Sunday, August 25, 2019

My sister’s birthday this week & some other random things


This upcoming week is my sister Shawn’s birthday.  (I won’t give her age here, but I’m turning 58 in a couple months and I’m less than 2 years older than her, so…)

Shawn & her 10th birthday cake on our carport, our brother Steve, me

I always liked Shawn’s birthday, it had a ‘holiday’ feel to it.  Coming at the end of August it was always a nice summer day, with an end-of-summer cookout and some excitement about the new school year ahead.  Happy Birthday, Shawn!

I’m just realizing as I type this, the last time I was at my sister’s house was on her birthday last August when I surprised her with a cake.  It seems like even longer ago than that.

It was also a year ago yesterday I left Facebook.  (I wrote about it here.)  I was hanging out there too much and often felt guilty for not having more to share, but it was also making me a little crazy reading friends and relatives support of Trump.  I’ve been giving some thought recently about rejoining, I miss a few of the voices there.  Plus for all the blogging I do, I feel like I’m talking to an empty room here.  I should probably ease back on my blogging.

The other day on Mental Floss, I read that only 8% of single males DON’T watch sports on television.  EIGHT PERCENT.  I don’t watch any sports.  Why am I so weird?  Growing up, my dad was a big Steelers fan.  I often tried to sit there and watch football games with him, just to BE with him.  I could never get thru an entire game. 

(I like sports moviesRemember the Titans, The Blind Side, Rudy, The Fighter, Hoosiers, A League of Their Own—I could go on & on here.  But not actual sports.)

Speaking of movies, this week I quit Netflix.  Yes I’m aware people quit (or join or rejoin) every day, nothing new there.  But I’ve been a loyal subscriber (to their dvd plan or their streaming plan or both) since June 1999.  In their heyday, they were great!  They had 300 dvd distribution centers, one here in Pittsburgh.  Now they only have 30.  Everyone’s streaming now, I guess.

This is how my streaming screen looked on it’s final day.  (They do make great thumbnails, but looks can be deceiving.)

Over the last year or so, it was becoming more & more a chore to find good things to watch.  There’s the occasional gem (American Factory, an amazing documentary recently produced by Netflix) but if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you KNOW you spend more time than you’d care to admit wading thru dreck.  Redbox, here I come.

Speaking of tech, a couple weeks ago I thought I’d do a little research on Xfinity smartphones.  (Why?  I don’t need one!)   I stumbled across this funny, angry blogger who hates Xfinity but admitted she liked their phone plans and signed up for one.  But in one of her earlier posts, she wrote if you’re an Xfinity customer, your router is used (by Comcast) as a ‘wifi hotspot’ by default.  They claim it doesn’t affect your own broadband, but she always seemed to lose her laptop connection—UNTIL she disabled her router from being a public hotspot.  

That’s funny… my laptop often loses its connection too.  I wrote Comcast Support and got this:

We encourage you to keep the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature enabled, as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi.  This xfinitywifi WiFi signal is completely separate from your private XFINITY WiFi home network and won't slow down your home broadband connection.

WHAT THE—!!  I didn’t disbelieve them, but I still googled how to deactivate the public option on mine (easy peasy) and for the last 2 weeks my laptop hasn’t lost it’s internet connection even once.  That can’t be a coincidence!

And finally… something goofy is showing up on my blog September 4.  I know little more than you, other than it promises to be a blast from the past.  A couple days before that date, I’ll give a little more backstory.  

Like my Netflix announcement, I’m sure it will be nothing to write home about!  Smile

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

This “Second Coming” is a total feeb—someone’s crazy here and it’s not me

A friend sent me an email a little while ago, where Trump thanked one of his followers for referring to him as the King of Israel, and how he did see himself as the “Second Coming”.  

She said he was more like Satan coming.  I said he was more like Satan’s mentally retarded son.

Yes, yes I know—the term ‘mentally retarded’ isn’t appropriate.  But we are talking about Satan—and his misfit offspring, this idiot Trump who’s our friggin’ President!

Anyway, after I fired off my angry response I turned on my tv—just in time to see the folks on MSNBC discussing this “Second Coming”, and having a real good laugh about it.  It’s not funny—this is seriously frightening stuff.   THIS MAN IS DERANGED, WHY IS HE STILL IN OFFICE.  Forget all the impeachment rigamarole, what happened to that 25th Amendment declaring a president unfit for office?   HOW BAD DOES A PRESIDENT HAVE TO BE?

The only reason I’m not stomping up & down right now and pissing off the woman who lives below me is because yes, I know—we’d get his creepy Vice-Puppet Pence in there instead.  Jeezus Criminy!

I have NO IDEA why I’m blogging about this—it’s just another day in the life of this godawful man’s godawful presidency and we’re all on the same ride.   There’s going to be LOTS & LOTS MORE of his warped, idiotic tweets, his blatant ignorant lies, his sad desperate attempts to stay in that office until the statute of limitations runs out on most of his weasel criminal activities. 

No, I stand corrected—he wants to be the next tin I mean gold-plated dictator, telling his base to re-tweet his nonsensical blatherings and add #thirdterm or #fourthterm or #presidentforlife hashtags.  I realize that for SOME reason (which escaped me 2 years ago let alone now) he still has his rag-tag, crazy-ass following.  I just hope this ‘second coming’ is the FIRST GOING.  

END OF RANT.  Steaming mad

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

All the hurting people… where do they all come from

blue apts

There is a 67 year old man on the third floor of my apartment building who’s small framed and trim, but walks with crutches.  If you greet him, he’ll tell you in one breath he was a tv cable man for 40 years, and then angrily exclaim he’s in constant, severe pain from his right foot.  He’s unable to walk on it and his useless doctors won’t prescribe more effective pain medication, and he deserves better treatment.

On the first floor is a 58 year old woman who is short, round, outgoing and personable. But her spine is fused to her hip and it sometimes puts her in great pain.  When it does, she disappears for a number of days or even a couple of weeks, and that’s when you know she’s hurting.  She keeps a mini-fridge beside her bed for her ‘quiet times’ (what she calls it).

A 79 year old woman named Joan lives on the fifth floor and is a little hard of hearing, but otherwise fine.  But her 55 year old son Mike isn’t. He visits her twice a week for lunch, walks very slowly with one hand always clutching his lower stomach and talks to no one.  Joan says he had a section of his lower intestine removed in his forties, and several follow-up operations since then.

On the second floor is a 48 year old woman who suffers from a variety of maladies.  One side of her face droops from an operation she had 20 years ago for a seizure disorder.  She still has them.  She has several large scars on her arms and neck from bouts of skin cancer (and boasts about each one, proud of her battle scars).  She drinks a lot, and has been picked up by the police on numerous occasions for public intoxication.  But they know her and are kind, and bring her home and ask her to be more careful.

And then there’s the 57 year old man on the fourth floor, who is living with chronic TMJD, an inflammatory jaw disorder.   He had an operation for kidney stones last December, and during the 2-3 hour procedure his anesthesiologist wrenched his sleeping jaw back & forth while monitoring his breathing tube.   He awoke with pulled tendons in his masseters.  (He warned the doc beforehand he suffered with a jaw disorder 18 months prior, and could only open his mouth halfway.  She dismissed his concerns with a warm smile and “you’ll be fine, you’ll be asleep”.)

For as much as his tmj has troubled him (he’s written about it on his blog enough) he’s downplayed the condition to himself, sure that it would heal in a couple of months.  He ignored recommendations from other TMJ sufferers to stop talking and make his diet a soft & liquid one.  He was just angry and tired of dealing with it again, and wanted to chat like nothing was wrong and eat regular food and be his normal self. 

After months of no relief, and his ability to talk & chew food grows more painful & difficult, he’s facing reality now.  He’s been on a liquid diet for a couple days, and isn’t giving up hopes of feeling less blue again.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Temper your expectations when it comes to retirement

A couple nights ago I was lurking on an Early Retirement forum (I rarely comment there) and someone wrote “How many of you early-retirees did so after years of planning, and how many felt pushed into it for health (or other) reasons?”

His question got a flurry of responses, many of them admitting they left the workforce early because of health issues or their positions were phased out, and figured they had enough squirreled away in savings or investments to give ER (early retirement) a go.

One guy wrote this:

What people should be planning for is not a 60ish retirement but an age 50-ish UWS (unplanned work stoppage).

For the first time in all my visits on that forum, I felt a sudden, real camraderie.  I knew I fell in there… somewhere.  Yes, I had been mulling early retirement a couple years prior to my departure from UPMC, but only because I’d been asking for help (or backup support at least) for 10 YEARS and was consistently ignored.  I was burned out.

One of my (very wise) coworkers once told me “Doug, do you know when your requests for help will be heard?  When you leave and the NEXT person who gets your stuff says they can’t manage the workload on their own.”   She was so right—that’s exactly what happened. 

(They wound up automating a quarter of my former stuff and parsed the rest out to several others.)

In 2013 I began making real plans for an early retirement in 5-6 years (and then a year later to 3-4 years as my stress levels kept rising) and then to 3-4 months after my douchebag manager informed me he’d be handing off his early-morning IT work to me as well. 

So in a way, my ER was both planned and unplanned.  I wanted to save for a couple more years, but at least when I handed in my notice I still felt I could pull this off, if I minded my spending.  I have (for the most part) and haven’t found myself lacking for anything.

Part 2:  Retirement often isn’t what you think (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing)

As the discussion about unplanned early retirement on that forum continued, one guy wrote his ER happened right on schedule; he left the workforce at age 55, just as he’d planned.  But he sometimes felt embarrassed because he wasn’t “living the retirement dream”.

Most of his days consisted of long mornings with a pot of coffee and an old fashioned newspaper, lunch at his favorite cafe down the street, an afternoon nap with an open book or his cat beside him. 

His nights were pretty much the same as they were when he was working, dinner and exercise and some time on his computer, then television or a movie. 

But several of his (still-working) friends & relatives found his retired life disappointing, and questioned why he didn’t move to a sunnier location or at least travel or take up some new hobbies. 

I related to this too, as I’ve often heard things like this:

“Doug, I feel sorry for you!  Are you just sitting there every day?”  or “Doug, why don’t you sign up for some cooking or web design classes?” or “When I retire, there’s no way I’m staying in Pittsburgh!  I’m moving to the beach and selling t-shirts or juice drinks!”

These people mean well, but they’re usually years away from their own retirement; it’s easier to dream of lots of things.  When I was them, I had different plans too.

There ARE things I want to do.  As for traveling, I’d like to “go Greyhound” and see Chicago (one of the coolest cities in this country) and visit my old friends Jeff & Corinne.  I’d also like to go to Washington DC again via Amtrak.   (I’ve traveled solo on both Greyhound & Amtrak before and man, just loved it.)  

(But I have to beat this damn TMJD first.  I never expected to have a row of health issues so soon after retiring.)

Anyway, this embarrassed man received another flurry of responses, some of them with one word:  “Freedom.”  He had it, his friends didn’t.   One early retiree wrote this:

“Sunday night I was sitting at my kitchen table, alternately reading and dozing, and I heard a stopwatch ticking from the other room.  It was the tv, the start of ‘60 Minutes’.  That stopwatch used to fill me with dread, because it signaled the weekend was over and I had to go back to work on Monday.  It took me awhile, but I no longer have the Sunday Blues.”

I felt a rush of affection for this man’s honesty.  No more Sunday blues.  That’s all you need to say.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dad & me: two old men, both two months shy of turning 58

This is a picture of Dad from May 1995, and me from 10 minutes ago.  We’re the same age here, both 10 weeks shy of our 58th birthdays.   These aren’t exactly fair photos for comparison, Dad’s is grainy and with a harsh flash, mine is digital (and with a swollen jaw from my tmjd). I wanted to wait until the swelling went down some, but maybe it never will and this is my new normal.  Anyway, I wanted to show us at the same age.

Doug, where’s your smile?  Oh it’s there… under that puffy jowl.  Smile 

I look at my old man and wonder if people can tell we’re father & son.  I realize lighting and such plays a big part with pics, but he seems to have a lot more color than me.  And his hair has only a hint of silver, where mine has a lot more gray.  Do we look the same age?  I suppose I’ll always see him as older, he’s my dad.  The poor man only lived another 5 years after this photo was taken… I sure hope I’ve got longer than that.

All I know is, getting old sucks.  And truth be told, seeing this selfie explains why 66 year old Debi on the sixth floor (I could’ve sworn she told me she was 69 when I met her a year ago) recently asked if I was single and when I said yes, responded “Good, I’m into older men!”  and bumped my hip with hers.
mrsmamieRemember Mrs. Mamie from ‘Third Rock from the Sun’?  The hair, the jewelry, the tight pants— this is Debi!

She’s also said fun things like “Doug we should tell everyone we’re a couple and watch all the tongues here wag!” and “When are you coming upstairs for some of my homemade lasagna?  I don’t bite!” and  What’s your favorite drink, whiskey beer or wine?  I’ve got all 3!”

I usually don’t say much, I just smile or chuckle politely and thank her for the invite then go on my way.  One time as I was exiting the lobby I heard her tell one of the other ladies “We’ve got a shy one!”  

She certainly seems fun enough, but I see a feisty old lady who likes to brag she has the caboose of a 25 year old and she sees… geez, what DOES she see?  The other day after one of my run-ins with her, I asked Dave (one of the older guys here who witnessed it) if he’s seen Debi do this stuff with the other male tenants. 

He laughed and said “she is friendly, isn’t she?  I saw her chatting up one of Steiner’s maintenance men once… and she talks to that guy on the first floor who goes running every day.” 

Hmm… that’s Kyle and he isn’t a day over 30.  Well Debi, good luck with him.  I’m more into ladies from my own age group, born say 1960-1964.  You know, older women.

I think I’m ready for a nap.

native american woman dancing

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A wise bird and an unwise Doug: when some things can’t be helped

Saturday night I dreamt I was outside in a forest of some sort, and an owl was watching me.  Nothing happened for a long while.  When he finally flew away, I had a feeling of both relief & worry. 

When I awoke Sunday morning, my face felt red-hot, like I’d fallen asleep on a lounge chair by a swimming pool under the midday sun.  I climbed out of bed, looked in my bathroom mirror—my complexion was a dull purple (like I’d slept standing on my head) and my temples were swollen.  (The temples… that was a first.)  When I reached up and touched them, yeow they were hot.

I knew 2 things:  I brought this on myself, and it was payback time.

These last couple weeks, trying to come to terms that my TMJ issues just aren’t going away anytime soon, I made a promise to myself that I would NOT just sit in this apartment and stare at my tv (or tablet or laptop) and suffer in silence.  We’ve been having beautiful weather, and I was going to shower and shave early each day, put on a nice shirt and just… get the hell out of here and explore Avalon, or head in the opposite direction (towards my old neighborhood in Bellevue) and do more of the same. 

And that’s just what I’ve been doing, sometimes for an hour, sometimes a lot longer.  (It depends on the severity of discomfort.)  Sometimes I come back, cook some eggs or heat some soup, take a nap, wash my face then put on my shoes and head back out again.  It’s done nothing to help my tmj, but keeps me in a healthier mindset (and I’m sure my ticker appreciates it as well).

Anyway, my story here began Saturday morning.  After I’d gotten up, made a cup of coffee and hit play on the most recent episode of ‘Masterchef’, I looked out my window, saw all the sunshine and wondered what I’d be doing.  I know—go to Lincoln Barbershop.  Saturday is their busiest day of the week, the wait is HOURS--but not for me.  I’d just gotten my haircut Friday, so I’d go & say hi to some of the “old gang” and Rosie’s sister Angie. 

Nothing too long, a half-hour at most. 

Just the day before, my barber (Rosie) had said “Dougie Fresh, when are you gonna come up here on a Saturday and say hi to Angie?”  Several years back, her sister Angie (who used to cut hair alongside Rose) traded in her shears for an office job and now only cuts on Saturdays.  I hadn’t seen her since 2015, after I retired and no longer had to wait for the weekend to get a haircut.

So I got dressed and headed up to Bellevue.  When I got there, I looked in the front window and saw Rose in her barber chair and Angie in hers, both quiet and staring down at their respective smartphones.  And not a customer in sight.  What the—!?   I opened the door and said “Where the hell is everybody??” and both of them looked up and exclaimed “DOUGIE FRESH!”  (It was dear and funny.)  They were as mystified as I was why they had no customers.  Rose thought it was because the weather was TOO nice, and everyone was on ‘last minute vacations’. 

(But seriously, that shop has never been empty on a Saturday—ever.) 

Angie said “Doug when did you go all gray!?” and Rose said “Fresh, could you stay and visit with us for awhile?”  I said sure, and ignored the small worry in the back of my head about too much talking with an aggravated jaw.  This won’t last long.  We grabbed some folding chairs from the back and parked ourselves outside.  We sat out there and waited for customers, and caught each other up on our families, the future of Bellevue, the nightmare of Trump and that perverted coward Jeffrey Epstein.

And I just kept ignoring the rising swelling on the right side of my face.

One 40-something guy (with a goatee and 80’s mullet) was walking his dog, wearing (what looked to be) navy boxer-briefs and nothing else.  Angie said “Hey, would you like a haircut?”  and the guy said “umm… I’m not dressed for it”  and when he got far enough away, she burst out laughing.  She said “Should we call a cop or something??”  and we all laughed.  (I told them about my recent run-in with a woman in her underwear here, but at least she was wearing a top.)  Anyway, the right side of my face was a giant exclamation point now, and I regretfully told them I’d have to go home and ice my face. 

That lasted 2 hours.  I knew the tmj gods were going to punish me, but it was such a nice time and I’m almost tempted to say it was worth it.

As I headed to the corner of Lincoln & Balph to cross the street and go home, another guy walked up beside me while I stood waiting for the light.  I glanced in his direction and gave him the dude nod—Hey—and then did a double-take.  He said “Hey how’s it going” and I said “Mellon Bank, right?”  and he said “No, I used to live down the street on Monroe under a gay couple, I think you lived beside ’em.”   I said “That’s right, we both called the cops one night and the officers thought we were a gay couple too.”  

(That was way back in February 2013, I even wrote about that night here.)

He re-introduced himself (Matt) and I did the same, and as the light turned green and we both crossed, he said “I was going to grab some lunch at the new Chinese place, did you have plans?  Do you want to come along?”   I didn’t want to explain the whole TMJ thing, plus I was starving so I said sure.  Maybe I could get something without a lot of chew, like chicken & garlic sauce.

Dragon Town restuarant in Bellevue.The Dragon Town Restaurant in Bellevue

We head inside and right away begin blinking our eyes—there’s a tall vase near the entrance with these long incense sticks poking out it’s top, each with lazy tendrils of smoke wafting from them.  It was pretty acrid. 

Matt said “Let’s get it to go and find a place to eat outside.”  I said okay, and soon they brought our bags.  When we got outside again, Matt asked where to, and I said “We’re only a block from our old place, let’s take it down there and sit out front.”  He laughed and said sure, and that’s just what we did.  

(I was dismayed when I took the lid off my order—it was cooked to perfection, the chicken pieces were very soft—but the garlic sauce really stung my jaw, plus it came with a lot of crunchy green peppers, sliced carrots and onions that would require a lot of chewing.)  I said the hell with it and began eating, ignoring my burning face and the clucking sounds from my jaw’s right joint.  I found myself once again in a discussion of Trump, Epstein and the sorry state of our government.  But Matt was (and still is) a great guy, and it was one of the best chats I’ve had since—well, since the barbershop earlier. 

I couldn’t help but look at the familiar area around us, and remember the many years I ran up & down these same sidewalks to get to my bus-stop in the mornings, or come tiredly home after a long workday… and how often I drove this street in my little green Honda, en route to my mom or sister Shawn’s house for holidays & summer cookouts.  I was fine as can be then, never having heard of TMJ.  

After Matt & I headed back up the street to Lincoln Avenue and parted company, my face was pretty much yelling in real protest.  I took my time walking home.  I stopped in Kuhn’s Market and bought a 24 oz bottle of Squirt soda—why not—and chugged it from it’s little paper sack while I walked, like a wino and his bottle.  I got inside my front door, kicked off my shoes, took off my belt, filled a towel with two trays of ice cubes, laid down across my bed with the icy sack sitting atop my face.  I’d worry about tomorrow when it came.

It was somehow both the best & worst day for me in a very long while. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sophia, you are fourteen going on fifteen, fellows will fall in line...

My sister Shawn (and her husband Jim and my niece Sophia) just returned from a week’s vacation at Virginia Beach.  Sophia got this lovely floral dress for the trip, and maybe you’re thinking “Doug, did you strrrretch that photo?”  

Nope!  This kid is now taller than me and it’s all in her legs! 

Isn’t she beautiful?   She’s 14, but will be 15 in just a couple months.   I dunno… she’s always been smarter than your average bear but has a sophistication about her that I find a little disconcerting.   I suppose she’s in that particular age-set where girls are a lot more mature than boys her own age.

In fact, her & my sister have been shopping for a semi-formal dress for Soph’s first high school dance this September; she’s going with a young man a couple years older than herself. 

I remember that time fairly well, when I was 14-15 it seemed like every girl in my class was interested in boys 2-3 years older. 

But at the same time… I can’t help but look at this photo and try to imagine if I was 15 and this willowy beauty was in my class.  Oh, I knew my place back then—there’s no way I would’ve been in Sophia’s league!   And I bet at least half the boys in her class are going to see her this fall and think the same thing.

At least, they’d BETTER.  Shifty

I remember when my sister Shawn was around Sophia’s age, and guys in MY class asking if my sister was seeing anyone.  Nope!  Do you think she’d say yes if I asked her out?  Nope!  (First of all, she wasn’t old enough to date; and seriously?  I’ve heard some of the junk you share with your toadies, you think I’m going to speak on your behalf!?)  

Anyway, I didn’t have a lot to say here;  I just wanted to share this lovely picture of Sophia and say a quick & silent prayer that she has a wonderful school year ahead and as long as I’m at it, one for my sister & her husband too—because there’s a LOT of young men out there.

My sister Shawn & her spoils, her 15th birthday

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Forgive me, I’m old—here’s 33 reasons why I prefer calling you Miss (and seeing you in pants)

Saturday morning I went downstairs to get my mail, saw I had a shuffle of envelopes and thought “no one else is down here, maybe I’ll just have a seat while I look through these.” 

As I’m sitting there, an attractive younger woman entered the lobby and walked over to the package table and began peering closely at the various labels.

She was wearing a tank top, flip-flops—and panties with little flowers & birds on them.  She had her smartphone with her (God forbid she forget that) and was staring at it when she caught me staring at HER.  I shook my head & said “Oh I’m sorry Miss, I wasn’t thinking.” 

She laughed & said “That’s okay!  And you don’t have to call me Miss, I’m 33 (years old).” 

After she left, I shook my head again.  What happened to the days when you put on pants before going out your front door?  Do I sound old fashioned?  I like to think of myself as a progressive person, but… she was in her underwear! 

I decided to come up with a list of 33 reasons why I know I’m old.  Here we go:

1. Your pretty underwear embarrassed me more than anything.  Weren’t you embarrassed too?   

2. Smartphones bore me.  And apps on your smartphone that doctor your selfies with things like cat ears & whiskers are so OVER.  (Right??)

3. I can’t get into Instagram.  Photos with captions & emoji-laden comments under every snapshot is a lame & superficial way to communicate. 

4. I remember when Facebook was new & exciting, both for old people & young.  Now it’s just another corporate shill and a soapbox for friends & family to let you know how backwards or awful some of them really are.

5. Speaking of corporate shilling, I remember when TV aired commercials you WANTED to watch:  Coke’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, Dr.Pepper’s “I’m a Pepper you’re a Pepper”, those McDonald’s men in paper caps singing “You deserve a break today.”  If I was in another room, I’d come running. 

Now all I see are commercials for prescription drugs, smartphone plans & Nutrisystem.  But I mostly watch CNN & MSNBC, so…

6. Speaking of Nutrisystem, every time I see their CGI’ish spokesperson Marie, I think “Gee, I miss Marie Osmond.”  (You know, the real one.)

7. I miss subscribing to magazines like TV Guide & Playboy.  “But Doug, those magazines are still around!”  Yes, but they’re no longer necessary or relevant.

8. I miss when ABC Television, Marvel Comics & Star Wars (LucasFilm) were their own great companies.  Now they’re all pawns of Disney.  Disney!

9. I miss having a closet full of suits because my job once required me to wear them.  I miss carrying a hard briefcase too.  It said something.

10. Speaking of working, I remember when white collar jobs meant wearing a necktie.  Wait, I have no room to talk.  I stopped wearing them too in 2005.

11. I miss pantyhose on women.  Not colored stockings, nude hose.  (I know, if I was a woman I wouldn’t be saying that… but I’m not a woman!)

12. I miss UFOs, ESP, reincarnation, astral projection & the Bermuda Triangle.  They’re still around I suppose, but no longer part of the national conversation.

13. I miss Gilda Radner & Madeline Kahn.  Madeline died in 1999 and I still can’t believe she’s gone.

14. I miss the days when everyone owned a phone.  “But Doug, you have a phone!”  No, I have a LANDLINE and I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.

15. Speaking of phones, I remember when answering one and not knowing who it is was the norm.  “Hello?”  Now both my tv & phone flash their name.  “Hey Erin.”

16. I remember going to a friend’s house and looking at their record collection.  We all had record collections.

17. Speaking of collections, I miss collecting movies.  Now you’re just seen as quaint if you do.  “Haha!  Doug—these aren’t even Blu-Rays!”

18. I remember being wowed by movies.  Movies don’t wow me anymore.

19. I miss having a bunch of friends to hang out with.

20. I miss sleeping in because I forgot to set my alarm clock; now I’m up after 5 ½ hours whether I like it or not.

21. I miss having hairy legs.  The hair on my legs all fell out several years ago.

22. I miss Coke.  I gave up drinking it regularly 3 years ago, now I only have one on special occasions.  The last Coke I had was a year ago on my sister’s birthday.

23. I also miss crunching into an apple, or biting into a steak.  My worn jaw can’t handle either and never will again.

24. I miss getting excited about Christmas.  Now I just find the whole idea of it… tiring.

25. I miss Christmas cards too, I used to send and receive 35-40 of them.  Now I’m lucky to get 6-7.

26. I remember when Superman fought for “Truth, Justice & the American Way”  and I believed those 3 things were one & the same.

27. I remember the days when the only emoji was a yellow smiley-face.  And it wasn’t called an emoji, it was called a smiley-face.

28. I also remember when mass shootings were uncommon and truly shocking, not just another day of the week in the good ol’ NR of A. 

29. I miss having a pocket transistor radio.  With one earbud.

30. I miss No.2 pencils.  I can’t remember the last time I wrote something down with a pencil.

31. I miss doodling.  I used to lay on my stomach on the floor and draw when there was nothing on TV.  (Now it hurts to do that—and there’s always something on tv.)

32. I miss writing letters.  On paper.  And mailing them.  I used to write a lot of letters, and often added hand-drawn comic strips to them.

33. I miss giving old people a polite, curious smile as they rambled on about things I didn’t know or give a crap about.  Now I’m the older person doing the rambling, and younger people are smiling at me!

As I’m posting this on the 7th, I wanted to use the occasion to wish my mom a Happy Birthday.  She would’ve been 79 today.  She left us 15 years ago.

Mom, I miss you most of all.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Red art & real shame: A lesson in humility

Yesterday I volunteered in a food bank for 3 hours.  I wanted to do more, but it involved a bit of lifting, and my face (jaw) gave out on me.  It was both a wonderful & sad experience, and I hope I can do it again when my jaw is better.

It all began when I was on the phone with “Regan”, an artist who specializes in colored glass pieces you hang on your wall. 

ME:  Regan I’ve really been on the fence between the butterscotch & fire-red backdrops.  Pretty sure I’m going with the red, I’m looking for some real pop.

HER:  Doug it’s important for me to know where you’re hanging this, can you shoot me a pic where it’s going?

ME:  Of course, here’s a pic of my dining room when I first moved in.  It’s going to the right of my dining room window, I did a little photoshopping to show you how it will look there.

HER:  A great spot!  I appreciate you taking into consideration the piece’s zen. 

ME: Hey can I put you on hold?  My call waiting is beeping.

I switch lines.  “Hello?”  “Hi Doug, it’s Liz from downstairs.  I was wondering if you’re free?  I need to pick up some food from my church, and with my cane I’m kinda one-handed…”  

Well, well well…  look who wants to be friends now.  I wrote about Liz here, she’s a woman my age who lives downstairs.  I thought we were sort of friends, until she learned I wasn’t a Trump supporter and snubbed me.  We haven’t spoken since.

I told her sorry, no can do—I was tied up at the moment.  She said she understood, and thanked me for taking her call.   I switched back over to Regan, and as she began telling me the colors she plans to incorporate into my piece, I couldn’t stop thinking how petty & vindictive I’d just been.  I asked if we could pick this up tomorrow. 

I called Liz back and told her I had some free time after all.  What’s this about helping her with food?   She explained she “shops” at a food bank once a month, her son usually helps but was ill and couldn’t come.  Er… okay, sure.

We met downstairs and walked to the church.  I asked if this was a “members only” thing, she laughed and said no, it was open to the public—provided you prove financial need.  No money was involved, it was all free.

I asked her why she was going this route, did she consider signing up for food stamps?  She said she already got gov assistance, this supplemented it.  She said “Doug, I know you’re my age and not working.  Why don’t you go back upstairs and get your financial papers, I’m sure you’d qualify too!”   I said thanks, I was sure I didn’t.  

When I asked if she had a job or something I wasn’t aware of, she said she got by on disability.  I said I was surprised she still qualified for this food bank thing.  (I assumed she was getting a couple thousand a month.)  She said “Well, I get $771.00 a month but it doesn’t go very far.”  I said “Wait, you live on that?   What about your rent?”  She said “I have a studio, so mine is only $625.00.  And my son pays my electric.  I use an antenna instead of cable, and I get a rent rebate at the end of the year, so I usually wind up with around $175.00 a month spare income. My son makes me save $75.00 of that.”   

I was about to ask how she got by on $100.00 a month when she asked what I lived on.  I said I had some savings & stocks.  She said “Oh I have stocks too!  I’ve got 200 dollars in AT&T, and almost $100.00 in GE!  What companies do you own stock in?” 

I just said a bunch of them.

When we got to the church… I’ve seen food banks on the news (and one recently in a movie), but it still didn’t prepare me for what was inside.  Aside from one tired elderly man scooting boxes of produce down a hallway, and 3-4 elderly women sitting on wooden chairs holding purple tickets, there were various ethnic families of kids and their moms inside, sitting pretty quietly.  A large bulletin board was displayed in the front of the waiting area, with “CHOOSE YOUR PROTEIN”  & “CHOOSE YOUR DAIRY”  written across with some items beneath.  Liz asked what the proteins were and was kindly told chicken parts or pulled pork.  As for dairy, you could double your allowance of them if you chose goat milk & cheese over regular cow products.  Where was I?

After Liz explained who I was, they allowed me into the back (their “market”) to help her with her bags.  These volunteers (all women) could not have been kinder.  When I asked “Do you keep all your men in the back to do the heavy lifting?”  a petite Asian woman said they only had William today (the elderly gent out front, pushing boxes of produce).  I said “After I carry these bags home for Liz, could I come back and maybe help for a couple—“  

3 women in unison said “YES”.

A few hours later, after the final family was being wheeled to the curb, I explained I should probably go too (the left side of my face was swollen & getting hotter by the minute from my TMJ).  The ladies thanked me for helping, and I thanked them for the experience.   Bonnie (the Asian woman) said “Is it okay if I hug you?”  I said sure, and another woman (Barbara) said “We fixed you up a small bag, Liz told us you live alone”.  I said omigosh no, that’s not why I came back over here.  Bonnie said “Doug… it’s okay” and pushed the bag into my arms.   A gray plastic Dollar Store bag with (green) cherry tomatoes, 2 cans of tuna, a box of macaroni & cheese, 2 dented cans of soup, some rolls & a crinkly package of coconut macaroons.  I said “Really you guys, I can afford my own stuff—give this to someone deserving” and Bonnie said “We just did.”

Dammit!  I left with that small, stale bag of dented goods, stood in the church’s vestibule and wiped my eyes.  I was feeling pretty emotional.  For a couple seconds I almost wondered if I found God… or maybe He found me.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Does it look like I’m out to impress anyone? I’m just being me

Way back in 1st grade (when kids REALLY dressed up for school photos) I forgot to bring home the inky memo about Picture Day.  So when I came home from school with my school photos (this one), my poor mom had a stroke.  She said “Doug, why didn’t you tell me you had Picture Day??  I can’t send these out to anyone, you look like a little reliefer from Bucktown!” 

I lied and said I never got any Picture Day memo.

(BTW if you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘reliefer’, it was a local slur for people on welfare in my hometown.  The west end of Waynesburg was a poor area that was home to many of them, and was known as Bucktown.)

Anyway, after my angry mom told me to take the photos back to school, I bawled with embarrassment and told her the truth.  She bought a few of them, including a larger one to give to my Grandma Morris and this wallet-sized one for myself.

When I told Grandma what I’d done, including lying to Mom before coming clean, she said “I’d rather see an honest Doug in poor clothes than a dishonest Doug in fancy ones.  I’m going to put this picture in a nice spot.” 

(God as my witness, I never forgot her saying that to me.  I’ve thought of it often through the years.) 

I wanted to share that little story because this past weekend in a private chatroom, a somewhat popular blogger remarked she followed various blogs, and listed mine as one of them.  (She then sent me a personal email to let me know, and it pretty much made my day.) 

It explained the sudden flurry of visits here, and a couple of comments sent my way that weren’t great.  One wrote to let me know he didn’t like my blog because it was all over the place, and another guy sent this:

You’re not a bad writer but your life seems pretty boring.   It’s why no one leaves comments or reads your blog.


I politely responded and thanked him for his feedback (and didn’t tell him what I really thought).  Then he wrote again and said “You just need to come up with some better content.”    Right.  Got it.

A couple weeks ago on Youtube, I watched a man in a van demonstrate how to cook hamburgers:

cooking burgers

“I bought a pound of ground beef that’s divided into quarter-pound patties.  I’ll fry up 2 of them now, and freeze the other two.  In a week or so, I’ll thaw them and have hamburgers again, or combine them for spaghetti with meat sauce.  Or I can add taco seasoning to make tacos.  The possibilities are endless!”

I love this Grizzly Adams character, but is THIS considered interesting content??  It must be to his followers, his hamburgers got 3,400 likes and 47,800 views!

I admit it, I don’t write just to hear myself talk.  I get a big kick seeing the different towns & cities on my blog’s visitors map.  I know I’m not impressing anyone with my humdrum life, but I’m not trying to amass a large following or make any money either. 

I love to talk, I love to write.  This allows me to do both.  It helps me feel less alone. 

So, until someone shuts down the internet, or starts charging me for the space I take up on it, it looks like my boring stuff is here to stay.  Thanks for stopping by!