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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

So, there I was, comfortably ensconced in my favorite chair on the back patio, admiring the containers of potatoes, garlic, onions, peas, and yes, even carrots, looking at the eight pots of impatiens we had just purchased from Lowe’s and wondering how I was going to transplant them to the containers on the fence (whew, long sentence), when a fly landed on one of the posts of the raised bin and asked me what I was doing. Yep, you heard right…a bloody fly landed on a support post and had the audacity to ask me what I was doing. Seemed to me that he had a lot of nerve…well, I thought it was a he at the time…to ask a question of someone sitting on their own patio. Heck, I could hardly understand him, the way his wings were flapping so loud. Guess he was probably yelling. What? Oh, you don’t speak fly? Guess you’re not from New England then. Hey, look, if Harry Potter could talk to snakes, you know, well New Englanders – least I haven’t met one yet who can’t – well, we communicate with all sorts of animal species…’cept cats. I’ll be damned if I can figure out what cats are saying. Most of my friends feel the same way. Cats just give you that smirk that says, “I hear you, slave, but don’t think I’m going to dignify what you have to say by answering you…go, go away before I do something evil…which I will do later anyway…when you least expect it.”

Speaking of anyways, this fly and I, we got into a conversation about why we’d started some of the garden but not the whole thing. He was rather funny looking, blue eyes, glimmering wings, and a little yellow spot just above the eyes. I said, “You’re not from around these parts, are ya?” and the fly allowed as that he was from Virginia and was really just stopping off for a while before he flew on to Maine for the summer. Seems the South gets a bit too hot for him and his family during the summer. “You got kids,” he asked, and I said they were all grown up and had kids of their own. “So, you’re a family man,” I queried, and he nodded his beady little head up and down, actually rising an inch or two above the post before settling back down. “How many kids you have?” I asked. He seemed to ponder that question for a moment, then responded, “At last count, I think she told me it was around six-point- two million…but that’s just a guestimate.” “Your wife told you that?” I asked. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” he said quickly. “Heck, the wife only knows about a couple million. No, my girlfriends told me about all the others.” “So you’re what one might call and adulterous fly, is that right.” “C’mon, man,” he said, “It’s what flies do everywhere. It’s no big deal. You should see what the mosquitoes and grasshoppers do. Wow, it’d kill me to try and keep up with them.”

Juli came out with a cup of coffee. “Who you talking to?” she asked, but then spotted the fly. “Oh, hi,” she said, “You going to Maine again this summer?” The fly nodded, and I looked at Juli. “You know this fly?” I asked. “Met him last year,” she intoned. “Really,” I said, “you know how many kids he has?” “Well, last year, I think he said around five million…is that right?” she asked, looking at the fly. By now, of course, even though it was only 7:15 in the morning, I’m thinking it’s time for a couple of fingers of Glenlivet or at the very least, a strong Bloody Mary. But, by the time that thought passed through my brain, Juli and the fly were involved in what appeared to be deep conversation.

“You never mentioned that you had a fly friend,” I said. “Would you have believed me?” she asked. “Hell no, I wouldn’t have believe you,” I responded and continued, “I probably would have called your brother to take you to the funny farm. Matter of fact, when he leaves, I might just head there myself. I mean, I know we can talk to flies and stuff, but this sure as hell is a first time for me!” The fly flew over and landed on my knee. “Look,” he said, “it may seem strange at first, but you’re the one who told me that New Englanders can talk to us and others. We’re cool with it, and Juli and I were just talking about the compost bin over there,” and he turned and nodded at our bin in the corner. “She was kind enough to put some rotting food in there last fall so we could stop for a snack on our way back home.”
“Well, I gotta buzz off,” the fly said, “Nice meeting you, and Juli, don’t forget, the oranges were really good last year. Gave us a lot of energy for the rest of the flight.” With that, he hovered, did a couple of loops around our heads and headed north.

Juli and I just stared at each other. She finally broke the silence. “Don’t forget to write oranges on the calendar around Labor Day,” she said. “They come back a day or two after.” What could I do? I just nodded, went into the house, and looked for the calendar. Now where the hell’s that scotch?

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Didn’t seem to be a big deal. Fellow came by yesterday. We were sitting at the kitchen table, just chatting, and he asked, “Do you know those little Tedeschi stores?” I just smiled and nodded that I did know them. Maybe my smile gave something away, I really don’t know. However, he followed up with, “What, why are you smiling?

I had to ask, “Do you know the history of the Tedeschi’s?”

“No, whadda you mean?” he asked.

Well, you know me, I’m not one to let an opportunity pass, so I had to tell the story…at least as I know it, and so I began…

Years ago, gosh, I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, we lived on the first floor of a two story house in Rockland, Massachusetts. The house was on Belmont Street, number 51 to be exact. Down the street from us was a little neighborhood grocery store. It was actually attached to the residence, but it had a parking lot that was big enough for maybe six cars. The husband and wife who lived there were Angelo and Katherine Tedeschi. There were days when my dad would take his shotgun and some shells, walk down the street and into the store. He’d yell, “Hey, Angelo, get the dogs and let’s go hunting,” and Angelo would tell Katherine to mind the store, and off he and dad would go to hunt. Remember now, this was late 1940, early ’41. If they were lucky, they would bring home a number of rabbits. Angelo would skin them and put them in his freezer. I have to tell ya, this store was just a little big larger than a two-car garage, so when I say it was ‘neighborhood,’ I mean, if you walked in there, you knew right away who was shopping. They were your neighbors. They knew you. You knew them, and it was a gathering place for neighborhood gossip as well as for picking up that night’s dinner.

It was later in 1941, December 7th to be exact, that America changed. We were drawn into a Second World War. Angelo and my dad were too old to join up, but some of the Tedeschi boys, as I was later told, went right down and enlisted. Ralph, the oldest, went into the Army as an officer. He fought in Europe and was promoted to the rank of major. To his misfortune, he was captured by the Germans. Ralph’s treatment at the hands of his captors was not too good. He was severely beaten. He was urinated on, and a number of other rather vile and despicable treatments were his wont in the camp in which he was held prisoners. He was isolated and thrown in a cell that had a dirt floor. As I understand it, he found a small stick at some point, and that dirt floor of his cell and that stick probably saved his life. You see, Ralph would diagram on that dirt floor his ideas for a new kind of market that he and his family would build when the war was over and he could go home. Different stores, different designs, different this and different that…all on the dirt floor as he was recovering from his beatings and his interrogation. Eventually, Ralph was freed from his captors by Russian soldiers. He was reunited with his family, and he began to plan.

The first “supermarket” opened by the Tedeschi family was on Market Street in Rockland. Ralph’s family, including brothers, Sam, Nick, and Bobby, as well as sister, Etta, were all part of the team. There could have been other brothers, heck, I could never keep track of all of them. Anyway, Angelo and Katherine were able to retire and watch their boys build a small empire. Stores in Braintree, Hanover, and a couple of other towns followed. Eventually, Stop & Shop, another major New England chain of supermarkets took notice. They offered to buy out the Tedeschi’s, and Ralph, as I understand it, drove a pretty hard deal, one that resulted in reasonably good wealth for all members of his family. Oh, and there was another proviso in the buyout. Ralph was prohibited from opening any other supermarket with the Tedeschi name for a period of ten years. Hey, they were all now millionaires, right, so what’s the big deal. Well, not so fast. The Tedeschi family hadn’t gotten to the position they were now in by being lazy and sitting on their collective butts. Within five years, the supermarket bug that had bitten Ralph was back and chomping away. As a result he opened some supermarkets on Cape Cod under the name of his father. They were called, “Angelo’s,” and they were big! As time went on, Ralph turned the business over to his brothers and other relatives. Eventually, another chain came and, once again, purchased the stores.

That, however, is not the end of my tale. My own Mother and Dad were in Florida when Angelo Tedeschi died. They read of his passing in a paper, and Mom called me. “Will you please go to the wake and the funeral and represent our family?” she asked. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse…probably would have gone anyway. When I walked into the funeral home, there they were, all of the brothers, greeting people who had come to pay their respects to this wonderful man who, along with his wife, had raised some pretty damned good kids. Ralph walked over and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?” I explained that my folks couldn’t come and that I was representing the family because someone from our neighborhood had to be there. I no sooner got the words out of my mouth than Ralph grabbed me in a bear hug and carried me into the room where Etta was sitting with her mother, Katherine. “Look,” said Ralph, “It’s Dickie Bishop!” [Gad, how I hated that nickname…still do]. I spent some time with the family and, really, it was old home week. It was also the last time that I saw Ralph alive.

Years later, my wife and I were spending a vacation in Bermuda. As I was heading for the water at our little beach, a lady ahead of me yelled out to her friend, already in the water, “Wow, not like Green Harbor,” – a beach on the Atlantic to which our my family and all of our friends frequently visited. Being the smart mouth that I am, I responded from behind her, “Not like Brandt Rock either,” another haunt of our neighborhood and right next to Green Harbor. We both laughed and went for our swims. On getting out of the water, I told my wife of the brief encounter which she thought to be rather amusing. About half an hour later, I noticed one of the women talking to a man on their blanket and point over toward me. “Ah, what the hell,” I figured, “might’s well walk over”…which I did and introduced myself. “I’m {can’t remember the first name] Tedeschi,” he said. To which I responded, “Whose are you?” This rather confounded them, and I asked if they were from Rockland. “No,” the man said, “We live in Norwell.” I repeated my question, adding, “Which one of the brothers are you the children of?” It was as though the lightbulb went off, and he responded, “Do you know my family?” I allowed as how I did and asked them what they knew of their grandparents. Turned out that both Angelo and Katherine had passed on before these young people were born. “Did you know my grandfather,” I was asked, and thus, once more, I had the privilege of telling some folks a bit of their own family history. Did I embellish just a bit? Of course, because Angelo and Katherine deserved to be embellished. They, along with their children, believed in and became the American Dream.

I write this not out of a need to tell a story. I write it because another fellow came by yesterday, sat at the kitchen table, and asked if I knew the name Tedeschi. This fellow, too, is an immigrant. He and his mom, escaped from the Soviet Union about thirty-five years ago. He owns a small business, and I can see in his eyes and in his work ethic, that he, too, is pursuing this thing we call the American Dream. I think he’s going to make it, maybe not the way Ralph or his counterparts did, but I really think he stands a good chance of realizing what just about every immigrant dreams of when he or she enters the shores of our United States of America.

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There are problems, and then there are PROBLEMS. I have both. The biggies are my age, my knees, my back, my eyes, and the fact that my mind is slowly going to hell in a handbasket. There is little to nothing that I can do about these problems, ergo, that go into what I call the “Fuckit Bucket.” If there’s nothing that can be done, pull an Alfred E. Neuman (of Mad Magazine fame) and say, “What, me, worry?” The little problems, the ones that I can do something about, include getting enough exercise, taking medications on time and seriously, eating the right foods, finishing up all of my latch hook problems before I die, ibid the harvesting of this year’s garden, and…books before I go blind from glaucoma.

Books are my most pressing problem. Please don’t ask me why, but I own four Kindles. I have not read all of the books that are stored on any of them. If books and Kindles were an addiction, I would be considered and incurable addict…no hope. Take away one Kindle, and I’d go into ‘reader withdrawal.’ In my heart of hearts, I’m convinced that I will never get to read all of the books on all of my Kindles before I make my way to whatever lies beyond. Perhaps it will be The Reluctant Demon, the third in a trilogy by Mark Cain. He’s a very funny writer. Hell’s Super and A Cold Day in Hell are absolutely hysterical, and why I haven’t read the last is somewhat beyond me. It may be that when I see a new ‘prey’ book by John Sanford or something by Robert Ludlam, David Baldacci, Greg Isles, Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, Brad Taylor, or any of more than two dozen authors, I can’t resist…c’mon Amazon, sock it to me…one click and I can own this sucker…and so I click.

Looking for a mystery, thriller, fiction or non-, I’m your guy. Just finished Steve Berry’s The Lost Order, a fascinating story about a horde of Southern Civil War stolen gold and silver that…nah, you’re going to get it and dig in yourself. A word of warning, however, don’t start this book after dinner or supper or whatever you call your evening meal. You may not fall asleep reading it, but you probably won’t get to work or school the next day either. This is a very well research and readable piece of fiction. Oh, and don’t forget to read just how much research he did to write this masterpiece.

There is something else you should know about my reading addiction…I didn’t always have one. In fact, as a “yute” – thank you, My Cousin, Vinny – I stayed away from books as though each and every one carried the plague. Shakespeare…I’d rather drink beer; Edgar Allen Poe…Oh, no, no, no. Arthur Conan Doyle…I’ll go play pool with Billy Boyle. Really, it wasn’t until I married in 1957…an English teacher, no less, that my interest in the written word began to grow. Oh, sure, George Khiralla, a literature Professor at Northeastern, had piqued my interest somewhat with the manner in which he brought Shakespeare to life, but that was George and that was one course, and we tore through the Bard’s plays at the rate of one-a-week, and if you didn’t read and didn’t understand, come the quiz on Friday, you were in deep do-do. Following back surgery shortly after we were married, Joan, my wife, brought home a few books from the library, among them, Allen Drury’s, Advise and Consent. Ouch, talk about getting hooked. The book was a political thriller that lasted 102 weeks in first place on The New York Times best seller list (I did not know that at the time). This was followed by book after book, and I suddenly found myself surrounded. I truly believe that it was the reading of so many different authors that enticed me into doing a bit of writing on my own. Did I ever want to be a published author of a successful book of some kind? Sure. Did it ever happen? Nope. Is there still a chance? You’ve got to be kidding. How could I ever become intelligent enough to do what James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, or Joel C. Rosenberg have done? It would take a fourth book by Mark Cain…Hell Freezes Over, before a book by me would ever appear.

Years ago, some first lady or other made it her cause to get kids reading. The slogan was “Reading is Fundamental,” with the first three letters of that last word emphasized. I just wished to hell she had been around in my younger days. Instead, I had to wait until I was older to read about the Civil War in books by Bruce Catton or The Civil War by Shelby Foote. I guess, by that time, I had already trod the battlefield at Manassas and seen some of the old cannon. By the time WWII ended, I had not yet become a ‘bookie,’ but trust me, I’ve read many since my addiction began. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Ken Follett’s Jackdaws are just two that come immediately to mind.

There is one thing that I know for certain…I will never read every single book I’d like to read before my time on this earth is up. Perhaps my idea of Heaven would be lying in the big brown bear chair, floating among the clouds, some soft music in the background, and me reading book after book after book for all eternity…man, what a…death.

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I dunno, I sort of got pissed off at Bill Shields yesterday. Bill is a reporter for Channel 4 television – a division of CBS – well, shit, that’s what they always say, so why shouldn’t I? Anyway, Bill was out in the ‘first blizzard since 2015’ – BFD – and he said that he felt he was slowly losing his mind. Now, I like Bill. He’s a damned good reporter, sort of the modern day Shelby Scott, for those of you who can remember back that far, but his comment was bothersome. Bill has beaten cancer, but his comment about slowly losing his mind was rather deleterious to those of us who are actually going through the process of doing just that. I don’t need any public broadcast of what I’m going to become.

Let me start at the very beginning – according to Julie Andrews, a very good place to start. Last year, at my annual “turn your head and cough” visit to the doctor, I experienced a spate of dizziness while getting dressed…no, he wasn’t smiling and smoking a cigarette. He helped me retain my balance, but suggested I see a neurologist whose office was one floor below where I was. Sure enough, down I went and talked to the good doctor. He told me that he’d like to schedule some tests, and we did. A few months later, I was sitting with electrodes attached to my head as images were shown, and all sorts of other, little testy things were done. Following the tests, I met with the neurologist. “Everything okay?” I asked. His well yes and no answer temporarily made me forget that I was in a neurologist’s office and not sitting with a shrink. It seems that the tests indicated that while my body is a temple, my mind is becoming akin to the privy behind. It also appears that while I do not now have dementia, there are some signs that say I’m a pretty good candidate.

“I want you to begin using a cane,” he told me. When I asked, “Why?” he indicated that my episodes of dizziness or losing my balance could be aided by the use of a cane…I haven’t bumped into a wall since I began using the damned thing, something I would occasionally do when walking down the hallway of our house…aha, the light dawns on Marble-head. Here I thought that I was just being clumsy. It was good to learn that it was something a bit more than me being me.

I guess I shouldn’t be taking it out on Bill Shields, but like most humans, I’m just looking for a scapegoat. The thing that is most bothersome about this whole diagnosis is that it isn’t actually a diagnosis. There are signs. Well, what does that mean? According to a picture of my brain, there are three little white spots that indicate my propensity toward some form of dementia. I watched my mother-in-law slowly die of Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I have a dear friend whose husband has frontal lobe dementia. It’s very unsettling to see him, and I don’t know how the hell she manages it. I have another friend who has become forgetful and is in the early stages of I’m not even certain what to call it. Am I going to be joining these people? I don’t know, but it’s a bit wearying to consider. Perhaps the most irritating thing about it is the idea that I wouldn’t be able to continue writing this blog. As I’ve said on many occasions, writing brings me tremendous joy…yeah, and I’ve got over 1,100 essays on this sucker to prove it! I love the idea of reading about or seeing some topic on which I can do Internet searches, to learn about someone or something, to be intrigued by some mystery or other, and then to gather information and present it to you, the one or two of you who actually read the blog…it’s just a hell of a lot of fun, and to be deprived of that is to take away a big part of my reason for being. Heck, I’m no threat to real writers, but I sure do have some fun.

Stay tuned for updates as the old man gets older and, with any luck, loses some white spots!

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I was a depression-era baby. My mother and father believed strongly that if you couldn’t pay for it, you didn’t need it. That included just about everything, including a can of baked beans to a new or used car. It’s just the way things were. Mom had a ‘Christmas Club’ whereby she would go to the bank each week and deposit five or ten dollars – sometimes as little as a couple of bucks – in order to buy presents for the kids in December. This was ingrained in us from our earliest years…”Don’t get into debt!”

When I went off to college, my folks had scraped enough money together to get me through my first year. My part-time job put money in the bank so that I could continue. Since I went to a university that offered the co-op plan, I was able to work a term to pay for a term…”But I didn’t go into debt!” Tuition and books were a lot less expensive then, and I most assuredly was not a residence hall student. One book that was a required text was “Advertising Production.” At the first meeting of the class, the instructor informed us that it was not his choice of a text, but the department chair insisted. He then said that it wouldn’t bother him in the least if we returned the text to the bookstore. That had been the most expensive text I had ever purchased and, suffice it to say, no one from the class came close to getting to the bookstore with the speed and exuberance of yours truly.

When it came time to purchase our first home, my wife and I were very concerned. We both held full-time jobs, but both were in education. Anyone who has worked in the field knows that the salaries are not exorbitant. My folks couldn’t help but my wife was the only child of a successful theater chain executive. He helped us with a ‘wink, wink loan,’ and our mortgage became something manageable.

By this time, credit cards were becoming a bigger and bigger business. “Buy now; get it now; pay later,” was the mantra and many people fell into the trap. Since she, too, was a depression baby, our philosophy was a bit different…”If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it.” Gee, where had I heard that one before? Did we eventually build some credit card debt? Absolutely, but not to the point where we couldn’t pay the debt off in the short- rather than the long-term. We calculated annual rate percentages and couldn’t stand the thought of “them” taking all of our interest. Hell, it ticked me off that our mortgage payments were more interest than principal for a while.

The biggest drawback to this frugal behavior didn’t catch up with me until the other day. In order to get a substantial discount on a moderately expensive item, I agreed to apply for an Amazon credit card. In the turn down letter that I received, was written, “We used information from your credit report in making our decision. In whole or in part, from the credit reporting agency below (Experian, Inc). The agency won’t be able to provide the specific reasons for our decision. We’ve enclosed details about your right to know the information in your credit report at the end of this letter.” I was truly pissed! I called Experian to learn what was going on, only to be told after an hour and two minutes on the telephone, that I didn’t have a credit rating because, basically, I didn’t have any credit debt. Of the three people with whom I spoke, not one could speak the King’s English. I kept asking to speak to a supervisor which only got me transferred to another – be polite now – international speaker. After the first 26 minute wait, I asked how many people were working the phones in the office. This question at first stumped the person on the other end. Finally, she admitted that there were somewhere between 100 and 150. “Why then the long delay in answering your phones?” I asked. She just chuckled, yes, chuckled, and asked how she could help. She couldn’t and I was again transferred. After a similar wait, I reached Kadherin, who neither spoke English very well and either chose not to understand or didn’t understand my request. Here’s the topper: I am now being charged $39.95 for calling Experian plus a $1.00 charge for my credit report, which I will never see because it’s nonexistent!

Tomorrow I go to my bank and request a credit card from them. I will use that credit card, but only to the extent of receiving a monthly statement for the purpose of establishing some credit line. I should not have to do this because I pay my bills on time. This has been ingrained in me since birth. Thinking back on it, while mother was changing my diapers I do remember her singing a lullaby about “…the Joneses are in debt; we won’t keep up with them, etcetera, etcetera,” and the chorus was “…if you can buy it, you don’t need it,” or words to that effect. Yeah, yeah, I remember that (uh huh, sure you do)!

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When I asked about one of my high school classmates recently, I was told, “Aw, he drank himself to death some time ago.” I thought to myself, “Well, that makes two from our class that I know of.” It’s not a pretty picture. How many others, I wonder, abused alcohol? We had less than 80 people in our senior class, and while two out of eighty might not sound so bad, you go ahead and do the math as it may concern the teenage and adult population in the United States. Let me save you some trouble…there are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States.

Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing. As the cliché goes, it’s 20/20. Looking back to my days at Northeastern and at Babson, I can now recall people I knew who always had alcohol on their breath and who would act confused at times. Naïve little me, I guess. Today, I can honestly say that I was really too damned dumb to notice erratic behavior. Perhaps that’s because there were more than a few mornings when I was nursing a hangover. Thankfully, Joan and I came to our senses before things went too far.

Looking at the statistics on alcoholism, I find that three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics. That’s really a staggering number – no pun intended – of people who abuse alcohol. Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol…and that’s not even counting moonshine. In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes. Perhaps this explains why, even on my early morning drive to the gym or whenever Juli and I are out in the car, my eyes are always shifting to what’s going on in the oncoming lane. Sure, I’m going to die, but I’m not eager to have it be at the hands of some drunk I don’t even know! Two other facts that were somewhat surprising…people with a higher education are more likely to drink, and the same is true for people who are considered to be wealthy. I’m not certain what the correlation is, but it seems that if you’re well educated and rich, you’re more likely to be a drunk…for some reason, that just doesn’t compute, but it’s out there.

A friend of mine recently went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told me that he’d finally had enough and that it wanted to quit drinking. His feeling was that he couldn’t do so without help. He indicated that he was shocked when he went to his first meeting because he knew every other person in the room. As I’ve learned over the years, alcoholics are very well versed in how to hide the disease from others. Yes, alcoholism is a disease. It’s not a choice that most people make. It consumes the mind and body of the alcoholic, but it also affects those around him or her. While there are 12 million alcoholics as I’ve said, there are another 50 – 60 million friends and family members who are affected by this debilitating disease.

At this point, time has elapsed since the last paragraph was written. I became angry while writing it, and that’s when objectivity leaves, ergo I’m better off walking away and coming back when I’ve cooled down. My anger stemmed from the fact that I can remember, during my drinking days, of how my family was affected by my drinking. I didn’t like who I was or what I did, but thankfully, those days are long past and there don’t appear to be any residual effects.

Just because you or I may live in a ‘dry’ town doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t easily accessible. There seem to be more “Town Line” liquor stores abutting the dry town lines than there are restaurants or any other type of establishment. No, liquor is a very easy thing to get one’s hands on. Drinking is one of society’s more widespread and accepted forms of addiction, so how do we spot the alcoholic? ‘We’ don’t have to spot someone with an alcohol dependency. Alcoholics know who they are. It’s one of the few self-diagnosable diseases there are. Asking one’s self a few simple questions can provide answers. Do you drink to relax or feel better? Do you hide your drinking or bottles of liquor? Do you drink to the point of blacking out? How often do you drink to this point? Are you unable to stop once you start drinking? Do you drink in dangerous situations, e.g., when you may have to get behind the wheel of your car? Is your tolerance to alcohol increasing? Do you find that you are neglecting things at home, work, or school? Have you tried to quit but find that you are unable to do so? These are just a few of the signs or symptoms that alcohol is no longer your friend but has become your master. I had a boss who, when we went out to lunch, had to have at least two drinks to get him through the afternoon. In addition, he would become upset if I didn’t drink with him. It made for a few awkward situations.

Why am I writing about all of this…again? It’s been done to death, and no one needs to be reminded about the dangers of alcohol. Well, maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we all need to be reminded of it. God only knows we see enough of the results of it on television…cars wrapped around trees or driving the wrong way and killing others just trying to get home. Yeah, we do need to be reminded of it…and on a fairly regular basis. Alcohol dependency is one of those things that for which we do have treatment centers and programs. Let’s make it personal…I used to drink to the point where I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. I used to drink and drive, but I got away with it. I no longer drink and I’m better off because of it. Every so often one friend or another will tell me that they are going to meetings or that they’ve been sober for so many days, weeks, or months. I understand that. I will always understand that. And I will always help anyone who seeks my help to quit. None of us wish to become one of the 100,000 who die each year from alcohol-related accidents.

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“How’re ya doin’?”

“Terrific, thanks; how about you?”

(No answer, but…) “Well, you’re lookin’ terrific!”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? I told this person I was “terrific,” and he looked at me like I’m some kind of liar. If I was doin’ shitty, I’d tell him, “I’m doin’ shitty,” so what’s the big deal. Does he want me to say that my back hurts like a son-of-a-bitch because all of the lumbar vertebrae are self-fused and they can’t even get a bloody needle in to give me an epidural anymore? That my back is so bad that I now have to use a cane to ensure my balance? That there’s no cartilage in either of my knees and when I walk, I can hear the bones rubbing together? That the doctors tell me I wouldn’t survive the anesthesia required for knee replacements? Is that what he wants?

I’ve stopped telling people how old I am when they ask. “Old enough to know better, but still young enough to learn,” has become my standard mantra. It’s either that or “Old enough to know not to make the mistakes of my youth,” that’s another one I’ve used.

I sometimes think that people ask how old you are so they can feel better about themselves. The one that really gets my goat is some young stud or ‘studdess’ telling me they hope they can do what I do when they’re my age. Screw that; I do what I do because I’m not quite ready to kick the bucket yet, and this exercise shtick is what the doctors say will help to keep me out of the crematorium. Someone asks if I’m feeling all right and follows up with, “You look kind of pale.” I just tell them I’m feeling a bit ‘ashy.’ They never get it, but it gives me a pretty good chuckle…at their expense…you don’t have something nice to say to me, shut the f..k up; I don’t need to hear it…particularly at five in the morning.

I’ve learned that there is a singular advantage to using the cane. People hold doors for me, and even old ladies who can walk without aid will defer to me as I enter the gym. At home, I often leave the cane and walk around unaided. Then I bump into a wall or a piece of furniture and remember that the cane is used for a reason…yep, you’re right…not the brightest bulb on Broadway!

I’ve noticed, in my dotage, that I get more hugs from young women than I used to. I figure they don’t think I’m any threat to them any more. They’re right, of course, but oh lord, does it ever bring back fond memories of yesteryear. Hell, I wasn’t a threat to them even then…married at 22, father of three ten years later…I never had the time or the desire to be a threat.

You see, the way I look at things now is this: I have coronary artery disease, but I’ve survived the first four heart attacks and now have six stents in the arteries around the heart. I had an aneurysm in my abdomen that one of the doctors caught before it burst, but it was purely by accident that he discovered it…whew. I say “whew,” because abdominal aneurysms are the tenth leading cause of death in this country…yeah, I was surprised too. I smoked cigarettes for 51 years and have moderate emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to show for it…but it could be a whole helluva lot worse. I’ve managed to get by with nearly 20 surgeries to my credit, and if it’s all the same to those who care, I’d just as soon not have to go through any more. Although I must admit that Versed, one of the anesthetics being used today, is fantastic because it blocks out your memory and is great on pain…yippee Skippy!

The latest episode in this medical autobiography is the one that I guess I’ve been dreading for years. I was recently diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes. I don’t know how fast this disease progresses, but for someone whose two great loves are reading and writing, this comes as something akin to a good hard kick in the…backside. However, like everything else, this storm can be weathered. There are always books on tape – I can become a better listener than a reader – and my little blog is so filled with errors that it just means Juli will have to add proofreader to her already endless list of things I ask her to do on a daily basis…as I say, the blog will have a few more errors. I’m certain of this because I know exactly where she’ll tell me to go if I ask her to proofread. Since that may well be my ultimate destination, I don’t wish to encourage more people than necessary to tell me to “do it now!”

Well, that about sums it up from this side of the bar stool. Keep those comments coming. It’s always nice to hear what’s going on in the world of reality.

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