Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Report

Laid back, stretched out. Feelin' Better at Last. Been laying around a lot.  My furry kids are getting into the slow, winter lifestyle of eat, sleep and repeat.  The cat, while I write, is curled up on the cedar shavings dog bed sans faux fleece cover, while Dawn attempts to remove grease stains from multiple beef bone treats the blue-heeler likes to eat between meals. They taste better when consumed in bed.  In terms of peeves, I think eating in bed rates up there with drinking coffee near the computer. One good spill could wipe out all this. Be nice now.

Think old schoolhouse.  Second floor, large open space.  Great place for kids to dream of running around outside on spacious lawn, walking down to the river to poke in mud banks or just go for a hike in the woods.  Teachers wiped out any nonsensical mind wanderings by threatening to burn kid-stuff.  "Glenda, stop day-dreaming and pay attention or I'll throw your dolly on the burn pile."   Think I'm kidding?

First year we lived here, I'm curious about a burn pile on the south fence line.  With a garden rake I probe the contents and find porcelain doll parts, you know the old fashioned dolls with cloth or leather bodies.  Arms, legs, partial heads, hands.  Sad.  In tribute I create a grapevine wreath. I attach a few arms, legs and hands. I toss in a rusted, burnt out lock I found in the same pile, add some silk flowers. At the bottom I hang an old sheep bell salvaged from a junk box.  I ain't bragging, but the over-all effect is what I wanted.  "For whom the bell tolls..."  My teachers could have ridden with Jesse James for all the time they stole from me. The actual title of the wreath construction was-After The Fire.

Are you listening?  Large open space.  Second floor.  Seven years later, after building a new school, the old school is turned into a residence.  Bedrooms in the large open space need closets.  Yeah, adding closets will make the room smaller, but think cozy.  The master bedroom on the south end has two closets.  The east bedroom-one closet that abuts the bathroom.  A bathroom literally turned into a throne because all the plumbing is laid on the floor.  The ball and claw tub had to be raised on a pedestal.  West bedroom, one closet that hangs over the stairwell, hence, a sloped ceiling that makes for little storage space, save for a narrow top shelf over a pipe rack for clothing. All have access doors consisting of a turnbuckle and a piece of paneling.

Still listening?  The carpenters with farmer wisdom not only create a closet but put a narrow crawl space behind the closet.  Clever vermin find it a nice place to chew insulation and hang out on long winter nights.  Eating in bed in this house would be an invitation to a mice critter sharing your comforter.  The lazy lump on the couch keeps 'em at bay.  Before Salvatore Pucci arrived on our back step on a frozen February night, we'd hear snap traps go off in the middle of the night.  We found out that bait traps caused the mice to horde piles of green pellets, saving them for a treat in front of their own version of Disney's Mouseketeers.  Dead mouse in the wall is worse than snap traps going off in the middle of the night.

Grab a flashlight. Open the access door, find the trap and remove twitching body. . Since the Pooch took residence, he scouts 24/7 basement, back hall, first floor and every available nook and cranny upstairs.  Good boy.  Anybody raises an eyebrow about a pampered cat getting raw chicken liver for dinner with an occasional 90/10 raw ground beef snack thrown in gets my scorn. Outside, he find all sorts of mousie variations from field mice to shrews to moles to cute furry cartoon mice. Even I feel sorry for those guys .

For every one you see, there's a hundred more behind the door.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sheep, Sheep

Camp Verde Sheep Copyright 2012  Seven Roads Gallery
I love music.Let me reword that. I love good music.  Good is my opinion.  Nuances in individual tastes toward food, wine, beer, film and art, are as wide-spread as cowboy hats in Texas or assholes wearing cowboy hats in Texas.  Like Tommy at the monthly town meeting who unjustly accused the town board of favoritism and then held up his right paw and forestalled any further discourse with, "I ain't gonna argue,"  I will add ditto to Tommy's spurl ( my own word-a combination of spurt and hurl). I ain't gonna argue.

When I taught in the inner city, as a respite from stress, I'd retreat to a greenhouse I salvaged from demolition.  A neighbor and I drove it from it's defunct business location in the inner city  to my lower east side home along the Milarky River. We managed it without much damage to the glass windows.  I replaced a few rotted frames and hand dug a narrow footing four foot below the ground level. Each window was a separately constructed piece which bolted to it's neighbor and was braced to a free standing roof.  Total dimensions I think were less than 20 feet long and wide enough for two four foot benches with a three foot walkway.  I'd stick a disc in my Walkman and tend to a variety of house plants, orchids and vegetable plants I raised for myself and for sale. It kept me sane. Surround yourself with a hundred plants and you'll know why.

Besieged by technical glitches in the writing of this post, I slip a music disc in the tower. It's an old friend, Music For The Spiritual Tourist compiled by Mick Brown.  I never intended to write about sheep. One of the cuts, the same title as the post, sung by the Georgia Sea Island Singers is an accapella  gospel song. In the liner notes Mick writes that gospel music is the first music "that truly moved me, a sanctified chorus..."

Dawn's painting of sheep sold at Amish auction for a ridiculously low price.  Under ten dollars.  Had I been there at the moment it went up for sale, I would have removed it from bidding in an illegal, but common way at Amish auctions which would have been to bid on the piece myself. Then if the price didn't rise or I wasn't satisfied with the price, I'd buy it and keep the painting, not before giving my Amish friends their meager commission.  I sincerely hope the buyer of Dawn painting enjoys the bargain or the painting drops off the wall and damages their furniture or both. 

 The Camp Verde Sheep acrylic is my title.  Dawn didn't add a title since it originally was planned as a inexpensive donation to help the Amish School fund. Cheap frame, quickly executed commission in which Dawn excels.  My mind's eye sees that sheep in the field across from a friend's place in Camp Verde, Arizona on a dark night when Holly escorted me and Dawn to look at a piece of property up for sale.  The house is pleasant enough, with some acreage.  Holly takes her flashlight to scan the field in front of the house.  Thirty glowing eyes shine back at us.  Memorable. 

The music in the background is wistful and melancholic.  With a black and white landscape outside and the threat of more snow this afternoon, I'm comforted by the presence of Salvatore Pucci, the cat, on my desk and Mandy Mae lying behind my chair. 

The week has been long and stressful.  One reason for technical glitches here is that I tried to find web images for a man stuck in a doughnut.  Use your imagination to see me up in Rochester having a biopsy of my pancreas while the Russian doctor tries to find the exact spot to insert a needle slide past bowel, liver, stomach with the aid of a CT scanner- a machine that looks like a four foot high plastic beige doughnut

Wednesday was a relatively innocuous electrocardiogram ( sonic imaging of my heart) to determine if my heart can withstand the chemotherapy.  Thursday, we drove through dense fog, possible black ice just after dawn to arrive for outpatient surgery to install a port for the chemo, more tests, lots of down time, consultations, medicalese, and 4+ hours of chemotherapy. A Pakistani doctor wearing  a skullcap with really bad breath reminds me to tell him when my fingers go numb or if I can't button my shirt because that's bad, really bad. It can't be reversed.  More worst case scenario.  I'd like to take all the worst case scenarios and...

We left home at 7:15 am and return 12 hours later. Thanks to Jorge, the animals were well kept.

I never mention kind, number and species when talking to the medical folks about my "animals" because they will immediately down play my abrasive reactions to their scheduling process, which seems to be for the benefit of the medical people.  Let them assume I have 300 chickens, ten ducks, forty sheep and dairy cows because all I get anyway is sympathetic looks.  Not much else.  "I'm sorry but that's the procedure."  The most they'll give is  push back arrival time 30 minutes because I'm not 80 years old and don't need twenty minutes to untie my shoes.

The admitting nurse turns white when I tell her to get me a number for the scheduling person so I can inform them what it's like driving in dense fog for 70 minutes on possible glare ice.
I leave Skemp/Mayo with a portable pump attached to the newly inserted port.The pump serves to deliver chemo 24/7 for a week.  The pump hangs on my belt in a fanny pack.  On the drive home we have a laugh up the first hill to the ridge-tops surrounding Lacrosse when Dawn asks why there a flashing green light in the car.  It is in the same area ( outside) she reported lightning ( strobe flashes on cell towers). "Oh come on. I'm wearing that pump."  

If I sit, a line gets kinked and a red light starts flashing. After this happens twice, I make sure that all tubing is exposed for ready inspection.The sleeping dog starts whimpering.  I immediately look down at the pump device to see what warning signal is going off.  At night, it sleeps on the bookcase next to the bed. Nurses warning me of excessive thrashing in my sleep. Of course, they always give a worst case scenario in which a man ripped off the connection, chemo leaked all over the bed in his sleep.  Then, one has to open a box labeled SPILL KIT.  Yup you guessed it.  Full scale haz-mat operation with mask, gown, rubber gloves. Oh jayzus.

Cut to the chase.  I am better. Optimistic even. There are no more trips for at least a week.  Maybe then I'll have more time to be able to comment on trolls, dieting, concrete dishware and singing in the shower ( see blog list).

  Stay away from bridges 'cause that's where trolls wait for fat billy goats.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dazed Doughnuts

" If we cannot trust the cleanliness of the hand that offers rice, how can we eat?"

The Pearl Diver
Sujata Massey

It's why I stay away from comment on politics except for the grassroots level. Newt Gingrich?

Snakes have gotten a bad rap because of a few vipers in the nest.  

I walked away from the computer. After ten minutes, it goes into a screen save feature and shows pictures at random from my files.  When I go back, this shot is on the screen.  It brings back memories.

I'm stacking firewood.  The quality of the wood is getting worse as the price goes up.  Leo wants cash in hand which is a minor inconvenience, but the real problem is that he doesn't question his sources. "Is it fresh cut wood?" I ask. Dunno, he answers.

When he finally unloads the dumpster, I find much of the so called firewood is slab wood-the outer edges of logs trimmed at the sawmill in preparation for cabin building.  Too much bark, which in return creates more work. A frequent need to empty the ash pan.

This guy pictured above is savoring a cool spot as I removed a few outer levels at the top of the row.  After I got over the "holy shit", I was fortunate enough to have enough time to grab the camera. The snake must have been Amish as it didn't want a picture of its face.

Writing in my blog is therapy for me. I need the distraction. I'm depressed to the point of trembling from the stress.

Pooch the cat is so bored he's taken to hiding behind furniture and leaping out at the dog in mock combat.  He teases the dog to wrestle by stealing the dog's blankie.

In two days Dawn and I will travel, again, to Rochester for another test.  After wrestling with the Mayo doctors in Lacrosse, it is agreed that I will have a needle biopsy to settle a question about the esophageal cancer and an area adjacent to my pancreas. The journey up and back is arduous.  The weather unpredictable. Tuesday's 8 am test forces us to leave home no later than 5:30 am.  We won't even bother feeding the dog, because it's way too early for her morning feeding.  The cat will have to suffer being cooped up another day.  Jorge who has been the zookeeper,of late, is across the state on another errand of mercy which somewhat overshadows our needs.  His sister had a botched hernia operation in which the incision never healed properly.  She needs treatment.

If I get the biopsy, the wheels start moving.  Wednesday I'll have a echo cardiogram to determine if my heart is healthy enough to stand up to chemotherapy.  On Thursday, a device will be attached to my chest for the chemo medication.  Then, I can look forward to repeated chemo, nausea and weakness.  I won't be writing here.  Right now my appetite is waning because of pressure from the esophageal mass extending into my stomach.  We'll borrow Jorge's juicer so I can maintain proper levels of nutrition.  Dawn looked online for juicers and found a reasonable model from Waring that number one son swears by.  If we like Jorge's, we'll buy our own.

I love the taste of organic carrot juice.  Our favorite grocery store in Lacrosse has loads of quality vegetables.  And it's on the fast way home via Interstate 90 through Cashton back down highway 14.

The doctor in charge of my chemo is a clone of Amy Fowler Farrah(sp?) Sheldon's girlfriend on Big Bang Theory.  We have to stifle guffaws when she gruffly asks questions and bristles at pointed responses.

It's just one big sitcom without the canned laughter.

Photo montage below. I ran out of words.

Oh Lord won't ya buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Peace Out.
Green Bay Quacker from Seven Roads Gallery  

Saturday, January 21, 2012


More bucolic shots to ease the pain of a -15 degree morning.  In the days when I couldn't download a large photo, I took lots of 640X480 pixel pictures. This is one. The quality is minimal.  At the top of the frame is a telephone pole at left.  If I enlarge the shot, blogger will crop too much.  Note the heavy cover across the highway.
Back in 2005, I rushed in the house to get this picture of a commemorative ride locals make every year.  With home-made wagons and lots of riders they honor a journey pioneers made way back when. What I'm trying to point out is the area across the road behind the riders. With the first picture, it  shows a dense wooded area along the winding river.

What's the point?  This wooded spot affords a nice view of the river banks, a grassy strip along the highway and a pine woods off to the left.  The habitat is prime for birds of prey and good cover for the rest of the gang.  Today my wife, Dawn,  spots three crows perched high atop the tallest tree in the top picture-the one next to the pole.  Mid-way below in a smaller tree is a Great Horned Owl.  In the lowest branch of the same tree as the owl, a puffed up hawk watches the white snow cover for mouse and rodent activity.  Better than TV which I loathe say, I've been watching way too much.  On the south end of energy from what Dawn says is stress catching up on me, I read a bit, fall asleep in my recliner and watch the free cable channels that will be cut off after our free month's trail. 

Entertainment used to be watching a parade of birds at as many as six feeders around the place.  Tube feeders, platform feeders, little houses, a Droll Yankee and two squirrel proof feeders as well as several store bought and homemade suet feeders which brought loads of species.  Then seed prices at the local hardware store went sky high.  I couldn't afford a decent seed blend without all the filler seeds common to cheaper varieties. It only encourages mice and rabbits.  Even oil sunflower got expensive, so I stopped feeding the birds. 

One feeder was located next to a lilac bush near the deck outside of a large picture window in the living room..  One day I looked out to see a falcon "spread-eagled" (no pun intended) on the top of the leafless bush. Inside under the cover of a dense thicket juncos and sparrows were safe from the hungry bird.  Never have I been privy to such a sight.

The struggle I have with a decision to feed the birds is that once one begins feeding wild birds, you can't quit until there's sufficient food available or when the snow cover melts.  Biologists claim that birds don't' need our help, but my feeling is that if I save one chickadee from starvation, I've done well. A friend who was an ornithologist claimed that chickadees have to eat their body weight daily to because of a high metabolism.  Fifty per cent mortality is common over the winter. Besides, I like the friendly little critters.   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seeds for Thought

I swivel my office chair around to glimpse at my blue heeler sprawled in front of the bookcase behind me.  She raises her head briefly in anticipation, decides, "He ain't going anywhere," and flops back down on her side.  Yeah. Sun's out. " If Hell is hot, what do we have outside right now?" I wonder.  Early morning color has receded from that lovely golden hue that makes you want to photograph the dumbest things because everything looks wonderful, warm and glows in the early morning light.  Truth be told, even psycho cat came in from the cold after a brief tour de grounds this morning. He's upstairs stretched out on the bed.  Remember, he was raised outdoors, slept under a porch for the first nine months of his life until I rescued him trying to eat a frozen pan of leftovers in the dark of a 10 below zero February night.

See that leafy stuff behind Mandy Mae?  Them's carrots.  I'm eating Wal-Mart canned carrots right now because I screwed up on the garden plan.  The carrots I did grow either went into my vegan friend Jorge's mouth or into home canned, pickled,dilled carrots n' veggies. Then there was the year I grew sweet, really sweet carrots so delicious I gave most of them away in a fit of , "You won't believe how good these carrots taste!"  WTF is wrong with me? Yes, there's always next season.

California Dreaming

Shut-in by two days of frightful below zero temperatures, I only let the dog out long enough to poop and pee. She does a few practice runs along the east fence line and comes back to the house limping from the cold. Today I'll put on three layers and the warmest parka I have to fill the wood bin once the thermometer reaches 10 degrees. That and lunch are long range goals. 

For every negative there is a positive. Something I hold to be a basic fact of life.

Quincley Tharpes, a therapist who helped me over my mental speed bumps of dreams of being in combat in a previous life as a inner city educator when the "free" counseling provided by an educational system now so defunct and bankrupt that it is unable to staff basic needs for students  tells me my blue eyes match my shirt.  I smile at the compliment but do not respond.  Then she says, "You got one rubber band life style,"  cutting me to the quick.  Whatchamean rubber band?

You live in the city, move to a farm, move back to the inner city, move lock stock and barrel into a tent for a year in the sticks across from a commune, then you move back to the city, bounce around the city and teaching jobs (52 different schools)- big fat red rubber band boy.

She pops another hard candy into her chubby little mouth and smiles. She has a Smurf statute on her desk.

Every trip I take, every plane ride across the country each and every foray outside the womb is a comparison, for the file folder that goes into a mental cabinet labeled " potential places to live". Some trips last for years.  One learns that 103 degrees in the shade on your birthday in May, when the soil is so hot it burns your wrists pulling what tortuous few weeds grow in the red iron oxide sandstone in the lower yard isn't much different than trying to pull a frozen spade out of the compost pile in January.  You worry for the red worms buried under all the shredded leaves.
Nine inches of rain in a three day period makes even the most sane person wonder about apocalyptic prophesies. Standing in water up to your ankles, I wash mud off  potatoes leaves and hope the crop isn't destroyed.  At the library yesterday I point out to the assistant director that in today's weather I don't go out with a net tucked under my straw hat so biting fleas don't fly up my nose and into my eyes.  Look at the bright side.

I think I'll go read seed catalogs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


OK. Let's see where this goes. Has it driven you nuts yet?  Don't ask me how it became animated. 'Praps it'll go poof, let out a une petite poot of white smoke and crap on your desk top.  I hope not. 

This morning ,wind driven light snow blows off the roof creating an illusion of a blizzard. It only makes me more depressed.  The weather guys are off a bit, predicting light snow after midnight Monday night. Yesterday, I religiously check the radar and weather forecast for two states before another run to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a 1:00 pm appointment. Rochester. My derelict father's name was Chester.  Mom referred to him as Chet.  Can I turn it into a word play. Naw. I wouldn't do that to you. 

Never have 51 miles(Lacrosse to Rochester exit) seemed so interminable.  Flat, Minnesota farmland of indescribable sameness. You know I'd find a way to describe it accurately, if I could.  Maybe it's the billboard-20 miles out from the Rochester turn off- highway 52.  XITT 209. That's all it said. Black letters with no serifs against a snow white background.  Not even an icon, or two, or three.

 Yeah, I'm at the computer, terminally bored from fright and a feast of unpretentious repetition. I even went so far as to ingest some coffee laced with a healthy dose of local honey ( not her). Fooling with downloads, again.

I lay there for 90 minutes staring up at  ceiling tiles.  Remind myself to cancel any Mayo appointment when they call, mid-trip asking, "Can you get here by noon?"  Obviously they have no idea how far away we live.  "No, way, "I repeat.They shove me to the end of the line behind dog-bites, bed wetters and people with small fractures . Adding an additional bit of trauma, the consulting physician drags my wife back in recovery to report that the Dr.L__ couldn't perform the endoscopic ultrasound.  "The stent was in the way."  I'm still under the influence of an unknown narcotic used in anesthesia to cram a tube down my throat. A narcotic, the nurse says, when she tells me "Do not even attempt to drive after the procedure."  Screwing with her mind, I  make no promises. She tells me that if were stopped, it's a felony. I make note to let Dawn drive the whole way, knowing that Nurse Ratchitt will turn in our license plate to the state patrol.  Remember this.  Before being threatened with the police for driving under the influence, the!@#$'s  ask me to make life threatening decisions about my care.


I look up at Dawn for a signal that, yes, she'll help me throttle the F-R when one choice is to stay overnight, have them remove the stent in my throat the next morning and repeat the procedure. Choice behind door number two, is to take a biopsy with a needle. "There's no guarantee that the biopsy procedure won't contaminate areas on it's exit.Number three is so onerous, I don't remember. Perhaps it was the narcotic that made me woozy. You don't need any more details.

On the way home, I don't say more than three words.  "Stop slowing down," were the 3 words.  We get back to frantically hungry critters, happy to see we're not dead.  I make myself breakfast, the one I'd missed 12 hours before. What? Why didn't we stop?  There aren't a whole lot of places where I can feast on a low residue diet.  Even then, it grosses Dawn out when I throw up in a napkin at the table because I forgot to chew slowly.  Sorry for that image, but somethings can't be tamed.

We watch a tribute to Betty White on the tube just to calm down with goodness.

I'm better now that I've vented.      


Sunday, January 15, 2012

It Is Winter

There was a Canadian TV show on PBS I'd watch religiously,before I moved to Arizona.  It was called the Red Green Show.  Farcical, stupid, dumb and dumber-such as one featured segment that focused on 1001 uses for duct tape. The creator of the show and the star did a black and white segment  demonizing the Canadian winter with humor.  I remember one part where Red would sit out in a snowstorm playing guitar.  Falling through holes in ice became a slapstick artform.  I even found DVD's of the show on Netflix.  To watch with enthuisam, one should be drunk or impaired. In all honesty, I may have been drinking.

Today, I played my own version of -It Is Winter.  The dog wouldn't let me sleep in. Dawn kicked the cat outside at 7am for howling, but I worried that my cat buddy would freeze his business off in 10 degree temperatures.  Coughing prodigiously from a virulent form of laryngitis, I amble downstairs to let the cat inside.  He was super glad to see me.  I made a couple of real vanilla flavored waffles, brewed some strong coffee and a cup of miso soup.  I threw tofu cubes in the boiling soup water before I mixed in the measured amount of mellow yellow miso dissolved in water.  Then I slathered the hot waffle with creamy peanut butter ( my low residue diet because of throat cancer doesn't allow crunchy peanut butter).  For fun we went to Wal-Mart.  The high point came when a parent escorted a howling kid out of the store.  I avoided friends I knew when I worked there, because I didn't want to go through the C routine.

I stared at the white blanket outside through car windows and kitchen windows.  I read some and fell asleep in my recliner for a few hours.  Poor dog isn't getting any exercise.  I dreamed of naked pirate girls.   The above photo is 30 minutes of error messages in my attempts to load a pirate girl photo.  If the net police are looking for me, I'll say the same thing my santero friend said with a twinkle in his eye as I passed him in the Village Crossing grocery store in Sedona.

"Pardon us, we're old."   

Saturday, January 14, 2012


When I was a freshman in high school, this duck got me into trouble. Actually, not this particular one.
This one.

See the crudely repaired head.  My skills as an art restorer in 1960's were limited.  It sat in the basement of the suburban home I'd just moved into after my grandfather died of a heart attack.  Long story, short, is that my mother created this duck when she was a little tyke.  My grandmother prized the art piece, but not enough to move it out of the basement laundry room. In the laundry room there was a wooden table, an old copper boiler, shelves under the east  window, two cement tubs for the washer and hand washing of clothes and a clothes chute. I still have both washboards. Back then it was a half century old.  Now, it's over 100 years old.

I wanted to examine it more closely, so I climbed on the creaky wooden wash table to grab it from the high shelf under the basement window.  When I did,  the beak fell off the aging wooden duck.Crap.  Basically, I was an honest kid, so I showed it to Grandma. She went ballistic. Grandma, I would learn a few years later was in a pre-dementia stage.  She was full blown by the time I became a senior in high school.  She could curse like a sailor.  Really foul mouthed.  So bad, the neighbors would call the police. The summer of my senior year, I took a brief trip to northern Minnesota.  While I'm in Minnesota, I get a visit from the Sheriff of St.Louis County saying, " Go home immediately." No explanation. I found out later Grandma was hanging on a tree in my old neighborhood across from my foster folks' home.  My mother must have driven her there to assuage her fears that her grandson hadn't flown the coop. It was a eleven hour drive back in the days before the expressways.

Remember a recent post about irony?  I created a copy of the duck for my granddaughter.  The copy was pasted onto a blackboard I made.  In 2007, it was a teaching tool for the kid.  No mention was ever made of the history of the duck.  I cringe every time I see the duck.  It makes me think of times I was dumb enough to drive home with a girlfriend in my 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible, run inside the house to get condoms or whatever hugely important thing I'd forgotten only to find Grandma berating Susie or Bonnie, calling her a beaaach who should leave her grandson alone.  Every time I see the effing thing I remember her shouting at the TV, or cursing Harry Truman because, "He had a foul mouth."  Ha. 

Poor soul.  She was an incredible old-time German cook.  As I grew older and had my own family, my children lived in fear of her because she had only one front tooth.  When I was a kid and she accompanied my mother on weekly visits to the foster home, she always slipped me a half dollar. Later ,when she was still fairly under control of her faculties, she'd slip me a twenty.  Inflationary times.  It never scarred my psyche or turned me into a closet weirdo.  Mostly, it made me sad about getting old.  I should have been more tolerant, instead of holding beer parties in the basement rec room when I graduated from high school.  Bringing home drunken friends from the beer bars outside of town sure didn't help.

Sorry Grandma.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Peace like a prayer.

We are in winter's icy thrall.  All the snow bunnies out there are ecstatic save for real rabbits who stand out against a white backdrop, like a whore in a church pew.  Plowmen, snowmobilers and birds of prey, pleased as punch. I'll explain..  Hang on a moment. Please.

I'm getting lazy, I grab the snow shovel next to the breezeway entrance and shovel a path to the driveway apron.  Then I can stand there in my cozy, warm slippers while watching the dog take a dump.  This critter is worse than her owner. Looking out of the breezeway at four measly inches of snow, she hesitates.  "I ain't walking in that stuff."  In a fit of pique, she'll pee directly in front of the door. She's born to run, She loves to explore, but only if I'm along with her.  If I say ,"Let's go for a walk," she'll fly off her chair and race to the back door.  If I'm not getting my coat on, she turns her head to one side as if saying, wait just a moment, "You said "Let's go for a walk. I'm not going." 

This is the same dog, who will knowingly walk into a flying shovelful of snow as I clear the garage apron. In her estimation, her face, ears and muzzle are delightfully covered in white.  It's some kind of game, I dumbly reinforced from the puppy days.  For this person, shoveling has become a onerous task.   I split the short approach to the garage into two halves pretending I'm the equivalent of a human snowplow.   I toss a full shovel of snow to the left. Mandy races left hoping to be buried under the flying snow drift.  Alternate to the right, she races to the other side of the driveway.  Finally, I lose patience. "Get back," I tell her.  Then, as if considering the alternative, getting shut in the house, she'll run to the fence line and pretend chase cars and trucks on the highway.

As a pretense of going for a walk  I slip on the cardigan Dawn knitted me.  Satisfied that I'm not going to bail on a promised walk-a-thon, the dog waits for me by garage edge. I walk out to the end of the hedge lined  sidewalk. She ambles out into the snow covered potato/corn patch.
Potato/corn patch at lower left.
One year in a anal-retentive fit , I marked all the front field gardens with a stick with a number in red latex paint.  There are eight now.  At one time the number was closer to thirteen.  In winter I dump ashes on the plots. Under a snow cover, I can't tell where garden plot begins and ends. Although wood ashes don't harm the grass it creates a mess and complications.  I have to remember where the potato plots are located because potatoes don't like wood ashes in the same year.

Mandy finally does her business.  As she inspects the deposit, a bald eagle flies not more than ten feet over her head.  Whoa. That's unusual. Leave my dog alone, please.  With a new snow cover, hunting for mice and rodents is exceptional for owls and raptors.  Quite often in the past, Mandy and I would discover furry remains of an owl dinner scattered over the berm or in the back yard.  Hoot and Great Horned owls roost in the pine woods above the corn field across the road.  Bald eagles sit on tree perches over the river.  The river meanders across the highway, loops to the east, takes a hard right to the south creating an unusual geographical picture of twisted river-north, east and south within a short distance distance of our place.  It's wonderful habitat for all birds as well as wildlife.  In the top picture, beaver have currently created a swath six feet wide, where they have deftly chewed small willows off at the base and drug the trees to homes along the river bank.
The road to the outside.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eye of the Storm

I'm waiting for the eye of the snowstorm to pass over our area. Then I can go out and shovel the sidewalk so the cat doesn't have to walk belly deep in the stuff.  The white cover of snow is a welcome change from drab brown of late.  It will add moisture and protect the soil from extreme temperatures, I assume will follow.  Thanks to my pal Jorge, the wood bin is full.

Over morning coffee Jorge relates a recent story of a state cop pulling him over while driving back home from the Symons Center in Richland Center where he works out daily.  Jorge has a license plate holder on the rear plate of his new SUV.

On the front bumper the plate says, "If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch."

The rear plate renewal sticker is partially covered by the chrome dealer plate holder.  One would have to be standing directly behind the vehicle approximately three feet away to see the sticker. After  Jorge got his vehicle registration, he had a senior moment and stuck the registration and new sticker in the glove box.  The state cop saw the RECALL WALKER stickers on the bumper and rear window. He pulled him over hoping to find a violation. Which he did.

I'm sure he was surprised when Jorge opened his wallet and saw Jorge's retired police officer badge.  Jorge explained the mistake while the police officer explained that the front plate was also in violation. He said that any extraneous plate has to be affixed over the WIS plate on the front. Harassment?  You betcha.  Later, Jorge finds out from his racquetball partner that the state cop who lives in the local area has a reputation as a strong supporter of Skippy Walker.  Walker's head of the state patrol is father of two Fitzgerald brothers.

Scott Fitzgerald: WI Senate Majority Leader-Jeff Fitzgerald: WI Assembly Leader.  Both are cronies originally from Illinois in positions of power. A  Madison paper says the appointment of the elder Fitzgerald smacks of cronyism.

A few days later three Recall Walker signs Jorge hung at the edge of his property along the highway are ripped down and tossed in the gully.   Getting a little dicey here in the boonies.  

Monday, January 9, 2012


Votive candles in the Guadalupe Shrine near Lacrosse

Salma Hayek prayed  for big boobs as a prepubescent teenager.  Look at her now.  She's also married to a guy who's got a zillion bucks.

I injured my knee when I played high school football.  One night, I put some analgesic on the knee to reduce swelling and pain.  The analgesic contained something that made my knee even more painful with burning, searing heat. Forget about the painful, swelling knee. I prayed for the analgesic fire to go away.Eventually the burning went away as dawn's early light came through the window. 

As an adult, I learned that you can bring about, i.e. manifest, material world things if you learned how to  focus your thoughts.  In the Bible it says, and I paraphrase that sentence-Had ye but faith, ye can move mountains.  Forget about moving mountains.  I worked on finding parking places.  I noticed, too, that if something appealed to me, an offhand kind of..." hmm, I wonder what that is like" would sometimes bring results.

I think it worked once as I watched an attractive woman walking down the corridor of the elementary school I taught at. She showed up as a substitute teacher.  I was unmarried, available and on the prowl.  Hmm. I wonder what she's like ended up as, "Be careful; what you wish for!"  No further comment. 

A lifetime ago, after a tiring all-day journey, Dawn, myself and my oldest daughter arrived at our destination across Cancun Bay in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  My mother has just passed away. I needed a vacation.  The hotel we booked via travel agent was, unknown to us, up for sale.  The air conditioning didn't work.  The drapes were so dilapidated, the vinyl pleats stuck together and wouldn't close.  At 9:30 pm fast boats brought over tourists from Cancun to the beach next door.  They did the limbo dance to loudspeaker laden  rock n' roll for prizes of bottles of tequila obliterating any notion of sleep.  Dawn spent of good portion of the evening drinking Hurricanes with some snow mobile freaks from Oregon.  I got out of bed, put on my shorts and a T-shirt and went out on the beach to perform a dance I'd seen a Native American elder perform.  I'm shimmying around in a circle chanting a traditional prayer hoping to bring the Thunder-beings down on this viper's nest.  In my ineptitude, I forgot that my eldest is in an adjacent room.  It starts to rain.  Dawn comes out to the beach dressed in my clothes from the afternoon.  I guess she was pretty wasted from all those Hurricanes. "What'ye doin'? she asks.  Mumble, grumble, more mumble from me.  " Go back to bed," she says.  So much for Native American prayers.  In a few days after I'd learned how to "chill" it was a delightful experience.

Gavrillo's version of Our Lady.
     I have lived in and extensively visited the southwest U.S.  I am enamored of  Hispanic Catholic Saints-Santos as an art form.  I apprenticed to a famous santero who is a saint unto himself.  I learned how to carve and create traditional New Mexican Santos.  I found it curious that in the early days of New Mexico, when it was a territory, the people were forced to create their own religious iconography.  Without churches, when one didn't see a priest for six months, one was forced to rely upon their own devices.  OK. This is a very simplistic explanation.  Sue me. In semi-arid New Mexico a farmer might pray to San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, ranchers and crops.
San Ysidro with praying angel. Sometimes the angel would handle the plow.
If a native New Mexican appealed to a santo for help and nothing happened, punishment in the form of turning the saint to the wall or closing it up in a drawer could result.

Hopi Kachinas
The Hopi have a similar spiritual practice in their creations called kachinas. Like the santo, kachinas are made from cottonwood root. The kachina is a vital component of the Hopi cycle of life and spiritual tradition.  One of the most moving experiences in my life was a Hopi corn dance.  Fifty corn kachinas slowly revolving in a circle singing a low, guttural chant was more than a spectacle.  I could feel the kachinas pulling energy from the earth.

I have a tendency sometimes toward flippancy.  If what I have said previously seems to negate the power of prayer, I have led you astray.  I'm not asking you to believe in or to ascribe to any thought process, religion or spiritual practice. I'm not asking anything, period.  I'm trying to convince me. Moi.  In a crisis such as I'm facing, I need strength and help from all corners.  The power of positive vibration. The power of focus.  Most of all, the power of humor in it's wonderfully deviant ways.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Because I've been married three times, it means that I've been through two divorces.  Both were traumatic.  The second was the worst because I never saw it coming.  One minute she's there, warm, affectionate, but a bit "off". She attributed the off to PMS.   The next evening, when she didn't come home, I start the usual sequence-calling friends,"have you seen _________?" The hospital doesn't have an accident report.  The police-nothing.  Check her closet.  Empty. 

On the Monday after, a guy hands me a summons, i.e. divorce papers.  Leaving out all the juicy interludes and you have Mr. Natural appearing at the courthouse.  In the midst of a two acre downtown concrete plaza there's a stately columned building with three doors. Over each door is an inscription.  This is back in the Middle Ages when terrorists and crazies weren't lurking behind very window and door, forcing authorities to install check points and metal detectors.

The inscriptions over the doors were truth, justice and the American Way .  The last part is made up because I can't remember at the moment what the third moniker was.  I stand there puzzled.  Hmm.  Truth.  I tell the truth always, albeit, my own version, so that's a no brainer.  I choose justice because that's what I'm aiming for.  The American Way?  Gawd no.

I enter the building and walk toward a bank of elevators.  Pushing the up button for the appropriate floor for Room 21B- legal death and dismemberment, the small plastic square surrounded by chromed plastic lights up in a pale version of peach.  A short wait.  The door opens and I'm staring the ex to be square in the face.  How can this happen?  She's dressed in a shapeless, dowdy puke green dress like Edith Bunker would wear.  My jaw hangs open.  "I think I'll pass."  We both heave a sigh of relief.

Irony.  It's like a starving dog, nose pressed against your jeans snuffing the odors from breakfast lunch and dinner.

I read recently that some local school officials played Justin Bieber's song "Baby" over and over on the PA system until students donated enough money to a designated charity.  I thought torture of young people went out with Sister Sixtus at St.Anthonys. 

Forget water-boarding.  Tie a yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree, Yummy Yummy Yummy, I got Love in my Tummy and Barry Manilow's song,Mandy played 24/7 would drive any hardened terrorist to pull and eat their hair.

I have a dog named Mandy.  I had no choice.  She was named after her mother.  It was obvious from the get-go that she knew her name.  She could even distinguish between her mother's name Mandy and her own- MANDY MAE.  Every parent has resorted to using the full birth name of a child as an attention gatherer.  "Stuart Arthur Smiley, you stop that this very moment."   It wouldn't work for me because my real mother and adoptive parents both gave me names.  The crazy mystic Slav foster mother gave me every saint's name.  Mom couldn't decide between Roger and Robert, so she used both.  Didn't help either when I was adopted as a informal member of a Western Great Lakes tribe which gave me both an English derivation and a real tribal name. I'm am not allowed to divulge the tribal version.  Be assured that it's not, he who wafts farts under the blankets at midnight.  

 Many oh Mandy Oh Mandy.  Cripes.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Valley of The Shadow...

Hey there. Just a few brief overviews on the state of affairs of late.

My coffee intake in the last two months has been severely limited. There are simple pleasures in a cup of fresh brewed, whole bean coffee. It would alter my perspective on life and bring me up out of any doldrum. I had my first cup this morning, a left-over day-old bargain basement brand. I ain't complaining.

My second day out of the hospital, third if you include a one night stint at our local hospital where I went on an observational status to combat dehydration, I can report that I'm better.  At the Mayo clinic in Rochester, they put a stent in my throat to aid in swallowing.  After a week of not being able to eat or drink. I am slowly bringing myself back.

Those Hollywood moments where a starving person wolfs down a mountain of food are pure bunk. Shrunk to the size of a pea, the ol' gizzard can't handle much. Last night, it was two tablespoons of mashed potatoes and two chicken wing drummies. This morning it was a scrambled egg and two Wal-Mart pork sausage patties.  Mr. Natural is on a low residue diet. No fiber, no seeds, nothing that would make swallowing difficult.  Eating, anything, is a goal. For fun I eat hummus and a few saltines.   

I really need a long hot shower.
I went to the dictionary of etymology and looked up maudlin, hoping to find a humorous derivation of the word, including the name Maude.   

Maudlin is what I will avoid.  It's earliest derivation is associated with the tears of Magdalene.

Each prayer, good word, thoughtful insight, each and every wonderful comment from friends-which includes my blog friends, is like a  supportive hand under my arm guiding me me through a morass of krank that is being ill. I didn't know how many good people are out there. Or didn't look hard enough. You fool Gavrillo.

My writing skills are suffering. There is one last image I'd like to convey before I head into the kitchen for sustenance and then a short nap.

A few minutes after I  got home from Rochester, I sat on the back stoop and put my left arm around Mandy's neck.  She put her paws on my lap to snuggle closer. Occasionally she would look over at me and slurp my face-dog kiss. Gee, Dad I'm so glad you're home. Whoa, the power of unconditional love.You can't put a price on it.

Number one son drove from our place in SW Wisconsin 2 1/2 hours to the Mayo clinic to pick me up, drove me back home and then did the journey over again to get himself back to Minneapolis.  What a kid.  What a hero.  No small feat.     
Dawn's painting of number one son.
 Bear with me.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I called my sister today.  It's not something I do willingly.  She's the keeper of the family archives.  What does that mean?  If you want to know who has died, who is in the process of dying or who is really sick, talk to Honey. I had to keep her in the loop.

I called her when the doctor thought I had a stricture of the esophagus. I told her that the doctor was going to put a scope down my throat and with either a balloon or an expansion device in the scope itself, expand my schatzi ring so that I could swallow better.  The scope had a camera in it. It also had a device to take tissue samples.  The camera showed an esophageal mass. The tissue samples came back, as the next doctor said... "I'd be surprised if the results aren't cancerous."

I was a carcinoma.

Next I had a PET scan.  That's were they injected me with radioactive fluoride to take pictures of my throat and upper GI.  It showed an area which I, in layman's terms, call scarring from stomach acid backing up through my diaphragm into my throat. Couple of years ago, I had trouble with acid reflux late at night.  Various over the counter medications would help, but finally I started taking Prilosec.  My personal physician suggested in addition, that allergies to cat and dog fur caused an inordinate amount of fluid to be passing down my throat. That fluid told my stomach to send out more acid to digest what is essentially protein. She suggested regular use of an antihistamine to stop the drainage.

Now, I've got a diagnosis and tests that bluntly say throat cancer.  If that isn't enough, I run into a man last week at the Amish farm who's had throat cancer . He speaks oddly because he's had most of his larynx and vocal chords removed. I find out late that he's been given 6 months to live. Freaks me out.

Honey, my sister tells me Uncle Bob had throat cancer and oh, yeah, Uncle John up in Eau Claire had his voice box removed.  In a sidebar she says both lived years after that.  Hard to remain upbeat after talking to my sister.  She means well.  Even when she goes into a small tirade about her son who is my namesake.  He broke up with his girlfriend.  She goes on to explain about the girl friend's thieving ways, her drug addicted son and the girlfriend's alleged affair with a neighbor.  All this is edited for brevity. Now you can scrape me up off the sidewalk with a putty knife.  If I were just depressed, I call that being a Happy Camper.

Since November 1st, eating and drinking are difficult.  I have more tests scheduled at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.  When on Christmas Day, I can neither eat or drink anything, I get worried, wait 24 hours because of the holiday and call the nurse in the gastro-enterologoy center in LAX. It takes her more than a day for her call back and say, " there's nothing we can do", i.e. get me in Mayo faster, prescribe medication, nada.  She suggests going to emergency, if I have a problem swallowing.  My personal physician says to by-pass LAX and go direct to emergency in Rochester if there is a problem.

On New Years Day the cycle starts over. I can't swallow fluid or eat anything  Tomorrow, in Rochester, I have the first appointment which is considered a "consultation". The Mayo Clinic operates under the assumption that I'm wealthy beyond means. That means I have tons of money for staying at a motel for the the endoscopic ultra sound scheduled for the next day.  I have people taking care of Mandy and the Pooch.  By the grace of God, number one son scheduled a visit after the holidays.  Little did we know then, that we'd need him to hold down the fort, so to speak.

As I write this, every so often I go to the kitchen for a drink of water or some juice.  I get temporary custody of the water or juice and, now,  know what a horror, Princess Diana's bulimia was.  I gave up on food and avoid the cooking shows on TV.  I've left off the comedic parts of the whole story. I'm 20 pounds slimmer, but don't recommend this as a diet.
Because I might start to get dehydrated if one of my guardian angels doesn't step in soon like he/she did toward the end of Christmas Day and allow me to swallow a bite of sauteed ground beef patty,drink some water, I'll demand that they start me on an IV in the emergency room after a two a a half hour drive to Rochester tomorrow. The rest is up to God.  I don't have a laptop so, I'll be offline a bit. Say a prayer. Thanks. Love ya.