Friday, August 29, 2008

Photo Friday

More photos of our new puppy, Chandler. He really likes to bite Mark.


Thursday, August 28, 2008


You know it was just a matter of time. It was only two months ago that I lost Molly, and as a sort of therapy, I have been walking dogs at the Abandoned Pet Rescue ever since. Last week I noticed, for the first time, a cute little puppy that had been kept in the small dog room. His name is Chandler, and he is not a small dog. He will eventually grow to be about fifty pounds.

Today I took him home, and ever since early this afternoon, I have been covered in dog spit. My hands, arms, and ankles are covered with tiny punctures made by puppy teeth. I have already had to mop up a puddle of pee, and all Molly's old toys are spread out across the living room. Poor Carlotta kitty has been hiding under the bed for the last few hours, not even thinking of tormenting Fat Kitty. She just wants this little terror to go away.

I had forgotten how Molly was when she was a puppy, but Chandler has caused the memories to come flooding back. Non-stop energy, running around the house chewing on everything possible and running me ragged. Unfortunately, he is not house broken but I am working on that already. Just a few minutes ago he stopped playing and a wistful look came over him. I immediately grabbed him, showed him to the door, and he went out and peed. It seems that he is smart enough. My only worry is that I have not seen him poop yet. That is nine hours without pooping, and the clock is ticking. Oh well, I'm ready. I have plenty of paper towels and spray cleaner. That first poop is probably going to be quite a load, and I'm just waiting for the wailing and screaming when Mark steps in it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Special Election

In some ways I am old fashioned. Yesterday, Mark and I went over to the church where our polling place is and voted. We could have pre-voted, but like I say, I can be old fashioned and like to vote on the actual day. I like to think it's more exciting that way, but it isn't. This election was for sheriff, some judges, and some kind of amendment that seemed to make sense, but will probably just cost me more taxes if I vote for it.

When we walked in, the ten election workers all perked up and dropped their cards and crossword puzzles at the sight of actual voters. When they all settled down, one of the workers processed me while the other nine sat around and watched. When she was done and handed me a ballot, another official showed me to a shaky little table or 'booth', where I could vote. After voting for my sure losers for sheriff and state representative, I moved on to vote for the judges.

I don't know why they have us vote for judges. Unless they have done something horrible, like convicting me of jaywalking, I almost never know anything about them. So I always employ my special 'judging of the judges' criteria, which I base totally on my prejudices and the candidates last name. I am looking for liberal judges, so I separate them into six categories. Jewish names, Spanish surname, black sounding names, white-bread names, funny names, and last of all, redneck names. I almost never vote for somebody with a name like Bobby "Bubba" Clampett, unless of course their nick-name is really colorful and original. There was a guy I always voted for in Chicago just because his nick-name was "Bus", as in Barney "Bus" Phyfe. I had no idea if the guy was any good or not, I just enjoyed seeing his name on the ballot and picturing him in my mind. As for how I use my categories, I'm not telling, but if a black Cuban named, 'Billy Bob "Scratchy" Goldberg' were running, I'd be mighty confused.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a Beautiful Morning

The curtain of sleep slowly lifts. It is around eight in the morning, and off in another part of the house I can hear the jingle of Carlotta's collar. Through the closed windows I can hear the 'kaw! kaw!' of a crow and the twitter of all his lesser bird friends. Next to me I hear the rhythmic breathing of a sleeping Mark. Such an Idyllic morning. Then as if possessed, Marks eyes pop open and he starts talking, loudly. "And I don't care if the government knows.", he lets out in an angry voice.

I am not a morning person, I have never been one. I don't wake up all cheerful and ready to go, gleefully wishing everyone a happy day. If I fall asleep for five minutes in front of the television and I am awakened, I will need at least one minute of grumpy time. So in the morning, I need at least an hour of grumpy time. Not Mark, he wakes up ready to go, and whatever subject he last talked about the night before is still on his mind. It's as if he fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, and the moment he awakens, he finishes it. It scares the hell out of me every time.

As for my grumpy time, I just need a period of quiet before I get going after sleeping. I really don't want to discuss politics, or world events first thing in the morning. Mostly I just try to figure out if I was dreaming or if that winning lotto ticket, and the ride in the space shuttle were real or not.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweatin' to the Alky's

My arms ache like hell, and my knees feel like I just climbed to the top of the Sears Tower. I'm working out again. When I found out that our town had a gym that residents only had to pay a hundred dollars a year to join, I said "why not?". It's nothing fancy, it isn't very big, but everything is new and did I mention, it's only a hundred dollars! My only problem is figuring out when the least amount of people are using it. Not because I'm embarrassed that somebody I know will see my fat ass struggling to lift ten pounds. I just don't like to wait for a piece of equipment while some sweaty asshole sits on the machine between each set of reps, yakking it up with everyone around him. I'm sure I'll never get back to the shape I was in before I met Mark, but at least I'm trying.

The gym is just one of the nice things about our little town that makes it a good place to live. When I first got my dog Molly, I was able to take her to free dog training classes in the park, courtesy of the City. Not that it made her as obedient as Lassie, but at least it made her listen to me, when she wanted to that is. Another great benefit our town gives it's residents, is the free bus that makes a circuit through town once a hour. In fact, I time my workout so that I can walk outside and just jump on the little bus for the ride home.

Of course nothing is perfect. Lately I have noticed that the local bums have discovered the free bus. After all, if you were an alcoholic, homeless, stinky person wouldn't you want to spend the day riding around on nice cushy seats in air-conditioned comfort? Today I broke one of the cardinal rules of public transportation, I said hello to another passenger. A smelly, inebriated, talkative, passenger. During the ride from the gym to my stop, I learned from him, that Tropical Storm Fay was going to do a u-turn and come back to Fort Lauderdale and kill us. I found out that my drunken buddy used to be a professional tennis player, who for some reason, only played girls. And finally, I found out that I was in the company of one of the Cowsills (A singing group from the 60's that the Partridge Family was loosely based on), and that they wouldn't have broken up if 'mom' hadn't died. But he assured me, there was still a possibility that they would tour again. I guess riding around all day on that bus brought back memories for him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Photo Friday

Chicago.....last week......we obeyed the sign.

A Tire Iron, A Bag of Nails, and Some 2X4's

When my parents first moved to their new house in Tinley Park, from Chicago, they had two children and one on the way. I was the one on the way. I am not sure if they bought the large house because they meant to keep having children, or they kept having children to fill up the large house they bought. Either way, they kept on going until there were eleven of us.

This prolific reproduction by my parents, meant that every few years the house needed expansion. The first phase of expansion came when my mom was pregnant with my first younger sister, and consisted of finishing off the attic into two bedrooms. One for the two girls and one for my brother and me. Before you could say rhythm method, my mom gave birth to two more children and with no end in sight, the house needed expansion again.

My dad decided that the only way to go was up, so very early one Saturday morning, my grandfather, my dad, and a bunch of his friends began to cut into the roof of our house. One of the great things about those days is that apparently you didn't need architect plans or building permits, because I don't think anyone on site knew exactly what they were doing. They just seemed to have a vague idea of how to put up a dormer, and went at it. While my mom stood in the driveway watching her home being dismantled, my dad and his friends slowly pushed the roof up with the help of old fashioned auto bumper jacks and pieces of two by fours.

The most amazing thing about it, is that even with this rickety setup and a bunch of kids running around between the jacks, nobody got hurt. Even more amazing is that those guys got the job done and by the time the sun set, we had a large dormer on our house that eventually added two more bedrooms and a bath. Even more amazing, is that I have seen that house recently and the dormer is still standing.

Despite all those efforts to make our old house comfortable, it still couldn't hold our clan. That's because my mom and dad still had five more babies in their future, and in 1963 we moved on to a larger house on the other side of town. My dad only expanded the new house once. Probably because the town had finally enacted building codes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prince Valiant

You would think that being nearly blind as a bat, I would miss certain things, and you would be right. Like walking through a room and not slamming my shins into the eternal clutter that is Mark's idea of decorating. Or how about sitting at a bar, having a jolly old time, and not spilling drinks all over the bar as I gesture wildly to punctuate the point of some story.

One thing that I do miss is driving a car. I miss the freedom of it, the thrill of speeding through the countryside, and the feel of power as I stomp on the gas pedal and car pounds forward. Of course, I would still not be driving very much even if I wasn't optically challenged. Even if I could see everything in front of me I'd still not be able to afford stomping on the gas. It would cost me ten dollars every time I went to the supermarket. As for speeding through the countryside, I haven't lived within one hour of the countryside for thirty five years. The closest I could come to freewheeling it down the road, is sitting in the gridlock of I-95. It was a lot different when I was sixteen and living in Tinley Park. I could drive a half mile from our house and be in the boondocks. All my early driving experiences were basically on country roads.

My very first driving experience was probably when I was fourteen years old. It was while my brother was away at his first year of college, and he had to leave his little white Plymouth Valiant at home in the garage. While the rest of the family was away visiting my grandmother one Sunday, I decided to sneak his car out for a spin. I learned a couple of valuable lessons about driving that day. The first lesson was that you don't turn the wheels before you take off from a stop sign. That will only put you into a ditch. Really, it will put right into a ditch and the engine just might die and trap you in that ditch. Lesson number two is that you can't start a car while the transmission is in the 'Drive' position. And if you can't start it, it doesn't mean that the car is out of gas and you have to hike a mile back into town for a can of gas that you really don't need. One final lesson I learned is that there are good people who will help you, and point out that your car is still in drive, that's why you can't start it. But not without being sarcastic while they point that out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


On the television, there is a dorky news girl with a rain coat, standing at the beach, breathlessly carrying on about the impending doom of 'Tropical Storm Fay'. The unfortunate thing is that so many people have fallen for the hype. Schools are closed, tolls have been suspended on the turnpike, and people have descended on the Home Depot and grocery stores to stock up on supplies for the coming cataclysm. Meanwhile the reality of it is, we have a gentle rain, with occasional heavy rain, and a slight breeze of nine miles per hour, and this is the worst it is going to get. I will never understand why people buy into hyperbole designed to get you to do things that otherwise make no sense. It is no wonder these news shows are all sponsored by Home Depot and Publix grocery stores. They make a killing during storm threats, and want the news shows to keep up the good work.

Mark is one of those people who can be swayed by someone on television telling him that something is so wonderful he must try it. Every Saturday morning, Mark watches all the cooking shows on the local PBS station. The chefs on these shows are like superstars to Mark, and whenever we travel, if we are in the home town of one of them, we have to eat at their signature restaurant. In Savannah we tried to get into Paula Deans restaurant, but the four hour wait was way beyond my tolerance.

Last week in Chicago, after three previous attempts failed, we finally got into Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. If you are not familiar with Rick Bayless, he does a show about gourmet Mexican cooking on PBS, and he makes refried beans look like caviar. At least it looks that way on television. The reality is different. After lining up in front of the restaurant like cattle, you are herded into the Frontera Bar where you get to spend ten dollars on a margarita. When we finally got seated to eat, I ordered the 'Enchiladas de Mole Poblano'. What I got, was an expensive, better presented version of the same crap that I can get for a fifth of the price at our favorite Mexican/Cuban restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Basically it was beans, rice, plantains, and beef. Marks dinner wasn't much better. He got the brisket, and to demonstrate just how common tasting it was, Mark reproduced it at home, only better.

I'm glad I don't get swayed by hype and TV hucksters, but just to be sure, I am on my way out now to get a case of batteries and twenty gallons of water for the coming storm.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Remote Control

I can't stand that hillbilly shrink, Dr. Phil. Just the sound of his voice makes me want to puke.

Today Mark went on a drawer cleaning binge. It involved going through all the drawers and finding my 'fat' clothes, then separating them from my 'even fatter' clothes. The fat clothes would then be put into 'Space Bags' and stored away, while the even fatter clothes would be returned to my drawers for me to grow into. At some point during this process the television remote, that had been left on the bed, disappeared. It wasn't until I inquired as to why Dr. Phil was on the television, and not something more pleasant, like nails scratching on a blackboard, that Mark realized the remote was missing.

There are times that evoke terror, but none so horrible as losing the remote while Dr. Phil is on. After looking all around the bed, Mark figured that it had been packed up with my fat clothes, and so he pulled every vacuum packed bundle apart to no avail. Another possibility was that maybe I had scooped it up with the pile of socks with the limp elastic, and thrown it into the garbage. So there I was, like a homeless guy, swatting flies and digging through the garbage out back. It probably would have been better if I had put the old socks in a garbage bag, then I wouldn't have had to dig so deeply into the smelly trash. As it happened, there was no remote in the garbage either.

At this point you are probably asking, "Why don't you just reach over and turn the channel manually?", and the answer is that I am stubborn. I will not give in when I know that I can point the remote from across the room and silence Dr. Phil. I just need the damn remote, damn it. Luckily we have a large collection of remotes, so for thirty minutes I searched, swapping batteries, and entering codes until I finally found one that would work. I finally got to zap Dr. Phil, just as the closing credits were rolling.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trail of Tears

In 1832 the U.S. Government tried to remove the Seminole Indians from the Florida Territory as they had done to the Choctaw Indians the year before in the infamous 'Trail of Tears' march west.

My plan to use only public transportation while in Chicago did mostly work. That is, it worked when I planned everything out. When it didn't work, was when Mark decided to do something on the spur of the moment. Now, there is nothing wrong with being spontaneous, but if you don't know where you are going or you don't know how to get there, it can be a problem. It usually starts with Mark saying something like, "I want to go to that cute little store I saw on State Street.". The problem is that he didn't see it on State Street, and I know it isn't on State Street. It is in the opposite direction, yet he insists that we must walk just those two blocks so he can shop at the non-existent store.

Many times I have explained to Mark that I have fragile feet. If he doesn't help me conserve my feet, when he really wants me to walk somewhere important, they will be worn out. On Sunday, we walked a mile to breakfast and back. Then we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, by bus, and walked around there. So far I was fine, but I knew my limit was not far off. From Lincoln Park we walked to Armitage and Halsted, where we had an early dinner. It was after dinner that I decided we needed wine and snacks for my sisters, who were visiting us at our hotel later. I was happy with Seven-Eleven snacks and wine, after all I was standing right in front of the store. But no, not Mr. Gourmet. No, Mark needed to go upscale and he knew just where to go. We would go to the most pretentious grocery store chain in America, Whole Foods. "It was just around the corner."

Except that it wasn't just around the corner, and after a while pain started to fill my shoes. It didn't matter, the death march plodded on and on, with Mark promising, "It's just in the next block.". After a mile of walking it became obvious that Mark didn't know exactly where it was, and I quickly descended into a hateful wrath. I started berating Mark for not letting me get Seven-Eleven wine, for not letting me get a couple of bags of Cheetos and taking a cab back to the hotel. It was somewhere between Halsted and a blur in the distance, which Mark insisted was the store, that I realized what was happening. Mark's grandmother was a Seminole Indian, and she was obviously channeling though Mark. I was being punished for the sins of our European ancestors, and the trail of tears.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chicago Vacation

We are back from our annual trek to Chicago, and the trip, for the most part, was great. Good weather, some good food, and a lot of quality time with my family. But you don't want to hear about the good stuff. You want to hear about me falling into a hole in the sidewalk or me getting screwed up at the airport. Very well.

When I first started traveling via airplane in the 1970's, air travel was good. You got a hot meal in flight, the seats were of sufficient width to hold your ass with room to spare, the rest of the passengers were civil, and they were not dressed like they just came from picking through a trash dumpster. these days there is not much difference between the airplane and the subway from O'Hare.

From the first moment we checked in at the curb in Fort Lauderdale, until we left the gate in Chicago, the employees of the airline we had chosen were surly and acted as if we were an intrusion on their free time, and believe me they had a lot of free time. Since the airline was now charging two dollars for water and coffee, and seven dollars for a beer, not one passenger requested a drink thus allowing the flight attendants time to sit up front and have their own coffee klatch.Our airline, (who, to protect myself from a lawsuit I will not name, other than to say it flies in the US and the planes go up in the AIR) has decided to start charging for all baggage checked. The result is that you have people trying to schlep on to the plane the largest carry-on bag possible, plus a shopping bag full of crap, and for the ladies, a purse the size of a steamer trunk. I have always requested an aisle seat, but I am reconsidering that, after being slammed in the head twenty times by women's purses.

Flying has gone from being a somewhat pleasant experience, to something more akin to going to the dentist for a root canal. From the over priced airport food to being treated like cattle, flying has become a horrible way to travel. Unfortunately it is the only way I can get to Chicago for my annual trip. I can't drive, and trains in the U.S. are a joke. One thing I know is that I can rectify one of the problems I have with flying. I can make the seats larger just by eating less.