"Do you want it squared or rounded?". I am sitting in the barber chair, and for much too long a strange man has been fondling my head. I hate to have my head touched. So much so that I don't even like to wear hats, yet here I am not only letting this man touch it, I am paying him twenty one dollars to do it. As for the question, squared or rounded, he is talking about the back of my neck. They always ask this question, and I never know what to say. How the hell do I know what the back of my neck should look like? As long as it isn't shaved crooked or have big chunks of hair shaved out of it, I am fine with however he does it.
What I can't stand is the touching. About twenty minutes into the haircut, and I am starting to fidget and squirm like a three year old kid. What the hell is taking him so long? The whole reason I keep my hair so short is so the barber can do it quickly. On top of my weird phobia, halfway through the haircut, I had an allergy attack and had to have the barber pause while I whipped out my hanky. It just wouldn't do to have a violent sneezing fit while a man is running a razor over my skull.
Of course I did survive my haircut. I even managed to keep perfectly still while the barber shaved my neck, and around my ears with a straight razor, but one thing is still bugging me. Squared or rounded? What do you think?
Mark is pissed at me. It seems that I've stepped on his Jeopardy answer once too often tonight. Just like in many homes, Mark and I sit and watch Jeopardy every night, and compete against each other. The rules are a lot easier when you are playing at home. You don't have to answer in the form of a question, and pronunciation is not all that important, especially since Mark has that crazy New Jersey accent, and also suffers from Norm Crosby disease. For instance if the Jeopardy answer is "It's used for putting out small fires.", I will accept Mark's answer if he says "What is a fire distinguisher?".
Tonight I have been exceptionally good, and I have beaten Mark to the answers most of the time. The only categories that Mark has the advantage in are movies, theater, and art. My forte' is sports, and early television history. All other categories are up for grabs. It is amazing how much minutia and random crap you actually know, but Jeopardy brings it all out of you. Tonight my mind was working well. I was getting answers in categories that I wouldn't even have thought I'd know, and Mark doesn't like it. Now we have had Final Jeopardy, and the subject was ‘The Bible’, which I know nothing about, and couldn‘t answer. I guess if I want dinner, I’ll have to accept Mark’s question to the answer, “Who is Mary Mandolin?”.
Ever since I went through chemo-therapy twenty one years ago, parts of my memory have been fried. For example, in a photo that I used a couple of weeks ago I claimed that it was me, little Alan, sitting in the middle of a birthday party. It took my brother and younger sister to convince me that the kid at the table wasn't me. That's sad that I don't even remember what I looked like fifty six years ago, but of course that's why I have the disclaimer right next to my stories.
I do remember that four and a half years ago I ended my career with computers. I used to be pretty damn good, and in fact when my colleagues were stumped I was often called in to figure out why a particular computer was misbehaving. This past weekend I tried to get my new tenant's computer to communicate with my wireless network. I bought a cute little network adapter for his computer, and proceeded to follow the instructions for installing it. The instructions showed three simple steps which I followed precisely, but of course when I tried to connect with the network I got nothing. It was at this point that I started scouring my memory for all the reasons the damn thing wouldn't be working. That was when I realized how much I have forgotten in the last four plus years. After a couple of hours of screwing around, and reading all my old manuals, I admitted defeat, and called the manufacturer for support.
For three hours I talked to the 'support' desk, changing settings, and running between the computer and the router, two rooms and forty feet away. Finally my head exploded, and I cursed the guy out and hung up. It wasn't his fault that he couldn't help me. It was three o'clock in the morning over in India, and he was probably all jacked up on caffeine and tired of talking to crabby Americans anyway. As for my friend Russell's internet connection, all I can say is, forget about it.
It is very hard to type this story. That's because I have scrapes and contusions on the fingertips of my left hand, and a sprained right hand. Yes, I have had another little spill while walking the dog. This time I was walking with the nice German lady from down the block, and her dog Dandy (only a German would name their dog Dandy). As both her dog and Chandler pulled off into someone's yard to poop, I stepped off of the pavement, twisting my ankle, and crashing head first into the lawn. This time I think I actually blacked out for a few seconds after my skull struck the grass, because I opened my eyes and there was Chandler's big old nose in my face, and the nice lady was holding both leashes, screaming "OH- mein Gott!!".
It's always funny when someone who doesn't know of my history of twisted ankles, and sprawling pratfalls, experiences it for the first time. They are always quick to run over and try to help, yet I know that there is only one thing to do, just lay there like a slug for about a minute and do a quick inventory of all my limbs. This time, in addition to the twisted ankle, I have skinned both knees, sprained the right hand, and of course skinned the aforementioned fingertips, never mind the bump on the head. I know it is just a matter of time before I break something, after all, I'm not getting any younger. Just older and more and more brittle. The sad thing was that I did this just a couple of hours before bowling, and almost nothing will get me to miss that. So, after pondering whether or not to take a couple of the Oxycodone left over from my foot surgery, I decided to just take three Excedrin, and three vodkas. That did the trick, and I actually bowled better than the week before. The problem is that when I woke up this morning, the pain was unbelievable. My right hand, the one I bowl with, felt like it had been hit with a mallet, and the scabs on my finger tips were only temporarily masking the raw wounds on my left hand. Thank goodness, I still have those Oxies in the drawer.
Living in South Florida has been quite a challenge when it comes to the wildlife. I have delt with rats under the bed, flying cockroaches in the kitchen, and invasions of ants everywhere and anywhere. Outside, in the yard, I have fought off iguana infestations, lizards in the light fixtures, and even more rats. The other day, as Chandler and I were coming back in from walkies, a small snake slithered across the front porch and into the garden. I just hope it isn't a harbinger of what's to come.
Nearly 10-foot python captured in Everglades on first day of Fla.-sanctioned trapping program
1st day of Fla. hunt nets nearly 10-foot python
By BRIAN SKOLOFF Associated PressJul 17, 09 3:47 PM CDT
A program to eradicate invasive pythons from Florida's Everglades began Friday with a slithering success: Trappers caught a nearly 10-footer within about an hour of setting out, a shock to even the experts."It surprised us," said Shawn Heflick, a herpetologist who helped capture the snake Friday. "If you would have told me yesterday I was going to go out there today and that quickly find one, I would have called you a liar."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced just this week the state would allow a few permitted snake experts to begin hunting, trapping and killing the nonnative pythons in an effort to eradicate themfrom hundreds of thousands of acres in South Florida. The number of pythons in South Florida and throughout Everglades National Park has exploded in the past decade to potentially tens of thousands, though wildlife officials aren't sure exactly how many are slinking around South Florida.
Scientists believe pet owners have freed their snakes into the wild once they became too big to keep. They also think some Burmese pythons may have escaped in 1992 from pet shops battered by Hurricane Andrew and have been reproducing ever since.
Officials say the constrictors can produce up to 100 eggs at a time.
Summertime in South Florida, and the air is stagnant, stifling, breathless, and sodden. That's why I spend most of the eight months of summer in the air-conditioned bliss of my home or a tavern. The one bar I go to on Friday's is a smokers bar, but they thoughtfully leave the doors open, and turn the air-conditioning on high so that the smoke isn't so bad. It's not that I'm such a health nut about the air I breath, after all I did live in polluted Chicago for decades, and sat in smoky bars up there. Growing up, my dad smoked around us all the time, and over at my grandparents house my grandfather infused the place with the rank smell of his 'White Owl' cigars. It's just that most places are now smoke free and I have gotten used to not going home smelling like smoked meat.
As a child, it wasn't the heat of summer that caused us to stay sealed up inside, it was the bitter cold of winter. On freezing school days, our neighbor across the street would shuttle a carload of us children to school. If it was still too cold after school, we would be able to catch a ride from one of our other neighbors. Thinking about it now I realize that riding in those cars was probably quite a health risk. Not because the guys driving were bad drivers, no, it was because they smoked. The worst was the after school driver. While he was waiting for the dozen or so of us to get out of school, he was sitting in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.... with the windows closed. When we opened the car door, a thick cloud of smoke would swirl out. Inside the car, we would be riding in a bubble of smoke, the tars and nicotine permeating every inch of our lungs and clothes. We didn't care. It was like Siberia outside, and we gladly sat in that car playing with the smoke and writing graffiti on the nicotine stained windows. Back then all parents smoked in the car, and there was never any mention of secondhand smoke being a problem. Besides, it was probably good training for me later in life, when I was driving around town in my smoke filled, pot-mobile.
Well, I've done it again. Due to my blindness (I have lost %50 of my eyesight due to glaucoma), I have severely injured myself. It wouldn't be so bad if it were some kind of injury involving manly pursuits, but no, I was simply drinking a glass of Metamucil. First of all let me tell you that drinking Metamucil is like drinking Kool-Aid with dirt in it, and sometimes that dirt gets clumped up at the bottom of the glass. This is how a clump of that dirt caused me to have a bloody injury. In my attempt to knock loose the clump, I gave the glass a little tap at the bottom while it was tilted up, towards my mouth. This worked fine, and the clump, along with the rest of the liquid came rushing forward and into my face, causing me to lurch forward and slam the glass into the cabinet that I had judged to be farther away from me. Slamming the glass into the cabinet caused it to jam into the bridge of my nose, which caused me to start screaming in pain, swearing, and dancing around the kitchen, spewing blood and Metamucil everywhere.Once everything calmed down and Mark had bandaged me up, I let Chandler know that he had done nothing wrong, and he came out from behind the bed. Then I cleaned up the blood and Metamucil, which by this time had turned into a slimy goo. Finally I returned to the task at hand. I drank another glass of the nasty stuff, but this time I checked all sight distances, put on my safety glasses, and used my sippy cup.
Last Sunday, Mark and I were invited to a lovely yard party where there were maybe fifty or more guests. There was plenty of booze, snacks, and music, but I was miserable. I hate parties, plain and simple I hate them. I think it might go back as far as when I was in second or third grade and my mom did the sweetest thing, she threw me a surprise birthday party. Unfortunately I only really had one friend at the time so my mom was at a loss as to who to invite. Her solution was to invite all the children of her friends, who came within one year of my age. So there I was, at my own party with kids I didn't really like, trying to act like I was having a good time. It might have been better if my mom had shared her Mogen David with me.
I don't know why it is that I hate parties, I seem to get along just fine in a bar full of people. Just put a bar stool under my ass, and a vodka in front of me, and everything is just fine. I'll start jabbering to any poor fool who might sit down near me, oblivious to whether or not I'm embarrassing Mark. There is one kind of party that I used to go every year that was fairly easy to take, Halloween parties. I just put on my costume, and if I got drunk or did something out of the ordinary, I'd just deny that I was the asshole in the Nixon mask.
My problem with parties is that I find it hard to wander around with a drink in my hand, and inject myself into conversations with total strangers. Last Sunday I did find a young man at the party who was interesting and engaged me in a conversation for at least fifteen minutes. The only problem was when he excused himself to go freshen his cocktail, and never came back. I'll just assume that he got waylaid by some other party boy, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was on my third vodka. If nothing else, I enjoyed an afternoon of free food and drink, and I even took one last drink with me in the complimentary 'go' cups the host provided. At least I'm pretty sure that they were 'go' cups.
When I was seventeen, I bought myself a portable record player with detachable speakers. In lieu of headphones, I would put the speakers on either side of my pillow, turn up the volume, and listen to my Rolling Stones records. That's probably why I say 'what?' a lot now. Over the years my stereo equipment has become a little more sophisticated, and I have had actual headphones instead of deafening speakers. What I have never had are those little 'bud' type headphones that fit into your ear hole. You see, I have freakishly, weird ear holes that won't accommodate 'ear buds', they just fall right out. If I try to force them in, I end up either breaking them or hurting myself. This is one reason I have never been attracted to the iPod.
Just before we left on our Chicago trip, Mark sent away to Apple for an iPod so that he could listen to some music on the plane/train/bus. On the day that Mark's iPod arrived, he disappeared into our bedroom, plugged it into his computer, and started the job of loading the thing. From the other room, I could hear cursing, crying, and all sorts of squeals and moans. Apparently you have to go through some hellish work before you can get an iPod to operate. After two days, and hours of downloading, Mark finally got the thing to play music.
Unfortunately for me, since the iPod has arrived I have found myself holding one sided conversations with Mark on a frequent basis. I will unload with a long and complicated discussion about the merits of moving to Chicago, and just as I am making my point I realize that Mark has those stupid iPod ‘buds’ in his ears, and hasn’t heard a word. This happened, again and again while we were in Chicago. On the bus and train, I would be blathering on and on, only to have him ask loudly, (iPod users don’t know they are shouting) “Which stop is ours?”. I do have a solution to this problem, and Chandler is going to help me with it. It involves the iPod’s uncanny resemblance to one of his chewy strips.
I picked the July fourth weekend to visit Chicago because somebody in my family always had a big party on that day, and I figured I could knock out a lot of family visits in one quick stab. What I didn't figure in, was the fact that it is probably the most crowded and congested weekend in Chicago. First there was the 'Taste of Chicago'. An annual celebration of food, where people fight huge crowds so that they can stand around in the dirt, eating over priced samples of restaurant food, in close proximity to open trash receptacles. This is one of Mark's favorite Chicago happenings, and although he nagged me for days to accompany him on this food safari from hell, I held firm and spent the afternoon napping at the hotel.
After getting away with not traipsing through food hell with Mark, it was much harder to get out of being dragged to the second event of the day, fireworks at Navy Pier. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of people downtown for the 'Taste' as it is commonly referred to, about a million more pushed their way down to the lakefront to watch the annual fireworks display. Many had planned ahead and had staked out their viewing area earlier that morning. Our last minute decision to go down and watch the fireworks meant that we could only get a partial view, about a mile north and off to the side of where they were actually happening. So, wedged between a million other excited people, I did my patriotic Fourth of July duty, and oohed and ahhhed along with the crowd for twenty minutes. Yes, twenty minutes. That was the great Chicago fireworks display of 2009. Nineteen minutes of rather mundane and routine showers of colored sparks, followed by one minute of the 'Finale', meaning extra spark showers and explosions. I found it amazing that a million people would drag their asses downtown just to watch twenty minutes of fireworks. Even more amazing, is that Mark had talked me into it, and I was now being swept along with the rest of the rabble, like rats, as they swarmed away.
I am sitting in Hartsfield-Atlanta Airport, and the lady in the seat next to me has been on the phone for the last hour. She is speaking a language that I am totally unfamiliar with, and to my ears it is nothing but rapid fire gibberish. “Daba doo, dee daa doe, doo doo daba daba doo.” It’s not that I mind it, in fact the rhythm of it is quite soothing. I’m sure if it were in English, it would be one more in a long line of loud, inane, cell phone conversations that I have been subjected to today. This time we are traveling on an airline called airTran. It is run by incompetent boobs who canceled our original flight and put us on an earlier one. That cancellation has caused us to endure this four hour layover that has now ballooned to five hours because our connecting flight is late. To add to my misery, they have changed our gate for the second time. Each time they’ve done that, Mark and I have had to schlep our pile of crap from terminal C, to D, and then back to C. At least the folks on our route can enjoy the show as we bicker our way to and from each terminal. That’s the other problem. The frustration has caused Mark and me to basically go crazy, and we are taking it out on each other. Unlike Mark, when I go crazy, my voice doesn’t rise two octaves and carry across the entire terminal. Just a little while ago, Mark loudly told the airTran supervisor, that she looked like she should be working at McDonalds. It is times like these that I walk away and pretend that I don't know that skinny, black, madman, and hope that the airline doesn't take it out on me by kicking us off the flight.
I have a deviated septum. I’m pretty sure I got it when I was walking home from St. George Catholic school almost fifty years ago. There was a kid from Bert Fulton public school walking past me in the opposite direction and when he went by he said “Catholic Schmatholic”. I have no idea what that means, then or now, but I did know he meant it as an insult. So I did what any eight year old would do, I turned around and yelled back “public schmublic”. Once again, I have no idea what it meant but it proved that I was a master of the witty comeback. We kept moving further apart, walking backwards, yelling equally pithy insults about our respective religions at each other. At the time I didn’t know that the kids who went to public school weren’t members of the ‘Public’ religion. I figured each religion had its own school, Catholics, Lutherans,Methodists, and Publics. It made sense to an eight year old. When we were almost a block apart and the insults were nothing more than faint, distant, nonsensical gibberish, I felt it was safe to turn around and go on my way. Having stood up for the religion my parents had chosen for me, I was sure God and Jesus were proud of me. As I turned around, a tree that I apparently had been walking backwards towards, met my nose and face with a force that knocked me on my ass. With blood and snot gushing from my nose I made my way home realizing that God and Jesus really didn’t give a crap if somebody made fun of the Catholic Church.
In those days parents didn’t coddle children and rush them to the emergency room for every little bump and scrape. To my mom the fact that blood was squirting out of my nose, and I had the perfect imprint of a tree trunk from my chin to my forehead, didn’t seem to bother her. She put some mercurochrome on my face and told me to “walk it off”. That is why to this day, even though it’s not apparent looking at me, inside my nose the septum actually does a right turn. This causes me to have a very hard time breathing at night. To rectify this I started using Breathe Right nasal strips when I go to bed. These are the strips that you stick on the outside of your nose and they pull your nostrils open for better air flow. They work so well, and stick so tightly that yesterday, when I pulled it off in the morning, the skin came with it. This has resulted in giving me a really nasty appearance caused quite a bit of pain. But I'll be alright,I'll just walk it off.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
Once again Independence Day has rolled around, and in this neck of the woods that means crazy people with explosive devices. When I was a kid, one of my friends had only one hand because he thought it would be fun to hold on to some large industrial strength fireworks, and light them with his other hand. I always thought he was kind of stupid for doing it, but I never actually told him so. Here in the South, having one extremity missing isn't considered a sign that you've done something stupid, just that you are now a likely candidate for a job at the carnival.
This is the second Fourth of July since Molly, my dog, died. She used to be terrified at all the explosions, and could hear a ladyfinger pop a mile away. She would spend almost an entire week hiding by my bed, quivering in fear. Not so, Mr. Chandler. He is not phased by anything, not fireworks, thunder, or large trucks. I can take him out and all hell can be breaking loose, all he cares about is taking a pee, and smelling somebody else's. There is one thing that he has yet to figure out, the box fan that I use in my bedroom scares him. For some reason he thinks it is going to get him, and he steers clear of it. It's the one tool I can use to keep him in line. Preventing him from coming into a room is easy, I just have to put the fan in the door. To get him to move out of a room, all I have to do is bring the fan around. It works really well. lately I've been experimenting with various things on Mark to achieve the same effect. So far the only thing that I do to keep him out of a room, is to sit and pay the bills. It's like magic.