Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The New Neighbors

We've lived in our house for over 25 years.  It's a one floor townhouse with two bedrooms, one bath, attached garage.  You are probably no more than a half hour drive from finding something like it. These planned housing areas, with curvy roads and walking paths through the trees, began around the Capital Region area near Albany some three decades back.  Oddly, the more jobs there are in the Albany area, the more Saratoga County (where we live) has had to build and build, add hotels to store the people who haven't bought their house yet, and build more.

Except in our development.  The Luther Forest homes were done by the early nineties.  It's now become the spot where young families start, and elderly folks can sit and finally watch some quality TV.

As my wife and I are slowly move into the second category, some observations on suburban life, especially with New Neighbors just finishing taking everything out of the truck and settling into the house we're attached to.

1. In the past 25 years, we've had young military families who have some connection to the local atomic labs.  The guys are always the rock hard buzz cut types who wouldn't let you help with a shovelful of snow even if National Security depended on it.  The wives are usually quiet, and holding a baby.  These folks usually last about six months, then are reassigned.

2. Then we had the rock drummer.  He and his lady fair seemed to exist on manna that trickled down from somewhere.  He was kind enough tell us that he practiced at odd hours, like 2 AM.  We just needed to bang on the wall, and he'd stop.  This must be something he was used to telling neighbors. They disappeared in their Volkswagen one morning.

3. Then the senior citizen.  Her daughter stopped by daily to help out her Mom, and we were just "wavers".  No conversation, just a "hi", as we headed for our car or the mailbox.  Then came the Christmas snowstorm on Dec 25 2002.  The daughter had another obligation, and could not be with her mother on Xmas.  The daughter asked if her Mom could spend the day with us.  My wife's mom was already there, so why not make it a foursome? It seemed the Christmas thing to do.  And we got through it.  Mom disappeared a month or so later to nursing home land.

4. Mom was succeeded by a bevy of independent women who would at least join in the costs of a new roof and driveway as it was, but nothing much else.  My wife has been in the neighbor's house twice in 25 years, me, once.

5. Around 2005 or so we had a ice and wind storm that felled a tree in our back yard.  These are tall pines about 60-70 feet high so when they fall over, hope you're in a tank, cause it'sa coming down. It did serious damage, but in below zero weather, the cleanup was literally painful.  Fortunately, "the guys (that is, neighbor to our left and to our right, and me) did our best to straighten it up.  Eventually, the professionals finished up.  That was the only time the three house's residents got together to do anything. Ever.

6.  Who says good fences don't make good neighbors?  The guy on our right asked me if I'd mind if he put up a privacy fence? Nope. Go ahead.  He has been there for ten plus years now, and we've had maybe about three conversations including the one in No. 5. He has a dog that does not appear to age, and from that I get some structure.  The guy leaves for work around seven AM, comes back to let the dog out at 9:45 AM, lunch at 11:45, and home at 4:30. Every day. I know the sound of the truck going out and coming back.  Which means I need another hobby.

In a house we first thought was "temporary" we've lived here more than a quarter century, and as my condition worsens, it means no stairs and easy access to my stuff.  Quiet days. Peaceful nights. So we stay.

I think the "Neighborhood" idea never took off around here because there are no kids within a five house radius and has not been for years  Kids interacting with other kids bring parents into the mix with school talk and parental issues.  Even when the military families lived next door, they kept their kids away from whoever was around.

One thing I do wonder, now that Jackie and I are retired and the New Neighbors (names forgotten already but there is a dog) are settled is how long until they ask the question: "Are you OK?" followed by the classic"You don't look sick."

Hey, you never know.  But they'll be wavers eventually, and eventually, disappear.  Luther Forest used to be the crown jewel in Malta.  With the new factories pumping out something, and people coming from the Far East to live and work here, the Forest has become the backwater place.  Potholes, repairs slower, already two Chinese restaurants and its a good bet that when we go to the Supermarket, one third of our fellow shoppers are not speaking English.  But this is Malta.

We'll still be here in 2015.  I hope you have a great year, too. Thanks for reading. 10,000 plus.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An MS'er goes back to Disney World 2014

An MSer goes to Disney World.

Things you learn:

  1. No matter how slow you think you are moving WDW, there is always someone slower, and normally they are right in front of you, no matter where you are.  Sometimes, they are obese (and carrying more food), sometimes they are listening deeply to the words of another (who is slow also) or they are moving as pack,normally age 18 - 25 young males and females, and they are trolling everything on the Web (their index fingers going flick, flick, flick) until they have an OMG moment and stop to tell the rest of the pack the news.
  2. People in rented scooters are, for the most part, trying to maneuver about the Parks as best they can. Others seem to get some thrill ramming into your back legs (because they see you as “slow”) and will not stop until you move aside.  This is why there is so much searching at the entrance to the Disney Parks.  We have to bring stuff, and the Parks want to make sure that we who have to bring stuff to Parks don’t bring Tasers to make the place the Happiest One on Earth by removing Loud Talkers, Whining/Screaming Children, and the Walk and Sudden Stoppers (see No. 1) from ruining other people’s days.
  3. Speaking of scooters, my wife and I have decided that next year, barring a cure, of course, that I’ll have to start driving a scooter when we next visit WDW.  We stay at a Disney resort and I would use it there just to get around the area.  I can plop down in the Parks plenty of places, but the resorts? Nope. Get on the busses! Buy stuff! If you are sitting, and not eating what we have, you are wasting our time!
  4. We will gladly take your picture at a lovely site, and you can download it for a low low price of about 20 bucks a pop, and you can also download it for four 
    weeks and then its gone.  They give you the best shot, and you are then stuck with a lousy shot on your own or pay the 20 bucks. Not always, but enough to add to a stress level. And you can only get these pictures for a month after the camera clicked by the Disney pros.
  5. And all through this, my exhaustion and leg pain continues unabated. “Having a good time?” “Yep!” “Good. Relaxing and having fun?”  “I haven’t relaxed since 2008.”  
  6. For me, “Its a small world” is a challenging ride.  All those eyes blinking, and the international dolls being placed in motion by sticks in their butts, and the damned song.  Just the stupid song.  Move to the next number down or “Small World” will be stuck in your head, too. You have been warned!
  7. Please add to the list of People I Want To Taser as being anyone who walks around the beauty of the Parks, and there is great beauty, attached to a phone in their ear and move quickly (to you, sometimes a sloth moves quickly) and she does not see you because busy people talking on their cell look down at the ground as they walk, and are stunned to see you suddenly in front of them. It is your fault.  Then they move on with a sigh and a “What? Sorry. What was that? No, some old guy, looking at my butt.  Ha-ha.”
  8. At the end of the Mickey’s very merry party (with free 8 ounce hot chocolate and two sugar cookies per guest) the parade of Disney characters went up Main Street, once around the rotary and then went back to cartoon oblivion behind a door near the giant toy train that circles the Magic Kingdom.  Walt liked trains.  There’s no real catch here except that the departure of the characters meant Disney, Inc. would like you, the customer who just paid a separate admission and received two cookies and 8 ounces of hot chocolate in return and told to move into a two foot wide area of the Main Street closest to the road. See, I fall over a bit, and being moved around by the “Helpers”, didn’t help matters.  Finally, someone was kind enough to reduce the size of their baby stroller from warehouse to SUV size and I could watch the cartoon spectacle, as long as I kept 80% of my sneaker behind the line. The human version of the Frozen group just smiled and waved.
  9. This is usually where I can get really annoyed about disease, Congress, or something, but I’d like to leave Disney (and 2014) with this picture.  I turned around at the last minute and took this shot.  I am not sure that the future (or the MS version of it) may allow me many more trips down to Orlando or a lot of other.  So I may not see this again.  All that kept going through my mind was President Obama (no politics, please) at his 2nd inaugural when he was leaving the stand stopped and turned around, seeing the day, and the dignitaries, and the crowd cheering.  “I’ll never see this again,” he said.  Live each moment.  Be present here. As much as you can. And to requote the great Warren Zevon “Enjoy every sandwich”. 

    Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Four More Years!

I observe today the completion of the first four year term of being elected to the Multiple Sclerosis world. Thank you, doctors whose names I have forgotten, for telling me you were clueless about what to do for me. I was at least glad I had an exit strategy, and that was out your front door. So now I sit before you, fellow MSers, (I was standing before you for a while, but I'm in my comfy chair now) and I ask for your continued support for the next four years. Here is what I promise:
1. I will stand for everything, until I get tired and have to sit.
2. I will take large amount of drugs, none of which are good for MS, but I have also been blessed with bipolar, and that's where the drugs come in. Yes! Yes! Yes! I can be functional for almost two hours a day. I just don't know which two hours it will be.
3. I shall not be swayed by Dr. Pharma's (Big Drug Pharmaceutical Companies) throwing lavish dinners to get me to attend so they can figure out what kind of new drugs they can dump on me and begin sucking dry the veins of insurance and co-pays. After all, I have Primary Progressive MS.No help for me. So no money there for the drug vampires PPMS. It's like garlic to them.
4. I forgot what number four was.
5. I promise to dance, write, see as much of the world as I can with my dear wife, and continue to annoy this disease as much as it annoys me.
And so my fellow MSers, ask not what your MS has done to you, ask how you can screw over your MS. Thank you.
Four More Years! Four More Years! (Join in anytime - you deserve it too)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to give a Presentation .... Cue the Meltdown


Last Thursday was a bit of a breakthrough day as I would be giving a talk about the book I am writing.  This had been scheduled earlier this year at the Herman Melville House in Troy, NY (actually Lansingburgh - I still maintained that Troy is occupying the village where I grew up and has been for the past 124 years, but someday we shall throw off the shackles) and I'd worked damn hard with teaching notes, visual presentations, and my decent communication skills to make a 1 hour talk about Herman Melville, and his association with Lansingburgh, Presidents Chester Arthur and Theodore Roosevelt, and murders and conspiracies, that is, a halfway decent novel.

          Herman                                                 Chester                                                     Theodore

My wife and I arrived a little later than planned (thanks to my shortcut) and the room was filling up with interested folks, most of which I (gratefully) knew.  So after some hellos and hugs, I set upon setting up my Mac with the projector provided by the sponsors, but after some minutes of attaching A to B, it became apparent that it was not going to work, much to the consternation of the org's President who finally threw his hands up and said "It's a Mac. I don't know what to do." The part that made me go Hmmm was that I had sat in the audience here two weeks previous when another speaker used a Mac with no problem.  Sabotage? my bipolar mind asked.  Did he not like me?  What was going on? Making me look bad deliberately?

At this point, the MS leader, Captain Fatigue, stepped into the center ring, and announced the reason it was not working was because I was tired, very tired.  I had been putting in hours on this presentation more from my days at my old job.  I knew, of course, that I was dog tired. Even driving to the site in Lansingburgh using a "shortcut" which seemed to my wife as completely out of the way, I was telling myself to just get through it.  Get through it.

I would have to talk it through.  Fortunately I had a lot of support from friends in the 30 seat room and I stumbled my way through looking at now useless notes and the dragging info from my lesioned brain before Captain Fatigue and Sergeant Bipolar could hide the stories in a brain file labeled Great Kale I Have Eaten.

So I made it. And since that night I'm still slowly recouping energy.  I've started a writing class (three hours Tuesday night for eight weeks) and I need to write stories while continuing the Herman tales.

I hear about marketing and appearances and signings, and I've talked with writers who do a lot of it. Before I get serious on any of those subjects I need to finish the story.  But hyping will be a tough road because the energy that I admire in other authors as they succeed in this area is just not there for me.  Local? Sure.  Big time? Probably not. I will not get better.

Pace myself.  Isn't it odd that pace in Latin is peace? I enjoyed the talk despite the problems and the positive reinforcement never hurts.  Believers can lift you up.  Now I have to make sure I keep up with it.  I will start when I open my eyes tomorrow. Maybe.

Thanks for the 10000 views.  I'm going to move back and forth between this blog and one on writing.
Writing the 1,391st Greatest American Novel in a decade or less! Please take a look should you wish, and my thanks for your support.


And Herman Melville and President Martin Van Buren thank you too...

Monday, October 13, 2014

That's it. I've turned the TV off. Goodbye 21st Century.

Four minutes ago I turned off my TV and bid farewell to "Gotham", the Fox Network's take on the early days of Jim Gordon, ace detective and eventual Commissioner of Gotham City's Police Department, and partner with Batman on the perpetual crime spree going on in that fictional city, which is just down the road from Metropolis, and a hop, skip and a jump from Starling City (Arrow) and whatever place the Flash is from.

One problem for me is that we've got like a 10 year wait before The Bat shows up.  Bruce Wayne is about 12 years old.  He appears like a smart kid, but he's still getting over the murder of his parents by person or persons unknown.  Yes, he lives in Wayne Manor with Alfred the Butler.

See, the problem is also, I'm 58 years old.  Now I've seen every Batman movie, and only 2 make the cut for me and they are both the Joker films.  Even they make me a little squeamish.  I've got both films on DVD and I've never watched them.

When you're a kid of the 1960s...This is Batman....

and Robin, of course.  And the comic books, any of them before 1970.  Yes, I am old, as noted.  I also repeat myself.  I have brain lesions.  And I am tired of seeing people killed off in unique ways with no fuss (tonight on Gotham, a city councilman and his aide were killed by having a dart shot through their eyes, and another councilman [the last one I saw anyway] was stuffed into a trash can, doused with gasoline and lit up like a torch).  Now that's entertainment.

Look if I want that kind of fun, I can watch ISIS videos.

Which brings me to The Walking Dead.  For four years I saw every episode, it was must Sunday night watching (or Monday morning watching with coffee, cookies, and my wife off to her job).  I would settle in and watch this:

And then watch everyone who was still alive run away, or, if that wasn't an option, watch Sheriff Rick and the gang stab, crush, hammer, burn and everything else to what was stumbling around the countryside just looking to feed on human flesh.  Yum.

Until I noticed last season that I started to be more interested in the how than the what.  How did they make that zombie do that? How did they work that cave in? I became far more interested in that then the story, which is just, well, silly.  Maybe I'm just in a phase with my little bit of energy that I need to place it somewhere...like the major presentation I've got coming on Thursday.

More on that later, but for right now I'd like to have The (baby) Penguin meet the Governor in a pit that's surrounded by zombies and say, OK boys, lemme know who wins and turn the set off.  You can send an e-mail.


I can not help but notice that we are over 10000 visits.  Thank you.

Right now I will join my wife and watch funny shows.  I hope they are.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I hate my home town.

We all grew up somewhere, whether it be in US, Canada, France or the Ukraine.  I picked the last two  because I'm hot there, blogger wise.  Bon jour and хороший деньок!

A couple of weeks from now I'll be giving a talk at our local shrine to author Herman Melville, when the Lansingburgh Historical Society is going to host a fete' to this book I am plowing through, or, I mean writing about Herman's time in my hometown about 175 years ago.  The house I grew up in remains on 1st Avenue.  The color has changed, the insides as well, but it is still home, the only true home I have had, except for all my time with my wife.  She is my home.

The stories remain, however, and the continuity of them is as varied as the autumn leaves on that huge maple tree in the back yard.  Those leaves took days to rake up, but I would make leaf roads and my dog would follow the road as I made moved my rake along.  And when we were done, the yard would already be filling up with the next batch.  I walked to school. No one bothered me. I had a sense of peace and happiness, just like I thought everyone had.

That's about the time I started hating Lansingburgh.

We moved from 1st Avenue (the house on First Avenue was too big).  My dog died.  I got bullied at the new school.  My father got sick and died.  My mother revealed her mental illness through her behavior, and her needs that I could not fill (because I was discovering my own bipolar disorder [this diagnosis not confirmed until 2005]) Family crisis after crisis. I could not find a job because I had absolutely no skills after years of taking care of a father who it turned out was going through what I am now doing.  So I got a government job (insert your own joke here).  My mother was very concerned about money, because she gambled it all away, and asked me for money or just took from my savings account, while promising to pay it back.  That never happened.  Then, my sister died.  My mother was devastated, and she turned toward her sons for support and we did what we could.  I'd visit once a week, as long as my tension filled stomach and brain could deal with it.  Even took a month off, which of course made things worse.

When my mother died, Lansingburgh became an anathema to me.  On the day of her funeral, I was driving to my brother's house, pointing out to my wife's family the places my family had lived.  And how rundown the whole town looked.  My stomach still in knots even at the thought of going there.  My brother still lived there, as did some of my sister's family.  My parents and sister are buried there.  All it was to me was misery.  I had enough problems.

Until I got more problems.  In my case medical, or, really neurological, and while I was working at a job that I liked, and with people I loved, it became obvious to me that I needed to change.  So then came Tai Chi, yoga, reiki, and time at a Buddhist monastery (and a few shrinks) and I began to learn forgiveness and relaxation.  My sister's daughter got married and Jackie and I attended the service in Troy.  Using a process I learned from those monks started me on a new road of freeing myself from the anger and sadness of the past.  It's not totally gone but I am a lot better.

So much so that when, once upon a Facebook, a high school friend contacted me and we began having lunch in Lansingburgh with other folks from the village.  From this came stories, and stories became a series of books. And then I walked into the Melville house in Lansingburgh for a book show and a walk about, ending up in the attic which had a unique resemblance to the attic I played in two blocks north.  I had never thought about Herman Melville, even though I had read the historical marker many times.  Just an "oh" , that's all.  Until about a year ago.  I was beginning to dive more into my genealogy  and found cousins and history I never knew.

More stories.  And on came the thought that maybe I could write a big story, talk about this village where amazing people lived and did great things.  And the research began in earnest.  The story is being put to paper.  And it is being welcomed.

So on October 16, I'll talk about these stories.  And yes, my stomach will be in knots, for those there and those that inspired me...Just people living their lives, and doing what he could.

Show up.  I have a story to tell....about my hometown.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The weird stuff I'm doing - and I'm medicated!

1.  I keep rubbing my thumb and middle finger and when ever I'm not moving around.  Holding a book? The non-book holding hand takes over the movement.  Unless I'm working in my yard, or writing ( except when I stop to correct something I've mistyped like happened just a few seconds ago - again with the rubbing!) it's there when ever my hands are not doing something else.  My psydoc says its a "brain peal", that in my DNA, somebody way back when did that thing and that part of my brain with that part of my history is reacting to what is going on.  MS is pulling back the onion of my brain and finding all kinds of things, as apparently somebody way back had a tough time using a handkerchief and used alternate ways to dispose of nose waste.  I hope MS "picks" something better next time.

2. I go to the bathroom cabinet, open the door, reach in for the toothpaste, and then pick up my toothbrush from the Mickey toothbrush holder neat the sink.  Paste on brush/ Brush teeth/ Spit/ Rinse!  I then put the cap on the toothpaste, and stick said paste in the Mickey holder, and the toothbrush on the cabinet shelf.

3. My tongue sneaks out of my mouth now and then, dog - like, tries to lick my nose.  As there is a bit more of a difference between where my mouth and a dogs mouth end and our respective noses begin, I merely appear odd.  I am used to that.  My wife has warned me that should I suddenly start panting and rolling on the grass, I will be taken to the vet.  I figured "what the hey?", i mean, how much worse can it get? On the other hand, I know of no dogs with MS or are bipolar.  They certainly don't come to support groups.

4. Of course, I realize that I had done a silly thing in the bathroom with the tooth brush and tooth paste.  I open the cabinet door, remove the tooth brush and, after a few pulls on Mickey's head, get the toothpaste away from him.  Paste on shelf, brush in Mickey's head.  I close the cabinet door by opening it all the way until the hinges crack.  Humph, I must be stronger than I thought.  I leave the slightly unhinged bathroom cabinet door that way.

5. A weekly ritual is the assignment of pills to their daily boxes morning, afternoon, and then bedtime (the bedtime pill container used be the all day pill holder until I started to love mood stabilizers).  This week I was going through the routine and when I was finished I saw a pile of white pills on the table.  And I had no idea what they were.  My wife suggested I take one to the pharmacy and ask them what it was.  But a crack detective writer was on the case. Me.  I compared the night pills against the day pills and noted the size, shape and color of each.  Solution: take a picture of the pill and match it up with my doctors' list that has all the scripts on it.  Why did I suddenly put the Prozac in the wrong place after doing it over and over for years.

6. It's not just occasionally when I walk into a room wondering why I am in there, it's nearly every time.  You know, as a writer, its tough to realize that what you most enjoy doing, and sharing, can be manipulated by my own brain...as I become more Dory:

than Story:

I normally do not wear ties when writing.  It does not matter what I wear, unless I am with my wife and we are relaxing somewhere and she sees me scribbling away in my notebook.  "Didn't need to come here if you were just going to write."

Sometimes in the middle of the night, I get up and sit at the kitchen table or in the den, and write to the early morning hours, sipping tea or coffee until I start to droop, and then back I go.  Since I have no place else to be, it doesn't matter when I get up.  The vibrant dreams (thanks anti-depressant) keep me terrified and amazed at the same time, so some of those writing times are giving what's is the MS unoccupied part my brain a break.

A couple of weeks back I know I got up at 3:00 AM.  I have no idea what I did or thought, or how long I was where I was wherever was.  Maybe I just stood still in the den.  Of course, the hallucinations stand at the bedroom door to beckon me to return to Slumberland.

I'm writing a mystery novel and this thing in my head is the greatest mystery of all.  Will it let me finish the book? Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Goodbye, Derek Jeter....

Last Thursday we tossed caution to the wind and went down to Yankee Stadium to watch the Bombers play the Tigers in an afternoon game.

That is, we tried. Or I did, anyway.  My wife and I have an agreement on trips like this.  I handle the tricky stuff (like actually the twist and turns of the city we're going to) and she handles the maps and the straight drives of the NYS Thruway/Northway/[fill in your favorite road here].  There are a few coffee stops and we try to build in time to get lost - which is becoming more of a thing now, you see.

I used to be able to drive for hours, get us there in good time, and whenever we returned to the destination, knew right what to do when, right into the parking space.

That's something that occurs more often now. Yousta.

I yousta drive better.

I yousta remember why I went into rooms.

I yousta remember what I did yesterday.

And, once, I could sit out in the bleachers on a beautiful warm sunny day.

We were in the fourth row.  I lasted three innings.  By the time we got to the main level, I could barely breath, sucking in air by the buckets, as I went down to my knees.  Eventually I got up, and we stayed in, away from the sun.  I must now live in the shadows.  Oh, it got better. We had Nathan's burgers and fries, cold drinks, and watched the game at the standing bars around that level.  We hit the Yankee stores and saw all the Yankee/Jeter let's-cash-in-on-this stuff.  I picked up a t-shirt that hand the right color and print of the old Yankee road jerseys.

Nice.  And all it took was a ride down the NYS Thruway to Poughkeepsie and grab the train there that would drop us off at Yankee Stadium.  It only took a half hour driving around P-see, trying to recall landmarks and get us to the train station.  But all that came to me was the I had to go near the river.  So once we arrived in the city, my wife asked if I knew where I was going.  "Sort of," I said. The directions provided by Apple Maps were somewhat looney, and I do apologize to Google for straying.  But the instinct was dow to the water.  As long as I was going downhill, no matter what street, I knew the station would be there.  Sure enough there it was.  We got on the train, and headed south, entertained by a group of five year old girls singing songs from "Frozen".

We were glad to see this:

Now we are not Yankee "fans".  My heart is for the Boston Red Sox, and my soul is with the Mets, the two teams most bedeviled by the Bronx Bombers.  I don't root for or against the Yanks (my wife is slightly more biased to the anti-).  I just love baseball, and the Yankees have so much history that I enjoy watching them, at least since the Torre era.  They are mostly guys who love the game and play it with a passion.  They've won more of everything than my other two teams combined.  Fine.  We are not all winners in life.  Like it says in the ballfield where the old Stadium was:

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. (Bull Durham)

Since I can still read, I've got shelves of baseball books.  Dice baseball game that I've played for 40 years, by myself and with friends.  My wife and I had hoped to hit every major league park after retirement.  That ain't happening, obviously.  But there are some within reach, and we'll do our best.

After the game we took the train heading back to Poughkeepsie, but each railroad car had full seats, and I sat on the floor and waited, then got to my feet, always good for a laugh as I lunged about, collapsing in a freed up seat.

We lost our way around the train station, and sometimes we just have to smile about it. This is just the way it is.  When we got to our car, there were no signs to tell us where to turn, and the directions were a waste of time.  But one thing that I did know.  I could see the bridge that spanned the Hudson River.  I just had to go up. The streets did not matter, as long we went up the hill, and then took two lefts, we'd be on the Thruway and headed home.  Just keep going up.

Derek Jeter did not play in the game nor did Mr. Cabrera of the Tigers.  The Yanks took the game 1-0.  Fine, whatever.  Exciting game.  We tipped our Yankee caps to the players.  Mr. Jeter played havoc with my Mets and Red Sox.  Don't get me going on the 2000 World Series.  But he was class, and he did the best he could with talent he had.  That's what we all try and do, acknowledge the Youstas and keep on going with what's left until the game is over.

I see we are slowly creeping up 10,000 visits. Many thanks and hope you enjoy the stories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Fenway Fall

It's about 75 degrees as we walk into the coolness and shade of Fenway Park last Sunday.  The Sox are out of town playing in Houston and the previous year's Championship Season is just a nice memory.  But that afternoon we were there to watch the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox minor league team) play the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland Indians minor league team).  The idea is to see some young guys play in the beauty and serenity of Fenway and you can get seats that are like this:

Fourth row on the aisle right behind home plate.  Oh, yes.  Tommy was a happy boy.  We moved down the steps, and my right leg just went boink, and by the time I stopped rolling down the walkway, I had landed in the lap on a eight year old boy, actually on his water bottle (by the sound of the plastic crinkling) and the first view I saw was:

which was actually pretty neat because, well, I'd never been that close behind home plate (but the day before we had taken the Fenway Park tour, and the first thought that came into my already fractured brain was "Hey, I was up there yesterday.  Sat in those seats and could look down on to the field:

But for now I just apologized to the family and slowly skulked over to my seat.  We watched the game and the minor league hi-jinks on the sidelines (Suggestions for minor league teams - have a "Baseball Only Night" - no t-shirt giveaways, no mascot races, no dogs catching frisbees, no walkup music - just the game, and the food, of course). 

We shared a Cherry Coke and watched a very tight 1-0 game.  At the same time I could feel my leg muscles tightening up like plaster of paris, so that when we stood for the seventh inning or the excuse me-pardonme-sorry families to go by us to get in the aisle and dash for yet another soda and do the whole thing again. I was actually waiting for the family the next row over to explode with their group 33rd hot dog triggering the deluge of consumed weeniers, sodas, cotton candy, popcorn would flow unencumbered over the backstop and onto the field, stopping the game before the Spinners' relief corps would do their own exploding in the ninth.

Final score: Spanners 6, Spinners 1.

We stayed awhile after the game as the Red Sox showed "Field of Dreams" on the big screen.  I just took it in - those seats and watching the movie - OK, actually, I didn't want to make the walk back to the hotel. My legs had stiffened right up, my right leg more of a wood post.  Is this how Long John Silver felt in Treasure Island?  Step, clop, step, clop.  Arrrr, matey, get me to me ship. Can't remember where I put it.  Arrr.

Tuesday I stopped over at the library and dropped off a due book.  Before leaving, I walked over to the shelves that held the free books, and there's always a surprise or two.  It was down on the bottom shelf.  So I got down there, slowly, using my left leg to support, and my right on an angle for stability.  As I stood up, the right leg gave out and I fell on to the shelf, trying to grab it for support, but the shelf gave way, spilling me and the books on the floor.  Get up. Put the books back on the shelf.  Okay, skulk out.

I went home where I can fall over any time I want.  The Boston trip set a good frame of reference. I can walk as far as I wish, as long as I wish the place to be about a block away.  What is needed? The Acceptance of pain, treat when you can.  We did everything we planned to in Boston, and a few things more. But stairs are just, uh, no. One or two, fine. Anything more? It better be worth it.  We shopped on Newbury Street, and many stores are one floor up or down from the street. Sometimes it was.  But Boston is always worth it.  We've talked about moving there. If you want life filling culture and history, and beauty, I recommend the Dirty Water City. And the Red Sox. And Fenway.

And as Dylan said, "you better walk right." Doin' my best.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Letter to Nissan (Jackie's Accident)


Carlos Ghosn
CEO of Renault and Nissan
Nishi-ku, Yokohama

Dear Mr. Ghosn:

This is my wife. Her name is Jackie.

For the past two years, she has driven one of your 2012 Nissan Sentras, like this one....

She loved this car.  For two years she used it to drive the fifty mile round trip to her job in Albany, NY and then home to our house near Saratoga.  We used it on short and longer trips, glad for the heat when we needed it and the cool air when we needed that, and to listen to tunes wherever we went, as sure as an oldies or country music station would be on when she pulled into the drive way,  and then she'd open the roomy trunk and we'd get all the groceries out, and we'd let the car have the rest of the day off, all doors closing tight with that thunk and the toot of the horn locking the Sentra for the night.

She took very good care of the car.

And then last week, she drove the car into a telephone pole.

She did not mean to do this.  We're still not clear of all the ins and outs of what and why it happened, but what is sure clear is after the car struck the pole and the driver's air bag popped up, and sparks were falling around the car from loose wires, that Jackie opened the driver side front door and got out.  She walked over to a crowd of people who always seem to be at accidents and they watched the Nissan burn.  Here are some pictures of what it looked like later....

From within the car, after the flames were doused, we were able to retrieve just about all the important papers and personal property, all of which, by the luck of this lady I've been with for 30 years, had slid under her car seat, and aside from being a little wet, were fine. Music CDs not touched. Alas, among the lost was one iPod, favorite workout pants, and an umbrella.  All these have been replaced.  And one more thing.  In the fourth picture down you see a iced coffee cup from Dunkin' Donuts (you may remember the stores in Lebanon and there is a store in Okinawa).  That cup survived the heat from the flames that warped metal and charred plastic.  And when I showed my wife that, she smiled for the first time in a few days.

Mr. Ghosn, I am not here to complain about the Sentra in any way (no lawyers, no nothing, just me and my Mac).  I am here, sir, to thank you and your employees world wide for building a car that would give itself up for my wife, the person I treasure most on the planet, but right now I think the Nissan family is pretty great, too.  Jackie opened the door and, aside from a few bumps and bruises, was fine.

While we did not choose Nissan for her next car, as I am retired on disability and moving in and out of autos is getting more difficult, we remain staunch supporters of Nissan and will always consider returning to Nissan sometime.

Thank you, Mr. Ghosn  and to Nissan Worldwide - ありがとう!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Walking Decrepits...( A Walking Dead Parody)

Sheriff Rick Grimes and his annoying son Carl are sitting in the sanctuary of the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in Atlanta.  The rest of the survivors are showering, eating actual food, and enjoying  comfy beds and clean toilets.  Dr. Edward Jenner is sitting at his com site watching the action on the large video screen before him and the Grimes.  MS people (called Mizzers)  stumbled around on the sidewalk just outside the CDC.

"What's wrong with that one?" Carl asked as he bit down on a Twizzler.  

Dr. Jenner leaned forward in his chair.  The walker on the screen was shuffling along being pushed around by other walkers.  The walker stopped and looked around, as if searching for a door.

"Oh, yeah," Dr. Jenner said. "That's a whyer."

"A what?" asked Rick.

"A whyer," the Doctor said, recognizing a teaching moment. "It's an Mizzer that walks around, but can not remember why it is there, or that maybe he should be someplace else.  The women ones are always looking in car windows for their car keys.  They don't last long because - well, see her there?"

Rick and Carl squinted at the far corner of the screen. A slow moving white van with a disability license plate was heading for the decrepit woman who had been gazing in the window of a blue Prius.  The van was going fifteen MPH and had its left turn signal on.  It slammed into the woman and then rolled over her as the van settled into the handicap parking space in front of the Prius.  The MS zombied man opened the door  to the van, placed his parking sticker in the van window, and walked to what once had been a pharmacy, since emptied, for Depends for Men, pain pills, and sleeping aids.  
The man called out in that weird despairing cry of the Mizzers as he saw he that the only remaining Pampers were for newborns, and yet stuffed the box into the front of his pants, and then fell over.
No one would pick him up.

"Poor bassterd," Rick mumbled.

"Why do you sound like an Australian?" Carl asked, offering the Twizzlers around.

"Sorry, sometimes I forget I'm an American." Rick stared off, seeming more interested in the mouse in the far corner that was just standing there, twitching,  first his right leg, then his left rear leg.  The mouse squeaked, urinated on the floor, and moved to the right of the small pool he just created, and waited.

"Oh, no you don't!" the Doctor yelled at the mouse. "I am NOT cleaning that up.  You had your Mighty Mouse Depends, and you would not wear them. Too bad."

Carl took out his Berreta 92, and blasted the mouse to twitching parts.

"Why'dja do that?" Rick asked, not hiding his admiration for his son's aim.

Carl shrugged.

"It's a walking decrepit, Dad. Mizzers die, right? -

Doctor Jenner raised his hand in the classic "Halt" move.

"You know, Carl," he said. "That is not necessarily true. Studies have shown - OK, you've got the gun.  I'll  shut up."

Carl nodded and turned to his father

"Besides, Dad, Mom's been doing a little twitching, too, if ya know what I mean."

"Carl, she's pregnant. Pregnant people do that."

Carl turned his attention back to the screen.  "We'll see," he mumbled.

"Hey, check this out," Dr. Jenner said.  "Look at this old guy with the beard. Looks like Santa is a little early this year."

The man was dressed in jeans, work shirt, and boots.  His white hair and and beard a bit lengthy for the summer, but he had a nice smile.  Jenner turned up the sound so all three men could hear the show.

"Now I got the cure right here, " the old man said in a professional South Carolina accent. "It's right in my car.  Come on, now."

All the Mizzers stopped whatever random thing they were doing, and turned to the white haired man. Those Mizzers that could still talk mouthed something like "cure...cure...money. Give them money." Those who could no longer speak just reached for their wallet.. Those in wheelchairs tried to rise from their chairs and join the fray, but just tumbled to the road. They crawled.

The Santa kept stepping backwards, drawing the Mizzers to him.  Rick placed a call on the speaker system to everyone inside the CDC.

"There's some guy outside who is gonna give himself up to the Mizzers.  We can make a run for it!"

Over the speaker system, all he could hear was....

"Too hot....Too cold....My legs, my legs.....Can't walk...."

Rick dropped the microphone, making too loud a noise.

"They're all infected," Rick said.  He collapsed in the chair.  On the screen was the white haired man with a slight limp.  "Handicapped Parking!" he cried, "Where's mah sticker? You don't look sick!"

"Welp, it ain't that bad," Carl said.  "knowing MS may not be genetic."

"What about that?" Dr. Jenner said. "What is genetic?"

Carl smiled and picked up his gun.

"Bipolar disorder, Dad.  Ask Mom."  Carl just started laughing.  A little too long.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ringo and the other guys and their songs...

"Every time I see your face,
It reminds of me of the places we used to go,
But all I've got is photograph,
and I realize you're not coming back anymore..."

                          Photograph, Writer(s):  Richard Starkey, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison
Copyright: Startling Music Ltd., Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Startling Music Ltd. c/o Bruce V. Grakal.

We were at the Ringo Starr concert Tuesday, and so I get to say that we saw a Beatle, and its getting harder to be in that club nowadays.  We've only two left, and Paul isn't feeling well as it is.

So Ringo comes out and does a few songs, and then each member of the band who had hit songs in other bands would do their songs, with Ringo on drums.  More Ringo songs, and more hit songs. The sold out theater crowd is up and dancing, and we wrap up with "Give Peace a Chance".  Wonderful!

Part of the enjoyment of the whole night for me was the range of songs from the sixties through the 1980's that I still have on my iPod, and that have a personal meaning for me.  You've no doubt got some of your own.  Here are a few I heard Tuesday night...

Ringo - It Don't Come Easy

"Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don't come easy.
You don't have to shout or leap about,
You can even play them easy.

Forget about the past and all your sorrows,
The future won't last,
It will soon be over tomorrow.

I don't ask for much, i only want your trust,
And you know it don't come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it just ain't easy.

Open up your heart, let's come together,
Use a little love
And we will make it work out better."

Writer(s): Richard Starkey
Copyright: Startling Music Ltd., Startling Music Ltd. c/o Bruce V. Grakal

First, this was a favorite of mine when it originally was released.  Now, for anyone having to deal with tough times, and I assume anyone reading this has them, you can always leave that slab of lumber in your eye while you complain about the mote in your neighbor's.  Recently we had dinner with another couple, and the other gentleman told us about his cancer bouts, and him and I compared notes on pain, what is working and was doesn't.  It don't come easy, and we all struggle with the day to day, and we need compassion for others and ourselves.  And yeah, I'm talking to you, Mr. You-look-fine-why-are-you-parking-in-a-handicap-spot, huh, bud? We all suffer something.

While the other guys Tuesday night did neat stuff, all music we baby boomers know, there were two other songs that always affected me, and the next one takes a bit of explanation.

Toto "Africa"

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had


Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

In 2000 and 2001 I spent a lot of time and miles in my car going from home to work to the nursing home where my mother was living out her last few months and then back home.  My Saturn had a cassette player and one of the tapes I'd toss in was some 1980s' music.  On there was Toto. Africa "Gonna take the time to do the things we never have.."

As I listened, and drove, I would think about the guy in the song who, in my version, was really caught up in his work and would stop and do more work while he should be meeting his love flying in to be with him.  The old man the narrator meets reminds him that some things are more important and then our hero runs to the airport and meets his love.  "Gonna take the time to do the things we never have."  At the time my mother was fading, and at my job I had been reminded that as much as I likes what I was doing, it was not my job title sand I would have to do something else.  While I missed my staff (even though they were two floors away) I had to go into this new world, and I was a little resentful about it, and made sure everyone knew it.  Not how you make friends.  But with my mother's passing and the lack of connection with the rest of my family after that, The Toto song still reminded what was important, my life with Jackie and her family and friends.  For my old staff, "gonna take a lot to drag me away from you" but as the people I was closest with there moved on, and my new job started to go where I saw it could do the most good.  And Jackie and I planned out "the time to do the things we never have."  And then both the bipolar and MS diagnoses came in.

Which brings me to the surprise song of the night.  I never really remembered the names of the band members, except for Springsteen's E Street Band, so when Richard Page was introduced as the bass player from Mister Mister, I gave an internal shrug as I had no idea what Mister Mister had done, aside from great hair.  When Mr. Page began his turn and the intro to his song began.. I got it.  Go back to the previous paragraph when the diagnoses were made, and then having to retire early (fortunately an offer was on the table) and now what I do, and how long do I have for it?

The wind blows hard against this mountain side
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old it holds my memories
My body burns a gem-like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie Eleison
Down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison
Through the darkness of the night
Kyrie Eleison
Where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie Eleison
On a highway in the night

When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be

"Kyrie" was written by Lang, John Ross / George, Steven Park / Page, Richard James.

Kyrie Eleison is Latin for Lord, have mercy.  It's all new now...brain lesions, the routine changed and changed again.  The question for my wife...Where I'm going will you follow... I've read a number of stories in MS support groups on line that partners of MS affected folks up and go, not wanting to deal with a chronic illness.  I don't blame them, but we're still here.  In  the last stanza, the writer wonders if he made the right choices in his life to end up where he is.  Here I am, and here I go.  Kyrie Eleison down the road I must travel.

And yours as well.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Grandpa Martin/Decoration Day

His name was Louis Joseph Martin.

He's the guy with the X below him.  That's my grandfather.  He and his friends are in training in Gettysburg, PA learning how to kill the enemy, which is a far cry from his civilian life as a truck driver and a day laborer.  Louis was assigned to the 61st Infantry in the 9th Infantry Brigade of the Fifth Division of the US Army.

He and his fellow Army soldiers arrived in France in the spring of 1918 and trained with the French Army before getting into the fray in July.  The unit was involved in the Saint-Mihiel Campaign which took place 12-15 September 1918.  This attack against the German lines was successful, albeit short-lived.  The American forces had difficulty keeping armaments and food nearby which limited how quickly their surge through the German (Hindenburg) lines.

Plus there was - the weather forecast...."Visibility: Heavy driving wind and rain during parts of day and night. Roads: Very muddy."  General John Pershing's plans did well as a guide, but the weather halted the movement of tanks. Louis was at the front line stationed somewhere from Pont-à-Mousson on the Moselle west toward Limey.  He moved with his Brigade and saw action at Meuse-Argonne and then, as the war ground to a armistices halt, chased the retreating German armies through the French countryside.

The war was over and Louis J. Martin came home with the rest of the doughboys.  He came back to Troy and married my grandmother, had my father (and another child who died early), worked, went to Mass, and died at the age of 46 in 1937.  There was no grave site specifically set aside for him and his family, so Lou's sister donated a spot in her family's site at St. Joseph's Cemetery.  And there he lay.  We (as in my father and grandmother and me) would visit the grave every Decoration Day or Memorial Day as we now call it.  After my grandmother died in 1970, my father rarely went, and after 1978 no one did.  Until I did....

He had been alone for nearly 40 years.  I found you, finally, Grandpa.  Thank you for your service, and yes, I have your medal.....

Thank you Louis J, Louis F., Bobby C., Jim VW and all who served and toiled for this nation.

More on Grandpa and who I blame for putting these damn lesions in my head.  Thanks for reading.  I've been away. Now I'm back.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bipolar time - My Top Five Hallucinations

1) The praying girl.  This was a recent development t

I do not know how hallucinations you may have, but the bipolar group of the (1) and (II) varieties can really be amazing or terrifying.  Or, just so what, there's a Hobbit in my underwear drawer, and yeah, he likes me, OK with that? Huh?

I am a not a doctor, but I do have some experience in the business, having been bipolar for a long time.  And, now that Showtime's thriller program Homeland (and everyone' s favorite BP girl Claire Danes [as Carrie] was last seen running from an execution in Iran) has wrapped up its third season and our latest BP Disorder heroine in Black Box has just begun her show (with hallucinations, but only the patients so far),  I wanted to contribute to the lull (hmmmm...) by sharing some of my favorite hallucinations of the past few years.

5) Radio KNUT - this one is the usual music from a distant radio.  This is a more common hallucination, but mine comes normally when I'm in my house on colder days when the furnace comes on and the hot air swooshes through the grate.  I am then entertained by voices and songs harmless, and in some cases, soothing.  Occasionally, I make requests for some Tony Bennett, or Sinatra, but I'm not heard.  More Glen Miller is all I get.

I look at it all like this, and part of my philosophy comes from some time spent with Buddhist teachers.  From the site bipolar.about.com - Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behavior ... even how a person feels physically. It's probably caused by electrical and chemical elements in the brain not functioning properly (see What Causes Bipolar Disorder? for more information), and is usually (but not always) found in people whose families have a history of one or more mental illnesses.
While we're at it, let's be clear about something: a mental illness is one that affects the mind, not one that's all in the mind.
That's a pretty good layman's term definition of BP.  I will add that from the Buddhist perspective, there is the diseased brain and there is the mind (that part of you that when you are thinking seems to be talking right above your eyes and inside the skill.  Close your eyes and think of your favorite movie or show. Now watch what you picked. See where it is? Yep. Okay, open your eyes). The mind is you, your being, or soul, or whatever works. I'm stuck in here as you are stuck in your body. If the body is diseased, it will effect you and the brain you are using to function in the body.  BP is not your fault, nor is MS (for my fellow MS'ers out there).  I use this to remind myself that a hallucination is just that. Not reality. It does not mean I can't enjoy it, though.
4) Flowers.  Right after I turn off the light at bedtime, and lay back on the pillow, the show begins. With a small nitelight in our parlor giving any brightness to our bedroom, its just enough to see the black flowers begin their dance across the bed covers.  Seemingly held together by the daintiest lace, the flowers move and swirl on silent winds that make no sense to me, but I just watch.  Sometimes. Other times I'll extend my hand out and increase the swirl. The flowers respond, growing and moving to what movements I make.  Last night my wife sat up with me while I "played" with the flowers, and telling her what I could see.  Jackie is used to this from me.  She asked me if I was concerned about this and I said no, its just part of what I am.  But it makes me think sometimes that there is more to all this.
3) Bugs.  Living near a forest has made the outside a bug filled zone through much of the summer and fall.  Actually, it's not that bad when you consider that most of them are flying around in my head.  But I do go through a lot of Raid.
2) People in the house.  When my wife was working and I was home, I'd be writing or whatever and I was reading, I was, at times, thinking there were people in the house aside from yours truly, or, if not people, then the glass angel on our dresser bedroom cabinet is after me.  

1) The praying girl - She appears among the flowers that are dancing around the bed but she is kneeling and slightly above Jackie, and praying.  She is dark outline, of course, but she is in prayer form.  When I told Jackie what I could see, she said "Well, at least she's praying for me!"

Look if you are hearing and seeing things that you don't recognize, you need to speak to a doctor.  They may be able to help.  I know what my hallucinations are.  I do not fear them. 

Thanks for reading