20/20 in 2020

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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It is a terrible way to die.

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

* * * *

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

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Maybe two dogs…

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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I was not prepared for the feline turf war that ensued

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

Mark’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize.

Creating unnecessary drama isn’t something I normally do. In all honesty, I have a deep-seated aversion to it. I was a pysch nurse. I saw enough of that crap to last me the rest of my life and half of my next life.

Normally, I would’ve kept any personal drama to myself. Well, I probably would’ve shared it with lovely supermodel wife. But this time I went outside of my usual boundaries. I did what any other person living in this day of social media frenzies would do. I shared it with the whole world. And it wasn’t just one overblown incident. There were two.

This is not to say that I have never been a drama queen with multiple pots boiling over. Every alcoholic has that skill listed on their resumé. The fact that this is something I’m no longer invested in makes me smile.

I have a need to explain some of what happened. So, without further ado, put on your hip waders and let’s jump into the swamp and get this over with.

* * * *

Drama #1: A Tale of Two Websites

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That is the famous opening line of the novel, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The two cities in question are London and Paris, before and during the French Revolution. It’s a good book. If you haven’t read it, you might want to check it out.

In my case, the two sites are WordPress and Facebook. I write all of my blogs on WordPress, then link them to my Facebook page. The reason for that is simple. Facebook wasn’t designed for bloggers.

Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with your family and friends online. WordPress is an open source website creation tool. It’s probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system in existence today.

In the past, all of my blog posts on WordPress were more or less automatically posted on to my Facebook page because you can share everything on WordPress with multiple sites, Facebook being only one of them. That was a good thing because something like 80% of the people who read my blog come from Facebook.

On August 1st, Facebook changed their policy regarding linking external sites to your profile page. Basically, you couldn’t do it anymore. I could create another Facebook page. That was the only way I could still post my blog installments to Facebook. It probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal to me if I wasn’t going to lose most of my audience.

Now, I could say I don’t really care if anyone reads my blog, but that would be a profound untruth. All artists want their work to be appreciated by others. If not, there wouldn’t be any reason to create anything.

My initial response to Facebook’s policy change was that I was 80% fucked. I’m not exactly skilled at a lots of computer stuff. I’m the opposite of a computer geek. I’m what most Help Desk Tech guys would call a moron.

What follows is a very condensed version of the events that occurred last Friday.

I stumbled through the easy to follow instructions and created a new Facebook page. Even I thought it seemed pretty simple, at first. Then everything I had done just disappeared, and I found myself back at the starting line again. When I stopped swearing at Mark Zuckerberg, I started all over, though I’m pretty sure I never actually stopped swearing.

When I finished, I announced the creation of new Facebook page on my old Facebook page, and I sent the link to my new page, out into the Cyberworld. I was seriously stunned by the response. I honestly had no idea so many of my friends read my blog.

I don’t get a lots of”Likes.” A few people might make a comment.  If neither of those options are employed, I wouldn’t know anyone had visited my site.

However, thank you, all of you. Your response touched me deeply.

It was somewhere around this point in time that I discovered I hadn’t created just one new Facebook page. I had created two of them.

Little Known Fact About The Facebook Pages I Had Just Created: there doesn’t appear to be any way to delete one of them. I mean, there probably is. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Thankfully, there was an option that allowed me to merge my pages.

That actually made me laugh because I’m apparently not the only moron who has made this mistake before and Facebook has had to take this into account.

When I merged my two new Facebook pages I discovered that I couldn’t merge them into the page I just created and announced to the Cyberworld. In addition, all of the content I had loaded onto my second new page had vanished.

It was right about this time that I wished I had never quit drinking.

I was a psych nurse. I’m a very patient man, with humans. Computers, on the other hand, can turn me into an axe murderer in about five seconds.

I suppose frustrated could describe my state of mind at about this point in time, but it doesn’t seem adequate. To make a long story, punctuated with a lots of profanity very short, I eventually created yet another new Facebook page then made yet another announcement to the Cyberworld, then I went to bed.

I’m reasonably confident this installment of my blog will automatically post to my new Facebook page. I really don’t want to contemplate any other outcome.

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Drama #2: My Idiot Brother

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The very next day, I had to Unfriend my brother from my Facebook page. I can’t say we were good friends. I’ve had problems being in the same room with him since 2007, and it’s only gotten worse with time.

I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities. I haven’t seen Our Idiot Brother. It’s probably very funny. Conversely, there’s nothing funny about my real life idiot brother. It’s not even a joke that he’s an idiot. It’s just a tragedy.

I’ve contemplated writing about my brother several times, but always found a way to write about anything else. Including nothing. That was a level of Hell I wasn’t willing to enter if there were any other options. I’m still not convinced this is a good idea, but I’m sure he’s saying a whole lots of outrageous things about me.

I want there to be a written rebuttal.

Little Known Fact About IQ Ratings: Way back in the day, Moron and Idiot were actual IQ classifications. According to a model designed by Albert Levine and Julius Marks, a moron had an IQ of 50 to 69. An idiot had an IQ of less than 20.

I have four brothers. John, Tom, Bruce and Bob. My brother in question is John. Like unto all brothers, we were fiercely competitive. Unlike all brothers, that competition became something of an obsession to John.

I wouldn’t discover this until years later, it was after John and I started writing to each other when he was in prison. I kept his letters for a long time, but only because I thought I might have to turn them over to the police one day. I decided to throw them all out when we moved to Mexico.

I could hold on to that poison for only so long.

* * * *

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I come from a long line of suicidal alcoholics. The successful people in my family are the ones who just kept drinking. Historically, we haven’t raised the bar of our expectations very high. But as far as I know, John is the only person in my family tree who has ever been in prison.

Several years ago, John decided to become a meth dealer, and because he wasn’t an especially organized person, he got busted with a shitload of meth one day in 2012. I think he was originally sentenced to twenty years. His sentence was reduced to ten years because, according to John, there were a lots of busted meth dealers, and there wasn’t enough room in prison for all of them. In fact, there were so many meth dealers that John was incarcerated for only three years before he was released.

Yeah, go figure on that.

As a psych nurse, I had counseled a lots of people who were meth addicts. In retrospect, those people at least claimed that they wanted help. I figured if nothing else, I could help my wayward brother find a better path to choose when he got out of the Big House. I wrote him a couple of encouraging letters. Maybe being the  Meth Lord of Morrison County wasn’t the best career move for him…

You might be able to imagine my surprise when John replied that he rather liked being a Meth Lord, but I doubt it. Being a Meth Lord was cool. John had money. He had friends. He had power. He had women lined up outside of his door who would do anything he asked. Anything.

Try not to figure on that one too much. Your brain might explode. Mine almost did.

How much money do you have in the bank? I asked. How many of your friends have come to visit you? How many women are lined up outside of your prison cell? 

They seemed like reasonable questions to me because I was certain the answer to all of those questions was None.

John didn’t think they were reasonable. I think in terms of the war of words that would follow, John fired the first shot. Neither was this our first battle. The real war between us started back 1979 or something.

It’s safe to say that our relationship deteriorated even more about this time. John said a lots of unkind things about me and my holier than thou attitude. I’m pretty sure I called him a Scum Lord. I know I called him quite a few things when I wrote to him after that. But I think I called him this more than anything else: sociopath.

I was a psych nurse. I knew a sociopath when I saw one. And I knew one other thing: there’s no cure for sociopathy.

I’ve met a lots of sociopathic people in my life. They are not nice people. I engaged with them because I had to, but there was one thing I never did with any of them. I never told any of them what I thought they were. It’s one of the things that tends to really piss them off. I will have to admit, by this time I was no longer trying to be therapeutic with my brother. I was trying to hit him with a baseball bat, hoping that I might accidentally get his head out of his ass in the process.

I thought John’s situation would, you know, make him see the error of his ways. I mean, he was in prison! How much lower did he have to go? Amazingly, John didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. He felt he was a victim of the system. And there was more.

Like me, John had been sexually abused by our uncle. Like me, John had chosen self-destructive coping skills. But if you ever want to break out of that cycle, you have to start seeing yourself as something other than a victim. You have to stop blaming someone else and take responsibility for your actions.

That’s what I had to do. I think most people in this kind of situation would agree it’s true. To the best of my knowledge, John hasn’t been able to do that. What I do know is that he told me how I was responsible for fucking up his life because I had an affair with his first wife.

I’ve done a lots of shitty things in my life, but that wasn’t one of them. I told him that. I have no idea why we kept writing to each other, except once we had started venting our hatred of each other we couldn’t stop. It’s like we were seven years old and in the backseat punching each other. And our dad wasn’t there to warn us to knock it off before he had to stop the car.

John wasn’t about to let the facts about anything confuse him. He started flinging accusations at me that I will never understand. His letters actually made me physically ill. I think the only thing he hasn’t accused me of doing is having sex with a goat. The kindest thing I can say is prison gave John’s imagination free rein, and he has a very twisted imagination. The worst thing I can say is my brother should never have been released from prison.

I don’t know if my brother has started using meth again since his release from the slammer, but I do know he’s been drinking, a lots. I’ve talked to him on the phone several times. He was drunk every time. I quit calling him.

By his own admission, he’s been in treatment at least twice since he’s regained his freedom. That’s what he told me, but I have to take into consideration that he could be lying about treatment. If he has entered a recovery program, it hasn’t taken root yet. Much like our present President, he doesn’t seem to know how to tell the truth.

The reason I decided to Unfriend my brother is he threatened to kill me. Again. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s done that.

I’m going to kill you if you ever have the guts to meet me in person, you fucking chickenshit! Have a good day. You’re my brother and I love you…

Yeah, go figure on that one, too.

To be certain, he’ll never get the opportunity to make good on his threat. There’s no way he can find me in Mexico. I’m not sure he’d actually do it if we ever ran into each other again, but I don’t trust him enough to ever want to take the chance.

Goodbye, brother. I hope you find your way. It’s been said that God loves all of His children. You’ve got that going for you if nothing else.

* * * *

In brighter news, we started looking for a new kit-ten or two. We’ve been to a couple of kit-ten rescue shelters. The kit-tens were cute, of course, but Lea didn’t feel she’d made a special connection with any of them. Apparently, that’s very important in the kit-ten choosing process.

And then Lea got these pictures from a fellow cat lover in the Lakeside Area today:

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They’re so cuuuute!!! They’re sisters. Lea fell in love at first sight. She’s going to meet them tomorrow, and she’s already given them names. Mika and Mollie. I think Lea has found her kit-tens.

* * * *

I, too, have fallen in love. I fell in love with our rental car while we were on vacation. It was an Audi Q7. And what made me fall in love with it was the stereo system. It’s the only reason I buy cars. I test drove the stereo of the Buick Enclave I bought in Arizona. Then I told the salesman to write it up.

“Don’t you want to take it for a test drive first?” he asked. Nope. I just wanted to listen to the stereo. I’ll take it.

It was the easiest sale of his life.

The Q7 is way more car than I’ll ever need here in Mexico. It’s the same size as my Enclave was–roughly the size of a small school bus. But Audi makes a Q5, a somewhat smaller version of the Q7.

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It’s so cuuuute!! And Audis are made in Mexico. I’ll wait a couple of years until I have to replace my Buick Encore. Our Q7 was white, but I kind of like the red model.

I look good in red.