Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Thursday, November 28, 2013

An Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Lactose Intolerant/Nut-Allergy-Aware, Traditional, Thanksgiving Day Dinner

An Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Lactose-Intolerant/ 
Nut-Allergy-Aware, Traditional, 
Thanksgiving Day Dinner

It’s just one Thursday each year towards the end of November, somehow selected long ago, when folks do nothing more than gather together to share company, dinner, dessert, libation and whatever floats your boat, as Papa used to say.  I like Thanksgiving Day more than any other holiday for that reason alone.  There are no gift lists, no romantic entanglements, no tributes to fallen heros, no fireworks, no religious responsibilities-just a meal.

On Fellowship Street Thanksgiving dinner meant turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, that wretched canned cranberry jelly, and lots of pies.  Papa used to make three or four different pies, always including minced meat pies, something I have never sampled outside of our home.

My job (as it was others’ job before me) was to dice the onions, peppers, celery, garlic, et al, for the stuffing.  Additionally, I chopped the turkey giblets that Papa also found essential for this dish.  He liberally applied the poultry seasoning and the black pepper.  Papa was a fan of a well-seasoned stuffing.

Today Annie and I will convene to Casey and Amber’s spot for a dinner which-except for the organic turkey from Mariposa’s-will come almost exclusively from HappyDay Farms.  The menu will include turkey, pulled pork (from the hog that was butchered last month) potatoes (which technically come from Irene’s organic farm) gravy, winter squash, various veggies, and an assortment of freshly prepared greens.  For dessert Annie has prepared pumpkin pies from the sugar pumpkins harvested recently, three different kinds of dinner rolls/muffins, and Amber is certain to have some of John’s wine, made locally here in Mendo County.  (OK, the gluten-free flours Annie uses are not produced on the farm…)

Yes, these days there is very little that closely resembles the traditional Thanksgiving meal from the past.  Annie made a vegan meatloaf last year so that everyone had a main entree.  We have only gluten-free food available, Annie had to make one pie without her almond crust, because of someone’s allergy to nuts, and she has to prepare dairy-free dessert for another, because of a lactose-intolerant issue.  It’s all on the agenda for a modern meal.  This is not political correctness-it’s looking after the comfort of one’s guests, and that’s still a top priority.

If there were stipulations attached to Thanksgiving Day, they would revolve around the dual concepts of appreciation for what we have, while acknowledging that there are many who do not have even the bare minimum.  But those who have nothing on a special holiday, also have nothing every day of the week.  I think it’s appropriate to share in the responsibility of this societal travesty on Thanksgiving Day, only if we also share in the responsibility of this travesty every other day of the year too.  

In any and all cases, I think folks should do what feels right, and right now, what feels right, is dinner.  After all, I-as much as anyone-have much to be thankful for and her name is Annie.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yes, Virginia, Men Can Clean Toilets

Because I am cleaning house today, I thought I would repost this from 2011.  Obviously, the more things change around here, the more they stay the same.

Yes, Virginia, Men Can Clean Toilets
Yes, Virginia, men can clean toilets.  Some of us have peculiar ways, out here in California.  Since I retired from teaching, five years ago, and excluding this most recent summer, I have maintained the household, endeavoring to keep ahead of the dust that descends upon us each day from Bell Springs Road.  I would think of it as the gift that keeps on giving, except when I try to exchange this “gift’ at Customer Service, they suggest I try elsewhere.
Ann has her long-arm quilting machine here at the house, so she is gainfully employed much of the time. I have my pension, but except for plunging back into the world of construction this past summer, for the first time in more than twenty years, I do not work outside our home.  Therefore, it seemed logical that Ann should not have to worry about house-cleaning.  
Having been raised in a household where the four oldest of us were boys, I learned at any early age, that washing dishes and floors, though not at the same time, was not women’s work.  It was work, pure and simple.  Mama used to give each of us a list each summer morning, with a number of tasks which might include cleaning one of the bathrooms, or washing the lunch dishes.  We learned at an early age that if you ate meals, then washing the dishes came with the territory.
If you watched television at any point in time, then vacuuming the living room seemed appropriate.  I tracked dirt into the house, either on my bare feet in the summer, or my shoes in the winter, so sweeping and washing the kitchen floor seemed the only logical course of action.  I never felt as though the chores were demeaning or unmanly (unboyly?).  That doesn’t mean I enjoyed the chores, it just means that I accepted it as a way of life.
Now, I keep the kitchen counters clean, the mechanics of the recycling, trash and compost coordinated, the floors swept and mopped, the bathrooms cleaned, and the clutter on the pool table kept to manageable levels.  I wash dishes, do laundry, clean toilets and feed the cats.  I vacuum, make the bed, empty the ashes from the wood stoves, and get up on a stool to clean the top of the refrigerator.  One of my son Ben’s favorite things to do, at six-two, is run his finger across the top of the ‘fridge, as though at the firehouse, conducting an inspection, and cluck disapprovingly.  If you have ever been “clucked” at, you know what I’m saying/talking about.
I hear all of the men out there muttering, “What do you want, a medal, or a chest to pin it on?” and I say, “Eat a root.”  I’m simply not a macho kind of guy.  Kat didn’t call me Pooh Bear, because I walk around flashing knife scars all over my face.  
OK, there was that incident last summer on the job site, when a one-inch piece of plywood, slipped innocuously into the side of my finger, and nestled there, rendering my finger incapable of bending by its very rigidity.  Was there a tweezers in the house?   Does the shoemaker’s kids wear shoes?
Luckily Casey, who was visibly distressed at my discomfort, had a spanking new razor blade from his pack of a hundred, and I was able to make that inch-long incision in the time that it would have taken to scream bloody murder.  Of course, I may have had to put squeezing out the mop temporarily aside, except that during the summer, I was lucky to be able to water the tomatoes upon my return home, let alone mop floors.
MY point is that washing toilets, is no more women’s work than men’s work, unless the men refrain from using the toilets.  [Be careful what you ask for.]  If someone wants to view my househusbandry, in any other way than an equal exchange of responsibilities, then I say, “Fine, I’ll leave the chain-sawing to you, and you leave the grout-cleaning to me," and I’ll get the better end of the deal, because we don’t got no grout. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lunchtime Dialogue

Lunchtime Dialogue
Annie and I did get caught up in that commute yesterday morning, on our way down to San Francisco, just after we had gotten through Rohnert Park, and I had sent Casey an email saying that it was smooth sailing.  You know how that goes; you hit the send button and look up to a kaleidoscopic light show, all those brilliant red brake lights, flashing on at once, the rain adding beauty and dimension to the scene.

Unfortunately though, after forty hours of prep work at home, seven-plus hours, round-trip in the truck, and three-plus hours in the VA facility itself, including actually having the inserted needle taped to the back of my hand for who-knows-how-long, I did not end up having a colonoscopy performed.

Dang!  Brake lights.  Well, it was inevitable, though I’m always glad to escape Santa Rosa without a battle.  I can’t believe I had to drink that 64 ounces of liquid this morning, between two-thirty and three, and I’m in a car heading for San Francisco.  Last evening's 64 ounces, which I drank between 5 and 6:30 was challenging enough, but at least I was not going anywhere, certainly not to sleep.  So far-so good...

We had given careful thought to when we would depart, and had decided that five-thirty was about right.  I had been up since 2:25, after having lain awake from eight onward, with a brief half-hour nap around 11:30. And Annie had awakened before our agreed-upon-time of 4:30, so we actually got out the door about 5:15.

  This is so excellent.  I don’t mind getting there early, because it’s better than stressing out that we would be late, if we cut it too short.  Besides, you never know; maybe I can get in earlier than my appointed 9:30 arrival.  That’s called looking at the bright side.

I was told to be there at nine-thirty, so they could prep me, and we actually ended up walking in the door at 8:30, a full hour early.  We congratulated ourselves on our successful plan, as I moseyed up to the window to check in.  There were two older gentlemen in the waiting room of twelve chairs and two women, all four seemingly unattached to any of the others.  The two women seemed in that waiting mode, their husbands already in the “chamber,” their minds occupied with some form of reading.  The two guys seemed up to be the next entries into the office.

OK, only two in front of me...I should be in right on schedule.  I knew I could do this.  After the last time, when I was such a whiny little such-and-such, I have to show Annie that I’m over it.  

I had my appointment paper in my hand, along with my VA identification card, as I approached the window.  A heavyset woman was sprawled out on the desk beneath the window, a telephone in one hand, and a piece of paper in the other.  When I say sprawled out,  I mean she had the chair pushed away from the desk, while she leaned heavily forward, her head supported by the same hand which handled the phone, the inevitable elbow anchoring the whole shebang to the table.  Never mind she was not the most attractive sight-she just looked so unprofessional, like a high school girl answering the phones  in the office as a work aide.

The woman never said a word to me as she took my appointment paper and my VA ID, put them in front of her, and thrust a single piece of paper at me with a pen.  When I saw that it was a request for the name and phone number of the person who was going to take you home, I leaned in to ask if this was necessary, if said person was never going to leave the waiting room.  I couldn’t penetrate the telephone, as she simply made a gesture to fill out the paper.  I did so.

This gal at the window-I’m going to call her Dora-does not look that interested in her job.  I should have given her my most radiant smile.  That always seems to do the trick.  I’d have liked to ask her several questions, but she doesn’t seem too receptive.  Maybe I’ll just chill on the Group W bench for a spell, and read some Robert B. Parker, and kind of get a feel for what’s up.

Handing Dora the paper, I returned to my seat, consulted momentarily with Annie, and commenced to read out of Double Deuce.

“Vinnie Morris opened the door on the passenger side and got in... 'I been looking for you,' he said. ‘You alone?’ I asked... 'Yeah...'  I didn't double-check him in the rearview mirror.  Vinnie would kill you, but he wouldn't lie to you."
I read on, for the better part of an hour, still patting myself on the back for a job well done, as I waited for my name to be called out.

Actually, during the hour we sat there, nothing happened.  The same two women waited; the two dudes also.  No one else entered the room.  It occurred to me that I had never asked Dora about a time frame.  I stood and stepped past one chair to the window and waited politely.  When she paused in her phone conversation (I have no idea what the phone calls were about-whether work or otherwise) to inquire what I needed, I asked her what the time frame looked like.  “What is your name, Sir?”  I gave it.  She found my blue folder and set it aside on the counter to her right.  I took due note of it.  “Shortly,” was her succinct response.  I returned to my seat.

How come Dora has yet to refer to some sort of printout, indicating individual names and times?  I see there are other folders on the side counter.  Oh well.  She must know what she’s doing.   When this is over, I’m going to spend an hour just deciding where to eat.  Been over forty hours...

Imagine my surprise when only a minute later, a door opened with a thunderous crash and a name rang out and one of the lucky fellows in the room staggered to his feet and followed the technician into the back, as the door thundered shut.  I was to learn how important an occasion it was-if somewhat rare-to hear that door open.  And then, just like that, another crash, that voice again, another name, and the second of the two men managed to gain his feet, and amble off after that same technician.  Progress!

And then there was one.  This should mean that I am next.  I can see my folder from right here, hanging out on that counter.  This is going perfectly.  After lunch I am going to take a well-earned snooze, heading back up to Mendo County.

The price of poker was going up.  With my nine-thirty appointed time now in the rear-view mirror, I was still optimistic that I was on course, since I figured I was next.  I continued to read my book.  At 10:00, now thirty minutes past my appointed time, I went up to the window to check in with Dora.  I smiled my most engaging smile, figuring I would give that a try.  She looked at me as though she had never seen me.  “Can I help you, Sir?”  My smile faltered in mid-stride.  “Oh, just checking that old time frame.”  “What is your name, Sir?”  I gave her my name for the third time.  

She hollered for the technician again, and when they conferred, the woman came through the crash-door again and beckoned to me.  SHe told me she thought another thirty minutes.  Fine, whatever.  Just so I have an idea.  An older gentleman entered the waiting room, perched in front of the window, conducted business with the surprisingly telephone-free Dora, and asked the key question, “What’s my time-frame here?”  She responded, “Just a short wait.”

Hey, sounds good to me.  We must be rolling into action now.  I can still see that blue folder of mine, though there are others also.  Dora just set that new guy’s down in the middle of the counter.  We’ll just be after keeping an eye on that there folder, as it relates to mine.

When I conferred with Annie, she just told me I was doing great, and to hang in there for a few more minutes.  I waited.  Just then a very tall gentleman and his wife came in, he placing a bag on the chair adjacent to me, right next to the window, while he began to rummage through his pockets, and deposit things into the bag.  He checked in with Dora, conferred with his wife, and went over to check out the magazine rack for something to read.  

That magic door thundered open and a voice rang out with a name, but it wasn’t mine.  It was the gentleman who had come in just before this most recent man and his wife.

What the hell is going on?  That dude hasn’t been here for more than ten minutes, and his name is called? WTF?  

I sky-rocketed to full alarm mode.  The door crashed open again, and another name rang out, and the gentleman still perusing the magazine rack was through the door, before I could so much as sputter.  I had been very quiet and docile up until this point, but when I stood up at the window again, Dora knew that something was amiss.  “Hey, what’s going on?”  My voice was calm, but my face ratted me out.  “Why did the two guys who just came in get called?  I’ve been here two hours now!”  I mean, I know that one of those hours was technically a freebie, but since they were obviously going by first come-first served, I felt double crossed. 

Somehow Dora noted the loss my inner tranquility, my good attitude having now fled the building.  She looked back behind the counter, and shouted out to the medical technician to come up front.  Dora gestured at me, and told the tech that I wanted to know how long.  “What was your name again?” Dora asked me.  Sigh.  For the fourth time I furnished her that information.  She’d only come into contact with a handful of names in the past two hours, but it still seemed a struggle for her to hang onto mine.  The other gal left to seek information.

Is this place mad?  I can’t wait here another hour, before I even get prepped!  I’m keeping it together, but this is making me lose it.  

Returning to the front of the office, the tech person conferred with Dora, looked at my folder, thumbed through it, and departed.  The receptionist came back to me, and said there was a mixup, and that they were trying to find out what was happening.  I waited, actually leaving the immediate waiting room, and going around the counter into the hall, where I could still see what was going on, but would no longer be able to provide entertainment to the rest of the waiting room.  I sank to the floor, my back against the wall, and proceeded to melt down.  Annie stood beside me, her hand resting on my head.  

When the tech person came back a second time, there was another medical tech with her and she asked me to follow her.

Is it possible?  Someone actually has some authority here?

“I’m sorry, Sir.  The mistake is mine.  You got skipped.  I’m very, very sorry.”  I feel bad to this minute, but I gave this poor woman a venomous look, and continued my downward spiral.  

Get a grip, Dude.  You have got calm down.  I can’t do this.  You have to do this.  Do I?  Do I?

“So what happens now?”  I fired at her.  “We’ll get you prepped.  Then your turn will come.”  She took me into a room, long enough to accommodate probably eight bed spaces which could be curtained off, for privacy.  I was issued a bedraggled gown, and the curtain was pulled around me.  I waited.  After several hours, or so it seemed, I started to make disenchanted noises, and the rest is history. 

Honestly, I’m fuzzy on the details from here on.  A man came at one point, in response to my clamor, and brusquely inserted the needle for the sedation.  He asked me the perfunctory questions and left.  I waited. At one point I got up and was standing with my back to the curtain, my buttocks clearly exposed inside my little space, when the curtain was abruptly pulled aside.  Spinning around, I was flummoxed to find a half-dozen people gathered around, just outside the large room, the door to the hallway being wide open.  

How nice for all those lucky people in the hallway.  A show!  How nice for me.

Hey, under different circumstances, I might have thought it was funny.  I’m sure no one was particularly interested in my buttocks.  I just felt the lack of professionalism, not to mention compassion, acutely.  I actually had to ask the person who had opened the curtain, if it could be pulled back so that the people in the hallway could not see me.  When he tried to accomplish this, the curtain got stuck.  In his efforts to get the job done, he drew the attention-once again-of the folks in the hallway.

You can do thisCan I?  That ain’t the question.  The question is, Why would I want to?  I can just take this needle out, and hit the road.  Bad decision!  Work on it.  Lie back down, Dude.  Use your tools.  What about Annie?  What about all the work?  Stop and think.

Didn’t work this time.  Nothing worked.  No one cared.  People passed back and forth.  I despaired.  I got dressed.  I removed the tape. I took out the needle.  I tried to remove the wrist band.  It resisted.

One of the medical techs finally noticed what I was trying to do.  She came quickly to my side, saying, “Wait, a minute, Sir.  Let me get a scissors.”  I continued to tear at the wrist band, flecks of blood from the needle opening splashing on the wrist with the band.  “Sir!  You are scratching yourself!”  She was there a second later, and paused in my frantic efforts, long enough for her to snip it off.  I walked out the same door where those folks had been gathered, oblivious to anyone and everyone in the arena.  Something for them to discuss later.  Lunchtime dialogue.  Or not.  No one seemed to much care.

That’s about it.  I am at fault as much as anyone.  As I said later to Annie in a calmer moment, “I tend to forget that I have a mood spectrum disorder, which I keep in check 99% of the time.  This was just a “safe” way to allow that disorder to manifest itself.  Who knows what that means?”

However, I also hold those in that circus of a medical arena accountable.  Dora?  Hopelessly unwilling to surface long enough to oversee the one element for which she was responsible: those in the waiting room.  The only person with any integrity was the gal who admitted it was her fault that I got skipped.  I saw one doctor, one time, as he escorted a patient out of the inner sanctum.  

My enthusiasm for the VA has been hammered.  I am deeply distressed over the entire incident and wish there was a way to turn back the clock.  All the way back to when Dr. Mulligan reminded me that it was time for this procedure.  Had I to do it over again, I would have smiled sweetly and said, “No thank you.”  Compassion is a precious commodity, especially in a ward where the patients-all of them-have been starved for forty plus hours, not to mention minor details like no coffee.

The reality is, this department of the VA Hospital is run as though one of two principles applies:  Either the people who run this facility are inept, or they are callous.  Neither one speaks well for the facility.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pause for the Cause

Pause for the Cause

At last the pace is beginning to slacken, so that I can squeeze a few minutes in to write a few words, a pause for the cause if you’d prefer.  Annie and I returned a few days ago from the follow-up, full body-scan, to determine if the radiation treatment had successfully eradicated the remainder of the thyroid cancer cells.  

There was a somewhat suspicious conference, as the test technician called in another specialist for a consultation while examining Annie’s results, but as I said to Annie, clarifying questions need not be undue cause for alarm.  Annie has since received a copy of the results herself, and will soon be able to consult with her doctor, to find out the definitive results-or as certain as is possible in these instances.

We are very much looking forward to Thanksgiving Day, at Casey and Amber’s this year, an auspicious venue if ever there was one.  There are a couple of logistical details to be taken care of first, one of which is my ten-year colonoscopy the day after tomorrow.  Funny how something could have impacted me so extremely, ten years ago, and be so insignificant, this time around.   I am downright nonchalant about the whole thing, including the need to travel down to San Francisco for the experience, at that nice VA Hospital.

I attribute four reasons to this shift in my thinking, the first being that I have since acquired a basic set of tools for dealing with the minor anxieties of life.  I refuse to speculate on “what-if?” questions, or to engage in catastrophizing, the irrational thought process a lot of us have, in believing that something is-or may be-worse than it actually is.  If obstacles arise, I deal with them, without undue stress before the fact.

Secondly, I have been through the experience already so the mystique is no longer there.  I could regale you with my tale of woe and misfortune, and then you could detail the indignities of your past experience, and we could all weep and wail together.  Or not.

Then there is perspective.  Having been a part of Annie’s frenetic battle against kidney cancer and thyroid cancer for the past year, for me to whine about an inconvenience, designed to prevent the ultimate inconvenience-death is rarely timely-would be somewhat callous.

Finally, there is that concept of choice.  If you want to have a specialist render an opinion as to the current state of your colon, then you go through whatever process the doctor orders.  By the same token, if you do not want to endure all that this test entails, then pass on it, and take your chances, as we all do in life.  Whatever blows air up your skirt, as me father used to say.

Meanwhile, I prefer to dwell on the fact that, except for the organic turkey we will order from Mariposa’s, everything else planned for Thanksgiving dinner, will come from Happy Day Farms.  

Five will get you ten that Casey and Amber will acquire some turkey chicks, sometime next spring, and by Thanksgiving?  All organic-all from Happy Day Farms.  

Well, maybe not the Jameson’s. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turn About Is Fair Play

Turn About Is Fair Play

I took the day off today, reclining much of the day with a heating pad behind my upper back, centrally located between my shoulder blades, watching TV, hanging out on FaceBook and reading.  Oh yeah, it’s Veterans Day too.

I cannot believe how much media attention has been directed towards veterans and Veterans Day this year.  Some of the offers of free entrees from big-name restaurants are more impressive than others, but all are welcome signs that folks want to acknowledge a debt to those who gave up two, three, or more years of their lives to Uncle Sugar.  Some of us went kicking and screaming, but that does not replace the twenty-one months and three days that were taken from me back in 1972 and 1973.

A funny thing has transpired over the past fifteen months or so, though, ever since I began receiving medical care from the VA Clinic in Ukiah.  I have gradually become less bitter towards the military and more appreciative of my own efforts.  They say one pays to play in this life, and for much of my life I felt the price the military extracted from me was way too high.

Now I am beginning to reevaluate my own judgment.  When I see how challenging it is to get adequate medical care these days, I am grateful that I toughed it out back when I had a lot more resiliency in life.  True, I have to take the care provider offered, and there is frequently a delay before I receive services, but the quality is excellent, and the staff with whom I have come into contact really care.

So today I am reveling in the greetings of many people who responded to a picture I posted on FaceBook.  People are so warm towards others on F/B and it has been heartwarming to feel the love.  I used to feel kind of embarrassed because I was the only person in my entire social circle who got caught up in the draft, as though I were so inept that I couldn’t avoid what others seemed to be able to sidestep.

When I remember how bleak life seemed, the morning I stepped through the doors of the Los Angeles army entrance station, back in 1972, I am amazed, just as I am amazed to be able to receive health care at this critical juncture of my life.  Turn about is fair play, say I.

Saturday, November 9, 2013



San Francisco is intimidating to me and yet, so enticing.  She can beckon with open arms and repulse me at the same time.  The roller coaster-like hills would be more manageable, except for the clowns who drive like, well, circus clowns.  The beauty of the architecture contrasts with the despair of those who sprawl at the base of aesthetically-pleasing  buildings, oblivious to the flow of both vehicular and foot traffic, engulfed in a world of peace, prior to awaking once more to the purgatory that is homelessness.  Alone in a world teeming with humanity.

I was observing one such individual, lying perpendicular to the wall of a business, partially blocking the sidewalk, when another man, visibly exhibiting all the classic signs of rage, hurtled a glass bottle against the wall, showering the sleeping man with shards of glass.  He struggled to sit up, trying to fathom what had just occurred, no one there able to answer the question, “Why?”

Having experienced three gorgeous fall days in the embrace of this beautiful city, earlier this week, we had the advantage of seeing through crystal clear air, especially when we were twelve stories up in our room in the Holliday Inn.  I was with Annie, while Lito had a room to himself.  The three of us traveled by foot to a great many of our destinations, and many of the sites we visited required additional walking.  San Francisco is no more hilly than what Annie and I encounter up here on the mountain, so we were ready for action-ready for danger.  

We either took a cab to our meals or we walked, so that we could have a glass of wine or a cocktail.  Cabs are plentiful in the City and surprisingly reasonable, one of the few exceptions to the steep price of poker in San Francisco.  We never paid more than fifteen dollars for a ride, and if one includes the price of parking in one’s computations, cabbing is a much more reasonable and stress-free way to go.  Of course we had to determine the appropriate rate at which to tip, and settled for around three or four dollars, for a ride which cost between ten and twelve bucks.  More than reasonable, we all thought.

As we strolled along at one point, scanning the folks walking on the other side of the busy thoroughfare, I made eye contact with an elderly black man, pushing his cart toward the intersection, while hanging onto my gaze with a vice-like grip.  Meanwhile, there being momentary confusion as to which direction we were supposed to have been traveling, we had reversed course, and then done so again, heading back in our original direction, arriving simultaneously at the same point in the intersection as the old man.

Reacquiring his grip on my attention, he said bluntly, “I ain’t gonna ask you for no change.  I want to know if you’ll buy me an egg and sausage sandwich.”  He glanced into the corner breakfast shop, beside which we stood, and back at me.  “Well, I’m not interested in going into the shop,” I said, equally bluntly, “but I’ll spring for five bucks if you want to go in and get it.”

He never hesitated, taking the money and leaving his shopping cart outside, apparently figuring that someone would have to be pretty hard up to rip off something from a homeless guy.  Anyway, if I have the loot, and someone asks me for a handout, I’m a sucker every time.  On the other hand, if I have no money in my pocket, I don’t lose any sleep over not being able to help out.

I paid $6.25 for a one scoop ice cream cone, and never blinked an eye.  However, later, as we scanned the menu outside a famous steak house, and found out I could order a rib eye steak for a scant $43.00, I did blink, and we ultimately decided on Mel’s Diner.  It was kind of noisy and kind of bright, but all three of us had dinner for less than the price of one steak at the other spot.

Money was not an issue the whole three days, because I had been putting aside money all summer, so that by August, I had socked away fifteen hundred bones, to pay for the two rooms for two nights, and whatever else came along the turnpike.  Anyone who has ever been to San Francisco knows that you have to pay to play.  The alternative would have meant driving to the City on Monday, and returning home, only to have to repeat the process both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Sounds like fun, but not that much fun.

And then there was the Exploratorium.  It sounds good; who doesn’t like to explore?  I mean, besides me?  We paid $25.00 apiece to enter the highly publicized facility, not having any idea what to expect.  I just figured it was some kind of museum.  As the kids these days so succinctly manage to sum things up: whatever.  I had told Annie that I had no agenda, and was willing to tag along just about anywhere, pleased to allow them to do the decision-making.

I heard the commotion inside before we entered, rounding the corner and looking out into a hall that was filled with people of all ages, engaged in a variety of hands-on activities, requiring some degree of both investigation, and then coordination, to be able to manipulate.  I was overwhelmed.  Too much happening, with way too many people.  I trailed along behind my companions, while I pondered the possibilities.  I even saw going back to the room at the Holliday Inn, by myself, to be a distinct option.

I did not want to stop Annie and Lito from enjoying themselves, but I knew from past experience, that one look at me, and they would know something was amiss.  So I decided to simply bail, get a cab back to the room, and wait for them to text me when they were done.  But when I informed them of my decision, I found out that neither one of them was really any more excited about hanging around in such a chaotic environment, than I was.  And that was that.  I felt bad that I had prompted the quick departure, but I also knew there was no winning this battle.  It all worked out well, because we went from the Exploratorium to the wharf, and all was good. 

Now I am at home by myself, while Annie is in Willits, completing the time she is required to be quarantined, to allow the radiation to dissipate.  The proverbial grass being greener on the other side, I wish I were back in that Exploratorium with her and Lito.  Anything to not be by myself.  Sometimes it’s easier to deal with the random chaos of those around you, than it is to deal with the chaos, right inside your head.  If not easier, at least preferable.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Add Another Ribbon to the Banner

Add Another Ribbon to the Banner

If I launch my description of our three days in San Francisco, by telling you that it cost forty dollars per car, per night, to park in the hotel garage, you might think I was going to slant the trip in a negative direction, but that would be inaccurate.  There were some extremely high points which left me feeling the plan to mix pleasure with medical business, had been a good one.

To begin Lito joined Annie and me, driving down in V’s car so that we could better maneuver around in the City, while we drove down in the Triple-G. *   Lito never gets too high or too low; he’s the perfect traveling companion.  Annie was doing great on the outside, regardless of what might be going on in the inside.  We were in San Francisco in the first place because Annie was about to conclude the initial steps of the treatment she has been receiving for thyroid cancer. 

This final process had been in the works since last April, when she had her thyroid removed, and involved her ingesting a radioactive pill, designed to kill the cancer cells remaining after the thyroid was gone.  The delay was caused by the fact that the radiation could not be administered until after the medication for the original kidney cancer had run its course. 

We had an eleven o’clock appointment on Monday morning, where Annie was to receive the first of two injections, in preparation for the radiation pill on Wednesday.  There was an hour’s delay, while the nurse called to verify that Annie’s insurance would cover the cost.  When we inquired as to what that might be, she said softly, “$4,000.00.”  When you consider that she needed the identical injection the next day, that was a cool eight thousand.  Before Annie could get too stressed, the nurse brought the good news.

Upon leaving the appointment, we hooked up with Lito and planned our itinerary.  Because V had been sweet enough to lend us her car, and because Lito adapts well, we were soon tooling around quite comfortably.  We were lost, mind you, but not skeered.  Lito had the reigns of our chariot firmly in hand when we stumbled up to the top of Twin Peaks, where I had a good cry because I had left my camera in the hotel room.

I’ve been to the City a million times but never made it up to Twin Peaks.  The most stunning panorama awaits the end of the climb, even for those who were not looking for it.  We got out and joined the rest who were taking in the view, maybe easing down to the end of the parking area, so that I could seek a little medicinal sustenance. That meant that Annie felt compelled to sidle away from us.  Every time.  We tried to explain that in San Francisco, pursuing mental equilibrium, was as common and natural as breathing.  She wasn’t buying it.

After leaving Twin Peaks, we made our way to the zoo, even though there was only an hour left, and enjoyed ourselves immensely, admiring among others, the tigers, giraffes, rhinos, a bear (the grizzlies were hiding), and the most stately of Silverback Gorillas that we could have imagined.  The zoo was very dignified and peaceful.

For dinner we made our way around the corner of our hotel to Victor’s Italian food, and it was marvelous.  Lito and I had an Alfredo sauce over seafood, and even Annie, who has been on the most restrictive of diets, had an order of chicken wings.  We had a carafe of the house burgundy and afterwards, retired to the hotel bar, where we watched the Chicago Bears defeat the Green Bay Packers.  Anytime I see the Pack lose, it warms the cockles of my heart, even if it cost nine bucks apiece for Jameson on the rocks.  Order two drinks, and you may as well have gone across the street to BevMo, and bought a bottle.  It would have cost the same, but who was keeping track? 

       Tuesday was highlighted by several hours of wandering around Fisherman's Wharf, eating in a nice place, and ending back in the hotel room for cocktails and a nap.  We ate at Mel's Diner that night, but if you can believe this, Mel leaves the apostrophe out of his diner's name.  It confuses me.  Nonetheless, I recovered enough to enjoy a classic cheeseburger, while Annie splurged and ordered a half-chicken with some tasty veggies.

Wednesday was all business, but we gained some very positive information, after the medical staff had performed a complete body scan and determined that the radiation pill was to be a lot smaller than it could have been.  This meant at least two things: there were fewer cancer cells to be destroyed and that Annie’s period of isolation after the procedure, would be “only” three days as opposed to seven.  After having had a CT scan only ten days ago which declared Annie kidney cancer-free,  and believing that the radiation treatment will render her thyroid cancer-free, we are feeling pretty buoyant.  

As I reflect back to the passion and energy that Annie mustered up for the Relay-for-Life in July, I am grateful beyond words for this most recent news.  In our own most personal relay-for-life, we are one step closer to good health for Annie.  

We’ll add another ribbon to the banner next July, when we participate in the festivities surrounding a community's efforts to stamp out cancer and support those who are affected by this formidable opponent.  Relay-for-Life rocks!

*  So-named when Lito drove this awesome vehicle in Sacramento, where he dubbed it the “grocery-go-getter” or the Triple G.  Even Lito could not dis on a means of conveyance, used to bring back “the food for da boys.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Go Figure

Go Figure

What happened to August?  September and October?  One minute I’m writing about escaping pigs, and the next I’m wondering about what this Thanksgiving Day will look like.  Actually, I’m even excited about Veterans Day this year because if I want, Appleby’s will give me a free meal, if I’m able to make it up to Eureka or down to Ukiah.  Oh boy!  Still, it’s a pretty cool gesture, and if I were to make it in to Appleby’s, a rib eye steak, cooked medium, would be just the perfect thing.

So where have I been?  Traveling?  Camping?  No, except for two extraordinary weddings, I have pretty much not left my homestead.  It just goes to show how much work gets compressed into the waning weeks of the summer/fall, that I do not even have time or energy to write.

Now, I know I wrote last fall, and the fall before that, when I was equally busy, but that was when I was sleeping three or four hours, and then getting up and writing all night long.  People seemed to think that was odd.  Hmmm.

Now I am still sleeping three or four hours a night, but instead of getting up and writing, I lie in bed, waiting for the more respectable hour of four AM, before getting up and hitting the grindstone.  In my line of work, which features a pair of scissors, I can put in as many as sixteen hours a day, with an occasional break for a sandwich or to take the Doze for a walk.  And it goes without saying, since I am my own boss, I can take the time to write, if I so desire.

Therefore, I must assume that if I were to record the thoughts that flow daily though my mind, I would probably incur the wrath of my sweetest of Apple Blossoms, who prefers that I not invade her privacy any more than I already have.  So I have just let the blog go.

I notice that within my immediate blogging community, almost all of the regulars, intermittently take breaks.  I only wrote a few pieces late last fall, and into the winter, but depression has a way of guiding that process at times.

I have managed to dodge a bullet in the form of medication for my mood spectrum disorder, and am doing far better than I ever imagined possible, but the jury is still out on this one, and probably will be for the rest of my life.  Knowing the jury that sits in on my mental roller coaster, they’re all off getting drunk on Jameson’s.  I may join them.

As for lack of sleep, the nice doctors at the Veterans Clinic, steadfastly remain united on the policy of not giving me any sleep medication.  The only one who would prescribe sleep meds was that nice Dr. Trevor, but while administering my sleep medication with his right hand, he administered that medication with his left hand, which completely took my libido out of the picture.  Probably out back in the alley, with the empty Jameson bottle. 

Millions of people take medication to help them sleep.  Why do their doctors prescribe medication for them, while mine will not?  It’s such a funny universe where my doctors want me to take medication which robs me of my ability to be intimate with my wife, but will not prescribe medication for the most basic of necessities in life, sleep.  Go figure.