Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Friday

Bougainvillea blooms year round, but it seems to go crazy in the cool, dry winter months. Unfortunately I cannot capture the brilliance, and color on my little digital camera. I noticed that the bougainvillea down by the church looked even more vibrant in the setting sun of the late afternoon. Here's two photos that still don't do it justice.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I was born sixty two years ago yesterday, and from the beginning nature has been trying to kill me. Nature has been both subtle and obvious about it. It was obvious on that day in 1949 when nature put the ice and snow on the road that made my dad veer off into a ditch, bouncing the new born baby Alan on his head, and off the floor boards of dad's ancient Ford. More subtle is the psoriasis that nature has cursed me with. Dry, flakey, skin popping up on my elbows, on my forehead, and worst of all, on my unmentionable man parts. I'm sure nature is trying to itch me to death.

I've gone through cancer, a burst appendix, mumps, measles, chicken pox, and an infection in one of my testicles that gave me a 104 degree fever, and blew the offending orb up to the size of a baseball. The only difference between the cancer and the infected testicle is that the testicle cleared up after a few days, otherwise they both sucked the same.

I was not happy when I woke up this morning with a ninety pound dog laying on my throbbing, twisted ankle. All I could think was, there she goes again, nature trying to make me die an agonizing death by dog. After shoving Chandler off the bed, and dragging myself across the floor to the bathroom, I sat there and reflected on turning sixty two. From that vantage point it wasn't very pretty. But after finishing up in the bathroom, I hobbled out to the backyard to feed the cats, and this is what I saw.
Thank you nature.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dog Shit Does Not Break The Fall

Just over a week ago Mark, Willie, and I, put up the Christmas tree. The final result was a beautiful display of ornaments and lights, twinkling, and glittering in our living room. It was one of Mark’s finest years for decorating. Unfortunately, yesterday we determined that Mark was allergic to it. Not just the tree, but the lovely live pine boughs that Mark had used to decorate various other rooms in the house. All day long on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, Mark slaved away in the kitchen making Puerto Rican pasteles, sliced baked potatoes with cheese and bacon on top, spinach gratin, delicious prime rib roast, and a red velvet cake. The problem was he couldn’t breathe because of the live pine in the house, and he had to stop every few minutes to huff on his nebulizer. That meant either the tree, or Mark would have to go. By a slim margin it was decided that it would be the tree.

So yesterday, on the 26th of December, Mark removed himself from the house (He went shopping), while I dismantled Christmas. To start, the decorative boughs from on top of the china cabinet went, then the bits of live pine from on top of the television cabinet, and finally the Christmas tree itself. Sounds easy, doesn't it? After removing the pine branches, I had to dispose of them. I gathered the large pile up in my arms, pushed my way past the ever present dogs, opened the back door, and started walking down towards the front of the dog run. That was when I stepped halfway off the sidewalk. My foot turned ninety degrees inward, my ankle made a popping noise, and with excruciating pain shooting up through my leg, I slammed down onto copious piles of dog shit. Dog shit of various ages, and freshness. As I lay there writhing in pain, and screaming at the top of my lungs, I did have the wits about me to not curse. After all, I was sure the neighbors could hear me, and all the kids are home from school and playing outside. Despite my bloody screams, nobody came to my aid.

Realizing nobody was going to help me, I dragged myself back into the house, took two Excedrin, and rested for a half hour before I continued with my next task. After stripping the tree of all ornaments, and lights, I undid what I had done the week before. I loosened the bolts holding the Christmas tree upright. It immediately flopped over, spilling the water I had put in the stand just before Mark decided it was to be taken down. There it lay, splayed across the living room floor, pine needles everywhere, and a flood of water moving towards the carpet. Now I cursed, I cursed good and loud. I used every foul, and dirty word I could conjure up. Then I dragged that damn thing out the door, and to the street, leaving a trail of pine needles and a few filthy words floating in the air behind me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photo Friday

Is there a five hundred dollar blender under that tree?

Christmas morning.
More on the blender Thursday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Slipper Thingys

I have bad feet. Part of it goes back to when I had chemo-therapy. The chemo caused what is known as peripheral neuropathy. As a result of that I hate to wear shoes because they cause pressure on my feet, thus causing pain. So you'd think I'd be running around barefoot all the time, but no, I also have pinched nerves in my feet and pressing them to the hard ground causes more pain. So my remedy for the foot pain is to wear my little slip-on thingys that are sort of like flip flops without the toe thong. They do the job, but they are also somewhere around ten years old, and quite beat up. Three years ago Chandler used them as chew toys, which makes sense because of the sheer funkiness of them. And by funk I mean dirt, smell, and well, more dirt. Each and every year around Christmas and my birthday, I throw the hint out to Mark. I need new slipper thingys. They need to have a thick sole, not be too tight, and be easy to slip on and off. It's only four days until Christmas, and seven days until my birthday, and this is an obvious hint to Mark. He says he never reads this blog, but once a week I get yelled at for making him sound too shrill, petty, and mean. He's not. He's the finest, most caring, and loveable man on earth. Now get me those slipper thingys!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Season's Greetings. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas.

Each day I go out to the mail box and each day there are more, and more Christmas cards. I love Christmas cards, they are sort of an acknowledgement that you mean something to somebody. Even if they only printed out an address label, signed a card, stuffed it into an envelope, and went to the post office to mail it... like I do, it means something.

Yes, I admit it, I'm a bad Christmas card sender. Other people take the time to jot down a personal note, or at least an extra 'Love ya' in the card, but not me. Every time I try, it just looks so hokey, not to mention my bad, no terrible, penmanship. I wish that I had that beautiful, flowing handwriting, and the ability to come across as truly thoughtful, but instead the recipient of my holiday card is stuck with the troubling task of trying to decipher my scrawl. So thank you all for the cards. We do appreciate them and display them around our living room. I just hope you all won't be offended when you get my pre-printed envelope containing our holiday greetings, with 'Love Alan and Mark' scratched across the bottom.

Monday, December 19, 2011


It was nearly ten in the morning before I heard from Mark. I had got up at six trying to move my office project ahead and maybe get it all done before Christmas, while Mark stayed in bed watching his Saturday morning cooking shows. Staying the hell out of my way was a good call on his part because the stress of redecorating the office, and the further stress of Christmas had finally got to me.
"What's all the screaming?" Mark asked as he finally emerged from the darkened bedroom.
"Owww, ouch, goddamnitsonofabitchfukkityfuckbastard!" I continued to scream, "I drilled a hole in my goddamnedfukkityfuckfinger!"
I hadn't actually done that. I did not drill a hole in my finger, but had only grazed the cuticle just below my middle finger. There was very little blood, but it sure hurt like hell, and I wanted the world to know it. Considering we had gone out drinking the evening before, and I was a bit hung over, the fact is I could have done much worse. The amazing thing is that Mark hadn't heard my first screaming fit earlier in the morning. That one was launched while I was trying to finish mounting the new light fixture. Honest to god the Chinese must truly hate us. Why else would they continue to sell us products with screws that don't fit, parts that don't align, and instructions written in some kind of Oriental code.

But Saturday wasn't all Chinese lamps, painting ceilings, nailing up crown molding, and rewiring electrical boxes. Later in the afternoon I finished putting up the outdoor Christmas lights. Now two doors down from us it looks like they are trying to run up the highest residential electric bill in history. They have every tree, bush, and every part of the house wrapped in lights. I think my display, while not as ostentatious as my neighbors, is quite beautiful. I spent an entire fifteen minutes on it. What do you think?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Video Thursday

 Caution: cursing, blasphemy, and rudeness in this video.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


'Plink, clatter..... ' and the tiny screw was gone. I had been trying to insert the damn thing into the new light fixture Mark had bought for my office when it leapt out of my fingers, and in slow motion, plummeted to the floor. I thought that I had a very good idea of it's trajectory, but after twenty minutes of searching I still have not found the little Chinese bastard. Yes, it's the curse of stuff made in China again. Looking at the lovely photo on the package it came in, you'd think installing this new fixture would be so simple. But no, once you break the box open, count all the parts, and read the instructions, it became quite obvious that you had to be a contortionist, an electronic genius, and you would need to understand the Chinese mind to put this thing up. So I've given up for today. I'm going into the living room, pouring myself a gigantic vodka cocktail, and hope that the miniscule screw crawls out of it's hiding place before morning.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pizza, pizza

Last week when I was in Chicago, my friend Dennis and I went to Leona's Pizza for some authentic Chicago pizza. No, no, no, it was not that overstuffed, leaden, deep dish stuff. It was the pizza I grew up with back before Pizzeria Uno started with their publicity campaign to convince everyone that a five inch high, doughy pie full of cheese, was Chicago pizza. For decades Chicago pizza was a very thin, round disk, covered with tomato sauce, cheese, little globs of sausage, and then sliced into squares. Besides the thinness of the crust, the cut is the most important part, for that allows little triangular pieces at the corners, which are more like a cracker with pizza toppings on it, my favorite part.

So this past Saturday, fresh from my trip to Chicago, I was craving that pizza. Trouble is, you can't get it here in Florida. We have plenty of greasy New York pizza, and of course all the bland chain pizza places, but no Chicago pizza. So to assuage my cravings I ordered from a place called Humpy's. As pizza places go, Humpy's isn't so bad, but it isn't my Chicago pizza. When the pizza arrived I flipped open the box, and dug in. What I got was a mouthful of chewy, spongy crust, with flavorless pepperoni and cheese. The sauce was good, but it couldn't overcome the letdown of knowing I wasn't getting what I craved.

Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, Domino's, none of those are pizza, and I refuse to eat that crap. So I keep trying local pizza places here, hoping that sooner or later I might find what I'm looking for. Either that, or make more trips to Chicago.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Hooray, it's Christmas time again. Mark is in the living room right now decorating the tree. I was in there for a while watching football, but I got tired of Mark constantly stepping in front of the television, and singing Christmas carols off key.

When I was a kid we never went with my dad to pick out the tree. That was a financial thing to him, and kids would only get in the way of the deal. The deal being that when he found the cheapest place to buy the cheapest tree, that was the day our Christmas tree would suddenly show up. Kids would only gum up the works, demanding something large, and nice looking. Mark and I have begun our own tradition surrounding the buying of the tree. We call our friend Russell, who works for Home Depot, and find out when the truck is coming in with fresh trees. We then zip over to the Depot right after the trees are unloaded, and while Mark wanders around making the Home Depot guy hold up each and every tree so he can compare, I go inside and wander around. When Mark has finally picked out his tree, he brings the tag in to me, and I pay for it. Not quite like slogging through the snow to chop down a fresh tree, but a tradition none the less.

By the way, I did help Mark with the Christmas tree. I carried it in from the car, placed it in the stand, and crawled around on the floor tightening down the large bolts that hold the damn thing upright. It only took five tries, accompanied by profuse cursing, to get the thing to stand up straight and true. Look for the video of that, courtesy of Mark, on Thursday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Office

I was hoping that when I got back from Chicago I'd find my office all painted. You know, like maybe the guy who is wishing for that five hundred dollar blender would try to get on my good side by spackling, and painting the place. But no, the room was still a jumble of furniture, computer equipment, and crap when I walked in. The walls were still a mess from the stripping of the wallpaper. Mark's excuse was that his friend that I had paid to scrape the wallpaper off, got himself a job in a bar and wasn't available any more for doing my shit work. So now I'm the one doing the painting. I'm not very good at it, what with my crappy eyesight, and bad knees. I find myself kind of cutting corners where I know furniture will be hiding the freshly painted walls. If it is very low on the wall chances are I've missed a spot. Also there will be some paint slopped over onto the window frames, but that might be a good thing. It'll convince me to replace the windows sooner. With any luck, this will all be done before New Years, or until Mark's Puerto Rican friend gets tired of working in that smoky bar.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coming Home

The Train

Chicago, 6:30 in the morning, and I'm standing on the platform of the Brown Line at Montrose waiting for the train downtown. It is damn cold. I can see my breath, and the few other people who are waiting are huddled under the one heat lamp provided. The Brown Line goes to the Loop where you can change to trains that will take you almost anywhere else in city. I'm going to Midway Airport.
My train arrives, and I take my seat. I look around. There is not one smile on this train, it is as if we were going to a funeral. It's obvious why. It's Monday, and these folks are going to work.
At Washington Boulevard, I changed trains to the Orange Line. It's like I'm in a different city. There are smiles, and at the Roosevelt stop a gaggle of young women get on, all giddy and talkative. It's obvious why. This train is going to the airport, these people are going on vacation.

The Airplane

God bless my sister Peggy. She paid for my plane ticket to Chicago on Southwest Airlines so I should not complain, but I will. First there is the tension at the boarding gate. Where will I be sitting, what old lady will I have to fight for a seat? I like to know where I'm going to sit. This scramble for a seat is like riding a bus, you blink and you lose. On my way home from Chicago, the first seat I took was broken. It sagged and had something sticking me in the butt. But hey, I was on Southwest, so I got up and went for the seat across the aisle. Almost the same thing, except for the lump sticking me in the butt. Once again I got up and took the next seat back. This time the seat seemed to be sloping towards the front, and was very uncomfortable, but by this time all the seats around me had been snatched so I stayed. One hour into the flight and I had managed to get somewhat comfy by snugging the seat belt as tightly as possible so I wouldn't slide off. I then closed my eyes for five minutes. Apparently Southwest Airlines has a hard and fast rule. If your eyes are closed when the flight attendant zips past your row, you don't get a beverage, nor do you get the tiny bag of cookies that I had been depending on for breakfast. By the time we landed in Fort Lauderdale, I was starving, and my back was killing me.

The Dogs

After an uneventful taxi ride home from the airport, I opened the front door of my house, and two tail wagging, leaping, slobbering souls greeted me without reservation. Suddenly I wasn't hungry, and my back felt fine. I was home.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Going to Mom's Party

By the time this is posted I will be on a plane, on my way home to Florida. This weekend I went to mom's house up in Illinois, for her 90th birthday party. While I'm sure I had a very good time, and nothing worth writing about happened, I won't know that until this is already posted. This is being written on Friday, December 2nd, and I have other worries. First of all there is the packing. I am going from temperatures in the mid seventies, to possible freezing rain and snow. I am trying to stuff all my warmest clothes into a carry on bag that will fit snuggly in the overhead compartment, yet will still allow me to look my best in Chicago. I don't think that will happen. I know that no matter how hard I try, when I put on my pants and shirt for ma's party it'll look like I just crawled out of a sleeping bag with my clothes on.

When I finally had everything in my bag, Mark started up.
"Do you have socks?"
"Do you have enough underpants?"
"Gloves, hat, scarf, sweaters?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes."
I have packed my bags for years before I met Mark, and I never had a problem. Not packing something is not what I am worried about. I am eating a hole in my stomach with worry about Mark and the animals. For just over forty eight hours Chandler, Sasha, and the two kitties in the back yard will be at the mercy of Mark. Mark, a man who has never, ever, walked a dog, fed a dog, has never picked up dog shit, the guy who calls me to rinse out his shower after Sasha pissed in it. That man will be taking care of the living things in my house that I most care about. Okay, non-human living things. I am truly worried that I will come home to starving cats, dog shit in my office, or worse. It's not that I don't love Mark, and care for him, but I told him the first day he moved in here fifteen years ago, "My dog comes first. If I ever go away and come home to a dead dog, you'd be wise to disappear."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Photo Friday

There goes the neighborhood.
Wouldn't that be a Caucasian-American Family?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Video Thursday

 Alicia is busy helping me with my office redecorating. 
I hope this video entertains you while she's gone.