Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Here is my brand new prized possession. It was my Christmas present to myself, thanks to the generosity of my siblings. It will be my friend for the rest of my life. Or whichever wears out first. Every morning, I will test my blood after a night of fasting, assuming that my last meal was eaten early in the evening. Then, I will test it again, just before I retire for the night. I have been using my mother's kit for the last month and a half. Those test strips run a buck a piece, so that's been $2 a day. Fortunately, Medicare pays for it, but I could not justify continuously using hers. One day, she would have to run out and that wouldn't be a good thing. Plus, when I am up for taking a trip somewhere, I would still have to test myself wherever I am.
I have been keeping a log of my blood glucose levels for the last 2 weeks. This is something I will have to do for the rest of my life, too. On Glipizide, my numbers have come down, although not to normal levels. Last Friday, I began taking 400mg of chromium picolinate (1)(2)(3)(4), an over the counter nutritional supplement. Since I began taking it, my numbers have come down, but I have no idea if it is strictly attributable to that. I will have to monitor my counts for a considerable length of time to make that determination and there is nothing scientific about it since my diet will vary from day to day. Anyone who considers it should talk to their physician first. Of course, I didn't, but I will when I go to my final visit at Shepherd's Hope clinic. Who knows, I may be told to stop taking it. In the meantime, life goes on and I have pretty much adjusted to my diabetes since the initial shock and denial has finally worn off.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This morning, my arms were tingly from my elbows to the tips of my pinkies, all along the lower part. From my knees to my toes, I go from numb to exaggerated bouts of the same thing. Today is no exception. I've felt that way all morning and when I walked, my legs felt like they were made of lead. Sometimes, my toes feel like someone hooked up jumper cables and turned the juice on in quick, stabbing pulses. Then, it goes away. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't feel achy and fatigued. Some days, I have no energy at all. Today, I actually feel better than usual in spite of the numbness. One way to explain the ache is to try to imagine someone taking a knife and scraping the meat off your bones. Perhaps, that description is a little too harsh and I never really feel that bad, but it gives you an idea. At times, my heart pumps so strongly, it feels like it is going to explode out of my body.
Since I began taking the medication, my sugar has slowly dropped. I keep waiting for a small miracle to happen, that I will gain my strength again. I'm sure I will. Little things bother me. Lids on jars that, in the past, were so easy to remove are proving more difficult. Frustrating little things that gnaw at your very fiber. Sugar levels that ran in the 200-400 range are now down to 100-170. 170 is still too high, but it is an improvement. Last night, it was 136. This morning, it was 154. The closer in margin, the better. Saturday night, it was 276 and I have no idea why. That morning, it was 160. I don't think I ate anything wrong. Other diabetics have told me that's one of the strange things about it, that there's no rhyme or reason why your numbers can vary so much. You can eat something one day and repeat it the next and your numbers can be strikingly different.
Every night now, I have to get up about a half dozen times to relieve myself. That's a symptom. Of course, I drink lots of water now. I have to. Life as a diabetic must take on a very regimented structure. I should strive to eat at the same times every day, in spite of the fact that I am always hungry and sometimes nauseous. I should consume the same amount of calories per meal, per day, too. Food groups must be balanced, such as protein at every meal, especially in the morning. Proper sleep is of the utmost importance. Getting up to pee every hour is exasperating and disturbs the natural rhythm of the mind and body.
I can't take aspirin or ibuprofen any more, on account of the Glipizide. One of the warnings is to not take any over-the-counter pain medications without talking to your doctor. Instead, I asked the pharmacist if I could take Tylenol. Yes, you can. I think they know more about drugs, anyway. I also told her what Dr. Chang said about Lisinopril not helping the kidneys. She asked me if he knew what he was talking about. She told me to finish taking it and to demand a refill when I go back again. I said I don't go back for another month and I only have a 2 week supply. Take it every other day, she said. I don't know, maybe Dr. Chang has been in practice too long. Everyone else at Shepherd's Hope has been great, but he was not kind to me. The doctors and nurses there, and most of the other staff donate one night per month from their regular jobs. I don't think pharmacists would contradict a doctor unless they are pretty adamant about it. I started taking it the next day. Soon, I will have a primary care physician. That person will keep close tabs on me and will more than likely set me up with an endocrinologist, who will make sure I am put on the proper path. All diabetics react differently. All need special care.
When I was dealt this hand, it took me a while to adjust to altering my "set in his ways" lifestyle. I always played by my rules. No one ever wants to think they will get permanently sick. Where did I go wrong in life? What could I have done differently? Believe me, those are dumb questions and there is no truth to them. What is true is that I am sitting across the table from diabetes. I will play my cards right. I will keep a close watch on my opponent. I may not always win, but I will never fold. I will not be intimidated. So it must be true with any disease or disability. It's the game of life you're playing and you never let the one sitting across from you get the upper hand.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Tuesday night, I went to the clinic for my blood test results and an official diagnosis on the diabetes. Gulp. I was not looking forward to the inevitable bad news. I sat patiently in one of those "holding" rooms the nurse stuffs you in to wait for the doctor. Why does it seem to last for hours before their grand entrance?
"Hello. I am Dr. Chan." That was as friendly as he got. He had the bedside manner of a Gestapo agent. Oh well, perhaps his manner was correct, given the somber news he was about to tell me. He scanned over the report and circled the (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel w/EGFR) glucose number. It was 182. That is the fasting number and 65-99 is what to aim for. He went to the second page and circled the Hemoglobin A1C number. Less than 6 is ideal. Mine is 8.0.
"You are a diabetic." He proceeded to give me strong directives. "You can eat all the fruits and vegetables you want. Do not eat coconut. No butter. Only poly and mono-unsaturated oil. NO SUGAR! Eat more fish. Avoid shellfish. Shrimp. Lobster. Cut all fat off beef. No chicken skin. Drink lots of water."
"What about cheese?"
"Follow this order," he said sternly. "Zero, zero, zero. That means you only eat things with 0% saturated fat, 0% trans fat and 0% cholesterol. Two egg yolks a week only. EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!!! You must eat 3 meals a day. You may have small snack in between." Protein is essential at each meal.
"What about salt?" I never put salt on anything, anyway.
"You don't worry about salt. Why you take Lisinopril?" Lisinopril is a BP med, an ACE inhibitor. "You don't need."
"Kelly, the Physician's Assistant wrote me the prescription two weeks ago when I was here. She told me it was to protect my kidneys from damage. She..."
"It does not help your kidneys. You don't need it."
"What should I do? Should I finish or stop taking it?"
"I don't care. You do what you want."
"I don't care. You do what you want."
"She also told me I will have to go on a cholesterol drug."
"You may. We see when you come back. OK. Sit on table." He listened to my chest and heart. "We do another blood test. You wait here for nurse." And off he went. She came in a few minutes later and asked how things went.
"Well, he certainly laid it on the line. No messing around with Dr. Chan."
"Nope." She handed me the diagnostic test request for lipids and glucose. Oh, I have to pee when I go. He wants that, too. She gave me a prescription for Glucotrol. Typical doctor handwriting. I have no clue how pharmacists decipher that chicken scratch. Minus the skin, of course. I went across the hall to make an appointment a month from now for those results. It will be up to me to schedule the lab work. They only need a 24-48 hour turnover time. That will be my final visit to this clinic. I will need to find another doctor. For the rest of my life, I will need to take this medicine (or, eventually, insulin), test my sugar twice daily and have the A1C test done every 3 months. The test strips run about a buck apiece. This is not going to be a cheap disease, especially without insurance.
My platelet count is down. The normal range is 140-400. Mine is 102. He wasn't too concerned about that. He talked about my cholesterol level. The ideal number is below 200. Mine is 213. HDL (the good kind) is 41. That's good. LDL (the bad stuff) is 134. Not good. It's supposed to be less than 130. My triglycerides are high. 190. Less than 150 is best. My bilirubin is high. That's got something to do with the liver. Other than that, I checked out pretty good.
Last week, I was IMing with by best and oldest friend. He said it was from all those beers and pizza. Cheap women, too. I told him I haven't had a beer in a long time. Up until today, it was Bacardi & (DIET!) Coke. I typed in that it was from all those years working at the Weiner King, eating all those hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries. Who would think back then that all that junk would take its toll? How was I to know my mother and her sister would get it and be insulin-dependent? That's something we don't think about when we're young. We're going to live forever and never get old. I said it's also from all the trans fat that's in everything today, something food manufacturers have known will kill you for years.
This morning, I popped my first pill. I chose a generic brand because it's a lot cheaper. Glipizide ER 2.5mg. It is an anti-diabetic drug (sulfonylurea-type) used to control high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. It's meant to stimulate the release of natural insulin. With a proper diet and exercise, hopefully it will work. It's supposed to help prevent heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, blindness, and circulation problems, as well as sexual function problems (impotence). I'm waiting.
I would like to thank my family and friends for all the support they have given me. I also want to thank David W. Boles at Urban Semiotic and his dedicated legion of loyal readers and contributors, like Chris and Nicola. I especially want to thank fred for being such a caring person. He has helped me a lot by proffering some much needed advice. Many of the comments can be read here and here.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Let's start with a brief history of the Christmas (or holiday) tree. In the northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls around December 21. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and after that date, this god was going to make a remarkable recovery from being sick and weak and would bring forth fresh flora and vegetation. Evergreen boughs were used to celebrate the return of summer, since that was all that remained green at that time of year. Early Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes to symbolize the triumph of life over death. Romans marked the solstice with a feast called Saturnalia to honor Saturn, the god of agriculture, and decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. So did the ancient Druids and Vikings.
Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference of a tree to honor the birth of Christ. As a matter of fact, Germany is credited as being the first to start a Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Early German settlers in Pennsylvania brought this custom with them, which most colonists found to be an oddity. Pilgrims abhorred it and banned them in 1659 Massachusetts, along with carols and any other form of "paganism". All worship could only be done in churches. Period. That continued into the 19th century, but too many German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritans' decree and Christmas trees found their way into homes in America. In Europe, they had already been established.
The menorah, on the other hand, is sacred and one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith. It is a seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple and represents the nation of Israel and its mission to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6). Did I mention the book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament? The Torah states that God revealed the design for the menorah to Moses.
I know many people of all religions and no religion at all who celebrate the season by putting up and decorating a tree. To some, it is no different than dressing up your house and handing out treats on Halloween. That's another story, by the way. There is nothing sacred about a Christmas tree. Christianity does not recognize it as a symbol of their faith. The menorah and Christmas tree have nothing in common. One stands for religion. The other does not. If you don't believe me, go ask Santa Claus. If you don't believe him, wait until spring rolls around and ask the Easter Bunny. Better yet, don't. I don't want to have to explain the history of some rabbit to a disgruntled cleric, expecting equal religious billing. Then, I'd also have to explain dyed and hard-boiled eggs and how they got their rise in early pagan spring rituals.
Monday, December 04, 2006
"Diabetes is not a disease!"
"Is it contagious?"
The first statement came arrogantly from a friend of mine who thinks I made it up. To him, I was probably trying to elicit sympathy from friends as I sipped on a Bacardi & Diet Coke, my new drink. I knew my days of bellying up to the bar with buddies were coming to an end. His statement was cynical, at best, and, quite obviously, he knows nothing about it. The second question was from an innocent bystander who stepped back upon my pronouncement. Yes - it is a disease and - no - it is not contagious. What I can tell you is that it is often hereditary. My mother has been diabetic for almost 20 years and takes insulin daily. Her older sister is, too. My father has onset. He takes an oral medication. I have researched it over the years because of my mother.
I have no health insurance. My mother tried to get me in to see her primary care physician for blood work and a proper diagnosis. She tried to make an appointment with her endocrinologist, who would not see me without a physician's referral. This was all going to be very expensive. To just peer through the door was going to cost me hundreds of dollars per office visit and a whole lot more for the blood tests. This is money I don't have readily available. I knew I had to do something. I went to a search engine and typed in these four words, "free medical clinics orlando" and came back with a very promising hit, Shepherd's Hope. I went to the website and called the number to explain my predicament. "Yes, we can help you," the woman at the other end told me. They only see those with no insurance.
I had been feeling rundown for some time, at about 93 percent, before that fateful morning I took my first glucose test. I showed many of the signs and symptoms, but was never willing to acknowledge why I was feeling so achy and fatigued. It's not unusual to have this state of denial. I lost 25 lbs in a 6 month period, but I had tried to lose weight anyway. For the next 2 weeks, I took this sugar test morning and night and ran anywhere from 200-370. Not good numbers, and it didn't take a doctor to figure out what my condition was. In the meantime, I've changed my diet and have started to exercise. Some days, I am too weak to. Today, I feel better. Soon, I will take a nice, brisk walk.
When I got to Shepherd's Hope, there were a handful of people waiting for it to open at 6PM. The staff are all volunteers there to help those who can't afford medical attention otherwise. Depending on location, the clinic may only be open one day a week. A woman came out and assigned us all numbers. Some had appointments. We were to write our names and what kind of problem we have. I put down diabetes. When my name was called, the first thing I was asked about was what made me think I had it. I explained. Then, I went into a private room and waited for a doctor. I guess most of the people who go to free clinics are there for the flu or other simple, treatable maladies. Diabetes? I'll bet I was the first one to do that. She knocked. "Come in," I said, "like, I was going to tell you to stay out?" She laughed.
We discussed everything about it. She asked me plenty of questions and I gave her plenty of answers. Do I feel numb here? Tingly there? I told her about the sharp pains I've been getting in my toes, a sign of neuropathy. Mostly, she talked of fatigue. She asked me, if I could, what I would pick my overall average blood sugar level to be during the period of my testing. I guessed around 225. The normal range is around 100 or below, give or take a few. I was well above that mark. She got her stethoscope out and listened to me. "Have you ever had pains here?" she asked, as she pointed to my chest. I had. She said nothing more.
"OK, I cannot tell you that you are, absolutely, diabetic. I am setting you up for some blood work and I can't properly say that until the results come in. I will say that we both know you are and I am going to start you right away on a blood pressure medication, not that it's too high right now, but borderline, yes. Diabetes will bring about all sorts of complications, such as strokes and heart attacks. This is to mostly protect your kidneys from damage. The previous generation of diabetics didn't get this and other drugs you're going to get. Once properly diagnosed, you will also go on cholesterol meds, on top of what your disease is treated with, and regardless of what your cholesterol level is." She wrote a prescription for Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. "We have [all donated] new drugs here I could prescribe free, but they are $100 a pop. If we run out, can you afford to stay on them?" No, I can't.
My mother has had a series of mini-strokes. Her kidneys are damaged. I asked her if she had taken any blood pressure meds when she was first diagnosed. She hadn't. This doctor (or Physician's Assistant) knows what she is talking about. I think you can call it preventive maintenance. She was very good, very caring and professional in appearance and demeanor. The next morning, I went to Quest Diagnostics where they drew lots of vials of blood for all kinds of tests, including A1C, which monitors sugar for the 2-3 previous months. I have an appointment with Shepherd's Hope on December 12 to find out the results. I will probably be given prescriptions then to get me on the right path. I will have to find a physician after that. The clinic is not there for continuous care. Right now, I'll take it one step at a time.
I have often read about the benefits of cinnamon in lowering blood sugar levels. My sister-in-law, Lindsay, bought me pills, along with dandelion root tea. So far, they haven't helped. I've always been a firm believer in alternative medicines, and I've been looking at other magic herbs, elixirs and anything else associated with "curing" diabetes. Online, I found out about the remarkable benefits of apple cider vinegar, which, at the same time, will eliminate warts. I read about chromium, the magic of bee pollen, how cranberries help and how just about every natural substance known to man will rid you of this dreadful disease. Cancer, too, probably. I wonder, if I switch to eating nothing but a combination of all of these wonderful things, will I be cured? I think, I'll stick with the conventional for now. Take that, Kevin Trudeau, you huckster, you.
This morning, my siblings told me the best Christmas present I could give them was no present at all, to take what I would have spent on them and apply it towards the medications I will need. They want to see me stick around for a long, long time. Their presents to me will be in the form of money, too. I protested to no avail, but they insisted.
Family, you gotta love them. I feel better already.
Please feel free to ask me any questions. If I don't know, I will do my best to find the answers.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
In the mid-seventies, I managed a Weiner King restaurant in Warminster, PA. It was to be sold as a franchise of the main restaurant based out of Flemington, NJ. We opened it and I managed it for months before a suitable buyer was found.
One afternoon, I was sitting in the office doing paperwork. After the lunch rush, that was generally what I did on most days. An employee came to the door and said there was a man standing at the counter wanting to see the person in charge. I walked up and asked him what I could do for him. He lifted up a brown paper bag, the kind you used to get at the supermarket. It probably said ACME on it.
"Inside this bag I have all these big name watches. Would you like to look at them?" he asked as he slowly opened it up. I've never been one to wear watches. I don't really care for any type of jewelry or adornments. To me, it just feels uncomfortable, all dangly and moving around or too tight and restricting, but for some strange reason, I've always wanted to own a nice watch.
"C'mon back here, into my office." I told him. I sat down at my desk and said, "Let's see what you've got in there." He started to bring out watch after watch. I saw all types of wristwatches. Jules Juergensen. Elgin. Waltham. Bulova. Nothing too fancy or expensive, but very nice. All of a sudden, two watches caught my eye. "I like this band, but I like this watch. How much are they?"
"OK. Could I buy this one, but switch bands?" It was a Hamilton that I was interested in.
"Mmm. OK, but hurry up." He started to fidget a little bit and look nervously out the door, as if waiting for the Warminster Watch Police to suddenly burst through the front doors, guns drawn. I gave him the twenty bucks and removed the two bands. The one I wanted was a very nice gold mesh that sparkled in the light and truly complemented the watch I chose, all gold and exquisite. After the exchange, it looked like a million bucks! I looked up to show him, but he was gone. I got up and looked around. He was nowhere. I went outside. Gone. Dang, that guy was fast, I thought. Oh well. I went back to my office and decided to set the time.
The interesting thing about this new acquisition was that the minute hand was strategically placed over the "R" in Hamilton. Now, before you go saying there is no "R" in Hamilton, let me explain that it wasn't a Hamilton watch I bought after all. It was a Harmilton. That second hand completely hid that letter. I was now the proud owner of a very nice Harmilton watch. I wound it up. Battery watches weren't invented yet, at least not the wristwatch variety. It worked! As a matter of fact, that watch worked great for a month or two, until a girl slapped me on the wrist in a teasing gesture and fractured the glass crystal. Then, it stopped. Never worked again. I learned my lesson to never buy merchandise from a street vendor who comes banging at your door until...
A couple of years ago, I was in New York City and a guy was peddling Rolex watches. Very nice ones, too, and at just $20, it was a steal. I bought one, a real stunner. A friend of mine bought a different one while he was on a cruise and the funny thing is, his has the same serial number as mine. No big deal since I only wear it a couple of times a year. I get a lot of compliments when I do and if anyone asks about it, I tell them the truth - that I talked the guy down from $30. And hey, the best part is that it doesn't say Rolrex.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The top picture is my brother, Tim. He came down to visit for a week. If it wasn't for him, I would not know I am diabetic.
The picture below him is what every mother desires, to have all of her children together at the same time. She took the picture. Me, my older brother, Sam, my younger sister, Maggie, and baby brother, Tim. I know. What happened to me?
Friday, November 10, 2006
When I was young in the late sixties and early seventies, I experimented with drugs. Nothing heavy, mind you, just the simple stuff like marijuana. Back then, the government and police said that marijuana leads to other drugs, such as cocaine, LSD and heroin. It's probably the same message, but I've been out of the loop for so long, I couldn't tell you. What I can say is that I would never do anything with a needle. I hate them. As a kid, I was scared to death when I had to get shots. I could never be a heroin addict. I never wanted to try it anyway. Besides, what good could ever come out of tooth-rotting drugs like the big hits of today, crack, heroin and crystal meth?
I like my KitKat bars, though. Around Halloween, I go buy a bag for the trick or treaters that never come. Oh, I'd better go buy another bag, just in case. I live in a neighborhood where only one kid resides. They tend to go to areas where there are lots of other children walking the haunts. Safety in numbers, I guess. A lot go to malls now, where it's a very safe haven for getting treats. With all these child predators and molesters around, who knows? And because of Disney, there are plenty of hotels. Some advertise to bring your children here. They probably supply candy to their guests to hand out. I know one family that planned to do it that way. In any event, those KitKat bars couldn't just sit there, so I ate them.
As you get older, the little aches and pains associated with aging start to creep up on you. Sometimes, I go for days at a time with a general feeling of malaise. A little tired and achy. I get an occasional sharp nerve pain. Sometimes, my vision will be a little bit more blurry than usual. I know eyes change with age and I started wearing reading glasses a number of years ago, but this comes and goes. I'm more thirsty and urinate more often now. It's been that way for a while. I figured that as a male gets older, his prostate grows and you have to go more often anyway. No big deal yet. I'm not worried about a thing. Besides, I never go to the doctor unless I absolutely have to.
For quite a few years now, my mother has been a diabetic. She takes two shots of insulin a day. It wasn't always like that, but the disease progresses as you get older, especially if you grew up in the era of steak and potatoes. It's tough to break old habits. Fortunately, diets have changed over the years and I have changed with the times. A couple of years ago, I had a case of the hiccups that just wouldn't go away. Finally, I went to a doctor and he ran blood work, an upper GI and chest x-rays. He thought I had a lung tumor but it turned out to be a hernia in my esophagus. Along with a couple of prescriptions, he told me to cut out the starches. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels were a little above normal, but no serious cause for alarm. I dropped from 205 lbs to the "svelte" 165 that I am today. He told me then that my pancreas, liver, kidneys and heart were perfect! My lungs were nice and pink. And I'm a smoker. Of course, he told me to quit. I haven't yet.
My brother Tim is visiting from out of town and staying with my folks. Yesterday morning, my mother made breakfast for us and took one of her twice daily glucose tests. My brother asked if he could take his. His blood sugar level turned out normal at 106. He asked me to take the test. Reluctantly, I agreed. Mine was 200 something. Not good, my mother said. My brother gave me a look of concern. Ah, I'm not too worried about it. OK, we'll check it again before dinner. It was 238. You are a diabetic, my mother told me. She certainly has enough experience to know. This morning, it was 261. On an empty stomach. She's going to make an appointment with her doctor for me to get tested. I've never been a great one for exercise, but this morning, my brother and I took a 20 minute walk. Every morning, I'm going to take a walk and slowly increase the time. I'm going to adjust my diet again and hopefully, I can bring my sugar level down so I won't have to go on insulin. Fat is the real enemy. Cinnamon is supposed to help. I'll do whatever it takes. Diabetes can damage the eyes. It can lead to kidney disease, heart and blood vessel disease and nerve damage (neuropathy). I don't even want to think about going there.
Next time I eat a KitKat bar, I'll eat one instead of five. With my broccoli. And an apple.
Thanks, Tim. It's a great thing you came to visit, as always. Even if nothing was wrong with me.
If you would like more information on diabetes, please click HERE.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, Weapons of Mass Destruction. Red States. Blue States.
Even the pompous John Kerry or the threat of the very liberal Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House could not derail what the American public thought about the last 3 years under this president and congress.
America has spoken. Let this be a testament to the rest of the world on the will of this country.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
It was a chilly autumn night, that 48 years ago when I lived in Somerville, New Jersey. It was my first foray out with a friend on Halloween. No moms allowed! I was a man this night, or so I thought. Howard and I went out to make the rounds just as darkness fell. There were lots of kids in all sorts of costumes running around, stopping at each house. Some homes were decorated and they seemed like the most inviting, the ones that would give out the best candy! We saw the flickering of candlelit pumpkins with each eerie twist and turn throughout the neighborhood. Skeletons hung from trees and porches, swaying in the gentle breeze. We talked of ghosts and goblins and tried to stay away from dark alleys and back yards. No way! Oh yeah, houses with their lights off, too, because that meant they were going to grab you and take you to the basement where you'd never be seen again. Or else, they weren't home.
I had a double shopping bag to stuff all that tooth rotting goodness in. There were no paper or plastic options at the grocery store back then. These were the days of old when the milkman left glass bottles of milk at your doorstep and on freezing winter morns, the cream would expand and push the paper cap up and out a few inches. Brrr. Rabbit ears were the best way to watch your round screen black & white TV.
Howard kept insisting that we finish the night at his house. OK, I said, you already stopped at mine when you came to get me. That was our first treat and my mom always had good ones. He lived four or five houses up and across the street from mine. When you're six years old, that's pretty far away and I wasn't too crazy about being almost out of sight of my own place. I was approaching unmarked territory. At least, at night. Halloween night! We'd been out long enough and had plenty of goodies to last a long time. We probably had bewitching hours, anyway. There might have been school the next day.
"OK. Let's go to my place," Howard said.
"I'm ready," I replied. Besides, I was getting tired from all that trick or treating and having to rip off my mask to show everyone who I was.
We walked up the sidewalk and up the stairs of his front porch. It was dark and spooky and I sensed evil lurking about. We rang the doorbell and his father answered.
"TRICK OR TREAT!!!"
"I want to see a trick," Howard's father told us. A trick? I didn't know what he was talking about. Saying trick or treat meant I was going to get candy. What was this trick thing all about? I asked him.
"When you say trick or treat, I can ask you to do a trick first. Then I give you a treat. Do you have a trick?"
Howard and I gave each other a puzzled look and said, "No..?."
"Well, then. I have a trick for you," and just like that, his top teeth popped out and back into his mouth in an instant. I froze in my tracks and just stared up at him. Then he did it again. Those teeth popped out of his face and dangled for a second and then zipped right back into his mouth.
I let out a blood curdling scream that woke the dead at the cemetery down the street. Every S.W.A.T. team in the county would come running if they heard it today. I turned to run, when all of a sudden, Howard's mom came from behind his father and quickly came out the door to comfort me. Whatever his name was, she sure did scold him.
"He shouldn't have done that." The guy was rolling on the floor in laughter. Howard didn't know what to do. "Sometimes when people's teeth go bad, they get pulled and new ones won't grow in like after your baby teeth. They're replaced with fake ones so you can chew your food. That's what happened to Howard's dad." She turned to him. "Apologize right now!"
I don't remember if he said anything or not. He was still laughing. I was pretty rattled and couldn't stop shaking in my boots. She said she would walk me home. I was not about ready to venture out of that neighborhood by myself. When we got back to my place, she explained to my mother what a horror filled trauma I had just gone through. I sensed a snicker or two and I'm not talking the candy variety.
"Mom? Can I sleep with the light on tonight?" I asked. "I'm never going back to that house again," and I never did. "Mom, would you lock the front door, just in case?" For the longest time, I wouldn't even look at that place and I sure was glad when we moved.
When I was older, I wondered how the father of a six year old could have lost his teeth so young. Maybe, he ate too much Halloween candy.
Friday, October 27, 2006
My younger brother recently told me of an experience he had with his 16-year-old daughter. The basement in his home is finished and she has her own virtual apartment down there. Every night, she takes her dinner down to her little "world" and watches TV or whatever. My poor brother and his wife have to eat all alone. Later at night, he checks the house to make sure everything is OK, that the doors are locked and all is well. In her bedroom, he saw the dinner plate and glass sitting on her nightstand. The next morning, he went down to make sure she was getting ready for school and noticed the dishes were gone. Great! She put them in the sink where they belong. How responsible! He went about his business preparing for work. In the meantime, she left for school. When he went into the kitchen, the plate and glass were not in the sink. Hmm. He went downstairs and looked all over. No dishes anywhere. Then he got down on his knees and looked under her bed.
"HAH! Here they are, that little stinker." He left them and placed a note on top of the plate that said CAUGHT YOU! It was his subtle way of saying there's no need to start a collection here. It reminds me of a time past...
Years ago, my old girlfriend, her daughter, Hannah, and I lived in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. We always ate at the dining room table and afterward took turns doing the dishes. Normally, we didn't dirty enough in one night to run the dishwasher. One evening, when it was Hannah's turn, we thought she was washing them as we went about our business. Later on, I went to take the garbage out. As I lifted the plastic bag from the container, it felt pretty heavy for just household trash and I could hear the clanging and clinking of dishes and silverware as they banged into each other. Stupid parents. They'll never know. I called her into the kitchen and told her she would have to pick through all that yucky rubbish to remove each and every plate, glass, knife, fork and spoon.
"Oh, yes you will, young lady. Right now. Did you think your mother and I would not notice that we're running out of dishes and we'd have no idea where they went because a certain someone around here doesn't like to wash them?" I asked. "Oh, by the way, now you'll have to scrub them even harder because they're loaded with all that stinky, smelly, germy stuff ." I gave her a sickening look. She wanted to puke. "Keep looking!" Watching her rummage through that garbage bag with germs worse than cooties was punishment enough and guess what? It was, because she never did that again.
When Hannah was younger, she sometimes forgot to push that very important handle on the toilet, which was never a good thing. Then, one day her "friend" dropped by for the first of many monthly visits and things started to slowly change. She began to pay more attention to her appearance. "Booger" and "poop" weren't funny words any more. Thunderous belches and other loud discharges followed by hysterical laughter were no longer emanating from what used to be quite the tomboy. From then on, they became something only dads and boys disgustingly do. How embarrassing! Girls politely burp. Occasionally, they poot. Big difference, I guess.
Fortunately, my brother's daughter has her own bathroom. I asked him if the counter is cluttered with all kinds of cosmetics; facial creams, makeup, sprays, gels and whatever. Yup, he said. Typical teenage girl stuff. Thank God she doesn't have to share it with anyone else. Maybe, that's why young ladies always look so fresh and clean - it's all that sugar and spice and everything nice they keep scattered around the bathroom. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, and maybe a dish or two, are kept under the bed, until one day...
Time goes by rather quickly as they grow older. Before you know it, you realize there are a lot more memories and one less plate to wash. She's got her own set now. She's turned out to be quite the peach and her mind is no longer child-like. You take one last look under the bed and there's nothing there.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
"It was fun, that's my first time boxing since my last fight."
- Mike Tyson, following last night's four-round exhibition against Corey "T-Rex" Sanders, a former sparring partner, in Youngstown, Ohio. He has said he will fight anyone, including women and children.
After the fight, he brazenly challenged Stephen Hawking, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is known for his significant contributions to the field of quantum physics, particularly his theories regarding theoretical cosmology, quantum gravity, black holes, and his popular works in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general.No word from the Hawking camp as of yet.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, surely I can't look that old?
Well, you'll love this one!
I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with my new dentist. My dentures needed some adjusting. I noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name. Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in my high school class 46 years ago. Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?
Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate. Hmm... or could he???
After he examined my dentures, I asked him if he had attended Hunterdon Central High School. "Yes. Yes, I did. I'm a Red Devil," he gleamed with pride.
"When did you graduate?" I asked.
He answered, "In 1960. Why do you ask?"
"You were in my class!" I exclaimed. He looked at me closely.
Then, that ugly, old son-of-a-b*tch asked, "What did you teach?"
Friday, October 13, 2006
My father has always been one very good auto mechanic. He used to help fix seemingly unfixable problems on stock cars that would run the modified NASCAR circuit. Of course, he's been retired for years now. Back in the seventies, he owned a front-end alignment shop in Flemington, New Jersey. It didn't take him long to gain the reputation of being the best around. People from all over would bring their cars to him. There was another guy in town that had been there a lot longer and did the same thing, but there was plenty of business to go around. As a matter of fact, the two liked each other. One day, the other guy suffered a terrible accident at work and went to the biggest and best alignment shop in the sky. That really bothered my father.
I remember when I was 17, let's see, that would be in 1969, I bought a 1965 Mustang. With air conditioning and an 8-Track cassette. AM-FM, too. I was the man! FM had come into vogue around then, but most cars from 1965 only had AM. It gave me enough confidence to go get me a genuine girlfriend, a real knockout, to boot. Unfortunately, Mustangs were not known for having big back seats. The following summer, I needed new front shocks. I had never worked on a car up to that point and never planned to, not with a father who knew pretty much everything about them. Besides, cars were still a new thing to me, after riding bikes most of my life. He used to let me "help" him when I was a kid, to make me feel good, but I never really did anything because I really didn't help all that much.
One day, I called him and asked if he could put new shocks in for me. Sure, go over to Carver's Auto Parts, get what you need and come by Saturday morning. OK, great! I was getting tired of getting seasick every time I went over a bump in the road. So was my girlfriend. That Saturday morning, I stopped by, parts in hand. He told me, "See those tools over there? They are all you're going to need to replace those bad shocks."
"What do you mean?" I protested. "I thought you were going to put them in for me."
"No, you're going to have to learn how to work on a car and this is a good place to start." When he told me that, I began to dislike him for thinking I was ready to work on my own vehicle. I wasn't and I think he sensed if he had told me beforehand that I was going to do the work, the job would never have gotten done. "I'm going to be right here to give you any help or advice, so don't panic."
One thing about my father's tools, you could eat off them. They were always neatly arranged, too. AND YOU'D BETTER RETURN THEM THAT WAY! Oh, he didn't expect me to remember where they all went, but they'd better be clean. "No one wants to reach into a toolbox and grab a dirty, greasy wrench." He was right. He was right about something else, too. I learned how to work on my own cars over the years and I've probably saved tens of thousands of dollars because of it.
In the late seventies, my good friend Frank had a little Japanese import. I think it was a Subaru. Frank sold industrial coatings for Dupont back then and needed a small, fuel-efficient car that was very dependable. Because of all the miles he'd put on it, the rear brakes finally wore out. Front brakes wear out three times as quickly and those he maintained. After so many miles it was time to do the rears. I called my father and asked him if I could use his shop on Saturday to do the job for Frank. He normally didn't work weekends so it wasn't a problem. These were drum type brakes and the shoes were what needed replacing. Since Frank wasn't all that educated when it came to working on cars, I figured we'd both go to the parts store so I could make sure we got the right parts.
My father had a rack you'd drive up onto. "OK, Frank. Slowly drive up the ramp and I'll tell you when to stop." So far, so good. After removing the tires, I unbolted the wheel drums. After they've been on a car for some time and been subjected to the elements, they can be really tough to remove. They were. After finally getting them off, I started to disassemble the brakes. I compared the old parts with the new, to make sure everything matched up. Everything was going well. I installed all of the new parts. I checked and checked again to make sure everything was correct. Then, I tried to put the drums back on. No way. They wouldn't fit over the new brakes. I thought of everything. I looked again to make sure everything was correct. Yup. I compared old parts with the new. Everything was on right, but, those drums would not go back on. No way, no how. I even thought of sanding them down. I must have spent hours trying to figure the mess out. Of course, Frank didn't have a clue. I phoned my father and explained the dilemma. "Are you sure everything is right?" he asked me. I told him yes.
"Could you please come down and take a look? I mean, I've tried everything." Reluctantly, he said yes and Frank and I waited. When he pulled up and got out of his car, he immediately went over to the exposed brakes on the left side to do a little inspecting. Then, he walked up to us. Clearly, he could see the looks of frustration and anticipation in our eyes. Methodically, he opened the driver's door, reached in and disengaged the emergency brake.
"You think you two dodos can finish the job without any more help?" I felt really dumb. I told you Frank didn't know much about cars. Apparently, I didn't either, but I sure did learn a good lesson.
Monday, October 02, 2006
to see someone with such potential throw
it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."
- Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, on Monicagate
A new chapter in the life of ex-Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) unfolds. I don't want to know what page he was on, but let's book him for writing and sending sexually explicit e-males and IMs (Instant Massages?) to young boys.
Alcohol, my foot. Next week, he'll be bipolar. Big Bubba don't care.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I spent many years in the restaurant business. I think every state requires all establishments that serve food & beverages to post this type of sign in their restrooms. Straight to the point, isn't it? Let's assume these employees are healthy, it is still absolutely practical and proper advice and and it just makes common sense. After all, who wants to put bacteria and germs into their mouths from someone else's, well, you know, "down there"? Even if they don't pee on themselves or whatever. I know, this is a yucky topic and you don't want to think about it. I'll come to the point.
Think about this. When in the bedroom, that simple little rule remains on the other side of closed doors. We do things to each other we wouldn't do any other time except when we're in a state of passion. Without going into detail, mouths are capable of performing some amazing and wonderful things. In relationships, again, assuming both consenting parties are physically healthy, we don't seem to get sick from what we do. And we're not always two minutes fresh from the shower. We might have just returned from that restaurant or bar. We might have just met that night.
Why is that? Does lust kill germs?
Monday, September 25, 2006
To the editor:
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called President Bush the devil. I don't think most Americans appreciated that, no matter what side of the fence one straddles. To acknowledge his remark and clear the air, so to speak, President Bush, through diplomatic channels, of course, should send Chavez a case of Beano to let him know what we think of his gas and to help rectify the smell of sulphur that seems to follow him around.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Tiger Woods is African American, Chinese, Native American, Thai, and Caucasian. Maybe more. Because of his dark skin, there are elements yet lurking that will never root for him. He needs to go back to Africa to play golf, some say. What difference does it make that most of his bloodline is of Thai descent? Why should anyone care about his ethnicity, what religion he is, if any, or which side of the bed he gets out of in the morning?
Twenty-some years ago my late friend, Larry Maddox, observed, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was no such thing as different races." I wondered what he meant by it. "Think about it, Dave," he said. "If all races were thrown into a giant blender and out poured one - not black, not white, not yellow, not red, but a mixture of all of us, wouldn't the world rid itself of racism?" That was a very deep thought, but Larry was a philosopher at heart. He was a copywriter at an ad agency I worked for, with a degree in journalism. I wholeheartedly agreed and that impression has never left me. Sometimes, I wish religions were the same way.
I remember the old Hollywood stereotypes. The (then called) colored people were often depicted as docile, subservient and scared to death of ghosts. The mere sight of one would turn them white. Why white? Partially because of this, prejudice prevails. Hatred still runs deep. This country does not stand alone. There's plenty of room in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, it's standing room only. All races play the race card, just like all religions play the religion card. Unfortunately, some more than others and there seems to be an awful lot of misguided stereotyping when it comes to races and religions.
If we span the course of human existence, how many wars have been fought over racism and religion? Where would we begin? Recorded history does not go back far enough to answer where and when it all began. Anthropologists can't even explain the demise of the Neanderthal. After nearly 200,000 years of existence, they suddenly disappeared. Early modern humans are suspected of being responsible. Was it over race or which tribe had the better and stronger sun god? Who's to say? There is some speculation that trade wars existed back then (see http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/510666) and select economists and archeologists suspect that bands of early humans interacted with each other and inter-group trading emerged and that might have played a role in the Neanderthal's extinction. I'm sure they fought over territory.
I'm afraid territorial wars will never go away. It is one thing inherent in all of us to protect our space - or what we perceive as our space. (You can add your own spite-filled opinion on the Israel/Palestine problem here. Go argue with someone else.) An example of this, and I love to explain this scenario to all who banter with me on philosophy and religion, is a very simple one. Here in America, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. It is intended to give thanks to the bountiful blessings we have. It is a love feast where close relatives and friends gather at the table. Hugs abound. We hold hands and give thanks to our respective god and to each other. Then, dinner is served. Everyone has their own placemat, their own "territory" so to speak. I like to take my drinking glass and place it somewhere on the edge of my neighbor's placemat. I have just infringed on their space. Do you have any idea what happens next? Some people don't react, but inside the brain they are all too aware of it. They seek no confrontation, yet they feel awkwardly uncomfortable. Others may just move it back to my side. Some may say something like, "Hey, get that glass off my space." There are probably others, although it's never happened to me, who might curse and throw the glass back at me. Do you get my point? No matter what, territory plays a crucial role. In this case, this private area is perceived as belonging to them, even though they're eating at Aunt Tessie's house. The property is not theirs to begin with. What began as a day filled with love and thanksgiving may end in a fiasco, with brothers and sisters and whole family members taking sides and flinging pumpkin pie at each other. If families and close friends are capable of doing this on such a small, unimportant scale, imagine what countries and cultures are capable of doing to each other when disputed borders are at stake and they are lobbing bombs instead.
Cultural and political wars are most often ideologically driven, sometimes with a smattering of religion thrown in, as in the case of "Kulturkampf" or literally, culture struggle. Then, the 19th century chancellor of Germany, Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, and the German Protestant government attacked the legal rights of Catholics. Why aren't Catholics protesting today over something that happened a mere hundred and some years ago, burning and murdering Germans like some religions are still doing? Some just can't let go of the old, stale past and primitive ways.
Certainly, the entire world is aware of what is going on today with how quick radical extremists are to slice the head off common sense in the name of their god. It's as if God intended mankind to destroy itself. Rather prehistoric thinking, isn't it? As extremists kill in the name of God, are they actually doing it in the name of their religion or are they basing these crude and barbaric forms of torture and death on ideological, self-serving twists of their particular "faith" that stem from their rather undeveloped minds? Undeveloped in the sense that they hold no regard for human life and dignity, not even their own. Ask your leaders if they would do the same for you.
Look at religious figures everywhere. Somewhere along the way, throughout history, haven't many, to a large extent, been responsible for tearing the world apart? Haven't plenty of them taken foreign lands and rendered the inhabitants under their control in one way or another in the name of God?
In order to dominate a region, a leader or conqueror must have a strong cultural and political base. What do China and Iran have culturally and politically in common other than disdain for the United States? Why would Iran, an Islamic Republic, ally itself with an atheist government for any reason other than trade and money, with the stronger one supplying arms and the weaker one supplying oil? Ideologically, they are as far apart as they are with us. On the other hand, aren't we, God fearing people, doing the same thing? Perhaps, religion doesn't play as important a role after all. Perhaps, those violent religious fanatics have it all wrong when invoking God, sometimes with their cleric's blessings, to spread their brand of hatred and death. God, give me genocide. I'm sorry, but you cannot convert the dead. Why do religious and political leaders mention God at all levels and on many of the world's stages? They all seem to have God on their side. The one true God. In war, the victor gives praise to the Almighty. The loser prays for help. Read your history. Many times, it's the same God.
Imagine no religion, John Lennon said. Nothing to kill or die for. He might have been on to something.
Back to Tiger. I'm voting for him in every election. After all, he represents more of the world's races and religions than you or I could ever imagine, but, only if he picks Phil Mickelson as his running mate. The likelihood of that happening is like either one of them going to church on Sunday or the rest of the world giving peace a chance.
Friday, September 15, 2006
You are correct about the Electoral College and the Supreme Court. Although not a perfect system, it has worked for the most part for over 200 years. I agree with you that we cast so much "do as I say, not as I do" edicts around the world and this has been a real problem for me and many, many others. The thing I take issue with in this matter is that a lot of people around the world discredit us. They speak of only the misery we create and never about the good we do. We are the most benevolent nation on earth, from both a personal and governmental standpoint. It's disheartening to hear so much grief from so many of the mouths we feed. It hurts when monies we donate are corruptly used by rogue sovereign governments to purchase weapons that will eventually be used against us instead of helping their own people who need it the most. Of course, we supplied weapons to bin Laden to fight the Soviet Union. Now he turns those same guns on us, and I believe it was Stalin who said that America will sell us the rope to hang them. No country and/or government is without fault. Yours, mine or anyone elses. To that, I quote, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
Fundamentalism, for the most part, is not a good thing. Not the way it has evolved, anyway. Again, I pretty much agree with you, but what about religious leaders such as Billy Graham? He is a fundamentalist Christian who preaches non-violence and of human suffering. There are leaders of all faiths who espouse very similar doctrines, yet they too, could be considered fundamentalists. Not all blow themselves up or bomb abortion clinics. Many Islamic clerics teach laws that were written centuries ago and that takes fundamentalism to an extreme. Rules a thousand years old might not apply in today's cultures, yet at the same time, most of these same clerics do not send messages of hate and violence. My point here is that fundamentalism in and of itself is not inherently bad or evil. The fringe elements of humanity that step into the realm of extremism for their own personal gains are what destroy the goodness in religion. I ask you, where are the moderate voices of Islam? I sense you and your father are amongst them and I am hearing your voices, but where are the rest? When suicide bombers attack, when Israeli buses are blasted into oblivion, killing innocent children, where is the condemnation from Muslim leaders? Why do governmental heads remain silent? Who pays for the explosives they strap on their bodies? I condemn the bombing of abortion clinics. Religious leaders in America condemn these acts, too. The president on down to local officials cry out for the arrest and punishment of such criminals. We do not harbor them.
Sure, there's plenty of violence in the streets of America. There are drive-by shootings and gangs of low-life thugs. Many came from foreign lands, though. The Mafia, for example, took root in Italy long before it migrated here. There are the Russian and Chinese Mafias, too. Where do you think they originated? The only reason they are here is because we are internationally perceived as the "land of opportunity." Perhaps, we should be more like some of the Middle Eastern countries that, according to Islamic law, lop off hands and heads to curtail crime, but wouldn't we then be looked upon as barbaric? It's a no win situation for us. We are a nation of freedoms and rights and these thugs know that. They are back out on the streets the next day. What should we do?
Here, we are also free to worship in the manner of our choice. You don't even have to believe in any form of god. That's OK, too. There are Muslims and Jews living side by side. There are mosques and synagogues side by side. These people do not blow themselves up in the name of religion. Catholics and Protestants do not kill each other in the name of Christianity. Can Shi'ites and Sunnis say the same thing? Would I feel just as comfortable and safe as a Christian living in Iran? It is an Islamic Republic. Might I add more on the subject of fundamentalism? It is a nation based on the 1979 Constitution called the "Qanun-e Asasi" ("Fundamental Law"). We pride ourselves in the separation of church and state. How would you feel as a Muslim living here if we were a staunch Christian Republic? Can you tell me there are no Islamic countries in the Middle East practically run by fundamentalist religious leaders brandishing guns that are sanctioned and protected by their respective governments?
Territorial and religious wars have been the backbone of all corners of the earth long before these united states ever existed. We cannot be blamed for all the ills of the world. Somewhere along the way, others must admit fault and render good old fashioned, fundamental discipline upon themselves for a change.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Rick Rescorla was born in England. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963 and retired as a colonel in 1990. Rick was a bonafide hero of the Vietnam war. In 1965, at the Ia Drang Valley battles, Lt. Gen. Hal Moore described him as "the best platoon leader I ever saw." Rescorla's men nicknamed him "Hard Core" for his bravery in battle. His heroism was documented and highlighted in the 2002 movie "We Were Soldiers" from the book "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young" co-written by Gen. Moore.
Since 1985, he worked in corporate security, subsequently becoming Vice President of Security for Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center. After the 1993 attack, he trained all employees to evacuate the building. He maintained a structured, quarterly drill carried out by all staff to orderly get out. He is the man who predicted 9/11. Please see The Richard C. Rescorla Memorial Foundation.
On that fateful day, he safely evacuated all 2,800 Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter employees but himself and a few of his security staff. After doing his job, he returned to rescue others still inside. These were not even his people. They were all his people. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains have not been recovered. He leaves a wife and two children. This man is widely recognized as being solely responsible for saving over 3,000 lives. Is it of any importance that he became an American citizen after Vietnam?
This is but one hero who perished that fateful day, but what a man he was and what a soul he has that will and should live forever in the hearts and minds of all who cherish freedom. All over the world.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This is my 16 year old niece, Ariana, from Berlin, Germany. She has spent her entire life there, except for summer visits with her father and to Florida to visit us. She is a great person. Obviously, her mother raised her well. She is spending a year in America and is enrolled as a junior in high school. I spoke with her the other day. She speaks English almost as well as her native language and she's already gotten an A+ in English and Biology classes. Not bad for a foreigner accustomed to German schools, huh?
Next month is Homecoming. There is a dance, so she went out and bought a pretty dress to wear for the occasion. She hasn't been invited by a boy yet, but I think she will. She's already got her eye on one and I think he's looking right back. Oh, he's handsome, she said. My poor brother. Now, if she was my daughter, I'd go along on the date and make her sit in the back seat. That would be the way it would be until she was 30 years old. I would go along. She would sit in the back. She went to the movies the other night with a classmate. That's OK since it was another girl. Be home by 8:30 though. But Dad, it doesn't start 'til 8. So what. You vill obey! Good thing I'm just her uncle, and of course, I'm just kidding. OK, 9.
I asked her about football. Rugby and soccer are the sports of choice in Germany, but she's really getting into it. I can picture her as a cheerleader. My high school years were some of the best times of my life and I think this is great for her. All over Europe, including Germany, there is a skewed take on what makes America tick. This is a wonderful opportunity for her to learn our culture up close and personal with peers her own age and to determine first hand what this nation is all about. I think it works just as well the other way around. This gives other students the chance to learn more about a foreign land. So far, she's having a great time and adjusting well. I think kids are kids the world around. What better way to learn about your neighbors. Besides, the pizza is better here. Aufregen!
Monday, August 21, 2006
I believe it was George Carlin who observed that human beings are remarkably funny when it comes to pets. You get one, it lives for 15 years, it dies and you mourn. You get another one, it lives 15 years, it dies and you mourn again. And so on and so on, until you get so old you get a pet to take care of and comfort you. I don't know if he said that part of it.
For almost 14 years, I had Babette. Babette was a Tabby cat. She adopted me, not the other way around. One Friday morning, in the late 80s, this little kitten showed up at the back door of the advertising agency where I worked. I used to go back there to smoke, even though we were allowed to do that inside at the time. I didn't want to pollute the air for all of the workers who didn't. I opened the door and there sat this cute little blonde just meowing and meowing at the sight of me. Now, I've never needed, nor wanted a pet cat, certainly not a kitten, but she just stared up at me with a "thank you, thank you, you're here to help me, right?" look on her face. She was so innocent and defenseless. Hmm, I thought, she looks hungry. Maybe I'll run up the street to Winn-Dixie and get her some cat food. I did. Boy, did she gobble that up.
Like I said, it was a Friday. I left that afternoon without giving her much of a thought, although, I did leave her plenty of dry food and water. Not that I cared or anything. That Monday morning, I came to work and the first thing the receptionist, Helen, said was that my girlfriend was here. What do you mean? My girlfriend is at work. No, she said, the one you left at the back door. Oh no, I thought. She's still here? Yes, and she's probably been here all weekend, waiting for you to come back. Well, I had no more food, so back to Winn-Dixie I went.
Every time I went out the back door, she sat patiently waiting with anticipation and excitement. I told her, OK, you can come inside. I'll let you out at night. I figured it wouldn't take too long to find a home for you, with all of the friends and connections I had. Boy, was I wrong. Weeks went by until the boss said I can't just keep her here, I needed to do something. She was such a sweetie. She almost had me at hello. How was this going to work? I mean, I was relatively young and quite active. I had a girlfriend I spent a lot of time with. I don't see this working out at all. I took her home.
That Saturday morning, we went to the Orange County Animal Center, or whatever it was called, for shots and to get fixed. I didn't need any more of what I didn't want running around. A woman came in at the same time with her cat. Hers was in one of those animal containers. Mine wasn't. One thing I'll say about Babette is that I never had to restrain her. She never had problems with other cats or any other type animal. She was very comfortable. The vet tech took both cats behind a wall at the same time. The wall didn't extend up to the ceiling, so I could hear her and the vet discussing one of them...
"This one's pregnant."
"That's not my cat you're talking about, is it?"
"Yes, it is."
"That little slut!" The waiting room broke into laughter.
The vet tech came out to explain. "We're going to have to abort these kittens," like I was going to disagree with her. "For one thing, there's no telling how large the tomcat was. She might have a problem giving birth to kittens since she might not be large enough to accommodate their..."
"OK. Sure. No problem. Just do it."
"Besides, she's probably not old enough to have the proper instincts to be good a mother. She might abandon them."
"Yup, do what you have to do. How old is she?"
"Seven or eight months." Boy, I thought, they start young, don't they? That's statutory rape in my book. How do you arrest a cat, let alone find the purr-petrator?
Not only did they give her an abortion, they fixed her at the same time and gave her her shots. They wanted to keep her a couple of days for observation and told me I could come back Monday to pick her up. The whole deal cost me $25. Not bad when you go to the county. That's all she was worth to me back then.
I went after work and took her home. She was just this little ball of fur and she barely moved. I had a date that night, so I set her on my bed with a little wet food and water. The next morning I came home. She hadn't budged. A little ball of fur. The food and water was not touched. At that point, I realized she was still in some pain. I called my office and said I wouldn't be in that day. One thing about where I worked, they were very caring people and understood my situation. I stayed with little Babette the remainder of the day and night. I promised myself and her that I would never leave her again. And I never did.
She gave me many wonderful years and lots of memories. One time, a dog chased her around the side of the house where I was talking to a neighbor. About 15 feet away, she leaped into the air and made a beeline straight for my arms. Oh no. I'm in for some serious scratches here. I could see them coming, all pointy and sharp. As soon as she hit me and I wrapped my arms around her for protection, her claws were gone. She never hurt me. The dog wasn't very happy. She used to love to climb on roofs and could never figure out a way down. I'd always rescue her. My old friend, Wayne Trout, once made a brilliant observation. "Dave? Have you ever seen a skeleton of a cat in a tree?" He was right. I think it was a game she played, to reassure herself that I was there.
She loved people. People loved her, even the ones that didn't like cats for one excuse or another, like saying they're allergic to them. No one ever sneezed at Babette. One time, my mother was holding her. She asked me why she has one eye closed. Because, I explained, Babette always stares at me, especially in bed at night, with a loving and trusting gaze. When I start to doze with the TV on, my right eye tends to nod off.
I know it's weird to say this, but she never failed to comfort those in pain. My mother will attest to that. Twice, she let me know when she was in pain. She stuck her back into my face when she had a puncture of some kind. She stared straight into my face to let me know she had a sinus infection. Like I said, I never had to put Babette in a box to take her to the vet. Everyone who ever babysat while I went away had wonderful stories to tell me about her and her personality upon my return.
I lost her 3 years ago. She finally had to get into a box and I buried her in the back yard. She was a great friend, true to the end. What was once worth $25 became priceless. One of the things that got me through the pain was what George Carlin said years earlier. I had to put things in perspective and understand how right he was. I did.
I still think about her often. Because of her, I want no more pets.
My sister and her husband have had Baxter for 13 years. A handsome Yellow Lab, he just got too old. She told me how his quality of life had deteriorated to the point of losing his dignity. He could no longer walk. He was losing the potty war. This morning, Baxter had a wonderful breakfast of special treats. This morning, Baxter took his last trip to see the vet. He had a very happy life. They still have Bailey, his companion of 8 years, and Teddy, a Rat Terrier puppy to help them through this difficult time.
We all have incredible tales to tell of these special creatures who have been so much a part of our lives. Our tails would be wagging like our tongues if we had them.
It's tough to let go, but we have to, by George.