Sunday, September 29, 2019

Am I the only one feeling some real battle fatigue here?

Friday morning I swallowed a couple ibuprofens, said a quick prayer (to whomever may be listening) and headed to the barbershop.  It was a week or so early for me, but my barber (Rose) is getting a thyroid operation this week and doesn’t know how long her shop will be closed.   I love her dearly, she’s a good friend and I hope she takes all the time off she needs. 

After I arrived and whispered I wouldn’t be doing any talking (as my TMJ muscles are slowly shifting to the far back on their way to healing, but making it difficult to talk) she said “No problem, Dougie Fresh—you just have to listen!”  As she began clipping my hair, she went on a rampage about Trump & the gall of his Ukraine shakedown.

I nodded my head up & down (well, when the scissors weren’t too close).  Meanwhile, a well dressed, older gentleman reading the newspaper (more like pretending to read) waited for a lull in Rose’s diatribe and said “Have you considered this is some elaborate hoax cooked up by the Democrats?  I wouldn’t put it past them, I’m 70 years old and remember when they tried to convince everyone to turn Communist in the 1950s.”   


Rose said “HEY PAL—ARE YOU HERE FOR A HAIRCUT?”  He said “That I am.” She said “THEN SPARE US THE BULLSHIT.  I’M A DEMOCRAT, SO IS DOUGIE FRESH HERE.”  She spun my chair around to face him (haha, I almost burst out laughing) but I gave him the angriest look I could muster.

He picked his paper back up and said “I was only offering a just suppose, it wasn’t intended to be taken personally.”   He seemed like a nice enough fellow, had an “educated air” about him.  But still… wow.  Rose cut the rest of my hair in angry silence.

After I got home, showered & changed and plopped on my couch to get on my laptop and check my email, I opened a message from my friend Danielle.  It included this early morning tweet from the Donald, I’m sure everyone has seen or heard about it by now.


I wanted to laugh, wanted to cry.  This oaf is as petty & simple-minded as he is deranged.   Is there a Trump supporter out there reading my blog?  Can you explain or justify this tweet?  You can?  Omigod, what’s wrong with you?

I sent it on to my sister Shawn (who responded with a reminder that she hated him) and turned on my tv.  More Trump stuff.  I even switched it over to Fox News, looking for a laugh.  I got one alright, but it was them laughing instead. “Will the Democrats stop at nothing??”  “The Democrats OWN this!”  “The Democrats have just handed President Trump his second term in office!”  

Well, I hope not.  I turned my tv off, put my shoes on to walk to Redbox and rent a movie to get away from Trump and all this impeachment mania, and when I got downstairs, saw (what appeared to be) a 108 year old Muslim woman in the lobby, spinning in place and shouting

    !!هل يمكن لشخص ساعدني شخص

A cluster of senior women sat there watching, shrugging their shoulders and nudging each other and wink-wink isn’t this hilarious.  I said “Ma’am, ma’am—can you understand me?   What’s wrong??”   She shoved an iphone into my hand and I heard a man’s voice “Hello?  Hello?”   When I put it to my ear & said hello back, he said “Yes sir, my name is Amir—we live on the sixth floor, I am not at home.  Are you the police?”   I said no, just a tenant.  He said his grandmother had left some groceries downstairs, but when she returned to get them, they were gone.

I told him I’d try & find out what was going on.  I asked the women in the lobby if they’d seen any bags of food.  They all shook their heads no, and one said “This is Avalon!  People don’t steal other people’s food here!”   I looked about, and there on the “Free to take” table was a small white note.  The woman in #112 had seen the bags, noticed they contained perishables and brought them into her apartment so the milk & meat wouldn’t spoil.  I asked Amir if he was still on the line (he was) and explained what happened, then took his grandmother by the arm and went to said apartment.  After we got the missing food back, Amir said “SIR WHAT IS YOUR NAME?  HOW CAN WE REPAY YOU SIR, THANK YOU SIR, THANK YOU!”  while his grandmother smiled and nodded and hugged me.

After heading back into the lobby, those same women (who had enjoyed that worried Arabic woman’s Dance of the Seven Veils) asked if I got things squared away.  I said yes and one of them said “This is why we need Trump more than ever, to stop these people coming into our country!”  and another said “Can’t they go somewhere else?  This is Avalon!”  The other women nodded.  The smaller one (Sue) said “Doug, are you for or against Trump’s impeachment?  Or would you rather not tell us?”

Sue, I don’t want to get into it with you or your friends.  Truce.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Saturday nights at my new hangout—it’s a real head trip

Jimmy Stewart Vertigo

For the past several weeks, I’ve been spending Saturday nights at my new hangout--“The TMJ Cafe”.   I wish I could say I was joking, but it’s (sadly) a real online site where people suffering with TMJD gather to swap stories, look for answers or even encouragement to keep hanging in there.  The truth is, I’m relying on it more & more too.

The other night, some poor woman wrote this:

I almost wish I had cancer instead.  Cancer can be treated.  It seems that TMD cannot.  I wake up, and begin to have a throbbing pain in my left jaw, traveling up into my head, and sometimes into my inner ear.

My left jaw bone is actually bone on bone, so even washing my face is painful and causes gravel sounds in my left jaw.  I cannot chew, I cannot eat, even drinking out of a straw is sometimes impossible.

I am told I am not getting enough nutrition and try to eat more things like chicken. AHA, if I could.  I have a physician who fortunately prescribes medication to calm me when I start shaking with the pain and the loneliness.

It seems like every other ad on TV is about food, restaurants, etc. I need the remote in my hand all the time because I lose my breath if I watch one.

I am in a black depression.  I can no longer go eat lunch with my friends or have dinner with relatives, or have anyone over for "dinner". Thus, I am losing friends since we don't do things anymore.  Go to a movie?  If only I could do things like that.

I cry every day, shake every day, wish I were dead often.

I have seen many "specialists", but no TMJ experts can be found in Florida. I have been seen by so many dentists I can't count. The problem is that insurance does NOT pay for this, no matter how horrible it is.

This is a daily pain, daily stressor, daily walk down a path to loneliness and no joy in life. What is life worth to me at this point?  Unless I find a miracle, nothing. We need a miracle.

Of course, she got sad emojis from others and promises to include her in their prayers.  Why do I want to read stuff like that?  I don’t know.  It makes me feel a little less alone about my own TMJD, and it helps me convince myself “mine isn’t as bad as hers… right?”   (Sometimes yes, sometimes no.)

At the same time, since last December I’ve met up with friends (Josh & Danielle) exactly once.  I love this pair, but after an hour or so I knew I had to get home.  You can only fake being well for so long.

sickmemeSpeaking of “faking it”, another member posted this meme recently.   Boy, could I relate!

I’m not looking for sympathy from anyone (I feel sorry for myself enough already) but when you’re dealing with something that isn’t apparent to others… it’s tough. 

Anyway, this woman DID get one helpful response.  As I approach 300 days of living with this awful disorder, I’ve read it several times over. 

I understand all of it!  Yes, at least with cancer the suffering ends, one way or another. 

In most cases, it’s not the bones that hurt but the muscles working in ways they’re not designed to, to support an unstable joint. Muscle spasm cause pain, and spastic muscles pinching nerves cause pain. These tight muscles affect the flow of the lymphatic system and cause pressure and pain.

Unfortunately, surgery is not necessarily the answer. Have you tried regular and max dose of anti inflammatories? Heat, Voltarin, Ensure, baby-food? Your aim is to calm the muscles down. If you’re shaking then you’ll have to work extra hard. Acupuncture, physiotherapy, sacral cranial therapy if done right should help over time.

There is no quick or easy fixes for you or the rest of us. Dentists aren’t trained to treat TMJ, neither are doctors...the specialty doesn’t really exist yet. It’s being looked on more now than ever before, but it will take years.

Start with the anti-inflammatories, in case there’s any swelling in the joint. Keep your strength up with meal supplement drinks, or baby food. If you can afford acupuncture or physiotherapy, try it. Get a heating pad or make a rice bag you can heat in the microwave.

If you have an understanding doctor, see if he’ll give you a prescription for Zanaflex. It’s an antispasmodic for your muscles. It will help you sleep. I wish I could tell you there’s a simple fix but there isn’t.  Please hang in there.


Monday, September 9, 2019

The man with a yellow scarf, and the boy in the green flannel shirt

I was running out the front door Saturday morning, and Winston (a tall, slender man in his seventies, who always wears a yellow silk scarf knotted around his neck) was sweeping the concrete outside our front entrance.  When he saw me, he said “Hi Babe!  We got another beautiful weather day, enjoy it while it lasts!”

I smiled back and said I’d see him later.

When I got to my destination (the barbershop) and Rose (my barber) asked if I had any new stories to share, I told her about Winston.  The first year I lived here, I’d see him downstairs on occasion but he’d just smile at me and nothing else.  Then one day he held the front door open for me while I was fishing out my keys, and I thanked him and introduced myself.  And the next thing I know he was calling me “Babe.”

I mean, all the time--“Hi Babe, where are you off to now?”  “It’s cold out there babe, that jacket warm enough?”  “Babe where’d you get those shoes, navy blue is my favorite color!  I have it all through my apartment!” 

Rose laughed and asked if it bothered me.  I said if I was in my twenties, it might’ve creeped me out a little.  If I was in my thirties, I’d be grossed out.  In my forties, hard to say.  But in my fifties?   Bring it on.  My sister Shawn (who became a mother a bit late in life, as her 14 year old likes to remind her) has often said Sophia keeps her young.  As for me, a 77 year old gay man (oh he’s gay alright) who refers to me as “babe” is just what the doctor ordered.

The reason I’m sharing this is that he seemed to be the topic of conversation that day.  When I returned home from my haircut (and the bakery—cough) a small older woman was sitting in the lobby reading a book.  (The older people here sure love that lobby.)   I smiled at her and went to my mailbox.  She said “I heard you talking to Winnie this morning.”  I said “Winston?”  She said “Yes, I live on the second floor, my windows face the front of the building.”  Oh, okay…  She said “Have you known him a long time?  I’ve only lived here a couple years myself.”  I said that was about as long as I’ve known him. 

She said “He always wears that yellow kerchief around his neck.  I think he thinks it makes him look stylish.”  I said “Well, he’s a pretty colorful character, but a very nice man.”  She said “Oh I think the same, I like to tease him about his scarf.  But he never talks to me.”   A couple thoughts sprang to mind:  this woman digs Winston, but doesn’t have a clue he’s a “confirmed bachelor” for a reason. 

My second thought was, why does this all sound so familar?  And then I remembered my green flannel shirt.

A couple years ago, a girl from my high school class friended me on Facebook and to be honest, I didn’t want to accept it.  She teased ME a bit back in the day, and at the time it felt mean-spirited.  (Some things just stick with you.)  I had this green flannel shirt I liked to wear—a lot, I guess—and she felt the need to point it out everytime I wore it.

band_thumb[3]There I am on the left, playing my trumpet in Band practice— wearing the infamous shirt

She was in color guard, and during marching practice would say things like “Doug must think that shirt makes him look cool, he wears it enough!” or “You should tell your mom you need some new clothes” or “The next time you wear that shirt I’m going to rip it off you and burn it!”

Her silly threat worked, I was so embarrassed I never wore it to school again.  I never spoke to her again either—until 30+ years later, on Facebook.  We even talked privately a couple times; while she’s happily married now, she told me once she never dated in high school as she had a tendency to rub guys the wrong way.  I never brought up the shirt.

By the way, here’s a funny side note:  when I went looking through old photos for that green flannel shirt, I didn’t find just one—I found several!  (Here’s a couple of them: on my 16th birthday, and a month later at Thanksgiving.)  I guess she was right about that shirt after all!


I actually found two more, in one I’m strewn across my bed wearing a giant pair of headphones and asleep, and my mouth is hanging open.  Who the heck took that picture??

As for the older woman on the second floor, who’s likely sweet on Winston… I should let her know her teasing is probably rubbing “Winnie” the wrong way. 

Instead of focusing on his silk scarf, she should find out his shoe size and get him a pair of Skechers like mine. 

I’ve been told navy blue is his favorite color.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Shopping at Ebay: Give me some of that old time, old time technology

Look at this—a new in box, Kodak Easyshare DX-4530 digital camera.  I found it on Ebay (with a surprising number of bids) and still won with a winning bid of $27.30.

I owned this model once before, when I bought one direct from Kodak all the way back in March 2005.  It cost $250.00 then, but I think I got my money’s worth.  Took hundreds of pics and lots of videos over the years.   It never gave me a bit of trouble until February 2015, when one night it just… died.  The little whirring motor (that opens and juts the lens forward) just clack-clack-clacked, then small buzzing sounds, a whiff of smoke and nothing.

I shook it, pleaded with it, fed it fresh batteries and prayed over it but I guess it was it’s time to go.

(In a panic I jumped online & found a couple used ones on Ebay pretty cheap—only around $10.00 each.  But I discovered soon enough why they were so cheap.  They were beaten up, worn out & pretty much junk.  Pictures were awful.)  

It was time to get with the times (no, not a smartphone) and buy a new camera.

I wound up buying a Canon Power-Shot, loved the small size of it—AND ABSOLUTELY HATED THE PHOTOS. 

It came with a thousand settings, but no matter how I adjusted them, my pictures had a ‘sallow’ tinge or were too bright or too garish and I’d have to “edit them down” on my computer. 

And the camera beeped ‘blur alerts’ for not holding it perfectly steady.  I just wanted a decent point-and-shoot camera!

And then a few days ago… I was rewarded with this blast from the past. 

It includes a 128MB memory card—haha, wow!  I’ll have you know, when this camera was first introduced it got high praise for its rugged body, ease of use and automatic color settings.  I owned my first one for 11 years and never bothered wih the few settings it DID have (quality of photos or flash brightness levels)

Ah, nothing like ripping open that little yellow & black Kodak seal on the camera’s cellophane… it feels like 2005 all over again.  I need to dig up a couple AA NIMH rechargeable batteries, be right back.

Here I am!  (Found them in my toolbox, but it took a couple hours to recharge them.)  And now for my first test photo—no settings to adjust, just point & shoot.

Sweet!  AND NO PHOTO EDITING.  (I took a couple of selfies too, but don’t want to share them here, I need a shave.  Suffice it to say, my skin looks normal and not like I have Canon Power Shot malaria.)

Aw, that date at the bottom is very nostalgic.  I’ll probably get rid of that.  I can just hear the heckling I’m going to get from my friend Danielle for this retro-tech. 

I thought it was funny (and a bit sad) that the seller wrote on his listing “I paid $250.00 for this camera and never got the chance to use it even once.  The receipt is still attached to the box, so please keep that in mind when bidding!”

Sir, I realize you didn’t exactly make a profit here—but I promise you, your outdated camera has found a happy home!  


Sunday, September 1, 2019

I know what I’ll be watching this weekend: goodbye Valerie, we’ll never forget you

Valerie Harper’s passing on Friday shouldn’t have been such a sad surprise, but it was.  She’s been fighting various cancers for so long.  And you could say she was fortunate, living as long as she did—80 years.  Add to that her successful career, loved by her family and millions of fans, me included. 

But it sure doesn’t make this any less hurtful.   

For all of my grumbles about growing old, I feel fortunate coming along when I did.  I was old enough to watch & love Valerie Harper as Rhoda from the start.  If I had to come up with a list of things I loved most about growing up in the 1970s, she’d be near the top.

Mary Richards & Rhoda Morganstern on Saturday nights was (of course) the best thing ever.  When Valerie left MTM at the end of the fourth season to star in her own show, I (along with 20 million others, I’m sure) was both heartbroken and excited for her.  She deserved a better show than what she got, even the picture quality didn’t seem on par with Marys— but I still loved Rhoda, never missed an episode.

This is an odd memory, but for years my mom worked Monday nights (when Rhoda aired).  In the winter, my dad would drive his truck into town to pick her up from her job at Fisher’s Big Wheel.  Dad often watched Rhoda with me, knowing it was time for him to leave when it was over.  The younger kids were in bed, my older brother in his room.  So (for a couple of years) I felt like watching Valerie’s show was Dad and mine’s thing.

Rhoda & Joe’s wedding (the second most-watched event in TV history until Roots) was 3 days before my 13th birthday; I can still remember my 8th grade teacher Miss King asking our homeroom the following morning if we’d seen it.  Rhoda really was a part of everyone’s lives then.

She will always, always be a part of mine.   Love you, Valerie.