Monday, June 30, 2008


It's been a sad weekend for me, having lost my dog of almost thirteen years that I raised from a pup. Molly was the first dog that I have had that spent its entire lifespan with me, from pup to death, so it is a new experience.

When I was a very young child, our family had a dog, a spaniel of some kind, named Coffee. Coffee was a great little dog who we loved and played with, in our large suburban back yard. The only problem with Coffee is that she was very territorial, and had a habit of taking a chunk out of the mailman and anyone else who ventured too close. This of course was a problem, and after a few too many bitten delivery men, it was decided by my parents that Coffee had to go. Bright and early one morning, we all piled in the car to take Coffee to her new home. I was assured that she would be going to a "nice family" and that I needed to stop sobbing. All I know is that we parked in front of a large brick building, and my dad took Coffee in, and returned without her.

Many of the kids on our block had dogs and they were almost all well adjusted to having children around. The one exception was the Johnson's dog, named 'Poyk', who was always chained to a dog house in their back yard. Poyk was a huge beast about the size of a small bear, with fangs like a saber tooth tiger, and claws to match. There were stories of horror, of Poyk eviscerating babies, tearing the heads off of grown men, and chasing down women and children to devour them. Terror struck when you heard the shout up and down the street, "POYK'S LOOSE, POYK'S LOOSE!!". Most kids scrambled for cover, running to the nearest shelter, but for those who didn't hear the call or chose to ignore it, their chances of survival were slim. Once my older sister almost didn't make it. She came screaming up to the front of the house, her face and lips drained of color, her long banana curls flailing out behind her, with Poyk so close she could feel his breath. We managed to get her into the house with just seconds to spare.

The truth is, I don't know if that dog was really that mean, or if the stories were true. One day I looked at Poyk tied up in the Johnson's back yard, and thought he didn't look all that dangerous, so I slowly walked up to him. He looked at me and wagged his tail, so I started petting him and he gave me a lick on the face. I was never scared of Poyk again after that.

That's the great thing about dogs, you can't bullshit them. I always took my cue from Molly, if she didn't like someone, I didn't trust them either. I miss her.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Photo Friday: Molly's Last Walkies

Molly's Last Walkies.

I had to finally make the decision yesterday afternoon. She was in very bad shape, and I probably waited longer than I should.

She was a good dog.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest Services

Oh, sweet freedom!! Free at last, free at last, sweet Jesus free at last, the visitors have left.

When I was younger and traveled, I did as most young guys do. I stayed at the 'Friends Sofa Hotel', and when a friend needed a place to stay, I never had a problem reciprocating. In fact I think that's how the hotel chain 'Sofitel' got it's name. At some point though, it gets out of hand and you realize a real hotel is the way to go.

This past week, seven whole days, we hosted Mark's niece and ex-sister-in-law, her new husband, and his son. They were really very nice and tried hard to not be a burden, but lets face it, six people in a home designed for two is a crowd. I was boxed out of my office where my computer is, because there was a huge inflatable bed with two sleeping people in there. I couldn't watch television in my own selfish, remote monopolizing way, because a sweet fifteen year old girl was watching teenage girl shows. When I went to take a shower, I turned on the water and after two minutes I was blasted with nothing but cold water, because I was the sixth one taking a shower. So as I stood there, soaped up head to toe, with only the icy water to rinse off with, I made a pledge. No more Sofa Hotel.

The truth is that no matter how much you love somebody, and they love you, after just two days on their couch you are a burden. Mark and I have plans for Chicago in August, and we will be staying in a hotel for the whole stay. We won't even be staying at my mom's house for one night like we usually do. Not so much because it would be a burden on her, mostly because her sofa is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever slept on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buy Now, Pay Later

When I am screwed over, I tend to have a long memory. That is why to this day there are certain companies I will never do business with again, even if they are under new management.

I remember back in the 1960's the first 'revolving credit cards came out, called Master Card. The banks would just mail them out to everybody, and nobody would have to even apply for credit. As a kid I thought this was an interesting idea, free money. Of course we all know there is no free money, somebody always pays in the end. The first time I ever applied for a credit card was at Sears. I needed a new television, and I liked one they had at the Sears store. After filling out all the information I went up to the counter, where a stuffy old guy looked it over. I was summarily advised that I wasn't qualified for a precious Sears Card. I had a job, I owned a house, and I had never not paid a debt, but Sears decided I was too much of a risk because I was twenty five years old. As a result I have never answered the repeated pleas by mail, of Sears, for me to open an account with them. In fact, I have also declined opening a Discovery Card account because that was originally a Sears product.

What I did, was to go to the First National Bank of Chicago and apply for a Visa Card, and they gave it to me no problem. Over the years the name on the card has changed from First National Bank, to simply First Card, to Bank One, and finally to Chase. Six months ago I noticed that the interest rate on the card I had carried for over thirty years, had jumped to twenty one percent, and I called them. The young woman at Chase informed me that not only would she not reduce the interest, but that I was lying and I had only had this card for ten years, and that I was obviously some kind of ne'er-do-well trying to scam her.

So today, after paying off the card, I called to cancel the account. Suddenly I was their most valuable customer. There was nothing they wouldn't do for me. "Sir, you have such a good credit history with us. I will give you a much lower rate and triple reward credits. Please don't cancel." When I refused all offers the tone changed, "Sir, if you cancel I cannot stop the consequences. If Satan should rise up from Hell and destroy your credit rating, we cannot stop him.". As I sit here putting my old credit card of thirty three years, through the shredder, I can only wonder. Why would Chase Bank think they can scare me when even the nuns at St. George Catholic School, couldn't?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Welcome To Babel

Over the years I have learned enough Spanish so that if I am ever stranded in a Spanish speaking country, like Miami, I won't starve or be unable to find a toilet. "Por favor, donde es los bano?"(where is the restroom), at which point the person I am talking to will reply in machine gun fast Spanish, something along the lines of, "You go over the hill and turn north and squat.". My interpretation is usually wrong.

The worst problem with language was Paris, France, where Mark and I ordered martinis at a restaurant because it was the only word on the menu that we understood, and got two large glasses of straight vermouth. At the Louvre cafeteria, thinking I was so clever, I ordered 'poulet avec fromage, blanc'. I was expecting chicken with white cheese, what I got was an anemic little bird leg, along with a large bowl of plain yogurt. Like most Americans I really only understand, and speak one language fluently, sort of. Unlike Most European countries and Canada, our educational system does not require second languages.

When I was in fourth grade at Saint George School, I was encouraged to become an altar boy because all my friends were doing it, and it was sort of expected. My biggest problem is that back then all masses were said in Latin, a language no longer spoken, and we had to learn it so we could respond to the priest during the mass. So, we were each given a four page pamphlet with the entire mass written out, with the priests part and our response. Unfortunately I never could get past the first page because I was always making up different words than what we were supposed to say. The first line was "Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.", which I would change to something like "A day with Kay the kitty cat is good for you and meum.". This of course brought uncontrollable laughter from the other boys, and pissed off Father O'Connell.

The last straw for Father O'Connell, was when he brought us over to the church to actually practice at the altar. Back and forth we would go from the side of the altar and over to the priest, doing all the moves that would be required during a real mass. Unfortunately, I was a little dork who couldn't resist being the center of attention. Every time I walked past the bells that are rung during the mass at special times, I would 'accidentally' ring them with my foot. By the fourth occurrence of 'accidental bells', Father O'Connell went nuts, and my career as an altar boy was over. Other than having to explain it to my parents, all in all I was relieved, and it was probably for the best. After all, I probably would have ended up asking ‘where is the toilet’ in Latin at some point in the mass.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why The Parade?

Chicago Parade

Growing up in the 1950's I never heard a mention of something called homosexuality. In the 1960's when I hit puberty, I hit it like a brick wall at a hundred miles per hour, and still not having ever heard of being 'queer', I simply followed my own instincts. One of my instincts was to tell all my little friends of my new found discovery. That, in retrospect, might have been a mistake. I thought I had just invented this thing and that adults didn't know a thing about what I was feeling. It wasn't until seventh grade when a kid at school named Tom, asked me if I was a homosexual that I got a clue. "A what, a who, what is that?". Imagine my shock when I learned that I had not invented a new kind of human relationship. I couldn't copyright it, I couldn't patent it. Somebody had already done it, thousands of years before.

My friend Rudy, who is eighty one years old, likes to tell me stories about when he went to gay bars back in the nineteen fifties and sixties. He says that guys would go into a club and try to meet somebody as fast as possible and get out, because the longer you lingered in a bar the more you exposed yourself to the risk of arrest. You see back then the police considered being gay illegal and would raid bars, and arrest the patrons, and if you got arrested your name would be published and you could lose everything. This was condoned by the government authorities, and the public at large. That is until June 27th, 1969, when a group of gays in New York City fought back after a police raid at the Stonewall Tavern. It is that point in time, when gay men and women stood up and demanded their right to exist as tax paying, law abiding citizens, without harassment by the state, that we celebrate every year during June, all around the world.

Wilton Manors, Florida, is no exception, and so Saturday night we all got together for our annual party on the main street through town. The best part about it, is that it included many elected officials, and the police actually participated, not just as traffic control, but as entries in the parade. Hell, our town and parade are so all inclusive, that we even had an entry from the 'Log Cabin Republicans', a group of gay Republicans. Sure it consisted of five, lonely, gray haired men carrying a banner, with nobody within twenty feet of them, but they were there.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Photo Friday

Rainy day, rain all day.
Ain't no use in gettin' uptight.
Just let it groove its own way.
Let it drain your worries away, yeah.
Lay back and groove on a rainy day, hey.
Lay back and dream on a rainy day.
Jimmy Hendrix

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shopping With Big Al

Mark and I went to the supermarket today, and I was amazed at how fast the price of things are going up. I am actually starting to appreciate Mark's coupon clipping and sale searches. We went to the CVS store the other day and they almost owed Mark money by the time he was done with his coupons. Thirty dollars worth of stuff for a little over five dollars, even the store manager was impressed.

When I was a kid, I don't ever remember my mom doing the grocery shopping. That was my dad's job and I think it was like a game to him. It would start with the shopping list my mom would make up over the course of the week. Then early Saturday morning, my dad would go over it, comparing what my mom needed, to what was on sale at the supermarkets. Next, he would list everything by which store had the cheapest price for that item, with sub-categories for those items he had coupons for, with sub-sub-categories for those items with coupons that were also on sale, below the cheapest price possible.

When all was in order, he would get into the gigantic, empty, Ford Station Wagon, with all the seats folded down and head out. Never were children allowed on my dad's grocery shopping safari's. We not only would get in the way of his well oiled shopping machine, but we would take up precious space needed for the quarter ton of food that our large family would consume over the course of the next seven days.

Like the great white hunter, off he went to Jewel, National, Motto's, Dominick's, and some other markets that I didn't even know existed. After what could only be called speed shopping, my dad would return a couple of hours later with the station wagon full, and groaning, under the weight of a weeks worth of food. Then with a loud bellow, he would call for all his offspring to help unload the Ford. Like a line of worker ants, I and my siblings would grab bag after bag of groceries from the car and trudge up the steps to the kitchen.

It is quite the opposite of when I shop on my own. I just grab whatever looks good to me. I am a sucker for a shiny package, and I am totally susceptible to an elderly woman cooking stuff, and giving it away at the end of the aisles. That's why it's a good thing I have Mark and his coupons to shop for me, he is never distracted from his mission, more for less.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 17, 2008, At Our House

Fat Kitty has had enough of her Queen Elizabeth collar, and is strutting her stuff in her new domain, free of the collar and free of Carlotta. Carlotta is pissed off because she can no longer hide under the bed, waiting in ambush until Fat Kitty cannot hold her bladder any more, and has to leap down from the bed and make a mad dash to the poopy box. Carlotta now paces back and forth in front of the new barricade designed to keep her from her hated enemy. Meanwhile, Molly, in the throes of her illness, slowly moves about the house trailing drool and slime like a snail. She is very unhappy because she has always been fastidious about doing her messes outside, and she keeps going to the door to be let outside to drool in the yard.

Meanwhile, out in the yard, specifically the swimming pool, the Barracuda pool cleaner has stopped working and needs a small part replaced. The part in question, the 'diaphragm', costs probably fifty cents to produce. At the pool store, I walk up to the cash register with the 'diaphragm' in hand , and the clerk says, with a straight face and no lubrication for what he is about to do to me, "that will be thirty eight dollars please.".

These are just some of the things that happened yesterday at my house. It wasn't a typical day, yet it wasn't really all that atypical. It just isn't the way it's supposed to be. This is not the promise I made to myself when I sold the hot dog stand and hung up my tongs. I'm supposed to be sleeping until ten in the morning. I'm supposed to be puttering around in my pleasant garden on a fine summer day. I'm supposed to be having a workout at the health club in the afternoon. I'm supposed to be enjoying cocktails and the company of friends, on a lovely Florida evening. That, is what a typical day is supposed to be.

Well it's not all that bad. At least one of those things I envisioned has been fulfilled. I do enjoy the cocktails a few evenings a week, and I don't necessarily wait for the company of friends.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Farmer Mark

There is nothing like the soil of the American Mid-West. It is among the most fertile in the world. When I was a kid, we would plant a garden behind our garage, and grow corn, tomatoes, and various other things. The only crop that I remember having a problem with was watermelon. It seems that the watermelon is a southern crop and all we could grow were small melons suitable for use as softballs.

One crop that you should grow with caution, (besides marijuana) is zucchini. I have tried growing zucchini, and at first it was great. Perfect little tender veggies about four to six inches long that tasted great. The problem was that they grew fast and if you didn't pay attention for a couple of days, you came back to huge zucchinis that looked like they were on steroids and might even contain alien beings.

Here at our house in Florida, Mark has been growing tomatoes this year, and even though I have made fun of his gardening skills, and called his garden the Auschwitz for plants, I have to admit he's done a pretty good job. We have been eating his tomatoes for the last two weeks, and unlike the crappy hard ones you get at the supermarket, these are very flavorful and tender. And of course Mark's tomatoes are salmonella free.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Molly Update

3PM, Saturday; This is not a happy time for me. Molly went to the vets yesterday and over $1600 later, all I know is that she has a problem that is more likely fatal than not. What the doctor told me is that she has an enlarged esophagus, or Megaesophagus. (click on link for more info)

Unfortunately the outlook is grim, and if they can't find the underlying cause, I have some decisions to make soon. It will take a week to get the results of all the tests, to find out if they can cure Miss Molly. Until then I have to make sure she gets her food down and give her the medications that she needs. This is all on top of Fat Kitty and her problems. It almost looks like a animal hospital around here.

As far as Carlotta and Fat Kitty are concerned, the veterinarian recommended that I get Carlotta's fangs trimmed. She says it doesn't hurt her and doesn't interfere with her eating because she is an inside cat. At least if she bites Fat Kitty again, it won't cause a puncture and abscess. Fat Kitty herself is doing fine and living Carlotta free in the south wing of the house.

7PM, Saturday; We picked up Molly and she looks good, isn't drooling as much, and seems happy. I think I can cope with this. Three different medications three times a day, and I have to feed her by hand while she sits up. Four times a day, little meatballs of dog food. I only hope I have someone to feed me little meatballs when I'm her age.

6:30PM, Sunday; Again I am discouraged. Molly is breathing hard at times and the look of distress on her face is troubling. It is hard sometimes to get her to eat her food.Sorry for the bad story today, but I just don't feel very happy.