Thursday, February 23, 2023

Handbook for the Recently Sixtysomething: Skin-tags, they’ll grow on you

Do you remember in the movie Beetlejuice when the ghosts of Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are given a book, the Handbook For The Recently Deceased

I think the same thing should happen after we turn 60.  Someone should give us a handbook for what’s coming.

WARNING:  Skin photos ahead.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

10 years ago, shortly before my 52nd birthday, I grew… something on my left shoulder.  It looked like an eraser on a No. 2 pencil.  

Was it a wart?  I googled warts and read they usually disappear on their own. 

So I left it alone, but it never went away.  And then several years later, 4 smaller ones grew on my neck: I was up to 5 total.

Then a year before I turned 60, two more joined the party.  Both eraser-sized like my shoulder, but on my waist & inner thigh.

Only that one on my waist really bothered me, if I was wearing pants with my belt notched too tight.  But STILL that wasn’t the end!

I grew small, droopy ones under both of my arms, 10 total.  I read that nearly half of all people will develop skin-tags in their lifetime, and they’re more common around age 60.

Oh well, welcome to old age!

The eraser on my shoulder (that’s been with me for 10 years)

When I was in the hospital last April for a kidney stone, after a nurse had inserted a catheter to help the stone pass, a doctor came in and asked how I was doing. 

I said good, but asked if we could we go after my skin-tags next.  I was kidding, but he came closer and said “Show me”.  He examined the 4 on my neck (one large, one small on each side).  He asked if there were any others.

I said there was a large one on my shoulder, two large ones below the belt, 6 tags in my left underarm and 4 in my right.  He actually took the time to look at them.

He told me the ones on my neck and underarms could be snipped or frozen, the larger ones would require cosmetic surgery.  I could forget about my insurance paying for them though.

The nurse later told me her mother helped get rid of hers by taping on cotton balls soaked in witch-hazel.  I thanked her for the tip, asked how many she had; she said 3.  I had 18.  That’s a lot of cotton balls to change daily.

I did some research, and found several other ‘home remedies’ people claimed had faster success— one was cotton balls soaked in Tea Tree Oil.  I ordered a bottle from Amazon and that stuff was AWFUL—it smelled like tree sap soaked in kerosene! 

I still tried it though, reapplying 5 cotton balls nightly (on my shoulder & neck) for almost a month.  The tea tree oil did nothing but smell up my undershirts.

And then one night while googling skin-tag removal suggestions, I found this little contraption on Ebay.

You use that cone with the needle-sized tip to slide a silicone band to the bottom.  Then you slide that “L” shaped handle over the top, press it against your skin and pop out that cone. 

You now have a silicone band stretched around your skin-tag.  (You can see one above in that photo of my neck.)

If it stays on (a few of mine popped off after getting soapy in the shower), the skin-tag turns black after a week and begins to shrink. 

You don’t pull them off, you let them fall off on their own.  Mine all seemed to fall off & wash down the drain in the shower.

It would’ve been nice if one kit contained bands for different sized skin-tags, but no such luck.  I had to buy 3 kits, one at $16.99 and 2 for $14.99 each, one for large, the other two for medium and micro (small). 

The underarm tags took 2 weeks to fall off; the ones on my neck took almost twice as long.  It’s not an entirely painless procedure, for the first 2-3 days I felt like I was being pinched constantly.  After that, they only bothered me when my clothes would snag on them.

I had red welts in my underarms for a couple weeks after the skin-tags fell off.  The welts are gone now and there’s no evidence anything was there at all. 

After my neck & underarms were clear, I went after the three largest ones.  (The ones on my shoulder, waistline & thigh.) 

They WERE painful, for a couple weeks.  They bled sometimes too.  As they got smaller, I changed the bands to smaller sizes.  It took two months before those last 3 were finally gone.  I was left with some pretty sore welts.

But the other morning after my shower, I was toweling off—and realized the last of the welts had finally faded.  All 18 are gone, not a mark to be found. 

I’ll ultimately lose in the Game of Life, but this game of tag was over and I won.  Nerd smile


Saturday, February 18, 2023

My old apartment (I once regretted leaving) is available… do I want to move back?

Earlier this week, I received this email from Lobos Management, my former landlord.  I couldn’t believe it.

This email address is attached to an apt at 527 Monroe in Bellevue.  The former tenant requested we contact him if 406 became available again. 

It is now available for $839 plus utilities, and has kitchen & bath updates. If you’re interested please respond to this notice at your earliest convenience.

Shortly after I left there in Sept 2016 to move back to my hometown, I wound up regretting the decision and contacted my old landlord and made this request.  That was 6 1/2 years ago! 

It may be just another apt to some (and more military bunker than charming), but you can’t live somewhere for 22 years and not form an attachment.  Even after I returned to the city and found a new place, I was homesick for my old apartment for a long time.

Anyway, while I’m not exactly in love with my current place (no patio and the carpeting is pretty worn), it’s in a well managed building and roomy, with lots of windows.  I’m not ready to move again anytime soon, let alone to a Lobos managed property. 

Without going into a lot of detail, Lobos had a pretty shady reputation.  They took weeks to respond to maintenace calls, and pulled some awful stunts over the years. 

Still, I was really curious so I called and made an appointment to see my old place this past Wednesday.

I was met in front of the building by a young woman named Winona who couldn’t have been nicer.  Walking upstairs to the 4th floor (we had no elevator) felt so routine.  My former apartment still had the dark green welcome mat I bought when I first moved in, all those years ago.

Here’s the view when you walk in.  I have to admit, it felt like I was home again after a long absence—even if it did seem smaller than I remembered.  Those patio doors… the glass was really clouded with age.  I complained about them for years, but nothing was ever done.


I thought the new cupboards looked great (new appliances too, I never had a dishwasher) but couldn’t believe they left that old brown wall panel.  My sister was after me for years to paint that!

The bedroom hasn’t changed at all, but the bathroom has a new medicine cabinet & vanity.

And finally, my old balcony.  I miss that giant pine tree, it was filled with birdsong every spring.

After I was done snooping looking around, I thanked Winona but admitted I probably wouldn’t be moving back.  She asked where I was living now, I said the next neighborhood over, in Avalon. 

Winona said “How much are you paying, if you don’t mind me asking?”  I told her $840, and she said she could beat that.  (Yeah, by one dollar!)

I laughed and said that’s true, but I just got my rent locked in for the next 2 years, plus the heat, water & trash is included in my rent.  I added we also have an elevator, a gym & laundry on every floor.

She still gave me her business card in case I changed my mind.  I won’t, I lived there long enough.  But it was nice getting to see my old place again.  For such a boxy little place, I sure made a lot of good memories there.

                     Moving into my old apt at the Monroe, Sept 1994


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Microblogging, Teepee Style: Five little things from this past weekend

Isn’t this a great idea?  Instead of sitting here twiddling my thumbs, trying to come up with a topic blog-worthy to write about, I can just mash some odds n’ ends together from recent people, places & things swirling around in my brain or on the news.

And just like that, I’ve got a new blog available, suitable for reading, framing, or lining the cat litter box.

So, away we go…

1. This past weekend… Lisa Murkowski (the GOP senator from Alaska and one of the few GOP senators with half a brain) thanked Joe Biden for shooting down a mysterious, cylindrical object hovering over Alaska.

For some reason, the spaceship from the movie ET. the Extra-Terrestrial came to mind.  I sure hope this gun-happy country (more like gun happy planet) didn’t shoot down E.T.! 

2. This past weekend… I did my taxes early to take advantage of a 30% discount promotion I got in the mail from Turbo-Tax (that expires Monday, February 13).


After doing said taxes, which took 2 hours and 44 minutes because their online software required me to re-type my banking information and the 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B & 1099-R forms already downloaded by them, the 30% discount promotional code I received in the mail was rejected as invalid. 

The code was:  LYAYPYCVBEC5G8.  I entered it 6 times before calling the help number, only to be put on hold for 35 minutes.  I finally gave up and pressed the ‘Continue’ button, I couldn’t throw away nearly 3 hours of work!  I hate you, Turbotax.  I HATE YOU SO BAD.

3. This past weekend… Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach on Cheers, died on this date, February 12, 1985.  He was 61 years old.


I mean no disrespect, but he was only 61 years old?  I thought Coach was a lot older.  I’m 61 years old.  Do I look like an old man?  I’m not an old man!

4. This past weekend… I watched the movie Tar starring Cate Blanchett, a drama about the Berlin Philharmonic’s first female maestro and came upon a startling realization.

Many actors have looks, many have talent.  (I dislike Tom Cruise, but I won’t deny the man has talent.)  Cate Blanchett has more; looks and talent and genius.  My God, this woman IS a maestro!  I didn’t look away the duration of the film.

5. This past weekend… I watched this too.  I don’t know what it was, but this young man has talent up the proverbial ying-yang.

Apparently Zhou Shen has become a big deal in China, and deservedly so. But he’s a 30 year old man!  How in the world—I’m reminded of that quaint custom the Catholic Church had 200 years ago, when they castrated boys before puberty to keep them sopranos for life. 

Well, you never know what China is going to come up with next…  Eye rolling smile

Saturday, February 11, 2023

When the skeletons in your closet are found in someone elses closet instead

Okay, this is strange but true, and just plain weird.  For the last few years, on the very rare occasion I would run into Carl (the oldest resident of the building who lives on the first floor) he’d say “Hey, I’ve got something for you.”  I’d say “Oh okay, what is it?”  and he’d say “It’s in my place, I’ll bring it up.”

And of course, he never brought it up.  

I only see him a few times a year, so it’s not a regular thing but it’s been going on for awhile.  And then finally, a couple nights ago, there’s a knock at my door.  It’s Carl, holding a white “Priority Shipping” box.

He says “I don’t remember when I signed for this, but it was awhile ago and someone said you were gone and I put it in my front closet.”

I’m surprised, when Carl said he had something for me I assumed it was a personal item, like his red MAGA cap (that I joked once I’d be happy to take off his hands).  I tell him it’s okay, thanks for signing for it in my absence.  After he goes, I examine the box.  It’s sealed up pretty tight, with no return address.

I bring it into the kitchen and slice open the top, and there’s a “0.00 Due” invoice inside, dated 07/02/20.  This is written across the bottom of the invoice. 

Doug, Fog-Man here.  I’m officially out of business!  I’m distributing what’s left of my inventory to my favorite customers, I have all your favorites here!  Accept this shipment with my compliments.  Mark

Under the note is a solid square of bubble wrap.  As I begin stripping away the wrap, I can smell a VERY familiar aroma—peach, menthol, tobacco.  Now I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, I know what this is.  It’s e-liquid, for vaping. 

I added a recent copy of TV Guide to prove the photo is a new one

There must be $500.00 of juice here, probably enough to vape 3 years.  (The larger bottles last 3 months or more each—the smaller bottles around a month.)

I never dreamed I’d see this stuff again; I’m coming up on my third year anniversary of quitting e-cigs, probably the hardest thing I did in my life. 

When Mark (aka Fog-Man) sent this nearly 3 years ago, I know exactly where I was.  I was locked up at UPMC McKeesport Behavioral Health Center after overdosing on opioids.  I wrote about it here.  I overdosed because I’d spent the previous 2 1/2 years living with tremendous pain from my TMJD, which had spread throughout the upper half of my body.  

I’m 99% sure I developed that TMJD from years of vaping.  I quit smoking cigarettes in 2008 and was absolutely miserable until vaping came along.  It was very different, you were “sipping steam” instead of inhaling smoke—but that steam was laced with nicotine. 

(And even with the amount of nicotine in the stuff, that steam didn’t aggravate your throat like cigarette smoke did.  So you could pretty much vape all day, and that’s precisely what I did.)

When they locked me away on July 4, 2020 (and stripped me of everything I had, including a couple of e-cigs in my pocket) they slapped a nicotine patch on my arm every morning to help with the withdrawal. 

When they released me a week later, I made a beeline for the drugstore, bought a couple boxes of patches, enough to last a month.

Then I came home and threw out every bit of e-cig paraphernalia I could find, along with a big bottle of juice and 2-3 smaller ones.  And then shook & sweated for 2 months.  I felt like a real junkie, I suppose I was. 

And now this stuff is back in my house again, enough for years.  I wish my brain would stop tingling with excitement.

FRIDAY UPDATE:  It’s gone!  I packed it back up, tore my name & address off the top and took it up the street this morning to a vape shop I’d seen by the dollar store.  There were 2 twentysomething guys behind the counter, and when I asked if they could dispose of some old e-juice, they said sure. 

When I opened the box, one whispered “Oh man!”  I said “I don’t know if this stuff goes rancid, but it’s been sitting in a closet for 3 years.”  The taller clerk said “I’m not going to sell it but I won’t lie, we’ll probably try these out before we get rid of it.”  

Hope they don’t wind up like this character below, no more skeletons please.    


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Questions, questions: I don’t get it—I can’t explain it

We all have questions, don’t we.  And while some of us study quantum theories, and ponder the very existence of time and space, others (that would be me) tend to dwell on more mundane matters.  Here’s a few recent things that have been bouncing around in my noggin lately.

1. “It’s an old tv show, why couldn’t I just let it go?”

A couple weeks ago I was watching CBS Mornings, and they were discussing the one year anniversary of Betty White’s passing (who died December 31, 2021).  Gayle King mentioned that her death was especially hard on fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as Betty was the last surviving cast member.

The others nodded their heads in agreement—after all, everyone knows that Oprah Winfrey is Gayle’s best friend, and Oprah is Mary’s biggest fan.  But all I could think was “Wrong, Gayle—wrong.”   I consider myself one of MTM’s No.1 fans too, but who am I?  Best to let it go.

But for some reason, I couldn’t—and finally looked up the show’s contact email, and sent them this collage:

John Amos (who played Gordy the Weather Man), Lisa Gerritsen (Phyllis’ daughter Bess) & Joyce Bulifant (Murray Slaughter’s wife Marie) were all recurring characters, and are alive & well.  And I let them know.

I received a response the same day, around 3 hours later:  “Thank you Douglas, we’ll pass this along.”   To whom?  I’m sure I’m not the only crackpot fan who wrote and let them know, but at least I got it off my chest.

2. “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the grayest of them all?”

At the barbershop, my hair looks mostly white.  At the drugstore, my hair looks grandma white.  Outside, my hair looks snow white.

But in my bathroom—it looks more dark than white!  Are my eyes deceiving me?  How do I make it look this dark all the time?  Also, I wish I knew how to get rid of those brown circles under my eyes… I’m a lousy sleeper.

3. Why can’t I find the time (or desire) to read a good book or three?

This is the God’s honest truth: for as long as I can remember, I’ve read 3 books a month, easy.  (When I was in high school, I read so much I even won an award from our town’s library—I’m going to show you in an upcoming blog!) 

But since retiring, it’s been a real effort.  Why is that?  Here’s 3 books I’ve gotten in the last year.  My three favorite subjects—Mars, Stephen King & Robert Kennedy.  Yet I’ve barely gotten the first couple chapters read in Chris Matthew’s book, and have yet to crack open the first two.

4. And finally, why can’t I toss out this letter from the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

How did these people find me?  The last thing I want is a Bible study in my home (or one anywhere, for that matter).  But I can’t help but wonder, when is the last time I’ve received a handwritten letter from a girl?   The notebook paper, the faint smell of ballpoint ink… boy does this take me back.

There’s just something warm & fuzzy about getting a real letter, even if it is from someone that wants to turn you into a Jehovah’s drone who doesn’t believe in celebrating birthdays or holidays. 

Thank you Lisa, wherever you are.  Nerd smile

Saturday, February 4, 2023

This is how we do it in the 21st century…

Back in December I wrote about a long phone call I had with a former classmate of mine, Diana.  Aside from some blurbs on Facebook several years ago, we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other even once since graduating in 1979.  Yet we chatted on the phone that night like old friends.

I thought it’d be nice if we talked again, and sent Diana an email asking if she was interested.  She said she was, and (seeing how she is still working and a busy member of her community) gave me that night, or several nights next week to choose from.  I chose next Wednesday, February 8 and she said okay.

I sent her the photo above and wrote “I have you on my calendar app for Feb 8 at 7pm.  Diana, it isn’t 1979 and this is how we do things in the 21st century!”

She responded immediately and wrote “I did the same, I keep up with technology too!” and sent the image below.  I don’t know what I like better, the calendar or that rotary telephone sitting below it! 

Well, I hope that kitchen calendar of mine reminds me when it’s time to call—it’s set to chime, but you can’t trust technology these days!


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Single men do what? A look inside a single guy’s bedroom thru the years

Perhaps you heard this recently.  A couple weeks ago on Good Morning America, they laughingly reported that 45% of single men only change their sheets 3 times a year (once every 4 months).  

First of all, who would admit to that?  Second—how could anyone sleep comfortably while stewing in their own slough for weeks on end?  One can only imagine the hordes of microscopic vermin in those bedsheets after 4 months.

I change my pillowcases weekly, and my bedsheets every other Sunday.  (As an incentive & reward, I bake Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls on Sheet Change Sunday.)  How often do you change yours? 

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the various bedrooms I’ve had over the years.  Not the ones I shared with my brothers growing up, but after I left my hometown and moved to the city.

So, here we go…

1.  Shaler Highland Apartments, 1987 – This was my first place in Pittsburgh, and the only apartment I shared with a roommate for 2 years, Bill B (below).  We were both 26, both back in school (me for computer science and Bill for cooking & restaurant mgmt) and known as the Odd Couple by our friends, and even a couple neighbors. 

One of us was Felix (a neatnik) and the other a real Oscar Madison.


I’ll let you figure out who was who.  My bedroom is on the left, Bill’s on the right.  I gotta say, I liked Bill very much—we’d go grocery shopping, he’d come up to me with a box of Spic n’ Span.  “Doug, this is what we use right?”

Bill didn’t clean, but he always chipped in.  Sarcastic smile 

We lost contact 35 years ago and I don’t know what became of him.  After Bill married his Asian girlfriend Shelly and moved out, we never saw each other again.

2.  Sharpsburg, 1990 – nothing much to see here.  I left Shaler Apts a year after Bill did, and moved into a nicer apartment 1-2 miles away—but you wouldn’t know it by this photo.  

That first year, my bedroom had no furniture aside from a bed on the floor and cardboard nightstand.  (The place I shared with Bill was furnished.)  It looks bleak, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally have my own place again (and my first IT job in the city).

3.  Bellevue, 1994 – Eventually I moved to Bellevue (north of the city and only 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh).  Remember those “Bed in a Bag” kits?  This was a Southwestern one, dark green & red. 

When my mom and sister Shawn came to visit, Shawn said “Doug, can’t you take down ONE of the Star Trek posters?”  and Mom said “Shawn, here’s $5.00.  I want you to run up the street and buy some tissue paper so I can pouf Doug’s valance.”

(The valance got poufed, but the Trek posters stayed.)

4.  Still Bellevue, 2014 – 20 years later, and it’s the same apartment, same bedroom, same bedroom furniture.  Only the bedding, artwork & exercise bike changed.

5.  The Tiffany Apts in Avalon, 2018 – A couple years after retiring and moving to a new apartment in the city, my sister Shawn convinced me to ditch my old bedroom suite (that was 30 years old) and showed me a red shaker-style dresser at IKEA I fell in love with, along with this funky gray metal bed.

You can’t see the entire room here, but this is my favorite bedroom in my adult life, favorite furniture too.  When I moved in here, my brother-in-law Jim worried to my sister that the bedframe didn’t come apart, was heavy and I’d have a tough time moving it out of here someday. 

Shawn said “Relax Jim, Doug’s not going anywhere for at least 10 years!”

I hope she’s right, I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already.  Nerd smile