Thursday, December 21, 2017

Oh, fudge! Politics, my jaw and this tasty box of treats on my dining room table


Yesterday was much like any other day—got out of bed, stumbled into the bathroom, plodded into the kitchen, glugged down a glass of water and 2 baby aspirin, made a cup of coffee, came into the livingroom, turned on my tv to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and shook my head in disgust at the latest going ons in Washington.  This was a particularly memorable morning as Joe & company angrily reported the GOP’s tax bill had passed overnight (by a weaselly GOP Senate at 1am no less), just another knife in the back of America—well, every American who isn’t a zillionaire in this perverse, twisted Kingdom of Trump.

As much I wanted to sit here and bask in their outrage, I had to clean myself up and head up the street to my dentist’s office.  I was having a mold taken of my wonky lower jaw for a new oral appliance ($370, not covered by insurance, why not!) as my TMD returned shortly after Thanksgiving.  It’s not quite as bad as last year where I was checking myself into the ER, but it’s still putting a real damper on things.  (For the record, it sorta feels like a couple pennies have been shoved up my nose while I was busy chewing on a couple of roofing nails, pointy side in.)  I’m actually not surprised it returned, given it’s the holiday season—it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  ANYWAY, I got home from the fitting around noon and turned on my tv just in time to see Speaker Paul Ryan talking about Trump’s White House being an “exquisite presidency”.  As I stood there slack-jawed in shock & disbelief—my God, this man didn’t just sell his soul to the devil, he gift-wrapped it!  I heard a loud THUMP at my front door and thought “if that’s a Republican, I’ll kill them.”  

No one was there, but on my doorstep was a package from my sister Donda, all the way from South Carolina, with a holiday tin of homemade fudge & other goodies—cooked up by her happy fudgemaker husband Bobby and my niece Drew.  Thanks very much, guys.  It’s a nice reminder of happier holiday seasons and makes everything happening right now a bit easier to swallow.  Smile

Merry Christmas & God Bless Help Us, Everyone


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Obama 1, Trump 0: Happy Thanksgiving from a bit poorer, bit relieved ApacheDug

2018 premiums notice

A few weeks ago (right before my birthday)  I received this ominous letter from my health insurer;  I’d been expecting some bad news, as enrollment time was almost here and the F├╝hrer (a.k.a. Trump) had ended the payouts to health insurance companies.  He claims they were extortion payouts, all I know is 1) he’s full of shit & lies 2) they’ve kept insurance affordable for people like me on silver plans.

Anyway, the letter said that as of January 1, my monthly insurance premium, even after my ACA subsidy, was increasing to 5 times its current amount.  5 times.

I sat on it a few days, not telling anyone but privately panicking inside.  Various news sites reported that on the bright side, silver plans had increased in price so much that for the same money you could now enroll in a gold plan instead.  Big deal!  That’s like telling someone they can now buy a $32,000 Rolex GMT watch for $8,000, the same price as a Rolex Submariner--it doesn’t make either any more affordable!


My 2017 premium is $62.39; effective January 1, it’s $327.86 

So of course I visited the site to see what else was available, saw I could get a more affordable bronze plan (if I didn’t mind paying my PCP $100 a visit, $350 for a trip to the ER and shelling $10,000 out-of-pocket before my insurance even kicked in) and decided enough was enough.   I contacted the good folks at Healthcare and I gotta say… I love this agency and no I’m not being a wiseguy.  I’ve always gotten a caring, helpful voice (and they’ve available year round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).  I explained my situation, said I couldn’t risk going with a bronze plan (as I’d spent the last 16 months seeing umpteen doctors & visiting the emergency room 5 times for issues with kidney stones & TMJ) and the woman on the phone said "Douglas… come to one of our offices, let’s get an assistor to help you enroll in a more affordable plan.”  

She gave me 3 locations to pick from:  Christian Health Alliance on the Northside, Planned Parenthood downtown (er….)  and a satellite office near UPMC on Hot Metal Street on the Southside.  What the—when she asked if I was familiar with any of these sites, I sure was.  I’d just been to that UPMC facility in June, for employee orientation for a job I had less than 2 weeks.

I know, I know… I couldn’t help but think if I’d kept that job, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this right now. 

newid1 (2)“Doug, what happened?  I thought you were anxious to go back to work!”

I thought so too, and was thankful for the opportunity, but it wasn’t an IT position, my heart wasn’t into learning the business side of things and I didn’t want to waste anymore of their time.  If I ever try this again, I’d want something more IT-related for sure.  Well, either that or some stockboy gig

Anyway—long story short—I went back to the Southside the day before yesterday,  met with a wonderful lady named Maya and am now enrolled in a plan for 2018 for around $88.00 a month.  It’s still 25 bucks more than what I’m currently paying, I’m going to have to tighten my money belt some more, but it sure beats $327.00. 

So I’m thankful for that, and a hundred other things of course—I’m just taking things day by day right now, tired of worrying, tired of wondering what tomorrow brings.  I elected not to go anywhere for Thanksgiving this year, in fact was just going to get a pizza--but ran out last night and bought a split turkey breast right before the market closed.  (I’m anxious to know how it turns out, I’m 56 years old and this is my first time cooking this type of bird!)

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve tried to share anything funny or remotely interesting, I just need to get my groove back.  For now, just thought I’d pop on here & talk a little while waiting for dinner.

Speaking of pops, the red one on my turkey breast just popped—time to eat!  Happy Thanksgiving Smile

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dancing with the Devil—it would seem we’re all doing it


Y’know what… sometimes I feel like a real hypocrite, playing nice with people who infuritate me and I don’t know what to do about it.  A couple Saturdays ago, I got up, made a cup of coffee, sat down on my sofa with my laptop and did my morning check-in on Facebook.  Maybe I shouldn’t be on there anymore… I haven’t posted a single thing on FB since April, but I suppose I still like to see what others are up to. 

Anyway, I was greeted with this letter below, not once, but 4 times.

I have lived through Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. In my lifetime I have never seen or heard of a President being scrutinized over every word he speaks; humiliated by the public, slandered, ridiculed, insulted, lied about, lied too, threatened to be murdered, threatened to rape our First Lady, and to strive to destroy and threaten and humiliate his children.

I am truly ashamed of the liberals in this country. I am appalled with the ruthless, hateful, cruelty of the Trump haters who have no morals or respect. I am astounded by news reporters who feel they have the right to purposely lie and do the things that represent treason toward nation, just to make a story. Every other President after they were elected and took the oath of office were left alone, they weren't on the news 24/7 being disrespected by every word or action they did, ALWAYS BEING PRESSURED... except for Bill when he was with Monica, and the liberals actually believed he didn't cheat on Hillary.

However, ENOUGH is ENOUGH, LEAVE THE MAN ALONE AND LET HIM DO HIS JOB FOR he does and is representing the United States of America and we should not be the laughing stock of the entire world...

It was written by someone back home whom I didn’t know—but reposted by 4 people back home I DID know.  I sent it to my friend Danielle (a ruthless, immoral liberal like myself) and told her who & where it came from.  Her response was pretty direct:  UNFRIEND THEM!  

Oh I was so mad--I came close!  But I had to stop & think about it.  The people who shared this weren’t just names I knew on the internet or friends of friends, they were people I grew up with, shared a real history with.  I was reminded of something from one year ago, when I was moving back to my hometown (which lasted all of 6 months) and my sister Shawn was up here helping me.  We were standing in front of my apartment building in the city, and she noticed the political signs dotting my neighbors yards.  She said “Aw, look at the nice Hillary signs…”  I said “Don’t you have those election signs back home too?”  She said “Not for Hillary!  You better prepare yourself, you’re moving to Trump Country!”

Well it wasn’t this bad, but it sure felt like it

When I got down there & settled in, and saw what she meant--MAKE AMERICA GREAT signs everywhere—I had to remind myself (over & over) that Trump had a base here for a reason.  This was a county of coal miners and farmers and shirt factory workers, generations of them before the future took its toll, and then along comes Donald with his catchy “I DIG COAL!” slogan and that’s all these folks needed to hear. 

I may be a die-hard Democrat, but I’m not that closed-minded.  In the past I’ve tried to see things from a Conservative viewpoint (even if I think it’s pretty heartless & greed driven) and I hold a grudging respect for Republicans like John Kasich & Mitt Romney.  As for Trump, I assumed anyone with a lick of common sense would’ve seen thru his crazy by now.  

But here we are 7-8 months into this so-called presidency, and for much of Trump’s base the man can still do no wrong. They’re somehow able to look past his… godawful everything, and they believe him when he says it’s the media to blame, the fake news, the Democrats.  And these same people who laugh, complain and point fingers on social media at the “pathetic snowflakes” & “loser liberals” (and know perfectly well I’m one of them) have no problem reaching out to me and writing “Hey Doug, where are you?”

I’m right here—watching you!   Eye rolling smile

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Slow getting back into the swing of things, but such is the life of a turtle

Last Tuesday I noticed things were getting pretty shaggy above my ears, so I crossed my fingers for luck and headed up the street to Lincoln Barber.  (They don’t take appointments, it’s either empty or there’s 10 guys in front of you.)  Still, aside from a couple tryouts from other barbers/stylists over the years, and my recent six month move back to my hometown (where my Aunt Sandy’s sister Sharon cut my hair and did a pretty nice job) Lincoln Barber has been my go-to place for 20+ years.

Anyway, when I walked inside I saw right away this wasn’t happening--there must’ve been 8 guys ahead of me.  Roe (who cuts my hair and takes about 35 minutes to do it) knew I wasn’t about to sit there for 4 hours and said “Sorry Dougie Fresh, try again tomorrow.”  Darn it!  But I know they’re always busy for a reason.  So I waited a couple days, then last Friday I walked back up--and encountered the same busy shop again.  Aargh!  As I headed home feeling more frustrated than ever, I passed The Man Cave (an overpriced barbershop run by 2 girls in halter tops) and saw it was empty, but there’s a reason for that too.  And then I saw a sign in the window of Betty’s Beauty Shop—“MENS HAIRCUTS BY JOE, $12 FRIDAYS ONLY.”  Why not?


Here I am back in 2002, after trying out a pricey men’s salon in downtown Pittsburgh; I liked it, even if they did pile a bunch of product on my head. 

What I didn’t like was the $35.00 price tag, not including the tip!  

So in a nutshell—no, turtleshell—I walk into Betty’s Beauty Shop and there’s an old man with a gray buzzcut in one of the chairs, reading a newspaper.  He looks up and says “Here for a haircut?”  My gut told me to get out of there, but I said I guess so.  He stood up and motioned for me to take his chair.  And before I could say “My regular barber uses a No.5 clipper”  I heard what sounded like a high-pitched buzzsaw, felt something hot & biting on my head and a large plop of hair fell in my lap.  I jerked and said “WHOA!  I haven’t even told you what I wanted yet!”  He replied  “Been cuttin’ hair for 45 years, I know what I’m doing”.   After another hard swipe off my noggin,  I said  “Sir—STOP!!  Holy crap, I didn’t want scalped!”   He chuckled, then said “It’ll grow back but you gotta let me finish this now.”   So I sat there, feeling like a hippie in the barber’s chair after being drafted.  When Joe ended his assault, he swung me around to face the mirror (gasp!) then swatted the back of my neck with a wet towel and said “Appreciate your business, come back again soon.”   Soon?!  I stood up, handed him $15 and walked out of there without looking back. 

8 days later, and I know what you’re thinking:  “Oh Doug, it doesn’t look that bad…”  Trust me—you’re just seeing it from a good angle!

As I headed home, my head hunched down and feeling a LOT of breeze up there, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass of a store-front.  I LOOKED LIKE A TURTLE.  And given the way I’ve been living the last several weeks, hiding out in my shell & slow to doing anything, I was reminded of Don Knotts in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet”.  You think you’re a fish long enough, you become one.  Or in my case, a turtle.

Doug, are you alright?  You haven’t written anything in 3 months!  Are you glad you moved back to Pittsburgh?  How do you like your new place?  Have you got it fixed up yet?  Hey, weren’t you supposed to start a new job?  How’s your TMJ?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asked in the last few weeks, and I have gotten on here several times to share what’s going on or explain recent actions, but frankly I just wondered if it was worth the effort.  Plus with everything going on in the world right now, I’ve been feeling a little self-conscious with my much-ado-about-nothing schtick. 

(It’s not like I’ve ignored my blog entirely though; I’ve added 25 movie reviews to my Movies page in the last month.  Just sayin’!)

So in a real nutshell—yes, I’m VERY glad to be back in my old neighborhood in the city, relieved is more like it.  The new place still needs fixing up, but after the money I’ve spent these past 10 months on moving, medical bills & breaking a lease, I’m just not ready to be spending any more right now.  And I did start that new job, but decided I liked retirement better after all and left after 2 weeks.  (Okay, this one does deserve a lengthier explanation… I’ll save that for next time!)

But all in all, I’m doing just fine.  Well, aside from a butchered head.

green shell turtle

Sunday, April 30, 2017

ApacheDug’s Award Winning Meatloaf!

I know, I know:  meatloaf is boring, they’re simple to make & if you google the word ‘meatloaf’ you’ll find 228,565 recipes already out there.  

But it seems like everytime I convince myself there’s a better meatloaf online and try one of those other recipes—nope!  Mine’s always best.

C’mon people—chili powder?  Carrots?  Raisins??  Why don’t you stir in a dash of crazy!

ApacheDug’s Award Winning Meatloaf

  • 1 lb. 80% lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Progresso Breadcrumbs
  • 1 chopped (fine) onion
  • 1 chopped (fine) green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worchestire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (careful!)


  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Whisk egg & milk together first.  Add remaining ingredients (except for topping) in a large bowl, shape into a loaf. 

Bake uncovered at 350F for 45 minutes.

2.  Whisk topping ingredients together in small bowl until blended, spoon on top of cooked meatloaf and place back into oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.

3.  Remove from oven, transfer to large plate & let sit for 4-5 minutes. 


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I’m back in the city, thanks to some very special people… it’s a beautiful thing


This past Saturday, with the help of my sister Shawn, brother-in-law Jim and my niece Sophia, I moved back to the city of Pittsburgh.  (Well, about 5-6 miles north if you want to get specific.)  But right now, all I can say is—it’s wonderful to be home again.   And there’s no way I could’ve done it without them, thank you so much guys. 

My sister Shawn also got me this awesome welcome mat for my new front door

So after a busy weekend of unpacking, bright and early Monday morning I headed out of my new apartment building—and walked up the main avenue to my former neighborhood of 22+ years, to drop in on some folks & businesses I haven’t seen since last summer.  I had to laugh when my old friend Tilla at Lincoln Deli exclaimed  “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!”   When I started to reply, she said “YOU MISSED OUR FRUIT PIE SALE LAST WEEK!” 

Anyway, I’m not all moved in just yet so to speak—I still don’t have a couch (it’s on order!) or dining chairs for my new dining table, or anything for the walls—but here’s what I DO have, and for all this I am grateful & happy.

An awesome view out my giant livingroom window—it’s an 8 foot square of new glass that looks down on a tree-lined street in the daytime, and at night I can see the twinkling lights of Mt. Washington in the distance.


Did I mention my building has an elevator?   (And yes, that’s a bouquet of fake flowers in the former ashtray attached to the wall…)  Now this is city living!

 My new bedroom, with a cool green metal bedframe I bought at IKEA—assembled by my awesome brother-in-law Jim.  


Here’s my new red dresser, ALSO bought from IKEA, and ALSO assembled by Jim and Sophia.   

tv and table

I had to get a new tv stand (my old one was a corner unit which wouldn’t work here) and also bought this stylish glass-top dining table (sans the chairs).  My sister Shawn found it for me, all I had to do was plunk down my credit card!


The kitchen is small as they come, but everything is happy, shiny & new; easily the nicest one I’ve ever had, along with the rest of this awesome apartment.

Well, that’s all I have for the moment—I just wanted to get some pics of the new place on here, and again say a big thanks to my family for helping me get back where I belong.   But as glad as I am to be back in the city, I’m very much looking forward to going home again this weekend—and seeing this little handyman for Easter!  Smile

Friday, March 3, 2017

“Lunch Before Tiffany’s” is coming right now to a blog near you

lunch before tiffanys

This past Thursday, my sister Shawn & I traveled to Pittsburgh—namely, my old stomping grounds—to find a new apartment for yours truly.  Doug, are you serious?  Didn’t you just move back to your hometown 5-6 months ago?  Didn’t you sign a year’s lease?   Yes, yes & yes--but it’s amazing how quickly things can spin in a new and exciting direction.  Just this past weekend, my sister invited me over for Sunday dinner (chili, baked potatoes & cornbread).  Never one to turn down a free meal and spend some time visiting family, I gratefully accepted their invitation.  Still, I was feeling pretty despondent and having a tough time not showing it.

I’ve been trying to not walk around with a dark cloud over my head, but the truth is, it’s been getting increasingly difficult to hide my feelings.   I wish I hadn’t given up my life in the city.  As soon as my lease is up, I want to move back to Pittsburgh & maybe find a new job too.  Shawn & my brother-in-law Jim know how I feel, and while they care enough to want me to stay, they love me enough to know I have to go back. 

And then it happened:  Monday morning, I’m sitting here on my (borrowed) couch watching MSNBC & sipping coffee when I get a phone call from my former employer, UPMC.  Without going into any details (too many things to be finalized) I received an offer almost too good to be true. 

I’ve now got just a couple months to beat this TMJ once & for all and haul my butt back to Pittsburgh!

I immediately jumped on Craigslist, and after spending 3 days making phone calls, scheduling appointments with rental managers and filling out credit applications, we made the trek to the city to look at apartments.  Shawn asked if we could see all the ones on my list after I signed a lease (from what we saw online, we were sure the first one was going to be a slam-dunk). 

Sadly, it wasn’t; a dingy pair of tiny rooms behind a black metal door at the top of several flights of rickety steps, it’s windows pressed tight against a rusted, peeling house of horrors.  Nothing like the photos in the ad.  From there, things went from bad to worse—I mean DECREPIT—and we were soon down to the last apartment on my list, one in a long cluster of units behind Kuhn’s Market. 

With an hour to kill before the showing, we had lunch at the pizza parlor up the street from my former digs, while I lamented that I never should’ve given up my old place, even if it was in a poorly managed building.  (Well, at least the steak hoagies we had for lunch were excellent!) 

We were about to find out just how bad things can get.  The final one on my list—3 vacancies in a crumbling complex—came with rotted carpeting, wrecked bathrooms and black mold running down the walls.  While the rental agent nonchalantly took pictures of the despair with his iphone, Shawn & I got in my car to head home.

And then it happened—we’re driving down the main drag of my former neighborhood, into the neighboring area called Avalon, when Shawn said she wished we could’ve seen some of the apartments she saw online at the Tiffany, and wondered where it was located.  I replied “Well, I think it’s mostly elderly folk, and probably run down inside… but who wants to live on the main drag with all this traffic?  Anyway… it’s right over there.” 

Shawn yelled “WHAT!” and hit the brakes.

tiffany apts

The Tiffany, on California Avenue

She said “Can’t we see if there’s any vacancies??”  I said of course not, you have to schedule appointments at least a day in advance.  She said “There’s a small sign out front with the property management’s phone number, can’t we just call and ask?” 

I shrugged my shoulders and said okay, not really expecting anyone would answer, it was almost 5:00pm.  But sure enough, someone picked up on the other end & said they’d send an agent right over.  My sister’s curiosity would be sated, at least.

I suppose you can guess what happened next; 20 minutes later, a graying yuppie around my age showed up, clipboard in hand & jangle of keys, and took us into the Tiffany.  I noted the large, expansive lobby.  It was empty but very clean.  Jay (the agent) said “They just remodeled this, they’re going to put in some new furniture down here too.” 

We go in, head to a nearby elevator, and he presses the button for the 4th floor.  We followed him into two apartments that were remodeled from top to bottom, modern, immaculate & absolutely perfect.


New windows, parquet flooring in the dining area, kitchen tiles, maple cabinets, matching appliances include a dishwasher—all wonderul, every square inch of it

(He also showed us one with all parquet floors & solid cherry cabinets that my sister liked better, but ApacheDug loves his carpeting and knew that was for me!)

After we picked our respective chins up from the floor, opened various closet & kitchen drawers (and I ran the water in the bathroom & kitchen) we thanked him profusely for his time and happily headed home, talking excitedly all the way.  I got up early this morning, spent nearly TWO HOURS filing out various credit & rental applications, then sat here biting my nails until 1:30 waiting for a response. 

I was finally approved, will be moving in on or around April 1 & that’s no April Fools joke!

Truth be told, I absolutely dread the idea of moving again—I wish I could kick myself for throwing away $65.00 worth of packing material and boxes carefully labeled with the contents from when I moved HERE 6 months ago—but who knew I’d be leaving so soon??   I want to yell “rats!” but I can’t complain.  I’m too happy about going back to the city, and having something I can be proud to call HOME.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Strippers, splints & a split nation: Meanwhile, life goes on for most of us

two splints

A couple days ago, I got a call from the dentist’s office letting me know my new occlusal splint was here, c’mon in & let’s see how it fits.  For the last couple months I’ve been wearing a large, green rubbery sports guard between my teeth (at bedtime) to let the muscles in my jaw relax some, but it made my teeth & gums sore and I usually woke up each morning with the thing clenched in my fist or somewhere under the covers. 

This new (clear) appliance was custom-fitted to my mouth & is a very hard acrylic, but more comfortable to wear.  It’s also a bit more expensive; the sports guard from Wal-Mart was $5.00, the custom one cost me $250.00!

When I asked the dentist how long I’ll need to wear this thing, she said “Probably for the rest of your life, you didn’t know that?  You have a real jaw disorder, it’s not going to just go away like a cold or the flu.  In time this may help reduce the rigidity of your masseters, and prevent this from happening again.”   All I know is, it allows my jaw to relax some at night; I don’t have to make a conscious effort to keep my teeth separated (as my swollen jaw muscles tend to push down the insides of my mouth and clamp my teeth shut).   Isn’t this fun reading?

Doug, get to the part about the stripper… ok, ok!  This is something I shared on Facebook yesterday, the day after I got my splint:

Back in the mid 90s, a couple of the women in my office decided to hire a stripper for our IT manager’s birthday, “Nurse Candy” to surprise our boss during our weekly Friday meeting. When Candy, her tiny uniform & her giant silicone breasts arrived, she set down a little pink boombox and began doing her number. The 2 girls who arranged the surprise clapped & laughed—while the rest of us sat there in stunned silence. A couple women turned their heads, others looked down at the floor, one person covered their face with their hands.

Yesterday afternoon I sat in my doctor’s office waiting room, along with 5-6 other people watching Trump’s first “press conference” play out on the waiting-room tv. The reactions from the people around me were just the same as that awkward IT meeting 20 years ago! Just saying…

Don't tell anyone smile

What I didn’t add was after that press conference, one of the women in that waiting room said “I guess none of us are Republican…”  and an older gent said “I am, so is my wife.. but we didn’t vote for that”.   I don’t know if he meant he didn’t vote for Trump, or didn’t vote for Trump’s godawful, delusional ravings but I suppose it doesn’t matter.  This piece of shit is now in office, it’s only been one month and I think he’s made his agenda quite clear:  he doesn’t have one.  Adore him or suffer the consequences.

Getting back to Facebook, I wonder if the other liberals on there, or the “sore losers”, are feeling worn down, defeated like me.  I hope that’s not the case.  They once voiced their fears for immigrants, womens rights & the environment, and shared links of ominous warnings from more popular liberals (like Dan Rather, Michael Moore, Robert Reich) that we’re doomed.  But aside from a couple die-hards, have grown quiet.  Most now share the usual hodgepodge of things, and life goes on it seems. 

All I know is, for the last couple days my teeth have been chattering.  I don’t know if it’s a side effect from that acrylic splint, or listening to Trump’s Hitleresque rants, or both.  It’s probably a little bit of both.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Just click your heels and say “There’s no place like one year ago… there’s no place like one year ago…”

just click your heels

Sometimes, when I haven’t anything better to do, I go online & visit my blog here to see what I was up to around this date a year or two ago.  I see that this time last year, I was excitedly comparing my ongoing weight loss to 8 sacks of sugar and the February before that… well, you get the idea.

I admit my life (for the most part) has been a pretty boring one, but up until a few months ago it was a comfortable one too; I enjoyed my daily routine and familiar surroundings.   Why I gave it all up, along with years of accumulated books & other things to move back to a hometown which hasn’t been my hometown for thirty years… into a dowdy apartment no less, overrun by a hyper-watchful landlord (who stormed into my place one night because I had my kitchen window cranked open a couple inches while it was sprinkling outside)… it was a poor decision made under duress, from the TMJ that was ravaging my health & mental well-being.   We’ve all done regretful things, but this was a doozy.

When I started this particular blog, I was going to try & make it a more light-hearted one.  Here’s what I miss from one year ago!  My worn couch that was fine for flopping down on, Obama in the White House (had to throw that in), my own thermostat, free tv because I lived in the city, my sexy but deadly Russian neighbor Uriel, etc.;  but the more stuff I come up with, the angrier I get!

And now, a recent conversation with my 84 year old neighbor Nancy

ME: Hi Nancy…. Whassup.
HER: I suppose you heard Joe was here this morning.
ME: You mean our landlord?
HER: Yes, he was in my apartment making some repairs.
ME: How come you’re telling me?
HER: Well, you know how people talk…like this one next door.
ME: Haha, oh Nancy…
HER: I wanted to show you this photo of my husband Ed.
ME: Very nice, when was this taken?
HER: 1988… the same year he died. He was 55.
ME: An awful shame.
HER: And now you’re 55. well… it doesn’t mean a thing.
ME: I sure hope not!
HER: Doug why are you in your bare feet? That’s not healthy. Don’t you own a pair of slippers?
ME: I do, I just don’t like wearing ‘em.
HER: Well… Ed didn’t like to wear his either.

Believe it or not, she’s the one bright spot around here.  So for the time being I have no choice but to stick it out… I signed a one year lease back in September, and unlike prison there’s no means of escape.  I just hope that when the time comes, I can get some version of my old life back again. 

There’s no place like home….my old apartment, that is


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Like the man says: get back... get back to where you once belonged


Last night, I had the good fortune of having a long phone chat with my old (and once upon a time) very good friend Don.  The last time we’d spoken was in December 2012; the time before that was when we met up for dinner in the summer of 2009, and the time before that was in 2007, when he’d just turned 55 and told me he was quitting his IT job with PNC Bank in pursuit of early retirement.

My former office at UPMC

I first met Don way back in 1990, when I landed my first IT job as a computer consultant for the Dept of Aging.  We were put on the same project, but I was fresh out of school and a complete newbie; Don was 11 years older and forced to deal with someone with a lot of questions!

But we seemed to hit it off right away.  We were both loners of sorts and enjoyed, worried & fumed about the same things.  (We’d often sit in Arby’s or Roy Rogers yelling at each other—“this isn’t healthy!”)  Besides lunches and chats in the office, we’d get together every couple weeks, see a movie, have a late dinner and rant to one another on what was wrong with our company, the government, society, ourselves…. man those were some good times!

Don pays me a visit in my new apartment in Bellevue, 1995

Our get-togethers got less often after Don met & married his wonderful wife Patti in 2000; by then we were on different contracts and different companies.  But we still managed to meet for lunch once a week to complain about our respective out-of-shape selves & catch each other up on the latest.  (It just occurred to me that we were never big on email… haha)

So last night, after giving Don a brief run-down on what’s been going on in my neck of the woods, he said “Doug—wait ‘till you hear what’s been happening with me!”  He told me his early retirement was just that—too early.  “Doug the first year was great!  But I don’t play golf, I don’t have any hobbies… there’s only so much tv you can watch or walks you can take… after the second year I was so bored, I’d had it!”   I sat here nodding my head, I got it.  He then went on to tell me about finding some part-time work: a bookstore, Macy’s, even one where he drove to various supermarkets to set up cookie displays!  But they were all minimum wage & too physically demanding, and after a year he was back to his old retired self.  

When I told Don I was sorry things didn’t work out, he said “well… it took awhile, but they did.  Guess what I’m doing now—I’m back to computer programming!”  After he gave me the run-down on his current gig, he said “I think you’re on the same path I was on, and if you don’t mind me giving you some advice… I know you’re dealing with that TMJ, so get yourself better.  Then I’d suggest you get back to Pittsburgh.  I think it’s where you belong.  If you don’t want to work and don’t have to, that’s your choice, but I think you could easily find another IT job downtown.”

I thanked Don for our long chat and his words of wisdom, and we promised to talk again in two weeks.  (I really hope we do.)  The truth is, as I’ve recently told others, I’ve been feeling out-of-sorts and homesick for my former life in the city.  I’m not sorry I moved back to my hometown… at the time it felt right.  But I left here nearly 30 years ago and I’m not the same Doug I was then.  I’d like to think I’m the one in that picture at the top.  I need to find him again.

Original Painting entitled The Red Man in Journey Native American Art Native American Paintings Painting Santa Clara Pueblo Helen Hardin Tsa-Sah-Wee-Eh Little Standing Spruce

Monday, January 9, 2017

The joke’s on one of us, TMJ... but I’d rather it be on you than me

The other night an old friend wrote me a very kind letter, said he’d been catching up on things with me through my blog and was sorry about the TMJ. 

I’ve known him for 10 years, but we never met in person; we met online through a comic book message board we both frequented.  I stopped contributing there a few years ago, but we’ve stayed connected over the years (ahem, Facebook) and his letter brought back a lot of good memories.  So much so, that he put me in the mood to read some old comics, so I went on Read Comics Online (an awesome, awesome website filled with new & vintage comic books to read—for free!) and was perusing an old Batman comic from the 1970s when I came across a disturbing panel showing one of the Joker’s victims.  Hit with poisonous gas, the poor man collapses to the floor—he’s dead as a doornail, but not before the gas twists the muscles in his face into a creepy, maniacal grin.  You gotta see it to believe it.

jokers poison gas


Yep, this is what us kids were reading in the 1970s

As I’m sitting here reading this crazy-ass story while gently massaging the sides of my face and lower jaw—my own facial muscles sore and swollen from this freaking TMJ—I slowly tried to mimic this dude’s sick grin.  Not just a smile, but a big Joker-grin.  There was a soft, palpable “crackling” sound in the muscles on both sides of my face and my eyes widened and I quickly dropped the sides of my mouth.  But for the first time in many a moon, I felt some small, brief relief.   I did it again, counted to 15—relaxed.  Again, some relief.

Doug, sorry you’re suffering—but why are you sharing this?  Um…. in case there’s someone out there with atrophied muscles in their face like mine?  I dunno, I just feel the need to vent, rant, whatever.  I’m still in disbelief that my jaw got so out of whack this past summer, or that it would last this long.  I’ve spent many nights reading up on temporomandibular jaw disorder and the only thing I know for certain is that no one REALLY knows how to fix it.  (There’s plenty of neuromuscular dentists out there who say they can, and even more TMJ sufferers insisting they can’t.)  Oral surgeons recommend steroid or Botox injections into the joints, or surgery (naturally) but the official TMJ website sternly warns against such treatments and says they can cause irreversible damage that will last a lifetime.  It adds that 4 out of 5 sufferers will heal on their own, you just have to give it plenty of time. 

So I’m doing just that, consoling myself with the words of a retired oral surgeon who looked at mine and said “yours is fairly severe, but still on the low end of the spectrum for surgery.”   So for the time being, I’m just going to continue with the exercises shown me (from a very kind physical therapist & friend of my sister Shawn) and wear my big oral splint to bed every night & remain optimistic. 

I could say that at the very least this TMJ has given me something to smile about… but that would be crazy!