Sunday, March 30, 2008

Animal Rules

There are certain rules for dealing with animals. One would be, not to continually bother wild animals, say like a sting ray. It might just stick a barb into your chest. Or if you are drunk and at the zoo, don't harass the tigers. They apparently can jump farther than you think. Another one I learned as a teenager is to not let your dog chase skunks. A follow up to that rule is, tomato juice helps kill the stench of skunk on your dog. I am not an animal expert by any means. I feel bad for the pets I had when I was younger, because I really didn't know how to take care of them correctly, and I didn't have the stability that I have now. I am at a point in my life where I don't even want to go away for more than eight hours because I worry about my pets. The last time I left, was to go to Chicago for twenty four hours. My flight got cancelled in Atlanta and I had to turn around and come right back home. In those nine hours that I was gone, Mark had not given Carlotta her pills, filled Molly's water bowl, nor put food in Molly's food bowl. The only reason kitty Carlotta got fed is that she will pester you until you do. I'm sure she pestered Mark for quite a while before he caught on.

Even after thirty three years of cat ownership, I still have some things to learn. Friday night is the night I like to go out and have a few drinks with friends, this past Friday was no exception. I returned home from my libations, and noticed Fat Kitty in the back yard waiting patiently for her food. Instead of bringing food out to her, in my altered state, I decided she should come in the house and finally meet Carlotta. I figured if they got along, Fat Kitty could move in and not have to spend the hot summer outside.

So the rule is, DON'T try to introduce a new cat into your home after four vodkas. I don't care how much you think you know the little fur ball, they have their own agenda, and they also have long sharp claws that they aren't afraid to use. As I tried to put Fat Kitty on the floor, Carlotta ran up and hissed at her. Fat Kitty dug her claws into my chest, and in a deranged panic, tried to continue on up over my head. As I screamed out in pain, I ran outside with the scared kitty firmly clamped to the flesh of my chest. As I peeled her off and tried to calm her down, I realized, Fat Kitty isn't moving in tonight.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Photo Friday

Once a month our little town has 'Art Walk', where artists team up with merchants, to display their creations in the various stores, restaurants, and clubs on Wilton Drive. It is festive, and fun.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

National Pastime, Shopping

I have always enjoyed going to baseball games, although when I was really young I didn't follow the action very well. The problem was, that I was too distracted by all the other crap going on. One time when my dad took us to a double header White Sox game, I was totally engrossed by the mushroom cloud forming to the west of Comisky Park. It turned out that a gas station had blown up.

I have to admit that some baseball games are boring, in fact most are boring, and you have to dial down your expectations for an exciting time when attending them. That's why it's always interesting when I bring Mark to a game with me. He seems to find a never ending number of things that are more interesting than the game, sort of like me when I was a little boy.

Tuesday Mark and I went to a Marlins spring training game here in Fort Lauderdale. Mark wasn't very interested in the game itself, he was more interested in what material the players uniforms were made out of. He was sure that those grass stains wouldn't come out. Usually when I take Mark to a baseball game with me, he amuses himself by shopping in the gift shop during the game. He really likes the Wrigley Field gift shop and he once disappeared for five innings while we were at a Cubs game. Unfortunately, this was a minor league ball park, and it had no place for him to shop. Instead I had to put up with his constant distractions, and questions for five innings before I decided we'd seen enough and went home.

I think in the future, when I go to a game, I'll find someone else to take with me. Someone who will watch the game with me. Someone who doesn't feel compelled to buy a lot of junk to bring home. Someone who won't be critiquing the opposing teams uniforms for having clashing colors. Another option might be, to buy two tickets in different sections, with my seat in the stadium and Marks seat in the gift shop.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spare Change

One of the things my mother always stressed when we were children was to never, ever, hang out by the rail road tracks. This was of course for good reasons. One reason was that we could be run over by a train and they would have to come and pick us up with a mop and bucket. My mom's other reason, and the one that scared me even more than getting run over, was the hobos, or bums that rode the rails and might be camping in the woods nearby. I didn't know what the hobos might do with me, but it scared me just to think of shadowy men in rags lurking in the woods.

Of course, kids being kids, we went and played on the train tracks anyway. They were like a secret path that led us into forested areas that automobiles couldn't reach. To keep from being run over by a train, we would put our ears to the track, just like we saw the Indians do on the Lone Ranger, and listen for the rumble, which meant that one was coming soon. When a train was approaching, we would get all excited and dig into our pockets for our pennies, which we would then lay on the rail so that the tons of train could squish them into a thin flat disk. Some of my brother's showoff friends would sometimes lay a nickel on the track, but I could never part with that much money. Just squishing a penny that could have bought a bag of candy at 'Rudy's' candy store bothered me. To this day I can't walk by a penny lying on the pavement without bending over to pick it up. For all the money I've wasted in my life, I just can't seem to let a penny go wasted on the street.

Like most people, I don't like change accumulating in my pocket, so I am constantly emptying the change into a 'coin can' on my dresser. The problem with this, is that I eventually have two or three full containers of coins, which I can't bring to my bank, because I bank by mail. One option is to bring it to the supermarket where they have a machine that will take your change and give you your money, minus eight percent. Minus eight percent, is like leaving a penny laying on the street to me, so I bought a coin sorter/counter from and started rolling my own coins. It works okay. It isn't designed for high volume, but it does the job and I now have 'found money'. You know what found money is don't you? That's Friday night drinking money! Like I said, I don't like to waste money.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Okay Now, Read Line Four

I, like most people hate going to the doctor. The first thing I hate about it is the waiting room. Mostly because you have to sit in a room with a bunch of sick people, and read old magazines whose pages are all limp from hundreds of hands, leafing through them.

Last week I went for my bi-yearly eye exam. Because of my glaucoma and two eye operations, my exam is much more detailed than most. In fact it is more like a procedure performed at Abu Ghraib prison, except without me being naked and the nurse isn't standing next to me pointing at me like I’m some kind of trophy.

It starts off easy, reading from the eye chart, but that’s just to lull me into a false sense of security. Immediately after the eye chart, drops are put into my eyes to ‘numb’ them. Why numb them? Because they are getting ready to poke things into them, that‘s why. First up is the pressure test, where a purple light slowly moves in towards my eye until it comes into contact with it, then it's pushed even further into the eye. Usually at this point the technician scolds me for blinking, and she informs me that she will have to keep poking me in the eye until I don’t blink.

After the ‘poke you in the eyes’ test come more drops. These drops are to ‘dilate’ your eyes, so that they can see into them. After they give me the drops, they tell me to wait twenty minutes until they take effect. When looking at a five watt light bulb is like staring into the noon day sun, the drops have taken effect. Now with my pupils open wide, they take photos using a flash strobe. By the time they are done flashing a thousand watts of light into my eyes over and over (they never seem to get a good picture on the first try), it seems like I am looking through a bucket of blood. Everything I look at is stained red.

Finally the doctor comes in. I may be at the ‘doctors’ office for two hours or more, but I only see the doctor for about five minutes, which is when he shines airplane landing lights into my eyes and tries to peel back my eyelids as far as possible, all the while saying “looks good“.

After the doctor is done with me, I am ushered into a small room with inadequate air conditioning and a large machine in it. It is this machine that I dread the most. It is called the ‘Field of Vision’ test and it is a pain in the ass. With me sitting in an very uncomfortable chair, and my eyelids taped open, my head is pushed up against the machine, with my chin and forehead in little cup like rests. When the test starts, you have a ‘clicker’ in your hand that you click every time you see a little light flash somewhere in the machine. I know it sounds simple, but after a few minutes I start zoning out because I can't blink and I begin missing flashes of light. This causes the test to go on and on until I catch enough light flashes to satisfy the machine.

After about two hours, I am released from eyeball hell and given the good news that my blindness and glaucoma have been stabilized. Then I am reminded of the bad news, I have to make an appointment for six months from now to do it all again.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is The Drinking Age Six Years Old?

I am sitting in my big recliner, with a pre-season baseball game on the television and I am dozing off. The only thing that would make me fall asleep faster is if Jack Brickhouse were still alive and doing the play by play. With the steady drone of the banal voices that pass for announcers these days, lulling me off to dreamland, I am suddenly jolted back into consciousness by one of the most hideous sounds known to modern America. No, not a speech by George Bush, it's that ubiquitous shill, Billy Mays.

You know the guy, he screams out of the television set at you, demanding that you buy whatever crap he's selling today. This time it's 'Kaboom', some kind of cleaning fluid that apparently will clean anything. Hopefully it will clean up the stain I left in my pants after he scared it out of me. My first response to a Billy Mays commercial is to hit the mute button, but this time both the remote and the cat that had been snoozing on my lap, went flying across the room when I was startled by "HI!! I'M BILLY MAYS.", bellowing out of the TV. By the time I found the remote the offending commercial was gone.
I don't know what marketing geniuses have determined that screaming at prospective customers is an effective device for selling products, but it must work. Why else would every other commercial on cable television feature Billy Mays screaming at me to buy Oxy-Clean or some kind of crazy folding ladder. What ever happened to the days of catchy little jingles and animated scrubbing bubbles.

When I was a kid, I particularly liked the Alka Seltzer commercial with Speedy. He was cute, and his song was catchy. The commercial that I think was the most effective back in the 1950's was the Hamm's Beer commercial with dancing bears out in the forest. It literally made me want to go get an ice cold beer, and I was only six years old. When I was finally old enough to actually drink beer, I discovered that Hamm's sucked, but at least that commercial got me to try Hamm's Beer once. That's better than Billy Mays, I won't ever buy anything he advertises. He gives me a headache.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Photo Friday

"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers ... AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." Jerry Falwell

"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" --Jerry Falwell on the 9/11 attacks

Jerry Falwell supported the Election of George W. Bush, and Bush welcomed his endorsement.

McCain and FalwellReagan and FalwellGeorge H W Bush salutes Falwell
"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson

"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor." –Pat Robertson, on gay days at Disneyworld

George H W Bush and Pat
Romney and Robertson

Rudy and Pat

Rev. Wright and Bill Clinton

Hippie Road Trip; part three

After four days in New York City, Kiva and I were ready to head back to Iowa and the hippie farm. My first visit to New York was complete, I had seen an off Broadway play, I had walked around Central Park and Times Square, and I even rode the subway to Harlem, walked around, got scared and left. In the morning we set out across the bridge into New Jersey, and no matter how many times Mark tells me how nice it is, to me Jersey looked awful. After New Jersey it was Pennsylvania, which at least got more interesting as we entered the mountains. Again, we traded off driving and we were making good time, though my VW bus seemed to be laboring a bit every time we had to climb one of those mountains.

There is one thing you should know about me and automobiles when I was young, I didn't maintain them very well. I never checked the oil until I started hearing the lifters clacking, and even after I checked the oil it never occurred to me that it shouldn't be black on the dipstick. I cannot recall ever changing the oil in a car until 1974, when my boss made me get the oil changed on the company van.

On a mountain outside of State College, Pennsylvania, while I was sleeping in the back and Kiva was driving, a loud explosion came from the rear of the van. Slowly the van rolled to a stop while Kiva and I tried desperately to restart the thing. Nothing doing, we had blown the engine, and we were going nowhere. It took all of our money just to get it towed into town, and in the end I sold my beloved hippie van to the local VW mechanic for $100 and hitch-hiked back to Iowa.

Nowadays I check my oil and change it regularly. I never travel to another city without a hotel room booked in advance, much less sleep on the floor. And I treat my Capital One card with the respect it deserves, for without it I'm really just one disaster away from my hippie days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hippie Road Trip; part two

During our first day in New York, Kiva's mom had made it clear that she didn't want that dirty hippie staying at her house. So Kiva made a few calls, and got one of her friends to put up this dirty hippie for a few days.

Her friends apartment on the West Side looked a lot like The Kramden's apartment from the 1950's, that had been redecorated by some homeless person. One thing is for sure, Alice hadn't cleaned it lately. I say, if you are a guest, you shouldn't complain about your accommodations, so I didn't. I didn't even complain when I woke up in the middle of the night to pee, and found myself covered with cockroaches, I just flipped on all the lights and screamed a lot. The next night, prepared with a can of ‘Raid‘, I rolled out my sleeping bag on the living room/kitchen floor and sprayed the carpet, until it was soaked, in a defensive circle around me. The smell was awful, but it did cut down on the roaches.

Another fact of life in New York is alternate side parking, meaning you have to move your car every day to the opposite side of the street or it gets towed. On the second morning, my host asked if I had moved my car the night before. when the realization of what he had just asked me sank in, I got up and ran down to the street. It was gone. I learned another fact of life about New York that day, you can run into famous people almost anywhere. While I was ransoming my car from the impoundment yard under the West Side Highway, I was standing in line directly behind Elliot Gould, who had just been in the Oscar winning movie Mash. He was ransoming out his 1971 Gremlin, which he assured me was a fine automobile. I'm sure the Gremlin was nice, but I thought a big star like him would at least be driving a Matador.
To be continued...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hippie Road Trip; part one

In 1971 I was living in Iowa, on a farm with a bunch of other hippies. One of those hippies was a woman named 'Kiva', who was older than the rest of us, and a bit exotic to us because she was a New York City, Jew. She was exotic to me because growing up in Tinley Park, I believe there was only one Jewish family in town, total. One day in early spring, Kiva and I hit upon the idea of traveling to New York City in my Volkswagen Minibus. It seemed like a great idea to me, so with no planning, and very little money, we were off on a hippie adventure.

Our first stop traveling from Iowa, was my parents house in Tinley Park. My parents were not at home when we arrived, and all I really remember is a gaggle of my little sisters in the kitchen looking at us, all big eyed like we had just dropped in off some other planet. I would really be curious as to what they were thinking when they saw their big brother and this strange woman standing in the midst of their little world.

After a short visit with my family, we continued on eastward towards NYC. We drove almost non-stop, trading off driving, listening to really cool music on my 8-track tape player (an obsolete technology that used a never-ending loop of tape, and often would change tracks right in the middle of a song) and smoking hand rolled cigarettes.

I thought I was familiar with big cities, having lived in Chicago for a while, but my first impression upon entering New York by way of the George Washington Bridge was like nothing I had ever felt. I swear I could feel the energy of all eight million inhabitants as I drove off the bridge, into Manhattan. We turned north, towards the Bronx and Kiva's moms house. I was surprised when Kiva's mom opened the door and screamed "Barbra, what aw you doing heah?". Up until that moment I had never known Kiva's real name, in fact I hadn't even considered it. Within minutes, Kiva's mom transformed her from a new age hippie woman, with a vague aura of magic, into a Jewish girl named Barbra from the Bronx. Her mom didn't like anything about what she saw, especially me. So the next morning, after eating a strange breakfast made up of something I had never heard of before, 'lox, and cream cheese on a bagel', we went into Manhattan to find a place for me to stay.

To be continued...

Monday, March 17, 2008

The War In Irat

Let me tell you a little bit about Fat Kitty. She is a refugee that I gave shelter to when the lady across the street moved out and left her behind. Her real name is Alien, but I just call her Fat Kitty. Fat Kitty has some kind of nerve disorder causing her to shake like Katherine Hepburn, and walk in a funny hippity hop way. When she wants food or just some attention, she stands up on her little table outside the living room and beats on the window. She's very loving and on top of all that, she isn't afraid of Molly. I would not expect this fat, shaky cat to be a good ratter. No, Fat Kitty is more like a furry door stop.

The other night I was sitting in my office with the windows open, and I heard a sudden crashing in the garden, then some squeals, and then some more noises. It scared the hell out of me. Armed with the largest flashlight I have, I slowly moved out of the house and back to the garden by the shed. I shined the light into the flowers, and there was Fat Kitty, her eyes aglow with a very large rat in her mouth, struggling to get free. Fat Kitty shot a look at me like, "Turn that damn light off fool, I'm working here". I turned it off and high-tailed it back towards the house, with sounds of the death struggle still unfolding behind me. I never would have guessed she was capable of this. Normally Fat Kitty sits around quietly and watches as possums, raccoons, and other cats come and eat her food, without protest. She's very mellow.

In the morning I went out and Fat Kitty was snoozing peacefully on a chair, the dead rat neatly arranged on the deck like a hunters trophy, which of course it was. Needless to say, Fat Kitty got an extra ration of kitty treats and a good head scratching. The lesson of this story is, never underestimate the disabled, even if the disabled person is a cat that shakes like Katherine Hepburn.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photo Friday

Bulk day.
Once a month we are allowed to
throw out bulky items too large for
the regular trash. Below are a few
things that I and my neighbors threw out.