Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Easy Shopper

I was talking to my mom the other day, and she told me that she "didn't want to be considered disabled". Now my mother is eighty six years old, she still drives, lives alone, and her mind and her eyes are as clear as when she was twenty six. Her problem is her knees, they are apparently worn out. The fact that she carried eleven children for nine months each, then again for months after they were born, might have something to do with that.

Today I went grocery shopping with Mark for the first time since my foot surgery. I instructed him to take us to the 'big' Publix supermarket, because they have the electric carts that I always see obese people riding around in. After he dropped me off at the front entrance, I hobbled in and grabbed one of the electric carts. After a few starts and stops and a close call with an old mans foot, I was on my way through the store. So this is what it is like to be crippled, I thought, as I zipped by elderly ladies slowly making their way through the aisles with the aid of only a cane or walker. Each one seemed to be giving me the evil eye as I passed them, probably saying to themselves, "what a wimp".

Shopping from only three feet off the ground is a totally different experience than I am used to. For one thing you can't see the overhead signs until you get all the way to the end of the aisle, this required me to double back more than once. It's funny how much of an ass you can make out of yourself doing a U-turn in a grocery store aisle, and nobody says anything because you are 'handicapped'.

The people who put these places together are definitely marketing to a different crowd at the three foot level. In the cereal aisle I was suddenly aware of all the sweetened, fruit flavored, cereals that are packaged like a child's comic book, with all sorts of come-ons that no four year old can resist. One thing that I did notice at that level, is that a lot of the products are cheaper than the big name equivalents higher up the shelves.

I hope that the last two weeks aren't a harbinger of things to come a few years down the road. I, like my mom, don't want to end up 'disabled'. It clearly cuts into your independence, and being unable to get out to a nice tavern on a Friday night would make me crazy. I think I'm going to start saving for that expensive wheel chair I told Dennis I would get some day. The one with the seat that lifts you up to the same level as everybody else at the bar

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Down on the Farm

When you live in the Midwest, America's breadbasket, you feel more in tune with the seasons. The cycle of nature is repeated year after year, as new growth springs forth from the earth, matures during the summer months, is harvested in the autumn, and finally dies or goes into dormancy through the long hard winter.

Here in South Florida, the seasons are not quite that noticeable. For instance right now, in April, the mahogany tree is loosing it's leaves and our back yard looks like autumn in Chicago. Then again it is also spring, because the mahogany tree sprouts it's new leaves even as the old ones drop off the branches. If I had known this I would have never planted the damn thing.

Up north, the farmers are out plowing and planting the fields in preparation for another growing season. It is kind of like that here at our house. Mark is out in the yard busily planting his garden or as I like to call it, "Mark's Auschwitz for plants". Every year Mark plants a nice container garden, mostly tomatoes, flowers, herbs, and sometimes peppers. Even though we get some tomatoes out of it, usually within a month the plants are dead. The flowers are dried up, and the tomatoes are drooping and out of control. I swear to god that when we walk through the garden department at Home Depot, the plants cringe. If they had legs, they would run at the sight of Mark shopping for his seasons victims.

It's not that growing plants is so hard here, it never freezes, and it normally rains a lot. Marks problem is the times when the rain doesn't come. During dry periods the plants need to be watered, sometimes twice daily. Unfortunately it often slips his mind, what with shopping and all. On those occasions that I am in the back yard and notice the poor things wilting in the tropical heat, I do pull out the hose and give them a squirt.

Yes, it is the constant cycle of life. Mark buys the plants, Mark plants the plants, Mark forgets to water the plants, and Alan throws out the dead carcasses.

Monday, April 28, 2008

NOT Another Cat Story

It's been a few weeks since we let Fat Kitty into the house, and she has adapted quite nicely. She and Molly are tolerating each other quite well, maybe because Molly looks at her as another purveyor of that delicacy, 'cat poop rolled in kitty litter'. Unfortunately Fat Kitty and Carlotta are not getting along all that well. Almost everyday there is a vicious cat fight. The last one was yesterday at five thirty in the morning. The sound of screeching cats pulled me out of a deep sleep, and when I found them, Fat Kitty was cowering in a corner. I can't believe skinny little Carlotta can cause such fear in Fat Kitty, who weighs twice as much as her. I have noticed that Fat Kitty has been using Molly as a buffer. She likes to sleep on the back of the sofa with Molly in front of her. Smart kitty, she has already figured out that Carlotta won't fuck with Molly.

It only took Fat Kitty one day to associate the sound of the tin of cat food being opened, and dinner. When she hears that sound she puts aside all fear of Carlotta and slowly slides into the kitchen. It is the Pavlovian thing, no matter the fear, she cannot resist the sound of the can opening. I guess it is the same for Molly, because as soon as she hears Mark in the kitchen, she is there. To Molly, Mark is the source of beef, and you can follow her saliva trail from the living room into the kitchen. It’s usually right next to my saliva trail.

I'm pretty sure humans are just as susceptible to Pavlovian responses. When we were kids on Ravinia Drive, no matter how loud things were or what we where doing, we could hear the faint ding, ding of the Good Humor ice cream man an hour before he even got to our street. We would then run to our mother and pester her for a few cents. If she gave us a nickel, or more, we would run out and sit there on the curb in anticipation, all the while clenching that cash in our sweaty little hands.

Most of the time the Good Humor truck was driven by a good looking college boy, as a summer job. This of course caused all the girls in the neighborhood to flock to the ice cream truck like pigeons being fed by an old lady, and made it difficult for the rest of us to even get close enough to put in our order.

It would be neat if the Good Humor Man still came around, especially if the truck were driven by a good looking college boy. I would be out there every afternoon waiting for him. The only problem is that I'd totally be off of my diet, and have to explain to Mark why I was eating so much ice cream.
He's been in college a long time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Photo Friday

Behind The Green Door
My Eco-Friendly Garden. It requires no watering.
Click on images to enlarge them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm Parched. Could You Get Me Another Cocktail?

I must have had a death wish at the time, but I decided to have a conversation about birth control with my father, the father of eleven children, oh, and a good Catholic. I was probably around the age of nineteen years old, and at that age I was a smart ass, I knew everything. Now my dad could have an intellectual conversation with you, however he did it at a much louder decibel than most people and with a few curse words thrown in for emphasis.

I don't exactly remember how it started, but I was for birth control and I told my dad so. His first comeback was that there are thousands of square miles of empty land in the western United States that people can live on. Somewhere along the line the train came off the tracks, and the conversation became personal. The last thing I remember my dad saying to me, or should I say shouting at me, was "SO, WHICH ONE OF YOUR BROTHERS OR SISTERS WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET RID OF? ASSHOLE.".

The thing that made me remember that conversation was the refilling of my swimming pool. The pool has finally been repaired and it just made me feel a little wasteful letting the water run for two days. We have been in a drought here in Florida and everybody's yard is a little brown around the edges, yet here I am dumping a few thousand gallons of water into a pool that I use just a few times a year. Out west where my dad expected all the excess population to live is also in bad shape, with reservoirs down as much as a hundred feet. Too many people, not enough water. My only defense for wasting water, is that my yard requires virtually no irrigation. I have planted mostly native species that only need the rain that they get on occasion.

I guess I'll ease my conscience and think of my eco-friendly yard while I float in my pool this summer. Or maybe I'll just have a few cocktails and float around in the cool water without thinking about the waste. After all that is the American way, not thinking.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rear Window

One thing that I miss about living in a large city is the visual stimulation. Most of my homes in Chicago had a never ending, passing parade of traffic just outside the window. The least of my places in Chicago had at least a view into a couple of neighbors apartments. I wish I could be like Jimmy Stewart in 'Rear Window', and have an entire panorama of neighbors to snoop on while I recuperate from my foot surgery. Unfortunately all I can see from my rear window is my unfinished swimming pool filled with green algae water, and the lovely deck that I rebuilt last year.

It's not that my neighbors are all that interesting. I have a very nice old lady across the street, she's probably about eighty something years old. When I first moved into this house, she used to do gardening in a skimpy, black, one piece bathing suit. She reminded me of the old granny in the Playboy cartoons. Then there are my next door neighbors who I refer to as the 'Clampetts'. The first thing they did when they moved in, was to chop down all the shade trees in their front yard so that they could park more cars and boats out there. Down at the corner we have a couple of unfriendly, snobbish, gay guys who don't realize that they spent way too much on their house. Molly hates their dogs. She thinks they're snobs too because their dogs are both named after liqueurs, Bailey and Amaretto or something like that.

So I sit here watching hours of television and spending way too much time on the internet, waiting for my foot to heal. I do catch every afternoon baseball game on WGN, but that only makes it hard to sleep at night because I usually fall asleep between the first and ninth innings. I could catch up on the piles of magazines we have, but after a while reading gives me a headache. Being cooped up is really boring, I think maybe tomorrow I'll have Mark, the worlds worst driver, take me for one of his terror rides in the car. That at least is always stimulating.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Ca, clack...clop. Ca, clack...clop. Ca, clack...clop. When the cats hear that sound, they pull in their tails and run under a table or chair, for that is the sound of me on crutches moving through the house. Since the surgery to remove a neuroma in my right foot, I have discovered just how much I use that appendage, and I now have a new found appreciation for what handicapped people go through.

This afternoon I attempted to make my way from the big chair to the bathroom without the aid of the crutches and I soon realized why I need crutches. As I moved past Molly, I stepped on one of her un-chewed chewy strips with my right foot, causing me to slide and do a sort of half split before I grabbed a chair to save myself. Besides hurting my foot, I also gave myself a mild groin pull.

Another problem from the surgery is the pain killers the doctor gave me, oxycodone. I did use three of the pills before I realized I didn't like them. I think putting up with the pain in my foot might be better than going around the house sounding and acting like a drugged out Jerry Lewis impersonator. I quit taking the pills Thursday afternoon, yet I was still experiencing problems from them on Saturday evening as I tried to over come the constipating effects of them. As I sat there straining and pushing, just to pop out what looked like a rabbit turd, I suddenly thought of Elvis Presley. If you remember, he used to eat prescription pain killers like popcorn, and died on the can straining, much like I was doing. I sure wouldn't want to be around when Mark came in and found me dead on the toilet.

Mark is the only good thing about all of this. He is waiting on me like my personal valet, and he prepares every meal for me. He is also trying to keep the house clean, which is not his forte'. The one thing he doesn't do is kitty litter. When he sees me, or even hears me cleaning out the kitty litter box, he gets the dry heaves and runs away. So I am going to have to suck it up and clean the cat boxes myself, before they decide to find a nice clean place to poop and pee somewhere else around the house.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Foot Surgery

I tend to get nervous before flying or surgery, Wednesday morning was no different. I awoke at four thirty in the morning so that I would be on time for my five thirty appointment at the hospital. After showering, shaving and making sure I was totally ready, Mark and I got in the car and headed for Holy Cross Hospital. Mark, as usual, made me nuts with his driving. Even so, I sat there like a good boy and said nothing, while Mark made his way up Federal Highway towards the hospital at a snails pace. We were in sight of the hospital when I realized I had forgotten all the paperwork needed to be admitted for surgery. "God Damn It, Turn Around!" I yelled, "I forgot the paperwork, turn around!". With just ten minutes to spare, Mark started to lazily drift over to the left lane in preparation of turning around. "Will you hurry up!", I continued to shout, "My grandmother can walk faster than you drive.". The truth is, I found out that I really didn't need to go back and get the paperwork, all the information is in the hospital computer. It was just my nerves getting to me. Though even if I wasn't getting surgery, Marks driving still would make me nuts.

I have to say, the foot surgery went just fine. Everything went smoothly, there was not one problem from admitting, to my trip out to the car in the wheel chair after surgery. The nurses were great, my surgeon was attentive and explained everything, and the anesthesiologist was pleasant and did a perfect job. And despite my fear of nuns, Sister Mary Nohabit, who wanted to pray with me in pre-op, even smiled and blessed me after I snarled "No, go away." at her.

My first twenty four hours after the surgery are a little foggy, because I was high on Oxycodone or Percocet as it is known. I was so loopy that I don't even remember talking to people on the phone, and when my tenant came over with toys for the cats I thought they were for me. You have to admit, if you were high on a class II narcotic, you might think a ball rolling across the floor with strobe lights in it was really cool too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Photo Friday

Worlds Oldest Woman Celebrates One Hundred and Twenty Years!
Miss Peggy with her youngest son, 88 year old Rick. Miss Peggy still works as a 'Miss Clairol' model.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worm Hell

Sometimes when I think about my childhood weird things pop into my head, like remembering that after a spring rain, huge night crawler worms would come out of the earth and collect on the sidewalk. As a kid I really thought that was neat, especially when I would run over them with my bicycle and squish them lengthwise. I hope there isn't a place in hell for me because of that, after all the nuns told us that they didn't have souls. If there is a worm abuse hell, then after serving time in that hell I would be moved on to lightning bug abuse hell. You see when I was a boy I thought it was very entertaining to go out at dusk, when the fireflies would gather in our yard like a picture in a fairy tale book, and smack them with a baseball bat just to see them fly across the yard like a shooting star. Yes, I have some beautiful childhood memories.

Here in Florida, we don't have lightning bugs, or night crawler worms that come out after a rain. I assume children here have their own memories that may include fist sized cockroaches running across the kitchen floor, or chasing down one of the millions of lizards that live in the yard. I’m sure they revere those memories just like I do mine.

A real favorite memory of mine, was waking up on a school morning to find that we had a blizzard the night before. I would run to the window to see that it had transformed the yard into a winter wonderland. I couldn’t wait to run out into that snow, and I would get really pissed if some kid came through our yard and messed up that perfect wonderland before I could get out there and mess it up myself. After all you need virgin snow to make decent snow angels.

I'm not sure what the equivalent would be here in Florida. Maybe kids get excited about being the first one to run outside after a hurricane, before anyone has ventured out to start cleaning up the mess. I suppose it could be fun to be the first one to find your neighbors roof in the middle of the street, or somebody's shed from a block away, at the bottom of the swimming pool. One other thing, do people from Florida who have moved to a cooler climate, reminisce about humidity? Do they miss it? Could those be the people you see in the steam room when you go to the gym?

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm Afraid You'll Need to Spend More

There is a sad pattern with contractors here in South Florida where they give you an estimate, show up for a few days of work and then disappear. I really hope that isn't what is happening here.

The guy from the pool company started working on my pool last Tuesday morning in a cloud of dust and a frenzy of activity. Cutting and slicing up my back yard like one of Marks meatloaves. He showed up again the next day and continued cutting the pool and deck up, creating a mess that I was assured will be put back in order. On Thursday, he didn't show up until after noon, but he did seem to get all of the re-piping done that day and it didn't bother me much. Friday he showed up around three in the afternoon, walked around yakking on his cell phone for about fifteen minutes, puttered around in the bottom of the pool for another few minutes, and then he left. Today, Monday, it is ten fifteen in the morning and he is still not here.

I really don't know if this will all turn out okay, but looking at the mess in my yard I get a queasy feeling. Having heard horror stories, it does make me a little worried. The guy did promise to have it all done in a week, but it looks like it would take a miracle to make that happen.

Oh yes there is another thing contractors like to do. When they get started on a project they seem to always find an unforeseen problem that really needs to be dealt with. Of course this will require more expense on my part, and this project is no different. For two hundred dollars more I need my pool acid washed so that the sections he worked on will match the rest of the pool. At this point I just figure I should expect to spend a thousand more than planned on because he still has a few days to find more 'unforeseen problems'.