Friday, June 26, 2015


Ok, now, here is a prompt I can probably really get my hooks into, because I LOVE to carp, but only in a way that is going to amuse the listener or the reader. I guess we can start with that particular peeve right there. I hate nothing more than a person who whinges on about something, or is all depressed about something, yet has absolutely no solution for the issue or worse yet, adds to the problem.

If you are someone who is going to sit around all day and cry about how crappy the economy is, or how hard it is to find a job, yet you're not looking for one, I don't want to hear you whining about it. There are jobs, just not the job that pays you $100,000.00 a year and you work 2 hours a week. We all know these characters around here. They're bumming quarters at the bus stop. I run 'em off with my cane and bad-ass self. They don't even get close. Go pick up cans, loser.

But, nearer and dearer to my heart as far as peeves go, are things inside of things, that I can't get to. What in the name of God has gotten into the Packaging and Marketing industry? The list is growing and it seems we pay more for the fancy packaging than the item within. I have a hard enough time with my essential tremor trying to get into boxes of flea stuff for my cat, CD and DVD cases, but I shudder when I buy stuff like batteries. You need a crowbar and a hammer to get into the Energizer wrappers on these things. I'm gonna be an Energeezer by the time I get it open, and the device I need the batteries for will be obsolete. Gardening shears might help, but I think one of the McDrunkleys took them out of the front yard, or maybe I never had them.

While we're at it, could you package yellow rice in something that you didn't need an Apex Predator to tear open with his/her fangs? The last time I tried to open my bag of yellow rice, so I could make a simple dish of yellow rice and black beans, the kitchen scissors had grown legs and walked off, so I tried to open it with my teeth. The whole thing blew open and I had rice scattered everywhere. I guess that's probably not on Martha Stewart's list of how to open shit in the kitchen.

There is so much you can do with this tasty, inexpensive yellow rice. It does however, make lousy confetti, especially in your kitchen. 

While we're at it, I have to mention something that almost sent me back over to the Happy Farm. I ran out of giant garbage bags, and before I could get up to the SweetBayWinn-DixieStoreToBeNamedLater, I went two block south to the Dollah Store and bought their giant garbage bags. These must be some kinda bags that are made in an alternate universe shipped here and zapped with a special electrical charge, because, although it's easy enough to get into the box and unroll one of these nightmares from the roll, I defy you to open this bastard. No amount of finger-licking, thumb-licking, rubbing the bag against itself, rubbing the bag against your leg, against the cat, trying to puncture it; NOTHING can get it to separate from itself. 

At one point, I generated so much electricity, I think I shorted out 12 city blocks and scared all the cats away. My hair stood on end, and I levitated. Or maybe, I was just that damned mad. I'm sure they were put here to do nothing but torture earthlings. Every time I had to change out the kitchen garbage bag, I wept. There was at least one hour of hell and frustration and things thrown against the wall. I finally just duct-taped 2 of them together. I will NEVER buy these things again. The Dollah Store should be ashamed of itself and if the Dollah Store should be ashamed, THAT's bad.

I couldn't find the UFO or MXYSKYZGLRK Trash Bags that I bought at the Dollah Store on the innerwebz. They were probably recalled because they ate universes or melted stars, or something.

As long as I'm digging up pet peeves, could we stop with the woman on the phone who says “Say 1 for yes, or 2 for no”. She doesn't understand a damned thing I'm trying to tell her, because she's not of this earth. She's from Saturn or maybe Neptune. I've gotten to the point, where I just turn into Silent Cal. Remember him? Calvin Coolidge, one of our worser Presidents. I just turn into a rock and say nothing. After she says “I didn't get that” about 40 or 41 times, she gives up and transfers me to Pakistan, where some guy named “Happy Birthday, or Surprise” (I'm NOT making this up) will be happy to change my password. His accent's not bad, and we get through it fine.

Just watch, this will be the next trend. I've been on TTY calls and on calls where interpreters were needed. This is a new representative for "Sign Language Customer Service". The agent just "signs" over the phone and the new Google app that hasn't been beta or alpha tested for that matter does the translating. "We" meaning "each other" will be the "help desk".

Somebody really needs to get the Pakistanis up on the cultural part of what's haps in the good ole' U. S. of A. I called one help desk and talked to an agent named “Arson”, leading me to wonder if he sat between “1st Degree Murder” and “Breaking-and-Entering”. They were all very helpful, and naturally, who am I to spoil that kind of fun, by telling them they may want to rethink their “blending in with the Americans” campaign.

"Hello, my name is Surprise! Have you tried stopping and restarting your brain?" This looks like something Google came up with; it's so creepy. Although, upon further examination it looks like Amazon weirdness.

But back to peeves. Talking robots, or no live people in Customer Service. Try calling Google, or don't bother. They're not home. They're out lava-skiing, or falling off mountains, which is fine with me. They have this browser called Chrome and this Blog application, called “Blogger” which I spent 5 entire days trying to add a picture to a post in, and was entirely unsuccessful, because Chrome decided it hated Windows (we all do) allofasudden. I tried everything and came up with the bullshittiest fix in the history of ever, about 3 years ago, after I had spent 4 days trying to contact the coneheads at Chrome and Google support. Their support is. . . “us”. In other words, each other. Well, none of “each others'” fixes worked, so I made my own, posted I made a fix, and then? To be a real bitch? I. Didn't. Share. Just fixed it and closed my own damn ticket. Bastards. They owe me $11,000,000.00 by my count. If I weren't such a cheapskate, I'd go join the grown-ups over at WordPress.

One more peeve and then I'm done. I was torn between the public transportation having the A/C on when it's 35°F outside and like a meat locker on the Hartline bus, but I expect that and can compensate, so, I really can't complain. This other one I can holler about, and there's really only one solution.

Why, oh why, is it necessary to start playing horrible Christmas carols on public announcement systems earlier and earlier every year? The rule of thumb used to be, the day after Thanksgiving. With the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar, ruble, yen, or currency of choice and the competition from the internet, the “Christmas Shopping Season” is being pushed back earlier and earlier, so that it isn't unusual to see Halloween stuff side-by-side with jolly ole' Saint Nick.

From "30Rock" which is an absolutely hysterical take on Network TV.

The only thing more terrifying is to hear the music, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” by Tracy Morgan (Jordan on the show), followed by “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, and all I have is this mental image of him lusting after Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” Not a very good Santa figure, if you ask me. Folks, we're just plain confused. For my money, I'll take “Wererolf Bar Mitzvah” any day, firstly, because "Werewolf" is hilarious, and secondly, because I loathe Christmas music, simply for the fact that I've played ALL of it, eleventy-billion times by my last count, being a working musician. For YEARS, I never had a Christmas off and I played as many as 4 different gigs a day during the Christmas season.

In all fairness, Burl Ives was a wonderful character actor, and also sang "Big Rock Candy Mountain". He had a good, unique singing voice and is more closely associated with folk music.

My solution has been this: during the Christmas season, I wear earphones and listen to whatever I want. I may be listening to the soundtrack from “Runescape” or Shostakovich, or YumaBev's CD (named a top Parkinson's Blog of 2015! And she sings!), or Def Leppard, or Mahler, but I will NOT be listening to Christmas music. There are a few secular songs that I like and that's about it, but Christmas isn't about spending money earlier and earlier each year and I resent the attempt to try and “put me in the mood” to do so. Christmas is from the heart and by that criteria should be felt every day. Enough peeving. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Last week I got a call from my favorite 1st violinist, ever. I kinda have to back this up a bit, to last August. I had been unable to play viola for several years, as I have essential tremor. It is an inherited condition and my mother had it. Like just about every neurological condition that is not present from birth, it took a while to sort it all out and figure out how to treat it.

In the meantime, I got to learn how not to be frustrated with buttoning things, trying to cook and eat neatly, comb my hair, or deal with putting on make up. The condition itself can manifest much like Parkinson's Disease although the etiologies for the two are completely different and the treatments are different. Besides these ever-constant tremors, I also got the “bonus symptoms” of drooling at times and loss of smell, which around here, is not so bad.

God Bless the Parkinson Foundation. They not only pay for my world-class neurologist, they are actively seeking cures for these elusive, highly misunderstood and secretive disorders.

At any rate, after I began treatment, the tremors were eased, although they never truly cease. Emotion, and stress will make them worse, and lack of sleep is a killer. It's nothing for me to snooze away 12 or 14 hours, although I really hate that and I don't always feel refreshed for it. Eight solid hours is good, but if I go six or less hours for several nights, I really feel it, and the tremors become unholy. They're not going to kill me; nothing I have is. I have a bunch of annoyances that just need managing. Most people my age do.

However, one of the things I missed and missed terribly was playing and last August, I scrunched up the courage to reach back out into the musical community and see if there wasn't still a place for me somewhere. I decided to check out the Tampa Bay Symphony as it had been the first really good group that I played with when I moved down here to Florida. I looked at their website and discovered that they were still going strong. Dr. Jack Heller, who had founded the orchestra twenty-eight years ago, had retired and the present Conductor, Mark Sforzini, has been a Tampa Bay area mainstay and most excellent musician and proponent of sharing music and bringing it to others for years.

It has actually been closer to 15 years since I've played in a symphonic environment. I've been a "free-range" violist and thus, I had to re-learn a few niceties, something our principal Cellist was happy to do when I was imitating a panzer division during the Shostakovich's 5th Symphony for Big Orchestra. We laughed after the rehearsal; it takes a while to realize that "piano" really means "piano" not "just a little less louder" like when I toured with Styx.

There were no openings for violists, and I was disappointed at first, but I noticed that they were performing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in C minor on their first concert and I took this as a sign, because Beethoven has been a part of my life since I can't remember when, and not only for his music, but for his own tenacity during times in his life that were not easy. I could identify with him and so, I contacted the Tampa Bay Symphony and heard back from them a few days later, with an application, the audition music and choice of times to play.

Ugh. I feel about auditions the same way I feel about having the shits, throwing up and dying, but orchestras use them and they are the way of gauging an artist's nervousness, because they sure as HELL do not gauge really whether or not you can play worth a damn! That is not entirely true. A good panel can listen through all of the stress and nervousness and wrong notes and train wrecks and get some idea of what they have to work with, provided they don't have you taken out back and shot for attempting to impersonate a string player.

Every facet of my life has been seen through the prism of this man's own approach to life and his search for excellence. I, as did he, had our own falls from grace, but what, in the end does that really matter. Beethoven's absolute and unswerving integrity shone through his music and his search for perfection. If you can't attain it, you can at least strive for it; none of us are perfect.

I practiced each of the excerpts until I could play through them flawlessly in my house, knowing that this was not going to happen during the audition, and sure enough it didn't. The other factor that arose, was the wonderful “tremor factor” went into high gear because I was so nervous. However, Mark Sforzini our Music Director, heard something he liked, or else he felt bad for me, because I was shaking so badly, I could barely keep my bow on the string, because he stopped me before the audition ended and conferred with the other two committee members there, and they asked if I would join the symphony.

A huge sigh of relief. I said “yes”, of course and I was on my way. Since I am unable to drive to and from rehearsals, I had to figure out how I was going to leap my next hurdle. I found the bus schedules from Tampa to St. Pete and going there is no issue; coming home would be, as the buses stop running at 7 pm, and our rehearsals don't end until 9:30 pm. So, at the first rehearsal, a cellist and her husband drove me home, but it was hard for them to keep doing that, because she's brand new to the area and this area I live in is rough; I couldn't blame her.

Not everyone is as used to seeing the thuggery or gangsta culture out here as I am. It is possible to live among it and not get killed. Julie understands that and so do I. Our mutual cellist friend is actually from Hungary and was not used to seeing all this.

However, there was this 1st violinist, named Julie who lives not far from me and was more than happy to have a ride-along each week, in exchange for gas money and free entertainment as a raconteur and it's worked out really well, for both of us. She's such a sunny, happy and funny individual and a superb player. She is also a 3rd-degree Black-Belt in Tae Kwon Do and she and her boyfriend own a Dojo in Ybor City, not far from where I live. She just earned her 3rd-degree this past year, when they went to an International convention in Vancouver.

So, as we've gotten to know one another, we've had lots of interesting talks, ranging in everything from music to mortality. She met Jim a few times, and was almost heart-breakingly empathetic to his pain and she was right; it was hard to watch, and I don't think that he was telling me or his doctors everything. Maybe all people do that when it is coming close to the end. I fully believe my mother was much sicker than she was letting when she died. At any rate, the best we can do as family members is be by their sides; that's what they really want.

Julie was one of the first people I talked to after Jim's death, and like me, she too, felt it was a release, not that there isn't a sense of loss, of course. We talk back and forth. I had to get a new phone, as Metro PCS was changing satellites, or cleaning them or something. Well, this has unveiled an unbelievably new low in idiocy, even for me.

All of these apps, features, gizmos, whats-ises and doo-dads. Yet, a phone call still sounds like it's being phoned in from the era of two tin cans and a string.

I've butt-dialed people who are then treated to 10 minutes of ambient noise: scratchy and boomy speakers from da 'hood, dogs barking, and random yelling. It took me me four damned weeks to get logged into Chrome or Google and now, I wish to hell I hadn't. Random things pop up on this damn phone; pet astrology, recipes, sports trivia, news from every outlet under the sun, along with games with names like “Lookithat!”, “Tanki”, “InsideOut Thought”, “Cooking Dash 2016” (there are like a JILLION cooking games, why?), and “Dragon Friends”, all of which have appeared unannounced, unasked for, and after brief fumblage, unwanted.

I was at Rose Radiology for a routine Mammogram, and my phone hollered at me, and some guy wearing a Viking Helmet started bellowing at me in Norse. I almost jumped out of my chair. I said to the room at large, as I was sitting next to this cute-as-a-button, little old lady, with a snow-white cap of downy hair, in a wheelchair, and who was at least 112, “I don't know why I got this phone, it's over here living its own life. I have no clue what it's doing and when I try to dial a number, it's the wrong number. Am I the only idiot with this problem?” She just giggled and raised her hand. “Me too. It's so silly! Mine wants me to buy Butt Enhancers!” She showed me the ad. Sure enough. I made my pal for the day. After I got rid of Viking guy, something else popped up; the weather for the tri-state area in New York. I have my own zip code programmed into this booger. Oh well.

Anyway, when I first got the phone, I thought I was looking at the camera function, but I was really calling Julie. She thought that was hilarious. She had her own horror stories to tell about smart phones and just about the apps in general, but somehow we got onto the subject of Jim's bicycles.

I may have mentioned in my last post that he had no hobbies, which is not entirely correct. When he was in better health, he did have hobbies, one of which was “going to be” fixing bicycles. This would have been great, but we never got around to the fixing part. We were just at the collecting stage. For a long time, we had five or six bicycles in the living room, and not much else. They all needed some type of help; a seat, maybe a tire, or some brakes.

A buncha bikes in Amsterdam

But, for months, we had to claw our way through this jungle-gym of metal, rubber, oily and poky things in order to get to the rest of the house. Jim's criteria for buying bicycles was a bit odd. He bought one from a guy, 'cause the guy needed help. In a pig's eye. The guy was a drunk and probably stole it from somewhere; I suspect that's the case with a couple of those bikes. He bought one that was blue, because I like blue. He was going to fix it up for me to ride. Hello! I'm legally blind! I have no depth perception and my eyes don't track. I'm pretty sure that bike-riding is not in my future. He was going to ride the red one, with his bad hip and blown-out knees. I'm laughing as I type this.

This was to be used for the equivalent of raising the dead to walk again. I love dreamers, being one myself.

Oh, it should be mentioned as well, that his entire “bicycle fix-it” kit was a tire patch kit. He had a formidable set of tools for drywall and heavier construction-type jobs, but really nothing very good for bikes. So, after a few months of climbing over all of these bicycles, I persuaded him to move them to the back of the house. Why not the back yard, you say? Because we would have been buying them back from the McDrunkleys that would have stolen them from us the previous night.

We'd both probably fall for, "Well, we found this" and buy it back. Jim did have the softest heart. He'd give the McDrunkley 15.00 for it and say, "We'll fix 'er up and sell it for 60.00." Yeah, well, all the bikes went to bike heaven, or that big scrap yard in the sky.

Once they were in the back of the house, they proceeded to multiply or something, much in the manner of wire coat-hangers. They just turned into this huge ball of metal, that was becoming more and more impenetrable by the minute and I do believe had we been able to fix them, we really couldn't have made one entire WHOLE bicycle out of this mess. I do have to tell you that Jim had fixed two of them and gave them to some children a few doors down. They came to pay their respects to Mr. Jim after he passed; it was sweet.

Well, as I was telling Julie this story about the bicycles, she was laughing harder and harder, because she recognized herself in this whole thing, as do I. She has a sewing project that is in her mother's house. She says “it's been there so long, it has become PART of the house”. Yup. I got one of those, only it's hook rugs. Back when I smoked, my mother, God rest her soul, sent me this hook rug kit.

This would look so great in the living room. She didn't send me this one.

This is beyond stupid. I can't sew, I can't knit, I can't do anything even remotely like this, but this was going to make me quit smoking cigarettes. Her rationale was, “when you feel like a smoke, do some of your hook rug”. Okay, if I feel like a smoke, why am I gonna do something I can already tell I'm gonna loathe? But, to make her feel good, I said, “yeah, Ma, I'm a workin' on that ole hook rug”. It's actually in a storage shed, or has been thrown out. Were it around, it would be about 35 years old by now. But I did quit smoking; it will be 5 years in September. Anyway, Julie is an awesome friend to have and she and I have had some meltdowns laughing. This conversation was one of those times!

My mom sent me something like this, only the lions weren't smiling. These lions are on Prozac.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I have dreaded writing a post such as this for a very long time, but I knew it would one day become inevitable. The last post I wrote, “Let the Cry Out” was prescient indeed, I just did not know that the end would come so quickly for my life partner, Jim. For me to even approach writing this has taken me down my usual paths of convoluted logic, which just seemed like more nonsense, because the loss in my life has been so great. I don't want to write a “start at the beginning, where we met” and end with his death. Anyone who has read my posts from the early days will know the story. To wit, and the short version is this: we met in a homeless shelter. We were both scared and had no idea what it meant to be “homeless”. He had also been in prison. He really never belonged there, and I can say with absolute certainty that he was one of the finest people I have ever known. He was certainly one of the funniest.

He was not only funny, but indulgent of me. I bet I took his picture 40 times, just to get him to smile. I accused him of looking like a "wooden Indian" at times during picture-taking, because he didn't want to smile, but he had the best smile in the world! The following picture shows what had me so amused.

When I was finally deemed by a battery of doctors to be “Disabled” or whatever – in record time; 5 months. It is generally a 2 to 6-year process – , I was put on “Retirement”, which is all kind of a hoot, – eye surgeries; not fixable, essential tremor; inherited, but treatable (“I Don't Need No Rockin' Chair, 'Cause I'm Rockin' On Mah Own) – now in retrospect, I have learned how to really take care of my various annoyances and not a one of them will kill me. I'm good for at least another 25 to 30 years, which is the normal Wallace lifespan. Wonderful!

I wasn't aware chickens had paws, but according to the price-thingy, they did. Or possibly, the store was afraid that "paws" somehow appealed more to the pallet than "claws" or "feet". Me? I'da stuck with "pieces", although, then, people would have thought "hmmm, chicken assholes."

But going through the death of a loved one at home and up close and personal taught me a lot about myself and about acceptance. I'm the type of person that if you say “no” to me, I'm going to turn right around and do whatever that “no” is. Whether it's as trivial, as “no, you shouldn't wear red, because you're a redhead”, which my mother told me years ago, and which I still totally do, or a physical therapist who said “no, I don't believe you're going to walk again,” or “no, it doesn't look like you're going to play the viola with those tremors, or at least have it sound very good”, I'm going to shove that bit of negativity right in your face and prove you wrong every time. That's what I do. My mother was very much like that and she suffered horribly from emphysema; had something like 13% of her lung function, when she was diagnosed at age 57 or 58 and went on the run, her way. She was 70 when she died, toting a portable oxygen canister and after a radical new surgery that at the time was still experimental, but she had several good years before she died. She lived life on her terms and went out when the fun stopped.

I have COPD as I did smoke for many years, but I quit several years ago. My COPD is inherited and it's on one of the genetic markers that showed up on a blood test. I know this, because I got into my chart on the computer at the hospital (they sign you up, if you're interested and I understand values and what they mean) and read my test results. I do clinical research for my COPD and I now have the lungs of a person in the age range for me. I walk, can run and can get into all sorts of mischief and seldom have a bad day.

The same sort of thing happened when my essential tremor presented itself overtly and I could no longer play the viola. That was a huge blow and it wasn't just a physical blow, it was part of my own mental illness. Anyone who has a motor disorder is bound to have some kind of mental distress, depression, or be bipolar. It's just part of the package. So, here I was with this... mess that I didn't want, couldn't deal with and I was legally blind – well, I still am, that can't be fixed – to boot and I was barely 50.

These things take many years to become overt and I had suffered from depression from the age of 9. Lots of people do; for whatever reason, it's just the terms of the condition that we call “life”. What we all have to learn is how to negotiate through these things and come to terms with our own feelings and our own pasts. I'm a fighter, no doubt, both literally and figuratively speaking. I am back, stronger than I ever was and playing and in a good place.

But, not everyone rises to meet their own challenges and we cannot fault them for that. A younger, wiser friend who has dealt with childhood cancer three times says 'the fault lies in their stars”, but she had just finished watching that movie. However, I tend to believe her. We may get knocked back on our pins, but we generally come roaring back, when we have the heart of a fighter; it's why I love boxing. But what we may perceive to be someone else's shortcomings may be just the only way they know how to cope and it's up to us to either choose to accept it, or move on; we certainly cannot denigrate or make them feel smaller for those qualities. They have other strengths that we do not. In Jim's case, because he had been so ill for the last two to two-and-a-half years, he was ready to die. The fun had stopped for him. He was in constant pain, and walking was becoming nearly impossible. He had no real hobbies and had worked all of his life. We spent a lot of time talking and I would cook for him and we had friends visit, but he was really ready to move on. He knew too, that I was in much better shape than when we first met, and that I would be okay.

I fought that bitch-idea of his like I fought everything else, because he was worth having in my life, and all I did was make us both miserable; I was being selfish. After one particularly grueling evening, I knew I had to change. He was not going to get better. He did not want to go back to the hospital, he did not want to try and go to any Physical Therapy and he was just tired of living. So, I made my peace with that knowledge and accepted it, and decided that, at the very least, the best I could do for him, was to love him, and care for him here at home. And, while I was at it, I'd try to eke out a little more fun for him; we still had our laughs, right up until the day he slipped into his final coma, on Mother's Day, May 10th, 2015, thirteen years to the day I cremated my own mother. 

Hospice was already there, from April 14th on, and the nurses were absolutely wonderful. They worked so very hard to keep things positive and I learned so much from them, in terms of care-giving. As long as Jim was comfortable and at ease, it was great. So, he spent his last month in Hospice here at home. He was pretty cheerful, and aware almost up until the end. On the Sunday before he died, when he slipped into that coma. We had been saying our “I love yous” and good-byes for weeks, a krillion times over.

We'd just look at each other; his eyes bluer than mine; so blue, with dark lashes and still so aware. Mine were probably red, and teary; I cried a lot; but that was okay. He'd say some of the oddest things, sometimes. He'd look at me, and murmur, “Mary, you're such a pretty woman, so pretty. . .” after I'd been running all over the house for a week in one of his t-shirts and jeans, with my hair – again grown out – in a clip, looking like a hag, and he told me once, “I'm sitting here, facing east, the world turned 'round. . .”, which is very odd, as we had helped him onto the porch and it was facing due west, and we were watching the sun set, but people of certain faiths are buried facing east to see God. He also heard dogs barking, where there were none, which is telling. Dogs are Chthonic creatures in Celtic mysticism, but Jim didn't know that, as he was not particularly well-read, when it came to Mythology. He liked Zane Grey.

It was a positive experience, and I'm glad he was home here. But, I'd give anything to have him back. I didn't get all the time I think I should have had with him, but then, does any of us truly get what we want? I did learn though, that there are limits to even what I can do. I can't stave off death, much as I wanted to do so. Before he fell into his final coma, he lost his ability to speak. We could still look at one another, and say so much with our eyes. I remember telling him when we knew that we loved one another, that I felt like it was my job to let him know how much he was loved. I hope I succeeded; he took care of me when I was ill and he was my mainstay for several years. He was a keeper and he'll always be close to me.

But, as one door closes, others open, and it is time to move on. It is time to take what I've learned and done here over the past decade and leave this continent in 2016. After this following symphony season, I plan to take my act on the road. I am no longer a part of this country and I have not felt that I belong here for a long time. As much as I enjoy reporting on the idiocies and knaveries of not only Nebraska Avenue, 33605, 33602 and beyond, the hypocrisies, both in the micro and the macro are completely and utterly stultifying. Think Duggar, think Ferguson and hundreds of others.

While the Hospice nurses, and care-givers were wonderful, the Case-workers, social-workers and nabobs were anything but and this is a criticism across the board. Anyone in Middle Management and above in anything involved in DCF, Medicare, Medicaid, Adoption is a blight in the landscape. I talked to one parasite, when I had no clear agenda as to what was going to happen to Jim, by the name of Karen Masters of Lifepath. She kept trying to put me off, over the phone, and said she had a meeting with some high mucky-mucks, and that I would have to wait. I said to this woman, “Unless you are a member of the U. N. and are deciding the fate of the free world, you better get your ass here TOMORROW, 8 A. M. sharp, or get me your head honcho!”

She showed up here at 8:15 am with a phone glued to her ear. I was in no mood. I yellled at her to hang it up. All I needed was to hear her tell me that they were here to ease my man into the Afterlife, and to tell me what that weird box of chemicals was in my fridge. That was it. But, they don't want to tell you that and they patronize and talk to you like children. Even then, her other job, getting the Coroner here on a prompt schedule wasn't something she could manage either. Social-workers, whatever they call themselves by and large, have little skin in the game. Once they've done they're little internships and get their papers, never deign to do real human work again. They should all be killed. I loathe every one of them.

This one, though, apparently had time to have a little tiff with two of the hardest-working RNs in MY house – over one of the RN's hair – , until I just gave her a look and she finally left. They could have worn short-shorts and done their jobs. This is probably what made her FORGET to call the coroner later that week when Jim did pass and our mailman (NOT the guy who flew his ultralight up on the White House lawn for whatever reason – although it DID sound like our mailman, Tom) came in and saw Jim in his final repose. Lord help us all.

A quick diversion here – this is kind of why my life is why it's the way it is – Tom, our mailman, is a Viet Nam Veteran and he works for the U. S. Government and he does constant battle with his employers. He reads my blog, so I'm probably going to get everyone else's mail, but I already do anyway, because Tom has “causes”. Tom looks like the Wizard Gandalf from LOTR, which makes it sound like Tom has “issues”, but so do I, so who am go quibble? Tom, is also the only U. S. Mailman in 2015, who wears the whole Mailman get-up, including the sun-hat, with the little pointed top, that looks like perfect jungle explorer hat, only it's blue, with the shirt and shorts. Actually smart, for this hot-as-hell Florida spring that went from 40°F to 90°F and stayed there.

Tom wears this item in blue. For a long time, I toyed with the idea of asking him if he'd found Dr. Livingston yet, but Tom doesn't seem to have humor in his wheelhouse.

Tom takes his causes and his job seriously. I know this because “dark of night” seldom slows Tom down. We've been known to get our mail well after dark and it's more the rule than the exception, however, on the day that Jim passed over to the “other side” at 11:15 am, Tom decided this was the perfect time to show up at what would be a more normal time, say 3 pm. Well, there is a kind of Morse Code thing that goes on in this neighbor hood, that defies belief.

We had already had the police here, earlier in the week, because our Landlord scraps metal in our backyard and one of the neighborhood McDrunkleys had decided to help himself. I called the police, rather than beat the tar out of the McDrunkley (I'm on a short leash these days) and I kept him at bay until the po-po showed up. We had gotten this sorted out, when here came the neighbors to pay their respects. I went out to meet and greet and tell them that, in fact, Mr. Jim, was resting quietly and that I would let them know. They all hugged me and went back to their houses.

So, when Mr. Jim did pass, the door had been open, several hours had passed and many of the neighbors had already come by to pay their respects and bring food. We were still waiting on the coroner. Then, here comes Tom. Valerie, one of the hospice RNs and I were talking quietly, and Tom sticks his head in the door and hollers “Is that guy dead? That guy's dead, isn't he? Have you called anyone?” He's looking at me and then at Jim.

Several thoughts raced through my head: “Gee, no, I didn't know “that guy is dead.” “Gee, I was waiting for you to bring me a mailer, so I could ship him off to wherever it is you ship dead guys.” “Gee, we were thinking of having him stuffed and hanging him over the mantle.” “Gee, we were gonna use him as fertilizer.” I looked at the nurse Valerie and I could see that she was having trouble keeping a straight face as well. I said, “Tom, you know Jim was unwell for some time. He passed earlier this morning. We have it under control. Thank you.” Tom shook his head, like “I'm not understanding this U. S. Government. Privatization. Bodies layin' around. Gah!” Tom is a one-trick pony. He jammed a bunch of mail in my box, none of which was mine and went on his way. As I took the not-mine mail and jammed it in the correct mail-box, I swear, I SWEAR I could hear Jim laughing over my head. He would have thought this was the funniest thing since Mr. Cantrell's hunter that was so great 40 years ago, they still can't find her in the Texas woods.

You learn so much about people during times of extremis. Part of it is knowing that you're going to have some rough patches. You know that you can get through this, and move on. You provide the grace needed to people who are deserving of it, but you ride hard the ones who don't, and if they need a little push for a much-needed fall from grace, you offer that up too. All of this requires a logical mind, warm heart and the ability to help and jump in when it's needed. I did everything required and I found reserves of strength I didn't know I had. The only thing I couldn't do was the very thing I wanted more than anything. Because I was unable to provide that, I did everything else above and beyond what was called for and felt so alive.

Rest in peace, my love. You're with me always. You know that we had wonderful years together and our parting was perfect and temporary. I love you dearly and I will do all those things you wanted me to do.

But, it also made me realize that I'm no longer at a crossroads; it's my turn now. It's time for me to get back up on that horse and hit the road. It's going to take some planning, and organizing, but I know what I want to do, and I have a good idea of how I'm going to do it. There will be surprise visits and lots of traveling. It will involve some homelessness, but, I've got this! 

This post has been long enough, but later, I will write about how my gaming clan, my family "SpiritZ" has been so very, very supportive through all of this. They have been a mainstay, as well as my  symphonic family and the few friends Jim and I have here on Nebraska, along with Alex, our pretend "adopted son". I also cannot thank enough Sal Ribaudo and his wife Bev Mittan-Ribaudo, or Ivan Roberson for their unwavering support. Without any of you, I doubt seriously, if I would have gotten through this. I love you all so very much and I owe you so much. Thank you.