Archive for the ‘unraveling’ Category

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam, II

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The dash warning light is real.  Within minutes the truck has lost  power, reducing 70 mph down to 25 mph, so I choose to turn on the warning flasher and ride the shoulder.  Sans a GPS, I can only estimate that the next town, Springerville, AZ, is fifty miles distant.  Although the very large array of radio telescopes passed an hour ago may be able to detect visitations from other galaxies in the universe, I have zero bar cell service.

For more than an hour, rumble strips, a sick engine, and a few passing cars are all that are seen and heard. 35 miles on the clock.

And then, an angel.

A white SUV slows as it passes then pulls aside and awaits the sick driver and sicker truck.  Her name is Karla, a solo road warrior, with an innate trust for a fellow traveler in distress.  I could be Ted Bundy, serial killer, in disguise, armed and dangerous, a felon preying on good samaritans, but Karla didn’t hesitate. No questions asked, she tries her cell phone, to no avail.  However, her car is equipped with On-Star®, a clever satellite service that promptly answers and offers to call a AAA wrecker.  We part with a warm handshake, and within an hour the truck is loaded onto the flatbed tow, headed for the recommended service center, Round Valley Garage, Springerville, Arizona.

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Stoney Gilliam is stoic, soft-spoken, a weathered mechanic choosing his words carefully and sparingly.  He has the rugged good looks of NCIS’s Mark Harmon.  A late afternoon gaze at the truck through piercing eyes from under an old baseball cap and the computer scope reveals a very serious NG…failed injectors at 193,000 miles.  This had happened once before, in 2008, a whisper above 100,000 miles, and a shadow past the seven year  extended warranty.  GM, sympathetic, politely punched my tough s#it card, and wished me better fortune in the future.

images

dateline: Springerville, AZ

nearest big box store, Show Low, AZ, 48 miles away

closest interstate ramp, I-40, 82 miles distant

Stoney’s son drives me to the vintage, 1960s, El-Jo Motel, conveniently located adjacent to a favorite local saloon/eatery, The Safire.  Not a misspelling to be confused with the lovely blue gemstone, The Safire had once been named The Safari, but a Phoenix restaurant of the same name requested the name be changed to avoid confusion.  Fat chance.

The claim to fame for the Safire; the Duke, John Wayne, frequented the place in the 60s.  He had been part owner of a large ranch just west of neighboring Eagar, AZ.  The cheeseburger was delicious, but the seat in the  dining room booth still retained the sculpted shape of the Duke’s rump, like the trusty saddle on an old gelding.

John_Wayne_in_Wake_of_the_Red_Witch_trailer

The Duke, after lunch at the Safire

I spend the next morning, on foot, exploring the town.  A walk to the airstrip, a visit with the ladies in the Safeway store, the local museum where everyone important was named Udall, McD’s for an egg mcmuffin, and a brief busman’s holiday at the Western Rexall.  This is a hardscrabble town with little veneer.  You don’t live here to be monetarily rich.  Five interviews with ‘locals’ were consistent.  You’ll find characters, but no drunken Toronto mayor, or a Jersey FatGov; people seem to enjoy the isolation, fresh clear air, no parking woes, no traffic, and very little crime.  Everyone knows who you are, what you drive, and where the herd of elk was last seen crossing SR 180.

Because the repair, a 14 hour task, and parts would take several days to arrive, over a weekend + the vicious storm covering most of the U.S., Stoney offers to drive me to Show Low that afternoon, both to rent a car, continue on to Phoenix, and meet my wife, Lynn, arriving by air.  He promised me, unequivocally, he would have the truck ready in a week, and would not release it until he was certain it was 100%.  Believe me, his word is gold.

DSCN1350

L-R, Stoney, Chas, and the mended Silverado background

Strange, this bump in the road, a major inconvenience when I needed it the least, enriched my life, reinforced my faith in the basic goodness of people, and lead to quiet contemplation on the ride on AZ-80 from above the Mogollon Rim down to the Valley of the Sun.

Becker Butte Lookout

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Straight from the pages of Arizona Highways, the breathtaking scenery is as welcome as the thirty minute stop to remove fallen rocks.

Below, a genuine American Indian princess and AzDOT employee shares stories and candy with me while waiting.

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My sincere thanks to the support team and I wish them all the best:

  • Karla 
  • The wrecker driver with a clean sense of smell
  • Stoney, Nicole, their son, and staff at the RVGarage
  • The ladies at the El-Jo and the Paint Pony Lodge, in Show Low
  • Show Low, AZ., Hatch Toyota rental rep, Jolene Dailey, for the Rav4, efficiency, and a smile that can melt gloom and lighten the room
  • Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and her avalanche stories

A trip planned to cover 1800 miles in four days had turned into an odyssey of 2400 miles, over 14 days, sleeping in nine different beds, losing seven pounds, five days of food poisoning, and a small dent in the travel budget.

It was worth it.

 

insightout©2014

save the last dance for me

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Jack…..January 1, 2004-December 28, 2013.

He arrived at our Airstream 8 years ago, 20 pounds of sleek black hair, lightning quick on four legs, a small mixed breed without aristocratic provenance…simply a 2 y/o terrier pup rescued from an Indiana shelter by a caring high school English teacher.

He soon adapted to our habits and quietly, systematically, tranformed us into the pet owners he knew we could be.  He walked me daily.  Everywhere and anywhere, never allowing me a measure of physical decadence nor denying him the joy to discover the infinite aromas in the real world.  We were a team, Jack and me, and then we rested.

DSCN5338

Accomodating to golf on TV, which he found quite boring

Jack became a friend to everyone, a special intoxicating presence, who knew when, and where, and how much, the human world needed him. He had an aura.

Charisma.

DSCN5425

Play ?  Nothing better than a day on his beach or chasing a squirrel

In the past month, in blatant disregard of the dogma, ‘you can’t teach an old dog a new trick’, Lynn had, with the aid of a few treats, taught him how to dance.  No threat to Astaire and Rogers, they managed a nice tango together.  At the least, they thought they could dance.

He was, like so many family pets, a dog for the ages.  My constant companion for eight years, connected together at the heart, the emotional vacuum will heal over time.  It must.  Those of you, like us, who have outlived their special companions, know the emptiness.

DSCN7164

Jack, on duty 28Aug 2011, 9 days before Lynn’s transplant call,

               he sensed the future before everyone else

He had watched over Lynn during her most trying days, allowing her spirit to soar when she needed it most.  The intimacy, while snuggling together, created a bond like mother and child, one they shared to the very end while she caressed that face during his final breaths.  The breaths that ended too soon.

DSCN7193

One little kiss, no more

The tears we are shedding…..they are the tears of joy and happiness, thankful for the years he gave to us.

For Lynn, she’ll never forget, Jack saved the last dance for her.  Tiptoe to heaven little guy, you were the very best.

DSCN6575

insightout© 2013

In memory  of:

Heinz, Kramer, Yooper, Sage, Teddie, Sandy, Louie, Brandy II, Cinch, Ruby, Penny, Norah, Zimba

 

 

Knickers in a Knot

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

* a quaint britishism 

Lynn decided that WE needed to go to Chicago for MY birthday…you understand, shopping, the Art Institute, elegant dinner at a 4 restaurant, a stay at the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, which we were assured is LGBT friendly, yet maintains a no pets policy.  Transvestites are o.k., ear mites are not.

chicago_exterior
Uniformed Doormen : when you lack the strength to push a revolving door

Convincing birthday boy that the outing was not a violation of our agreed upon, “no gifts, thank you” policy.  Rather, an experience, a memory to cherish forever (or noon a week from Tuesday, whichever comes first).

We shopped at two stores, The Disney and The American Girl, commercial shrines to the pre-teen and younger set. Employees with Mickey Mouse ears failed to control the enthusiasm of hundreds of little snots in need of ADHD meds and kleenex.  We’ve come a long way since Lionel trains, Lincoln Logs, and Daisy BB guns.  Nothing, in either store, made in the US of A…100% China.

The prized, memorable moment; upon checking in, the desk clerk (a recent grad majoring in leisure and entertainment, University of the Painful Truth) proclaimed, ‘sir, you’re all checked in, room #1130, and parking, only $42′.

I remarked that was much more reasonable than I had expected, really, only $42 for the room.

“sir, the room charge will be applied to your Visa card,  the $42 is for overnight parking only, and must be paid in cash”

********************************************

Days later, an e-mail request from

Expedia

requesting a first-person, customer review, so the following was submitted;

Millennium Knickerbocker, Chicago

Superb location, the ‘Knick’ has a definite European appeal. The restoration, replicating the ambient charm of 1927, was no-expense-spared and all first class. Yes, yes, the elevators are small & intimate, however, the on-board women all smell fresh and alluring, and they look as good as they smell. Why would you want an elevator with a two ton load limit ? Carrying a dozen, plus-size, weightwatcher rejects on a shopping frenzy does not convey holiday intimacy, even if you take a freight elevator.

The rooms are comfortable, very clean, with all the amenities you might expect, but rarely use. My wife and I, both in our mid-70s, did not avail ourselves of the bathtub gin in the fridge or the pay-to-play adult movies. But we thought about it. That, and sex in the tub……

The stay was delightful and the Knickerbocker will remain our first choice.  And look, I think most of the women on the lift were women. It’s not like I did a TSA pat down to check.  Or requested a DNA sample, photo ID, and the last four digits of their social security number.

24 hours later and this automated reply:

Your hotel review needs revision!  Oops! Looks like we need you to revise your review before we can post it on our website.

 

So, there you have it, the subject title for this essay: youll-never-get-your-knickers-in-a-knot2 Dont-get-your-knickers-in-a-knot

Having submitted a descriptive and honest portrayal of our hotel ‘experience’, it apparently did not meet the Expedia standard of suitability. I reviewed the rules/guidelines but failed to perceive where I’d gone astray.

My final word for your website police: WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get.  I’m elderly, approaching 80 y/o, retired, and adhere to the 1st year med student mantra..’do the patient no harm’. If you deem the submission (as it appeared above) as harmful, why not employ a niceness editor to eradicate wrongdoing?  Kind regards to all the staff at Expedia. Enjoy the upcoming holiday season, the winter wonderland, the serenity evoked by the baby Jesus, and quiet reflection on the Constitution’s 1st amendment.  And may all your knockers be in a knit.

Boy, I can’t wait for Christmas.

 

©insightout2013

Thoughts while shaving…..

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

A tattered front page section of the Chicago Tribune, dated Monday, April 10, 2000, has served to collect the clippings from a personal bi-monthly trim for 13 years.  This gesture to preserve marital harmony, a ritual of personal hygiene, is for a wife ambivalent about rings: a ring around the bathroom bowl is not o.k.; a ring of the telephone, a nuisance; a diamond ring, well, you understand,….size and clarity do matter.

Lead stories that day; Vijay Singh in his new green Masters jacket and acting AG, Janet Reno, avows the reuniting of 6 y/o Elian Gonzalez with his father in Cuba.

220px-InselianArmed US Marshal forcibly removing kid from Miami relative

It also marked the 84th birthday of my mother, Florence, who had sadly passed away three years prior.  She was a dreadful cook, a world class leader applying guilt on her three sons, and an advocate for both responsibility & independence (translation : ‘do it yourself’).  Although many years have passed, we still recall fondly the little things, unanticipated, unheralded, that she did for us when we needed it most.  Define motherhood.

On a recent drive through the tired and dusty town, Florence, AZ , two photos triggered memories.

The local rag, the Reminder, as in, "Charles, do your homework"

The local rag, the Florence  Reminder, as in, “Boys, do your homework”

 

The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore

The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore

 

The ratty double page centerfold in the World’s Greatest Newspaper is a reminder of why I chose to leave industry and embark on a career as a small town pharmacist.

DSCN0224Extolling the virtues of Vioxx in 2000, long before the manufacturer, Merck, withdrew the drug after disclosures that it withheld information about rofecoxib’s risks from doctors and patients for over five years, resulting in between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious heart disease.  Worse, by the time it was discontinued in 2004, it had already caused an estimated 60,000 deaths worldwide.

Although no one in the company ever had to face criminal charges or do hard time, the decision by marketing executives and accounting was quite simple; having sold $ 2.7 billion of Vioxx, the math was easy.  The cost of litigation, executed by our superb, in-place, legal department, is far less than the profitability gained if we continue killing patients rather than removing the drug from the market.  Clever bastards. Define greed.

DSCN0227 Yes, but what if you’re at room temperature, six feet below the earth’s surface ?

Little has changed in thirteen years, as the aptly named BigPharma continues their cabal, possessing the morality and ethics equal to (actually, worse than) the tobacco industry.  Vijay Singh will tee it up in Augusta tomorrow.  I still harbor shame and embarrassment, 45 years later, that I was ever employed by a major drug company.  The hairy stubble will still need trimming every two weeks.  Florence was right nearly all the time; none of her boys are under indictment, incarcerated, facing felony warrants, or on public assistance.  Yet.  If you ignore Social Security.

No doubt what has changed.  Elian is now 19 y/o, we still share the same birthdate, December 7th, albeit 54 years apart, and he’s probably tattooed and driving around Havana chasing skirts and drinking Corona.  Tipo con suerte = lucky guy

Maria Stein and Redhead Lust

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A journey through rural western Ohio, en route to the epochal trailer rally, Alumapalooza III, loses traction when my Lynn, the navigator misses the turn.  Ford may make the ‘Lincoln Navigator’, but we’re driving a ‘Silverado Who Don’t Know’, the pre-GPS version.

The detour in Mercer County leads us to Maria Stein, OH, which every inquisitive traveler might ask, ‘who was she?’  Who gets a town named after them ?  I imagine her to be an attractive redheaded Jewish girl, virtuous to a fault, the incarnate likeness of Iris Ephron, the cute, raven-haired beauty that I lusted over in high school, 1957, petite, sassy, and sexy.  Ok, ok, maybe a redheaded Jew was a genetic anomaly, but she had the “is” and the “it” factor.  Leave it to Bill Clinton to define ‘it’ and ‘is’; my lips are sealed.

Prepare for deflation as there is no Maria Stein, the person, but a town named after a community in Switzerland; Mariastein.  In Ohio, it is home to the shrine of the holy relics (they store desiccated body parts of deceased saints) and the St. John’s Catholic Church in this land of cross-tipped cathedrals.

 

The church felt odd.  I cannot explain why I walked in, but the doors were big, and open, and the day, a day celebrating memorials.  No one else was there….not even a woman in black on her knees.  Columns with fading paint stood alongside like old comrades.  Most of the place was plain, and worn, and well scrubbed.  The gilt carvings on the walls kept a safe distance.  The smell was not melting wax, not incense, not dust, not humid afternoon sunshine, not anything else I could recognize, but it recognized me.  Call it the odor of a hundred years of prayer.  The aroma of leatherette binding from weathered hymnals, the DNA of a thousand sinners.

 

A gusty wind from the south stirs the hair on the nape of your neck.  What passes are only what the wind blown clouds have chosen to reveal.  Shafts of sun spotlight tumble-down farms, pastures of livestock, and a lonely farmer tending to endless acres of newly planted grain.

 

We reach Jackson Center, Ohio, where for decades, no obtrusive progress has been made except for satellite dish installations.  The town has been preserved by middle class poverty, aluminum siding, a few tourist dollars, and an uncommon trailer manufacturer.  The main street is wide enough for a motorcycle to pass a model 9300 John Deere tractor pulling a 15 row nutrient applicator, if you enjoy becoming up close and personal with anhydrous ammonia.

 

Our destination, a small community of trailers filled with volunteers wearing ghastly orange tie-dyed tees, is gearing up for a week of frolic.  The temporary village flickered silver, the residents in folding chairs, and a nightingale practices her chords under a shimmering canopy of cottonwoods.  The rugs of grass so velvety that one’s mind could roll on them, and beyond them, the sun set and vanished with the warm steady breeze.

(Alert: the following material may be deemed offensive.  If your computer has a parental control option, now is the appropriate time to activate)

 

The morning erupted in thunderstorms, much needed rain, and the emergence of two very attractive, damp redheads piloting a 4X4 Gator in search of a lost hydraulic winch.  This, as you probably concur, would make a good plot line for a grade-B movie.  Upon confronting the two unnamed individuals, I approached them, camera in hand, and asked if they would like to appear on my internet pornsite. 

After the coy amusement

Then, an unrehearsed audition

Life provides few (tweet translation delete) OMG moments; this required an investigation. Informed, unnamed, anonymous sources of questionable repute IDed the pair as one Eleanor O. and one Lisa F. Although probably an error, those names matched both their passport photos and actor’s guild union cards.

This is going to be a very good week, so help me Iris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

©insightout2012

The Bridge to Rochester

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

In brief, my wife, Lynn, terminally ill with a rare, incurable pulmonary disorder, rose to the top of the recipient list for a double lung transplant in June 2011.  In anticipation of her rapidly declining health, we moved to Rochester, MN, in our vintage travel trailer, to await the call..

 

The scope of her illness, surgeries, prolonged hospitalization, and modest but slow recovery is very personal and not the subject matter.

 

In a hospital corridor, I had a brief conversation with a chaplain, who described a blog program called Caring Bridge, a personalized patient website to elaborate on your health journey ( imagine facebook ® for the faltering).  This did not interest me at all.  But the tangential reference to bridge, a game I had nearly forgotten and abandoned decades earlier, created a spark.  First, imagine you are living in an aluminum womb, in an unfamiliar city, transients in an RV park. Waiting. Waiting.  Excitement was defined by the weekly visit from the oxygen provider, a new neighbor moving in perhaps with a pet dog to fraternize with my Jack, or a long walk on one of the 85 miles of trails.

 

On a lark, a search revealed rochesterbridge.net, and, hence, an attempt to find a game and partnership.  What followed was extraordinary.  In lieu of the 24/7 attention necessary for Lynn’s care, bridge became a brief, welcome escape for two to three sessions each week.  No other activity, no sanity safety net, could have cured the loneliness and detachment from friends and family.

 

My approach to the game, while not flippant, was clearly irreverent.  Urged to join the national club, I soon adapted to the innovative bidding box, and began to explore the game’s progress since Charles Goren, the guru of the 60’s (he died in 1991).  Able to secure games, often at the very last minute due to the vagaries of hospital activity, clinic appts., and the volatility of Lynn’s condition, nearly 40 different partners plunged into the darkness and together we gained an equal number of coveted “points” in the nine months.

 

The purpose of writing is to quietly honor all my partners and opponents for their kindness.  Every gesture, consolation, pat on the shoulder, no matter how seemingly insignificant, provided grateful relief for a damp hankie in the medical Maytag® rinse cycle.

Joyce W. and Sue G.

As a group, do not be deceived, these people are clever, skilled in skullduggery, and neither generous nor sympathetic while holding 13 cards.  Bridge is war; firearms, knives, and nuclear devices are disallowed and must be left at the door, but who knows, the ACBL rules may one day be revised. At times I felt like the third string place kicker on the HS football team, facing the Minnesota Vikings linebacker defense.

‘Did you hear who has to play with Charlie today ?’ 

 

 

However, behind the tableside veneer, I found the players to be fascinating, intelligent, suitable characters in an Agatha Christie mystery, a joy to discover.

Dave H., Arne F., and Nate P., preparing for battle

The polite façade provided cover for hidden modesty:

 

  • A principal in the largest U.S.A. sweater manufacturer
  • A deposed seed company executive
  • A non-practicing obstetrician
  • A child survivor of parent Holocaust victims
  • A crowned Miss Agriculture, mid 1960s, Iowa State Fair
  • A foreign service officer, post 1983 invasion, island of Grenada
  • A rural, dirt-poor, S. Dakota prairie child, one of seven, in a one bedroom house, one cold water tap, and an outdoor latrine
  • A classmate of Hillary (nee Rodham) Clinton at Maine East High, 1963-4, Park Ridge, IL
  • A PhD, UCLA, molecular biology
  • A retired Manitoban, expert in wildlife photography

 

Not one, in this educated, learned society of crafty players, admitted to working for the CIA, spending time in the witness protection program, incarceration, or being the subject of outstanding felony warrants.  This does not preclude any absence of guilt.  My secret desire was to become the Pope, but the stodgy church hierarchy insisted that (a) you had to be Catholic, (b) study Latin, (c) unmarried.   Prerequisites designed to eliminate the worthy, sooo…..instead of a filling a vacancy in the Vatican, I’m in a room in Rochester.  And every room has a purple elephant; the RAC meeting room, a haze of magenta.


Profound gratitude to Rich and Sue Greenberg for welcoming us, to Minnesota, their home, and the bridge table.  Words are inadequate for Sue, the officers, game directors, and volunteers who make the game so pleasant….not to be taken for granted, find a moment to thank them, for the least expensive $4 entertainment bargain in Olmstead County.  Better than cheap gin.

 

 

 

The time in Rochester was special; a confluence of memorable events never to be duplicated.  Your time and my space won’t allow the mention of all your names, but you know who you are.  The likelihood that I will continue bridge is less than zero.  I’m told you can play “online”, a few clicks here and there, but  my self-imposed computer time is limited to less than an hour each day.  I’ve confirmed that time and interactions are better spent in the tangible world.  Time, especially in our golden age, is the only thing you own for certain, and the computer is an un-indicted burglar of time.

 

A personal trifecta ; Lynn’s ongoing care, maintenance of an 1855 farmhouse, and a fleet of old cars in the barn, are schedule enough.  I do read the newspaper bridge column to Jack, but he insists on being south (always the declarer) and seeing all four hands at once, so I have to partner with a stuffed bear.

you reneged again, you’re the jack of spades, this is the jack of hearts”

Since too few fellow players had actually seen my wife, there was speculation that no such person existed, that she was a fictitious character in a contrived sympathy scam.  Below, photographic evidence, untouched, after a Sunday afternoon ride and an hour under the hood sniffing motor ether.

 

When we return to Rochester for brief follow-up visits to the clinic, I’ll make an attempt to find a partner for a session or two.  When I pull the red ‘alert’ card, it won’t be to describe an obscure convention signal, but to warn the table,  “I’m packing heat in the form of a .357 magnum”.

 

I’m Fr. Charles and I approve this message.

 

 

 

 

©insightout2012

Blog for sale on eBay

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

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Subject:

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Type: celebrity
Yes, you, you can become famous, an actual celebrity, with your own blogsite

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Everything Airstream, all the time.
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About the Author

insightout

Retired 1997.

Frequent travel.

Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.

Avocation: writing social and political satire.

Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner.

Now in recovery.Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;

E-mail cspiher@aol.com

 

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Second Street Waving Guy

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

dateline: Rochester, Mn

On 2nd Street the trees are barren. The concrete sidewalks leading to St. Mary’s hospital are a dull steel grey, a seamless blend into the darkened overcast skies on a late fall afternoon. There is no horizon. The seasonal vestige; faint, shadowy leaf prints left by tannins of giant red oaks. Punctuated by the splattered droppings of a thousand incontinent crows, I find myself hop scotching the chalky residue, as if I’m Adrian Monk tap dancing to avoid the lines.

Aside from the avian catharsis, Rochester, Minnesota is a robust city. By the numbers, one hundred thousand people enjoy an 85 mile web of bike and walking trails in a lifestyle so healthy that they, by necessity, find it necessary to import two million sick people a year to achieve homeostasis. I imagine the blackened chewing gum residue, the side-by-side companion of bird poop, must be the healthier, sugar-free variety. What is unhealthy; a belief that hockey is an actual sport, rather than an annuity established by the local dental society. Deception can be comforting, pain free.

Walking briskly to a heavy cadence; the composition of taxis, ambulances, employee shuttles, patient transport buses, horns, and everyday commuters on cell phones, the white noise becomes Mozart symphony # 35 . Up ahead, the day brightening delight, a visit with my friend, Joe, the self-proclaimed “waving guy of second street” at his 800 block apt. driveway. Joe’s wardrobe defies conventional dress code. For hours each day, festooned in elaborate bling, multiple hats and scarves, layers of mismatched colorful clothes, Joe waves a half dozen flags at passersby. His technique is graceful as he raises the flags reverently skyward, while concomitantly lifting his heels, a Julliard le grande jéte in constant motion. Perhaps an exaggeration, but to this observer, Joe appears an illusion of flight.

The choreography, while not sublime, precipitates stares from the curious, a passing bicyclist disguised as a Mayo physician commenting ‘only in America’, and the staccato beeping  from the friendly and familiar; police, cabbies, and bus drivers. For most, however, a 90 degree shun for fear of peering into our collective national soul, the same eye contact we avoid while reading the crayola scrawled cardboard of the jobless at the intersection to the big box store.

Why does he do it ? A description of head case, whack job, playing without a full deck, borderline schizophrenia, or choose a diagnosis of convenience, it hardly matters. He is my friend. Does he hear voices ? I think we all do. When no one is listening. I could tell you more, his age, his life, his family, but I won’t….personal privacy has become the trampled stepchild in binary code.

What I can share; he enjoys his calling, is very patriotic, optimistic, and believes the world’s ills could be ameliorated if only we were nicer to one another. He is addicted to Pepsi, the regular, 150 calories per can, not caffeine or sugar free. So I bring him a case a week. And some cheap frozen dinners. And fresh fruit. The bottom line, Joe is an abdomen and a smile with a happy ending.

 

Today’s flags; Old Glory, POW/MIA, Mexico, Japan, breast cancer, and Greece. Perhaps Joe knows more about the international monetary crisis than he is willing to share. In a world divided by war, political acrimony, obscene economic disparity, religious tension, and poverty, maybe we should put a stethoscope to Joe’s temporal lobe and take a listen.

It may be time to treat the crows with immodium.

 

 

©insightout2011

‘On’ The Wagon Wheel, the depths of despair, Part II

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

This is Jack’s sequel, a continuum of remembered events as they may have happened, here again, in his own words.

I felt rather sprightly on the return to the casita.  After a wholehearted attempt to display my loyalty and affection to Mrs. 3M, the atmosphere went south, quickly, and the following conversation ensued:

Mrs 3M, “what has gotten into this dog, he’s pawing my breasts, licking my ears, more amorous than a hormonal sixteen year old wearing a snuggie ® ?”

3M, “he may have had a beer at the wheel”.

Mrs. 3M, “ May have. May have ?  Look at him, he’s staggering.  Oh my word, you’ve brought him home drunk. Again.  This has to stop.

The atmosphere was tense.  Dos equis beer and domestic cheer, rhyme, like oiled and foiled….. I fear the jig is up, and I’m destined to an eternal diet of Beneful® and water.  I enjoy the company of older women and Mrs. 3M is only nine y/o in dog years and at age seven, our age difference is not an older woman/younger man issue.  She has always been my favorite but has also made it clear, she does not date outside her species.

The household conversation on the days following is subdued, and scary;

  • mention of AA and the ‘twelve steps’ program
  • a possible visit to a southern California re-hab facility endowed by Betty Ford (Asta, Toto, Lassie, and half of the 100 dalmatians have been patients)
  • sessions with a tough love instructoress, rumored to wear more leather than Trigger.

I’m getting despondent, forced to stay in the yard, where I can only nap and dream of halcyon days with Ruby, an AKC registered English Pointer from Oregon, papers to prove it, and friendly enough to outweigh her prep school pedigree.  Ruby Red, no relation to the grapefruit of the same name, is an ADHD knucklehead, constant motion, with the brains of a drugstore throwaway camera….point and shoot.  Her urine has more Ritalin metabolites than the fourth grade class at the local charter school, but get this.  When we share a Tecate, I get to drink the beer and she gets to eat the empty can.  Did I mention that she’s a knucklehead ?

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Ruby, with her unidentified (thanks to photoshop) handler

Old 3M is loyal, attentive, but he, too, has major shortcomings;

a)  cheapskate

b)  hearing impaired

Combined, an almost tragic occurrence, while 3M tried to find the least expensive way to ship me off to the Palm Springs “resort”.  Watching the USPS commercials where the postman reminds the viewing audience, “ if it fits, it ships“, he figured that since I wasn’t liquid, fragile, hazardous, or perishable, why not send little Jack to La-La land by priority mail ?  Half deaf, he thought the announcer said, “if it s#its, it fits, and all at a fixed rate”.  3M is no bird dog, but that doesn’t rule out his bird brain or the use of swear words.

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Delivery confirmation, anyone ?

We’re headed back to the Midwest, in the truck, and 3M is forcing me to listen to sermons-on-tape and gospel music.  An unscheduled stop in Canadian, Texas , an “oasis on the prairie”, and against my will, a demeaning photograph taken at the doorway to the WCTU, a deliberate effort to shame me publicly.  No, this is not the local radio station, but home to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a 1930’s organization of mouthy babes that was anything but temperate who would  your doghood on demand.  And, no, I am not taking nitrates for chest pain, nor do I have kidney or liver problems.

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“honest, officer, it was just one beer”

For the moment, 3M and I are at an impasse.  I can’t get into the 12 steppy thing as I can’t get past #1 (admitting that I am powerless and my life is unmanageable), and I find #4 (a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself)  reprehensible.  Add to that, these are numbers aimed at the two-legged, and with four legs, I’m not agreeing to any jive 24-step program.

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Staring pensively, over the Rio Grande’s Mesilla Valley, Las Cruces, NM. Along with an overgrown roadrunner, contemplating a ‘dry’ future.

I don’t care what readers may think or write, I don’t have a problem, and if you’re from the PETA, SPCA, or the WCTU, please keep it to yourself….I’m not taking any calls.

Salud, or in a word from my pal Werner, Austrian friend and host, Prost.

Cafe confession; adults only

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The submission below was written and transcribed by our dog, Jack, on his blog, in his own words.  Any reference to his handler is reduced to one of servitude as MMM ( a.k.a. my main man servant ), token acknowledgment to his less important, secondary role.  The following may not be suitable for persons 18 years or younger (photo ID not required)

Jack Disclaimer:

Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if  I have been kind enough to provide their real names, dates of birth, and, in some cases, cell phone numbers.  All events described herein actually happened, or may have happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small, liberties with chronology, because that is my right as an American dog.

An August afternoon, a weekday, hot enough to melt the tar on county road 17, with a shimmering side order of humidity, my tongue hangs down, a limp banner on a short flagpole, pinker than a cure for breast cancer ribbon.  The hour spent at the Waggin’ Tail with friends went as usual; the initial urologic examination of respective sex organs, followed by scouting for fresh scents of recent excremental body wastes, then an hour of play time….toss the ball, run like a stupid greyhound (fast, but good for nothing else), roll in dry groundhog poop, pee, run again, oh, what’s this, the menstruum of a field mouse, run, run, run.

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Thirsty, MMM and I head to our favorite watering hole, Moser’s Austrian Cafe in scenic downtown New Carlisle, IN, to sit on the patio, watch for girls and the traffic to drift by.  Never know when we might get lucky.  Or hit by a speeding pick-up, unlucky.  Middle-age obese women drift in and out of cutesy shops, buy imported stuff they don’t need, crammed into SUVs that are too large, to be taken to homes they’ve outgrown.  When they should be spending the time in the gym.

Our host, Werner, a genuine Bavarian dressed in lederhosen, greets us with a welcoming smile and a pint of Stiegl, an Austrian lager of distinction.  Since the legendary mare, Zenyatta, won 19 straight races and her trainer treated her to a pint of Guinness after a good workout, Werner and 3M have allowed me a few ounces of Stiegl after my afternoon exercise routine.  Werner, a champion alpine skier looks silly in his outfit, but his wife Jennifer is quite hot, and he is quite buff, the beer is cool and refreshing, so I keep my bark gauge in the ‘off’ position.

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But this is where the trouble began, first an ounce, then two, then four, until I become Paul, the Apostle, drinking from the cup of the Lord.  I began to anticipate the visits to Werner.   The soiree with Beverly’s retriever, Tommy, a golden with suspicious ancestry and I might add, matted unkempt hair the aroma of a beached sardine, became less of my daily routine, as the anticipation of a thirst quenching brew loomed within the limbic area, deep beneath grey matter, as if that matters.

Fast forward to winter in Patagonia, AZ, a repose to warm weather where I’m not forced to urinate into snow twice the height of an outstretched rear leg.  Here, 12 miles north of the Mexican border, trail hiking through the conservancy, the whiff of javelina and mule deer scat and horehound weed and the carne asada stained castoff clothing from illegal immigrants and Johnson grass……heaven can wait for this thirsty dog.

Late afternoon and time to put on the “can we, can we ?” routine and head for the Wagon Wheel saloon.  A cowboy bar since 1937, home to both higher and lower learning and outdoor seating adjacent to four neighborhood dogs with crude temperament, etiquette challenged, and no match for eight ranch horses, polite and stoic and welcoming as old friends, patiently awaiting a ride back to the Circle Z Ranch.

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With my pals, Dos Equis

3M meets up with the afternoon literary crowd, an informal gathering where the truth is neither sacred nor compulsory.  I can relate this, in confidence, because there are no bulls within the range of my vision or nose.  Also, I don’t care, as on this limited horizon I see a saucer of Dos Equus lager, golden, not amber, coming my way.

A western version of the Algonquin round table, today’s storytellers, dog lovers all, men of letters and nature and American Spirit cigarettes and gin and ladies body parts and….why go on, I just want a few sips of Mexican brew, time to grovel in the gravel, the discarded squeezed limes, the ashes, spilled vodka, away from conversational fallout, dreaming under the overhead Budweiser banners flapping in the afternoon breeze.

  • Nick, the Leelanau, MI landscaper, natural man extraordinaire, a relaxed encyclopedia of birds, plants, and the hunt.  Too handsome to allow photographs; no papparazzi please.
  • JB, accomplished journalist, political analyst, photographer, conservancy manager and wearer of many hats, all distinguished.

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  • Phil C., popular novelist, Pulitzer Prize, hunter, world traveler, truck driving Viet Nam veteran, and recent convert to the airstreamic cult.  With two best friends at his P’Gia ranch (low res file photo from my porn collection, both bird dogs cause for my little willie to….whoa, Nellie…..let’s leave it right there and call it what it is, canine eroticism).

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  • Jim H.,iconic heavyweight in American literature and poetry, screenwriter, genuine FOJ (Friend Of Jack, both me and Nicholson), and master storyteller.  Self proclaimed, the ‘lout’ of Livingston, MT.  Blind in one eye since 7, the result of a childhood accident, he sees more with one good eye than a Cooper’s hawk with two, or ten thousand liberals with tunnel vision.

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The sun drifts behind the Santa Rita mountains to the north, a faint red tinge loiters on the Patagonia mountains to the south, and I’ve had six ounces, it’s getting cool, and I’m woosy.  Time to walk home, across Mendoza’s alley, past yipping chihuahuas (irritating little bastards)………

to be continued

when my head clears

things are not looking up

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;
E-mail cspiher@aol.com