Friday, May 29, 2020

Thinking out loud: Two neighbors and two men

Shortly after I moved into my new apartment in April 2017, I noted with dismay that I could hear my next door neighbor’s television, and quite loudly too.  What made it even worse, he wasn’t just watching tv---he played pretty violent videogames.  

Being the new kid on the block and not having a clue who lived next door, I put a Post-It on his front door, asking if he could move his tv or turn down the volume.  I never got a response.

A couple days later, a painter from our building’s management arrived to paint an accent wall in my apartment.  (I asked if I could do this and they offered to do it for me, free of charge).   As we’re talking while he’s painting, my neighbor’s videogaming started up.  The painter said “Whoa!  How often do ya hear that?”  I said nearly everyday, when he gets home from work around 4pm.  He said “Did you call management and complain?”  

I said “What good would that do?  In my last place, a gay couple moved in next to me and had giant fights and Beyonce sing-alongs at all hours of the night.  When I called management there, they said there was nothing they could do.”

The painter said “Listen, this place WILL do something.  Call and tell them.”  So I did. 

The videogames quieted down some, but it was still too much so I called again.  They stopped altogether.  A week or so later, I got a call from someone named Maria.  She said she was a friend of Ronnie—the name of the 38 year old man who lived next door.  She asked if I’d be interested in meeting her & Ronnie for lunch.  What the—??  I said no. 

A day or two later, I’m sitting here watching tv and there’s a knock at my door.  When I answered it, a very attractive woman (in a nice suit) held out her hand & said “Are you Doug?  Hi I’m Maria, your neighbor Ronnie’s friend.  Would you be willing to come over and talk for a couple minutes?”  I said “Are you his attorney?”  She laughed and said no, just a friend.  I said ok and followed her over.   Was this really necessary?

We went into Ronnie’s very busy apartment (stuffed to the gills with furniture) and I shook hands with a tall, stocky black man.  Maria explained that Ronnie was a custodian at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the nicest fellows you could meet, had moved in a few months before me and liked living here very much.

I said that sounded fine, but why was she telling me?   Maria said they’d been made aware of my two complaints, and if I had an issue with Ronnie in the future, could I please speak directly to him first.  I said sure & added I DID put a post-it on his door (which Ronnie insisted he never saw). 

I said “Can I ask why you’re making a big deal out of this?  A week or so after I moved in, my niece was here doing somersaults in my livingroom and the woman below called the office and complained; they reached out to me and couldn’t have been nicer.”

Maria said “After your second complaint they told Ronnie if they got one more call, he could be evicted.”  I said I was really sorry, were they getting a lot of complaints about him?  She said no, just mine.  Then why did they threaten to evict him?  Maria said “He’s a black man, that’s just how it is.” 

Ronnie and I don’t talk that often, but we’re friendly.  Last November his mother came to stay for a week from Georgia, and the two of us sat up one night for hours, talking politics & movies.  Ronnie drives me crazy in a different way now, he broils a LOT of steaks I can smell over here (something I’m unable to eat but boy do I miss!)  

But honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.  I hope he feels the same about me.

I’ve been thinking about him lately, after the recent deaths of George Floyd & Ahmaud Arbery.  My God, these two men were murdered for being black.  In 2020.

In 2016, Will Smith said “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”   He was right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A tale of three masks: Now I’m just showing off

This past Friday, Jim the Mailman buzzed me from downstairs and told me I had a soft package waiting for me in the lobby.  (He didn’t have to do that… I love Jim the Mailman.)

I go downstairs, grab the package, bring it upstairs—and inside was a lovely letter, a spray of blue face mask filters & three handsewn masks—all from a very dear blogger-friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous).  It was such a sweet surprise, I couldn’t believe it.  Thanks so much!  I hope someday I can repay your kindness.

I tried on the first mask (a black, white & purple number that looked & fit great) and headed back downstairs to get my mail.  When I got to the lobby… Betty.

Betty is 75 years old, lives on the sixth floor and is one ornery character.  She’s always busting my chops but I don’t mind, I love Betty.  She’s one of my favorite residents in our building. 

She pointed at my face and said “Where’d that come from?”

I explained it was from a friend of mine on the internet.  She said “You’ve got more masks than Carter’s got pills!  You probably don’t know what I’m talking about.”  I said “Carter’s Little Liver Pills, I know the quote!  Gee Betty I think people stopped using that after the Civil War.”  She said “You just wait… you’re going to get old too!”  I said “You’ve only got 15 years on me!”

Betty waved me off and went on her merry way.

So I bring my mail upstairs (my electric bill is only $37.18… nice!) and take off my mask and try on the second one, denim blue & green.  It’s quilted & very comfy.  I wonder about the Amazon packages I saw downstairs and if any of them were mine (I AM expecting something) and I go back down again.  Betty is still down there, talking to Mary who lives on the first floor.  She sees me and does a double-take.  She says “Another mask!  Buster what are you trying to prove?”   I laughed and said it was from the same online friend, then said hi to Mary.

As I’m in the lobby going thru the stack of Amazon boxes, Betty comes up beside me and says “I told Mary that women give you things because you’re a widower.”  I said “Hey Betty, you and Mary are wearing masks that I gave you!”   She said “I thought they were from that church lady friend of yours?”  Fine Betty, whatever!

(Note to self, tell Mary I am NOT a widower.) 

After I came back upstairs, I sat down to write my anonymous benefactor a thank you letter, then changed my shirt and put on the third mask (a dusty periwinkle, this one’s my favorite) to take a selfie photo to include with my thank-you.  I figured as long as I was cleaned up, I might as well grab my wallet and head up the street to the market.

I got on the elevator, headed down to the lobby and when the doors opened on the first floor, Betty was standing there waiting to get on.  She looked at me and my third mask for a moment, then said “Now you’re just showing off.”

Who, me?  Ninja

Thanks again, my kind friend

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Why are Fordhook lima beans so expensive? 20 questions that leave me scratching my head…

Cauliflower, broccoli spears, brussel sprouts.  Fordhook lima beans.  These are the four vegetables I buy frozen, that I don’t eat fresh or from a can.

If I could, I’d eat fordhook lima beans everyday.  I love the things.  They were my dad’s favorite too, my grandma would often send him home with a mason jar of creamed limas, and told me her secret to cooking them just right.  Use double the water the bag says and cook ‘em twice as long at half the heat.

Anyway… a bag of frozen limas (enough for 3 decent servings) is $4.19.  They are beans, not caviar!  Why are they so expensive??

As long as I’m at it, I thought I’d come up with 19 other questions that I have no real answers to.

2. I’m a man with a man-face.  Where’s my Adam’s apple?  I thought having one was my birthright.

3. Why have I always had more women friends than men friends?  It’s been that way since about... second grade

4. Why do I love foods now I despised as a kid?  Growing up, I hated anything that hinted of green pepper and I wouldn’t touch rice with a 10 foot pole, let alone a 10 inch chopstick.  Now I worry if I don’t have a sack of rice in the cupboard and pretty much eat green peppers in everything. 

Here’s some meatballs I made last summer, stuffed with rice and swmming in tomato sauce & diced green peppers.  An hour or so later… BAM!  Porcupine balls!

5. Why are British accents so cool?  Whenever I run into Winston (the Brit who lives downstairs), he’ll prattle on and I’ll just listen.  He’s British, you know.

6. Why do I fall into a coma after I finish my dinner?  No matter if I eat early or late—20 minutes afterwards I zonk out with no memory of even getting sleepy.

7. What happened to the US adopting the metric system in the 1970s?  All we wound up with is 2 liter bottles of pop!

8. Why does Netflix, Ally Bank & Xfinity feel the need to email me so much to let me know they’re here for me during this pandemic?  Guys, you already own me—enough with the emails.  I’m THISCLOSE to—yes, I’m bluffing.  Damn you!

9. Why do I stop what I’m doing to watch an episode of Star Trek on TV when I’ve already seen each one 400 times, they’re available on Netflix and I own all of them on DVD?

Here’s my collection of all 5 Trek television series, in custom DVD boxes that once made the Trekkiest bookshelf mural (in my old apartment) you’ve ever seen. 

10. Why are we still dealing with pennies?  I asked my mom this in 2001 and she said “I’m sorry you think they’re beneath you, Mr. Rockefeller.”

11. Why do I make my bed everyday when I’m the only one who sees it?  I’m hereby designating Sunday as “Leave my Bed Unmade Day”.  It will give my non-working butt a reason to look forward to the weekends again.

12. When did ATMs stop requiring deposit envelopes?  When I received my stimulus check (by mail) and went to my bank to deposit it, it was closed.  So I go to the ATM, where are the deposit envelopes?  A woman waiting behind me said they weren’t needed anymore.  She was right!

13. Why am I unable to pee in the shower?  Not that I want to, but I read that it’s more common than you think.  But try as I might... nope.

14. Why does David Spade look 15 years younger than me?  I’m only 2 years older than him.

15. Why won’t my barbershop take appointments?  For 20 years or so, I’ve asked my barber Rose (a woman) that and have always gotten the same answer--Because this is a barbershop, not a hair salon Dougie Fresh!”  Well Rose, you’re anxious to reopen and we’ve got this pandemic to contend with… think about it??

16. Why do I read fewer books and watch less TV in retirement then I did when I was working 45-50 hours a week?  What am I doing with all my free time?  Let me think on that for a couple hours…

17. Why do cats have such a hold over me?  Everytime I overhear my neighbor Rachel talkiing to her cat Atticus (her apartment is next to the laundry room) or Arkansas Patti (one of the dearest bloggers I know) writes about her cat Minnie, I have to resist the urge to get rid of my leather chair and get one of my own.  Hmm… I think I’ll name him Winston.  Or Spock.

18. Why do friends laugh or make fun of my flip-phone?  It only costs me $20 for enough minutes to talk on for a YEAR and I think it’s cool!

19. Why can’t I beat this TMJD (temporomandibular jaw disorder)?  A doctor said that for 80% of sufferers, it resolves itself within 18 months. 

In 2 more months I am chopping off my head.  I bet people think I’m only kidding.  We’ll see...

20. And last but not least… why do I blog?  You may find this hard to believe, but I consider myself a pretty private person.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The face of a chronic Doug: 16 months in and counting...

We are all living in unsure times right now, in a world that most of us haven’t seen before.  Things appear normal enough on the outside, but of course they aren’t.  People are quietly worrying, bored, anxious, depressed… wondering how life as they knew it managed to change so rapidly.  We wait and hope for something resembling normalcy again.

For most, this all began in mid to late January; for myself it began a year earlier, after my kidney operation in December 2018 and I developed chronic TMJD.

I began to feel some relief several weeks ago, around the first of March.  I was able to open my jaw wider (and without all the cracking & popping).  After 15 months of pain in my jaws and an inflamed, dry mouth I began waking up with drool on my pillow (I know, gross—but for me, a godsend).   I still couldn’t get thru the day without my oral splint, but I could take it out long enough to start nibbling at regular foods again, things like cookies and toast and chicken legs.  (No white meat though, too soon for that.)  Hot dogs, fish, pancakes… I was getting a big belly again but frankly my dear, I didn’t give a damn!

And then a couple weeks ago, the TMJD came roaring back with a vengeance.  This is me yesterday, at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  I look sleepy here, but I’m not.  My face & neck are swollen, which puts a lot of pressure in my ears and temples and cheekbones.  I have to raise my eyebrows as high as I can to be able to see.

I also have to stretch my mouth WIIIIDE open several times an hour, if I don’t my jaw clamps shut.  (That’s what the splint is for, to keep your teeth and jaw apart.)  I’ve just begun my sixth month of wearing it 24/7 and I’m worried my jaw has grown too dependent on it.  I’d love to wean myself off the thing if I could get some real recovery first. 

I first developed TMJD in late July 2016 and for 7 months, it was crazy, frightening pain.  But it fully recovered on it’s own by March 2017 (without a splint).  It returned 9 months later, the day before Thanksgving (it starts out feeling like a sinus infection) but 10 weeks later I woke up on Valentines Day and it was completely gone.  

All was well until December 2018, when I had my jaw twisted back & forth for 3 hours while undergoing that kidney operation… oral intubations and people with histories of TMJ disorder do NOT mix.

For the past 5-6 days, I’ve been living on a diet of coffee (hot and plenty of it), iced tea, water, Metamucil for fiber & V8 Healthy Greens juice for everything else.  Saturday morning I awoke, saw what a beautiful day it was outside and refused to spend it indoors.  I went for a long walk, even visited my old apartment building (where I lived for 23 years before that ill-fated move home in 2016).  I was surprised how small & run down it looked from the outside, but for the most part my memories there are good ones.  

When I returned home from my walk, I found a package waiting for me in the lobby from my friend Pen.

Isn’t this the nicest thing?  After I’d told Pen how several of my older neighbors had complimented me on the face masks she sent me, she sent a bag of her hand-sewn masks for them.  As I began distributing these to some surprised and very appreciative residents, each wanted to thank me properly and chat for a few minutes.  Normally I can talk & listen until the cows come home, but I felt my face starting to swell & redden, and my jaw seize up.  Spent the night with my head surrounded with ice packs.  This is beyond crazy. 

There’s nothing anyone can really do, so I’ve little choice but to try and take care of this myself.  When the TMJD began spreading into my neck and sides of my head after a year, my GP said she wasn’t surprised.  Chronic inflammation will only be contained for so long.  I HAVE to begin daily TMJ exercises again (which I stopped several months ago because it feels akin to pulling a raw pork chop apart). 

I’ve watched and ‘tried’ about every TMJ video out there, and this doctor, Adam Fields is by far the best.  

It’s important you do both videos, and not half-assed.   You have to give it your all.


I didn’t write this looking for comments or sympathy.  We all have our own crosses to bear, especially in these unsure times.  It’s just that I live alone, have a lot on my mind and right now this space is where I feel most comfortable (and most able) sharing those thoughts.  If you made it this far… thanks for listening. 

And I promise my next post will be cheerier.  Nerd smile

Friday, May 1, 2020

I can’t believe I almost fell for this scam—just a warning if you get this too

After logging into my laptop this morning, I saw I had some new mail and when I opened the first message, ‘Netflix’ was asking me to re-enter or update my payment information.

I consider myself a pretty savvy guy when it comes to the scams out there, but I ALMOST FELL FOR THIS ONE for a couple reasons:

  1. After being off of Netflix since December, I rejoined last month with a new card.
  2. Just recently, that same card was denied on  (I’m still waiting for my bank to get back to me, it works just fine on Amazon.)

So when I saw this alert from Netflix, I thought “Not problems with that new credit card again!” and went to click on the first button to retry or update my monthly payment.

That’s when I noticed they misspelled ‘Method’ as ‘Menthod’ in the second button—and as ‘Methode’ in the text above the buttons.  

You’d think these lamebrain scammers would check their spelling before going to all this trouble!

I can’t believe I came so close to clicking on one of those, God knows where they would’ve taken me.  Even the sender’s address didn’t appear phony to me at first glance.

I’ve learned my lesson and will NEVER entertain the notion of clicking on a button embedded in an email message again.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that Netflix would never send an email with one of those embedded buttons—right?


Oh well!  Just a reminder to be careful out there, guys Eye rolling smile