Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas 'Tacks"

My old man had a heart attack the summer I was 14. In those days they had no clue how to handle a 39 year old man who’d had a massive heart attack. The old man damned near died. Dr. Graham took a drag on his cigarette and told Dad to “stay in bed for a year, oh yeah and quit smoking” so he did. The result he was bored, pissed and didn’t make any money. Zero. It was a tough time for all of us.

I grew from 5 foot 8 to 5’11’’ from the end of 8th grade to the start of 9th. All my pants were too short, my shoes didn’t fit and worst of all my size 8 skates didn’t fit my brand new size ten feet. Mom told me new skates were out of the question. I needed clothes, badly. That was what I getting for Christmas.
We had a helluva Junior A hockey team, we’d all played together since 6th grade. My pals and I knew we could win it all this season. Gary, Don, John, Dick, Roger and I believed it. I knew I needed new skates. I needed CCM Pro-Lites with the Tackaberry boot. They cost 125.00 in those days. Things, due to inflation over the years are about 7 times more expensive today and if you multiply 125 by 7 comparable skates today cost over $800. Get the picture?

My sister Margo came to me after Thanksgiving, she led me into mom and dad’s room and pointed out a CCM box on the top shelf of Mom’s closet. I took it down and there were my dream skates, the same skates the Pros wore, that the Sioux wore. I couldn’t believe it. We were broke! I tried them on, perfect fit.
The season started in early December with practices on the Central park ice. I suffered through the first one wearing my old skates. Thin socks didn’t help; my new feet were too big. The next day I put my old skates in the new CCM box and put the Tacks with my gear. I started wearing them. I could skate like the wind.
The first game, I blocked a shot, my new Tacks got a dent in the right front post. The 2nd game I got in a battle for the puck in the corner and the toe of my left skate lost a chunk of leather. I was wearing my Christmas present to three practices a week plus two games. I played pick up hockey on Saturdays and Sundays and at least one night a week went to public skating at the old rink at UND. The 3rd game, I blocked another shot and dented the post on the left skate. I had the skates rockered and sharpened at least twice a week. By Christmas the Christmas Tacks were well broken in and roughed up. The tree was up and the CCM box was wrapped and it had my name on it.

Our family routine at Christmas was Christmas Eve at my Dad’s parents, open our presents at home on Christmas morning and then Christmas Day at Moms’ parents. When we got home on Christmas Eve, I stayed awake until well after one. I razored open the CCM box and put the new Tacks in it and wrapped it back up. I had polished them the best I could. We opened our presents on Christmas morning, I waited as long as I could. I got new pants, shirts and sox. I had pants that fit for the first time in months. The last present, the CCM box wrapped in red foil paper was glowing like it was radioactive. I finally had to open it. I did an acting job that warranted an Oscar. My Dad asked to see my new skates, he looked them over and then said to my Mom, “Janice, I thought we got him new skates? These look like they’re used.” I confessed. My mother knew all along, she always knew everything.
It was a very good Christmas at a difficult time for our family. My grandparents helped make the new Tacks happen, mom had scrimped and saved.
Our team won Junior A that season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Get a Grip People!

My conservative friends need to get a dose of reality. Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty is no more of a hillbilly redneck than Buddy Ebson was Jed Clampett. I’m sure his comments in GQ were a marketing ploy and if he is anything, he is a brilliant marketing man. The Robertson Family enjoying Martha's Vineyard
After the recall of Gray Davis here in California we elected Arnold Schwarzenegger governor. Too many people (mostly conservatives) thought we were electing Conan the Barbarian and he would swing his mighty sword and straighten out Sacramento overnight. It didn’t happen. Arnold even hung Conan’s sword on the wall of his office. It was a movie prop.

Some conservatives are excited by another strong man (I guess) Chris Christie the governor of New Jersey. He’s cut school budgets, bullied teachers, public employees and strong armed reporters. He’s rough, tough and ready to push around all those soft liberals. He’s also got the highest unemployment in the North East, he’s given tax breaks to money losing casino operations, he was charged by the US Attorney’s office for exceeding his travel and entertainment budget guidelines when he was  US Attorney for New Jersey and now the bridge scandal. Ever think he is maybe just another fat pant bully politician from New Jersey?

John Wayne was and is another conservative hero. Tough Marine hero, western cowboy hero, all around bad ass. Never served in the military, lived in Newport Beach California not on a ranch like you’d think Rooster Cogburn would. The worst thing you could hear in Basic training was “Cut that John Wayne shit out trooper.” He was a guy who made movies.
Ronald Reagan made training films during WWII, never left Hollywood. Nancy broke up his marriage to Jane Wyman. Go to the RR museum and gaze on pure un-adulterated fantasy land. Rough and tough Ronnie used an English saddle when he rode around his Santa Barbara Ranch all dressed up in his cowboy costume. He also lost 249 Marines in Lebanon (after being warned security wasn't any good) and got the hell out over night and then kicked ass in Grenada right?

Prep school cheer leader George W. Bush bought his ranch shortly before he ran for President, somebody taught him how to operate a chainsaw and he basically cut brush for 8 years.  The ranch was on the market and sold after he left office. Presumably his Ford F-150 and the chainsaw were part of the deal.

Roy Rogers was born in Chicago, Gabby Hayes was an Englishman and perennial virgin Doris Day was a big band singer. As Artie Shaw once said, “I knew Doris day before she was a virgin.” Charlton Heston wasn’t Moses, kids.
Your uncritical, magical thinking leads you to believe Obama is fascist-socialist-communist-Muslim-born in Kenya-weakest president ever who is stronger than Hitler. Get a grip people.

Whoops, I almost forgot you thought Mitt Romney was a guy who built businesses with his own hands and ingenuity.

Now some conservative “thought leaders” are championing Russia’s Vladimir Putin for his conservative values.   If Putin thought it would garner him support he’d take off his shirt, put his foot in the middle of Phil Robertson’s chest and rip that idiot beard out by the handful!

You people need to grow the fuck up! Check out Putin being the manly. conservative man before being photo shopped into the great outdoors.
 He could run for President and some of you'd vote for him. Probably win South Carolina hands down after he wrestles a couple of the other candidates into submission right on Fox News Live!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Deep in the Heart of Texas"

Greg Abbot is the Texas Attorney General and since Rick Perry announced that he isn’t going to run again, Abbot is the Republican front runner and is he is a Texas sized asshole!

Exhibit 1.

Abbot brags “I go into the office in the morning, sue President Obama and then I go home.”

He’s a horse shit lawyer, he’s sued the feds 27 times and won 5 times, costing Texans millions and millions in court fees.

Exhibit 2.

Abbot had a tree fall on him in 2004, he sued and won 10 million dollars. He is in a wheelchair for life. Immediately after he won his judgment, he led a fight in Texas for Tort Reform (from his wheelchair) to lower settlements like the one he won in court. If the fucking tree fell on him today, the maximum he’d get is $250,000.

Exhibit 3.

Abbot is now suing the feds over the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Championed by Bob Dole and signed into law by George H. W. Bush) It’s the law that makes public buildings handicapped accessible, prevents discriminatory hiring practices, etc. Abbot must have a magic flying wheelchair (or plenty of burly Teas Rangers to haul his ass around) that doesn’t need curb cuts, he doesn’t need handicapped urinals to piss in or since I’m sure as Attorney General and probably down the road as Governor he’ll have drivers so he won’t need to worry about handicapped parking spots.

Sick bastard.

I think we’d be much better off, as Rick Perry once hinted, if Texas would just secede from the Union. Then we could take all our military bases, the Johnson Space Center, cut them out of FAA airport controls and every other piece of the federal government that they obviously despise and then move that border fence to the Oklahoma border. Maybe we’d get really lucky and Oklahoma would join Texas.

Best part is Texas college football teams would have to play themselves, over and over and over.

As my old friend JB, a true “blue” Texan says, “The Republicans in Texas have turned the state into Mississippi with good roads and if they fuck up the schools any more than they have, smart parents will be sending their kids to school in Nuevo Laredo.”


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Long View on Life's Oddities and Weird Moments

At my birthday party last night, a friend asked "What's the weirdest thing you've experienced over the years?"

The first thing that popped into my mind was an incident with one of my German Shepherds. We were hiking in northern Maine on a little used trail, we were miles from civilization. This was bear, moose, deer and black fly country. The dog was off leash, ranging ahead of me and he came trotting back with a pink thong in his mouth. You can imagine what kind of thoughts ran through my head!

Another weird thing took place in the Bugaboos in Canada. I was at the end of a 4 day climbing trip and we were staying in the climbers hut.

The first floor of the hut has tables, chairs a small library and a kitchen. The second floor has sleeping spaces marked on the floor. They fit a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag, they are about 6 inches apart.
After 3 nights of sleeping next to a fart master from Vancouver, the spot next to me was taken by a big, strong, gorgeous female climber from Poland. She and her partner had climbed every big mountain in Europe and South America and were planning a climb on K-2 and Everest. My climbing partner Lance and I shared a drop or two of whisky with the Polish girls after our freeze dried dinners. We went to bed at 10 or so and I zipped into my bag next to her. I was almost asleep when she rolled over and said. "Boob, ven you go home?" I said, we were hiking out in the morning. She said, "Too bat, I vas gonna take you up the small hut on de ice and ve make luf tomorrow night." She gave me a kiss on the cheek, rolled over and went to sleep. I was wide awake all night.

When I was the program director of WVBF in Boston, my afternoon drive guy, Magic Christian had a listener record the following: "Hi, this is Patti Hearst and whenever I'm hiding out in Boston, I always listen to the Magic Christian on 105.7 WVBF" the next day I was talking to three FBI agents.

When I was working with the amazing Chuck Riley, (you may remember him as Chuck Dann on CKY and KQWB) he bought an Avanti from the company that retained the rights to build the car after Studebaker went out of business. The cars were highly customized as far as paint and interior décor. Chuck ordered a chocolate brown with brown suede interior. One day in the parking lot he was yelling for help, he couldn't get out of the car! He had worn a suede top coat and it interacted with the seats like Velcro.

At WVBF we had 3 black women on staff, Choice Joyce our receptionist, Claudette, a sales secretary and I hired Pam Hamilton to do the all night show. Pam was from Long Island, an Emerson graduate, she played the violin and wasn't exactly soulful at the time. I overheard Joyce and Claudette talking one day about Pam. Claudette said to Joyce, "That sistah don't know she's a sistah!"

          I have many, many more...but I have a hockey game to get ready for! Go Broons!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grandpa John, my Father's Day Thoughts

I started thinking about my Grandpa John. He was a remarkable man. 

John, the oldest of a huge family, was sent from Iowa as a teenager to farm land his father purchased, in North Dakota, He was a teenaged farmer, farming with horses and his strong back. John also had to supervise his younger brothers every summer when they were sent from Iowa to "help" him on the farm. Imagine it, a kid, farming for a long distance, cold and demanding father, who at the end of the year took his share off the top.

John was intelligent, quiet and unassuming, he farmed with allergies I've inherited, he wore a bandana over his nose and mouth and eventually a dust mask, it helped a little but not a lot.

His fields were perfect, the furrows were straight and he wasted nothing.

I remember driving back to the farm from Church one Sunday (he seldom went) we were all dressed in church clothes. Grandpa stopped his Oldsmobile when he spotted a lone, green piece of fire brush in one of his wheat fields. He and I got out of the car and waded through the long wheat waving in the constant North Dakota wind. Grandpa took off his suit jacket, gently pulled the fire brush out of the ground and wrapped it in his jacket. He didn't say a word, he put it in the trunk of the Olds and when we got back he burned it in the burn barrel. His fields never had any of that invasive brush that plagued his neighbors crops.

My abiding memory of him is watching him in his chambray shirt, bib overalls, sunglasses and a big straw hat walking in the field, his hands gently touching the full heads of grain to ascertain if they were dry enough to cut and then harvest.

He died when I was a Junior in high school, I spent some time with him the afternoon he died, but I can't picture him in the hospital, only in his fields. That's where he belonged.

My Dad, his only son, was a pilot in the Army Air Force, after the war, dad flew a Piper Cub out to the farm to give his parent's their first plane ride. When Grandpa John climbed aboard, he said, "Don't go too fast, Bobby." He loved it!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I Love Hockey!

When I was a little boy, our next door neighbor Leo Fetig was the goalie for the Amerks a semi-pro hockey team. Leo had three girls. I was the one he taught to skate. I remember Leo after the games with black eyes, bloody noses and his wife Ruth working on his "Charlie horses".

My lifelong pal Gary Como and I were kids who helped Al Purpur with the ice at the University of North Dakota during the Sioux games, we did it for free tickets. We saw some great WCHA Hockey. Gary and I saw the Russian National team play the Sioux on their first US tour. We saw Harvard play UND for the first time on UND home ice. Bill Cleary gave me his stick after the game. Bill and his brother went on to play for the Gold Medal team in the ’60 Olympics. I met Cleary years later in Boston when he was the coach at Harvard, I brought up the stick and he remembered the game and the dumb kid after the game. After that I saw any Harvard game I wanted plus tickets to the Bean Pot. There were some great ones. Gary and I would do our ice scraping and then sit on the scoreboard supports to watch the game, perfect for Junior High boys. I watched Stan Pashcke play for UND and we cried at the sad story of Terry Casey. Later in life I got to know Stan and his eyes lit up when I told him I played at Pashcke Gardens (the rink at Central Park) when I was a kid. The UND play by play guy, Doug Teigmeir would always say when Stan scored a goal, “There’s another light in Pashcke Gardens” I later worked with Doug at KNOX and engineered UND hockey games. The story is always how the coach of the 80' Olympic team was the last cut on the 60 team, Stan was the cut just before Herb Brooks.

With the encouragement of our coach, Bob Peters, we formed a Midget A team and a Jr team at Central Park one year and won both leagues. Plus we played double the games our peers played. Peters later coached UND, then started the program at Bemidji State and won championships in D-3, D-2 and D-1. He was a college goalie drafted by the Redwings, opted to stay in school and to make a career in coaching. My biggest regret is not taking his offer to train me as a goal tender. Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

I played club hockey in college and had some fun. Later, I had a guy working for me whose Mom was in the head office of the North Stars and she got a pair of green and white North Stars skates for me. The next year they became the Dallas Stars.

I feel madly in love with the NHL when I lived in Boston, the Orr-Esposito Bruins were fantastic, the rivalries of the Original 6 teams, the upstart Flyers and Islanders, the Summit Series were great moments. Some friends and I even went to a game at the Montreal Forum. Later as I climbed the ladder in broadcasting, I had tickets to the Bruins, 3rd row, North end to the right of the goal. The perfect seats for hockey because you can see the entire surface of the ice. I had a “Jesus Saves and Esposito Scores on the Rebound” bumper sticker too. I got to meet and know Milt Schmidt, all star player for the Bruins, hall of famer, coach, general manager of the B’s and then started the Cap’s franchise. Just a wonderful guy. Miss our lunches.

George Johns, a Transcona kid and I took Jim Quall, another Transcona mug to the Boston Garden to see the Bruins. Jim played for the St. Boniface Bruins in Jr. Hockey, it was such a great night for the three of us. For Jim to watch a game in a building he’s only seen on Hockey Night in Canada for his entire life was just amazing. he still talks about it!

I got to know Dallas Smith from Winnipeg who played for the Bruins, Don Awrey, Bobby Orr’s defensive partner became a friend.

When I met Jan she didn’t know hockey from a handbag, now she stands in front of the flat screen with me and watches.

Living in LA, I think the Kings are such a great team, but my Bruins are back in the final and playing the Black Hawks for the Cup, could it get any better than this? Original 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Go Frack Yourself

It was recently announced that California has shale oil reserves that are larger than the Bakken Field. Cali has been producing oil since the 1860’s. Drive on 101 or the 5 and you can see the pumps, the tanks and the pipe lines. Oil has been part of the California economy for a long, long time. Because of that we don’t buy the oil company bullshit like the rubes in other parts of the country do.
That's a photo of Long Beach's Signal Hill rigs, Beverley Hills high school has an active rig on the campus, drive from north of Santa Barbara to Ventura on the Pacific Coast Highway and you'll see off shore rigs. We have plenty of experience with oil company behavior.
To get the shale oil out of the ground, fracking is required. Our legislature wants the oil companies to let the people of California know just exactly what is in the fracking fluid used to extract the oil. The oilmen shit their drawers and scream, “It’s a trade secret! If other companies know what’s in our fracking fluid we’ll lose our competitive edge.” Ahh, bullshit.
In addition to being an oil producer, California is the number one ag state in the nation. Growing food requires water. There is a good case to made that fracking fluid just might screw up our already limited supplies of water. Hey, you don’t want fresh fruit in the winter, how about lettuce and tomatoes, you can do without salads in the winter, can’t you? You don’t like asparagus anyway. The problem is oil and gas producers are exempt from EPA regulations as far as water testing is concerned. Gee, i wonder how they got that done?

Big Oil’s position is easily explained by this quote from Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil addressing the companies’ shareholders

                                     "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?"
Hey, Rex! Go fuck yourself, you entitled prick. You don’t think humanity, what’s left of it, won’t suffer when the average temp notches up a few more degrees and most of the SW US is unable to support life? Of course your future dependents will be living in air conditioned domes or underground while the average shithead will baking in the unrelenting heat and all of those mansions in Miami will be artificial reefs. Of course the entire eco-system of the ocean will be so fucked up we’ll be lucky if the many 6500 sq foot artificial reefs have any fish swimming the god damned home theaters, 9 bathrooms or 5 car garages.
This is what happens when big oil operates without rules, this is a spill in the Niger Delta:
The United Nations figures this will take 30 years to clean up. If you think that wouldn't happen here without oversight, your either as crooked as the Nigerian oligarchs or as naive as a North Dakota state legislator!
There's good reason that so many science fiction villains are corporate pricks like Rex!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day with the Greatest Generation

Memorial Day Weekend, my memories are the opening of the lake place, the Indy 500 on the radio and the sound of the rotisserie on the grill going er-whine, er-whine, er-whine as the chicken turned over the coals, and of course, my mom, my dad and their friends having a party, drinking and eating, laughing and telling stories.

We are losing about a thousand WWII vets a day. Called by Tom Brokaw, the “Greatest Generation”, these men and women all in their 80s and 90s are coming to the end of their long journey.
My parents were members of this generation, so were all their friends. They were the adults I watched and learned from when I was a kid. I learned plenty from them, good and bad.
They were part of and benefited from the greatest growth this country or any other has ever experienced. The post WWII years created the middle class in this country, economic demand, rising wages, worker protections, leisure time and of course, job security. They had no qualms about investing in schools, good roads and the space program. They wanted nothing but good for their children. For every body's children.

With Memorial Day this weekend we’ll see all the images again of the “Good War” and the well-deserved paeans to my parent’s generation. I lived it and I saw it.

For my dad and his fellow vets, there was no PTSD treatment. Most of them wouldn’t admit it if they had it. It was “manly” to ignore any problem you may have suffered from the war. My dad was a Glider pilot, the 2nd glider across the Rhine during Operation Varsity. Varsity was the largest airborne operation in history. It was also the first time the pilots had to form up in Infantry Companies and fight on the ground after they landed. Dad participated in a battle called Burp Gun Corner in a small German town’s crossroads. They held off a panzer tank company for over 30 hours. Dad had a shrapnel wound in his leg from the landing zone and he had the heel shot off his boot during the fight at the crossroads. They prevailed in the fight. Dad was awarded the Bronze Star, one of his fellow pilots won the Silver Star.

One of my dad’s best friends was a tank commander who fought all the way across Europe, another was a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne and another was a submariner. Tough guys, good friends and overall good people, what they had in common, as well as the war, is that they self-medicated. I believe they all had PTSD.

Dad was pretty wild when he was first home, without telling my mother, he and a buddy flew from North Dakota to Guatemala in a single engine plane. He called her from Arizona. He did buy her a gift, a couple of feather pictures of exotic birds. She wasn’t happy. When he wanted to go out with his friends he did. That’s what all the “guys” did. The wives, bitched about it but, didn’t say much to their husbands.

My father and his friends worked hard, played hard and loved their families, but it was all on their terms. If my mom didn’t want to go where my dad wanted to go, she never said much and went along. That’s what women did. Years later, long after my dad was gone, my mother let loose about how angry she was at him, she was really mad. I imagine she wasn’t the only woman carrying years of anger around with her.

I had friends whose fathers beat them, not spankings, beatings. Some guys beat their wives as well. My dad wasn’t one of them, but he knew who they were and never said anything. Neither did my mother, or their friends. They just didn’t talk about it. The kids didn’t either. When it arrived in my family, dad acted. My aunt showed up at a family barbecue wearing sunglasses, she kept them on after the sun went down. My dad lifted them off her face and she had two black eyes, dad hauled my uncle off to the other side of the garage and kicked the living shit out of him. The beatings stopped for a while and then started again later. Nothing more was said. I was 8 years old at the time, I loved my aunt and I never had much of a relationship with my uncle after that. When I was in high school I got his attention by throwing him off the dock into the lake and I didn’t do it gently. I got in a few punches that I’d been saving since that Sunday night when I was 8 years old.

Couples, who should have divorced, didn’t. My mom’s best friend was divorced and worked in her father’s business; she was a rarity in the 50’s. One of my good friend’s mother was divorced, two divorcees, two kids and I knew them both. Most kids my age never even knew of a divorced couple or knew any kids from a divorce.

My dad was a misogynist like his friends. (One of them called his wife “It” to her face and in front of their kids.) In retrospect; my dad should have known better since his mother was a very strong woman who participated in all aspects of running their farm and handled all the money.  My dad ran everything, my mother got an allowance, a car and she had charge accounts for food, gasoline and at several clothing stores. Dad took care of the rest.

I knew dad loved mom, but he seldom expressed it. He called me when mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and the first thing I noticed was how he talked about her using words I’d never heard him use before, he told me how much he loved her and how much he needed her and how special she was. He was frightened to be alone. When she recovered, he went back to his old ways. Several years later I called him out on it and he was stunned. He didn’t have any idea that his treatment of my mom was out of line. Once again, he never roughed her up but he didn’t treat with the respect she deserved and after her recovery he just went back to his old ways.

Kids in my generation, the Boomers, grew up listening to our parents, mostly the fathers, calling people, spics, wops, kikes, rag heads, sand niggers, chili shitters, niggers, polacks, bohunks, chinks and nips. I heard my dad’s friends say things like, “Jack’s a good nigger.” Or “He’s a pretty good guy for a god damned kike.” Or “My old lady has that chink woman cut her hair, does a nice job for a slant eye.” They grew up with that language and more from their fathers, the additional slurs they heard as kids were all of the above layered with religious slurs like, “Cat lickers, holy rollers, asshole Mormons, papists and more.” I don't hear that much anymore, I’m glad, for the most part, my generation stopped that kind of talk. My parents never said anything to me about dating, but I’m sure there would have been hell to pay if I’d have brought home a 60’s version of Halle Berry for dinner.

The more I’ve learned about PTSD and the problems today’s vets encounter, I wonder how much of the truly bad behavior, sexism and drinking among the “Greatest Generation” was caused by unresolved issues from the Good War.

I loved my mom and dad. I loved many of their friends, especially Bobby, Margret, Bert and Betty among others. I’m okay with their weaknesses and attitudes and I’m glad I can understand that as good as they were, they weren’t perfect.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My pal Ray turned to me and said, "Charlie Watts is a metronome!" And he is. The Cakes who doesn't like to go to concerts was over the moon. Barbara lost her mind. And the old white haired guy never sat down. THE. ENTIRE. CONCERT. I was jumping around so much, I was stiff when I got up this morning.

Staples Center was packed last night for the 3rd of three Stones shows in LA. The two women in front of us had been at all three. This was my 12th or 13th Stones show, Ray, Jan and Barbara had never seen them. The show kicked ass, big time.

I've been listening to Stones music for 50 years, Actually longer than that, since the radio stations in Winnipeg played them before the US stations did. They did the same with the Beatles.

The band was formed in '62 and this is an interesting fact from the far distant past:

The Rolling Stones first signed manager was Andrew Loog Oldham, a publicist who was directed to the band by previous clients, the Beatles. Because Oldham had not reached majority - he was nineteen and younger than any of the band, he could not get an agent's license, or sign any contracts without his mother also signing for her son . By necessity he joined with booking agent Eric Easton. Oldham made several changes to the band. He changed the spelling of the band name from "the Rollin' Stones" to "the Rolling Stones". He removed the "s" from Richards last name saying it "looked more pop". (from wikipedia)

Concert sound has improved so much, it’s not as loud as it was in the old days, it doesn’t have to be because the sound is clean and distortion free and the ability to equalize and mix the sound for various venues is a science. My friend Vaughn, a sound guy, could explain this to you but he is on the road doing systems for theaters.

Its strange to watch the Stones in 2013, from a distance they look the same. Jagger still has all his energy, Ron Wood, skinny as a rail still plays with verve and Keith, other than white hair is still a massive presence. Charlie Watts, the oldest member of the band looks great. I’m sure up close they look like hell, but…

In the mid 60’s Stones songs were the soundtracks for milestones in my life; underlining some monumental changes I was going through, “Paint it Black” fit a nasty breakup with a longtime girlfriend perfectly. “Satisfaction” described my situation one year. Later, “Start Me Up” was the catalyst to make a change that was a long time coming.

I told the Cakes, I’ve never met a black woman who didn’t know every word to “Brown Sugar”. I remember watching Linda Battle put on a dance floor performance to “Brown Sugar” one night at radio station party that would put Tina Turner in her seat for good. Another black woman I worked with told me, the song in her mind was a celebration of the strength of black women, moving from being “sold in a market place in New Orleans”, to the celebration of and liberation of black women. She added, “and we dance and taste so good.” Hear, hear.

I got my daughter and her friends tickets to see the Steel Wheels tour when she was in school in California. She sang along with every song, her friends, all 80’s kids, asked her how she knew all the words. She said, “My Dad.” I provided her with all facets of education.

I’ve never walked into a dive bar in my life when I didn’t hear the opening of “Honky Tonk Woman” in my head. I hear the opening of “Gimme Shelter” I can see the Vietnam War.

Good memories ran through my mind as the Cakes and I wiggled and danced on Monday night for more than two hours, she has said over and over since we got home, “we had a good time, didn’t we!”

That we did!



Monday, May 20, 2013

The Boyz were Back In Town!

We had my grandsons with us all last week, great kids; they make me proud and a big salute to their Mom Kristen for doing a great job with them.
Of course there were interesting observations to be made during the week.

We go to bed about 10:30 or 11. Nova, the 14 year old, slept on the daybed in our home office/den. He used to sleep in the guest room with his little brother, not anymore. On Monday night my allergies were killing me and I was coughing and hacking and the Cakes gave me the boot at about 1:30. Not having the guest bed to go to, I went down stairs to the living room sofa with my Kindle in hand. I noticed light under the office door. Nova was watching a movie on the computer, I looked in and said, “’Hi.” I went to the sofa. He slept until noon on Tuesday; I haven’t any idea what time he went to sleep. I didn’t say anything to him, because my grandparents let me read as long as I wanted when I stayed with them.

One night we had filet mignon, mashed potatoes, sweet corn and a massive salad for dinner followed a half hour later by strawberries over angel food cake with whipped cream. Less than an hour later Nova made himself 2 slices of whole wheat toast and peanut butter. They’d eat breakfast, an hour later have a snack, I’d take them to lunch, another snack midafternoon, a big dinner, desert and another snack before bed. When I’d get up in the morning I’d find dishes in the sink. If I ate like they eat, I’d weigh 300 lbs. Growing boys. They consumed 4 gallons of 2% milk in 5 days, 3 ½ gallons of juice, a dozen bananas, a couple of pounds of organic hamburger, steaks, chicken, pasta, bacon, eggs plus a bag of forbidden Oreo cookies. They also ate $100 dollars’ worth of Thai food, a couple of pizzas and picked out a bunch more stuff to eat at Costco and some new t-shirts.

Both their teachers asked them to keep a journal of the week with their grandparents in addition to the normal homework. I’d check their work and kept a running commentary with them about it. Dorey, the 10 year old, said in answering my questions on his journal, “I’m working on it every day.” On Saturday, while we were on our way to Cambria, Jan checked and found he only finished through Wednesday. He had the headings for Thursday and Friday done. His answer, “I said I was working on my journal, I didn’t say I finished.” I always thought he’d be an engineer, now I think he’ll be a high priced lawyer. I asked him if he knew what parsing language meant, he said he didn’t. I said “Yes, you do.”

Both of them know more about computers, I Pads and phones than any random group of 100 adults, including a few IT guys I know. They both scored passing grades on my driving simulators. It’s impossible to get them out of their beanies unless the temp is over 90. They do not like new clothes unless the new clothes look like old clothes. We bought Dorey new shoes twice and had to return them. The 2nd time, I made him tell the cashier himself and apologize to Jan for having to buy them and return them in one 5 minute span. I thought the black Nike high tops with the red Swoosh looked cool; he did too, until he didn’t. I guess he is going to wear his ratty hiking boots until they are too small. I offered to send him to cobbler’s school so he could make his own shoes, he declined. Shopping with them is a nightmare. I’d ask if they liked something they were looking at and I’d get a shrug. Their mother didn’t have that problem.

We looked at a 45 foot motorhome on a MCI bus chassis. It was very nice. They liked it for the same reason I did. It didn’t look like it was decorated for a woman who didn’t want to be traveling in a motorhome. Black leather, 50 inch TV, a power system that would run Ardoch, North Dakota without missing a beat. 500 Horse power Detroit diesel, six speed Cummins transmission, etc. We planned a fantasy trip in it and they want to go for a year and a half. In the trailer behind it, they want the Jeep, two sea kayaks, a canoe, an ATV and private sleeping quarters with 2 bunks and their own head. They thought the built in TV and kitchen on the outside of the motorhome was a little silly but after they thought more about it, it was a pretty cool idea. Dorey said, “We could watch Myth Busters with a fire going.”

All in all, it was a good week and interesting as always. They loved the pool and hot tub at the Sea Otter Inn in Cambria on the way home, they loved it a lot. So did grandpa! They are old enough and responsible enough to stay at the motel (with warnings not to open the door for anyone, including cops) while Cakes and I had dinner with Lana and Tom Cochrun.

Jan and I love my grandsons, we’d like to see what they’d look like in Polo shirts, khakis, blue blazers and penny loafers, but that isn’t going to happen unless they want it to. Good for them!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dateline Los Angeles

“Radio’s Young Turks”

                      “A morning show co-host with a better idea and the numbers show it!”

When I interviewed MB for this story, she asked that I not disclose her market, her station or the identities of her co-workers or her real name. I agreed.
“MB” has a master’s degree in English Literature with a specialization in 18th century female poets. She graduated from a prestigious university and like most of today’s liberal arts grads; she couldn’t seem to find the right job. Unemployed after college, MB drifted into food service jobs, hostess, waitress and then cocktail waitress. 6 months ago in a Midwestern market she exploded on the scene in radio. I met her at a coffee shop in the market where she works. MB had on a baseball cap, her hair in a ponytail, no makeup and was wearing a pair of painter’s pants and a washed out sweatshirt, she had a pair of well-worn Chuck Taylors on her feet. In her words this is the story of her radio career.

“After I got my MA, I just couldn’t find a decent job, I had an offer from a community college in a small southern town, part time with no contract. A friend of mine helped me get a job at a cafeteria, mindless, minimum wage and no tips, I moved to small local café, I got tips, but the wage for tipped workers is ridiculous, I was broke, broke, broke. My roommate Denise suggested I start cocktailing, it was better, but I noticed the girls with big boobs were doing better than I was. I was flatter than a pancake, something I’d never thought much about to tell you the truth.”

I said, “You certainly don’t look like a pancake now, even with that big sweatshirt on.”

“Well, my great aunt died and left me a few bucks, so I took part of the money and bought myself new boobs. When I went back to work the money started rolling in, I’d bend over to serve a drink for 12 dollars and the guy would leave me a ten dollar tip. They’re idiots. Ten bucks for peek at the tops of a set of double D’s. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it.”

“Tell me how you got into radio?” I asked MB.

“Frank XXXXX, the GM of the station started coming in on a regular basis, the station had a trade at the bar and so he was a giant tipper, he’d leave me 30-40 dollars after one or two rounds of drinks. Over time, Frank started to hit on me and I’d put him off. It continued for months and months, finally out of frustration he offered me 200 dollars for a peek at my boobs. He paid and I showed them to him in the parking lot. After that he was worse than ever, he was trying to get me to sleep with him, so I lead him on a little and he offered me a job on the morning show as a sidekick. "I took it and its been great for me." MB said.

“You’d never been on the air before, right?” I asked.

“Right, but the two morons I work with didn’t care. All they wanted to do was tell dick jokes and talk about my boobs. Those idiots even wanted me to use Dee Dee Cupp as my air name. These morons would ask me questions like if I had ever kissed a girl. I’d answer, "why haven’t you? They didn’t know what to say." After a couple of weeks, I realized that the on line numbers were going through the roof because the pimple faced geeks who listen to the station were watching on line and were crazy to see my chest. If I wore a tank top the on line ratings would spike up 25-30 per cent. So I came up with a plan to capitalize on the rating increases. The idiots had never been better than 9th in the morning. After I joined the show, we were fifth in the book and the on line numbers were the best in the market, so I cut a new deal with Frank and I couldn’t be happier.”

“You do your show from home now, how’s that working out?” I asked her.

“My friend Denise studied video production in college and she helped me wire my apartment for HD video and sound. She produces and we feed it to the station.”

“How does a typical morning go?” I asked.

“Denise turns on the camera and I’m usually sleeping in bed and the idiots from the studio call and I answer the phone at 6. I may have on a bra and panties, sometimes a station t-shirt, sometimes I sleep naked. I pretend I’m talking to them on the phone and answering their moronic questions while I roll around, showing the geeks as little as possible. Then I just go through a girl’s normal routine, coffee, juice, a piece of fruit, taking a shower, the audience loves that even though they see nothing. They go nuts when I put on lotion. They love it when I cook breakfast and do a routine about them sitting at the table with me. Frank wants to do a promotion where some jerk would actually come to my place and I’d make him breakfast. No way I’d do that.”

“What show got the biggest response so far?” I asked MB.

“The one where Denise and I were in bed together when the camera came on.”

“Wow!” How big were the numbers,” I asked.

“Through the freaking roof, Frank gave me a raise. Then Howard Stern called and wanted me to do his TV show, I told him to find somebody else to ride a sybian and hung up on him.”

“How do you get along with the guys on the morning show?” I asked MB.

She smiled and said, “Frank cut their pay to give me my last raise.”

I want to thank “MB” for her candid interview for our series. It was announced last week that her co-workers were being let go and the entire morning show would be broadcast from her apartment. MB is being paid the salaries of her former co-hosts as well as her own. Look for her show in syndication soon. She feels she’ll bigger than Stern ever was on the air. Her plans for the future, getting her PhD. Then , in her words “getting out of radio as quickly as possible.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some More Shit Off My Chest

Been a long time, but, I’ve been busy. WORKING! In fact I paid over 6.5k in Social Security in 2012, dammit. I’ve been paying into Social Security since I was 13, 55 years and now I’m collecting it, paying taxes on it and since I’m working I’m still paying in. Hell of an “Entitlement” I hope you kids enjoy this old Boomers investment in you and yours and I’m happy to do it.

Speaking of “Entitlements” I’ve been paying Medicare taxes since 1965; I still am, even though I’m on it. The first year I had the supplement from AARP, it was $115 a month plus co-pays, plus, plus, plus. My Doctor neighbor, who works for Kaiser Permanente, during one of our driveway chats told me I was fucking nuts and suggested I join Kaiser. I did, the Medicare Advantage plan from Kaiser is thus: $4.98 a month and 20 Bucks for any and all tests. Echocardiogram, 20 bucks, blood test, 20 bucks, colonoscopy, 20 bucks and on it goes. Here is the fucking deal with Kaiser: THEY ARE NON-PROFIT! Got the goddamned picture, Bucko? The AARP plan where the monthly was so damned high it would have paid for almost 2 years of the Kaiser Plan was from United Health care a FOR PROFIT COMPANY! Any question why our health care costs in this country are so high now? By the way, my last health insurance (non) provider was California Anthem Blue Cross, a truly fucked up organization. My drug co-pay was 20 a script, they wouldn’t allow the doc to write a script for longer than 30 days and so like clockwork I went to CVS and paid $20 a month for a generic medicine that cost 7 dollars. Once again I was tipped off by a medical professional, this time the pharmacist at CVS who also implied that I was fucking nuts. My doc wrote me 3 month scripts and I went from paying $240 a year to paying $84. I paid Blue Cross personally for 60% of the $940 monthly premium, the company paid 40%. $11,280 a year paid by somebody who consumed a physical with tests yearly, costing $855 of which Blue Fucking Cross paid 80% or $684. They made a profit of $10,596 yearly on this old, broken down but fairly healthy old bastard. If I had anything seriously wrong I told my wife to just let me die rather than be put through Anthem Blue Cross hell. Anthem Blue Cross looks for “lower medical utilization and more memberships” thats code for lots of paying “members” and low delivery of services. That’s probably the reason the CEOs of the various “Blue” units of WellPoint (the corporate owner) divided up 93 million in pay last year. One last thing on these dicks in suits and ties (skirts) they brag that they deliver 74% of premiums in care. Kaiser delivers 93%. Anthem Blue Cross of California shipped over $750 million off to WellPoint’s Indiana headquarters last year…Angela Braly who is the WellPoint CEO only made 13.9 million last year living in Indianapolis.

An interesting sidebar the guy they had running the California operation a few years ago was a piece of work. When he moved out here he left his wife and kids in Indy. He started dating a woman and had her move in with him. Then he started dating her sister. It got too hot and he bought one sister a house and got engaged to the other all while his little Hoosier housewife was living the good life back in Carmel. It all blew up when the sisters started to compare notes.

If you leave your kids in the car while you run into 7-11 to get a 6 pack of Mountain Dew you can get arrested for child endangerment, if they aren’t in a car seat you can get arrested for child endangerment. Are fucking guns so sacrosanct that you buy a five year old their own gun? Or leave your gun lying around loaded so a kid can pick it up and shoot a sibling and you have no responsibility? For fucks sake people, it isn’t a god damned accident when your gun is available to a toddler and no matter how many times you say the dead kid is in a better place up there with Jeebus it doesn’t make you innocent of being a reckless dipshit.
It must be nice to be a certain kind of Christian where the magical big guy absolves you of all your fuck ups in life!

James Porter Jr. the fat, redneck bastard who is the new president of the NRA likes to talk about the "War of Northern Aggression". Hey shit head, you guys guys fired on Fort Sumter which was a Federal property, manned by US troops, seems to me that that you assholes started it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bombs in My Old Neighborhood.

I have a long history with the Boston Marathon; my first in the early 70’s was a revelation to me. I was behind the wheel of the Fairbank’s owned WKOX news car. ‘KOX at the time was the only broadcast outlet allowed to have a vehicle on the course. There I was in the station’s Mustang with Bob Bruce and Bill Galvin, driving right behind the “Statie’s” motorcycles and the photographer’s truck, positioned just ahead of the lead runners from the start in Hopkinton all the way to the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston. Every town you pass through on the course has its own unique way of cheering the runners on, from the beer drinkers at the Happy Swallow in Framingham, the Wellesley girls cheering, the families along Heart Break Hill, the crowds in Kenmore Square and the final turn onto Boylston Street and the finish line…the smiles, the cheers, the encouragement for the runners, more cheers for everyday runners than for the elites who were right behind our news car.
The Marathon, almost 40 years ago offered no prize money, it was and still is run by the BAA, a lot  has changed but the people along the course haven’t. I know people who have witnessed the marathon every Patriots Day of their lives. It’s always been much more than a road race. It’s a way of life, a part of life a celebration in the only state in the Union that still celebrates Patriot’s Day.

Later, I lived and worked in the part of Boston where the bombings took place yesterday, it hit me hard. I know those streets, walked them every day, I used to get my glasses and contacts at the store that the first bomb went off directly in front of. I worked in the Prudential Tower, just across the street from where the 2nd bomb detonated.

I read earlier today that Boston is a tough town, but “once you’re in, you’re in”, how true that is. I live in California now, but I’m a Boston guy and have been since my early 20’s. I’ve gone to see the Red Sox and the Marathon on the same day. I’ve sat in the VIP stands and watched the race’s finish. Jan and I have watched the runners on Comm Ave from our roof deck. We’ve walked through the smiling crowds to get a beer and a sandwich in the middle of a Patriot’s Day afternoon as the last runners chug down Boylston to the finish line.

The Marathon, until now has been a celebration of a 117 year old race, a city, its people and the tens of thousands of people from all over the country and the world who come to run in the “Boston” to cheer for the runners, fast and slow and to be embraced by the people of Boston and all the towns along the route. This has had an effect on me that I could never have predicted; one of my first thoughts yesterday was “good thing the fire fighters of Engine 33 are close at hand.” Jan and I thought of our friend Mary who manages a restaurant right around the corner from the blast. So many friends and neighbors, so close, including Mrs. Lee at King Lee cleaners a block away on Newbury, the guys at DeLuca’s market, so many, so close.

Boston is a tough town, but under the toughness is a big, damn heart. Boston is where our country began, where the first shots of the revolution were fired, where the tea was dumped, the city where the British fled from the guns on Dorchester Heights, the town where Ben Franklin swam in the Charles and learned to write and print. Tough town, tough people.

Go to Boston some time, walk the history on the Freedom Trail, sit on a bench on the Common and contemplate it and take a look at the people. They’ll get through this and next year, on Patriot’s Day there will be another Sox game and a world class marathon to celebrate. They are too tough and too big hearted not to.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Day I went Blind, a few more thoughts.

Yesterday after revisiting my hour of going blind, I thought about it off and on all day. I think one of the reasons I didn’t panic was, even though I was self-employed at the time. I had good insurance. My plan paid 80% of all costs up to 300k. My bill was 80 thousand plus for the 4 days.

How would I felt if I hadn’t any insurance at all? How would I have done if I knew I could have lost my job because I couldn’t get to work? What if I knew I wasn’t getting any pay because I worked for a company without any sick leave policy? How would I felt the day I left the hospital with a 17k bill hanging over my head if I made the median household income of (In Mass) of just over 60k? It would have been a third of my income in that scenario? How would I have paid it?

A few years ago there was a new bankruptcy law passed, typical of congress the hearings heard from the corporate side and not ordinary people who were affected by the laws changes. We heard the same old folderol about; people ducking their bills, running up huge credit card balances and walking away laughing, the picture painted was one of everyday folks taking advantage of American businesses. When the bill passed the credit card companies, the banks got what they wanted and the public was screwed in the deal.

Elizabeth Warren, the Mass Senator, was teaching at Harvard law School at the time. Warren was surprised to find that an objective study of the causes of bankruptcy had never been done. All of the info was from the corporate world. Warren headed up a study that looked at the real world of bankruptcy and found a completely different picture than the one painted during the hearings. One of the things that stood out was 54% of all individual bankruptcies are caused by illness, leading to massive medical bills forcing families to make choices on whether to eat or pay bills. Huge amounts of credit card debt was run up by these families and when the bills were finally looked at in detail, the purchases were for food, gasoline and other necessities of life. When things got worse for these families, they paid car payments, rent and mortgages and utilities on credit. With the new law, the credit card debt wasn’t dischargeable, you may be bankrupt but you still owe Visa and Mastercard.

Bankruptcy in the corporate world is an entirely different story; ask my wife she went through it twice when she flew for US Airways. US Air got pay concessions, a huge piece of the employee’s retirement fund invested back into the company so the executives could “save” the company. When they got through it with the help of the tens of thousands of employees, they re-organized and as soon as they could bankrupted the company again and got rid of pension obligations completely, cut insurance and pay again, closed bases and gave the CEO a big raise and bonus. The pensions are now operated by the feds (that’s you and I, by the way) Jan’s retirement is less than half of what she signed on for and paid into for over20 years.

People in our country are more interested in Dancing with the Stars than the real issues we face.

My hospital bill was 80k for just over 4 days; did I get better care than I would have gotten in Toronto, London, Paris or Oslo? No I didn’t.

We need to pay attention and not be distracted by shiny objects and stupid social issues that lead us away from real solutions. The answer in my mind is to stop chanting USA! USA! USA! and get our representatives to pay attention to what we want and need.

The gun lobby has won on the bodies of dead children, 90% of Americans including a majority of gun owners, republicans and NRA members want tough background checks, we aren’t going to get them. We aren’t going to get them because congress pays attention to lobbyists and business, the game is rigged and we are the losers, but hey USA! USA! USA!


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Day I Went Blind

At 80 miles an hour I lost all vision in my right eye, the eye just stopped working. I was in the left lane on Route 128 west of Boston. I worked my way over to the right through traffic and stopped my old Range Rover on the shoulder. I turned on the emergency flashers and sat there. I wasn’t panic stricken; it just seemed odd not to be able to see at all with my right eye. No half vision, no blurred vision, I couldn’t see anything, period.

I sat there for a few minutes and then one-eyed drove to a meeting at my lawyer’s office in the Wellesley Office Park just off 128 on Worcester Road. I got there on time, we discussed an upcoming zoning meeting and I left within an hour. I said nothing to my lawyer about what had happened. During the meeting, a sliver of vision came back, a narrow slot of vision on the side of my eye close to my nose.

After the meeting, I got in the Rover and sat behind the wheel for a few minutes. I drove from Wellesley down Route 9 to my home on Marlborough St in the Back Bay. On the way, I stopped at a traffic light near the Chestnut Hill Mall and another sliver of vision opened, this time it seemed to be in the middle of my eye and was only partially open, like a window with the shade halfway down. I pulled into the parking lot of a Starbucks, bought a coffee and while I was paying for it, my vision slowly returned. Tiny individual slots appeared and slowly opened, one by one. By the time I was back in the car my eye worked normally. I felt strange, but very detached from the entire process, almost like I was watching it happen on a movie screen to someone else. It didn’t feel like it was happening to me.

At home, I took the dog for a quick walk and then sat down on the sofa. Jan was in the air on her way home from Charlotte. I decided to call my eye doctor at Mass Eye and Ear. I told my doc what happened and he said to come over right now. I wrote Jan a note, left her the car keys and gave my dog an ear rub and a cookie. Locked up the condo and took a cab to Mass Eye and Ear.

Dr. Foster did a quick examination of my eye, brought in a neurological ophthalmologist to examine me. After a half hour of tests, they determined it had nothing to do with my cornea transplant. I was on my way to the emergency room at Mass General. I had more tests.  By 4 in the afternoon I was in a bed on the neurology floor. I was being pumped full of blood thinner. I left Jan a message on her cell phone telling her where I was and what I thought was going on. She was landing in an hour.

The head resident came in to my room; he looked about 15 years old. He told me I’d had a stroke incident, a minor one. He explained his diagnosis, a small piece of plaque from an artery had broken loose and had lodged in one of the arteries that provide blood to the optic nerve or to the eye itself and had shut off the vision temporarily. He said the good news is, my eye was working. I asked him what the bad news was, he said, you had a stroke and we haven’t assessed if there is additional damage yet or where the problem originated. He left.

Once again, I felt completely detached from the situation. Never the less I was in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors and had two IVs in my left arm. At least I was in one of the best hospitals in the country. I had a roommate, another stroke victim; he couldn’t talk or move the left side of his body. He had spittle running out of the left side of his mouth.

Just before 5 the chief neurologist came in the room, he was about my age; he looked at my chart and said in a loud voice, “How are you feeling?” I told him I felt fine. He said, “Good”, I asked how long he thought I’d be here, he didn’t answer and left the room. I looked at my roommate and he held up a note pad that said, Asshole. I laughed and my roommate smiled with the right half of his mouth as best he could. My roommate’s wife came in, introduced herself and her husband, she was Mary Margaret and he was Brian, they lived in Charlestown. She looked exhausted as she sat by his bed and held his hand.

My cell rang and it was Jan, she’d just landed at Logan. She wanted come right to the hospital, I convinced her to go home first and feed the dog, change her clothes and then come over, it took a few minutes but she finally agreed. She called again from home, I asked her to bring me a few things, 90 minutes later she was in my arms. It felt good.

Jan was more worried than I was. Maybe I would be if I felt ill, I didn’t. I had no symptoms, I’d gone blind in one eye and it cleared up in a little over an hour. I told her the docs would get to the bottom of it, she was skeptical and upset. I told her I was hungry, I’d been given a cup of chicken broth for dinner; maybe she could go ask the nurses if I could have something from the cafeteria. When she came back, she said they’d bring me something, they did, another cup of chicken broth. Brian had the Bruins game on, Jan climbed in bed with me and the 4 of us watched the game. I wanted a beer, so did Brian.

A nurse booted our wives at 10pm. The Bruins lost to the Pens. I shut off the TV, Brian laid there and I read. I don’t know what time I fell asleep, I do remember nurses coming and going off and on all night.

I was awake early, breakfast was egg whites, scrambled and a piece of dry wheat toast, I bitched that I was starving and I got a bowl of Special K with skim milk. I was drinking a cup of black coffee when the Chief Neurologist came in with a herd of residents. They pulled Brian’s curtains shut and he ran through Brian’s diagnosis at the top of his lungs, when he finished he turned to me, he shouted, “Good Morning, how are you feeling, today?” He was flipping through my chart, not even looking at me, he turned to the residents and said, “He’ll be getting an MRI this morning and later a CAT-Scan.” They started to leave and I said, “Can I ask you something?” he turned with a scowl on his face and said “What?” I said, “I had a problem with my eye, not my ears, could you hold it down. I heard your entire discussion in the room next door and my roommate can hear every bit as well as I can, you don’t need to shout.” The Chief turned and walked off with his entourage. As they left, one of the residents, a young black woman turned and gave me a thumb up. Brian was silently laughing. I had two scans that day, it was Tuesday

On Wednesday my roommate Brian was ambulanced to Spaulding Rehab hospital, I got up and walked alongside his gurney to the elevator, he was on his back and I was pushing an IV stand with wheels. I shook his good hand and wished him well. I had more scans and several neurological tests.

More of the same on Thursday, one of the residents told me they couldn’t pinpoint the cause, but I was in good shape according to the tests.

My hospitalization continued until Friday Morning, 4 days of tests, more tests and then repeats of previous tests. I never heard more than a loud “Good Morning” from the chief neurologist; my information was coming from medical students, residents and the nurses. My primary care doc was out of the loop even though he worked in another wing of the building. Dan did drop by each day and read my chart to me, offered his take and went home. In reality no one really knew what had happened to make me go blind for an hour. Plenty of theories, no hard facts.

I went home at noon on Friday, Jan was out of town, it was a beautiful day so I walked to Charles Street, had lunch at the Sevens, an Irish Pub on Beacon Hill, I had my first beer since Sunday, a small salad and bowl of stew. Then I walked 14 blocks home. The dog was glad to see me, I was happy to be home. I put all my medicine away crawled into bed and took a nap.

Now you know as much as I do about how I went blind for little more than an hour. My personal share or co-pay for this adventure was $17, 363, including the drugs I took home to medicate myself.

My personal doc’s office manager got a couple of thousand knocked off the bill for non-essential billing.

I haven’t had a problem since this happened in 2000. It scares me more 13 years later than it did at the time.

Friday, March 22, 2013

First Time Camping with the Cakes

 “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight, do you think I’ll be warm enough? Are we safe      from animals here?” her questions are coming non-stop; I’m not answering her while I put the tent up.

“Open me a beer, honey.” That’s my new answer for everything when I’m camping; she walked over to the cooler and got me a cold one.

We’ve driven to this spot south and above Ouray. We’re going to camp at tree line in the Yankee Basin. I’m puffing pretty hard above 10,000 feet; she and the dog are too. We’ve found a nice spot next to a creek; the previous users of this site left a nice cache of firewood.

My lovely wife hands me a beer, she looks great in her red fleece jacket, “What are we having for dinner?”

I take a pull of my beer, “I was thinking we’d have burgers and beans, sliced tomatoes, sound okay?”

“I don’t want a bun with mine.” She sniffs.

“Fine with me, no bun for you my dear.”

“How are you going to cook them?” she asked.

“I’m going to light that wood on fire and cook the burgers over the flames.” I said.

She looked at the wood and then at me and says, “Oh.”

“You told me you’ve been camping before, Honey”

“I went to camp every summer, not camping per say.” She said taking a superior tone.

“Ah, I see. Let me guess, you slept in cabins, ate in a dining hall and ran around all day doing planned activities.”

Continuing with her superior tone, “That’s right, I learned archery, swimming, crafts and I learned how to paddle a canoe.”

“They never taught you how to build a campfire?”

“No, someone built them for us, we’d just show up when it was dark and the fire was already going.” She looked off in the distance up the basin, “It isn’t going to snow is it?”

“What? Why would it snow, it’s almost July.”

“I was just wondering, because there is so much snow up above us.” She was shading her eyes and looking at the snow.

“Sugar Pie, that snow is left over from the winter, it’s not going to snow tonight, it can’t, it won’t be cold enough to snow.”

“We told ghost stories around the campfire, Indian stories as well.” She smiled at the memory, I think.

“Should I tell you a ghost story tonight? Maybe I’ll tell you a few tales about the murderous Arapahos who used to hang around these mountains.”

She looked at me and said with another dazzling smile, “I’d like that.”

“What if I scared the pants off you?”

“I’d like that too.” She turned, wiggled her ass at me and walked over to the truck and brought back our folding chairs, the miserable kind that come in a carry sack.

Cakes and I weren’t camping as much as we were “Glamping”. We had and aluminum table, those horrible folding chairs, a big REI tent equipped with a double thickness queen sized air bed. We had our own sleeping bags and a double sleeping bag, lanterns, pillows, buckets, basins and rugs for the floor of the tent. Of course, we had our mountain bikes, two bags of shit for the dog. We had a new 4 wheel drive we stuffed it all in. We had bags for camping clothes, bags for hotel clothes and clothing bags for dress up clothes. The dog even had his own sleeping pad, he didn’t like it, he slept in-between us on the air bed. We had two coolers, one for food the other for drinks. We had wine, vodka, whiskey and beer. Plus we have a big bag of snacks for us and one for the dog.

I opened the first aid kit and handed my wife two Tylenol, I said, “Take these before you get an altitude headache.”

“I won’t get a headache. I never get headaches.” She sniffed again.

“You will up here in the thin air, trust me on this.”

She shrugged her shoulders and took the Tylenol one at a time, each followed by multiple sips of my beer, she grimaced. I’ve never seen anyone who hated to take a pill more than she does. I take that back, the dog hates it more than she does. Maybe I should hold her jaws open and toss the pill in like I do with the dog, then hold her mouth closed and stroke her throat?

“I won’t get a headache, you know.” She stuck her tongue out at me.

“I know you won’t, you just took two Tylenol to head it off, see now we’re both right. Why don’t you and your buddy get some dead fall for the fire, start with stuff the size of your fingers and work your way up to branches the size of your thigh.”

She looked at the wood we have and said, “How much do we need?”

“Plenty if it snows tonight.” 

“You said it wouldn’t snow.” She replied with a note of alarm.

“The dog will love it, so will you, look in the car I think I brought a shovel, just in case. Remember, Sugar, I memorized Major Robert Roger’s Ranger’s Rules, the first rule is, “Don’t Forget Nothin” .

“What was the second?” Cakes asked.

“Keep your musket as clean as a whistle”

My wife laughed, “Did you bring a musket?”

“It’s under the backseat along with the powder, ball and patches. I have a scoured hatchet, too.”

“You’re kidding, right?” She said.

“I forget.”

“What are we going to do if it snows?” She's back to the snow scenario again.

“Stay in bed and keep warm and dry, how’s that sound?”

“I like it, as long as I’m warm.” She and the dog walked off to collect firewood.

I finished the tent, blew up the air bed and things organized when she got back with a bundle of wood. They were both short of breath. The three of us walked back and got more. When we got back to camp I poured her a cup of Cabernet. She watched as I built our fire.

“Wow, look at the mountains, they’ve turned gold, Honey.” She said sounding amazed and happy as she stared at the San Juans.

“It’s called Alpenglow, sweetheart.”

She smiled, “What a perfect name.”

We had a nice dinner, a warm fire. The Cakes was tired, I tucked her in bed at 9:45. She didn’t show her face until after 8 the next morning. All her worrying about not being able to sleep was a waste of time. On the other hand, the dog kept me awake most of the night and I had a headache when I finally woke up at 4:45. When I got up he snuggled up and slept with his "Mom" until 8.

That was the first night of the Cake’s wilderness experience, the next day she got a taste of 4 wheelin in the mountains. She was horrified!