blog have urged me to write a book about my life. If I ever decide to do so, I’ve already come up with a title.

You Need To Remember You Asked For This

* * * *

I’ve also been busy exploring the possibility of corporate sponsorship for my blog. Why not? Corporations have far more money than they actually need. And I’m on a fixed income now, so a few bucks here and there would help pay for my greens fees.

Corporations are interested in only two things: making money, and beating their competitors. In the immortal words of Conan the Barbarian, “…crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

Corporations are proof that the love of money really is the root of all evil. Back during the Industrial Revolution, corporations and captains of industry didn’t care what people thought about them. Nowadays they have to create the illusion that they care what people think, so they’ve started doing humanitarian things and championing various philanthropic causes.

I think AT&T once requested a rate increase specifically so they could continue to support their philanthropic endeavors. That takes balls the size of Babe the Blue Ox.

There’s been one major hurdle in my quest: I haven’t found any sponsors that have willing to associate themselves with my stories of hanging out with crazy people, and indiscriminate tales of sex, drugs and alcohol use.

The only prospective sponsor I’ve met with that hasn’t quickly said No way, Jose is the local drug cartel. To be sure, they want me to start putting a more positive spin on drug use. I even came up with a slogan for them.

Drugs. Because sometimes reality totally sucks.

We’ll see how it goes…

And I have met with the reps from a legal drug company down here, Guyz Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Mykok®. I have no idea what the clinical indications for its use are, but it has the greatest catchphrase ever:

Ask your doctor if Mykok® is right for you.

* * * *

Do you have any idea how much money is spent annually worldwide on advertising? No one does, but take a really big number–no, bigger than that–and multiply it by one million. If your total is around five hundred ga-zillion, you’re probably in the right neighborhood.

Like everything else on the planet, advertising has evolved over the years. To illustrate this, all you have to do is look at an institution we all grew up with. McDonald’s®. I mean, the Golden Arches. I mean, Mickey Dee’s. I mean, McCafe.

McDonald’s® started out as an humble fast food burger joint, then it became the kid-friendliest place in the world, next to Disneyland® with Happy Meals®, Ronald McDonald®, The Hamburgler®, and all the rest of those characters. Then, semi-insidiously, it became the place of suave sophistication it is now, and none of the items on the menu are available for fifteen cents.

McDonald’s® slogans have been so catchy they’ve become a part of our daily speech. Look for the Golden Arches (1960). You deserve a break today (1971). Perhaps the all-time best slogan ever, Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun (1974). And finally, I’m lovin’ it (2003).

I think McDonald’s® should expand their services and open a McBar© where you can get McSnockered©, and then you can McStumble© over to the McCafe and meet your friends for a late night meal before you go home and McCrash©.

Like it or not, corporations essentially rule the world, and corporate advertising rules the airwaves. Did you know that you’re probably bombarded by seven thousand ads or commercials a day urging you to buy everything from automobiles to yogurt. And to be sure, if you buy whatever it is that’s being peddled, your life is going to be so much better.

And studies have shown that the more attractive the spokesperson is, the more successful the ad is likely to be. Why do you suppose that is?

Are beautiful people more trustworthy than less attractive people? Obviously. Especially if your spokesperson has an epic set of tits. I’m not sure anyone has ever been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for this, but it’s been proven to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t wear women’s underwear, but every time I see a Victoria’s Secret® commercial, I want to shop there.

If you can’t find an attractive person to sell your product, find an athlete. Is there anything Peyton Manning didn’t sell? When it comes to trustworthiness in advertising, it’s hard to beat a jock.

Well, cute kids will do in a pinch. Or an even cuter pile of puppies…

You’d think politicians would make good spokespersons, right? I’m sure they’d say that being a spokesperson for anything is beneath their lofty status, but the truth is they’re probably the least reputable people on the planet.

“Hi! I’m Senator Bill Berditzman, and after a long day of deliberating meaningful legislation–“ See what I mean? The idea is so fucking ludicrous, I can’t even finish the sentence.

Given the general population’s preference for attractive athletic types in advertising, there’s a group of people that I think would be the obvious choice for every advertising campaign, no matter what you’re trying to sell.

Porn stars.

Hey, they’re all attractive, except Ron Jeremy. And only someone with the stamina of an athlete could live through the marathon sex sessions they perform. And as near as I can tell, if you want someone to tell you the truth, ask a porn star. They do not lie. Seeing how they have to endure an endless amount of bullshit because of what they choose to do for a living, they have no tolerance for it in  their personal lives. They are artists, passionate about their craft and their beliefs.

Sex sells. It’s a proven fact, so advertisers might as well stop beating around the bush, so to speak, and start producing ads that grab us by the short hairs.

“Hi. Dirk Diggler here. If you ever find yourself in a situation that can only be handled in a court of law, you want a big dick lawyer on your side. At Dewey, Suk, Dingle and Howe, all of our board certified attorneys are big dick lawyers. Call 888 BIG DICK, now.”

I don’t know about you, but I want a big dick lawyer representing me if I ever end up in front of a judge again.

“Hi! I’m Myndi Mynxx, and after a loong day of multiple orgasms and getting gangbanged in my cute little butt, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of my Buick LaCrosse! It has the smoothest ride of any car I’ve ever driven, and you can believe me when I say a smooth ride really matters!”

I drive a Buick. It really does have a smooth ride.

“Hi! I’m Elle! And I’m Mia! Maybe you saw us in Where The Boys Aren’t. Or our Christmas spectacular, Toys For Twats. Anyhow, we love tacos! We really love tacos!! So whenever we finish a shoot, our first stop is Taco Bell!”

I love tacos, too!

See? Porn stars would make great spokespersons! And seeing how we’ve all become whores to the corporate world on one level or another, it’s only fitting that porn stars should lead us down the road to Perdition.

Harvey

Things are heating up here in the Lakeside area. Believe it or not, May is the hottest month of the year down here. According to everyone we know, it should cool off in June once the rainy season starts.

That’ll be nice. I think it’s rained once since November, and there have been a thousand fires in the last month or so. It’s so smoky/hazy now, there are days when you can’t see the other side of the lake.

* * * *

If you’re a classic movie buff, I don’t need to tell you about Harvey. 1950. Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dodd, an eccentric man whose best friend is a pooka named… what else? Harvey is Elwood’s best friend, and he’s a six foot three and an half inch tall invisible rabbit. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s a darling movie.

I knew a guy named Harvey. He was maybe five foot four. He had kind of a weather-beaten appearance, and he wasn’t invisible. Harvey was an older guy. He was in his seventies when I first met him. I can’t remember if he was bipolar or schizophrenic. He might have been both. If he was bipolar, he was the quietest manic guy I’ve ever met. And if he was schizophrenic, he kept his psychosis to himself.

Harvey was pretty much an enigma. He was more imp than pooka, and was, at least once, like unto a gremlin that had been fed after midnight. That’s how I remember him. One of our patients at the MVAMC was a guy we called Forrest Gump’s Smarter Brother. Harvey was probably their grandfather.

And I should add this: The female nurses loved him. They thought he was cute.

I probably first met Harvey around the year 2000 or so. He came up the nursing station one day and said, “I want to call my mom. My mom. My mom!”

I took a long look at Harvey and seriously wanted to ask if his mother was still alive, but I asked a different question.

“Do you know her phone number?”

“Yeah. Yeahyeahyeah.”

So I set a phone in front of him, and he dialed a number.

“Hi Mom. It’s me. Harvey.”

I decided to look up Harvey’s contact information in the computer. His mother, Olive, was listed. As near as I could discern from his file, his mother was still alive. She had to be in her nineties.

Harvey had a very nice conversation with someone, and a few hours later, a frail little old lady who smelled of cat urine, walked onto the unit with a man whom, I think, was Harvey’s brother.

They brought in a bag of clothes for Harvey, and his glasses. When Harvey was showered and shaved and wearing his own clothing, he looked like he could’ve been a college professor.

All the female nurses wanted to talk to Olive–they might have seventy year old sons to raise someday, and they wanted all the information they could get about Harvey. I can’t remember what he did for a living anymore–if he ever had a job, or if he was on some sort of disability, or if he had a place to live, or much of anything else about him.

There was a lesson for me to be learned. Just because I didn’t think something could be possible, didn’t mean it wasn’t true.

For example, The Guy Who Knew Milton Berle. His name was Steve. He was a local radio personality/comedian who had relapsed on alcohol. His detox was uneventful, and we were getting him set up with follow up care.

For those of you who don’t know who Uncle Miltie was, he was a comedian, and one of the pioneers of early television. He might have been a pooka, but he stood only five feet ten inches tall, and he wasn’t invisible.

Steve was talking on the phone at the nursing station one Saturday morning, and when he hung up, one of the nurses I was working with asked who he was talking to.

“Milton Berle.” he replied, and all of the nurses started laughing. So Steve went to his room and returned with a photo album that contained dozens of pictures of him with none other than Milton Berle.

Yeah, who’s laughing now, nurses?

The sad fact is most psych patients lie about almost everything, so as a psych nurse, you tend not to believe practically anything they say.

“I’m the hair dresser to the stars.”

“No kidding! If you don’t mind me asking, who are some of your clients?”

“Stevie Nicks. Victoria Principal. Morgan Fairchild.”

“Wow. When was the last time you were in Southern California?”

“I’ve never been there.”

“So, they fly here, to Minnesota, so you can do their hair?”

“Yeah. Pretty much.”

“By the way, I love what you do with Stevie’s hair.”

“Yeah, she’s beautiful. Thanks!”

I met at least two guys who were the hair dresser to the stars, and neither of them had ever been to California. And then there were the guys who were mysteriously drugged at their local watering hole.

“Well, I was at the bar, and then I can’t remember anything. I think they ​slipped me a mickey!”

“Yeah, that’s why I quit going to bars. I got tired of getting drugged, too.”

“See? This guy knows what I’m talking about!”

I always got a kick out of that story. Fictional private detectives from the 1940’s, like Sam Spade and Mike Hammer, were always getting slipped a mickey, but I don’t think it ever consistently happened to anyone in real life. Until Ruffies became popular, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it was mostly girls who were the target of Rohypnol. Even the girls had their tales of misfortune.

“We just discharged you two days ago. Why are you coming back today?”

“Someone on the bus stole all of my meds!”

“Even your Xanax?”

“No, that’s the only thing they didn’t steal!”

“What happened to that?”

“Oh, I accidentally dropped the bottle in the toilet!”

Well, there are a lots of fun filled activities to do on the bus, so it’s easy to see how that could happen…  And toilets clearly can’t be trusted anywhere near controlled substances. But every now and then, you meet someone who actually tells the truth. So, try to remember that.

* * * *

Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lots of Harvey stories. He was a mostly benign, very quiet guy, who sometimes looked quite professorial.

He did have his Harvey moments. He would randomly bolt down the hallway as fast as could, for no apparent reason. I think that was Harvey. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.

He was one of those guys that randomly uttered words of inestimable profundity, most of which I can’t remember, but he did say this:

“Ooh, shiny!”

It became our catchphrase whenever someone went off on a tangent, or for someone with a short attention span who was easily distracted. Like me.

And then there was Harvey’s hallmark admission. And like so many hallmark moments, it happened in the dark of night.

It was probably around 2005. Harvey had been a patient on my unit a couple of times. None of his admissions had been especially remarkable. We stabilized him and sent him home, or somewhere, until the next time.

On this particular night, it just after midnight. Harvey was admitted once more. We got him changed into VA pajamas and settled into his room by the nursing station. There wasn’t much point in trying to do a thorough admission assessment because Harvey wouldn’t answer any questions, so we got all our information from his old charts and our previous knowledge about Harvey.

Most people admitted in the middle of the night just want to go to bed, but that night, for no apparent reason, Harvey decided to demo his room.

I think he started with the baseboard molding, and ripped it all off of the walls. One of the nurses I was working with asked me what we should do. He wasn’t harming anyone, but he was systematically tearing his room apart.

We tried medicating him with Haldol and Ativan. The meds didn’t touch him.

After he removed all of the baseboards, anything that Harvey could disassemble with his bare hands was fair game. We would check on his progress periodically, and remove all the debris from his room from time to time.

When he started to take his bed apart, we rolled the frame out of his room, leaving the mattress and bedding on the floor. By 5:00 AM, the only thing Harvey hadn’t demolished was the light fixture on the wall where the head of his bed had once been.

Around 5:30 AM, we heard a loud crash. Harvey had somehow ripped the monster light fixture out of the wall, leaving behind a few live electrical wires. We were forced to move him across the hall into one of the seclusion rooms. I can’t remember if we locked him in or not, but we probably gave him another cupful of meds, that would have no more effect than an handful of Tic-tacs. Then I entered a whole lots of work orders into the computer so the maintenance guys would start putting the room back together again.

* * * *

It took the VA Corps of Engineers at least five days to repair what Harvey had done in roughly five hours.

I had at least one day off between getting off of Nights and transitioning to Days. I asked the night nurses how Harvey was doing when I returned to work. He hadn’t demolished anything else, but he hadn’t slept since he was admitted.

I have a couple of clear memories of that day. One, I was assigned to do Meds. Two, it was the first time I met Darrell. He was an LPN, and a new hire. He had never worked in a Psych setting before, and my boss asked me to show him the ropes.

“I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I can play this song in any key. I can tell you how you’re supposed to do this job, or I can tell you how I do it. If you do it my way, you’ll work smarter, not harder.”

“I was hoping I’d meet a nurse like you.” Darrell replied. I was going to like working with this guy.

I spent the first couple of hours explaining my unorthodox philosophy to Darrell, and then I decided to show off a little to the new guy. I pulled Haldol and Ativan from the Pyxis, and told Darrell to follow me. And we went hunting for Harvey. He was standing in the hallway by the dayroom.

“Harvey hasn’t slept since he got here. I’m going to send him to the Land of Nod.” I told Darrell.

“Yeah, the nurses tried like hell to put him down for the count yesterday, but nothing touched him.”

“Hey, little buddy. I’ve got a couple meds for you.” I said, and handed Harvey a med cup with a couple pills, which he readily took. Then we escorted Harvey back ​to his room, and laid him down on his bed.

And I started singing, softly.

“Lullaby, and good night. Go to sleep lit-tle Harvey. Close your eyes, count some sheep, a-and go to fucking sleep…”

I didn’t know many of the actual lyrics, so I kind of made them up on the fly. I sang a few more verses of my impromptu lullaby, and when we tiptoed out of Harvey’s room, he was snoring.

“I don’t know what you just did, but I can’t believe what I just saw.”

“Smarter, not harder.”

“Well, I hope you don’t expect me to sing a lullaby to every one of these guys, because there’s no goddamn way I’m doing that!”

“Nope. It’s probably the only lullaby I’ve ever sung.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you know that would work?”

“I didn’t. It was a gut feeling. Always follow your gut. It’s never wrong.”

* * * *

I know some of the stuff I write is hard to believe, but that actually happened. And as weird as it might sound, I had no doubt my intervention would work. I probably didn’t even need the meds.

However, I didn’t have any qualms about giving them to Harvey. I figured if my lullaby worked, the meds would help him stay asleep, and that’s probably what my little buddy needed more than anything.

Almost every field of Nursing is a science, except Psychiatry. At best, it’s an imprecise science, but it’s mostly an art. Only the really good psych nurses understand this.

The essence of psych nursing is guiding people out of the maze of darkness or whatever else they’ve created inside their minds, and teaching them a few new coping strategies, so they can try to avoid having to repeat it again in the future.

It sounds good in theory, but the reality is the majority of the patients we took care of weren’t all that interested in doing anything different.

You can lead a horse to water…

That part of the job was frustrating, but every now and then, someone would come along, and all they wanted was a second chance. And every now and then, you could sing someone a lullaby.

It was those moments that made the whole thing worthwhile.

In Memoriam

Mother’s Day is almost upon us. I decided I’d try to write about my mom, but it hasn’t been easy. I have a million memories of my mom, but I’m thinking mostly about her death today. She died at the end of this month in 2007, and this year will mark​ ten years since her death.

You’d think this subject would get easier over time. I thought it would, until I started writing about it. I’ve had to chop this into very small bites, with a whole lots of breaks in between. At the rate this is going, I might be finished by Mother’s Day. Next year.

* * * *

It was in October of 2006. I think it was a Friday. I got a phone call at work from my youngest sister, Julie. My work day at the MVAMC was almost over, and I was checking my notes at the nursing station. Our mom had been visiting our oldest sister, Colleen, in Montana. Julie had gone to the airport to pick up our mom, but there was something wrong with our mother.

“She’s really confused and acting strange.” Julie said.

“Is she drunk?” I asked. My mom had been sober for at least ten years, but she could have had a relapse. I did, maybe a month before all of this happened.

“No. She’s just weird. I want to take her to the ER.”

“Do that. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I replied, then called my lovely supermodel wife to let her know we’d be taking an unplanned trip to St Cloud. I’m sure my memories of this are muddled, but I know I had a bad feeling about this situation, and I’m sure I tried to tell Lea that as we raced up Highway 10 to the St Cloud Hospital.

I think this is what I really said.

“My mom has cancer.”

* * * *

I wasn’t an Oncology nurse, or even a Med/Surg nurse. I was a Psych nurse, so you might think I would’ve thought my mom had had a psychotic break, not cancer. And you might wonder how I came up with that diagnosis when it was so far out of my wheelhouse, so to speak.

My mom smoked cigarettes, and she had smoked for something like unto sixty years. You hardly have to be a medical professional to know that smoking is bad for you. And I might be wrong about this, but one of the first major lawsuits against Big Tobacco was filed by a nurse, and in her sworn testimony, she stated she had no idea that smoking was harmful. If that is correct, she has to be the most stupidest fucking douchebag nurse, ever.

I already knew what the ER doc was going to say before I ever saw him. Be that as it may, I have to admit I was stunned to hear his pronouncement when he showed me my mother’s CT scan.

The first stage of the Grief and Loss process is denial…

“You’re the nurse in the family, right? Okay, well, the news I’ve got for you isn’t good. Your mother has lung cancer. She has a nodule in her lung, right there. Normally, we’d need to do a biopsy to be sure, but that’s not all. There’s another one right here, in her liver. Once cancer metastasizes there, well, I probably don’t have to tell you how bad that is. The oncologist can tell you more, but from my experience, your mom has about six months to live. Probably less.”

“What’s causing her confusion?” I asked. I think I saw my mom before I met with the doctor, and my sister wasn’t joking about mom being confused. She didn’t seem to have any idea where she was.

“Oh. That’s from SIADH.” he replied, like I’d know what the hell he was talking about. I didn’t.  So he tried explaining it to me. I tried to comprehend what he said, but even after his explanation, I still didn’t understand what he was saying. I would have to call my nursing buddy, Don Nelson, for some clarification. He had worked in ICU, and he was the only person I could think of who might be able to translate this into understandable terms, but even his explanation left me confused.

If you want to try to understand this, you’re going to have to Google it, and even that may not help. I don’t think it helped me much. This surpassed me, and it confused me almost as much as it did my mom.

Even now, I doubt I’d understand it any better. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is something like unto this: it’s probably similar to what happens when an elderly person gets an UTI. Somehow, a bladder infection more or less scrambles their brains. Treat the infection, and they’re better in a couple of days. So, I figured that would happen with my mom.

It didn’t.

* * * *

My mom was admitted to the hospital so she could be monitored and treated with Lasix to get rid of some of the excess fluid in her body, and then, hopefully, she’d be less confused. That’s what the nurses said, and they were confident she’d be better in a couple of days.

I can’t remember how many of my siblings were at the hospital that day, but we helped mom get settled into her room. She didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about being in the hospital. All she cared about was her purse, and going to the bathroom, and the first thing she did once she was in the bathroom was light up a cigarette.

She was so pissed when I took her cigarettes from her and gave them to the nurses, she wouldn’t let me kiss her goodbye.

I probably had to work that weekend. I had every other weekend off, and I know I would’ve been with my mom if I wasn’t working. She was released from the hospital on Sunday. I think Lea and I took another trip to my parents’ house. The Lasix didn’t appear to have made much difference. My mom seemed to be every bit as confused as she had been on Friday.

I have a vague memory of my mother when she returned home. She was sitting on the couch, so I sat down next to her and held her hand. Then I smiled, and said softly, “You realize that you’re fucking up everything, don’t you.”

“Yeah, I probably am. Your father was supposed to die first.”

* * * *

I know my dad asked me to be present when they met with the oncologist. After all, I was a nurse, and if anyone would understand what was going to be said, it was probably me. My dad wasn’t very medically attuned. He rarely listened to his own doctors, so why would he start listening to his wife’s doctor? Plus, my dad was essentially deaf in one ear, and he couldn’t hear so good out of the other one.

The oncologist was a nice guy from India. He outlined his plan of attack, but what surprised me the most was he seemed to think he could save my mother’s life, which I thought was a total crock of shit.

“Your mother needs this treatment, and she’ll get better as long as she stays on it. If she doesn’t agree to the chemo, or if she decides to stop treatment, she’ll be dead in two weeks.” And then he left the room while I discussed the options with my parents.

“Realistically, the best this guy’s gonna be able to do is extend her life for a few months.” I told my mom and dad.

“Well, I’m not ready to let her go.” my dad said.

“I don’t think any of us are ready for that, but it’s not your decision, or my decision. It’s her decision, as long as she understands what she’s doing.” I said, then turned to my mom.  “Mom, do you understand what the doctor said?”

“Yeah, I think so. I have cancer, and I’m going to die.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. The only question is, do you want to go through chemo or not. It’ll keep you alive a bit longer, but there are a whole slew of potentially serious side effects from the treatment. This doctor thinks he’s going to cure you, but I don’t think he’s being very realistic. I think the best he’ll be able to do is keep you alive a bit longer, and you might spend most of that time feeling sicker than a dog.”

“But the doctor said he thought he could cure your mother,” my dad said. “And you’re just a psychiatric nurse.”

“Fair enough.” I replied. “But if this guy thinks he’s going to cure Mom, he’s fucking crazy. Mom has metastatic cancer, it’s already in her liver, and God knows where else it’s spread to. This is not going to be a life saving intervention, Dad.” I looked him squarely in the eyes until that sunk in, then turned to my mom. “But it’s your decision, Mom. I hope you can understand your options, and if you do, we’re going to support you, no matter what you decide.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“I can’t advise you what to do.” I replied, and I turned my gaze to the floor. I may have held my breath. She turned to my dad. “What do you think?”

“I don’t want to lose you, ever.”

“Okay. I think I know what I want to do. I’ll try the chemo.”

* * * *

To be honest, I’m not sure if any of that actually happened, other than the visit. I don’t have any clear recollection of the conversations we had. Whatever it was that was actually said, my mom seemed to be able to understand the situation, and she opted for the chemo. That was good enough for me. We called the doctor back into the office and let him know.

* * * *

If you never had the opportunity to meet my mom, you would have loved her. Sally as a good old gal. She’s one of the few people I’ve known that everybody loved. She was smart and sassy, and sharp witted. She was a dynamo, always doing something, always working a project or two.

And then, in seemingly one day, that person vanished, like unto a magic trick gone terribly wrong. The person she once was made sporadic visits over the following months, but those visits were brief. What I remember most was my mom sitting silently on the couch, staring out the window at nothing, or playing with the remote control, flipping through the channels without watching anything.

One of the local hospice programs came over to do an assessment, and they were critical in helping us manage my mother’s care at home. I cannot thank them enough for everything they did for us.

They set up a pain management program for my mom that was miraculously effective. Prior to that, it was a goddamn nightmare. We had to buy a lock box to put her pain meds in, or she would’ve taken all of them at once. The hospice program also set up an adjustable bed in the living room, and that’s where my mom slept. She would fall asleep watching TV, and that was the only time she stopped clicking through the channels.

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages in the Grief and Loss process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know we all got together as a family to discuss what we going to do once we all found out our mom was ruining everything by dying. I didn’t have a lots to say, but I offered a brief rundown of Grief and Loss, and asked everyone to remember that our emotions were going to be all over the map.

“It’s not a linear progression, you bounce back and forth, and it can take a long time to work through.”

As a family, we decided to do whatever we had to to take care of our parents. My mom had taken care of our dad forever. Healthwise, my dad was pretty much a trainwreck, and all of us thought he’d be the first to check out. Even him. There was no way he could suddenly become mom’s caretaker.

We had a meeting in the dining room at our parents’ house to discuss our plan of attack. It led to the most memorable reappearance of ​my mom that I remember during those days. As we were discussing how we were going to care for Mom and Dad, and make sure they could stay in their house, my mom got up from the couch and walked into the dining room.

“If you’re planning on putting me in a nursing home, I’ll kill each and every one of you fuckers!” she said. There was real fire in her eyes.

“Mom, we’re not going to do that. We’re trying to find a way to take care of you here, at home.” everyone replied at once.

“Oh. Well, okay then.” she replied, and returned to staring aimlessly out the window from the couch.

After we all stopped laughing, two of my sisters, Denise and Julie, would walk point, so to speak. They lived the closest to our parents. They would manage everything Monday through Friday. The rest of us would fill in when we could, and on the weekends.

* * * *

Sally would go through two rounds of chemo before she decided enough was enough. It would take seven months for the cancer inside of her to kill her to death, but my mom essentially died in October, leaving a shadow figure of the person she’d once been.

We got to spend one last Thanksgiving together, one last Christmas. One more New Year’s Eve, and we got to celebrate her birthday in February. I wish I could say these were happy, joyous occasions. I don’t remember them that way. I’m not sure anyone in my family does.

My mom was drastically different in personality, and then in physical appearance. The chemo changed her so much. By the time she got dead, she was hardly recognizable as the person I knew as my mom.

It’s beyond ironic. I know people who suddenly lost their mother who wish they would’ve gotten an extra six months of time. For me, I’d probably swap places with them.

* * * *

My mom loved Perry Como. I bought a couple of his CD’s, and played them over and over on the weekends I spent as caregiver in Little Falls. Taking care of my parents wasn’t physically demanding. Our duties as caregivers mostly entailed cleaning the house, doing laundry, and cooking meals–and making sure my mom didn’t accidentally walk out the door and wander off.

As a nurse, I had cared for a lots of patients who were dying, but none of them had been my mom. I had no idea how emotionally exhausting it would be. I remember returning home from those weekends being too exhausted to even cry.

I remember one weekend clearly. I was semi-asleep on the couch. My mom was sound asleep on the hospital bed. It was about 3:00 AM, when I heard this:

“BILLY MAYS HERE, FOR OXICLEAN!” 

I just about had a fucking heart attack. I leapt off the couch, and fumbled around, trying to find my glasses. Once I could see again, I located the remote and turned the TV off.

“Hey!” my mom said, sitting up in bed. “I was watching that!”

* * * *

Times of crisis bring out the best, and worst, in people. And sometimes within five minutes of each other. It’s a good thing I had quit drinking before this happened. Otherwise, my reactions wouldn’t have been pretty…  As it turned out, the collective reactions of my family certainly had their ugly moments.

Watching our mother die took a toll on all of us. My youngest brother, Bob, couldn’t take it, and asked to be taken out of the caregiver rotation. My brother, John, couldn’t even come to grips with the fact that our mom was going to die. I can’t remember if he ever attempted any caregiver roles.

I don’t hold that against him. It wasn’t an easy task. I don’t hold what he couldn’t do against him. It’s what he did, and what he did was criticize everything the rest of us did while he drank himself into an ambulatory coma. I don’t hold his drinking against him. Drinking was pretty much the only coping strategy my family had. There was a whole lots of drinking going on during that time. If I hadn’t quit drinking before my mother died, I might be drinking still.

I remember spending a lots of time trying to reason with my unreasonable brother. And I was not always gracious, nor very professional, in my sometimes not so private interactions with John.

For that, I am eternally embarrassed, and very sorry.

About the time that my mother was dying, my lovely supermodel wife got a job offer in Phoenix, AZ. I encouraged her to accept the offer. If the position worked out, it would be a great opportunity for her. As for me, I needed to get as far away from my brother as I could.

For the longest time, all I wanted to do was kill him.

I’m better now, and I probably won’t kill my brother if I ever see him again. But I’m not going to lie. It’d probably be better if we never saw each other again.

* * * *

My mother endured two rounds of chemo. I think the side effects were worse for her the second time around, maybe. They certainly were for me. My mother no longer resembled herself. She had gained what looked like one hundred pounds on her tiny frame, and her face was bloated. As terrible as this is going to sound, she looked like Jabba the Hutt’s wife.

Her oncologist was right about one thing. She died two weeks after stopping her chemo treatments. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. Lea and I drove up to Little Falls to see her before she died, but she had already slipped into something like unto a coma by the time we arrived.

I held her hand, and told her all the things a mom would want to hear. And then we drove home. And went back to our life, and our respective jobs. And waited.

* * * *

My mother died early in the morning on May 28, 2007. It was the Memorial Day weekend. I worked a twelve hour shift on Friday, a double shift on Saturday and Sunday, and another twelve hours on Monday. I was at work when my dad called at around 5:00 AM.

“I just wanted to let you know your mother is gone. And I knew you’d be awake.”

We talked for a few minutes, there wasn’t a whole lots to say. I wasn’t the only person on my unit that lost someone that weekend. One of the nurses lost her mother-in-law. Another lost her cousin. Bad things happen in threes…

I took a break after talking to my dad. I went outside. The birds were chirping, the sun was starting to come up, a gray-blue light filled the sky. I looked up, and three Canada geese flew overhead. They honked, as if saying goodbye, and disappeared from view.

* * * *

I did my mother’s eulogy. I’m not going to repeat it here, but it was beautiful. Lea and I stayed at the Country Inn Suites in Little Falls. I had a dream about my mom the morning of her funeral.

She was driving our old car, a faded green 1963 Chevy Impala station wagon. My mom learned to drive when we were living in Modesto, CA. She drove that station wagon when we moved from California to North Dakota. When we  arrived in Grand Forks, she handed my dad the keys and never drove again. As the car neared me in my dream, she rolled down the window, and waved as she drove past. And then I woke up.

“Really? That’s how you’re going to say goodbye!” I said to the ceiling of our room. “Couldn’t you have at least stopped? At the very least, couldn’t you have found a nicer car?”

* * * *

It’s been almost ten years. I miss my mom. I’m sure I always will.

Wherever she is, I hope she’s at peace. And I hope she’s driving a better car.

Blogger Vance

I went golfing for the first time in a decade the other day. After I had to take three swings at my ball before I finally hit it on the first tee, I knew why I could take a ten year hiatus from the game and not miss it in the least, which is probably going to sound a little weird because I love the game of golf.

There are a few of reasons why I decided to play golf again. First of all, I have an endless amount of time on my hands now that I’m retired. I have a set of golf clubs, and I already confessed my love of the game.

Most of my irons were my dad’s at one time. I bought his old clubs after he had custom made clubs built. My woods used to belong to Don Nelson. He sold them to me when he upgraded to metal woods. My woods are actually made of wood, not metal. I’ve never liked the sound a metal wood makes when it hits a ball. And I have a random assortment of clubs that I bought at Goodwill for a couple bucks a piece.

One of my former golfing buddies said he had one club in his bag that cost more than all of my clubs combined, plus the clothes I was wearing, and if I ever beat him, he’d beat me to death with his very expensive club.

Given my level of play, I doubt I was ever close to that type of death.

Another reason I took up golf again is there are no bowling alleys in Mexico, not that I’m an avid bowler. There are basically two types of bowlers, the kind who have their own balls and shoes and stuff, and the kind who don’t. Most of the latter probably love bowling. The remainder go bowling in lieu of committing suicide.

I think I’ll kill myself…  Well, I guess I could go bowling…

I probably fall into that spectrum when it comes to bowling.

Golf, on the other hand, is something I love doing even though I suck at it.

* * * *

Golf is a good walk spoiled. Mark Twain may or may not have said that about golf. And for me, the quote has no bearing on my game. I ride in golf cart. Unlike many people who play the game, I’m not interested in exercise or fitness. A guy named Merle Williams is credited with inventing the modern, motorized the golf cart, and all I have to say to Merle is, Thank you!

After some of my drives, I don’t need a cart to transport myself ten feet to hit my ball again. Other times, I need an ATV or a bulldozer, not a cart, to get to my ball. Most of the time, I don’t even bother looking for those balls. I’ve gotten very skilled at taking a stroke and hitting another ball. I have hundreds of golf balls. I’m not afraid to lose one. Or ten. Or twenty.

The game of golf was invented by the Scots back in the 1400’s apparently because living under the repressive rule of the English just wasn’t frustrating enough. And like any sport, the rules of golf have been renovated and modified over the years, not that I’ve ever read them. I’m confident if I ever tried to play golf the way it was intended, I’d never play.

I am a mostly terrible golfer. I have about five good shots a game, and they’re rarely consecutive shots. I rarely play the fairway, but not by design. I think it’d be safe to say that nothing I do on the golf course is by design. When I hit the ball, the best I can do is hope it’ll go in the general direction I want it to. If there is a tree within one hundred yards of my ball, in any direction, I will probably hit it. If there’s a water hazard on the course, I will find it.

There are three skills essential to golf: driving, chipping and putting. I’ve never been very good at any of them. If I’m having decent drives, I can’t chip. And vice versa. My putting skills are somewhere in the abysmal range. I totally suck at putting.

You might then wonder why I play? I certainly do. And the answer to that is simple. It’s my dad’s fault.

My dad was an avid golfer, and he pretty much lived on the local courses around Little Falls. That’s why I started playing. Well, that, and the fact that I could drink beer and smoke cigarettes while I played. Those two things were really the only two things I liked about golf in the beginning.

* * * *

Rannulph Junuh: Now, the question on the table is how drunk is drunk enough? And the answer is that it’s all a matter of brain cells.
Hardy Greaves: Brain cells?

Rannulph Junuh: That’s right, Hardy. You see, every drink of liquor you take kills a thousand brain cells. Now, that doesn’t much matter ’cause we got billions more. And first the sadness cells die so you smile real big. And then the quiet cells go so you just say everything real loud for no reason at all. That’s okay because the stupid cells go next, so everything you say is real smart. And finally, come the memory cells. These are tough sons of bitches to kill.

* * * *

I’m not a great golfer, but I was once a great alcoholic, if that’s an achievement that can be considered great. Like any great alcoholic, I had a plethora of reasons why I drank, and like any haunted human, I had a closet full of ghosts and skeletons and traumas that could only be kept at bay by drinking them into oblivion.

In retrospect, my ghosts had the ​power to terrify me only because I gave them that power. If I only knew then what I know now…  I could tell Rannulph Junuh that it didn’t make any difference how much you drank, you could never kill those memories. Those sons of bitches never die.

* * * *

There was another reason why I decided to start playing golf. It was the only way I could talk to my dad. I wasn’t all that keen to talk to my dad when I was in my teens and twenties. We didn’t have that much in common. And then I married my lovely supermodel wife, and if we didn’t have anything else in common, we were both married men, so there was that.

And there was golf. Golf is a beautifully​ simple, frustratingly​ complex game. Much like bowling, you either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground when it comes to golf.

I love golf. Golf courses are almost always scenic, green and serene. There might be some competition between players, but it’s essentially you, the course and your skills, or lack thereof, and that’s all. You don’t need anyone to set a screen for you. You don’t need anyone to block a defender.

I know my dad loved the game of golf, but I don’t know if he actually enjoyed playing golf. You wouldn’t know by playing with him. He was intense on the golf course. He rarely displayed that level of intensity anywhere else in his life.

For example, we were golfing at the Little Falls Country Club one summer weekend. My dad hit a shot he wasn’t pleased with, and then he hit the roof.

“Jee-sus Christ! Why in the hell did I ever I ever take up this goddamn game? Son of a bitch! I should take all of my clubs and throw them in the fuckin’ river!”

“Hey, dad. It’s just a game. Lighten up, man. Have a little fun.” I said. That’s more or less my philosophy about golf, among other things.

“Who the hell asked you? Shut the fuck up!”

Clearly, that wasn’t my dad’s philosophy, nor would he ever embrace that kind of attitude. Not when it came to golf anyway.

I played many rounds of golf with my dad. There was a time when I didn’t totally suck at golf, and I merely kind of sucked. I challenged my dad a couple of times, and almost beat him once. It wasn’t until age and poor health had taken away most of his skills that I actually had a lower score than him. But I hardly count that as a win.

On the day I almost beat my dad, I was playing the best round of golf I’d ever played, and my dad was playing one of his worst. I had a two stroke lead heading to the ninth tee.

My drive was right down the middle of the fairway. I had about one hundred yards to the green. All I had to do was chip my ball onto the green, and sink a putt. Even if I two putted the green, I’d still beat my dad. His tee shot was mediocre, and his  second shot landed in a sand trap. I could almost taste victory.

If that was a day that I had temporarily found my swing, I lost it when I tried to chip my ball onto the green. I hit that ball so fat. It didn’t float through the air and drop neatly onto the green. It tore off down the fairway about a foot off the ground, moving at the speed of light.

I knew it was wrong the moment I hit it. I turned to my lovely supermodel wife, and asked if she saw where my shot landed. I knew it wasn’t going to land anywhere near the green.

“It’s still rolling across the parking lot.” she replied. The parking lot was on the far side of the ninth green. “And it just rolled down the hill. That’s where the eighteenth green is, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes it was. And that’s where my ball ended up, and any chance of ever beating my dad ended. My dad chipped out of the bunker and sank a long putt. I left my ball sitting on the eighteenth green, and shook my dad’s hand. And then we drank a lots of beer, laughed and talked about how I almost beat him.

Almost a decade ago, I golfed with my dad for the last time. He died the following year. I hadn’t been golfing since, and when I went golfing last week, I became acutely aware of his absence, and how much I missed my dad.

And then I hit a tree with one of my many errant shots, and I smiled. My dad would’ve gotten a kick out of that.

* * * *

I talked a lots about going golfing before I retired. People asked what I was going to do after I quit working, and I figured I’d need to do something. Golf seemed like the perfect retirement activity, and a lots of retired guys spend their time on the golf course. My dad did. If he could do it…  And I secretly kind of hoped if I spent enough time hitting a golf ball, I might actually get good at it someday, many years from now. I suppose that’s still theoretically possible.

There have been many movies made about golf. Caddy Shack. Hard to find anyone my age that doesn’t love that movie. There are so many great lines from that movie, and none of them have anything to do with golf, except one.

* * * *

Ty Webb: I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.

* * * *

Billy Madison. The only thing I like about that movie is the scene where Bob Barker beats the shit out of Adam Sandler. I don’t like Adam Sandler. Or his movies.

The Legend of Bagger Vance. My personal favorite golf movie. It’s a beautifully filmed Zen movie about golf, and the most important thing about being Zen isn’t whether you win or lose, just that you look cool in the attempt.

I am just about the coolest looking golfer you’ve ever seen, until I actually play golf. I have a beautifully smooth swing. You’d think I’d be a much better golfer than I am. I have no real idea what’s wrong with my golf game, other than almost everything. I lift my head, I don’t keep my shoulders square. If I do manage to accomplish those two things, I certainly don’t do either of them consistently. Perhaps, like unto Rannulph Junuh, I just need to find my my swing.

* * * *

Bagger Vance: What I’m talkin’ about is a game… A game that can’t be won, only played…
Rannulph Junuh: You don’t understand…
Bagger Vance: I don’t need to understand… Ain’t a soul on this entire earth ain’t got a burden to carry he don’t understand, you ain’t alone in that… But you been carryin’ this one long enough… Time to go on… lay it down…
Rannulph Junuh: I don’t know how…
Bagger Vance: You got a choice… You can stop… Or you can start…
Rannulph Junuh: Start?
Bagger Vance: Walkin’…
Rannulph Junuh: Where?
Bagger Vance: Right back to where you always been… and then stand there… Still… real still… And remember…
Rannulph Junuh: It’s too long ago…
Bagger Vance: Oh no sir, it was just a moment ago… Time for you to come on out the shadows Junuh… Time for you to choose…
Rannulph Junuh: I can’t…
Bagger Vance: Yes, you can… but you ain’t alone… I”m right here with ya… I’ve been here all along… Now play the game… Your game… The one that only you was meant to play… The one that was given to you when you come into this world… You ready?… Strike that ball, Junuh, don’t hold nothin’ back, give it everything… Now’s the time… Let yourself remember… Remember YOUR swing… That’s right, Junuh, settle yourself… Let’s go… Now is the time, Junuh…
* * * *

The movie is sort of about golf, but it’s mostly a movie about redemption and restoration. Being who I am, I’m pretty much a sucker for stories like that. In my case, I wish golf was an integral part of my recovery process. It might imply some sort of personal proficiency at the game. For that to be true, I most definitely would need a Bagger Vance in my back pocket.

If you didn’t read the book, Bagger Vance, and the story of his legend, are based on the Hindu epic and scriptural poem, the Bhagavad-Gita. In the epic, Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality who helps his follower, Arjuna, understand life.

In the movie, Bagger Vance is a caddy who appears in the middle of the night to help Rannulph Junuh find his golf swing again, right after Junuh agrees to play a golf tournament sponsored by his totally hot former girlfriend. And there was that whole World War I thing, too.

Before the war, Rannulph Junuh was a very good golfer living in Savannah, Georgia. He had a beautiful girlfriend, a life of privilege, and a future that could only be described as bright. After the war, he was a drunken gambler living on the fringes of society. He had no one in his life, and his future could only be described as bleak.

Bagger takes Mr Junuh under his wing for the price of five dollars, guaranteed, and what follows is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. For a caddy, Bagger rarely spoke about golf in golfing terms. He described the game in esoteric terms. “The rhythm of the game is just like the rhythm of life,” he says, and describes the game as one that “can’t be won, only played.”

For me, that is is an undisputed truth. For my dad, it would probably be the biggest crock of shit he’d ever heard. My dad played golf like he was landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Perhaps life was a battle for my dad. I don’t know if anything came easily to him. My dad became a very good golfer not by talent, but by determination, and a ridiculous amount of practice.

See? I told you we didn’t have much in common.

On the other hand, I’ve become the lackadaisical duffer that I am by not applying myself to master the game to any great degree, which I’m afraid is also the way I’ve lived most of my life. Almost everything I’ve ever done came easily to me. The biggest battles in my life were the ones I created.

When I first started playing golf, I was far more interested in keeping my beer cold on the course than I was in the game, and one of the most surreal experiences for me was golfing sober for the first time.

* * * *

Rannulph Junuh: I can win Adele… I can beat both of ’em… Look into my eyes and tell me what you see…
Adele Invergordon: Determination… Pure determination…
Rannulph Junuh: Panic, Adele… Pure panic… I’m eight strokes behind two of the greatest golfers in the sport, they’ve never blown a lead in their lives and I’m gonna win… Ya know why?
Adele Invergordon: Panic?
Rannulph Junuh: That’s right…

* * * *

I’m trying to think of one thing I did once I quit drinking that didn’t evoke a sense of panic inside me. I can’t think of any. Fear can certainly be a great motivator, but it’s hard to even breathe when you’re in panic mode.

Making any great change in your life can be a terrifying prospect, even if it’s a change for the better. And for many, the greatest hurdle to overcome is that fear, that overwhelming sense of panic you feel. Rebuilding your life requires a whole lots of hard work. It’s so much easier to maintain the status quo, however much it sucks, than it is to try something different.

* * * *

Bagger Vance: You wanna quit, Mr. Junuh? You know you can just go ahead and creep off somewhere, I’ll tell folk you took sick… Truth be told, ain’t nobody gonna really object… In fact, they’d probably be happy as bugs in a bake shop to see you pack up and go home…
Rannulph Junuh: You know I can’t quit.
Bagger Vance: I know… Just makin’ sure you know it too…

* * * *

Bagger Vance wasn’t around when I decided to quit drinking. Sobriety wasn’t an easy thing for me to achieve, and I had a major relapse just before I reached one year of sobriety. That had to have been one of the lowest points in my life, and that’s when I realized the full extent of what I was doing, and that it would be a lifelong task.

That’s when I had to make a decision. Was I going to see this through to the end, or would I quit trying and settle for a life I had nothing but loathing for.

Once I was able to see quitting wasn’t a viable option, my path suddenly became clear, and I felt at peace for possibly the first time in my life since I was seven years old.

I live an incredibly idyllic life now. I am truly at peace, and generally at one with the universe. I feel the rhythm of nature, and life, and I am content on level that I never would have dreamed was possible.

* * * *

Bagger Vance: Yep… Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing… Somethin’ we was born with… Somethin’ that’s ours and ours alone… Somethin’ that can’t be taught to ya or learned… Somethin’ that got to be remembered… Over time the world can rob us of that swing… It get buried inside us under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas… Some folk even forget what their swing was like…

Put your eyes on Bobby Jones… Look at his practice swing, almost like he’s searchin’ for something… Then he finds it… Watch how he settle hisself right into the middle of it, feel that focus… He got a lot of shots he could choose from… Duffs and tops and skulls, there’s only ONE shot that’s in perfect harmony with the field… One shot that’s his authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him… There’s a perfect shot out there tryin’ to find each and every one of us… All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us… Can’t see that flag as some dragon you got to slay… You got to look with soft eyes… See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the Earth, all come together… where everything that is, becomes one… You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands, don’t think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be… Now I can’t take you there Junuh… Just hopes I can help you find a way… Just you… that ball… that flag… and all you are…

* * * *

I’m not overly anxious about improving my golf skills. I figure I’ll get better if I play more often, and even if I don’t, it won’t be the end of the world. I’ll still love playing golf as much as I ever did. And the world will still be just as beautiful.

Perhaps it will happen this year. I’ll step up to my ball. The leaves in the trees will be dancing on the wind, and laughing​ in the sunshine. The birds will be singing, and then everything will grow quiet. And still.

I will see it, and know it, and there will be no mystery.

I will find my swing, and be the ball. And great things will happen.

I Don’t Want to Complain, But…

Just in cases you were wondering, I’m totally loving being a retired guy. I find it almost impossible to find anything about my life that isn’t great. My lovely supermodel wife and I have been trying to avoid using the P word.

Perfect.

It’s been our experience that saying stuff like that will inevitably incur the wrath of the gods, and then things won’t be perfect anymore.

I’ve been staying busy doing anything but writing for awhile. I built a golldarn thing that ended up being more of a really stout shelf than a golldarn thing. I still have the materials for a golldarn thing, and I may build one someday, but I have to replace my drill/power screwdriver first.

I’ve been doing a lots of small maintenance jobs around the house. I lavish attention on my plants on the patio. They’re looking good, and most of the plants we inherited from Planet Janet are looking better. The jade plants are even starting to look better, and they were in terrible shape when we moved in.

I bought a hammock for the frame that looks like unto a Viking longship, and I’ve been practicing getting in and out of it so I don’t look like a complete idiot on the offhand chance someone comes down to visit us.

And we bought a very darlingpreshadorbs table and chairs for the patio for the same reason. It’s a work of art. Seriously. The chairs are all signed by  the artist that painted them. I wonder if he’s a famous guy, like Van Gogh…  If we keep this up, we’re going to need a much bigger patio…

I’ve been practicing my golf swing. I’m going golfing for the first time in eight or nine years next Friday with Phyllis, Tom and Cheryl. I’ve never been a great golfer, so I don’t have to worry too much about sucking. That’s pretty much a given, and if I needed something to complain about, I’ll probably have it after about ten minutes of golf…

And even though I don’t have an actual story in mind, I decided it was time to write something, lest I forget how to do it altogether, and I end up with a permanent case of writer’s block.

I have no Muse for this story. It’s more of a status update on our lives than an actual story.

* * * *

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, we have had a few bumps in the road since we’ve moved to Mexico. Literally, and figuratively. Literally, the roads are nothing but bumps. The roads here were probably built during the time of the Roman Empire, using the same materials the Romans would’ve used.

The village of Ajijic has been here for about six hundred years. It has more history than any other place we’ve ever lived. There’s only one paved road in the Lakeside area, the carretera. It’s the major thoroughfare in the area. It’s a two lane highway that quickly becomes clogged with traffic during the weekend and any major holiday.

Take, for example, Easter. The village of Ajijic hosts a live Passion Play each year. Thousands of people come to see it. If you have no desire to fight the crowds, your best bet is to stay at home, which is what we did. Last week was pretty damn crazy/crowded here. It was worse than Snowbird season, and most of those people had just departed, returning to the Great White North for the summer.

If anything like unto a serious natural or unnatural disaster happens here, you’d better be the first person out of town, otherwise, you may as well stay home. You won’t be going anywhere…

Everyone complains about traffic, it’s an universal complaint, no matter where you live. So even if you don’t have anything else to complain about, you’ll always have that. Or the weather. Although the weather here is extremely hard to complain about. It’s, well, pretty much per–

It’s okay.

But some people have a deep and abiding love of complaining. Back when I was a nurse, I knew a lots of people that loved to bitch and moan, and not all of them were patients. Some of the nurses I knew seemingly thought it was part of their job description.

Even here, in Heaven on Earth, there are people who look for things to complain about. I think they go through withdrawal, and they’ll jump on the most insignificant thing they can find, simply because they don’t have anything else to complain about. Lea and I got to meet a couple of these types of people a few weeks ago, and the issue at hand was the placement of our satellite dish.

We subscribed to Shaw Direct when we moved here. There are no cable companies in the Lakeside area. I don’t know if there are any cable companies in all of Mexico. Shaw is a Canadian television company, so we get a lots of Canadian shows, plus a few American networks. I’ve learned a lots about Canadia in the last several months, eh.

Beauty.

And like unto everyone else that lives in our development, we had our satellite dish placed on our roof. I mean, it seemed like the best place to put it…

The guy that lives two houses west of us on the other side of the street filed a complaint with the owner of the house we’re renting about our dish, but he didn’t say anything about it until six months after we had it installed. Six fucking months! This guy told Planet Janet that our dish was obstructing his scenic view, and he wanted our dish moved.

There’s a backstory to this. Planet Janet and her husband, Don Padrino del Basura, used to live in Casa del Selva. (That’s the really cool name of our house. It means House of the Forest, or something like unto that.) About fifteen years ago, the guy that complained about our dish got into some sort of an argument with Don and Janet, and he hadn’t spoken to either of them since. Until we moved in and had a satellite dish placed on our roof.

I contacted the guy who installed our dish, Michael E. Merryman. He’s a darling man, and sur’n he’s Irish. He came over, and we went up on the roof to survey the scene, and scouted out possible placement options, and he said wherever we moved it on the roof, someone would be able to see it, and they might object to its new position.

Our satellite dish is about four feet in diameter. It’s a good sized dish, no doubt. However, I’m not sure how much of an obstruction it would’ve posed to the guy living two houses west of us. It would certainly impact the view of the people living directly behind us, but they didn’t have any complaints that I’m aware of.

Michael couldn’t believe this had actually become an issue, and why did it take six months for someone to complain about?!?

Yeah, that was a good question.

Michael asked me to call him once we figured out where we wanted to put it, and he’d send his crew out to move it. And he added that we should make the guy who complained pay for having it moved. See? I told you he was a darling man. And although I liked the idea of making the guy two doors down pay for moving our dish, we decided not to do that.

Planet Janet came over, and Lea and I went up on the roof with her to survey the scene.  We looked everything over, and started brainstorming possible options for a new place for our satellite dish.

Yes, it would be visible no matter where it was on the roof. Lea and Planet Janet thought a good place would be on the western wall of our house, or possibly the southwestern part of the wall, right above my bathroom window.

I made this observation: the only place we could put our dish that it wouldn’t obstruct anyone’s view was way down by the bodega on the western side of our backyard, just off of our terraced patio.

“Then it’ll obstruct our view.” Lea replied.

The guy who registered the complaint happened to be outside, so we invited him to come up on the roof and give us his opinion. He told me he wasn’t trying to create any problems. I told him it was a little late for that. From my point of view, if he really didn’t want to create any problems, all he had to do was keep his mouth shut. And just for the record, the complaining guy has two satellite dishes on the roof of his house.

Be that as it may, he was reasonably pleased with our possible solutions and said any of them would be fine with him.

When we finished our negotiations on the roof, I decided I better check with the guy who lives next to us to make sure he didn’t have any objections to our possible placement solutions. Having a satellite dish on our roof didn’t impact his view of the world in the least. However, if we moved it to the wall next to his house, it might, and I didn’t want to have to move it a third time.

It’s probably a good thing I decided to talk to my neighbor because he turned out to be an asshole, and he didn’t want our dish on a wall that faced his house, whether he could see it or not.

“It wasn’t here when we left for the summer, and no one told me it was going to be there when we got back.”

He actually said that. Like we were supposed to contact him in Canadia to get his permission to install our satellite dish. For a moment, I thought about killing him…

To wrap this story up, our neighbor was okay with placing our dish down by the bodega, and that’s where it sits now, hidden from the view of all of our neighbors. And there is peace in our development once more.

* * * *

There was one other less than perfect event, and concerned our kit-ten, Samantha. About nine days ago, Lea and Sam went outside in the early morning hours. It was still dark. Sam, being a cat, decided to go look for things to chase in the bushes. She used to be really good at chasing things, but it’s something she rarely does anymore now that she’s old. She’s something like unto eighty years old in human years.

On this morning, Sam encountered what Lea thinks was another cat, and there was muchos hissing and howling in the bushes. Whatever it was that Sam had encountered had fled by the time Lea ran down into the yard, and it took another forty minutes for Sam to calm down enough to let Lea examine her.

Sam was clearly in pain. She limped when she walked, and every movement she made was done at great cost. We decided to take our kit-ten to see the vet.

Good news, no major injuries were discovered, but Sam was clearly in a lots of pain. The vet gave Sam an injection of a low dose of morphine, and Sam looked a whole lots better by the time we got her home.

Bad news, morphine is a narcotic, and one of the side effects of morphine can be constipation. After three days of no cat poop in the litter box, we decided to take our kit-ten back to the vet.

It turns out that feline constipation is more prevalent of a problem than one might think. The vet gave Sam an enema. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. About an hour later, Sam pooped, and we took her home. She’s pretty much back to her old self again, and I doubt Lea will ever let her kit-ten explore the yard in the dark again.

* * * *

You may not know this about me, but I love music. I have a few hundred CD’s, and I downloaded a ton of songs onto our PC. And the only reason I ever got a smartphone was because you can download music onto it.

And it was easy to do. Just plug your phone into your computer, pick the songs you want to load and Click! It was so simple, even I could do it!

And then we moved to Mexico, and I had to buy a Mexican cellphone. My Mexican cellphone and my American computer wouldn’t interface, and I couldn’t directly download any of my music onto my new mobile device.

I had to set up a Music Manager application on my computer through my Google Play® account, and download every single song, all seven thousand of them. It took eight days.

As the songs downloaded to Google Play®, they were then wirelessly transferred to my Mexican cellphone. I’ve spent the last eight days going through the seemingly endless list of songs, deleting the songs I didn’t want on my phone, and keeping the roughly one thousand songs I wanted to keep on my playlist.

My lovely supermodel wife thinks I am totally insane.

She may be right about that.

However, I have a playlist that is pretty much perfect for my life, and I don’t care who knows it. If you ever have about eighty hours that aren’t scheduled with other things to do, you could come down and listen to it. But you’d probably hate it here.

You could lay in the hammock, in the equatorial sunshine, and try to not look like an idiot getting out of it. The weather is…okay…at best. There are only a few thousand amazing places to eat, and you wouldn’t believe the prices. You do have to pay cash for almost everything, so you’ll  have to adjust to carrying a lots of  Monopoly® money. The Mexican people are incredibly friendly and polite, and they don’t care how badly you butcher their language. They simply appreciate that you make the attempt to learn Espanish.

It’s a lots to get used to, and not everyone is up to the task.  But the roads and the traffic, that’ll be the last straw.

A Weekend in Wisconsin

It was probably the year after my mother-in-law died. Lea and I took a trip to Wisconsin in early Summer to spend the weekend with Bill and Leslie on their farm outside of Ettrick, WI.

Ettrick is about as rural as you can get in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin can get pretty darn rural, dontcha know. It’s part of the coulee country, a bunch of hills and valleys carved out of a huge plateau by a ga-jillion streams and rivers over a few centuries.

It’s a very scenic place to live and raise goats and stuff.

It wasn’t the first time we had visited the farm, but I think it was the first time Bill and Leslie took us on a tour of the area. We went to some of the Amish shops, and a few antique stores. And we went to the Furniture Bar. You could drink beer while you shopped for furniture.

I thought it was the coolest store, ever.

And it was the first time I ever went to an horse pulling contest. An horse pull is just what it sounds like. A team of horses is hitched to a dynamometer, and they pull it.

A dynamometer is a weighted sledge, and the weights are increased as the competition progresses. The team that pulls the most weight the farthest wins.

It’s kind of like unto a tractor pull, except it’s not as loud, and horses are used instead of tractors. I saw my first tractor pull in Wisconsin too, at the World Famous Blair Cheese Festival.

Possible Little Known Fact About Living in Rural Minnesota and Wisconsin: almost every small town in has a summer festival of some sort. It’s something to do instead of hang around with your livestock, and you get to drink a lots of beer. The suicide rate would probably skyrocket if not for the summer festivals.

I enjoyed the tractor pulls. I took a lots of pictures, and because I carried an expensive camera I was given access to places most spectators couldn’t go. If anyone asked, I told them I worked for National Geographic.

I loved the tractor pulls, but I loved the horse pull more. And the reason for that was mostly because of the announcer.

He was a guy in his sixties or seventies. He wore a pair of bib overalls, a flannel shirt and a John Deere cap. It’s too damn bad this isn’t an audioblog because it was his voice that made me fall in love with the announcer.

“Yah, how’re you guys doin’ out there! Yah, real good! Well, I’ll tell ya what, we got a real good show for ya here today. We got a bunch a good teams competin’, the sun is shinin’, we got a lots good food to eat. And is there beer here? Oh yah, we got cold beer, too!”

All of the competitors were local farmer guys, and the announcer guy knew each of them and their teams.

“Okay. Comin’ up first is Larry Jenson and his team of Belgians. Larry’s been workin’ his team for the last four years or so, ain’t that right, Larry? Yah, well, I guess I better go back to school then. It’s been seven years!

“Now, Larry won here last year, but he’s using a new horse this year. He had to put one of his team down, so we’ll see how the rookie does.”

Those horses are very well trained. They trot to the front of the sledge, back up, and once they’re hitched up, they pull for all they’re worth. And they are not cheap.

“That’s a good pull for Larry! Looks like the rookie’s gonna be okay, there! Okay. Comin’ up next is Willie Olson. I’ve known Willie since he was in high school. He married my niece, Karen. They got a real cute family now, and that team of Clydesdales is one of the prettiest teams in the county.

“Clydesdales are the Budweiser horses, and has anyone seen my beer? What? I drank it? Well, we’re gonna have to take a break here just as soon as Willie finishes his run.”

I can’t remember how many teams of horses competed that day, but they were all beautiful animals, and they all pulled for everything they were worth. Occasionally there was an error hitching the team to the dynamometer, and the driver (?) would be pulled from his seat on the dynamometer, and then they had to be stopped and rehitched.

“Whoa, there, fellas! Looks like one of those premature exclamations or somethin’!  Okay, let’s give ‘er another try there boys!”

In between pulls, the announcer guy would talk about anything that popped into his head.

“Hey! Did anyone find my beer out there? Oh yah! Thanks a whole bunch there, Vince. About time you bought me a beer!”

And he encouraged people to try the food.

“Yah, is anyone gettin’ hungry? The women from the Rotary Club were up fryin’ chicken all night! I’ll tell ya what, that’s the best damn chicken I’ve had in my life! What do we got to go with the chicken? There’s potato salad. And do they have baked beans this year. Yah, a course they do! And there’s bread and butter. And pickles! And is there anythin’ ta drink? Oh, for the love of the Packers, yah, we got more beer!”

I hadn’t quit drinking yet, so I was happy to hear there was more beer. And he was right about the chicken. That was very tasty.

“Okay, whose up next? Dave Wilson! Hey, Dave! How’s your wife and my kids doin’? What’s that? You know I’m deaf in one ear and I don’t hear so good with the other!”

I shot three or four rolls of film that day. Lea and I talk about looking through the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years. I have them in a cedar chest that weighs about half a ton. If we ever get around to doing that, I’ll post some pictures on my Facebook page.

“And here we are, ladies and gentlemans, the last competitor of the day, Frank Gilbertson. I can’t tell ya how many times I’ve been at Frank and Irene’s house. Irene is one heckuva cook, and no one can dance a polka like Irene!

“Frank has a pair of Percherons, you don’t see a lots of them so much no more. Okay, Frank! Take us home!”

I couldn’t say who won the horse pull. But it was a weekend I’ll never forget, mostly because of the announcer guy.

He was the best part of that weekend. Even better than the Furniture Bar.

Yet Another Brief Treatise on God

I’ve mentioned before that I think about God a lots. God has my Muse by the you know what’s today, so today my Muse must be Polyhymnia.

I’m sure I contemplate God for many reasons, but I think my brother-in-law, Bill Pfaff, summed it up best when he said, I think it’s part of our DNA to seek God. I don’t know if that’s true for all us or not, but it’s true for me. I’m sure most of my Christian friends would say it’s also true for them.

I don’t know if they ponder the nature of just who and what God really is a deeply as I do. They are people of much greater faith than I. They probably don’t have as many questions a I do, and if they do, they probably don’t have the same exigent need for answers that I have.

God said a lots about Himself in the Bible, and that’s a good thing. He isn’t likely to answer any of my questions Himself these days. So, let’s take a look at what He had to say.

* * * *

God is a spirit. Or, God is Spirit. That’s what John writes in his Gospel. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma. It can also mean breath or wind. Wind is one of the forces of nature, much like God Himself. And like unto the wind, much of what God does isn’t visible to the human eye.

When most people think of God, they don’t imagine Him as a roiling ball of air. I don’t. I am created in the image of God, and I don’t look like a roiling ball of air. Most of the time. And I probably haven’t looked like that since I was in my twenties. So, my God has to have a body, though I imagine He’s quite a bit taller than me.

Whether God is a spirit or not, He is certainly the source of Spirit. This is supposed to be a brief treatise, so I’m going to simply define spirit as all those things that aren’t of the flesh. In other words, things not of this world. More on that later…

God also says He’s one of a kind. I am God, and there is none like me. I don’t dispute the uniqueness of God. Just what God means by this has been speculated about endlessly by a lots of really smart people for centuries. I’ve certainly never seen or heard of anything else like unto Him. And I think of Him in masculine terms because that’s how He describes Himself.

God also says He has no beginning, nor will He have an end. The only way that statement could be true is if both parts of it were true. Anything that has a beginning has to have an end.

I can’t imagine anything that doesn’t have a beginning. I’ve tried. The only thing I can come up with is God somehow existed before Time started being measured, and that’s the only way His statement could be even obliquely true. If I were to ask a theoretical physicist if someone could actually exist outside of the TimeSpace continuum, I’d probably give him or her a stroke or two.

But mostly what I think is this: even God had to have a beginning.

My pastor friends used to say something like unto this: God doesn’t need anything from us! And as you might expect, I had a response to that. Then why are we here?

I think God actually does need something from us, and I think it has something to do with that whole has no end thing. Form always follows function. So, how does our form relate to God’s purpose, and the functions God will require of us.

If you’ve never thought of that before, maybe it’s time…

* * * *

God is a space alien. While that might sound like the stupidest fucking thing you’ve ever heard, think about it this way: He’s not from around here, is He? And because God isn’t from Earth, by default, that makes Him an alien being of some sort.

And yes, I’ve watched several episodes of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel®. And I thought the same thing you did, especially about that guy with the wild hair. Those guys, are freakin’ nuts!

But once I came to the conclusion that God wasn’t what most Christians thought he was, that only left were all the things they didn’t think. And because God is essentially is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, well, pretty much anything goes.

I suppose it’s possible God that flies around in a ginormous spaceship called the Kingdom of Heaven, but I have no evidence to support this. However, if that turns out to be true, it wouldn’t surprise me much.

Remember the prophet Elijah? I’ve often wondered why God took him up to Heaven on a chariot of fire. Maybe it was because God needed to find out if an human being could live on his spaceship. And then He found out in order for a son of man to survive aboard the starship Kingdom of Heaven, God and man had to form a symbiotic relationship…

Well, I did do a lots of drugs back in the 70’s. And the 80’s.

God says He’s not human, so in that regard, God is totally alien to us. Perhaps He’s the last surviving member of His kind, a race of God-beings that inexplicably disappeared. Maybe they destroyed themselves, somehow, and that would actually explain a lots.

God seems to know a lots about warfare, among other things. It’s been my experience that waging war is a skill that has to be learned. I didn’t know squat about it before I joined the Army. Waging peace is relatively easy compared to waging war. All you have to do to wage peace is respect others and leave them the fuck alone.

And I can’t believe God just knows stuff. He probably had to gain His knowledge the same way anyone else does. He had to learn it, and He had to learn it somewhere.

There’s one other possibility: I’m essentially using a computerized device to write this treatise. I have access to a lots of information and knowledge, and I can download a couple buttloads of info onto my tablet. But the idea that God is nothing more than a computer is too crazy even for me to believe. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a few patients tell me God is a supercomputer…

And there’s this: while my Galaxy Note 2® might have access to a lots of information and knowledge, it contains no wisdom. And if God is nothing else, He certainly appears to be wise beyond our ability to measure.

* * * *

God has a Timeline. Everything that’s created has an expiration date. Milk. Medications. You. Me. The dinosaurs. This planet. Scientists have theorized that Earth will be destroyed in a couple of billion years, so go ahead and buy that pair of really cute shoes now.

I’m serious about the shoes. I’ve been married to a supermodel for almost three decades. I understand the importance of cute shoes.

Even God might have an expiration date. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, and there’s a lots of really smart people that have speculated on what he meant when he said that. Was he talking about Heaven, or the heavens, as in the sky?

I might have had a timeline or two in my life, but nothing as serious as God’s. Think about this way: Everything happens in Mark’s time, right? Isn’t that what everyone says? No, they don’t. Everything happens in God’s time. And God’s timing is always perfect.

As much as I’d like to argue that point, I can’t. In my own experience, I’ve had too many examples of the perfectness of God’s timing to be anything but humbled by it, and awed. He may not have answered my need as soon as I would’ve liked, but He has always been there for me.

God allegedly exists outside of Time, and therefore Space. How someone not constrained by the strictures of Time can have any respect for it is beyond me. And yet…

Here’s something to think about. God created everything, right? But suppose he wrote a code into everything He made that was activated at a specific point in time. Stars died, new elements were created. Planets were formed. Ecosystems were born. Living organisms appeared and evolved, and fourteen billion years later, humans arrived.

And somehow, we ended up being the pinnacle of God’s creative plan.

And because we’re so cool, God raised one of us up out of the desert and made him our King based on his perfect service. And that made it possible for at least some of us to join Him, somehow, some way, some day.

Regarding that day, Jesus said he didn’t know when it would happen, only the Father knew. It’s this statement that led me to believe Jesus wasn’t on board the good ship Kingdom of Heaven at the beginning of its voyage.

And the reason God alone knows this date is because of the code, the runes He wrote into the gutrock of the earth, that will be activated at the prescribed moment in God’s Timeline.

That clock is ticking. Someday, perhaps even in my lifetime, the alarm will go off, and then the world will run swiftly to great tidings.

And then, quite possibly, all hell will break loose on a level that has probably never been seen on this planet before.

Or not.

I’m not a prophet. Yet. I have no real idea what’s going to happen.

Into Darkness

I almost feel compelled to apologize for my last two posts. One of the people that reads my blog commented, Who the hell is your Muse?

I’m wondering that myself. I do know this much about her. She’s not from Mexico. And I know this because she doesn’t speak Spanish. If she could do that, she might come in handy some day.

When I first started writing my posts, they were cute, sometimes poignant, but mostly light-hearted and funny. I miss those days.

I think things started drifting in a new direction when I wrote about my stay in Dallas. And when I opened that door into darkness, a whole lots more darkness than I anticipated came flooding out.

I didn’t need to start writing about my heart of darkness to know it was there. But I don’t think even I knew just how deep, and dark, it was. You want to hear something funny? There are stories inside of me that make my last two posts look like a trip to Disneyland®.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I need to be inspired in order to write. It has to feel right to me, even when there’s nothing right about the subject at hand. And where I used to feel uplifted and energized by my posts, I sometimes feel like a dog that has been beat too much of late.

I couldn’t sleep for two of the last three nights. I spent most of this morning curled up in a ball on the couch, wondering what the fuck just happened.

My lovely supermodel wife is probably going to have me committed to the nearest psych facility if I keep this shit up, and if she doesn’t, our cat will.

The ultimate cause of this distressing situation isn’t the darkness inside me. It’s the bringing it out into the light, and assessing it honestly. I could write a whole lots of stories about opening up rescue shelters, getting kittens out of trees and putting band-aids on boo-boos, but none of it would be true, and as skilled and talented as I used to be at fabricating truth, that’s not what I am anymore.

And I guess that begs the question, Then what are you?

I’ll tell you what I am. I am scared. I am almost terrified at times. I am not what I thought I was, and I’m not sure what the hell I’m going to do about it. I am far more broken than even I suspected. I am far more vulnerable than I could ever feel comfortable being.

Perhaps this is what happens when you become too adept at managing your defense system. You move one piece that had been perfectly placed for decades, and the next thing you know, you’re being overrun and your back is to the river.

Everything happens for a reason. I’ve been telling myself that a lots. It’s not helping. If there’s a reason for this, I’d love to know what it is. Now. Not twenty years from now. Unfortunately, that isn’t something under my control.

I don’t have the energy to write a lots of stuff today. Nor do I have the desire. I just wanted to say this, and sleep. And hope for a better tomorrow.

A Few More…

Remember Muffy, the cute and adorable teenage farmer’s daughter?

She went to see her doctor for her first pelvic exam. She changed into an exam gown and laid on the exam table, and her legs were in the stirrups.

The doctor placed a speculum in her vagina, and she squirmed around a little in discomfort.

“You look a bit uncomfortable.” the doctor said. “Would you like something to numb that up?”

“Yes! That would be great!”

So the doctor puts his face in her crotch and says, “Num num num num num!” 😃

* * * *

A guy dies and goes to Heaven. There are two lines outside of the Pearly Gates. The sign above one line reads Men Who Were Henpecked While They Were Alive. The line below that sign was two or three miles long.

The other sign read Men Who Weren’t Henpecked While They Were Alive. There’s one guy standing under that sign.

St Peter is checking everyone in at the gates, and looks up to see this one guy standing in line all by himself.

“Excuse me,” St Peter said. “Why are you standing in that line?”

“My wife told me to.” 😅

* * * *

Three guys are killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve going home after the office Christmas party. St Peter meets them at the Pearly Gates.

“Welcome to Heaven, gentlemen. In order to get into Heaven tonight, you’re going to have to show me something that represents the Christmas season. It could be anything, but it has to have something to do with Christmas, okay?”

The first guy reached in his pockets, and pulled out a cigarette lighter. He lights it and said, “Christmas candle!”

“Well, it is Christmas…” St Peter said, and let him in.

The second guy reached into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys. He jingles the keys and said, “Christmas bell?”

“That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is Christmas…” St Peter said, and let him in.

The third reached into his pockets and pulled out a pair of women’s panties.

“Tell me, young man,” St Peter said. “How do those represent Christmas?”

“These? These are…Carol’s.” 😎

* * * *

Four nuns are killed in a car accident. St Peter meets them at the Pearly Gates, and says, “Welcome to Heaven! Now, before I can let you in, each of you have to answer a question. And the question is, When you were alive, did you ever touch a man’s penis?”

The first nun steps up and says, “Yes, I did. But only with my fingertips, and that’s all!”

“That’s okay, Sister.” St Peter says. “Just soak your fingers in the basin of holy water over there.”

The second nun steps up and says, “I touched a penis, too. But all I did was give my boyfriend a handjob, that’s all! And then I became a nun!”

“Oh, don’t worry, Sister. Go soak your hand in the holy water.”

St Peter looks up, and the last two nuns are punching each other and pushing each other trying to get to the front of the line.

“Hey! Hey there! What’s going on here?!?” St Peter shouts, and one of the nuns says, “You don’t expect me to gargle with that stuff after she sits in it, do you?” 😓

The Inconstant Gardener

I kind of grew up on a farm, my grandparents’ farm, just outside of Browerville, MN. It’s a small town on the prairie in Central Minnesota.

Tom Brady’s mother, Gaylynn Johnson, is from Browerville. My mom and Tom Brady’s mom were cousins. I think Tom Brady and I are also cousins, but we’ve never met.

Tom Brady’s grandfather, Gordon Johnson, used to be my dad’s barber. Yeah, it’s a small world.

Whenever we were living anywhere near Minnesota, my parents would drop me and some of my siblings off at our grandparents’ farm at the beginning of the summer, and pick us up when school started again. For the record, I have four brothers and three sisters. We were free labor in the fields for my grandparents.

Life on the farm was mostly carefree, I guess. There was a lots of stuff to do on the farm, and we were kids. We had a lots of unfocused energy. My grandfather supplied the focus we lacked. We did whatever he told us to do, for as long as he wanted us to do it.

Weed the garden. Pick raspberries. Pick pickles. Haul rocks. Pick more weeds. We worked from sunrise to sunset, then did it all again the next day.

The only real downside to life on the farm was my pedophile uncle. He liked young boys…

I stopped spending summers at the farm when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, but I would spend almost the rest of my life trying to make some sense out of what happened to me way back when, back when I was young.

* * * *

It would be many years before I attempted any gardening again, but I the year I worked as a surgical technician in Elbow Lake, I decided to plant some seeds.

Marijuana seeds.

I had saved the seeds from the best bags of weed I smoked for years, and I had collected a gallon sized zip lock bag of seeds. My brother and I raised homing pigeons back then, and homing pigeons do four things really well.

Fly, make babies, eat and poop. We would clean all the crap out of our loft about once a week and over the years we amassed a rather substantial pile of pigeon poop. It made great fertilizer.

In a flash of brilliance, I decided to throw a lots of my marijuana seeds onto the pile of pigeon poop, and in a matter of weeks, I was growing a crop of marijuana in my parents front yard.

I was living in Elbow Lake, right next to an abandoned chicken hatchery. Someone had planted a row of lilac bushes along the side of the hatchery, but there was about a three foot space between the building and the bushes. I tossed the rest of my marijuana seeds in that space, and started watering the lilacs.

In a matter of weeks, I had another garden.

My plants grew like weeds. They were six feet tall in no time. I trimmed and pruned them. I pulled all the male plants so the female plants would produce more resin and increase the potency of my pot crop.

It was really good, and I wouldn’t need to buy any weed for at least a year.

* * * *

I wouldn’t attempt any gardening again for several years, until I married my lovely supermodel wife. Lea loves flowers, but she doesn’t love gardening. And that’s how I became a gardener again.

I have trouble remembering how many gardens I created for Lea at our house in Minneapolis. Four? Five? Something like that. I didn’t know shit about flowers, but I would learn a lots. My teacher was our neighbor, Donna. She was a Master Gardener, and her yard looked like unto the Garden of Eden, only nicer.

Donna gave me a lots of advice. And plants. And more plants. My gardens could never match hers, but Lea loved them, and that was all that mattered.

I kind of miss the gardens sometimes, but not enough to want to go back to them. We have a garden here, too.

* * * *

We moved to Arizona in 2007. We bought our Dream House, and the interior was stunning. But the previous owners had spent next to nothing on the landscaping. It was as boring as a statistics class. I decided to surprise my lovely supermodel wife with new landscaping to give our Dream House a Dream Yard.

Now, this might give you some idea of how stupid I can be. I wanted a complete overhaul of my yard. And I was willing to shell out, say, about eight thousand dollars to accomplish it.

I think the landscape architect I contacted for an estimate is still laughing. We probably ended up spending three times that amount, but the end result was stunning.

Lea loved our backyard. So did I, for that matter. It became the serene retreat I had intended it to be, and it was one of the reasons we were able to sell our house as quickly as we did when we decided to retire to Mexico.

* * * *

Now that I’m a retired guy, I find I have a lots of time on my hands. I spend some of it writing this blog. And rewriting it. But that still leaves huge blocks of unscheduled time in which I have essentially nothing to do.

Our retirement home came equipped with a housekeeper and a couple of gardeners. I do get to spend a few hours a week staying out of their way so they can get their work done. Life probably couldn’t get much easier for me.

Until the day the War of the Marigolds started.

There are a lots of flowers down here in the Lakeside area. During one of our forays to the Lake Chapala Society, I collected about a dozen pods of marigold seeds. We have several potted plants on our backyard patio, and I thought a little splash of color would brighten things up a bit.

So I threw the marigold seeds in a few pots, and just like when I was a marijuana farmer, I had plants in about a week or so. And I was well pleased.

But then a strange thing happened. One of our gardeners, who, as near as I can tell, never bothers to actually pull any weeds in our gardens, decided to pull some of my marigold plants out of the pots on the patio.

I thought it was actually kind of funny because he didn’t pull any of the weeds growing in the pots, just my flowers. And he didn’t even pull all of my baby marigolds, only half of them. I mean, if he thought they were weeds, why not pull them all? So I talked to our jardinero, and asked him in my very bad Spanish to please not do that again.

He understood me, somehow, and I redispersed my baby plants, and all was good once more. However, we have two gardeners. A few days later, Jardinero Numero Dos, came through and for whatever reason decided to pull half my marigold plants, again. And he left all the weeds in the pots, too.

It wasn’t funny the second time.

So I met with the gal that runs our HOA, and this was the solution I came up with. I would assume complete and total responsibility for the plants on our patio and in the carport. And if our goddamn gardeners pulled one more of my marigolds, I would buy a shotgun and shoot them.

That is something my dad would’ve said, so life has come full circle for me. I have essentially become my father. I’m sure he’d get a kick out of that if he were still alive.

The marigolds are doing well now. Jardinero Numero Uno laughs and smiles and tries to teach me Spanish whenever I see him. He asks how we’re doing and takes care of the shrubs and the lawn.

Jardinero Numero Dos just about pisses his pants if he even sees me. I’m going to have to tell him I wasn’t really serious about shooting him.

Someday…

The Island of Misfit Toys

I’ve been doing some musing about Christmas lately. Back when I was a nurse, I worked almost every Christmas. In fact, this is only the third Christmas Lea and I have spent together without me working.

We still celebrated the holiday, but my schedule would almost always dictate the timing of anything we did.

I spent twenty-seven of the last twenty-nine Christmases hanging out with people in the hospital who had no place better to be, mostly because they were caught up in a cycle of gloom and doom, generally because of the choices they made. Like Jacob Marley, they were busy making the chains that bound them.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

I’m watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this Christmas morning. My favorite part of the show is The Island of Misfit Toys. It was where I worked. I thought it was an appropriate monicker, and certainly nicer than some of the other names given to psych units.

I didn’t look at myself as a misfit, even though I am perhaps the King of the Misfits. I’ve had trouble finding my place in the world most of my life. Feeling comfortable in my own skin was something I had never been able to do, until recently, and even that has been difficult of late given the problems I’ve had with my back and neck.

And I like Yukon Cornelius, too. It’s hard not to like him.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I have both been doing a lots of thinking about Christmases past this year. It’s our first Christmas in Mexico, the first Christmas of our retired lives. If we were isolated from our families when we lived in Arizona, well, this is taking that to a whole ‘nother level. If Christmas is meant to be spent with the people you love, then this Christmas has been bittersweet for both of us.

My family mostly lives in Minnesota. Both of our girls are up in the Great White North right now, spending Christmas with their Other Dad. Wait. Maybe that’s me. He’s their Real Dad. Either way, they’re about three thousand miles away.

And that’s probably been the toughest part of Christmas for us this year. I scroll through my Facebook page, and see all my friends’ posts with the tree and presents and family. And I am jealous.

You never miss something until its gone. I am relearning the truth of those words this year. And there are so many things, and so many people, that I am missing a lots this year.

When you’re young, you lack the capacity to see just how stupid you are. I took so many things for granted. When you’re young, you think nothing is ever going to change, and then life changes everything.

My mother died in 2007. Christmas was her favorite time of year. She decorated her house with enough lights and garland and trinkets to make Santa feel shamed. I used to look at spending the Christmas holiday with my parents as one of those odious and contemptible things I had to do. Like working for a living, and paying taxes.

I quit drinking the year before my mom died. I remember that first trip to my parents’ house to tell them. My dad offered me a beer when I walked in the house. I can still see the stunned look on his face when I told him I was an alcoholic, and I had quit drinking. Forever.

“I didn’t know you had a drinking problem!” he said.

My mother was sitting at the kitchen table next to my dad. She turned her eyes to the heavens and whispered, “Thank God!” She later told me it was the best Christmas present I could have ever gotten her.

Merry Christmas, Mom. It’s been ten years now. Sorry it took me so long to get my head out of my ass, and I’m really sorry for the shit I put you through.

* * * *

The Christmas holiday is celebrated very differently in Mexico than it is in the States. American Christmas has become a commercialized celebration of material excess. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday. None of these things existed in my youth, and they have become monsters.

American Christmas, sadly seems to have become more about the stuff than the substance. When saying, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays is an issue, there’s a problem.

No one camps out in front of the Walmart down here. There’s no such thing as Black Friday in the Lakeside area. Mexican Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Each neighborhood has a little posada. Two children are dressed up like Joseph and Mary, and they might be riding a burro. They go from house to house looking for a place to spend the night, and they’re turned away.

One house in the neighborhood is preselected as the party house. They welcome the weary travelers in, and it’s fiesta time! The parties last all night. There’s a lots of music, food and drink, and bonfires and fireworks.

Honestly, Lea and I wonder how any work ever gets done down here because there are something like seven hundred holidays in Mexico, and there are varying degrees of celebration that correspond with each of them.

But fireworks are seemingly mandatory for all of them.

Mexican fireworks aren’t the same as American fireworks, which are kind of pretty and spectacular. Mexicans are particularly fond of a kind of rocket called a cohetone. It’s essentially an half of stick of dynamite that shoots into the sky and explodes.

Loudly.

These incredibly loud fireworks are fired off almost every day of the year down here for seemingly any and every reason imaginable.

My first week in Mexico made me think I was back in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, and I have never been in Vietnam. I have kind of a bitch of a case of PTSD, and I am particularly sensitive to loud, unexpected noises. One of my neighbors is very fond of fireworks. I’ve been thinking about becoming an hitman again…

It was a very long night for the Mexican locals. The parties lasted all night. A veritable artillery explosion greeted the rising sun, and now it’s quiet. Christmas Day in Mexico is essentially a day of rest–all the Mexicans in this area have been celebrating their asses off for about the last two months–and eating leftovers. Small gifts are exchanged. It’s actually rather sweet and beautiful.

* * * *

As much as I miss my family, and especially my girls, I don’t want to give the impression Lea and I are sitting around the house contemplating suicide. Because we’re not.

We’ve made a few friends down here, thanks to Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis are best friends, and we retired in Ajijic because of her. I tell everyone we moved here to become Phyllistines, and it seems to be the truth.

Phyllis has been here several years. Actually, there’s a whole lots of Americans and Canadians living down here, and we’re getting to know some of them.

We went to Jim and Veronica’s house last night. They have an absolutely gorgeous home that should be declared a national treasure and an historical work of art. I almost feel like making the Sign of the Cross and genuflecting when I’m at their place.

They actually have an antique confessional in their living room. I thought about going in it once, but I haven’t been to confession in over forty years. I’m going to be in there for a long time. And it might burst into flames…

Today, we’re going to Casa del Castleman, the home of Al and Jane. They’re one of the couples we’ve met as Phyllistines. Jane and Lea seem to be cut from the same cloth, so Jane is an easy person for me to like.

Al seems to be kind of a character, so I’m sure I’ll like him a lots once we get to know each other better. Last night, Al probably had the quote of the evening.

“Grunge rock is the greatest music of all time.”

What do you expect? We’re old. And we mostly hate young people. I think the only grunge rock song I like is Come as You Are by Nivana.

I invited him to come over and listen to the Icelandic rap music my crazy neighbor plays. Al didn’t know that was a musical genre either.

“I think rap music is a bunch of people bitching about stuff.” Al said.

“Yeah, but when they do it in Icelandic, you’re not sure what they’re bitching about.” But it sounds kind of cool.

Well, it’s about time to go to today’s get-together. And I’ve been working on keeping my blogs short since I finished my Dallas series. More than anything else, I attribute that series to messing up my spine.

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

XOXO,

Mark

Kit-tens

We have a cat. My lovely supermodel wife calls her a kit-ten, which I think is so darlingpreshadorbs I can hardly stand it. Especially since our kit-ten is eighteen years old, and is about as far from being a kitten as a cat can be.

Her name is Samantha Rachel Markes-Covington Rowen. Yeah, I adopted the cat as my own, much like I adopted her original owner, Abigail Marjorie Markes-Covington. Actually, three of the last four cats living in our household were Abi’s cats.

Abi moved in with us when she turned eighteen, much like her older sister had. Gwen had just moved out of our house, making room for Abi’s arrival. Abi had two Himalayan cats at the time, Boots and Sheila, and she asked if she could bring her cats with her when she moved in.

I wasn’t a cat fan, but once I fell in love with Lea’s daughters, I’ve discovered the hardest thing for me to do was say No to them. For almost any reason. I could tell stories about how those girls have me wrapped around their fingers, but I won’t. I have to try preserve what little dignity I have.

So, Abi and her cats moved in with one proviso–the cats had to stay in the basement. I even built a cat barrier to keep them contained to the nether regions of the house. But they were cats, they jumped over it, and laughed at me. I can’t remember how long my edict lasted, save that it didn’t last long.

The cats roamed wherever they pleased. I did my best to herd them back into the basement when I found them brazenly strolling around upstairs, and at least they slept in the basement with Abi. I had to content myself with that pyrric victory.

Then Sheila became ill, and had to be put down, and we were down to one cat.

“I don’t think we should leave Boots in the basement.” my wife said to me one day. “She’s all alone, and I’m sure she misses her daughter.”

Boots had been Sheila’s mom.

I had never been married prior to marrying Lea, but one of the first things I learned as a married guy was it was futile to argue with my wife about almost anything. I don’t think I’ve ever won an argument with her, even when I knew I was right. By the time she got to her closing rebuttal, I was dead in the water.

I still don’t understand how she does that. I only know she does it, all the time. So, when she said she didn’t want any lonely cats in our house, I knew the best outcome I could hope for was a delaying action until I was overrun.

Boots was given total access to any part of the house she wanted to be in, including our bed. And Lea was so thrilled the first time Boots jumped onto our bed to sleep with her! Then this happened:

“Honey, could you get out of bed?”

“Why?”

“I have to go to the bathroom, and I don’t want to disturb the cat.”

That actually happened.

I didn’t argue. I got out of bed, and waited for my wife to return before I got back into bed. And that’s when I realized who the Boss was in my house, and it wasn’t me. The person that wore the pants in my house wasn’t a person, nor did she even wear pants.

Lea started feeding Boots tuna because she thought Boots was too skinny, and Boots was a cat. She loved tuna! I was glad Boots didn’t like lobster, or Lea would’ve started feeding her that.

Boots was an elderly cat when she moved in with us, and her health wasn’t the best. She eventually also had to be put down. It was a sad day for the two women living in my house.

But life goes on. I was perfectly content living without a cat. And Lea seemed to be okay with that arrangement, too. Then one day about six months after Boots had passed, Lea looked at me with a certain look in her eyes, and said,

“I want a kit-ten.”

And then Abi looked at me, and said, “I want one, too!”

And I knew I was doomed. There would be kit-tens.

* * * *

Lea wanted an Himalayan. She found a breeder and made arrangements to pick up Alison Marie, Ali, for short. Lea wanted an Ali cat.

Abi went to the Humane Society. She perused the glass display case that contained a pile of kittens, like a million kittens. At the very bottom of the pile, a small gray and white feline face made eye contact with Abi, and said, “Mew!”

And Abi’s heart melted. She named her kit-ten Samantha Rachel because, “…she kind of looks like a Rachel, but not a Rachel Rachel…” Or something along that line of logic.

Like mother, like daughter.

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Samantha and Alison when they really were kit-tens

I have to admit, Ali and Sam were as cute as, well, kittens. They were fluff balls of manic energy, and their antics were hilarious. The kittens were best buds, and life was good.

And then they grew up and became cats, and everything seemed to change.

Alison was a purebred Himalayan, born to be a queen. It was no longer seemly for her to be seen with the mixed breed street urchin that had been her childhood best friend. Sam was part domestic tabby, part Maine Coon cat.

And Ali let Sam know it.

Their personalities went through a profound change. When the doorbell rang, Ali would answer the door because why else would anyone come to our door, if not to see her? Sam would run and hide.

Ali made friends with our neighbors, and would go next door to hang out with Donna while she worked in her gardens. Sam would hide in the hostas I planted for Lea because Lea wanted gardens, but she didn’t want to actually do any gardening. Sam became an expert at playing hide and seek.

As long as Sam was content to let Ali rule the roost, everything was fine. And Sam seemed to be content with that arrangement most of the time. However, Sam seemed to crave affection far more than Ali did. Ali seemed content to be worshipped from afar, unless Sam received more affection than she did.

Poor Sam. She couldn’t win when it came to her stepsister, and then karma stepped in and evened the score. Alison got sick, and then she got really sick, and just like that, she was gone.

That was a sad day, even for me. I told Lea she could never tell anyone, but I cried when Alison died.

And just like that, Samantha became the only cat in our house.

* * * *

I’m sure cats are capable of feeling grief and loss. I doubt Sam had much reason to grieve Ali’s passing, but every now and then she will let loose an yowl that sounds like a howl of mourning. It’s possible she’s still grieving the loss of her childhood companion…

But beyond that, Sam doesn’t appear to miss Alison at all. And I can’t blame her for that. Sam eventually realized she no longer had to play specond fiddle to anyone, and she has become without a doubt, the coolest cat I’ve ever known.

When Abi decided it was time for her to leave the nest and make it on her own, she had to make a hard decision. As much as Lea and I had grown attached to Samantha, Abi was Sam’s mom.

“I have a favor to ask you.” Abi said to me one day. She had made her hard decision. “I think Sam would do better if she stayed here with you. Would you adopt my cat and take care of her for me?”

Like I would’ve been able to say no to her.

As it turned out, Abi should have told Samantha I was going to be her dad because Sam had already decided whom she was going to devote her affection upon. And it wasn’t me.

One of the traits of Maine Coon cats is they adopt one person, and they are completely devoted to that person. In Sam’s case, she decided to adopt Lea, and there was no question about where her loyalties lay.

As in most cases with my lovely supermodel wife, I became the guy that everyone remembers in association with her. Sam never viewed me as her dad. I was guy with the Nice Lady. My purpose was to clean out her litter box. I’m sure she appreciates that in her way, but she lives for Lea.

Sam learned to accept me as a Lea substitute whenever Lea had to travel for work. But she forgot all about me the moment Lea returned home. Sam would run to her the moment she walked in the door, and meow and prance and purr, and follow Lea around like a puppy. It was actually very cute.

Business travel is a thing of the past for Lea nowadays, so Sam doesn’t have to miss her person for more than an hour or two at the most. Sam doesn’t follow her like a puppy anymore. She’s an old cat, and spends most of the day sleeping on the couch next to Lea.

20161216_132949

I think I can count the number of times I’ve sat on my couch in Mexico on one hand. I no longer question my position in the hierarchy of my household. In fact, when we decided to retire this year, Lea decided she would fly to Mexico with Sam, first class, to decrease the amount of travel stress Sam would have to endure.

I agreed without an argument. Lea’s love of her kit-ten has infiltrated my psyche. Whatever Lea wants, as far as Sam is concerned, is fine by me.

I have grown accustomed to having a cat tell me what to do. Like, when to get up in the morning to feed her. And when to let her outside so she can explore the backyard. Or when she wants to lifted onto the couch. She can jump on it any time she wants, but it’s better when I place her there. Or when she wants more food. She used to tell me when to go to bed, but since she’s retired, she tends to sleep on the couch longer before she comes to bed. I even bought a set of pet stairs for her so she can get on the bed. She can’t jump that high anymore.

It really is hell getting old.

I hope Sam’s health will allow her hang around and tell me what to do for a couple more years. I’m going to miss her when she’s gone. And Lea will be devastated.

But maybe six months down the road after Sam’s gone, it’ll be my turn. I’m going to give my wife a certain look and say,

“I want a kit-ten.”

A Dark and Stormy Night

I had recently arrived at Fort Sill. It was January of 1975. I was getting to know the guys in the barracks, and what I was supposed to do as a serviceman in the US Army. Things were going well enough, I think.

I can’t remember what the occasion was for sure, I think someone was being discharged. I can’t remember the exact date, maybe late January, but there was a big party at one of the dentist’s houses. I didn’t know the doctor, but I somehow got invited to the celebration. I’m going to guess the party was planned for a Friday or Saturday night

As you have deduced from the title, it was raining that night. It wasn’t raining terribly hard, but it was steady, and it was January. It was a cold rain.

It was also the 1970’s. When we got all dressed up for the party, me and my new buddies were adorned in flowered shirts with exaggerated collars, plaid bell bottomed pants and platform shoes. We looked like we were going to a pimp convention.

I can’t remember how far we drove off base, but it was a ways. The party was okay, I guess. There were a lots of snacks and beer and other types of liquor.

Other than the guys at the barracks that I journeyed to the party with, I didn’t know anyone at the party, and I didn’t know any of the guys at the barracks very well. I mingled, I chatted, but mostly I drank. And I got drunk.

And then I started missing my girlfriend. Her name was Maureen, and she was my high school sweetheart. I had seen her twice since I had enlisted.

The first time was after I had completed Basic Training at Fort Ord, CA. The second time was after I had completed Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, TX.

I was totally in love with Maureen, and not being with her totally depressed me. I suddenly hated everyone at the party because none of them were Maureen. I grabbed my coat and stepped outside in the rain to get some fresh air.

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? Jenny had just visited, then disappeared. And for no particular reason, Forrest suddenly felt like running. That’s pretty much what happened to me, except I felt like walking back to the barracks, which was probably ten or fifteen miles away, easily.

No problem. I was young. I was in the best shape I had ever been in, and I was used to marching almost everywhere. So what if it was dark, I’d be able to see headlights easier. So what if it was raining. And cold. It’d clear my head, and my head needed clearing. I somehow figured out which direction Fort Sill was, and headed out.

Well, the rain and the cold didn’t do much to clear my head, even when the rain started pouring out of the sky. I started jogging, in platform dress shoes. And then I walked. I alternated between walking briskly and jogging, and I actually made pretty good time. If I wasn’t back on base after three hours, I was close. Once I got back on base, I’d be at the barracks in probably twenty or thirty minutes.

I’m pretty sure I had to enter the base through one of the two main gates, but I honestly don’t remember anything about this. I told you the rain and cold didn’t do anything to clear my head. But I do remember marching across the golf course, and that was good. The golf course was right by the hospital, and the hospital was maybe a mile from my barracks. I was almost there.

And then I encountered the drainage ditch.

For those of you that have never lived in Oklahoma, gentle rainfall is the exception, not the rule. Oklahoma is subject to monster thunderstorms–the sky opens up, and it rains like a bastard. The golf course at Fort Sill had been designed with a plan to move all that water, and by the time I approached the ditch, it looked like a raging river. I had no idea how deep the ditch was, but the water flowing in it was racing by at about two hundred miles an hour.

I looked around for a bridge or something, but couldn’t see one. Drops of water dripped off my glasses. I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. And now it was truly dark. There was no lighting on the golf course.

I stood on the bank of the ditch, trying to figure out how I was going to cross it. It wasn’t terribly wide, maybe five or six feet at the most. And that’s when I decided I could jump the ditch.

Probably.

I backed up about ten feet. I was going to sprint like a cheetah, and fly like an eagle over the racing water. I made my first step, and fell flat on my face.

Those platform shoes might’ve been great on the dance floor, but they were hell on a wet golf course. They provided no traction, and what I needed to cross this obstacle was speed.

I got up, and backed up, maybe fifty feet. I could gradually increase my speed that way, I figured, and when I reached the bank I’d hit be running as fast as I could, and jumping across the ditch would be a piece of cake.

Well, the first part of my plan worked perfectly. I gradually picked up speed, and then I was running like the wind. What I hadn’t considered was how waterlogged the ground was. When I planted my right foot to launch myself across the ditch, the bank crumbled under the pressure, and instead of flying over the water, I fell in it. Face first.

I’m not a strong swimmer. In fact, I can’t swim. Period. When you consider this factor into my decision, you can see how little walking and running in the rain had done to clear my head. And that goddamn ditch was deep. My feet couldn’t touch the bottom, and I was literally in way over my head. The current grabbed me, and away I went.

The current carried me swiftly. I was smart enough to not fight against the flow, but I probably drank my way across the stream as opposed to swimming, and I managed to reach the other side. I flung my arm over the bank, and grabbed something solid. And I did not let go. I’m not sure how far the current carried me, but it was probably the length of a football field.

Coughing, sputtering and retching, I hauled myself out of the water. I didn’t think I could get any wetter than I already was, but I was wrong. My coat was waterlogged, and it felt like it weighed about half a ton. I really couldn’t see my hand in front of my face now. I lost my glasses when I fell in the water. I tried to stand, and fell on my face once more.

My right ankle was screaming in pain.

This isn’t good, I thought. On the bright side, my head was finally starting to clear. I tried standing again, and crumpled to the ground in pain once more. Well, if I can’t walk, I’ll crawl, I thought.

That lasted maybe fifty feet. There was no way I could crawl all the way to my barracks. There was nothing else to do. I had to walk.

On the bright side, I was really drunk, so I was pretty well anesthetized against the pain, which was considerable. I had to limp along at a much slower pace. Jogging was totally out of the question. I eventually limped past the Emergency Entrance of the hospital, a place I’d be visiting soon, and probably an hour later or so, I limped into the barracks, where all my new buddies were anxiously waiting for me. It was probably 2:00 AM, maybe 3:00 AM. I had been missing for close to four, maybe five hours.

“Where the fuck have you been?  — We’ve been worried sick about you! — What the hell happened to you??”

I looked like I had drowned to death. Twice. I had a superficial cut on my face about two inches long that I sustained wrestling a river. And my right ankle was swollen to roughly the size of a monster grapefruit.

I offered up my senseless explanation, and told the guys about trying to jump the ditch on the golf course. My new buddies immediately drove me to the Emergency Room for treatment.

The ER doctor didn’t see the greenstick fracture of my right ankle, probably because of the swelling. He could see the soft tissue damage, and figured I had a really bad sprain.

I ran into Dan Franklin at the hospital a couple days later by accident. He saw me barely limping down the hallway and took a look at my ankle. He x-rayed my ankle a second time and saw the faint fracture, and made a splint that I wore for a couple weeks or so, and that’s how we became friends.

And I became a legend. My new buddies told my tale to everyone they knew, and pretty soon it seemed the whole base had heard about me. The FNG that walked halfway across Oklahoma in the pouring rain and swam a raging river with a broken ankle. All because he missed his girlfriend.

Well, there’s another story of my stupidity out of the way. Only another five thousand to go…

Dallas, Part III

Shorty and I made it back to the apartment safely. Michael and Hillary were kind of watching TV in the living room. They were basically asleep on the couch with the TV on. We woke them up enough to tell them about our dinner date with Jerry and his family, and our adventure getting out of Jerry’s housing development.

Shorty and I thought our story was way more humorous than Michael and Hillary did. They yawned a lots listening to our tale, and maybe mustered up enough energy to chuckle a couple times before they went to bed.

Hillary and Michael’s apartment was small. One bedroom, one bathroom. Both of those rooms were immediately off to the left as you walked in the front door. The living room was the largest room. If you walked straight through it, you ended up on the balcony. If you took a left about halfway through the living room, you ended up in the kitchen and the small dining room.

There was a good sized couch in a pastel floral print with a matching chair in the living room, a TV set was at the far end, near the sliding door to the balcony. A large glass top coffee table sat in the middle of the room. A pile of large tan square lounging pillows were stacked in the corner on the far side of the couch, as well as the sheets and blankets Shorty and I were using.

Shorty and I used the pillows as mattresses. There were six in total, he took three, I took three. We wrapped them in a sheet and covered up with a light blanket. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed I’d ever slept on, but it was far from the worst.

The most complicated part of our living arrangement was the bathroom. Being a high maintenance woman, Hillary took an incredible amount of time in the bathroom doing her hair and makeup. She liked to walk around her apartment in her very pretty bra and matching panties while she got ready in the morning.

Yeah, that part was hell. Michael repeatedly told her to at least put a robe on–she had half a dozen of them–but Hillary ignored him, bless her little pink heart. Now that I think about it, I don’t think either Shorty or I minded how much time she took to get ready in the morning…

I remember this part of our vacation in Texas as being idyllic. I remembered Jerry’s warning about Michael and Hillary, but it faded back in the recesses of my mind. Shorty had forgotten about it completely. If Shorty and I had wandered into a field of landmines, well, it was very hard for us to believe. Or comprehend.

Hillary and Michael went to work every day. Seeing how they worked in the same office complex, they rode together in the van, leaving us with Hillary’s car. Seeing how we were on vacation, Shorty and I spent a lots of time hanging out by the pool drinking beer and getting to know the very attractive single women living in the apartment complex.

I was seriously thinking about never leaving Texas. Why in hell would I want to return to Minnesota when I could have this? It’s not like I had anything in Minnesota I’d miss if I stayed. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a steady girlfriend. Dallas was looking awfully attractive to me.

We usually drove to Hillary’s office to have lunch with her and Randi. Martha and the redheaded hippie chick sometimes joined us, but mostly it was the four of us. Shorty and I were still head over heels in love with Martha, which irritated Hillary and Randi to no end.

I tried my best to spend every second I could with Martha. I was pretty sure she liked me, but chance and circumstance seemed to be conspiring against me. And so was Shorty, that bastard. He always seemed to get to her desk before I did. I ended up spending a lots of time with Randi.

And to be fair, I probably got the better end of that deal.

Randi was a year or two older than me. She was a single mother, her son was around two years old, and her life revolved around him. She was smart enough to not marry the guy that had knocked her up. I don’t think they had any kind of a relationship after the birth of their child. Randi lived with her parents. It wasn’t the best arrangement, but she didn’t have to pay for rent or daycare, and she knew her son was in good hands while she worked.

She saved most of the money she made. She had a plan. She wanted to go to college. She wanted to buy a house, and she wanted a better life for her son. There was more to Randi than met the eye.

The world of telephone sales was a mixed bag. The sales force made good money on their commissions, but they had to sell something in order to collect. Jerry paid them a minimal salary, but not enough to live on, and certainly not enough to afford any of the finer things in life. Like Quaaludes.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the drug, methaqualone is a sedative hypnotic soporific medication, used to help people suffering from insomnia. It’s a sleeping pill. And as far as pills go, it was huge!

Rorer Pharmaceuticals manufactured a white pill about the size of a quarter, and three times as thick. It was scored so it could easily be broken into four pieces, making it easier to swallow.

It didn’t take long before ‘ludes became one of the most highly abused drugs in history. It was allegedly the drug Bill Cosby allegedly used to allegedly drug his alleged victims before he allegedly raped them. And it also allegedly improved your sexual performance and pleasure.

Back in my pill popping days, I thought I had tried everything, but I had never tried Quaaludes until that trip to Dallas. And I didn’t care for them all that much. They were sleeping pills, and they put me to sleep. There’s nothing that impacts one’s ability to drink beer quite so much as being asleep.

However, if you don’t fall asleep after taking a Quaalude, you get higher than a kite. It loosens up your inhibitions and enables you to call people you’ve never met halfway across the country and sell them stuff they didn’t know they needed.

Jerry’s entire sales force was a bunch of Quaalude zombies.

* * * *

As great as hanging out by the pool with bikini babes was, and it was pretty great, man cannot live on bikinis alone. Not even me. Shorty and I got bored. We went to work with Michael a couple times, and helped him install carpeting. We did a tune up on Hillary’s car. We did laundry and cleaned the apartment. We even made dinner a couple times.

Our hosts were starting to fall in love with us.

I spent a fair amount of time keeping our hosts amused when they were around. I told jokes and funny stories from my time in the Army.

Shorty and I had wandered into a head shop one day and bought a small bottle of Giggle Juice, or something. It was like unto liquid nitrous oxide. You sniffed this stuff, and you giggled your ass off. I don’t care how bad your day was, a couple whiffs of that stuff was all you needed to make your world right again.

I had a Samsonite suitcase back then. My dad gave it to me when I graduated from high school. He told me, “Don’t be afraid to use it.”

Samsonite had an huge ad campaign back then depicting the reliability of their product. No matter how badly it was mistreated, their suitcase would remain closed. Well, I had an idea to check the veracity of their statements. I dropped my fully packed suitcase from the balcony to the ground, six floors below.

It stayed closed.

* * * *

Hillary took the first Friday we were in town off. We went to a park near the apartment and played Frisbee. And drank beer. And Hillary told us her life story.

The part that has the most significance in what would follow centers on her relationship with George. Hillary and George had dated for a long time, way back when they were still in Detroit. They were working for Jerry, and when he decided to relocate to Dallas, they went with him. Actually, most of Jerry’s employees made the move.

Detroit, it seems, was dying, and there was an epic migration of people moving to Texas or Florida in the late 1970’s to escape.

Hillary and George were living together in George’s apartment. They were planning on getting married and raising a family. And then they broke up. I can’t remember what caused that, but where there had once been love, now only bitterness and hatred remained.

There was also some dispute about possessions–she took some of his stuff, he kept some of hers–I think there was even a lawsuit. Over furniture! Each accused the other of theft, fraud and dishonesty. Then Hillary started dating Michael, and it got worse. Hillary and George got into a very ugly argument at work one day about a month before Shorty and I came down to visit–it was all fuckin’ George’s fault, of course–somehow Michael got involved, and it got even uglier.

The net result was this: Jerry created a position in his company for George, to keep him separated from Hillary. George filled a restraining order against Michael, essentially banning him from the office whenever George was there. And there was relative peace at Jerry’s company once more, except Hillary hated George even more because Jerry had removed George from the sales force, and his life was no longer dependent upon making commissions to survive.

“That fuckin’ bastard gets to sit in his office and stare out the window! He doesn’t do shit! And I have to bust my ass every day to afford this fucking dump!”

I guess George had a really big apartment, and it was beautiful.

There was another reason Hillary took the day off. I was leaving. My buddy, Raoul, was coming to town. He was picking me up and we were going to hang out at Fort Sill for the weekend with the few guys I still knew from my Army days.

Hillary was incredibly upset by this!

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me here all alone!”

“Michael and Shorty are still here. I’m hardly leaving you all alone.”

“Oh, I know that, but it won’t be the same. You know I love you, don’t you?”

I’m not sure what I was expecting her to say, but I know that wasn’t it. I think her revelation left me speechless. And one thought filled my mind: Why can’t you be Martha?

* * * *

Raoul arrived at Hillary’s apartment around one or two in the afternoon. He didn’t recognize me when he saw me. I introduced him to Shorty and Hillary. We drank a beer with a couple of the bikini babes by the pool. I packed a change of clothes,  my hygiene kit, and maybe an ounce of pot for the road.

We had smoked maybe an ounce of pot during the time we’d been in Dallas, maybe more, but there was still a whole lots of pot to be smoked.

That would not be the case when I returned two days later. Quite a few things would be different, and what happened to most of the marijuana I smuggled into Texas would end up being the least of my concerns.

Paperback Writer

When I started writing my Reflections posts on Facebook, many of the people that read them said, You should write a book!

My response was something like unto, Forgive them. They know not what they say.

Writing, like cunnilingus, is dark and lonely work. If you don’t believe me, try doing either one of them exclusively for a year or two. A writer spends hours, days, weeks and months doing nothing but writing. On the Fun Scale, it doesn’t even register.

For starters, no one writes everything perfectly the first time. I sure as hell don’t. I have to edit and rewrite almost everything I write, even grocery lists, and that includes these posts. When I was trying to become a published author, I spent eight to ten hours a day or more parked in front of my computer monitor almost every day for two years. My only companion was a glass and a bottle of scotch.

I’m probably not a very good writer. I doubt I could tell you the difference between an adverb and an adjective. I mix past, present and future tenses. I leave participles dangling all the time. The only reason I know what a conjunction is is because I watched Schoolhouse Rock when I was a kid. I wrote what popped into my creative mind, irregardless of its grammatical correctness. And yes, I know irregardless isn’t a real word.

I’ve written a book before. It was a monster; over 1500 pages. After a lots of discussion with other hopeful authors and people in the publishing business, I broke my magnum opus into three smaller books. If you’ve never heard of me, or any of my books, there’s a simple reason. None of them were ever published.

I titled my book Seven Trumpets. It was a fictional interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses, and the End of Times. And you have never seen a more pissed off person than I was when Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins came out with their Left Behind series.

still hate those two fucking fucks.

I wanted to be a rich and famous author back in the 1990’s. And a prophet–I really wanted to be a prophet, too. Granted, the publishing business has changed a lots since then, but what hasn’t. Would I have a better chance of successfully being published now?

Possibly. But the publishing business isn’t the only thing that’s changed since then. I no longer have the desire to be a rich. I no longer desire to be famous. Okay, I still want to be a prophet. That part hasn’t changed much.

And I still like writing–writing is a creative process, and I’m a fairly creative guy. But I have no desire to write another book. And that’s all because of the publishing process. Publishing is a business. Publishers aren’t interested in creativity. Publishers are interested in making money.

Back in the 1990’s, once you wrote something you wanted to see in your local bookstore, you needed a publisher. To procure a publisher, you wrote a query letter that briefly described your book and why it should be published, and sent it out to every publishing company you could find an address for. I’m going to take a wild guess here, but publishing companies probably received hundreds of query letters from guys and gals like me every day. I don’t know the statistics of novels published based on a query letter, but I’m going to take another guess here and say not very damn many.

There were actual published books that were little more than lists of publishing companies and their addresses, and you could find them in bookstores. Publishers probably loved them because potential authors bought them by the ton.

I know this because I bought a few/several of them. I wrote query letters by the dozen and mailed them out every week. And I received a lots of letters in return. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I saw my first response from a publishing company I had queried in my mailbox. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly open it. Good thing it wasn’t an engagement ring!

Alas, the first letter I received from a publishing company was a what authors referred to as a rejection letter. Come to think of it, the last letter I received was a rejection letter, as well as all the letters in between. I had a stack of them over a foot high.

I’m not the only author that has experienced this. Norman Vincent Peale received so many rejection letters he threw his manuscript in the garbage. His wife pulled it out of the trash and convinced him to try, one more time. You might have heard of his book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

Robert M. Pirsig received over one hundred rejection letters before his manuscript was published. Maybe you’ve heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you haven’t, read it. It’s one of my favorite books.

Rejection is part of the publishing process. My experience certainly wasn’t/isn’t/will be unique. As I was to learn from the mountain of rejection letters I received, publishing is a very subjective business, and just because Random House wasn’t interested in publishing my manuscript didn’t mean another company wouldn’t be. Good luck with your career…

After two years of writing, and editing, and rewriting almost every sentence I wrote, thanks in part to double vision from the scotch I was drinking. After another three years of writing query letters, and attending seminars on getting published, and making follow up calls to any publishing company that would talk to me, I finally decided I’d had enough and quit. I threw every copy of my manuscript I had in the garbage. I trashed every note of research I had done. Any scrap of paper even remotely related to my writing got tossed. Even my pile of rejection letters.

I have no desire to go back down that road again. I like to think that all of you who encouraged me to write a book did so because you enjoyed reading my stories, and I appreciate that more than I can say. A writer lives to have his or her work read. A comedian lives to make people laugh. I have at least two reasons to live right now. Writing a few humorous and perhaps poignant short stories every week has fit into my new lifestyle very well so far.

Lea would never tell me, but I think she was overjoyed when I finally gave up trying to be a rich and famous author. And a prophet, though I’m still holding on to the slight possibility it could still happen. I look upon it as my last chance at redemption and recompense. I’m sure I ignored my lovely wife terribly during my writing days. She was one of the few people that actually read my monster manuscript from start to finish, and I know I didn’t take anything that sounded like criticism or correction from her gracefully. I don’t know how she put up with me. I could be a real bastard to live with back then.

Thanks for not divorcing me, honey.

Mark and Don’s Excellent Adventure

My best friend when I was in nursing school was Don Nelson. We had both been in the Army, and we liked each other immediately when we met. We had similar interests. Don was a couple inches taller than me, stockier. The biggest difference between us was Don was married and had a kid or kids. His wife, Kelly, might have been pregnant when we met. At any rate, they would end up with two girls, Trista and Lindsey. We became such good friends I became Lindsey’s godfather.

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Don Nelson, RN

It was during our senior year of school that Don came up with the brilliant idea to go canoeing on the Little Elk River. As you can kind of tell from the map above, it’s a twelve minute drive from Randall to Little Falls on the highway. If you can see it, the Little Elk is the thin squiggly blue line to the right of the highway. Don figured it’d take three hours or so to canoe that distance on the river.

Don picked this place for a couple reasons. His parents, my parents and Kelly’s parents all lived in the Little Falls area. We could go up there for the weekend, see our parental units, and go canoeing. It was perfect. Except Kelly had no desire to go canoeing. She would visit her parents.

Seeing how we were going to be canoeing for a only a short amount of time, our provisions were minimal. One can of Coke. One pack of cigarettes. One lighter. That was all we took. We didn’t even have life jackets. It was probably 8:30 AM. We put the canoe in the water–Don was in the bow, I sat astern, and we were off. It was a warm, sunny day; the perfect day for an adventure like this.

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The Little Elk was peaceful, scenic and serene. It’s called the Little Elk for a reason. It’s not big, as in wide, big. It flows mostly narrowly through the woods and fields northwest of Little Falls. We floated with the current, lit up cigarettes, and reveled in the beauty all around us. And two things happened: Don’s lighter died, and I knocked over the can of Coke, which I had strategically placed by my feet on the canoe bottom. No big deal, we were only going to be on the water for three hours.

The fact that the Little Elk flows through the woods implies the presence of a lots of trees, and there were a lots of them–some of which had fallen, to become submerged or partially submerged logs. Some became bridges, spanning the banks of the Little Elk.

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We laughed as we ducked our heads to go under fallen trees, paddled to pick up speed to slide over others. Neither Don nor I were expert canoeists, but we merged our limited skills. We managed to navigate all the obstacles in front of us, and we were also fortunate. We were laughing and having a blast.

And then we hit something like unto this:

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We hit treefall hell. There were fallen trees everywhere; above the waterline, below the waterline, at the waterline, damming the flow of water. It was as if an army of amphetamine beavers had been unleashed in that area of the woods, and very quickly, our canoe trip was no longer fun.

It took a couple of hours, but we eventually got through the fallen tree obstacle course. It would’ve been a great time to celebrate with a cigarette, but we didn’t have a lighter that worked anymore. We did take a breather, and off in the distance we espied a barn. Rested up, we set out for it.

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We would see that barn for something like the next four hours.

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It would be close.

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Then far away.

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It was off to our left.

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Then off to our right.

Randall and Little Falls are about ten miles apart. Please refer to the map, if needed. It’s almost a straight line shot. However, the Little Elk River didn’t flow in a straight line. It twisted and turned, cutback and switched back in a curving mess for something like 500 miles in that ten mile distance. We were probably into our third hour on the river when Don started saying, “Right around the next bend, the Mississippi River!”

There were only two problems with this: One, the Mississippi River was never around the next bend. Two, Don wouldn’t stop saying it. Don is an unquenchable optimist. It’s one of the things I admire about him. But on this day, I seriously thought about smacking him in the head with my canoe paddle. Really hard.

We kept paddling toward the Phantom Barn. We called it that because it would take forever to reach it. Don decided we needed to try to outthink the river, so we tried portaging around some of the more obvious curves, to try to shorten our adventure. We would pull the canoe out of the river, carry it a short distance, put it back in the water again.

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There was only one problem. We had no idea if we were actually cutting any time off of our trip. So we decided to stay on the river. We knew it would eventually merge with the Mississippi, we simply had to endeavor to persevere.

The Phantom Barn was still visible, but now we were closing in on it. And then we saw the car.

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We wondered what the car was doing out there in the woods, all by itself. Perhaps it had run away from home. Maybe it was lost… Don wanted to go check it for matches or a lighter. While we were deliberating what to do, a very, very shapely leg appeared from the backseat, and draped itself across the front seat, then the car started rocking and shaking. And we knew why the car had been parked in the woods.

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A young couple had chosen it as their make out place, and they had clearly progressed beyond the hugging and kissing stage in their relationship. We watched them for a moment, standing in the canoe so we could get a better view. I wanted to see what was attached to that leg… Then we decided to move on.

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The Phantom Barn eventually disappeared from view. The Little Elk River continued on and on. And on. And then we hit another area of massive treefall. We were forced to portage. The banks of the river were quite high where we were stuck on the river; not the most advantageous place to disembark from a canoe.

Don was able to scramble up the bank. He then reached down for the bow of the canoe to pull it up to the top of the bank. Don was becoming frustrated. His three hour tour had become a six or seven hour nightmare tour from hell, complete with obstacle courses, and his goddamn lighter had died. He yanked the canoe in an upward direction with a lots of force, and something like unto this resulted:

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I was unceremoniously dumped into the river. I was fortunate in that I didn’t lose my glasses. The water wasn’t terribly cold, but I was now drenched, and I had no dry clothes to change into. We had no idea how much longer our canoeing adventure was going to last; the Little Elk was probably longer than the Nile–and the sun was starting to go down. We still had roughly three hours of sunlight and warmth, but we were canoeing through a forest of mature shade trees. It didn’t take long for me to start shivering, despite all the exercise I was getting.

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I’m going to say we canoed for another fours hours for sure. Maybe five. It was pitch dark when we finally reached the Mississippi. And windy. A strong headwind came up out of nowhere and blew in our faces. There would be no leisurely coasting into town to complete our trip. We had to paddle like hell to make any headway against the wind.

I think our canoe trip took twelve or thirteen hours, and I felt like I had died when it ended. Actually, I couldn’t feel anything. I was half frozen from being dumped in the Little Elk. My once soaking wet clothes were now merely damp, but I think I damn near died from hypothermia, despite paddling my ass off.

We eventually made it to Don’s car. We secured the canoe to it, and even more eventually we made it to Kelly’s parents’ house. Kelly thought we had spent the last ten hours in a bar, so she was furious when we finally pulled up in the driveway. She started tearing into Don and me for being lying bastards and getting drunk–

“Hey!” I said very loudly “Do I look like I’ve had any fucking fun today?”

And when Kelly saw how miserable we both were, she smiled.

Don and I never went canoeing again. Ever. I think once was enough for us–it certainly was for me. We did other stuff, and stayed close friends after nursing school.

Don and Kelly divorced. Don and Beth got married. They built a beautiful home on the Mississippi River. And they bought a huge pontoon. Lea and I cruised the river several times with Don and Beth. Good times.

But never in a canoe.