Thursday, January 31, 2008


Over the last few weeks I have been able to e-mail my mom copies of my little stories because my sister Lisa finally rectified a mistake we made a few years ago.
It might have been two years ago that Lisa came up with the idea of getting mom a computer so that her scattered sons and daughters could keep her up to date with e-mails and photos. I jumped on board quickly and went along with the idea. I figured my mom, who is smart and still has great vision, would gladly embrace the wonders of the computer age once she was exposed to it. The computer was purchased and put in my dads old office, at which time Lisa gave my mom a cursory lesson on how to operate it. I then took the time to fly up to Chicago to spend three days with my mom and set up the computer for her. First I got her an internet account, and set up her e-mail. Then I set up the computer so that all she had to do was click on an icon to dial up her e-mail. Simple.
While I was teaching my mom the intricacies of accessing her e-mail she kept remarking on how much easier it was with me than with Lisa. "Lisa goes so fast. All I hear her tell me is to click on this and click on that. Before I know it she's on to something else. What does 'click on' mean?".

So for three days I had my mom go through the steps over and over again, from turning on the computer and accessing her mail, to turning it off. Even though she seemed to have a problem with the concept of moving the mouse around to make the arrow on the screen move, and never really understood when I said "click on that", she none the less made it all work and I was satisfied that I would be sending mom pictures from Florida.

When I returned home it was with great anticipation that I sent my mom her first e-mail and photos from Florida. When I called her, she acknowledged that indeed she had received my mail and pictures. What she didn't tell me was that one of her grandchildren had actually signed on and retrieved the mail for her.

In fact the whole time my mom had her computer the only one who used it were her grandchildren and my brother Dave when he visited. After a year and a half, I checked with the internet provider that I had set her up with, and it turned out she had used only about thirty minutes of her forty hours per month. That is, thirty minutes in the entire year and a half. So I immediately canceled her internet and informed my sister Lisa that we were beating a dead horse. No need to provide my nephews with a portal to porn.

To rectify our mistake, Lisa purchased my mom a service that delivers e-mail to my moms kitchen automatically. It consists of a printer and a computer that automatically dials in and retrieves my moms e-mail, then prints it all out, photos and all. No muss, no fuss. So if you are talking to my mom on the phone and it sounds like someone is dialing out, it's just her machine retrieving my latest story that I e-mail her everyday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mr. Magoo

Yes, I've done it again. This time there was no cursing or screaming in pain. I guess I have gotten used to it and am no longer surprised. Like a slow motion movie, I lurched forward and felt myself flying through the air towards the inevitable collision with mother earth. When it came, I just lay there like a beached whale, pain shooting through my body, and the sound of good Samaritans rushing, once again, to my aid. I continued to lay there while I assessed my injuries and determined that nothing was broken, just a little blood, and a lot of embarrassment. I had stepped off of the stairs at ’Bill’s Filling Station’, thinking I was walking down the handicapped ramp. Some of this was due to vodka and some was due to my blindness, but seeing as I have done the same thing totally sober, I tend to put more of the blame on blindness. I know it is just a matter of time before I break a bone or have a serious injury, but for now I think my body is still not that brittle.

Should I start walking around with a white cane with the red tip, and how would that look at bowling? Could I get an additional handicap on my score? My biggest problem is that I don't admit to myself how bad my vision is and still go through life like nothing is wrong, walking into people at the store, knocking over drinks, and tripping over my dog Molly. If you all think I am mean to Mark, what about the fact that he constantly sneaks up to me on my blind side and scares the hell out of me?

Before I was diagnosed with glaucoma and informed that I had lost fifty percent of my vision, I just thought that I had a brain tumor. I have stopped driving now, but in the past few years I have run over a bicyclist with my car, ran into the rear of a pickup truck, and drove into the side of a woman’s car while trying to park. At least when I was driving I never hurt myself, just other people.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The year I was born, men wore 'slacks'. That is, loosely fitting pressed pants with a cuff at the bottom, firmly cinched with a belt well above the navel and just below the man boobs. During the ensuing years pant waists slowly moved down the torso and the material slowly became less loosely fitted, until we reached the ultimate limit of tight fitting pants in the era of 'Milli Vanilli'.

In what seems to be a direct revolt against the Milli Vanilli style, boys and young men started wearing pants more and more loosely. What they didn't do, was stop the slow movement of the belt line downward. In fact over the years pant waists have moved at least a foot or more down men's bodies. Often I see young men waddling down the street with their pants riding just above public indecency in the front, and below their ass cheeks in the back. These boys/men are referred to in slang terms as saggers. Most of them are smart enough to wear fashionable boxer shorts, but occasionally I see a kid who doesn't get it, wearing his skid marked tighty whiteys. That of course is a teenager fashion faux pas.

The funniest and scariest part of this fashion trend are the politicians who are trying to make it illegal to wear pants in that manner. The fact is that those politicians probably are wearing their belts just as low in front, so as to clear their belly fat. The laws they want to pass fail to include women of every age who expose so much of their chest that the only thing left to the imagination is the size of the nipple.

So as I age, I find myself apparently following the fashion trend, because I keep buying pants that are looser and looser around the waist. I just hope I don't end up like one of those old guys on Funniest Home Videos, dancing at a wedding with my pants around my ankles.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Porch Monkeys

All of us, at some point, have tried to run away from something only to find out that the thing we are fleeing eventually tracks us down. In 1970 I fled the real world to live the fantasy life with a bunch of hippies on a commune. In 1978 I fled my home in Chicago for the golden shores of California, only to find out you still had to work and scratch out a living. That reality made California look just like Chicago except with a lot more goofy people hanging around. I fled Chicago again for Florida nineteen years ago, and I'm not so sure it made me any happier than I would have been had I stayed in Chicago. Just warmer.

When I was about four or five years old I made the same mistake. There was some kind of disagreement between my mother and my sister Peggy and me. Probably my mom had laid down the law about cleaning our rooms or some such thing, and we decided we weren't going to take it any more. So like a fool I followed my sisters lead and ran away from home. In preparation for our trek, my sister rummaged through the refrigerator for food, while I packed clothes that my mother had carefully laid out for us to put away in our rooms. With all our supplies in place, we left the house and trudged through the blustery afternoon weather until we arrived at our new home, the combination sand box/play house that my dad had built. It was a gray windy day, and within minutes a light rain convinced us that we needed to find a better shelter, so we moved to the front porch.

I'm not sure how long we imagined we would be allowed to live on our parents porch, but in our little minds it seemed quite plausible that we could live there until we were eighteen. My sister was much older than me so I figured she had it all planned out, but as time passed, our plan to punish my mom unraveled, and running away seemed to not be such a great idea. First, within thirty minutes, we had eaten the sandwiches my sister had packed. Secondly, after being out in the rain for at least forty five minutes, my mom still had not even acknowledged our absence, and when she finally did, it was to warn us not to leave the yard. At that point, cold and miserable, we decided to give it up, go back home, and clean our rooms.

I guess we taught my mother a lesson she would never forget that day, and that would be the value of discouraging your children's stupid behavior by sometimes ignoring them.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Photo Friday

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Lovely Molly has been having incontinence problems lately, and as a result she has been banned from all furniture. After peeing on her very own easy chair that I kept next to my bed for her, I had no choice. The sad look on her face forced me to find a solution, so I went up to ‘Target’ and bought her a new bed. Since she follows me around the house and where ever I am, she lays down, I’ve had to drag the new bed with me just so that she’s happy.
I was amazed at how she took to the new bed. She sensed immediately that it was hers and hers alone. No cat, no Mark yelling at her to get out, and no barricades keeping her off. She loves it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cancer Sucks: Part Four

I have always liked my hair. In grade school, every morning my mom would comb my hair with some kind of green goop in a jar that she would dip the comb into. I'm not sure what it was called, but it would dry into a solid hard shell. With a few quick moves my mom would mold my hair into a big pompadour that would stand up to a gale force wind, and not a hair would move at least until lunch time. Later in life I wanted to see just how long my hair would grow, but after a few years I realized what a pain in the ass long hair was, and I reverted to the short well groomed look.

After I was diagnosed with the cancer, and before treatment started, the doctor warned me that I would lose my hair during chemo-therapy. Even with this forewarning, it was still very disturbing, a few weeks into it, to be standing in the shower watching gobs of my hair coming out and flowing down the drain. I was finding hair in my bed, I was finding hair everywhere. If you didn't know any better you'd think I had a big old German Sheppard dog in the house. My solution to this was to shave everything off, everything. I looked weird, but at least I didn't have to deal with the hair thing until the chemo treatments were done. So it was with great relief when twelve weeks of chemo-therapy was finished, and I could get off the meds and slowly my hair started to come back. It came in very curly at first and stayed that way for about a year. Curly or straight, I will tell you one thing, I'd rather be bald than not be alive. Thanks to the doctors, and my friends and family, here I am twenty years later, fat and sassy, totally cancer free, and wearing my hair shorter than ever.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cancer Sucks: Part Three

The survival rate for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1988 for a thirty year old man was about forty percent. Twenty years after being diagnosed with that form of cancer, I am still alive and in relatively good health. Besides the doctors and nurses who saved my life, I have to thank my friends, Garet and Dennis who helped me through my chemotherapy. I have to thank my brothers and sisters, who all took a blood test to see if they were candidates for bone marrow transplanting, if I needed it. If they ever wonder why I love them all so much, that is one reason why. Most of all I have to thank my mother and father, who drove into Chicago every Tuesday so they could accompany me to the clinic where I got my chemo-therapy. The first time my parents went with me to the clinic, I believe my mom drove us in her shiny new, Dodge Caravan. Whether it was my mom or dad doesn't matter because, whoever it was, I didn't like their driving. Not that it was bad, just that I was/am a very impatient driver and I also didn't approve of the route they took, so the next time I insisted that I drive. As I slid into the drivers seat of my mom's car, she moved to the bench seat directly behind the driver. I don't think my mom or dad had ever rode with me before, at least not through the streets of Chicago. As I sped up Halsted Street, and whipped around onto Ogden Avenue, I kept hearing little squeaks and gasps from the back seat. It was my mom, "Alan, can't you slow down a little?", she asked. "No mom, trust me, I know what I'm doing." I replied. My dad just laughed.So it went for twelve weeks, every Tuesday, dad in the passenger seat, mom in the back seat making sounds like a kid on a roller coaster, and me driving like a bat out of hell. The drive back was always much more sedate, because I had just been pumped full of toxic chemicals and vomiting was a very real possibility. The funny thing about it, is that my mom was one of the people who taught me how to drive, and I drive exactly like she does. Just ask Mark. He makes the same squeaks and gasping noises sitting in the back of moms Dodge Caravan when she drives.
To be continued....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cancer Sucks: Part Two

Twenty years ago this week I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system. It was a serious disruption of my fun and games, and for the next few months I would watch my body turn into an un-recognizable mess. My first chemo-therapy treatments came three weeks after diagnosis, and I celebrated with uncontrollable, projectile vomiting all over my hospital room. By my second treatment, I had become used to the nausea, and in fact, the Prednisone I was taking had actually increased my appetite.

One thing my doctor remarked on, is that he had never seen a patient gain weight while on chemo-therapy, I was the first. This was because I had developed a craving for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I would cook up two or three boxes of the Mac and Cheese, then sit down and eat it all. When I was done with that, I'd devour two or three rare steaks.
Prednisone is a weird drug. It can kill you, and it keeps you from sleeping for more than a few hours a day, yet it seems to clear up all sorts of nagging problems. For the first time since I was twelve years old my skin was totally blemish free, and all my allergies and asthma problems went away.

Unfortunately, a side effect of the chemo therapy, was that I lost all of my hair, including my eyebrows, armpits, etcetera, etcetera. With the unexpected weight gain, hair loss, and circles around my eyes from lack of sleep, my best friend Dennis started calling me Uncle Fester. The weirdest thing was, when I'd go down to the bar where I had been drinking for years and everybody knew me, nobody recognized me. I'd say hello to someone I had known for years and the look on their face was, 'who the hell is this fat, hairless, odd looking guy?'.

It was like nature was giving me a peek into my future, because twenty years later I am a fat, odd looking guy. The only thing mother nature left me with is my hair, and that came back nicely.

To be continued....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cancer Sucks: Part One

I am certain my doctor thinks that I am a hypochondriac. Somewhere in his charts and history of me is the notation, 'possible hypochondriac'. I suppose he actually might have a good reason to believe that, since I once insisted he authorize a MRI of my head, because I thought I might have a brain tumor. Then there was the time I truly believed that I had a cracked vertebrae or some such thing because of the tingling in my arms and legs. That time he sent me to a neurologist who did another MRI and other tests, all of which came back negative. The brain tumor might just have been too many nights out drinking with Dennis, and the tingling is probably the morphing of my body from a young man to a somewhat older man.

I wasn't always like this. There was a time when I would never have thought of seeing a doctor. Not unless I chopped off my finger, or if one of my testicles swelled up to the size of a grapefruit, (which actually did happen once and the doctor did say grapefruit) but that's another story. No I was quite stoic about my health, I would quietly suffer through illnesses and just let them run their course. That is until the autumn of 1987, when I found myself falling asleep in my car while I should have been working, and waking up in the middle of the night in a soaking sweat. I went to my doctor and his diagnosis was 'post nasal drip'. Post nasal drip? I thought that was one of those made up things they put on television commercials just to sell some stupid nasal spray.

So for three and a half months I kept returning to the doctor and I took the pills that he prescribed, and nothing changed. When I returned to see the doctor for a fourth follow-up visit, he was gone and another physician was taking his place. This new doctor immediately sent me for some x-rays. After my x-rays, the technician told me I couldn't leave and that the doctor wanted to talk to me. When the doctor came in he told me that he wanted to admit me to the hospital immediately. Not later that day, not tomorrow, but now. It seems that, to put it in the terms of the doctor, I had a tumor the size of a grapefruit in my chest.

Those god-damn grapefruit, they'll get you every time.

To be continued.......

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Photo Friday


I never took any art courses and I may be wrong, but really WTF?

My bag of garbage

Christo's wrapped trees.

My messy drop cloth.

Jackson Pollock 'painting'.