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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

The greatest generation, the baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, the Millennials, etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera…why is it that we have to give titles to generations of people? I’m starting a new generation. It’s called the ‘ist’ generation. Perhaps it’s not so much a generational title as it is a club or group, sort of like the Masons or Kiwanis or Rotary or one of those.

In order to join the ‘ist’ generation you must belong to at least three, but preferably more ‘gist’ groups. That’s not “gist” in the sense of getting the gist of what I’m saying. It’s ‘gist’ in the sense of belonging to a ‘gist’ of some particular type. For example, I have a gerontologist, dermatologist, cardiologist, ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist, urologist, neurologist, a psychiatrist, and a pharmacologist. I consider myself fortunate to have only these nine ‘gists’ in my background. After all, I could have a proctologist or even an otorhinolaryngologist…go ahead, say that one three times fast.

Yes, these are the ‘gists’ that try men’s souls, women too, I guess, particularly if they have regular check-ups at the gynecologist. I would call ‘gists’ a pain in the ass but now we’re back to proctology again, and it just doesn’t seem fair. By the way, there is such a physician as a gistologist – they treat intestinal tumors – at least, that’s what I’m told.

One of the great beauties of the ‘ist’ generation is that one can be of any age…we do not discriminate based on anything! We are not ageists, racists, sexists, religionists, nor any other ‘ists’ you may care to utter or hold against us…you will lose! However, there is a pecking order, and in the ‘ist’ rules and regulations handbook, it clearly states that ‘ist’ rank in the ‘ist’ generation can only be attained by acquisition of additional ‘gists.’ In addition, the number of letters in your particular ‘gist’ determines whether or not you move up on the ‘ist’ scale. For example, if you are seeing an allergist, you would rank rather low on the ‘ist’ scale, but if you are seeing an otorhinolaryngologist [that’s twice], you’ve hit the jackpot…look it up yourself; I had to.

It should be noted that members of the ‘ist’ generation do have a few restrictions on their membership eligibility. We do not accept micrometeorologists, hydrometeorologists or paleoclimatologists. We will accept some anthropologists – only for their ancient cures -but not nonanthropologists. We empathize with and welcome you if you have an oncologist, but we draw the line at accepting oceanologists. So, while you may dispute my statement regarding our nondiscrimination policy, if you look closely enough, you can readily understand our concerns about letting just any old ‘ist’ become a part of our generation…you do understand, don’t you?

If you’ve read this far, I’m amazed that you aren’t sufficiently “ist’ off to leave, but if you have the courage, read on, my friend, read on. Please understand that while anesthesiologists are welcome into our generational fold, few care to join, preferring instead to be with the angelologists, assemblagists, angelologists, algologists and the apologists, perhaps because they are generally thrown under the bus if anything should go wrong.

Perhaps it’s time to bring this entire thing to an end. In case you’re interested or wish to join the ‘ist’ generation – you may well already be a member and not have known it – there are approximately 440 ‘gist’ opportunities and well over 2800 ‘ist’ opportunities. Sometime in the next four years, we plan to put forth an ‘Ist’ Presidential candidate. Our first order of business on our platform will be “Illnesses for all ‘ists’ everywhere!

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Ah, the toes

I would like to speak with you about toes.

Most of us have ten; we upright and walking on two feet type of homosapiens, that is. Some of us are unfortunate and have only eight, nine, or fewer. This can often be attributed to improper use of an axe, chainsaw, or some other sharp instrument swung above the shoulders and in a forward, downward motion…missing our objective and reducing the number of toes protruding at the front of the foot. This portends certain problems such as maintaining one’s balance while walking, for although we walk on the soles of our feet, the toes provide balance, weight-bearing, and thrust as we walk.

Most people I know are not particularly proud of their toes. “My toes are horrible,” which translates into “I see models on television with beautiful toes and mine look nothing like that.” Well, that’s because those are foot models. Just as there are hair, face, and hand models, so there are foot models. Get over it; they may have ugly hands, tiny tits, or buck teeth. None of us is perfect, right?

Women are prone to something called hammer toe. They generally get it from wearing high heels. Hammer toe is a buckling of one of the joints in the toe to the point of dislocation. I don’t wear high heels, yet I have had hammer toe. No, I never wore high heels, so knock off with the smart comebacks and retorts. There are other toe deformities such as trigger toe, claw toe, and the infamous what-the-fuck-is-that toe. The last is exceedingly common and found most often on beaches by those walking with their heads down.

I am very proud to state that my toes are just as ugly as anyone else’s toes. In fact, if there was to be an ugly toe contest, I would not hesitate to enter. Several of my toes, including the big toe on each foot, don’t exactly have toenails. They have what has been described by some as “Holy shit…what the hell are those?” or “Is that foot cancer?” and other such witticisms, too many of which are questions regarding where my big toes might have been trespassing. There is a reason why these toes and several others are lacking toenails. The reason is simply this: It is very difficult for a non-competitive, non-runner to run-walk 7.2 miles in a pouring rain, through hubcap-deep water without having something happen to one’s feet…including toes. This is exactly what I did, and within two weeks, there were no nails on any of my toes.

For a number of years…from 1999 to 2014 to be exact…I have performed what has been called by one podiatrist “bathroom surgery,” as in, “Oh, I see you’ve been performing a bit of bathroom surgery,” after I had accidently sliced into a big toe while trying to remove part of whatever is substituting for a toenail. Never went back to see the son-of-a-bitch-with-the-smart-mouth. I prefer to call what I do, “bedside surgery” because I sit on the side of the bed, hoist one leg at a time onto the mattress, and dig, dig, dig, whatever there is to be dug! How do I know when I have completed this surgery? I begin to bleed. This is why I keep a large supply of band aids on the night stand by my bed.

Over the years, I have grown weary of my predicament. There is a podiatrist about 20 miles away, the man who gave me my first orthotics – for four hundred plus bucks – and with whom I have maintained contact over the years. I finally went to see him. Although, my shoes and socks were off, and he was sitting facing my feet, he looked directly at me and asked, “What’s the problem?”

“Look at my feet, Brian,” I practically screamed.

He did. Without making any big deal of it, he wiggled the second toe on my right foot and said, “Well, this one’s certainly dislocated; has been for some time; not much you can do about it unless you want surgery…you don’t want surgery.” Simple, straight forward, no BS answer. It also explained why there are times when pain shoots through that toe like a red hot poker. He looked at all of the other toes and without making any more comments about them, began digging and probing, periodically stopping, and tossing a piece of whatever he’d just dug out onto a plastic sheet. There was no pain. For about fifteen or twenty minutes he just dug, all the while asking me what had happened since last we met, and telling me about his own life. Then he sanded my feet with some kind of electric sander that sent dust everywhere. There I was watching my toes and then each foot get attacked by a professional. The difference between an amateur toe-digger and a professional toe-digger, I am convinced, is that the pro knows how to dig without drawing blood. Had I done what he did, there would have been arterial spray everywhere…and I don’t think there are any arteries in the toes. It should be noted that “Of the 26 bones in the foot, 19 are toe bones (phalanges) and metatarsal bones (the long bones in the midfoot). The way I look at this whole thing is that I probably have several bones in my toes that are dislocated or downright broken, or maybe even have been broken and healed improperly. Yes, I walk funny. Yes, I still have whatever-the-hell-that-is for toenails on my big toes. Is my friendly podiatrist concerned? Not at all, because he gets to see me in another three months and he can do more digging. When I told Juli this story, she merely smiled and asked, “Did he ask you to whinny for some oats?” Me and my big mouth!

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How many dry skin creams have you tried? Winter comes on; the skin starts to crack, and it’s “Okay, which one shall I try today?” It’s worse when you’re old. Your skin has thinned out. You definitely don’t have the seven layers with which you were born. There are some creams or lotions that you try and you have to rub the darned things in for the day. If anyone went to grab your arm they’d slip away as if you were the greased pig at the fair.

I think I’ve probably tried every skin cream known to man, including…yes, I admit it…some of those one o’clock in the morning television ad creams that you know are fake. I have two bottles of Vaseline Intensive Care sitting in my nightstand. I can’t make them work for me. Neutrogena proved a failure from the outset when a finger-full slipped off and landed on my new khakis. Like most of the rest of them, it stains. Clinique, Oil of Olay, Gold Bond, and a variety of others have also been wanting. The reason I bring this up is that the skin of the elderly loses its moisture. When you get an itch and go to scratch it, you stand a good chance of removing enough of what’s left to draw blood. It is ugly. So then you bleed all over the book you’re reading or the dinner you’re preparing – don’t gag – or whatever else it is you’re doing and it’s very, very embarrassing. ‘No, the meat isn’t that rare; it’s just me.” I mean, come on, you want to say that to your guests…tacky, tacky, tacky!

All of these skin creams must be absorbed into the skin for them to work, right? This does not mean that one dabs on a light application and pray for osmosis. It means that the lotion/crème/gel/whatever, must be rubbed into the skin. Let it be sucked up by the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. That’s fine, except that the sneaky epidermis, the one that is supposed to be the outermost, strongest layer that gives us such great protection also has some layers. These are the stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and the stratum corneum [you don’t have to remember this; it won’t be on the test]. So or Therefore or yuk, it appears from an article in The Journal of Dermatology, that the epidermis does, in fact, lose cells to some degree as we age. In one study that was done, they took skin from near the navel to study. I don’t know much about this but it seems to me that if they were going to do that, they should also have taken some from the face or any other area that is more exposed during a lifetime. I mean, how many people do you know who rub Aveeno around their navel?

Anyway, I have concluded from all of my Internet research that I am completely and utterly screwed when it comes to using any skin softening crème, or lotions for my poor hands and arms; I will just {head thrown back and the back of one hand gently touches the brow in an expression of “I’m doomed} suffer through the winter months with skin that tears like tissue, fingers cracked and bleeding..ah, suck it up and behave like a man you wimp!

Okay!

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“Aortic root enlargement in octogenarian patients allows for insertion of larger aortic valve prostheses without any apparent increase in operative morbidity or mortality. The larger prostheses demonstrate better hemodynamic performance and less patient prosthesis mismatch, but no apparent functional or survival advantage.”

“Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in octogenarian patients has been associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This study aimed to assess acute and intermediate-term clinical outcomes among octogenarians undergoing PCI . These results show that clinically stable octogenarian patients undergoing PCI have favorable procedural and intermediate-term prognosis. In contrast, cardiogenic shock has a profound negative prognostic impact on octogenarians despite ‘aggressive’ PCI attempts.”

This is the kind of shit you look at when you pass 80 – that’s an octogenarian for the uninformed – and it’s the kind of shit you read about when you’ve survived three heart attacks, have five stents in your heart, lived through a blood clot in the lung, an aortic aneurism in your abdomen, and a bunch of other nasty crap you’d rather not re-experience (if there is such a word). The above two paragraphs are from the NIH US National Library of Medicine. If you have any tendency toward hypochondria, researching the web for your supposed illnesses could put you in the grave faster than any real illness that might kill you.

I remember reading over a decade ago that more than 100,000 pages per day were being added to this thing we call the Internet. If that was true then and Net content is being added exponentially, can you imagine how much information is being added daily a decade or so later. There was a coffee ad a few years ago where the husband comes staggering into the kitchen in a ragged bathrobe. His wife is sitting at the kitchen table, and he begins the process of pouring himself a ‘cuppa’ with a shaky hand. “I thought you were surfing the Internet?” she queries. Pausing before he takes a sip, he answers, “I finished!” He then adds some inane remark about how such-and-such coffee will revive him.

Today, if you began your research with “Association amicale des amateurs d’andouillette authentique» and ended with Zzzzz Mattress, you’d probably be bone dust in your casket by the time your descendants finished the project.

As unfortunate as it may be, we live in an age that is obsessed by youth. When Apple announced its new I-phone VI or whatever the hell it was, you didn’t see an octogenarians camping out a week ahead of time to ensure that they were among the first in line. There are several reasons for that: First, we enjoy our own beds too much; not hotel beds; not resort beds; not beds on some Caribbean island (unless it’s a really cold New England winter); and most assuredly not some friggin’ sidewalk covered with cigarette butts, old chewing gum or dried spit. There might have been a couple of septuagenarians in the crowd, but you know how those youngsters behave. I have learned that the greatest gift of all at this age is breathing, exercising, eating pretty much what I wish, and sleeping in comfort in my own bed beside a woman I love. Are there limitations to turning 80? Of course there are. Unlike one of the linemen on the Florida State University football team, I can no longer bench press 600 pounds…what am I saying? I could never bench press anything close to 600 pounds…ever! The loss of muscle mass begins at 40, so I guess at my age, I should be thankful that I can bench 50 pounds plus the bar!

“Age is only a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Life begins at 80.”  It’s all a bunch of jargon bullshit. As my friend, David Ellis, was so fond of saying, “It is what it is.” That is so true. There are days when I believe I can take on the world and win; then, there are other days when I feel as though the world has decided it’s payback time…and I’m in real trouble!

Life is life. There is no dress rehearsal. We can do things at 20 that we can’t do at 80. However, at 80, we generally have the common sense to realize we can’t do what we did at 20. One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.” That is one thing that I’ve learned over the past several decades. However, it’s not until one ages and either doesn’t give a damn or is sufficiently honest to be able to say it. Of course, Twain also said, “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.” I’m not as certain of this one as I am of the former. Somehow, I get the feeling that, despite our accumulated wisdom from eighty on backwards, we would still find a way to experience the ignorance of the things we did at fifty, forty, thirty, and twenty…not to mention the agonies of those last two teenage years.

I leave you with the best advice that our friend, Mr. Twain, could possibly give, “Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

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I’ve found the humor

Me and my big mouth!

There is good news because I have found humor about which to write!

Yesterday, I forgot a luncheon appointment with an old friend who is the comptroller at a private secondary school in the area. We generally get together every three or four months to discuss…nothing  of great importance, but we enjoy each other’s company and swapping yarns about “the old days,” whatever the hell that happens to mean. However, being my responsible self, I forgot to put the appointment in my telephone calendar, on the printed calendar that hangs on a closet door in the kitchen, or on the calendar that is on the kitchen table – we try to cover as many bases as possible here: after all, wouldn’t want to miss an appointment.  Ed, my friend, kept the appointment; we generally confirm the day before, but we did not. Upon entering the restaurant, he inquired after an “elderly gentleman” (what a bastard on both counts…I’m not old and hardly could be called a gentleman). “We did show a gentleman to a table a few minutes ago,” he was told, “and said he was waiting for another party.  I believe he went to use the men’s room.” The hostess showed Ed to the table at which the elderly gentleman {her words…the bitch!] had been seated. My friend sat down, ordered a drink, and began munching on the hot bread that had already been served, and believing that I would return from the men’s room momentarily. A few minutes later, an elderly gentleman [hate that stuff] appeared and sat down at the table adjoining my friend’s. Ed continued to drink and munch until the gentleman sitting at the adjoining table said, “I didn’t know you would be joining us today.” Ed said nothing, finished his drink, stopped chewing on the bread, got up and left the restaurant [cheap bastard probably didn’t even pay for the drink], thoroughly humiliated and embarrassed! He e-mailed me in the afternoon, omitting no detail from his encounter. Reading it, I knew that humor had come back into my life, and also knowing that I had to, at all costs, share the story.

After sharing the above story with my companion, she reminded me of another event that occurred recently which, in retrospect, was rather funny. You see, she is an avid gardener, and this has been a nearly perfect growing season in New England. From six crook neck squash seeds, we probably received over 20 squash. From three jalapeno plants, I wouldn’t even care to count what we have received. From out four tomato plants, plus the volunteers, we’ve hardly been able to keep up with the harvest. What are the “volunteers,” you may be asking yourself. Volunteers are those tomatoes that somehow cast their seeds. According to all of the farmers with whom we’ve spoken, tomatoes don’t survive New England winters. However, someone has forgotten to tell our tomato seedlings this, and for the past several summers, we generally find six or eight “volunteers” growing around the yard. They are gently transported to beds and often produce a fine crop of Early Girl tomatoes.

Anyway, back to the story. The excess of our garden I take to the gym. Juli has a special tray that we use. She lines it with parchment paper; I load it into the car, and, after my workout I set the tray on a table at the exit and slide the parchment paper carefully onto the table. In that way, I can return the tray and not have to wait around until all of the produce has been snatched away. Recently, a fellow gym rat was asking me if we would be interested in some really how peppers. “Sure,” I said, and he promised to bring some in for our salsa. He brought in a bag which contained the peppers, but which also contained summer squash (oh no!) and a zucchini. That night, my partner noted that I would have tomatoes to take to the gym the following morning. Understand something very clearly: When I’m driving to the gym at 4:30 a.m., I’m not fully awake. This is said not to justify what happened but to justify what happened! After the workout, I went to the car, recovered the tray, laid out the produce, took the tray home and put it in its storage spot, i.e. the oven.  When my companion arose, she came into the kitchen and asked, “Where’s the tray?”

“I took it to the gym.”

“Why?”

“You told me last night that you’d have tomatoes on the tray for the gym.”

“Not that tray. That one had the produce on it that your ‘buddy’ gave to you. Was he there?”

“Omygod! No, thankfully, he was not there.”

“Weren’t awake, were you?” she asked

“Nope.”

“Damned fool.”

When I saw the other gym rat a few days later, I felt obligated to tell him the story. We both had a good laugh, but I was still embarrassed by my faux pax.

The moral is that humor is where and when you can find it. I think that now I’ll just start looking for humor in more places. I hope you can do the same.

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Okay, here’s a question for you…what brand of jeans do you wear? You do; why, why would you wear that particular brand of jeans? Sorry, both of those questions are unfair. However, will someone kindly tell me why in the name of God there are so many freaking brands of jeans on the market? C’mon, slap on a pair of Levi’s and get off your fat ass! Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to infer that Levi’s make your ass look fat. Maybe you should try a pair of Bongo’s, Todd Oldham’s, Marithé + François Girbaud’s, Gitano Jeanswear, Chip & Pepper’s, B.U.M. Equipment, X-AM Jeans,’ or, well, you get the picture. The kicker is that I probably didn’t name one pair of blue jeans you’ve never heard of [I know; I ended a sentence with a preposition; bug off!]. Just think, I never mentioned True Religion, Diesel, Wrangler, Calvin Klein, Killer, Nostrum, Lee, Pepi Jeans, London, or Big Star, and those are supposed to be the big sellers.

What the hell is it with people? A pair of blue jeans is made from denim. Do you care that it has this tag or that rivet, or this embroidery. People are so fucking fussy about the type of jeans that they put on, probably over dirty underwear – not you lady; it’s all those other people who wear dirty underwear. It just boggles the mind…not the dirty underwear; it’s the number of brands of blue jeans that boggles the mind.

Years ago, Izod was the brand of polo shirt that one just had to have. It was the IN-style if you were to be anyone at all. I remember my late wife buying a couple of Izod shirts and when the kids wore them out, she would cut off the alligator that had become the brand symbol and sew it onto Marshall’s finest…which cost less than half what the Izod shirt’s did.

I remember finding a Pierre Cardin suit in a discount store. My family insisted that I purchase it despite the fact that the tailoring cost goddamn near as much as the suit itself. I don’t do that stuff anymore. I find that the clothing I enjoy wearing comes more from Ocean State Job Lots and while I do get my cross trainers from New Balance, it’s from their factory outlet store and they’re all seconds. I will admit to buying some T-shirts on line but those are the shirts with slightly risqué sayings on them. It’s fun to watch the expressions on the faces of people at the gym. I have yet to get my face slapped or have one torn from my bod, not that I’d give a damn anyway; I just do it to get attention…now there’s an admission you won’t hear every day.

I just don’t see the big deal with wearing designer clothing that is always overpriced and that, in many cases, turn people into walking billboards for Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy, the Gap, Under Armor, or some other company.  Perhaps I’m just too old to understand the importance of wearing Alexander Wang, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, or Givenchy. Of course, if I ever reached the point of seeing an actual woman wearing anything by Victoria Secret, I’d either have to wake up or keel over.

Perhaps style is everything to some people. I remember when my oldest grandchild wore her first pair of Ugg boots everywhere except to bed. I don’t know that she didn’t wear them to bed. I was just too grandfatherly to check and too much of a gentleman to ask. There was a time when my late wife and I were informed that any clothing we were planning to buy for our teenage son could only be purchased at Banana Republic. This information was given to us by our teenage daughter because our son was too embarrassed to tell us himself. Damn, but I had a hard time not lording that over him in his later years. After he began his career as a swim coach, his tops generally consisted of T-shirts, polo shirts, or sweats that bore the name of the team he happened to be coaching at the time. It was particularly great when he joined USA Swimming because Dad picked up a great deal of USA Olympic gear. Now that he’s at the University of Michigan, I get to be the proud recipient of the maize and blue.

Perhaps men just aren’t as brand conscious as women are, but I will tell you that when I was working at a small, private, and rather prestigious institution of higher education – read as “a college mentioned by U.S. News & World Report – the young men were extremely fashionable in their choice of attire, right down to their top siders in the fall and spring, Bean boots and outerwear in the winter, and other proper accoutrements at the appropriate times.

Call me an old fart or old fashioned; it doesn’t matter to me, but I’ll be damned if I will ever pay ninety-nine dollars for a dress shirt just because it happens to have someone’s name on it; a person I will never meet and really don’t care about meeting. Neither will I pay $200 for a necktie that I would wear only once, and that would be at my wake, were I to even have one. Not too long ago, two of my high school classmates passed away within a couple of months of each other. At the first wake, my friend and fellow teammate was dressed in a pair of khaki’s an open-collared shirt and a nice sweater. That was exactly how I remembered him; that was him in every respect. The other classmate looked like a stiff in his black suit, dress shirt, and necktie that looked like it might have run around $150. He didn’t look all that happy, but what the hell, it probably wasn’t his choice anyway.

Just seems to me that rather than pay a lot more than you have to, you should get the best that looks good on you for the least price. However, if you’re determined to wear only the best, don’t forget to let the tags hang out so everyone can get a better look.

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Tell me, do you know anyone, anyone at all who isn’t fascinated by cemeteries? From Stephen King to Doris Kearns Goodwin and everyone in between, nearly all of us have this blind attraction to these death beds. If we happen to be driving somewhere in the boondocks of New England, and I spot a small – ten to fifteen headstones – I just might stop…which is a bitch if you’re on a two-lane country lane and there’s hardly any room to pull over. These are the cemeteries that have no entrance for automobiles. They are wonderful for the history they give us and for the questions they raise within us.

“What in the hell brought this on?” you could be asking right about now. I’m glad you did because it leads right into my little story. You see, my Mom died some time ago. My sister came out from California for the services and then flew back with her husband. My younger brother had been handling our mother’s affairs over the past few years and indicated that he would continue to do so. Unfortunately, he developed some personal problems, became ill, and died…another cigarette-related passing. Anyway, time went on, and I didn’t give much thought to my parents or for that matter, my brother’s passing. Life moved blissfully and ignorantly along.

Last week, Juli and I were having lunch at a local restaurant. “Would you take a ride with me?” I asked.

“Since you have the car, do I have much choice?” she  queried.

“No, no, not like that.” I said. “I just got this weird feeling that I should visit my parents’ graves because I’m betting that no one had my mother’s date of death ever put on the stone.” I’m sort of weird in this way. Something will strike me and it’s like a dog with a bone; I just can’t let go of it, and this was a bone that was really stuck in my teeth.

“Do you even know where your folks are buried?” I was asked.

I had attended the funeral but it was a number of years ago. The only thing I could remember was the name of the cemetery. It was Mount Wollaston in Quincy…and by the way, it’s pronounced Quin-zee, not Quin-cee like Jack Klugman’s old medical examiner role on television. Beyond knowing the name of the cemetery, I hadn’t a clue as to where.

The people at the cemetery were tremendously helpful. We were told the section and row and even given a map of the cemetery…which is full…and huge. Every lot, not plot, but lot contains the remains of some citizen or other. It was founded in 1855 and has been laying people to rest since that date. It probably has several miles of paved roads that runners, walkers, and cyclists enjoy daily…the cemetery is massive.

We found the grave without a problem, despite the fact there seemed to be “Bishop” headstones everywhere. More about that later, but sure as shootin’ Mom’s date of death was not on the stone. I called the cemetery office and asked how I could have the date carved in the stone. I was told what to do, who to contact, and we are now in the business of having everything done.

The lady who met with me about the carving – and this is where this story takes a twist – was from Monti Granite in South Quincy. It’s probably the oldest granite company in the city as well as one of the oldest in the country. Linda Monti, 94, is turning the reins of day-to-day operation over to her son…soon. At 94, Linda is as sharp as a tack. I had done business with her 20 years ago and she had me in stitches when she talked of my paternal grandfather’s monument business that had been located in the same area.

Perhaps I should have realized when I first saw the headstone that my Dad’s father wouldn’t go for anything less than the best. After all, he was in the monument business. The stone is called gold pink or golden pink westerly, meaning it came from a quarry in Westerly, Rhode Island and is a cross between gold and pink in color. It stands close to six feet high and is carved with both a Masonic seal and leaves that extend outward from the centered seal to each side. I’ve been told that the intricacy of that carving can only be done on granite as fine-grained as westerly. It may be that you’ve never taken the time to look at headstones in cemeteries; although I was never knowingly part of the business, perhaps something is ingrained in my DNA that makes me look carefully at them.

I may coin a word here by saying that we “cemeterians” are fascinated by both the people buried in them and the headstones that mark their final resting place. For instance, buried in Wollaston is old-time actor, song and dance man, band Broadway star, Billy de Wolfe. I haven’t looked for his grave yet, but I wonder if it says de Wolfe or perhaps Jones, for that was his given name. Mum used to talk about him saving a seat for her at a theater in Quincy. He was an usher or began his career as such and every Saturday morning, mother would go to the movies, to the seat saved for her by Billy Jones. The manager of the theater, George de Wolfe, offered Billy his name for theatrical purposes and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, next time you’re looking for something to do as well as getting some exercise, park the car inside the entrance and go for a walk in a cemetery. Should you choose where the headstones are made of slate – the really, really old ones, you might want to bring paper and pen. Some of the sayings below the name of the deceased are worth writing down. Wherever you go, remember that cemeteries may provide a final resting place for some, they can provide great entertainment for those of us who still smell the flowers ‘from above.’

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Congratulations!

You have reached your mid-thirties. You have found the woman of your dreams, and after a brief courtship of two years, you have achieved wedded bliss. You never thought this would happen since her older brother, the Nebraska lineman, threatened to beat the crap out of you each time you went to pick her up for a date. “You lay a hand on my sister, I’ll grind you inta cow chow,” was one of his favorite descriptions of how you would be treated. Her mother always referred to you as a “nice boy,” but her father gave you the steely stare that Superman used just before his x-ray vision destroyed the bad guys in their supposedly indestructible hideout.

Following the wedding reception, you received a big welcome-to-the-family hug from the brother, prompting you to wonder if a honeymoon would even be possible – crushed spines do not for a pleasant honeymoon make – a lovely and sloppy kiss from your mother-in-law who was well into her cups, and that steely stare from your father-in-law that Superman used…well, you get the picture.

You have a wonderful job and a boss who is terrific…on the third day of your new employment at $80K per year – after all, you do have an MBA – he told you that if you played ball with him, he’d shove the bat up your butt, prompting an immediate posting of several resumes to many other firms. You later learned that he says this to all the new hires, thereby endearing him to you for never, but you’ve found him to be truly supportive over the past five years and you’re not certain you’d wish to ever work for anyone else [big mistake].

You have two kids and the wife is five months pregnant with your third. You have been working your proverbial butt off and finally, finally, you’re taking your first real vacation. Two weeks of sun and sand on Olde Cape of Cod. The weather to date has been absolutely gorgeous, prompting you to look forward to a little body surfing, a lot of sun tan lotion, and a few nights out with the bride, sucking down raw oysters and feasting on boiled lobster. Being the considerate husband that you are, you’ve even hired a 16-year-old local high-school girl to accompany the family and babysit the younger ones.

The house you’ve rented is spic ‘n span when you move in late Saturday morning. You’re within walking distance of the beach; the sun is shining; the sky is blue, and; it looks like the start of a great vacation. After slathering the youngsters with SPF 5000, off you, the kids, and the babysitter head for the beach, leaving your soon-to-be-mother-again to get some rest. It’s a glorious afternoon. The teenager takes great care of the kids, although her bikini seems to attract the attention of some of the teenage boys – have to speak to her about that; mmm, maybe ask the wife to do that. You all watch a beautiful sunset, but by the time you walk back to the cottage, everyone is exhausted and just a bit cranky. “I know,” you say, “How about I get some pizza?” That seems to please everyone, even the babysitter who is madly texting on her phone after taking care of the kids.

The pizza is a smash hit, but your skin is feeling a bit tight and sitting back bothers your back…too late you realize that you forgot to slather yourself with SPF 5000, and it looks like the sun was a bit too strong for you. By midnight, when everyone else is sleeping, you are in what the lifeguards call “agony.” You will not be going to the beach tomorrow.

It’s now Wednesday. The past several days have been fantastic. The kids are turning a lovely shade of tan; your wife is well rested and has joined the family at the beach while you hide out at the cottage, wearing a white shirt buttoned to the neck and wrists, long pants, and a beach hat that makes you look, well, rather a bit less than masculine. The pain is nearly gone, and you figure that by the weekend, you’ll be back in the water…remembering that this time, you will cover yourself with sunscreen before doing anything else.

On Thursday, you feel well enough to take the wife out for dinner at the local hot spot…a restaurant where reservations are a must…and you have them for 8 pm. The teenager promises that she’ll get the kids to bed on time, and off the two of you go to enjoy your first vacation meal on your own.

The meal is wonderful; the ambience perfect; your wife is lovely; and even the mild stinging on your body is not a bother. The sunset could have been better but what the hell, the rest of the evening was fantastic.

Arriving home, the cottage is fairly dark. Trotting up the stairs your wife precedes you to find the babysitter and one of the teenage boys from the beach engaged in what could only be defined as a compromising position on the living room couch. This is followed by some yelling and screaming as you totally lose it; the boy doesn’t even use the front stairs as he jumps from top to bottom while you wave a golf club – a nine iron actually, for plenty of loft – threatening to send a portion of his anatomy into orbit…which we all know is impossible with a nine iron.

The babysitter has run crying to her room to call her parents. Your wife is crying in the bedroom, shocked that a 16-year-old would be doing such things – her memory of what she did with you at 16 a vague and distant memory; the children have waked, wondering what the hell is happening; and you’re standing in the living room with a nine iron in your hand looking somewhat the fool because your face has cracked from your sunburn and the heat on your back has gone back to feeling like the Gates of Hell!

By 3 am, the babysitter has been whisked away by her parents with little or no explanations about why the departure is so sudden; the children have gone back to bed; against doctor’s orders, your wife has passed out from consuming half a bottle of scotch, and you are sitting on the front porch wondering just what the hell happened…and then your worst fears are realized…

The days have been so sunny and despite your personal tragedy of the sunburn and the in flagrante of the previous evening, your family has enjoyed nearly a week of sun, sand, and surf…but now this. The first sign of the horror to come sounds from out of the dark…the foghorn…this is followed by the white mist flowing over you like a clammy ghost. It’s the dreaded Cape Cod fog. It may last a day, a week, or even longer, but it has arrived and you can only pray to Poseidon that he will take it with him when the morning dawns.

He doesn’t. It stays…and for the next eight days, you and your family are trapped. The cottage has no heat. The fog and mist seep into everything, sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture, the rugs, even the breakfast cereal which becomes mush on its way to the bowls. The blasted foghorn is a constant reminder that the sun may never shine again. Tempers grow short…children yelling at one another about nothing to do; parents yelling at children to play games or read; children yelling back or crying until finally, the Saturday of departure arrives. As you pack up the car, the glorious sun makes its appearance, taunting you. The fog has lifted; the sky turns a brilliant shade of blue; tempers no longer flare, and as you drive home, window down and watching your skin peel away, you think to yourself…”damn, but I’m happy to be going back to work!”

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The Palestinians don’t want to recognize that Israel even exists. The Russians want to take back the Ukraine. India and Pakistan are ready to push the button if one even spits across the other’s border. North Korea wishes to be able to bully anyone it so chooses just like its cousins, Al Qaeda, and everyone’s pissed at America because we have so much and they have “so little.” That about sum it up for you, Bunky?

Meanwhile, back in the lower 48, the Blacks hate the Spanish; both hate the whites; the Asians hate each other. Immigrant sub-groups are trying to take over neighborhoods by violent methods. The Jews are trying to celebrate Passover, and some asshole from Kansas who doesn’t believe in anyone’s civil rights but his own, goes on a shooting rampage to kill them. We have crazy people walking into our schools and shooting or stabbing students, teachers, and administrative personnel. At the same time, we have 435 idiots in Washington who probably couldn’t agree on how to wipe yourself, much less pass legislation that will allow the government to function more effectively and efficiently. We have state governors telling the federal government to fuck off because the states are going to do as they damn well please…and all of this is what future generations have to face and solve. Kinda makes you wonder about bringing children into the world, doesn’t it?

Is this a messed up world or what? It rather makes you wonder where in the hell you could go to get away from all of this nonsense and maybe set down some roots [pronounced however you please] somewhere in the boonies or backwoods of…aw, who the hell knows. Can’t go to a tropical island; never know when an earthquake will hit ‘n sink the whole damned thing. Besides, television sucks. If you wish to move to the back snow country of Alaska, good luck and write when the temperature gets to be around 70 F; I’ll come for a short visit.

However, I have some wonderful news. There are still towns right here on the continent where you and I can go for some peace and quiet; rest and relaxation…as long as you mind your business and I mind my own. If you agree to those terms, I’ll let you in on the secret.

Mother Nature Network has listed twelve towns that sound ideal for getting away from it all. If you’re looking for fine dining and nightlife, you may as well stay where you are, but for me Monowi, Nebraska doesn’t sound bad at all. Hell, I could double the population just by moving next door to Elsie Eller, the Mayor, librarian, and bartender…she’s the only resident living there now. Time was her husband, Rudy, was around but he passed back in 2004, so Elsie’s the sole resident. Monowi was a boomtown back in the 30’s with 150 residents, but the draw of the big cities with greater job opportunities just whittled that population down to Elsie and Rudy.

There’s a big question regarding whether or not I’d be welcome in Lost Springs, Wyoming. There’s a great deal of controversy. Somebody put up an official-looking sign that says Lost Springs has a population of one. Mayor Leda Price, who’s been living there for nearly 40 years, says that’s wrong. Even after the coalminers left, she says that the town has always had three or four residents. Controversy aside, it seems to be a hospitable place; even has a post office and the general store…which is owned by none other than Mayor Price.

I’ve actually driven through Tortilla Flat, Arizona. That was back in 1953. It’s the “…last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail” but no, we didn’t have to fight the Apaches. Tortilla Flat [there is no ‘s’] is Arizona’s smallest official community that has a post office and voter’s precinct. It also boasts a restaurant, gift shop, and a saloon. Right now, the ‘town’ is owned by a couple who bought it in 1988, but if you’re willing to kick in $5.5 million, the place can be yours. With my luck it would be bought by a gambling syndicate and turned into another Vegas…guess I’ll pass on this one also.

If it weren’t for the summer’s heat and humidity, I might consider moving to Weeki Wachee, Florida. “It’s home to just four residents, according to census estimates, making it the only city in the world with more mermaids than people. The deepest naturally formed spring in the U.S. runs through this small town, and Seminole Indians named it “Weeki Wachee,” meaning “little spring.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been located, and every day more than 117 million gallons of fresh water flow into the spring from subterranean caves.

“When former U.S. Navy SEAL trainer Newton Perry came across the spring in 1946, he saw a business opportunity and built a theater into the limestone below the surface of the spring. Perry trained women as “mermaids,” teaching them to swim, dance and perform beneath the water, and the Weeki Wachee mermaids were born. The mermaids transformed Weeki Wachee into a tourist hotspot in the 1960s, attracting thousands of people to the small town, including celebrities like Elivis Presley. The city incorporated in 1966, making it one of the nation’s smallest cities — and the only one with a mermaid mayor. Mayor and former mermaid Robyn Anderson now oversees both the city and her underwater kingdom of mermaids.”

I know two small communities to which I won’t be going. One is Centralia, Pennsylvania. There was a time when the mining town boasted a population of 3,000. Today, that number is down to ten. Ya see, what happened there was that in 1962, some workers set a trash fire in an old mine…damned fire’s still going. The state condemned the town – even took away their zip code; that’s about as low as you can get – and the state spent $42 million just to relocate the townies. The other ‘no-no’ place on my list is Picher, Oklahoma, the spot dubbed the most toxic place in America by the Environmental Protection Agency. At one time, this was the most productive lead and zinc mining area in the world, but the mine waste contaminated everything in the area, turning the local creek red. “Picher was declared too toxic to clean up in 2006, and was further devastated by a tornado in 2008. Despite this, six residents remain; can you say, “dumb?”

So whether your search for peace and quiet takes you to Buford or Emblem, Wyoming, Freeport, Kansas, Bonanza, Colorado, or Gross, Nebraska, just remember…somehow, the IRS will find you!

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On prior occasions, I have spoken at length (a) about the number of prescription and non-prescription medications that are my daily fare, and (b) about the warnings that generally take up one or two pages of small type which I am expected to read and understand. In the information booklet of one product on drugstore shelves is this warning: “Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet.” They’re kidding, right? No, they are not! Perfect eyesight is not actually a prerequisite for reading these pages…a 50 to 100 power magnifying glass will do quite nicely, thank you very much! If you don’t believe me, go to your local drug store – not dealer, store – and pick up a bottle of, hmm, okay a bottle of Aleve. Go ahead, I’ll wait…not all day, but I’ll wait.

See, see what I told you; the label unfolds and unfolds and the print is so damned small a Hobbit couldn’t read it. I don’t really know what that has to do with it, but you get the point. I don’t believe they actually mean that you should read the directions. They believe that if you watch enough television, you will see their ads where some poor schmuck gives up his Aleve for the day and is in agony by the time he or she gets home. Are they nuts? What person in his or her right mind would give up something that works for something that – for them – doesn’t? Whatever happened to ‘truth in advertising?’

But, enough about Aleve and its dreaded competitor, Tylenol, let us move on to some of the more idiotic warnings that one can read in various medical pamphlets. On the directions for a sun shield – you know; the thing that reflects sun from your windshield in the summer – “Do not drive with sun shield in place! Sounds pretty logical to me. I can’t say that there is anyone in my circle of people I know who would do such a thing but I suppose it is possible…no, it can’t be possible, but…it’s in the directions. Here’s one that you may find on a coffee cup: “Caution: Hot beverages are hot.” Well, duh, do ya think? Remember a while ago when airline pilots were complaining about people aiming laser pointers at them. Perhaps these are the same people who didn’t read this warning on their laser pointer: “Do not look into laser with remaining eye.” Hey, I don’t make these things up; I’m just saving you the time of not having to look these up on the web.

There is only one explanation for these warnings or instructions or whatever the hell you wish to call them. It’s called CYPA; it used to be called CYA, but some folks thought that a might extreme, so now we say, “cover your posterior area,” rather than “cover your ass.” It is, of course, conceivable that some people misinterpreted cover your ass with “throw a blanket over your donkey,” or even, “walk around with your hands violently clutching both butt cheeks; embarrassing, but…orders are orders.

This entire CYPA protocol is particularly evident in hospital pre-op rooms. If you haven’t been in one of these lately, count your blessings; if you have, you know exactly of which I’m speaking. There you are, laying on a bad with your butt exposed to cool [read “freezing”] sheets. The IV nurse has hooked you up to a bottle of saline solution and you’re just waiting to be wheeled in to have your head amputated or whatever. In walks the anesthesiologist or, if you remember M.A.S.H., the ‘gas passer.’ Just kidding, they don’t use gas anymore. He introduces him or herself and begins a long explanation of what is going to be used to put you to sleep. He – it’s a generic term – then goes on to explain precisely, damn near down to the last molecule, what the various drugs will do to or for you. They don’t give a damn about what you’d like to hear; they are required to tell you everything and more about the drugs will be using; it’s the law…to hell with the fact that the more this guy talks, the more you want to rip out the IV and head for the nearest door; he is required by OSHA or HIPPA or the YMCA or whoever, to impart this information to you. Here’s how you stop him. “Is there any anesthetic in my system right now?”

“Not yet but we’re going to…”  he begins

Cut him off. Do not let him get beyond the word, “to.”  You then ask, “Will you be using Versed?”

He will then begin with, “Yes, we will be using Versed, and…” If you allow him one syllable beyond “and,” you’re nuts! You don’t care to know what else they might use…unless, of course, you’re allergic to anesthetics; then you might let him prattle. In any other case, once he has said, “Versed,” let it go. You’ll be fine. Here comes the tricky part. Your anesthesiologist will now say something to the effect of this: “Just gonna give you a little something right now to relax you,” and he will inject some liquid into a port – it’s what they call it – in your IV. What this stuff is, I have never learned, but it is soooo gooood! It’s generally at this point that the surgeon comes in to explain the procedure. He or she waits until this kickipoo joy juice has been injected before stepping through the curtain. They always ask if you know who they are; it’s a standard procedure. I’m always tempted to say, “I’ve never seen this man before in my life,” but operating rooms run on a tight schedule, and one is only allowed to have so much fun. The last time this happened, my response was, “I do, but you’d better talk fast; this stuff is great!” That is the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery. In came the surgeon, still in his scrubs and began to explain what he did. Why do I care? It’s over; done with; we can’t take it back. All I want to hear is one of two words; ‘success’ or ‘failure.’ If it’s the first, we have nothing more about which to speak. If it’s the second, he’s not going to be going anywhere because my hands will be wrapped around his throat demanding an explanation…never really have had to do that.

I sort of got off track there, but back to the warning labels. Just remember a few common sense things: Batteries are not made to “explore” as the label on one indicates. Believe the stroller warning when it says “remove child from stroller before folding.” Don not use silly putty as earplugs…they tell you that although I’m quite certain that some child, somewhere, has already done it. And, by all means, obey the sign in the railroad station that says, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” Wow, whoever heard of prosecuting a dean person? Yep, orders is orders; follow carefully!

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