Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I need to tread carefully, scary animals and tender hearts are afoot

You can’t tell by this grainy photo (taken thru my dining room window’s screen of the street below) but I just had an angry run-in with the young black man below.

He’s holding a leash, and on the other end of it is a brown & white Pit Bull, one of the largest I’ve ever seen.  His snout is level with the drawstring of my pants.

I know this firsthand, as a couple days ago I was waiting for the elevator to go downstairs, the doors opened and without thinking I got on—only to be greeted by this dog’s nose in my crotch.

A young, round black woman was holding his leash, and said “His name is Pilot, he needs to smell you when he meets you for the first time, sorry!” 

I just stood there, frozen—what is a Pit Bull doing on our elevator?  Dogs are not allowed—shortly after I moved in here in 2017, a young man with a mini-beagle was asking people to sign his petition allowing his dog to stay.  (I can still remember the dog’s name—Doyle.)  We all loved Doyle and his owner with a New England accent, but Steiner said nope and they moved out.  So what was this?

I said “Are you visiting someone here?”  She said “No, we just moved in a couple days ago.”  I said “With a Pit Bull?”  She said “He’s my emotional support animal.”  


The next day, I’m in the lobby getting my mail and a couple other residents are down there, talking about the dog.  They asked me what I thought.  A young black man (the one in that photo above) entered and checked his mail.  I told Dave, Samantha and Mrs. Win I wouldn’t ride the elevator with that Pit Bull again.  They’re banned in many countries for a reason! 

The young man turned around and said “You people have a problem with a DOG?  That’s cold.”  I said “No, we have a problem with a PIT BULL.”  The man says “IT’S MINE.”  I said “Everyone here is afaid of it, I am too.” 

He just stood there and glared at me, then left the lobby.  Dave said “That didn’t end well…”   I guess not but I don’t care.  I want Pilot the Pit Bull gone.  

On the flip side, I’m at a bit of a loss on what to do with another neighbor, Lida. She’s in her upper forties, single and intellectually disabled.  (In the old days, we would say mentally retarded.)  But she’s sweet, funny and I think she likes me a little more than she knows what to do with.

The night before Easter, I heard a small shuffling sound outside my front door.  When I looked thru the peephole, I saw her pacing back & forth.  I waited another minute to see if she’d knock, looked thru the peephole again and she was gone.  When I opened my door, I was startled to find her on her hands & knees, trying to slide the card below under my door. 

Here’s the inside of the card, she’s quite the handwriter.

I showed it to my sister who said that maybe she’s just being friendly, but I worry it’s become more than that.  Lida lives in a 3rd floor studio apartment with a big window that faces the front of the building, so she can see who’s coming & going. 

It seems that more & more, everytime I come home, she likes to race down to the lobby to see if I wore a warm enough jacket, got healthy things to eat from the market, let me know if the mail has come yet, what the weather that night will be, and on occasion to ask if I like Sally (another ID woman who recently moved here) or if I’ve found a girlfriend yet.

When I tell her I haven’t been looking, she says “Good!  I won’t look for a boyfriend!”  

And lastly, on a tastier note do you know I’m almost 62 years old and have never, not a single time tried ‘Cup o’ Noodles”?  I’ve seen commercials for them all my life, but never considered myself a noodles person. 

Then the other day at the store, I saw this new Asian Style, Sweet Chili flavor and curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a couple.  Good Lord, this little styrofoam cup has 1100 grams of sodium—I shouldn’t be eating this!

But man oh man, it was only $1.38 and as tasty as it was filling.  I’m hooked.  Nerd smile

Monday, April 17, 2023

RIP James “Jimmy” B, the man I both wanted & didn’t want to become

A couple days ago while up the street, I stopped in my barber shop to say hi to Roe (my lady barber) and schedule an appointment for next week.  I was pleasantly surprised to see this on the wall, a framed photo montage of my friend Jim, who died this past October at age 74. 

Jim’s life was that barbershop.  He didn’t work there, more like the shop’s mascot and occasional gopher—but it’s where he spent much of his time for 25 years.  He never owned a computer or cellphone, but kept up to date with everything in the world and was happy to give you an earful if and when provoked.  He managed to tick off half the women he knew, but still had those same women cooking for him.  Everyone loved him.

I first met Jim in the spring of 1999, shortly after he moved into my old apartment building.  One night I was downstairs in the back, talking to Janice (who lived below me) when we saw a chubby, balding man walking away from Janice’s neighbor Teresa’s car. 

Teresa (a retired bank manager in her 70s) got out and shouted “If I’m going to make you dinner then you’d better help with these groceries!”  The man turned around and headed back to her car.  Janice turned to me and said “I think Teresa’s found herself a gigolo.”

Teresa’s “gigolo” was Jimmy B, who recently moved into our building.  He’d been living just a couple streets over with his mother until she passed in February.  Never married and in his fifties, he was on his own for the first time.  And in his first month there, managed to get a couple of the older women in our building to cook for him on occasion.  It went on for many years, too. 

So in those pre-Covid years, before the barbershop became ‘By Appointment Only’ and was filled with a dozen guys waiting for a haircut (myself included), Jim would often pull me into his talks to the crowd.  “Doesn’t ANYONE know a single lady we can fix Doug up with?  He’s loaded!  Doug—tell everyone how much money you have!”

He also liked to share recent (and past) going-ons at our apartment building, and used me as his back-up:  “Doug, remember that night those two meth-heads on your floor nearly burned the place down?  And everyone was evacuated in the middle of the night, except for me because I never heard them pounding on my door?  Tell everyone what Teresa told the firemen when they asked who lived in #203!”

In my best Teresa voice, I said “Oh, that’s just Jim in there—let the man sleep.  Or burn for all I care.”

Sometimes when Jim napped or left to get lunch at the Rusty Nail, some newbie would ask who Jim was and what he did for a living, and one of the other regulars would tell Jim’s story.  Jim was an accounting clerk for Gulf Oil, in the US Steel Building downtown.  In 1984, Chevron Oil acquired Gulf and offered all the Gulf employees a huge severance package.  You could either take a $40,000 cash payout, or 50K in Chevron stock.

Everyone took the cash—Jim took the stock.  “Jim why’d you take the payout in stock?”  “Because my dad always said, do the OPPOSITE of what everyone else is doing!”

Jim’s 50K of Chevron stock split when the Gulf takeover became public, then split again and again.  In a matter of weeks, his shares had quadrupled.  He was 35 years old, and would never work again.

I loved that story, and Jim’s flimsy knowledge of stocks (that still managed to keep him in clover for 40 years) helped inspire me to take my own savings and put it in the market many years ago.

I used to tell everyone I was going to be the next Jimmy B—until I early-retired in 2015 and the barbers invited me to spend more time at the barbershop.  I said “I’m not going to be the next Jimmy B!”

Sadly, when the pandemic struck in 2020 and the barbershop closed down for nearly a year, Jim had nowhere to go.  I invited him to visit me at my new apartment, he was invited to several people’s homes—but he declined most of the offers.  He missed the days of a ‘full shop’. 

When the barbershop finally reopened, but with one barber and ‘by appointment only’, Jim checked himself into New Hope Nursing Home.  He told us he had an audience there, and a staff to prepare all his meals and even help give him a bath twice a week. 

Roe told him to get the hell out of there, that’s where old people go to die, but he didn’t listen.  And one year later, this past October, Jim died in his sleep.  Gone too soon, but I suspect he was pretty happy there.  There will certainly never be another Jimmy B.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Like the quote says, when in doubt go to the library

A couple days after my last post (where I’d just returned from a week at my sisters, and lamented I needed to make some changes in my life) I decided to take Joyce & Kim’s advice (2 of the very kind people who commented on that post) and went to my local library and applied for a card—and here it is.

I wasn’t looking to do more reading, but after checking out Avalon Library’s Monthly Event calendar they post locally, noticed they have a few events I might be interested in: a history book club, a mystery book club, and ‘Arthouse Cinema’ matinees on Friday & Saturdays, twice a month. 

The library was only 2 1/2 blocks from my apartment, with a babbling brook and koi pond in front, and several bronze statues of kids at play.  I was greeted inside by 2 librarians, Sharon & Heather who couldn’t have been nicer.

I asked about applying for a library card and said I was retired, lived alone and was thinking about joining one of their clubs.  (I didn’t tell them I wrestle with some social anxiety disorder.  I mean, I can mingle if I have to, but I’m a lot more comfortable when I’m alone or with just one person.)

As Sharon was filling out my paperwork, she looked at me and said “You look very familiar… have we met before?”  I assured her it was our first time meeting, I’d never been here before.  She turned back to her computer monitor and said “I know I know you.”   I said “Well.. I was winner of the 1978 Literary Award.” 

Arrgh!  Why do I do this?

Now Heather (the library’s administrator) came around the desk.  She said “Do tell!”  I laughed and said it was nothing really, but asked if she’d ever heard of the Bowlby Library.  Heather said “Yes!  We’ve exchanged books with them—it’s in a little town south of us, Waynesburg Pa.”  

I said I was born & raised there, and probably spent half my childhood at that library.  When I was in the 11th grade, the library selected one student from the surrounding high schools and presented us with an award at a formal banquet.  A month later, I even got a letter of congratulations from my congressman.

Heather said “Well, we have a celebrity here!”  Sharon said “I hoped you saved that letter!”  I said “Well it’s ancient history but I was just looking at it last night.. um, I have it in my Google Photos if you want to take a look.”   I pulled out my phone and showed it to them. 

They were very kind and acted like this was a big deal.  (It really wasn’t, even when I got it 45 years ago.)  Sharon said “Doug, would you like to apply for an opening we have here?” I said “You mean like a volunteer?”  She said “No, we already have volunteers.  This is for a library clerk like myself, 25 hours a week, $9.00 an hour.”

I said thank you for the invite, but I was retired.  Sharon said “Well I’m retired too, but here I am!”

I know it sounds like a good idea and all, and my declining makes me sound lazy, but here’s the facts.  This wouldn’t be extra income for me.  At the start of the year, I tell Pennie—my state’s health insurance agency—what my income will be for the year, within $500 or so.  For 2023 my guesstimate was around $30,000.  Based on that, my monthly health insurance premium of $883.79 is reduced to $152.00.

(And yes, an insurance plan for a pre-Medicare sixtysomething male in my state is $885.00 a month, and that’s just for a silver level plan.)

Any money I earn over my reported estimate (which I’ve already withdrawn from my retirement fund in January, like I do every year) would just raise my monthly insurance premium.  So… I’ll pass.  Also, I AM lazy. But still, their offer made my day.

Now if I can just work up the nerve to check out one of those clubs… we’ll see.


Monday, April 3, 2023

Back home in the city and where do I go from here

Well, after a week or so at my sister Shawn’s house, I am back in my apartment in the city.  I enjoyed my stay with Shawn, her husband Jim & my niece Sophia (and my time alone with their cat Flynn while they spent their days working or at school).

I certainly did a lot of eating, from the ham & cheesy potatoes Shawn made my first night there, to dinner with Michael & Jessica (Jim’s son from his first marriage), Cracker Barrel in Morgantown WV (where my niece works), Scotty’s Pizza and finally our second cousin’s restaurant Bob’s Burgers & More.

(Bob has a cattle farm and raises his own beef, that’s pretty impressive!)

Frankly I’m ready to go back and do it again.  From shopping for home goods with Shawn at Big Lots & Walmart to soaking with Jim in their hot tub (set up in the old schoolhouse behind their house) I was reminded of what normal life can be like.  Even an old hermit like myself could get used to this sort of thing.

Strangely, my last real visit there was all the way back in August 2018 (as shown here).  It was right after that last visit I began developing some real health problems with my pancreas, followed by an enflamed liver, two kidney operations and ultimately my TMJ disorder.  I wouldn’t feel better again for a couple years, but that doesn’t explain a 4 1/2 year gap between visits. 

While I was there this time (without my laptop) I had plenty of time to think, and ponder about things, and what I want to do with my life.  My niece thinks I should try dating, but I’d honestly settle for a friend or two to hang out with regularly.  But honestly, this long visit felt like a real wake-up call.  

My sister rode me back to Pittsburgh on the 30th, and when we entered my apartment the oily smell (which prompted my leaving) was mostly gone—and replaced with a less unpleasant “ozoney” smell like that processed air you smell when you first enter a hotel room, only quadrupled.  A fine white haze was in the air, on my furniture—everywhere. 

In my absence maintenance had placed some type of ozone contraption in my apartment which sucked out all the oxygen and negated the bad particles.  They said they also wiped my air ducts out, I didn’t believe it.  But they were still proactive in finding a solution, so I’m grateful.

In fact, after my sister left and I turned on the heat—the new blower motor they’d installed in my bathroom ceiling began making a L-O-U-D flapping noise.  The next morning I asked a maintenance man if he’d mind listening to it and telling me if I was overreacting.  He said sure, I turned it on and he said “Turn it off!  Your motor’s casing is cracked!”

(They promptly returned and installed a SECOND new blower motor for my heat & ac on Friday, it sounds great now.)

So, about my blogging… I’m not sure I’m ready to return to it like before.  To be honest, I worry a little it takes up too much of my time.  I told my friend Danielle Saturday night that I spend one day a week writing a blog, and 6 days a week catching up with everyone else in the blog-verse.  Several bloggers I know like to post 3 or more times a week, which makes for a lot of reading.  I think I need to take a step back there, even if it costs me comments on my own posts. 

Anyway, that’s all I have for now—Shawn, if you’re reading this—thank you again for letting me stay with you guys for a week, it was wonderful seeing all of you and I look forward to visiting again soon. 

And to the people who made it this far in my post, thanks as always for being here.  Nerd smile