SnoVID Anniversary

I just got back from my daily walk. It’s not been daily for several weeks now due to Meniere’s symptoms triggered by a cedar allergy, but it’s a daily walk in an aspirational sense. I’m coming in from my more than aspirational daily walk today and it’s sleeting on me and the dog all the way back home. This is not a good sign.

We are about to hit the one year anniversary of SnoVID. On February 15th, 2021 at about 2:00 am, the power went off in Texas. It went off and stayed off across the entire ERCOT grid for more than a day. Here in Austin where I live the power was off for five days. I detail those events here:

A year later, as the snows fall again, we residents of Texas have to cross our fingers and hope that the electric service providers have done the job they said they would do thirty years ago. Done their job and weatherized all the parts of the electric grid that failed last year. We have to cross our fingers on the subject because the Texas Republican lead state legislature and Governor Abbott failed to do anything substantial in the way of mandating that ERCOT and the public utility commission do the jobs they should have done the first time the power went off in Texas.

The SnoVID event was just the latest in a several decades-long festival of kicking the can down the road for the next group of Texas leaders to deal with. I have no hope that Abbott or his flock or Trumpist cohorts in the legislature are any different than their predecessors in office, so I will resign myself to camping next to a fire in the fireplace again this year, just as I did last year. The prospect doesn’t alarm me because I have the lessons I learned from my Uncle Roge to lend me strength in times like these.

Uncle Roge was my Great Uncle Roger Heim, the brother of Dorothy Heim/Steele my Grandmother, but he was Uncle Roge to everybody, even people who weren’t related to him. He had a farm somewhere between Marienthal and Modoc, just off the highway between Leoti and Scott City, Kansas. He was close enough to home to be a regular visitor in Grandmother’s house, a face I grew to know and love along with the rest of the people that entered our little family circle in Leoti.

He was a hard man to love. Stoic. Gruff. Reserved. I’ve met a lot of old farmers over the years, most of them were a lot like my Uncle Roge. They know what they know, and you’d best not argue with them about the things they know because they’d put you in your place if you did. I would have sworn that he was always seventy for the thirty years or so that I encountered him. He always looked the same, old and angry. I was surprised to learn that he had been a child once, but Grandmother swore she’d known him as a child and he was such a sweet boy. I couldn’t picture it, but Grandmother never lied about anything, so I guess he was a sweet boy once. I still can’t picture it.

He had served in World War Two. He never talked about it, like most vets, but it was a thing that was known about him. There were deep reserves of strength behind those eyes. You could see them if you held his gaze.

He was one of the senior members of the Leoti Gun Club or Wichita County Gun Club or whatever it was called back then. Dad was a member too, as were most of the men who lived in town at the time. Shooting was one of the few things to do in small town Kansas; and if you were going to go out and shoot things it was better if you knew where to point the gun and what to pull the trigger on. That was why the Gun Club existed, to train your neighbors on where not to point their guns so that they don’t inadvertently shoot you due to their lack of training.

Uncle Roge was my instructor in firearms safety in more ways than that one. There was always a tale about what happened to somebody’s kid somewhere that Dad would relate to me when I would do something stupid with a gun. Then he would turn to Uncle Roge, the one who had caught me doing the stupid thing, and ask him to confirm the story. Roge would say “yeah, that’s right” and the two of them would laugh and walk off to go find something else to shoot at. Or to not shoot at. Uncle Roge rarely wasted a shot on anything that he couldn’t eat, the occasional coyote being the exception to the rule.

The Gun Club had a hunting spot that they called Twin Buttes somewhere between Eads and Kit Carson, Colorado that they held a lease to hunt Canada Geese on. To call it remote is an understatement. There was another club who had a lease next door and after them there was nobody for about a hundred miles in any direction. There was sporadic electricity on the lease that you could pull to the travel trailers that were mostly permanently parked there. There was no running water, no sewer, no garbage pickup. No civilization of any kind other than the electricity and what the men who occupied the lease brought with them from home.

Uncle Roge would pull his trailer up there early every hunting season so as to get the property ready for the rest of hunters who showed up later. He’d clear the road and fill potholes, cut down the two foot tall weeds that had grown up over the previous year. Basically make the area accessible for the towners who showed up barely capable of getting to an from the site without injuring themselves on a good weekend.

Dad used to joke about how we were living rough when we’d go hunting. We had propane heaters and hurricane lanterns. The pits that we hunted from were concrete lined and had their own space heaters. You’d go out and light them early so that the pit would be warm when you had to go out later to sit in it and wait for the geese to fly over. You didn’t want to rely on the electricity, but there were plenty of beds and down-filled sleeping bags to go around. It was roughing it for a teenager who was used to television during the day, but I was a reader anyway. I hardly missed the TV. I did miss the indoor plumbing.

Uncle Roge went out one year to prepare the lease for occupation and a blizzard blew in while he was there. It dumped several feet of snow all over the area, all the way to Leoti where we were snug and warm. Roge knew that it would be awhile before anyone would be out to get him. Could be weeks before the plows got to the roads that lead to this remote outpost between nowhere and nowhere. So he did what he had to do. He’d go out every morning and shovel snow into a melt bucket and put it in his warm trailer. Then he’d wander out to the pits and shoot something to eat that day. He hadn’t brought much food with him, so he was going to have to live off of whatever it was he killed in the meantime.

When he got back to his trailer and the now-useless power pole that marked our camping spot in the wilderness, he’d clean his kill, start it cooking and melt another bucket of snow. In between these routine tasks required to stay alive, he’d play solitaire dominoes and wait to hear the snowplows. Rinse and repeat, day-in and day-out. They’d get here eventually, the power would get turned back on eventually, the snow would melt eventually. It was all just a matter of time.

It was a whole month later when the snow plows got to the road that lead past the Twin Buttes lease. Uncle Roge was there at the gates to greet the plow drivers as they went past. He was very glad to see them. I imagine he even smiled at them as they drove past. It was probably a soul-lifting event to see him smile; a rare event in any case. He had gotten pretty tired of eating boiled goose and saltines by that point. It was well past time to head into town and see about getting something else to eat for a change.

So when the power goes out in Texas again, as I’m sure it will, I’ll just remember my Uncle Roge and then grin and bear it. At least I have more than boiled goose and saltines to live on for the next month. I have cards and dominoes and opponents to play against instead of having to play solitaire. Hopefully the power will be back on in less than a month. I’m not as good as Uncle Roge at living off the land, but I can give it a try if I have to. I might find out what squirrel tastes like if the power stays off for that long. I guess there is that to look forward to.

Featured image from: gebli.com

Death of a Loved One

I wasn’t going to write on this subject right away. It’s only been a few minutes for me. it’s too fresh, too personal. My children lost their grandfather today. It’s true that he wasn’t a blood relative of my children so not really a grandfather in the strictest sense of the word. He was the Wife’s foster-father, but that never stopped me or her from treating him like family because it never stopped the people who adopted us from treating us like family.

He had developed ALS in the last few years. It had gotten to the stage where he was in a wheelchair most of the time and had lost his fine motor skills. That is what finally got him. I was beginning to think that nothing could kill that old man. He had gotten stents placed back in the dark ages nearly thirty years ago (medicinally, the dark ages compared to now) after a second heart attack and open heart surgery for the first one.

Twenty years a cop before that. He spent some time in undercover work and had stories he could tell about that time if you could pry them out of him. He was a father figure for me when I had given up hope of ever meeting an older man that I could respect. I didn’t meet him until almost too late. Almost.

Now he’s gone and I wasn’t going to write about it. Not today. Maybe in a few days when the emotion is less raw. I wasn’t going to write about it, and then I wander past Stonekettle Station looking at what was current on the blog and the second article from the top was Jim explaining to his readers why he wouldn’t make it to Worldcon this year. His mother-in-law had died from complications of Alzheimer’s after years of care:

At first, in the early stages, you can maybe get a break every few days. They can be left alone in their rooms or in front of the TV for a short while. A friend, a family member, can take the watch for a few hours. But sooner or later, it becomes every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year. You have to be vigilant every moment. You look away, even for second, and an Alzheimer’s patient can hurt themselves, can wander away into the woods or the road, can do something that endangers others and themselves. You don’t get any sleep, because you have to be there, all the time. You can’t even go use the bathroom, because somebody has to be there. You never get any time to yourself. None. 

stonekettle.com

Alzheimer’s took my grandmother from me back in 1996 or so. She lived for four more years after that, dying in 2000, but she had forgotten who I was long before her body stopped working. I couldn’t stomach it. I couldn’t even go visit, and I never saw the reason to. She would simply be bothered by this person she didn’t know and who couldn’t possibly be related to her; and I…? I couldn’t get past the declaration “Oh, you aren’t one of mine.”

I know it was the disease, but the statement laid out so baldly like that just killed me. Yes, Grandma, I’m adopted. To have to go through that every day, every other hour? So I saved us both the trouble and never bothered her again afterwards. I have wondered what it might have been like to try to talk to her again before the end. Mostly I just torment myself with those kinds of questions though. “Oh, you aren’t one of mine.” True enough.

She is free of the pain now. Free of the confusion, the degradation and elimination of self. That is what I tell myself. I wish I could offer better condolences to Jim and his wife, but that is all I have. The marathon is over now. Mercifully. In both cases the marathon is over. We’ll miss them.

Bucket List?

What do you see in your future?

spotify – Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

I have to have hope. I have to have hope for a future, or there is little reason to plan for a future. As everything stands right now; between the pandemic exacerbated by Donald Trump’s incompetence and malfeasance and his zombified supporters still clamoring for more of the same, it has been a little hard to imagine a future that isn’t bounded by the four walls of my house and the daily walks with the dog.

But if we were to suddenly find ourselves able to travel outside of the city, or even inside the city to somewhere that wasn’t a doctor’s office for an appointment, where would I go? What would I want to do, in order to make life worth living just a little bit longer?

I am a notorious hater of all things touristy. I don’t want to get on an over-sized floating hotel and cruise to the tropics, or even fly down to the tropics to sit on a beach. Not my kind of thing at all. I would spend all that time reading, and I can read right here at home just as well as I can read there. Save the travel expenses. Pretend to be gone and do some intense reading alone at home.

There are destinations that I could find the urge to travel to, if travel was a thing that was possible and I could afford it. I would prefer to do my traveling like so many other writers have done. Hiring on as help on a freighter or just taking passage on one and getting off at whatever port suited me and exploring to my heart’s content. Were I still in my twenties and situated the way I am now, I wouldn’t have hesitated to take this route of exploration.

I could easily be dead within a week of leaving port, but that wouldn’t have mattered to twenty-year-old me. I would have enjoyed the extremely short adventure anyway. Since I’m no longer 20 but more like 60 with a family that needs me to survive past next week, I have to surrender to the reality of my physical state and admit that I’m not up to working my way across the ocean anymore, even if I really never was. Maybe the travel would be more like Anita Willets-Burnham chronicles in Round the World on a Penny than it would be like Mark Twain on the one hand or the average cruise ship passenger on the other. Frugal, but safe and expansive.

I have a board on Pinterest where I have posted images of places that have struck an emotional chord with me:

They are from all over the world. When it comes to places I would like to visit, there is far more to see than there is time to see it in. Just the other day I ran across another story of a destination that would be well worth the trip:

A spectacular parade that began after nightfall in Egypt and around lunchtime ET proceeded along the length of the avenue, which is lined on either side by over 600 ram-headed statues and traditional sphinxes, statues with a lion’s body and a human’s head. 

The extravagant march included participants in pharaonic dress, a symphony orchestra, lighting effects, professional dancers, boats on the Nile, horse drawn carriages and more. 

nbcnews.com

Sure the opening event is over, but the trip to see this newly reopened path would be an amazing adventure for the amateur archeologist in me. Egypt is a no-brainer. Yes, tourists go there and there are tourist traps all over the place there. Doesn’t matter. The architecture is what I would go for. The same goes for Rome and Athens or any place that has reasonably intact ruins that beckon to be explored.

I was lamenting the lack of hope in the world today to The Wife recently. How it was going to be a long time before we’d be able to get out of Texas and do the exploring we both want to do. Her response? You won’t do anything touristy so we’d have a hard time going anywhere anyway. I’d suggest sailing with Cunard from the US to Britain, but that would be a touristy thing and you won’t do it. She might swallow her teeth to hear me say this, but that trip sounds great. It would be even better if the ship sailed up North a little farther and gave us a view of the Northern Lights for a few nights in a row. A week on the ocean looking at the stars sounds like a great time to me. I’ll be looking at stars because I’ll pretty much be confined to deck unless I want to be drugged senseless, but I could go for that anyway. I haven’t seen a decent night’s sky in more than ten years. Seven nights on the ocean sounds like heaven.

After we dock in Britain at the other end of the journey, we could cross over to Ireland to visit her ancestral kin there and have a pint of Guinness at the brewery. We could stay a week or a month getting to know the place, wherever it is we land at. Sounds like a plan to me.

I’m not into aimless wandering and I’m not related to anyone in Ireland that would care. You won’t know until you get there, dear. Who’s wandering aimlessly? I have a goal: Guinness at the brewery. That is my goal.

Crossing Europe by train? I’d go for that in an instant if it was cheap enough. Trains and their support structures are an engineering and architectural wet dream combined. I’d never have to leave the train or the station. I’d just hang around gawking at the structures until we’re ready to move again. No need for additional itinerary.

Which is the only real problem. There are tons of things to see in every city and town along the way through Europe, and there is no way to appreciate this fact unless you get out of the vehicle you are traveling in, lace up your shoes, strap on your pack and start walking. That is the way to travel. Hiking cross country has been a thing I always wanted to try but never had a chance to do. When you have to work every day of every week just to keep the lights on and the roof over your head, there is no time for sightseeing or joyriding unless you work it into the routine that you have to keep up.

This proposed form of travel struck the Wife as a unique form of torture. It would. She blew out both her knees in marching band. Each step is precious to her these days. I’d send her ahead in a car to scout out a place to sleep for the next week or month while I did the hiking I love. It’ll give her time to chat up the natives, that’s what she does best anyway. She just slows me down when we’re out walking. Having someone to talk to can make all the difference, but in the end you have to make the distance in the time allowed.

spotifyThe B-52’s – Roam

Like so many other lists that people make, the bucket list is one I will have to pass on. There will not be a list of ten things I’d like to do or see before I die. I won’t limit myself to a list of places that I would like to go. You never know if the thing you really should see is the thing right next to what you are supposed to see unless you take the time to go there and look around. No travel itinerary will allow for that kind of loitering. That is my objection to touristy travel. I want to sip tea until I’m ready to leave, not until the group is ready to leave. An itinerary is for tourists, and I don’t do touristy.

Opening Hazard

I’ve been taking part in illness tracking with outbreaksnearme.org since the Spring of 2020, when the Trumpist COVID debacle was in full swing. Ya’ll remember those days right? The hazy smoke-filled days as civilization fell? The zombies roaming the streets swarming the unwary?

There was no official testing to be had. No way to know who was sick and who wasn’t and no way to socialize without risking your own life. So we hunkered down without any government to been seen, no authority coming to the rescue, waiting for the chance to score some toilet paper from the remains of the local shopping center while covered in protective gear to keep the zombie plague at bay.

When outbreaksnearme.org started it called itself COVID near you but within a few months the organizers realized that they could use the more generalized data to track spreads of any infectious disease in the population. It also allowed people who just had symptoms to report themselves sick even when they didn’t know what it was.

A full year has passed since those hellish days of anarchy, with me always always responding “healthy” to the prompt:

COVID Near You is now Outbreaks Near Me! We now track flu too. Are you still healthy? Please answer Healthy or Sick. Reply STOP at any time to unsubscribe.

Today I finally had to respond with sick. The Wife has been out galivanting around town joyful at having escaped from the zombie apocalypse, mask-less and fancy-free for the first time in recent memory. While she was out having a good time she apparently picked up a bug. I, of course, caught it from her because that is what I do. I’m three days into it now, a nasty cough, aches and pains, and chest tightness that is triggering the Meniere’s symptoms. I’m having a joyful time.

It’s almost enough to make you miss 2020. Hunkered down in your hovel, hoping to score a clean corncob to wipe your ass with. Zombies scratching at the walls while you heat yourself next to the fire you made from the last chair in the house, boiling the leather upholstery for something to drink and chew on later. At least there was only one disease out there then. One disease that made you want to chew on the brains of your neighbors.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Featured image: What I Learned About the Coronavirus World From Watching Zombie Flicks

Postscript

I’m not dead yet.

Monty Python – “Not Dead Yet” SceneAmazon

…although the lethargy spread out over nearly a week. I’m only getting back to my old habits now, three weeks later. Getting back to my old habits just in time for the Wife to be hospitalized with some other unrelated illness. Ah, the joys of normal life.

Manly Hair

My dad came to me in a dream last night. He was disappointed in me. He wanted to know why I didn’t want to be a man. He and his first son were outraged that I wouldn’t conform, wouldn’t want to be a man like they were.

Then he told me my hair was too long and he demanded I get a haircut from his favorite barber, just like he always did when he hadn’t seen me in a long time. I told him no. No I will not go get my hair cut, I will cut my own hair. Don’t you know that there is a plague still raging out there?

He sort of goggled at the notion of my doing the work myself and after thinking about it for awhile he asked me what I though he should do with his hair. I looked at his hair in my dream. It wasn’t the hair that was on his head on the day he died. That hair was smooth and white. This man’s hair was even patchier than mine has become. I told him I would cut that hair even shorter than he usually wore it. Wear that age with pride, I said.

He cried then and hugged me, and I wondered to myself that if he had only showed that kind of caring and vulnerability more often when I was young and impressionable, I might have been more willing to see myself as a man when I became an adult.

The Wife

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Yes she does. Thanks for asking.

She doesn’t want to see her name used on the blog, or when I happen to reference her in other online forums. She probably doesn’t want her name associated with my writing in much the same way that Margaret has been associated over time with an amazing ability to argue about anything. She has never understood why I use my own name on my own work.

“That is what a nom de plume is for.”

I am who I am. Like Popeye. Or Descartes. There is no hiding who I am behind another name. It will eventually come back to me as it does to other authors who continue to work at their writing. All I have to do is keep writing long enough and someone will notice it is me writing whether I want them to or not. But I don’t have to use her name or the children’s names. I can do that favor for them, so I will.

I started calling her the wife because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way. This was back when I worked for Tom Hatch, a lifetime and more ago. So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since that time and the appellation just naturally migrated to the blog because of this. The wife has always referred to me as her significant other, which I find clever and cute at the same time. This is probably the reason we are still together after all these years.

Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyesspotifyamazon

At some point in the fourteen years since I first crafted a narrative for explaining the significance of the wife the proverbial “I can’t remember when we weren’t together” moment has occurred. I know that those moments existed, and that they mattered to me before she was a part of my life. They mattered until they didn’t matter anymore. My life is now defined by the beautiful woman I’ve been married to for over a quarter century. Defined by the two children we’ve raised together, both of them adults now.

Does this mean that I’m old?  Never. The children keep me young. They keep me young, while reminding me just how old I really am. Reality is a bitch like that. We both agreed we wanted children, way back in the pre-marriage days. If we were to get married, we would have children. We would be for each other and nobody else, until death do us part. Straying from each other would mean death showed up just a little bit earlier than death had planned.

I moved to Austin alone at the end of 1988, the beginning of 1989. Moved in with friends who were renting from a homeowner. In between the time I moved to Austin and the time I went back to get married and bring the wife to Austin with me, the housing market had collapsed in Texas and our friends were squatting in the house they had been renting, a house that ended up being owned by the Resolution Trust Corporation. The precursor tremors of this collapse is what made me relocate from San Angelo to Austin in the first place. Architecture work had dried up and so had a lot of the other work that easy access to Savings and Loan money had made possible. The tightening financial situation had everyone at each other’s throats and it felt like it was time for a change.

When I moved to Austin I also wanted to confirm, in my heart, that I couldn’t live without the wife-to-be. I suspected this was the case, but I had been utterly wrong on that score before, many times. There is nothing quite like temporary separation to prove where one’s heart lies. It took scant months for me to realize I was completely out of my depth in Austin without my trusty wingman. I had to have her back at my side. I would make an honest woman of her or die trying. I made a special trip back to San Angelo just to propose to her.

Sting – If I Ever Lose My Faith In Youspotifyamazon

We were married thirty-two years ago today. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. Her parents were in town for the graduation and helped us pack up the house the day after the wedding. They stayed to haul all our worldly possessions to Austin and brought the big horse trailer along with them from Oklahoma to do the job.

The wedding was planned by several mutual friends. Colors selected, dresses made, location reserved. Judge in attendance, annoyed at the lateness of the ceremony, but happy to be there for us all the same. It was a beautifully scripted event right up to the point where it ended. The happy, barely conscious couple kisses and then realizes no one has choreographed how to exit the arbor the wedding was held in. We all look blankly at each other.

The wife says, “Weddings over, see you at the reception.” and I laugh.

Did you notice the arbor reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. It didn’t rain much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. It’s the principle of the thing. Mother nature rained on our outdoor wedding, whatever that means. That wasn’t all. There was also a tornado after the reception and the trees across most of San Angelo were stripped bare of leaves when we emerged from the hotel we spent our wedding night in.

Late ceremony? My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony. They went to Dunkin’ Donuts in their tuxedos on the way to the wedding. Of course there was a delay getting the donuts so they were late. The soon-to-be-wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (moving next day) At the reception, opening the champagne for toasts, I was instructed to “aim for his head!” My brother or the best man? Both at the same time? I missed everyone with the cork. This was probably the smart move.

Supertramp – Give a Little Bitspotifyamazon

When my brother was married a few years later, we wrapped their wedding present in donut boxes. Bright pink and orange Dunkin’ Donuts to go boxes taped together in an unholy hodge-podge of a wrapping accident. I don’t think either one of them appreciated the joke. The wife and I laughed for weeks.  Joy is in the ears that hear, or maybe revenge is a dish best served cold. Best served cold, like donuts are before you dip them in coffee.

What’s that smell?

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. It was the drunken wedding march before the player crapped out completely. The wife-to-be’s garter fell off more than once and had to be retrieved so that it could then be removed again properly at the reception. The Superman and Lois Lane outfits we discovered secreted away in our hotel room on our wedding night. The tornado damage the next day as we are driving out of town, heading for Austin.

Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highwayspotifyamazon

Driving, not much unlike how we met the first time. We met at work, four years prior to that day. We both drove test cars. Not vroom-vroom racing, and not on a track. Tire testing on regular highways in stripped-down cars:

The too long; didn’t read version of the story is this; eight hours a day trapped in a car, driving what was known in popular parlance as the double-nickel. Boring fifty-five dead-level miles an hour for four hundred miles per shift. The cars drove two shifts a day even if the drivers didn’t and since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly. If you were the lucky one whose car broke down, you were stranded with that broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you and your car.

Blue Öyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaperspotifyamazon

Some of us were a little edgy about the wait for the tow truck for up to three hours situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them while trapped sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

I did nothing during my driving shift aside from chew up my guts worrying about everything that I wasn’t doing because I was trapped in a car. No phones, not even radio stations for most of the drive. Just a CB radio and whatever portable music you brought with you. I hated the job. It was the destruction of my one avenue of solace at the time, driving for pleasure. The only time I had to think was when I was driving, and driving eight hours a day every day was killing me with over-thinking my far too simple life.

This was where I was mentally on that fateful day when I was introduced to the person that I would come to affectionately refer to as the wife. Strung out on too much caffeine, like all drivers are. Mentally frazzled from eight hours of self-flagellation at all the mistakes I had made in life up to that point, including the screw-ups in timing and spacing that I was supposed to keep track of as the tail driver over the last eight hour shift. Bored with my music. Bored with my life. I was anxious to go home, smoke a joint and just mellow out.

Over my shoulder I hear “Hey, Tony, this is that girl I wanted you to meet.” Oh, right. The one with a knife like mine. She said she would show me how to use it. I turn around and I notice her grin first. This was a setup. I should have known. “I hear you want to meet my baby.” she says. “This is my baby.” She draws out a blade that is a good two inches longer than the butterfly knife that I carried and casually flips it back and forth without even checking to see that she is holding it right.

spotify & amazon playlists

I don’t know if I’m going to see blood or some other kind of demonstration next. Then I notice her eyes. They were grey-green. I’d never seen anything like them before. Not anywhere. Those witches eyes, framed by strawberry-blonde hair, and that impish grin on her pixie face. I was simultaneously in love with her and terrified of her all at the same time, in that very first instant. Casual authority. The way she just flipped that knife around, in exactly the kind of way that I didn’t do unless I wanted to be bandaging a cut in the next moment. That was freaking me out the most.

I think I said “Oh, is that how it works.” Then I showed her my tiny blade, which she laughed at. She proceeded to show me which end of the handle to hold and how to flip it around without cutting myself. Then she demonstrated how to stealth drop one side of the two-part butterfly handle so that she could gut someone in a single motion from draw to finishing stroke. A stroke that stopped mere fractions of an inch from my gut. Yep. I was terrified. She was my dream and my nightmare all in one woman. I had to get out of there or I was going to faint. I made my excuses and fled home to the apartment I shared with a roommate, a roommate who was rhythmically banging his date of the week on the other side of my bedroom wall.

Supertramp – Logical Songspotifyamazon

I was out at a Circle K down the street from my shared apartment, meeting another friend a few days later. I was there to pick up a box of comic books, the third one that this particular friend had sold to me. I’m pretty sure he was trying to seduce me with this contraband. Why do I think that? He had tried taking me to gay bars for several weeks at this point in time. Gay bars that he pretended weren’t actually gay bars and then feigned surprise when I noticed that there were no girls and that the guys around us were sitting just a little bit too close. Since that tactic hadn’t worked, he had decided he might have more success appealing to my love of heroic fiction and calling me back to a time before inhibition had closed off the kinds of drives he wanted to exploit with me.

As I was standing there going through the box of books, haggling over a price, I notice a familiar face drive up next to us. It’s that knife-girl. My knees got weak. She was there to get her Dr. Pepper, her lifeblood. She had bailed out of the little lakehouse that she and her estranged husband still shared on inertia alone and drove into town to get a change of scenery and to drop some quarters in the video game arcade down the street from where I was haggling over comics with my friend.

She saw the box of comics and her eyes lit up. “Is there any Superman?” she asked. I knew I had to get to know her better, right then and there. I completely forgot about the friend who had been trying so desperately to get me to open up to him for weeks and I don’t even remember his name now. She and I thanked him for the trade and we piled into our separate cars, then she followed me back to my apartment.

As we went through my most recent acquisitions on my bedroom floor, as well as dragging out the two previous boxes of books that I had acquired so she could see what treasures were hidden there, we discussed the other things that we had in common. Not only was she into comic books and a video game fanatic like me, she was also into Star Trek and speculative fiction too. This was too much for the both of us to ignore.

I had been looking all my life for another castaway from my home planet. Another refugee in this backwater chock full of mundanes, someone who understood what Science Fiction was and why it was the modern day equivalent to mana from heaven. We looked deep into each others nerdy eyes, and then kissed like it was the first time for both of us. We made love for the first time right there on top of that pile of comic books.

Dr Hook – “Sharing The Night Together” (1978)spotifyamazon

So the way into my heart that my friend had tried to exploit worked perfectly, it just didn’t work perfectly for him. I used those comics to seduce The wife instead, and then I married her. Thanks, man. I wish I could remember your name.

32 Years Ago Today Babe. Happy Anniversary

We lived together for just shy of four years before we tied the knot, got married, made the relationship official. We pretended that we weren’t living together for all of those years so that her parents wouldn’t know she was living in sin. They were from a different time, a completely different world than ours; and they’re both gone now. No harm in letting that cat out of the bag. We were shagging it for years before we told you mom and dad. Hope you didn’t mind.

In 2006 I started marking anniversaries by writing a piece with this title, adding to the first one rather than subtracting from it when I could, Just like our love for each other evolves and becomes more complex over time. May it continue on in this fashion forever. It is an interesting dream to contemplate.

She will not appreciate the song list I’m adding to the versions that occur after 2019. Those are not her kinds of songs. This is her kind of song:

TohoMojo -Godzilla Blue Oyster Cult Music Video HD – Aug 12, 2017spotifyamazon

It’s also her kind of movie. Giant monsters stomping on buildings. Explosions. I love drama, romance and intrigue. Explosions are nice, but they don’t keep me interested for long unless there are some decent characters on screen as well. These are my songs for her, and the lyrics of these songs still speak to me even if I can’t hear the music anymore:

Love
I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted
and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired
working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you
to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand façade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In Your Eyes

…the resolution of all the fruitless searching. That is what she represents for me. May everyone find that harbor for themselves. Even you, wife.

Jimmy Buffett – One Particular Harborspotifyamazon

Parenting: Year 30

On this date more years ago than I like to count I officially became a parent. I have been raising children since I was a child myself, a phenomenon that is called parentification in psychological circles, so I’m told. I helped raise children, even though I had no idea how to raise them and they weren’t mine to raise. Sometimes in life you get handed a job that you didn’t ask for and you do the best you can with it. I was the eldest in a pack of five for several years; and as the eldest child in a single parent household you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones.

Helping to raise your siblings isn’t really parenting in the true sense of the word. Since you are a child yourself you can always count on mom to get home at some point in the day and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself. You can always blame your mom or dad for putting you in the position of having to raise their children for them.

Once you are the parent, things get a little more complex. The early experience helped though. I knew how to change diapers. I knew how to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it’s your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when the real parents would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there.

They grow so fast. It couldn’t have been as long as she says it’s been since she was born. There is no way that it has been thirty years. She still looks like a high school student. She’s a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I can remember taking her to school for the first time. I remember when she learned to read and then talked me into reading books that she liked. Dozens of them. She got me hooked on anime, an artform that she has a passion for to this day, all of us discovering she has quite a talent for art through her anime sketches. Spending years after that discovery trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without smothering her with pressure to do something with it.

I fondly remember dropping her off at the high school she still looks like she attends, dropped her off for the first time. Sitting there wondering out loud if I “should walk her in…” I mean, I had walked her into every school before this one. Taken the time to meet her teachers before I allowed them to teach her anything. Not this time. The disgusted “DAD!” that I got in return was the first clue I had that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.

I couldn’t stop her from doing this. I have to admit that she’s an adult now.

She’s already on an exclusive list of one in my book. She is my only daughter. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate this day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy, like her brother gets on his birthday. Wouldn’t you agree?

Happy Birthday, dearest one.

Jimmy BuffettDelaney Talks To StatuesSongs You Don’t Know By Heart – Oct 23, 2020

Asthma

“Go run and play.” She said. She always said that. She never understood how impossible that was, running and playing. Even short sprints would leave me breathless. when I was in elementary school, participating in my first field day, I tried running in all the races. I couldn’t finish most of them. When I came back in tears dejected and frustrated, the teachers tried to console me with a participation award. I still have it around here somewhere.

No one, especially not my mother, the “go run and play” voice in my head, ever thought to ask if I was having trouble breathing. Never in my life did anyone ask. I just assumed this was the way everyone felt while running. The feeling of slow asphyxiation, the inability to ever get enough oxygen into the blood.

I remember the time when running became a thing that everyone thought they should do. I listened incredulously to the descriptions of the runner’s high, wondering how anyone could ever get to that state of euphoria while slowly strangling to death. But I was intrigued by the idea, so I bought a pair of running shoes and some sweats, and tried running a few times just to check it out. Could I run long distances, at all? In all the times I’ve tried, I have never made it much further than a hundred yards, no matter what mindset that I started the run with. It simply was not possible for me to run long distances. I was never going to experience the runner’s high.

Bicycling was different. If you do the exercise correctly, bicycling puts you in the prone position. In a prone position you breath easier, and I could ride all day on reasonably flat ground if I needed to. Trying to ride uphill was a near-impossibility though, as I soon found out when I moved away from the flatlands of Kansas as a teenager.

Breathing is key. If you can’t breath well enough, you can’t do any of these things. I never understood this fact when I was younger. I just assumed that everyone faced the pain of their lungs being on fire all the time that they were exercising or competing. I simply wasn’t driven enough. Wasn’t motivated enough. Wasn’t good enough to compete.

That is where interest in competition stopped for me. I knew I couldn’t win, so I decided not to try. No sport that required physical stamina would ever be something I would excel at. That was me as a teenager and a young adult.

When I met the Wife, she infected me with a need for competition that I had never cultivated in myself. We tried playing softball on the team one of my architecture firms maintained. Between dysgraphia causing me to catch balls with my face almost as much as I caught them with my glove, and my restricted lung capacity keeping me from being able to sprint around the bases without needing to stop and catch my breath, I didn’t lead the roster of most valuable players on the team. To say the least.

I had to change allergists a few years back. The allergist that I had been going to retired, and the random choice that I was required to make put me into the hands of an allergy and asthma specialist. He immediately suspected that I had borderline asthma, and confirmed it with testing. Once again my mother’s indoctrination into the cult of Mary Baker Eddy had taken its toll. Had she been curious enough to go talk to doctors about her son’s weird breathing problems, I might have gotten treatment early enough that my lungs would have developed better.

We treated the Son’s borderline asthma when he was a baby. It was breathing the albuterol with him while giving him his treatment that made me wonder if perhaps I had similar problems. I few years later I no longer had to wonder about it. I’d like to officially thank the Church of Christ, Scientist for fucking up my life and the lives of my mother and her siblings and her children. Without their influence, I wouldn’t have had to watch my mother die from a treatable disease, with virtually the last words out of her mouth being “doctor’s don’t know anything.” As it turns out, they seem to know quite a bit.

Postscript

Don’t know what to think about this yet:

The preclinical results (in animal models) show that this vaccine induces the sustained production of antibodies specifically directed against IL-4 and IL-13. Indeed, six weeks after the first injection of the conjugate vaccine, 90% of the mice presented high levels of antibodies. Over one year after primary immunization, 60% of them still had antibodies capable of neutralizing IL-4 and IL-13 activity.

pasteur.fr

Anemic Dizziness

I’ve been dizzy for several weeks now, in an unbroken chain of dizziness. During this period of dizziness I had blood drawn for my semi-annual blood tests, tests that came back showing that I was anemic. I wasn’t anemic by much according to the normal ranges for iron in the blood; but still it was low enough that my doctor was concerned about it and thought to mention it to me.

I basically blew the concerns off at the time. I mean, anemia? Right? What is anemia? It means low levels of red blood cells in your blood. It wasn’t critical. It wasn’t like I was four pints low on blood and I really needed a transfusion (I’ve heard that reported by others who have had anemia over the years) I was a few points low on the percentages of iron in my blood in one test. I figured, no big deal, I’ll just start ingesting a bit more iron in my diet. I shifted to taking the Wife’s daily vitamin for a week or so (her’s has iron in it. Men generally don’t need iron supplementation, women do) but after that I went back to my same old Men’s One-A-Day that doesn’t have iron in it, and I forgot all about it.

Until today. Today, as I’m standing there with the world in a fog of dizziness around me, not actually spinning but always worried that the general dizziness might turn into vertigo, it suddenly occurred to me. Brain function. Oxygen carried by red blood cells. Red blood cells distinguished by their ability to carry oxygen because of the ability to bond with the iron that is in them (that is what makes them red after all) is it possible that this prolonged bout of dizziness is caused by the anemia and not the Meniere’s?

To answer this question I turned to Dr. Google, like most of us do these days. As usual, Dr. Google was not a useful source of information on the subject of anemia and related dizziness. This image is the summary that Dr. Google offered me for the search phrase dizziness low iron. See what is second on the list? It took a minute for the reality of the situation to sink home.

Dr. Google on dizziness low iron

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is second on the list of recommended treatments for dizziness. I was almost apoplectic with outrage while reading this summary. Acupuncture has no proven use for dizziness, and yet it is second on the list of what to do about dizziness from anemia. Why? Why is this on the list at all? Why does Dr. Google think that medicalnewstoday.com is a reliable medical news source? Why is this unknown resource cited in a summary that purports to offer solutions to a particular problem? Cited at the top of a list of other possible answers to the question.

I’d like to thank Dr. Google for putting the word anemia back in my vocabulary today (words keep disappearing on me when I’m dizzy like this) put the word back in my vocabulary list so that I can hone the question I want to ask, but seriously? Why is is this website quoted as a source? In Dr. Google’s defense, Healthline is the first resource offered on the page, but the clarification block appears directly under that resource. Healthline’s value as a resource is also questionable. I wouldn’t take their advice as being rock solid without checking facts in other places first. When you read symptoms off a list of symptoms and you start saying “yeah that sounds right” even though you haven’t been complaining about that particular symptom, it’s time to find a second resource.

Using the search phrase dizziness anemia proved to be even less revealing than the previous search phrase. The top resource on that results page was yet another poorly written questionable source that I wouldn’t trust to give me advice about which direction was North, much less give me advice on how to treat chronic health issues.

After a few hours of fruitless searching I decided to quit looking and simply treat the problem that I know exists and see if that helps. I already know I’m anemic because my general practitioner told me I was. I was anemic when this dizziness started. I’m going to approach the problem as if I was suffering from anemia, and simply start by taking some iron supplements to see if the dizziness recedes or not. I have also been listless and tired a lot lately. Maybe it is anemia after all? Stay tuned.


Several days later, after a few days of adding iron to my diet (The Wife’s supplement didn’t have iron in it contrary to my prior statement) I’m already starting to notice less dizziness. Which is good. I didn’t want to have to go back to the ear, nose and throat doctor and get steroids injected into my inner ear again.

I will only be adding iron to my diet for a few weeks at most. I don’t want to overdo it and cause other types of damage that can be caused by having too much iron. I’ve never suffered from anemia before. At least, no anemia that I know of. The doctor who told me I was anemic also told me that blood donation could not have caused the anemia, but I’m at a loss to explain why I would suddenly be anemic outside of the blood donation that I had just given the day previous to getting the blood tests done. I guess I will go back to him and get an order for another blood test and see if the anemia is still present, after I’ve finished my few weeks of iron inclusion.

Weather and allergies frequently mess with my vestibular system. These are a known triggers for Meniere’s in some people. I thought the dizziness was coming from weather and allergies, but then it lasted through several changes in both. I tried the vestibular therapy exercises, as I mentioned previously on the blog, and they helped for a few hours but the next day the dizziness would be back. This is a last-ditch effort. I did not want to take iron supplements because I know that iron can be quite toxic at high doses.

I don’t know what caused the dizziness and I won’t know, possibly ever. This is the problem with chronic illness and common complaints like dizziness. If the dizziness that I’ve had for a solid month goes away, and I get a blood test that shows the anemia is gone, I will have demonstrated correlation. An interesting set of facts that might be related. If I get extended dizziness several more times and each time taking iron makes it go away, I’ve demonstrated a possible causal link. At least for me.

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms/complaints that doctors hear. Almost anything can cause it. Dizziness is not just one thing, either. It can be a mental fog. It can be a feeling of imbalance. It can be active rotation and when it is active rotation it should be referred to by its real name, vertigo or rotational vertigo. Every time I get a symptom these days I’m always wondering if it is Meniere’s or if my thinking it is Meniere’s means something more serious is going on and I’m missing it.

What I do know now is that next time I donate blood I will be sure to include more iron in my diet before and afterwards. I don’t want to do this again and blood donation is still my only explanation for the anemia. If I become anemic again even with these precautions, then I’ll get concerned.