Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mother Plugin Computer

At least 5,476 times I have told Mark not to come into my office and bother me when he sees me pecking away at my computer. He has ignored that request 5,475 times. And he wonders why when he steps foot in there, that he pulls out a bloody stump. The problem is that you never know what I might be doing. I don't care if I'm playing solitaire, or doing my taxes, it's my space and time. Stay the hell out!

So the fact that yesterday Mark barged into my office to breathlessly tell me of something that happened on The View, wasn't what really pissed me off. No, it was my bank. They had decided to change something that had been working perfectly for the last three years. I had signed on to do some important business, and a strange screen I have never seen popped up. It was not the usual screen that I have been using to deposit checks. This one had a different layout, was worded differently, and right in the middle was a little X with the words "This plugin is disabled". Plugin? My computer was plugged in, my modem was plugged in. So I clicked on the little X and another screen popped up telling me that I needed Java. So I need a coffee maker plugged in to run this web page? As I was screaming at the computer, and bitching at Mark to get the hell out of my office, the mail came. I opened a letter from my mortgage company. It read, "We have sold your mortgage loan to Money Grubber LLC. Do not send your payment to us. Your payment due on February 1, 2013, should be sent to Money Grubber LLC, in Butte Fuches, North Dakota."
In other words, they gave me one day notice for something I had already sent out, apparently to the wrong place.

I guess it's good that everything that was going to piss me off yesterday happened all at once. I mean, I was already screaming at the computer, and Mark. So when I called my mortgage company, I was already warmed up.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If Chandler hates the vacuum so much, why does he keep shedding?

"Clack, click, clickity, clack, clack... "
It's January 28th and I'm still vacuuming up those little ornament hooks from the Christmas tree. Sure the fact that I've only vacuumed once since Mark took down the tree is a factor, but Mark dropping those things and leaving them where they lay didn't help either. For some reason Mark is incapable of bending his knees, or back, and everything he drops stays where he dropped it. Which is why the dogs like to sit by him when he eats and cooks.

Having very bad eyesight makes house cleaning easy. Because of my very poor vision I don't see all the dust and dirt around me. If I can't see it, it's not dirty. It's not until I start seeing the carpets, floors, and furniture starting to take on the look of freshly fallen snow that I notice it's time to clean. I have to tell you, it's actually more satisfying to do it that way. You can see more clearly the stark contrast between clean and dirty. As I run the vacuum cleaner across the living room floor I can see a very sharp line between vacuumed and not vacuumed, between matted dog hair and a lovely clean carpet. What I can't see are those goddamned ornament hooks.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Me, and a friend camping it up.
Every once in awhile Mark mentions that we should go camping. A little over a week ago he again suggested that we go with some friends of his. Now if he were talking about throwing on a feather boa, and prancing down Wilton Drive, I would say no. But he's talking about packing up and going to someplace out in the sticks, where we would be sleeping on dirt. Again, I say no.

"No, we wouldn't be sleeping on dirt. They have cabins at this campground."
"With running water, electricity, air conditioning, a big recliner chair, satellite television, and a king sized bed?"

I camped out a lot when I was a kid. I was a boy scout, and later in my hippie days I did my fair share of camping. The point is that when I was a kid, I was resilient, and in my hippie days I was so stoned I didn't know I was uncomfortable. I'm a shade over sixty years now, and I want things to be as comfortable as possible. I figure that as I age my body will start really falling apart, and nothing will feel right. I want to enjoy as much comfort as I can before that happens. So I didn't go camping with Mark and his friends. Good thing too. That weekend was cold, with some rain. This weekend his friends are home sick with the flu.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Next on the Agenda....

Mark and I joined our neighborhood association a couple of years ago so that we could be more involved. Last night was the quarterly meeting of that association. Mark didn't go. Next time I probably won't go. I now see why people don't get involved with these sort of things. The meeting was mind numbing. Going into it I knew they were usually long winded, and full of trite bullshit, but up until last night I always had Mark with me. Mark would always have a running commentary in my ear that would keep me awake and amused. Best of all, about one hour into the meetings, Mark would always nudge me, tell me he is having trouble breathing, and drag me out of there. So up until last night I had never experienced the full 'Alice in Wonderland' atmosphere of it all. I walked in and sat down next to a nice lady who was from the town Historical Society.
"Hello, my name is Adrienne."
"Hi I'm Alan." we shook hands.
"How long do these meetings usually last?" Adrienne asked.
"Too long. Way too long." I replied.
Adrienne looked down at the agenda in front of her, and rolled her eyes, "Oh my, it seems that I am scheduled to go last."

We all stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a short thirty minute talk by the president of the association. Next up was the police chief who read some dry statistics to justify his job, and then gave us all a lecture on locking our doors, cars, and chastity belts. This was followed by a Q&A.
"Chief, my car doors don't lock. Do you think that could be a problem?"
"Chief, on our block we have....  (ten minutes later she gets to the point of her question) how come there are no street lights on our block?"
"Chief, do you have a good way to prevent my psoriasis from flaring up?"
An hour later it was time for the Librarian to speak. Mercifully, he only spoke for a half an hour, but this was followed by another Q&A.
"Mr. Librarian, can I borrow books from the library?"
"Mr. Librarian, I missed the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. Will I be able to watch those first two seasons at the library?" (that one I did not make up)
On and on the questions came.
"Sir, can we get speed bumps on our street?"
The answer was no, not from the man who runs the library. The problem was that some of the people weren't paying any attention, and didn't even notice that the police chief had left and this was the librarian. Unfortunately those who didn't pay attention were the ones who heard him ask if there were any questions.

Two hours into it I had, had enough. I quietly got out of my seat, and made my way out of the meeting. As I slipped out the side door, I looked back towards Adrienne. She was slumped over in her chair with drool dangling from the side of her mouth. From the front of the meeting room I heard the association president announce, "And now here is Adrienne from the historical society to tell us all about the scavenger hunt on Saturday."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Icy Hot

"Alan, wake up."
"What, what's happening?"
"What's that smell?"
"I don't know. Let me sleep."
"It smells like... kinda like, Ben-Gay and bacon. Is your mom frying bacon in Ben-Gay?"

In sixteen years Mark and I have only spent one night at my mother's house, and every time I mention that maybe we could stay there overnight again, Mark brings up the Ben-Gay and bacon story. It turns out that Mark was smelling Ben-Gay and bacon that morning. The Ben-Gay was slathered on my mom's aching muscles, and the bacon was sizzling in a frying pan along with some eggs. Like the nice guy he can be, Mark choked down the eggs, thanked my mom, and then went outside to get some fresh air. He may have puked behind the bushes too, but since I wasn't out there with him I can't be sure. It turns out that Mark can't stand the odor of Ben-Gay, and hates his eggs fried in bacon fat.

Cut to this morning. I awaken early to a searing pain in my back, just above my left ass cheek. I struggle to put on my shoes and walk the dogs. The further I get along in the walk, the more I realize my back is not right. So, I put the dogs back in the house, sneak out in the car to the drug store, and buy some Icy Hot patches. You know, the ones that Shaquille O'Neal advertises. When I get home I paste one of the patches to my back, and notice that it smells just like Ben-Gay. After putting on the patch I go into the kitchen and start making breakfast. I throw four strips of bacon into a frying pan, and start the eggs. Two minutes later Mark comes into the kitchen, all bleary eyed.
"Is your mom here?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spider Web

I was looking at my big oak tree out front and realized it needed trimming. The branches were rubbing against the top of the PT Cruiser, and every time I got out of the car I was getting a mouth full of Spanish moss. The problem is that I love the Spanish moss, and I was reluctant to pull it down so that I could cut those branches off. So yesterday afternoon I carefully removed the moss from every branch I intended to cut and put it in a recycling bin. I then climbed the ladder and started cutting. Half an hour later, with my hand dripping blood, I had raised the level of the tree branches about four feet higher off the ground. I next started to re-hang the Spanish moss. First I climbed the ladder and hung it from the branches I could reach, and then I went up on the roof of the house and started flinging moss into the upper reaches of the tree.

Yes, my neighbors think I'm odd. I mean, who does that? Who rearranges Spanish moss? What kind of man would go to all that trouble? Well apparently the lady across the street thinks a crazy man does that. As I was fussing with the moss, making sure it was arranged just right, I heard a voice with a heavy accent calling up to me.
"What ees that? Espider webs?"
"No not spider webs. It's Spanish moss ma'am."
"Why you do that. It kill tree, no?"
"No, the tree will be fine."
I don't think she believed me. When I was on the roof flinging moss like a out at the top of the tree I could see her standing across the street talking to another neighbor. They were both looking my way, then she shook her head, and walked back into her house.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Yes, I know. If it weren't for the food they'd ignore us.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stealth Bomber

"Yeeeeaaaaarrrrgggghhhh! Ahhhh nooo, nooooooo!"
It at first terrifies me, and then amuses me no end. That is the sound of Mark stepping barefoot, into a puddle of Sasha's pee as he leaves the bathroom. You see, Sasha is trained to pee in Mark's shower if she can't make it outside, and if the door to the bathroom is closed, she just does it right there. Another place Sasha mistakenly pees is on my bathroom floor. I understand why, the floor has the exact same tile as the floor of Mark's shower, and the girl gets confused. What I don't understand is when she does it. When does Sasha leave her perch behind the pillows on the bed, and pee on the floor? I have never, ever caught her peeing in the wrong place. The floor will be dry as a bone, and Sasha will be sleeping up among the pillows. Ten minutes later there will be piss where there had been none, and Sasha will still be in the exact same spot I had seen her before. Not a hair out of place, not a pillow moved. She has to be the stealthiest little piddler on Earth, because if it isn't her, it could only be one of two other possibilities. The first possibility is Chandler. The second, but unlikely source might be Mark. But then again, Chandler has never peed in the house since he was a puppy, and Mark misses the toilet all the time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Gramps

January 19, 1886 - December 31, 1987

When I was a kid I was always amazed that my grandfather had been born in 1886. My god I thought, that was in a whole different century than we were living in. I did love listening to his stories of the distant past. He spent his youth in the city of Philadelphia, and one of the stories he liked to tell us kids was how he had played on the feet of the William Penn Statue. Well that statue was on top of city hall and I kind of scoffed at that story until I looked it up. Sure enough, he easily could have done that. The William Penn statue wasn't lifted to the top of city hall until 1901. It sat on the ground in front of the building for a while.

My gramps did and said a lot of things that were strange to a kid living in the modern era of the 1950's. He chewed Plow Boy brand tobacco. He called his rain boots 'rubbers', which amused me and my little friends who thought only condoms were called that. Until the day he died, he called the automobile a machine. Not car, not auto, but machine, as in "Take me up to the store in the machine so I can get some Plow Boy, White Owls, and Meister Brau."

For some reason when my grandfather was in his eighties, he decided to get a dog. Not a nice little dog, but a cute Irish Setter puppy named Kelly that quickly grew to outweigh him. Gramps was short, about five feet, four inches, and thin. Every day you could see him being dragged out the front door, and across the street by that dog. Kelly determined where they were going, and that meant straight for the grass next to the Catholic grade school. Now the way this school was constructed, was with lower level classrooms that had windows right at grass level. This is where Kelly would squat and poop. To this day we run into people who were in those classrooms back then. It seems they were all entertained by Kelly pooping right outside the window. They say the nuns were not so amused.

Friday, January 18, 2013


A crack in the wall... a very small crack with a long way to go.

I did check this agency out, and it is very legitimate. No bad reviews.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saw This

If you look around my house and take in the various projects that have been done, it is usually obvious which were done by me. The clue is the one little corner that is unfinished, the one bit of trim missing, or a bit of uneven workmanship.

Mark has been whining for the last month about one little plank of Pergo flooring missing in the corner of our bedroom. So today while Mark was out shopping, I tackled that final piece. The reason I was not so eager to finish off this job is the intricacy of the cutting involved. I'm not very good with things like that, but I threw myself into the job anyway. I measured, I marked, and I started cutting. First with the circular saw, ripping the Pergo plank lengthwise. Then I started with the jig saw, carefully following the lines I had drawn. It was when I reached the end of one particular cut that I suddenly had a realization, and that realization is that one of these days I am going to cut something off of my body. As I finished this last cut, the saw slipped off the plank and shot forward towards my hand. It may be because I hadn't clamped down the piece I was cutting, and the fact that I was using the top of the garbage can as a work bench didn't help either. Luckily the saw missed my thumb which had been directly in its path. So I missed this time, but I just know that one of these days, if I keep screwing around with power tools, I am going to slice off a piece of Alan. I just hope it will not be a part that I am too fond of.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Ah, bittersweet rejection. November of last year I finished writing a book. It's not a great piece of literature, not even better than average literature, but when I see what is already out there being published I truly think I have a chance. I like my fictional story of love between a black boy and a white girl, however as of now three people do not. Three rejection letters have graced my in box, and numerous others haven't even bothered with that. The one thing I like about those rejection letters, is that at least somebody besides my sister, niece, and a good friend have read a bit of my book. Rejection isn't easy to take, but as a gay man who grew up in the nineteen fifties and sixties, at least I was prepared for it. I was rejected by my grade school, by my Boy Scout Troop, and by more than a couple of straight boys back then. In each case I learned something, and found a way to keep going. So I am sure there are plenty more of those rejection letters to come. I'll just keep plunging forward, sending out two queries for every one rejection returned. In the meantime, I have to thank Mark for pulling me out of my funk over the latest rejection. Last night he made me watch a television show called Two Broke Girls. It made me hopeful. If something that horribly written can find a way to my television, I have a chance.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stinker Bell

Jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle.
I am sound asleep in the big, fluffy chair, when the nerve jangling, jingle of Mark's bell startles me awake.
Jingle, jingle, jingle.
"Alan, oh Alan!" Mark is calling from the bedroom.
Mark has a cold, and isn't feeling well. Unlike me, he doesn't nurse on a bottle of Nyquil and knock himself out when he ails. No, Mark likes to lay in bed with his little brass bell, and ring for me every five minutes. He is constantly calling for soup, tissues, hot tea, pillow plumping, as if I am his private nurse. He is a royal pain in the ass when he gets sick.

Jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle.
"What? What the hell do you want now?" (My bedside manner isn't the greatest.)
"Can you get me some water, and could you turn the television on for me?"
Five minutes later.
 Jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle.
"I swear, I'm going to shove that goddamned bell up your ass sideways if you don't stop."
"Could you get me some peppermint tea? Make sure you put honey in it."
So I didn't shove the bell up his ass. I snatched it while he was sipping his tea, and hid it. If he reads this post he will figure out where it is. If he doesn't I will continue to not hear that damned jingling bell. Instead, all I'll hear is Mark's squeaky voice calling out from the bedroom, and after sixteen years I've learned how to tune that out.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tree Hugger

In 1994 I planted a stick of a tree in my front yard. It is called a 'live oak', and I told everybody that I planted it to shade my car. Some people thought that was funny.

Here is that tree today complete with Spanish Moss dripping from it's branches.

What I find so interesting is the other plant life that it has attracted, 
including something called ball moss.

The tree also supports an orchid plant, and a staghorn fern that has attached itself to the bark.

High up in the crown of the tree are the purple flowers of a bougainvillea 
that has climbed it's way up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Good Morning

Some guy, Chinese snow man, and me. 1988 in Chicago.
Some people learn from their mistakes. I do, but it takes me getting burned a few times before it sinks in. We have a very nice Chinese family that lives a block away, and they own a restaurant right around the corner from our house. Every morning when I am walking my dogs I run into the matriarch of the family doing her daily health regime, which consists of her walking very fast around the neighborhood while swinging her arms in giant arcs. I saw her Friday morning, as usual, and greeted her.
"Good morning." I say as she flashed by, arms swinging madly.
"Hello, why no see you lately..." She says, obviously not really wanting an answer because she is half a block away before I even figure out what she just said. But she is right. We hadn't ordered food from her restaurant in a very long time. So Sunday, when Mark told me he was too tired to cook dinner I suggested Chinese. It was two in the morning when I remembered why we stopped calling that place. MSG! I had gone to bed just a little after midnight Sunday. Less than two hours later my eyes popped open, and my mind started racing. It was very reminiscent of the time I tried amphetamines as a very young man. Anyway, that was it. I was awake, and stayed awake for the next twenty two hours. So last night, after watching the Daily Show, and the Letterman monologue, I finally drifted off to sleep. It was around three this morning when I realized I should have thrown out those Chinese takeout leftovers instead of eating them right before going to bed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stinky Feet

When I was a little kid my dad once brought home something very exotic, something very different than what we were used to. He brought home some Swiss Cheese. I was fascinated by the holes, but refused to eat any of it because, "It smells like feet." My entire experience with cheese at that age consisted of Velveeta. My mom always had a large brick of that shit in the house. She would cut off little squares of it with her 'cheese slicer', and put it on our sandwiches and burgers. I liked the Velveeta on the hamburgers but hated it on my sandwiches. The problem was that if it wasn't melted over something, Velveeta pretty much sucked. The worst was on Fridays, which for some reason back then the Catholic Church decided that nobody should eat meat. That meant that if I didn't get a brown sugar, banana and margarine sandwich, or a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich in my lunch, I would get a slab of dry Velveeta on white bread. No margarine, no Miracle Whip (another food I hated, and still do), just Velveeta. Dry, nasty tasting Velveeta. It's funny that as a kid I hated that Swiss Cheese so much, because now I like it a lot. In fact I have found that as an adult I love almost any cheese, even cheeses that smell like feet or worse. There are a couple that smell so bad that they bring up memories of the Chicago Stock Yards, and the disgusting odor of slaughtered cattle and hogs. Ooooh yummy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why is there an inch of water in the neighbor's back yard?

When I was searching for a new house almost twenty years ago, I insisted that it have a swimming pool. Eventually I found the place we now live in and for the first ten years I enjoyed the pool that came with it. As the novelty of having a swimming pool wore off, I used it less and less. This last year I used the swimming pool exactly two times. My tenants used it zero times. It has become little more than the worlds biggest water bowl for cats, and the occasional toilet for raccoons. Yesterday afternoon around four, I noticed that the water level had dropped almost to the point that the skimmer wouldn't work, and the cats would have to hang by their toes to reach it for a drink. So I took the garden hose, dropped it into the pool, and turned it on. Here is how the thought process went. I would leave the hose running in the pool while I continued with my afternoon duties, but first I would go into the house and set the timer on my computer for thirty minutes so as to remind me to turn off the water. I figured that would bring the water level up about an inch.

Between ten and ten thirty at night, every night, I feed the cats outside and then walk my dogs. Last night when I opened the back door to feed the cats I heard a strange noise, sort of like Niagara Falls. How is it that I could forget, within just a few minutes, to set the timer on my computer to remind me to turn off the water? Well at least the cats, and the raccoons are happy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

mp3eed off

It was 1988 and I had a lot of time on my hands. I was cooped up at home for over three months in a very weakened condition because I was on chemo therapy. Besides barfing my guts up, and watching crappy television shows, there wasn't much to do. So I decided to move my entire LP record collection (LP; an ancient way of recording music. The L for long, and P for playing.) over to cassette tape. I could see the writing on the wall. When I went to the record store (Another ancient relic where people went to buy music in the olden days.), where there had been aisles and aisles of vinyl records, there was now a wall of cassette tapes and something called CDs. I knew the CD would never catch on because it was so much more expensive than cassette tapes. I spent weeks playing each and every album I had, and recording them to tape. When I was done I felt good. I had secured my collection of music on a form that I would be able to use until the day I died.

On Christmas morning last week, amid the flying wrapping paper, and dogs flinging newly acquired toys across the living room, I slowly opened the large package Mark had handed me. It was a new stereo music system for my office. It took me a while, but yesterday I finally put it together. There were a few problems.
"Mark, where do you play cassette tapes on this thing?"
"You don't."
Okay, I thought, I don't ever need to listen to the couple of hundred tapes I have. I have plenty of CDs.
"They don't make cassette tape players anymore." Mark continued on, "Not only that, I had to look long and hard to find a stereo that plays CDs."
I continued to fiddle with the new stereo, wondering aloud how would I play music on this damn thing.
"Pull down that little panel on the front." Mark instructed.
I pulled it down.
"What the hell is that?"
"That's where you dock your IPod. That's where you play your music."
I don't own an IPod. Now I know how my grandmother felt when the wax cylinder became obsolete.
So the fact is that the market is forcing me to embrace a new technology. I think it sucks, because I know it's all a scam to make you re-buy all the music you already paid for. I have been reading about pirate music sites on the internet lately, and how they have hurt the music industry. I really have no sympathy for them. In fact I think I should be allowed to download every single bit of music that I have already purchased, for free. I'd go with the new technology if they allowed me to do that. I mean how could an mp3 file ever become obsolete? And then I read this.

"Neil Young is all about new technologies. Long fed up with mp3s, the rocker has spent years experimenting with improving sound quality, and now Young has finally trademarked Pono, his very own high-resolution audio format."


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Proper Explosion at a Proper Time

You young guys love shooting off fireworks. In fact the younger you are, the more you love it. I know, I used to love them too. Blowing up model cars, setting up battle fields with toy soldiers to explode, and even shooting bottle rockets at each other gave me a thrill. Never mind the fact that once in awhile a hand or arm gets blown off. And sure you'll shoot your eye out possibly, but that's all part of the fun of firecrackers. I find though, as I get older, that there is no thrill at all anymore in blowing things up. I'm quite content to simply have a nice bowel movement, or go for an entire night without having to get out of bed to go pee. Explosions just give me a headache now. But still, I understand why all the fireworks on New Years, and the Fourth of July. You young guys need it, you crave it, it's in your DNA. Could I ask you for one little favor though? Could you blow all those damn things up when they are supposed to be blown up? Like on the Fourth of July, light all those fuses, shoot all those rockets up into the sky. Let's see a spectacular show, and on July 5th let's get back to normal. No distant pop of a lady finger, no exploding cherry bombs, just peace and quiet. The correct time to shoot those rockets off into the sky is midnight, January 1st, not noon on January 1st, not this coming Friday at ten in the evening. I don't ask you to do this for me. I ask for somebody who doesn't have a blog, and can't speak for herself. Sasha thanks you in advance. She's tired of hiding under the pillows.