Wednesday, June 26, 2019

‘Til the one day when this lady met this fellow, and that’s the way we all became…


Some time back, I did a post about my brothers & sisters that raised a small ruckus; apparently I shared a little too much information.  I took it offline to whittle down, and it was soon forgotten.  But recently, after my previous “Brady-themed” post, a friend asked what the deal was with me and that show.

I sent him this picture I assembled of my own family, and he was surprised when I told him it was the real deal.  Yep, we had a real-life Brady Bunch of 3 boys & 3 girls—but unlike the show, we all came from the same set of parents.  (They married in 1958, on my mom’s 18th birthday.  And a year later…)

Anyway, I was reminded of that intro-to-my-siblings blog, so I thought I’d try it again.  So in order of birthdates, here we go!

The Morris Kids

NAME:  (Purri) Donovan—aka Duke

BORN:  May 1959

STILL WITH US?   As far as I know, yes

LOCATION:  From what I hear, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh & Ohio

PROFESSION:  Lawyer & Mastermind

MARRIED?   Yes. Yes. Yes. YES.

KIDS?  No. No. No.  NO.

WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:  “I see no reason why our government can’t develop a process where the inferior be easily identified and relegated to their own island, someplace we can overthrow easily, say Newfoundland.  The reduction in our labor force will be short-felt, as it can be roboticized.  Oh, I suppose we can retain some of the more talented ones, like Michael Jackson & Madonna, for entertainment purposes.”  (Duke, 1980s)


NAME:  Douglas—aka Doug aka Apachedug

BORN:  October 1961

STILL WITH US?   For now

LOCATION:  Pittsburgh, PA

PROFESSION:  Retired (formerly a computer analyst)

MARRIED?   No & I’d like to know why

KIDS?  Not on this planet

WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:  I live in the past, vacation in the future and spend little time in the present; I’ve also got the mind of a 14 year old (which I keep in a jar in my closet).  I’m kidding!  I have a warped sense of humor, and for all my online blatherings I’m an introvert (& often mistaken for being antisocial.)  I’ve been on Earth since the early 1960s and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing here.


NAME:  (Carrie) Shawn

BORN:  August 1963

STILL WITH US?   Yes, and she’ll be the last to go

LOCATION:  Greene County, PA

PROFESSION:  Medical transcriber & administrative everything

MARRIED?   Yes (Jim)

KIDS?  A daughter Sophia, 2 stepchildren (Shannon & Michael)

WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:  “Hi Doug, Soph & I were reviewing our summer calendar and we have 1:45 to 3:10pm available on August 17.  Would you like me to pencil you in?  We’ll be hosting a church breakfast that morning, then throwing a birthday party for Kaylee, a girl Soph played with once in the park when she was 3 years old.  Later we’ll be attending my neighbor’s sister’s best friend’s cousin’s son’s summer school graduation party, where I’ll be bringing all the food.  What’s that you say?  If Jim delays filing for social security until 70 he’ll receive the maximum benefit but can continue working the rest of his life?  Good to know!”


NAME:  Steve

BORN:  March 1966


LOCATION:  Greene County, PA

PROFESSION:  River barge operations (captain)

MARRIED?   Yes (Ann)

KIDS?  3 boys, Steve, Edwin, Tim (who is deceased)

WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:  Two of the closest people I’ve ever known, my brother & his wife enjoy geocaching (I still don’t know what that is), meat festivals & vintage car shows—with their own collection.  “Yeah I know it’s my retirement fund but it’s not every day you find a 1968 Ford Mustang GT 2+2 Fastback up for auction!  What’s that Ann?  A 1927 Ford Model T was found in a barn in Poughkeepsie?  How much do we have left in our retirement account again?”


NAME:  Donda-Lin aka Cissy

BORN:  January 1969


LOCATION:  South Carolina

PROFESSION:  Dabbles in real estate & mimosa brunches

MARRIED?   Yes (Bobby)

KIDS?  A daughter, Drew

WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:   She was an Elvis impersonator in grade school & a wife in high school (and no, she didn’t have to get married; Drew didn’t come along for several years).  In a former life she was a gypsy, Donda’s packed up her house and family 44 times since they married in search of greener pastures (or beaches).  “Hey guys, guess what?  We finally found our forever home!  Doug please don’t tell people we’ve moved 44 times when it’s only been 41!” 


NAME:  Courtney

BORN:  July 1975


LOCATION:  Cincinnati, Ohio

PROFESSION  Red Cross training instructor & counselor

MARRIED?   Yes (Robert)


WELL THAT’S INTERESTING:  A free spirit for many years, Courtney finally met her Mr. Right & settled down in Ohio a couple years ago.  It’s been 2001 since we last met (at Dad’s funeral) and we are WORLDS apart when it comes to politics, and we’ll just leave it at that!


Well, that’s it—here’s hoping all my sibs are happy, healthy (and still have a sense of humor if they’re reading this).  I love ‘em all, and can’t imagine those Brady Morris years in the 1970s without them.

1975 September

Friday, June 21, 2019

Call me crazy, but I have a theory… (None of this is real!)


A few weeks ago my sister Shawn sent me an ET video of the Brady kids excitedly touring HGTV’s renovated Brady Bunch house.  (She knows I’m one of those Brady fans).  l watched the video 4-5 times in disbelief, then thanked her for sending it and said “Can you believe somene really did this??”  

My sister coolly remarked “I’m happy for you, of course.  But I fail to see why this is generating so much excitement.  I’m a fan of the television show Friends, but I’d hardly go ga-ga if they rebuilt Monica’s apartment.”

I said “First of all, Monica’s place is just a set that could be duplicated anywhere with a big enough space.  This is the actual house they used for all those exterior shots!  I dare you to find ONE Brady Bunch fan who hasn’t said at least once, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if someone bought the real house and converted the inside to look like the 70’s television show?’  

“My God, Shawn—they took a split level house and LOWERED the first floor so they could add a second story without changing the exterior of the home.  Man it’s crazy!  It’s almost too good to be true!”

Then I sat here & thought about it.  Waitaminute… this is crazy.  And it IS too good to be true.

Back in October 2016, a couple weeks after I left Pittsburgh and moved back home (to the luxurious Bonar Apts) for 6 months, I was heading down the rear stairwell to the laundry room with a basket of clothes and was treading carefully; those creaky steps were rickety and narrow. 

I still tripped on the second-to-last step and only my laundry basket prevented me from a possible splat.  Or did it. 

wbg hospitalFor all I know, it’s still October 2016 and I’m sprawled unconscious at the bottom of those steps, or laying in a hospital bed at Waynesburg Hospital (or whatever they call it now) in a Sleeping Brady coma. 

And the right half of my brain (the alert side) is trying to wake up my left hemisphere by hurling all kinds of crazy-ass stimuli at it.

1.  HERE Y’GO, LEFT BRAIN.  TRUMP.   While everyone in the real world is going about their normal lives, maybe Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the White House, and the United States is recognized on the world stage as being a truly progressive nation. 

(Hi England, hi Germany, hi Canada!  We’ve finally caught up with you in the 21st century!) 

Donald isn’t silent, of course.  After losing the election, then the failure of his ‘Trump TV Network’ (which was his real intention for running in the first place), he’s a fixture on Fox News now, where he regularly spouts how great he would’ve made America again if the Democrats hadn’t interfered in the race. 

His sullen base agrees, while the other 70% of the country shudders at what almost came to pass.  

Meanwhile, my right brain has me convinced Trump is in the White House—and wreckng everything to boot.  “Doug, how long do you want to keep having this nightmare?  You need to wake up!”

2.  OK LEFTY, TRY THIS INSTEAD.  After Righty sees it’s scheme backfire (and my left hemisphere is slipping even further), it decides to use some reverse psychology. 

  • My TMJ mysteriously begins to fade the first week of March 2017.
  • UPMC (my former company) calls and asks if I’d like to come back.  After I’ve been gone 2 years?  Yep!  And not just ANY job—it’s a senior position too!
  • I find a bigger, better apartment in one day—in the nicer half of my old city neighborhood.

THIS ALL HAPPENS IN ONE WEEK.  Okay, does Righty think my left noggin is going to say I must be dreaming?   Nope, Lefty says it’s been a crappy 2016 and I’m due for some good things!

So life goes on, and 2017 passes, then 2018, and 2019, and for all I know I’m continuing to slumber soundly in Waynesburg, dreaming my fictional life in the city…

And then a couple days ago, I am looking for Brady House updates on Youtube, and see this recent news story:

Press conference at the Brady House

“The Mayor of Los Angeles held a press conference in front of the Brady Bunch house today, where he declared this date ‘Brady Bunch Day’.

He thanked all the Brady Kids for being there, then announced he’s changing the name of the street from Dilling Street to Clinton Avenue, the same as the tv show.”

C’MON!  What’s that old saying, “If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is”?

What do you think, Jan Brady?  Am I living in the real world or is all this a product of my imagination?

“Doug, your guess is as good as mine!”

Jan helping to keep the dream alive

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Three letters in three days


This afternoon I received an email from Mike C., an old friend of mine from my GNCorp working days.  (I haven’t talked with him since my mom passed, in 2004.)  He wanted to let me know a mutual friend of ours, Charles had passed this week.  I haven’t seen Charles since 2010, and the last I spoke to him was the week before Christmas in 2016 when I was living those 6 months in Waynesburg & feeling homesick for Pittsburgh, and was reaching out to old friends in the city.  I’m really glad now I did.

Charles was a big, lumbering man with a shock of black hair, a moustache that he kept too trimmed (it looked suspiciously Hitlerish and we used to let him know it) and a constant frown.  But when he laughed, it was sudden and LOUD, his lips would stretch far back and he’d squeeze his eyes shut like he was in pain for doing it.  He was the most paranoid person I knew, and you couldn’t help but love him.  He was a year older than me, married & divorced in his early thirties and was formerly a veterinarian—but gave it up and became a computer programmer, because he couldn’t detach himself from the worry & heartbreak of working with sick animals.  He was as kindhearted as he was opinionated.  He was 58 and now he’s gone.

Yesterday, on Friday, my sister Shawn sent our sister Donda & myself a blank email.  The subject line simply read “Rodney has passed.”   Our cousin Marcy’s husband, Rodney succumbed to a stroke the week prior and took a devastating fall.  He did not last long.  He was 58 years old.

And the day prior to that, Diana (a former classmate of mine), wrote to let me know a mutual classmate had passed, Mark K.  He was loved by many, and while I didn’t know him personally, remember him very well.  He was the quietest student in our class.  I saw him laugh on occasion, but I don’t recall him ever speaking.   He too was 58 years old.

There’s no connection between these 3 men (other than my knowing them), but I can’t help but wonder the odds of receiving 3 emails in 3 days of 3 men passing, each 58 years old.  Y’know, I sit here sometimes and contemplate my own future, and ask myself things like “Is this TMJ ever going to go away”  and “Is my retirement portfolio going to last me long enough”  and “Am I ever going to get off my butt and do something worthwhile?”  all while assuming I’ll be here for a couple more decades at least.  

And I realize now, well today I do, I should be so lucky.

Friday, June 14, 2019

A bird’s-eye view of my apartment: Does this look like a minimalist to you?

Paint drawing of my apt

A few months after I moved into my new apartment here in Pittsburgh, my family came up for a visit.  (My sister Shawn, brother-in-law Jim, my niece Sophia.)   Jim said “Hey Doug, I hear the stock market is doing pretty well… are you going to fix this place up?”

What the—I stood there dumbstruck.  I figured my sister put him up to it, as I was pretty sure Jim didn’t give a hoot if my walls were pink & my furniture purple.  Plus Shawn knew I was fond of Jim, maybe she figured coming from him it would carry a little more weight.  

Anyway, 3 rebuttals sprang to mind.  Which one would I choose?

1)  That’s NOT how retirement works, Jim.  It’s not like you win the lottery when the market is up, the trick for long-term investing is to STICK to a budget regardless of the highs—so you can have a stable income when things turn gloomy!

2)  Jim, how rich do you think I am?  It’s only been a few months since I wrote that $3,000 check to my slumlord in Waynesburg to get out of that depressing place!

3) “Fix this place up”?   Jim, look around you—since moving back to the city, the sofa is new, the leather chair is new.  The bookcases in the livingroom & bedroom are new.  The dining table—new.  So are the chairs.  The TV stand is new, the bedroom dresser, the nightstand, the BED is new.  The bedroom lamps—new.  The column fan, the wicker pouf, floor pillow, microwave, wall clocks—all new!

Heck Jim, you put most of it together—I think you’d appreciate the break!  Laughing out loud

dining area
My sister saw this unique 3 seating glass table on Wayfair, where I later found these Indian zinc chairs—I think they’re from the medieval era 

Anyway, I just stood there and said “Yes Jim, I’ll get it fixed up eventually” while he smiled & nodded. 

(Oh, I later learned Shawn never asked Jim to say that—it was all him.)

I’m sharing this now, because recently my neighbor Ronnie’s mother came up from Georgia for an extended visit, and stopped over to say hello.  (A very nice woman, the last time she was here was before Thanksgiving and we talked politics for a couple hours.)  I invited her in to see my humble abode, and she said “Do you live on a tight budget?  Oh I get it… you’re one of those minimalists.”   

I AM NOT.  I just haven’t figured out what other clutter I want in here or what to hang on my walls yet!

And c’mon Mrs. Ronnie, your son’s place is packed to the gills with PILES & PILES & PILES of stuff.  He’s a hoarder!  So yeah, compared to him my place does look pretty spartan!

Still, her words stung (why?) and I resolved to getting more STUFF in here.  I still don’t have a coffee table, there’s room for another chair, I could get an ottoman for my leather chair and maybe a floor lamp….

But the more I went online to look for stuff, the less I wanted it.  Back in August 2016, when I was first hit with the TMJ (and wound up in an emergency room) and my sister thought it’d be in my best interest to move back home (and I readily agreed),  I said I’d probably need 50-60 moving boxes because of all my things. 

Shawn said “You don’t want to take all that stuff with you!  Now would be a good time to get rid of everything and start fresh!”   At the time it made perfect sense:  I wound up selling, giving away or junking furniture, wall hangings & other odds n’ ends, including a ton of clothes, hundreds of books, stacks of dvds—nearly 30 years of accumulated things. 

And I have to be honest, when all was said and done, I was angry at both my sister & myself for doing it.  Sitting in that dingy little place in my old hometown again, with few reminders of the life I had in Pittsburgh, it was like I’d given the last 30 years of my life away as well. 

But after moving back to the city, and (corny as it sounds) being among all the color & diversity again, heck even the PAT buses whooshing up & down my street brought on feelings of contentment, I realized my life wasn’t in all those dusty things I gave away.  It was just being HERE.


The bookcases in my livingroom & bedroom; those few books on the lower shelves are the only physical ones I have remaining, and I do feel a lot less bogged down with stuff now

So while I DO want to get artwork for the walls (also thinking about one of those oversized wall-tattoos), I think I’m done with the accumulation of stuff.   When my neighbor’s mom was preparing to fly back home to Georgia, she showed me a small crystal angel she’d found on the Southside.

She said “Did Ronnie tell you I collect these?  I have one room with over 200 angels alone!”

Good for you Mrs. Ronnie, and by the way you were right—I am a minimalist.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Y’see, this is what happens when your bite becomes worse than your bark


Look at all this—words fail me.  Up until the age of 53 or so, the medicines in my house consisted of a dusty roll of Tums in my cookie jar, a hardened bottle of Pepto-Bismol in my kitchen cupboard and a box of Band-Aids in my bathroom cabinet. 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t get sick, I just had no use for drugs and prided myself for it.  If I was in the office with my head on my desk & groaning, the women in my group would gather round.  “What is it?  Cold?  Flu?  Constipation?  Rita, give Doug some of your migraine medication.  You want Cotylenol or Doan’s back pills?  Gwen says she has Sine-Aid capsules…”

It was appreciated.  Women are caregivers.

Still, I always refused and gave them my little Native American speech (while a couple of ‘em looked at me like I was crazy and my friend Danielle rolled her eyes).  “You white people and your capsules and pills!  When the early tribes of Indians who galloped across our country felt poorly, they toughed it out or chewed on willow tree bark, nature’s aspirin!”

Then I’d email my sister to let her know she wouldn’t be hearing from me for the rest of the day as I was heading home sick and she’d reply “You should stop at the drugstore and get some Nytol, Jim swears by it, he says it really helps him to—“

Shawn, do you not know me by now?   I’d sooner drink snake-oil!

Anyway, that was then & this is now.  And this is what 4 bouts of kidney stones, aching joints, an intestinal blockage and an ongoing case of TMJ in the last 2-3 years gets you—lots & lots of medicines. 

(BTW, I have high hopes for that big blue bottle of glucosamine sulfate; it’s supposed to relieve arthritic –and- TMJ pain without the adverse effects of ibuprofen.  Just take it twice daily for 6-8 weeks.  Wait, what…)

Those 3 prescription bottles atop my refrigerator are 500 mg Naproxen (scary stuff), muscle relaxants for my rigormortic (is that even a word?  It should be) jaw and Tamsulosin for a… cough… enlarged prostate.

“Doug that junk is Amateur Hour!  Don’t you have any of the good stuff?”

Welcome to my bathroom—and Opioid Den, home of 2 year’s worth of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone & other crazy-ass pills.  I’m afraid to use them, but every time my doctor wrote a prescription, I got it filled just in case

When I told my pharmacist about my narcotics collection, I thought she’d report me to the cops or something but all she said was “Don’t tell your neighbors, people will break into your house for that stuff.”   Um, thanks!

I can’t help but think of my grandmother when I get up in the morning, head to the kitchen & take my first dose of the day.  I remember one time when I was 12 or 13 (and my Grandma Morris around 60), I was sitting in her kitchen while she was cooking.  I asked why she had such a long row of prescription bottles lined up on the back of her sink, and she said “So I don’t forget to take all my medicines, McDougall!  Don’t you want your old grandma to stick around for awhile?”

Yes I sure did, and worried to myself they were doing more harm than good.  She lived another 25 years (thank goodness)… I think I’m ready for my second dose now.

Well, I really should toss those opioids out—my goal is to get the top of my fridge cleared off too, except for that Metamucil and the Motrin...

And maybe a hunk of willow bark.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

It was 40 years ago today, that Lizard-Man came out to graduate—I mean play

Earlier today (Friday) my sister sent me a message: “Well, Sophia should be coming home from (her last day of) school right about now… she’s officially a 9th grader.  I remember us taking that photo of her in her blue dress for you on her first day of kindergarten… everything in between is a blur.”   

I sat here nodding my head in agreeement at my laptop when it suddenly occurred to me: it was 40 years ago this week that I graduated from high school.

That’s me alright, I’m getting to this!

Memory is a funny thing:  I have no recollection of the graduation ceremony, or being handed my diploma (and only a dim picture in my head of us all going to dinner afterwards, my brother Duke & his first wife Cheryl included) but I can recall my grandparents showing up at our house 2 hours before we were even supposed to leave, just to visit with everyone.  I can remember my mom coming out of our parents bedroom (on the first floor, off the livingroom) and saying “Doug… honey, you better go get dressed.  And put on your cap & gown so your grandma can take a couple pictures.” 

I had recently completed customizing a full-sized alien lizard head with about 4 shades of amphibian spray paint, a jaw that moved up & down and fishing line connected to it and the antennae so they also waggled when I spoke.  It seemed as good a time as any to show it off, so I strapped myself in then put on my cap & gown.

When I came back into the livingroom in my lizard get-up, my grandma broke out in her loud, raspy laugh and said “McDougall!  Ace, hand me my bag so I can get a picture before Linda (my mom) comes out here!” 

My grandpap in his low, quiet drawl said “I don’t see what’s so funny.”

Hearing the commotion, Mom came out again and said “Doug!  Take that off and get your suit on or I swear to God I’ll make you wear that thing when they hand you your diploma!”

Grandpap (once again in his low drawl) said “Now THAT I’d like to see…”  Grandma told him to shut his trap and she took the picture.

Speaking of Sophia, here’s my 14 year old niece with our Aunt Sandy’s sister Sharon, who’s a hairdresser—and two sweeter people you couldn’t meet.  Soph was getting her long tresses done for an awards ceremony earlier this week at her school. 

(This girl wins a lot of awards!)

And yes time flies, but she’s got 4 more years before her own cap & gown.  I wish her grandparents (and great grandparents) were here to see her!

Getting back to my 40th, I’m surprised I’ve heard nothing about a class reunion.  Personally I never felt the desire to attend one, and for someone like me (who enjoys visiting the past so much) I can’t explain why either.  I’m friends-of-sorts with a few from my class—Diana, Ron, my senior-wife Karen.  For awhile I was pen-pals with one (I think we were meant to marry) and I know what a few others have been up to, courtesy of Facebook—well, before I left there last summer.  It sure does seem like a lifetime ago now.  Well, 40 years--I guess it was!

But I sure would give anything to see this quartet from my graduation again.