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Cogito Ergo Sum

Rene Descartes

“I think, therefore I am, I think.”

-The Moody Blues

 

Rene Descartes, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher decided to question absolutely everything he believed in and start his philosophy from scratch. The very first thing he questioned was his own existence, which resulted in his famous postulate, Cogito, ergo sum, which translates into English as, I think, therefore I am.   He concluded that because he was capable of thought, he must exist. Nothing more was required. His ability to generate thoughts was enough to prove to him that he was real.

I recently watched a TED Talk in which the lecturer said that we have a mind-boggling 70,000 thoughts a day. Only 3% of our thoughts are new, though. According to the lecturer, 97% of our thoughts are just repeats of previous thoughts we’ve had. Be that as it may, it still indicates to me that we have 2,000 new thoughts every day. That was encouraging.

On a less encouraging note, another TED lecturer said that despite all this thinking, we really don’t know much. Each of us, in fact, knows very little. We have the mental ability to store only about one gigabyte of information. I have a flash drive smaller than my thumb that can store 64 gigabytes of information. The little knowledge we have is only because we have access to the collective knowledge of mankind, and most of us don’t really understand much of that knowledge. We have a general idea from what we’ve been told or read, but we’re really fuzzy on the details.

One example he gave was the Solar System. Not too long ago, we were told that the Earth was the center of the universe, so, back then, everyone “knew” that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then the invention of the telescope led scientists to discover that not only were we not at the center of the universe, Earth wasn’t even at the center of our own Solar System. The sun was. We’re on one of a number of planets that revolve around the sun. Thanks to the knowledge gathered by those scientists, most of us now know this, though we may argue over whether or not Pluto deserves to be called a planet.  The point that the lecturer made, though, was that we get the general idea, but only a very few of us actually understand the Astronomy or Physics involved. I’m not one of them. I didn’t even learn enough Astronomy to get a Boy Scout merit badge, and I completely flunked Physics 101.

I know that gravity keeps us in orbit around the sun, but I don’t really know very much about gravity or planetary orbits. I don’t own a telescope, and I haven’t done any studies of my own. What little I do know is thanks to what the collective knowledge of mankind has taught me. Like Newton so modestly said years ago, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  During my life, I’ve picked up a few bits of information about various subjects from books, teachers, TV, and lectures, but the only thing I really know is that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know very much. Physics wasn’t the only subject I failed.

I still try to learn. Just the fact that I’m watching TED Talks indicates that I’m interested in learning more. Some of the things I’m learning are discouraging, though. I’ve learned that once we develop an opinion, it’s very hard to change our minds. Most of us have strong opinions on Politics, Religion, Global Climate Change, Immigration, Homeland Security, Income Inequality, Abortion, Conservation, and War. Very few of us will change our opinions on these subjects no matter how much “evidence” we are shown to refute what we already believe. Studies that support our opinions will elicit praise. Studies that do not support our opinions will be dismissed as being absurd.

For example, it’s an election year and politicians will literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to sway people’s opinions. However, most Democrats will remain Democrats, and most Republicans will remain Republicans. Another example is the mountain of scientific evidence on Global Climate Change.  It fuels the opinions of those who view it as a problem, but only leads those who don’t view it as a problem to worry about what the heck is wrong with today’s scientists, and what are they smoking.

No amount of data, less than an actual personal appearance by a Deity, would sway me away from Atheism, but by the same token, no amount of data would convince a Bible Belter that there wasn’t a God or that Noah’s ark didn’t save two of every animal from dying in a great flood. Do you believe in Evolution or Intelligent Design? How much data would be required to get you to change your opinion on these two controversial subjects?  Probably, nothing would sway you.

I was watching a Martin Scorsese movie called Silence. In it, Liam Neeson has a line in which he says that the Japanese have an expression, “Mountains and rivers can be moved, but man’s nature can not be moved.” In a similar vein, the Jesuits say, “Give us a child till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life.”

Many opinions formed, or given to us by our parents, very early in life, often stay with us for our entire life, and the older we get, the more set in our opinions we get. (At least that’s my opinion.) We are capable of thinking, so according to Descartes, we exist, but 97% of our thinking just reinforces what we already believe and doesn’t lead to any new ideas. They don’t change our opinions or improve our lives. However, we do have 2000 new thoughts a day. That’s 2000 opportunities to go beyond merely existing and find a way to grow, to learn, to make ourselves and our world better. We have 2000 new chances every single day, and, if you think about it, it really only takes one good idea to make a big improvement in your life. Those are pretty good odds, I think. What do you think?

Think about it.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

My Moment of Zen

Back in the days when I watched TV, one of my favorite shows was the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Each show ended with an interesting “Moment of Zen.” Zen, according to Wikipedia, emphasizes rigorous self-control, mediation-practice, insight into the nature of things, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life. It was the perfect way to end a comedy show.

Comedy is a funny thing, and not everybody finds the same things to be funny. I watch a lot of comedy specials on YouTube and lately I’ve been watching shows produced by an outfit called Dry Bar. They specialize in “clean,” family-friendly comedy. I prefer my comedy rough, but after I watched a few of their specials, YouTube decided that they belonged at the top of my list of recommended shows. So, as soon as I click on YouTube, I am instantly made aware of the dozens of Dry Bar comedies I’ve missed that they “think” I would enjoy. I click on one of them and YouTube automatically updates my profile so that I will be made aware of even more of them in the future. A Zen Buddhist might see this as the self-fulfilling prophesy chasing its own tail.

The Dry Bar comedies are recorded in Provo, Utah, which instead of being a comedy capital, used to be a comedic punch line. The audience is probably about 99.9% Mormon, a group more known for being made fun of than being funny. Did you see the show The Book of Mormon? It’s hysterical. I was always amazed, though, that there wasn’t a picket line the size of Utah outside the show. A comedy show called The Book of Islam probably wouldn’t last a day before the theatre was bombed, especially if posters for the show contained pictures of Mohammad. The Mormons may have some weird religious beliefs, but at least they do have a sense of humor.

So, I laugh at all the clean jokes, but I fondly remember late comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin, who were far edgier. I don’t think any of them would have ever been invited to perform in Provo, Utah.

But…I digress. This isn’t supposed to be a story about comedy. It’s supposed to be about Zen. In 1974, a book came out called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was a catchy title and it became an instant bestseller. Now, history has a chance to repeat itself. A book just came out called Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping by John Karolefski. Can Zen once again be a best seller?

Full disclosure. I know John Karolefski. Back in the mid-sixties he was the leader of the band I was in, the Townsmen. We were also known for some time as The Heard. Whenever we got a bad review, we just changed our name. Business cards were cheap, and, one way or another, we were going to be rock stars.

The Townsmen

John, Earl, Victor, Dennis, and Joey on their way to being rock stars.

I met Victor, our drummer, last year at an Art Festival where he was selling designer eyewear. I keep in touch with John online and he has a blog called Grocery Stories.   I haven’t seen Joey or Dennis since the ‘60s, so I don’t know what they’re doing, but I never saw either of their pictures on the cover of The Rolling Stone. So, I must assume that none of us became rock stars. Life found other purposes for all of us. Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens, while you’re busy making other plans.”

Recently, John sent me a copy of his book, and since I’ve been writing blogs for ages now, he thought I might write a review of the book for Amazon. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a few “clean” laughs, and I learned some stuff about what’s happening today and what might be happening someday in the future at supermarkets across the country. I grew up back when if your mother sent you to the store for milk, you didn’t have to ask, “What kind?” There was only one kind. One of the chapters in John’s book, explained the hundreds of different varieties of milk that are now available, and today I bought my first container of Vanilla Almond milk. I liked it. Score one for John.

So, I went on Amazon to write a review of the book, and Amazon declined my review. I didn’t meet their criteria for reviewers. I’ve written three screenplays, one children’s book, a country song, a children’s song, a rap song, and hundreds of blog stories, but I wasn’t Amazon-qualified to write a simple book report. That was my moment of Zen, my reality check.

Maybe I should have told them that I was a former Rockstar.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

MaisyCam

“Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny…”

From Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen

 

Okay, it’s not funny yet, even though it’s been almost two months. I am starting to smile about it, though. So, I guess it is finally time to tell the story.

First a little background. My friend Marianne and her family go away every year to a family reunion at the White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. Back in 2018, she called me up in a panic. Their dogsitter wasn’t going to be available. Could I come up to New York? Sure, why not. Maisy was just a small dog, and I didn’t even have to walk her, just let her out in the big fenced-in backyard whenever she had to go. Plus, it was a chance for me to see my New York friends. So, I quickly said, Yes.

A little before Thanksgiving this past year, Marianne called me. Could I watch the dog again? Sure, no problem. In a way it was kind of an honor. Marianne’s family is special. She was once voted Nassau County’s Person of the Year. Her husband Tres is one of the best video editors in TV, and he has the Emmys to prove it. How many Emmys? I don’t think he even knows the exact number, but if you were trying to count them all on your fingers and toes, you would have to take off both shoes. Their oldest boy, Will, just accepted a teaching position in Japan. Their daughter, Jessie, is a world-famous Irish Step Dancer. The youngest boy, Shane, is a musical prodigy, who gets along with everyone. After their vacation at the ranch in 2018, the owners of the ranch begged him to stay there as one of the horse wranglers. He did, despite the fact that he had never ridden a horse before going to the ranch. Now, he’s a bonafide cowboy, a musical cowboy, the next Gene Autry.

Gene Autry

The only problem I remember having had in 2018 was that Maisy didn’t always want to come back in. If there was a squirrel, raccoon, possum, or anything that moved in the backyard, she wanted to chase it and bark. I wasn’t nearly fast enough to catch her, so I always had to just wait until she was ready to come back in on her own. So, this time I had a plan. When I got to Marianne’s house on Long Island, I got out my phone, switched on the voice recording ap, and had Marianne say, “Maisy…Maisy…come here girl.” Now, I was all set. I also know that Marianne has a support group behind her that is more efficient than any SWAT team. They are a SWAT team, they’re a Support With Attitude Team. They do a lot of charity work. They hold drives and collect food and clothing for the less fortunate.   Anything that needs to be done, these ladies get it done. So, I knew that If I had any trouble, all I had to do was call Sherri, the Captain of the SWAT team.

My first night there, I went to sleep and had a great dream. This is very unusual, because my dreams usually suck. I don’t have nightmares, but I don’t have very satisfying dreams. I usually dream that I’m lost, or late for work, or having a serious problem at work. This is really odd because I’ve been retired for close to 10 years now, and I never even think about work during my waking hours.   But there I was having this dream, one of the best dreams of my life. I was the judge of a beauty contest and all the contestants were flirting with me to try to get me to vote for them. Flirting is a mild word compared to what I was actually dreaming, but you get the point. So, I am enjoying their attention and really getting into it, when I suddenly wake up to find that Maisy was licking my face like it was a bowl of ice cream.

I got up and slid the outside door open for her. She just stood there wondering why I had ended the make-out session so abruptly. Well, now I had to pee. I slid the door closed, did my business and returned to bed only to find Maisy waiting for me.

“Okay, but no tongues,” I said, quoting a line from Young Frankenstein, as I crawled in next to the dog.

That turned out to be my wake-up call every day for the entire week I was there. Basically, all I had to do was feed the dog, make sure there was water in her water dish, and let her in and out whenever she had to take a stretch or fertilize the yard. So, I made a lot of plans to see my New York friends. I spent some time with my former next-door neighbor, Susan, my friend Linda, my friend John, and my family. Nice work if you can get it, huh? I was even able to get high while on the job.

The first night while I was getting high, I heard barking. What a noisy neighborhood, I thought to myself. It sounds like the Hounds of the Baskervilles out there. Then I realized what was happening. That was Maisy barking. I had forgotten that I let her out, so I quickly went to the door and let her in. I’m not used to taking care of anyone besides myself, so I would have to either stay straight and sober or come up with a foolproof way to remember when the dog was out. I came up with a plan. Whenever I let her out, I turned my watch band around, and with a permanent marker I wrote D-O-G on the back of my watch. That worked!

I spent a lot of time talking to the dog that week. Naturally, she didn’t talk back, but I pretended that I could tell what she was thinking just by the look on her face.   On Sunday she told me she wanted to watch football. Not out loud, of course, but that’s what it looked like she wanted to say.

Maisy

Unfortunately, the game I was looking forward to watching wasn’t on. New Yorkers don’t care about the Eagles. They want to watch the Giants and Jets. So, I shut off the TV. I don’t have cable in Lancaster. I had it removed when they doubled the price. I usually just get DVD’s from the library or watch YouTube on my phone. So, everyone expected that I would spend the week watching HBO, etc., but I’ve become so used to not watching TV that most days I didn’t even turn on the television. I had my laptop, and I watched a lot of Harness Racing.

That amused me, but it bored the heck out of Maisy. So, we played Fetch. That didn’t work out too well, though. Back when I was married, I used to play Fetch with my wife’s dog, Liebchen. She would get a ball and drop it by my feet. I would pick it up and throw it. She would fetch it and drop it at my feet. I would throw it again. This went on until she was tired of fetching. Maisy liked to fetch, too, but she didn’t believe in dropping the ball at my feet. She wanted to play tug of war with it, and she wouldn’t let go for anything. Trying to retrieve a drool-covered ball from her mouth didn’t much interest me, so that game didn’t last too long. Maisy came up with another game, though. There are sleigh bells hanging by the door and when she wants to go out, she just has to ring the bells. She came up with a game I called, Make the Dogsitter your Bitch. She would ring the bell. I would get up and open the door. Then she would give me a little doggie laugh and casually walk away. This went on constantly, and there was nothing I could do to win the game. I had to open the door. If she really had to go out and I didn’t open the door, I would have to clean up the consequences. So, I kept getting up to open the door and she kept doggie laughing at me every time.

I mentioned that Tres is a video editor, so I invented a game of my own. I pretended that Tres had placed a nannycam on the dog, and I acted out what I thought would be funny scenes with Maisy for Tres to make into a hilarious video. I made a fool of myself, but I was just having fun, and I didn’t really think that Maisy was wearing a miniature camcorder.

Maisy and I were flowing into a rhythm. She was getting plenty to eat and drink, and a good bit of exercise chasing whatever squirrels dared to trespass on her domain. We were in sync. Then came Black Friday.

Maisy woke me up as usual at 7:30 a.m. I let her out into the yard, so she could do her business while I cooked her breakfast, two-thirds of a can of dog food, heated in the microwave for 12 seconds.

When her breakfast was ready, I went to the back door to see if she was ready to come in. I didn’t see her anywhere. I watched for a while. I still didn’t see her. I put on my coat over my pajamas and I went outside. She was nowhere to be found, but I did find that a strong wind had blown the gates open just far enough for a little dog of Maisy’s size to get out. She was gone, and I had discovered her escape route. My heart sank.

I thought about calling Marianne’s SWAT team, the numbers she had given me to call in case of emergency, and Sheri was at the top of the list. I thought about it for a couple seconds and decided to at least check to see if the dog was on the front porch before I went into full panic mode. Pictures kept flashing in my mind. Pictures of Maisy on a milk carton. Pictures of me on a wanted poster. I wondered if I was too old to join the French Foreign Legion.

I checked the front porch, but Maisy wasn’t there. It was my worst moment of the year. I decided to spend a few more minutes looking for the dog, before I called in the cavalry. I started walking around the neighborhood with my phone ap constantly playing “Maisy…Maisy…Come here girl.” I was like John Cussack in the movie “Say Anything” when he was standing outside his ex-girlfriend’s house holding up a boombox playing their song.

John Cussack

When I got to the corner my phone rang. It was Marianne. I hesitated before I answered. Remember how Ralph Kramden would stutter humminahumminahummina whenever he didn’t know what to say. My “Hello” must have sounded a lot like that.

“Maisy is down the block” she said casually.   “A neighbor found her. Sherri is picking her up. She’ll be there in 7 minutes.”

Marianne was 2500 miles away, and she had already found the dog that I had just figured out was lost.

It was 5 o’clock in the morning where she was. How was this possible? Was Maisy actually wearing a Maisy Cam?

A few minutes later Sherri pulled up with Maisy sitting contentedly in the passenger seat. I was quite sure that she was doggie laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I was just relieved that Maisy was no longer missing, even if I was gonna look like an idiot if a video ever came out. Maybe that’s when it will all seem funny.

 

Peace and Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

Spinning Stories for Fun & Profit

san-francisco-California

I don’t even subscribe to any local Lancaster newspapers, but I do have an online subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper, which was once a media outlet for such esteemed writers as Mark Twain and Jack London, is the primary source of family news for me. Every Wednesday, my brother Kevin Fisher-Paulson writes a column in The Chronicle about life in the bedlam-blue bungalow in the City by the Bay. Sometimes he even mentions Brother X and me in his column, but rarely in a good way. The little squealer tells of long-forgotten, and best-left-forgotten tales from our childhood.  This irks the hell out of my other brother, who is the butt of a lot of Kevin’s humor, but it always provides me with a good laugh. Like P.T. Barnum said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Unfortunately, they don’t. To avoid lawsuits, Kevin never uses our real names. To his readers, we are simply Brother X and Brother Dos Equis, a nickname which hints that I might have a drinking problem. Oh brother!

Kevin and his family are famous in San Francisco. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Besides writing his weekly column in the paper, Kevin is a gay captain in the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. His husband Brian is a world-renowned dancer and dance instructor. Their two adopted children are legendary in the academic world for the number of times they have been threatened with expulsion, and their pack of rescue dogs have marked every one of the dozens of trees Kevin and his extended LGBTLSMFTLOL family have planted throughout the city. No, I’m not surprised that they are famous. I’m surprised that they are not the stars in a TV sitcom.

Several years ago, Kevin wrote a book about the at-risk triplets they foster-parented for years, “A Song for Lost Angels”. Now, to the great embarrassment of Brother X, Kevin has gathered some of his favorite newspaper columns into a second book, “How We Keep Spinning…!”

It’s available at:

http://fearlessbooks.com/Spinning.htm

If you want to, you can go to his webpage to see a bunch of stuff he has previously written (www.twopennypress.org), or e-mail him at kipcop1213@aol.com. Just don’t tell the little squealer that I sent you.

How we keep spinning

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Brother Dos Equis

I Shoulda Paid More Attention in School

 

I gave up cable service several years ago when they told me that the introductory offer expired, and they were going to double the price. Unlike most of the decisions I make, it turned out to be a good decision.

I don’t waste my time anymore watching mindless TV game shows, but I still get to see all the movies I want to see thanks to the wide selection of DVDs at the library. Since I quit cable, I’ve watched almost 1500 movies. As an amateur screenwriter, I consider that my film school. I can also watch almost anything else I want on YouTube.com

I don’t have an Internet connection in the house anymore, but I have my cell phone, and I can use that to check my e-mail or surf the Internet. I take my laptop to the library and use their WIFI when I want to download something.

I listen to the Eagles games on the radio and let my imagination work for me. It reminds me of when I was a kid listening to baseball games with and earbud in my ear and my transistor radio hidden under my pillow. If I really want to see what happened on a play it usually can be found the next day on a YouTube highlights video.

Every once in a while, though, I can’t watch what I want to watch, because one of the TV stations has exclusive rights to the program. Tonight, is one example. It’s the fifth game of the World Series and the series is tied up at 2 games apiece. I haven’t followed any Major League teams this year, because I was busy going to Lancaster Barnstormer games, but I always enjoy watching the World Series. I could just go to a sports bar, like I do for the Super Bowl, but that’s just one game. The World Series can last 7 games and I’m not interested in spending 7 nights out watching two teams I never watched all year.

So, I thought I would just have to be content watching highlight videos on YouTube, but then I got lucky. I found a Spanish ESPN broadcast. So, now I’m enjoying all the games in Spanish, Astros y Nationales. The only thing I understand is the score, as long as no team scores more than 10 runs. That’s as far as I can count in Spanish. Fortunately, all the important details, like the score, the count, and the number of outs, are in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

The interviews are very different, too.  The Spanish players who barely say two words in English interviews, have a lot to say in Spanish.  It’s interesting to watch them, even if I don’t know what they’re saying.  Now, I guess I’ll have to go to Google translate, to find out what encerrarlo means.

YouTube has been berry berry good to me.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

Walking in a Wheatland Wonderland

Last Thursday I headed to James Buchanan’s Wheatland for the 2nd of 3 lectures in their Presidential Lecture Series. James Buchanan is unfairly criticized by history and often rated as the worst President ever. The first lecture was about the foreign policy of James Buchanan and his many overlooked accomplishments in world affairs. The second lecture was about his close friendship with William Rufus King.

James Buchanan was our only bachelor President, and many stated that he was our first gay President. His close friendship with Rufus King is, they claim, the “smoking gun.”

The lectures are always interesting, but the reception beforehand can prove equally interesting. The hundred or so attendees mill about sipping free wine and voicing their opinions on the subject. At the last lecture I had an interesting discussion with a man named Tom, who was quite knowledgeable on the subject of James Buchanan. This time I had an interesting discussion with a man named Dale, who mentioned that he had also been to visit the home of former President Martin Van Buren. I knew almost nothing about Van Buren, so I was keen to learn a little bit about him. Then, we both wondered why a Connecticut professor had taken such an interest in James Buchanan. Pennsylvanians, like Pulitzer Prize winner, John Updike, could be expected to take an interest in the only President from the Keystone State, but what ever possessed Thomas Balcerski from Connecticut to take an interest in the man.

The answer came in his opening remarks. Tom was gay. So, he had a strong reason to study the life of the man who was perceived by history to be the first gay President. To our surprise, his conclusion was that James Buchanan was probably not gay, though probably not very macho, either.

My problem with the lectures is that they only last an hour, from 4:30 to 5:30, and my friends well know that I would be much happier with lectures that lasted well into the night. James Buchanan is becoming my favorite subject, even surpassing Barnstormer baseball and roller derby, though remaining maybe a level or two below Harness Racing. The other problem with the short lecture is that my bus home doesn’t arrive until 7:10 p.m. Wheatland is only a mile and a half from my apartment, so I could walk home, but nowadays, with my arthritic hip, it takes almost 2 hours to walk a mile and a half, so I might as well wait for the bus.

The last time I stood at the bus stop waiting. This time I decided to use my time more productively. In addition to Wheatland being the home of our 15th President, it also is the location for the Tanger Arboretum. Fall is definitely a great time to observe trees, so I decided to spend the hour and a half I had before the bus came, to wander around the great variety of trees at Wheatland. I wandered over to my favorite tree, a huge sugar maple that commands the front lawn of the property. On my way I noticed great big beautiful pine cones lying on the walkway. I stooped down to pick up the prettiest ones and noticed that the wind was causing a veritable storm of raining pine cones in the area. So, I began scooping up even more. Then, I walked over to the plaque that told about the tree and read that it was a Himalayan Pine indigenous to Southwest China. I gathered a big bagful of the most beautiful specimens.

When I got home, I put the bag down in my living room. The next day I saw a very weird looking insect by the bag. I love nature, but not in my living room, so I gave it a swat. Then I brought the bag of pine cones to my kitchen and proceeded to wash them all in hot soapy water. To my displeasure, I watched the beautiful pine cones close up and lose their beauty. They now just looked like giant wet turds.

So, I removed them from the water and set them out to dry. A day later they just looked like giant drying turds. I figured I would just toss them into the garbage and go back to Wheatland and gather more. Then, an idea hit me. Google. “Google, how do I get closed pine cones to open up?” Without batting an eye, Google replied, line a cookie tray with aluminum foil, and place them on the tray. Then, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place the tray in the oven for 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes later I had a trayful of what looked like hot steaming turds. So, I made an adjustment. These were giant, wet pine cones, not your everyday pine cones. I put them back in the oven for another hour and raised the temperature to 275 degrees. Eureka! It worked. An hour later I had a trayful of beautifully baked Himalayan Pine cones in full bloom. My next step is to turn them into Thanksgiving Turkey decorations, but that’s a project for another day.

 

Meanwhile, back to my day at Wheatland. After I got home, I headed over to Clipper Magazine Stadium, where they’re hosting a Kickball tournament on Thursday nights. A dozen coed teams wearing different colored t-shirts drink lots of beer and have fun kicking a big ball around the outfield. I don’t know very much about the sport of Kickball, but the bar is open, and they show Thursday Night Football on the big screen in Left field, so it’s something fun to attend.

I went to the bar to get a beer. The middle-aged man in front of me handed the barmaid his credit card and said that he wanted to run a tab for all the players in the pink shirts and all the players in the blue shirts. She took his credit card and then asked me what I wanted.

“I’d like a blue t-shirt, please?”

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Doctor’s Orders

Last week I had my scheduled semi-annual physical at the V.A. Clinic. As usual, I also had an appointment the week before to get bloodwork results before my doctor’s visit.

Servicemen must be a very forgetful bunch, I thought. Before each appointment, I got a letter in the mail reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two text messages reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two phone calls reminding me of the appointments. When I got there, I joked that I was surprised not to get a wake-up call and an Uber cab waiting outside.

Someday I’ll learn that the V.A. Clinic is not a place for telling jokes. They deal with people who have some very serious service-related problems, grizzled war veterans, who have gone through hell on earth, and the V.A. doctors and nurses are very sensitive and serious people. They immediately gave me a brochure about how to get free transportation to the clinic, if I was unable to get there on my own. I just smiled and took the brochure.

I started going to the V.A. Clinic when I lived in New York. When I moved to Pennsylvania, they transmitted my records to Pennsylvania and gave me a copy. It made for some interesting reading. They were concerned about my drinking back then. I guess alcoholism and forgetfulness are both monitored very carefully by the V.A.

During one session in New York, I was asked how much I drank. “I do a little social drinking,” I responded. Of course, they then wanted to know just how social I was. They wanted a number they could enter into the computer. How many drinks did I have in a day?

“Two,” I decided was a good number. “Put down two.”

So, years later when I read my report, I saw that the interviewing nurse had put down, “Admits to two drinks a day.” It was obvious that she thought I was lowballing the number.

So, now I try to be very careful with my answers, and, of course, every appointment nowadays is preceded by an interview with a nurse who tries to ascertain whether or not I am suffering from PTSD, suicidal, alcoholic, or senile.

We just barely got past Hello, and she started.

“Do you ever have feelings of Depression?”

“Only when the Barnstormers lose,” I quipped without thinking.

She started to write down on her pad, “Gets depressed when the Barnstormers lose.”

“No, don’t write that,” I said.

“Doesn’t want anyone to know,” she wrote.

“I was joking.”

“Manic Depressive tendencies,” she wrote.

I reminded myself to be way more careful with my answers.

“Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?”

“No, never,” I quickly answered. I didn’t think this was the time or place to tell her that I thought euthanasia should be legalized.

“How much do you drink?”

“I have one glass of wine before I go to bed.” I thought that was a good answer, and, technically, it wasn’t a lie. I have one glass of wine before I go to bed…and one glass of wine before that, and one glass of wine before that…

“In the past year have you ever had six or more drinks in one day?”

I scratched my head and pretended to be thinking long and hard for any occasion when I might have had six or more drinks, even though I knew that every Tuesday Brewsday at Clipper Magazine stadium with $2 beers between 6:30 and 8 p.m., I always drank at least that many beers.  Why else would they provide so many cup holders?  Finally, after much fake deliberation, I answered her question like I had just thought of one occasion. “At the family reunion in Ohio, my cousins kept getting me beers. I probably had more than six then.”

“Was that the only occasion?”

I was cornered. I couldn’t think of a way to answer her even half honestly, so I opted for Plan B. I lied.

“Yes, that’s the only time I can think of.”

Then she asked me if I want her to make an appointment for me with someone who might help me with my drinking problem?

Either she didn’t believe my answers, or she actually thought that having 6 beers with my cousins one time at a family reunion was a major drinking problem. What planet was she from? Did she ever go to college?  As far as I’m concerned, as long as there wasn’t an olive in my urine specimen, I didn’t really have a drinking problem. I like to drink.  It’s not a problem.  It’s a hobby.

“No, thank you,” I told her. “I’ll just be more careful at family outings in the future.” And I’ll also be more careful when I come back in six months and have to answer these questions again.

“Well, just remember,” she said, “NEVER have more than two drinks in a day.”

“Thanks.  I’ll remember that.” And I guess I better also remember to go to the store and buy bigger glasses.

Big Glass

Peace and Love, and all of the above,

Earl