Posts Tagged ‘Musing’

Writeolax is a non-toxic, all natural formula, guaranteed to break up writer’s block within 24 to 48 hours or your money back. Tell you doctor if you are allergic to new ideas or if you have taken another blockage relief product within the past 72 hours.

– Drive or operate a word processor until you know how Writeolax affects you. Writeolax can make you sleepy, dizzy or light headed.
– Drink whiskey or use products that contain alcohol. Using products containing alcohol during treatment with Writeolax may cause seizures that could cast you upon the shoals of uncontrollable and mostly incoherent ideas.

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I don’t know why I remember my ingrown toenail, such a silly little thing. I don’t remember the sore toe but I remember sitting all alone in the foot doctor’s office on Chester Avenue and I think it was a rainy day. The AM radio was playing hit songs of the 1950s like “The Green Door” and Arthur Godfrey (howaya, howaya) was touting the merits of Lipton Tea in the background while I sat waiting.

I was ten or eleven years old, maybe twelve? Can’t rememeber but I do remember me as scared of my own shadow and if you looked up shy in the dictionary you might have found my photo.

The problem toe was my big toe on my right foot. The doctor did what he did and wrapped my poor toe up in a bandage that was way too big to fit inside my shoes so I was wearing a sneaker with the toe cut out, giving my bandaged toe plenty of room to wiggle in the air. I think I was wearing a shoe on the other foot. That was kind of dumb. I should have been wearing both sneakers.

I had to wear that sneaker with the hole cut out for my big toe for a couple of weeks. I remember having to serve mass wearing that silly sneaker. Standing there in the quiet church, smell of candles burning, I tried to tell the priest that I had to wear the sneaker because I had an ingrown toenail and couldn’t wear regular shoes until the bandages came off. I was on the verge of tears. Looking back, my condition was obvious. I was wearing that old sneaker on my right foot. My big toe was bandaged and sticking out for all to see. What other explanation was needed? None but I was so self conscious. Maybe I’m remembering the old sneaker and my embarrassment more than the pain of a sore toe.

Funny the kinds of things you remember.


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Click to enlarge

Remember Christmas seasons past? I do, especially the special magic of the children and how that magic came into sharp focus, magnified at Christmas time. The anticipation, the belief, the wonder — all part of the magic of Christmas. I loved Christmas then and still do. Children’s magic is contagious and some of that magic rubs off on adults. Hey, it’s magic after all. But we live in the present moment and there comes the time when Christmas has past and the magic packed away in cardboard boxes for another year.

I never liked New Years because it was the day my parents turned off the magic and hid it away in the dark attic until the next year. And if that wasn’t depressing enough, we had to go back to school the next day after a wonderful week of magic, toys, friends and pure play.

School is the antithesis of magic. So is work and when the adults returned to work the little magic that did rub off was gone, magic lights extinguished as we settled into the long dark winter and the desert of days for months on end until the magic of spring and Easter enlivened us once again. I never understood why the new year begins in the middle of the dark winter. The new year should begin at the spring solstice when life renews.

What if we could call up the magic at will? What if we still knew how to play the way all children do? Play is what makes us human. Play is what makes life worth living. Play can transform life into the delicious creative journey that life is meant to be — but only if we remember how to play.

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Grandmom_john_May_1949_smI’m having a difficult time projecting myself back to my childhood to specific measures and perhaps my dreams. Maybe I’ll connect somehow. Could my dreams and aspirations have been so vague that they existed as mist? Do I need to dig out the bad (and the good)?

Don’t all kids have dreams and aspirations of ‘what they want to be when they grow up?’ I thought something must be wrong with me because I don’t remember. Could it be that I had no dreams or aspirations? I learned that there’s nothing wrong with me or my childhood memories (or seeming lack of) when I discovered an article from aeon online magazine (it’s free) this past summer — “The Great Forgetting” by Kristin Ohlson (July 30, 2014). I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember much from their childhood. I’m not alone.

I’ve always loved books and reading and wondered if I ever had aspirations to become a writer when I grew up. I don’t remember. But I do remember how I found my refuge from the world in books and my imagination. When I discovered reading and got my own library card, new worlds opened to me. I could retreat into my books and learn, discover, imagine and dream without interference, a love affair that was destined to endure for the rest of my life.

I cannot imagine my life without books. Who planted those seeds? Who encouraged me? It was probably my grandmother. I don’t remember that either but I’ll always be grateful. Now that I think on this, I lived in my imagination and like to think I still do — as a reader and a writer. Maybe I was repressed back then (watch for an article on the subject). Maybe I was shy, but imagination and creativity are reborn and very much alive.

Note: This piece was stimulated by handwritten notes from May 6, 2010. Some of the text is verbatim, some revised and more added. The photo was taken with my maternal grandmother, the most wonderful person who ever touched my life, in May, 1949 when I was four years old. Click the photo to enlarge.

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The Knowledge Vampire

The following is a piece I wrote to myself nine years ago on May 19, 2006

The knowledge vampire. Yep, that’s me. I’m a knowledge vampire. I don’t suck the juice out of anything, I absorb. I have this hunger for knowing. I just gotta know. I remember when I was a kid. Sitting on the front porch in summer or on the living room sofa waiting for breakfast. Reading. I love to read. I love to discover stuff. Find out why things are. I got up early every Saturday morning to watch Mr. Wizard. Made my own breakfast too. Why would a kid, or at least any normal kid want to get out of bed early on Saturday. Saturday was the day you’re supposed to be lazy. No school, nothing to do or at least nobody telling you what to do all day. Except when dad would give me the hose and expect me to wash all the dirt down the alley. Why didn’t we sweep the alley with a broom?

Waste of water. But what did we know then. Water was free and there was always more where that came from. The water squirted out of the hose as long as you wanted it to. Besides, sweeping was work and crouching with the hose was easy – the hose was doing all the work. Me? I’m just holding the hose and moving it back and forth.

What chore did I hate the most? Weeding the garden. I had to get down on my knees and get dirt under my fingernails. Nasty bugs and stuff on my hands. Ech! I wanted to be sitting in the back yard with my soldiers. Now that was real playing in the dirt. Same dirt, but it was my dirt instead of the garden dirt. I was playing instead of working.

So, why did I get up on Saturday morning? Because Mr. Wizard was cool. He did all kinds of neat stuff and I learned things. Same reason I got so many books out of the library. I found out about all kinds of stuff. Stuff I never knew. Was it useful? Did it matter? No. I was having fun.

I was left to my own devices? Crazy way to talk. Who ever talked that way? As I was saying, they would usually leave me alone so I could read or whatever. I liked reading better than baseball. I was never much of an athlete. Nobody made me and nobody took the time to show me. So, I learned things on my own.

I had a magnifying glass. I had a few of those over the years. I liked to shine the sun on leaves and burn holes in them with my magnifying glass. Burned up a few ants too. Looked a bit closer that I could with my regular eyes.

So, I’m a knowledge vampire? Maybe better to call myself a knowledge sponge. Absorb all I can then wring me out and start over.

I was a good little boy too. Never deviating from the rules they gave me. Memorize the catechism. Every day with the rules. Break one and go to confession and all would be right again (after I said the hail Marys and our fathers.)

Remember walking over to DeSales on Saturday afternoons in the summer to confess my sins. Wearing a nylon shirt outside my pants. Long pants and combed hair. Wouldn’t do to show up in church looking like a regular kid, even though I was a sinner.

Knowledge. Asking questions? Yeah, but I didn’t ask too many questions when I was a kid. I just did what I was told to do (most of the time.) Never a rebel, but I always had my secret world. If I didn’t share by telling people, then they never knew what I was thinking.

Confessing sins sucks. Having to kneel there and share intimate things with this priest guy. Share my secrets with a guy in a black dress. Never went to Fr. Gallagher because I was afraid he’d recognize my voice. Poof, there go the secrets. Bad enough you had to kneel there, but imagine how bad, even scared I’d be if the guy in black knew who I was.

Am I different now? Hope so. I’m 61 now. Bit older than the scared kid who sat and read books all the time, but I still want to suck all of the knowledge I can. I want to know more stuff!

Afterword (written today) I’m 69, soon to be 70 and I’m still a knowledge vampire.


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underwoodOur H.S. biology teacher (Brother Joseph) had a funny sense of humor. He referred to hospitals as horsepistols. So maybe I’m kind of warped myself. I was back to the hospital again last week. I swore I was never going back but circumstances said otherwise.

A routine CT scan ordered my my oncologist showed suspicion of a clot in my leg. We have a family friend who is a top radiologist. I always get a CD of any scans, x-rays, etc. for him to read. He saw the clot and let us know how serious it was. Advice to get to the hospital.

Sue called my oncologist. Sue is my advocate, does all kinds of research and is on good terms with all my caregivers. After Sue told my oncologist about the reading. The question was who would call. Sue said “Rock, paper, scissors, you better call.”

And she (oncologist did) at 10:00 PM on Thursday night. Got to the ER around 11:00 PM, triaged right away then had to wait awhile for an ER bed. They sucked my blood, x-rayed my chest (I had a touch of pneumonia too), and did an ultrasound on my legs which, when they finally get the report to the docs confirmed a DVT in my right leg. Great, just what I needed to hear.

The good part of this hospital stay is that I was there because of the risk, not because I felt sick. Boring!! They gave me shots of Luvenox in my belly twice a day. The plan was to send me home with a script for the stuff. We even had a class on how to stick me. No Luvenox for me. That stuff is ridiculously expensive, almost $500 for generic with my insurance for 11 days!

The next choice was Xarelto, still too expensive but not even close to the other. So once that was settled, they put me on the stuff, wrote the Scripts and sent me home on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday was a real adventure in the hospital. Underwood had merged with Inspira (what a stupid name) and the Underwood computers shut down at midnight Saturday for the transfer. All the work on Sunday was paper. Insanity. We finally got home around 4:30 PM.

So now it’s almost back to normal whatever that is. I have no clues about normal after two years of chemo, etc. Visit my primary tomorrow, get a follow up chest x-ray tomorrow afternoon and finish the course of antibiotics (leviquin is some potent stuff — gives me chemo brain). Then if all is well with the x-ray, back to chemo on Monday.

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Just checked my Oxygen level with my finger thingy. It’s 98% — Yay!!! I started the new year with a bang. My compromised immune system finally caught up with me. I Woke up in the middle of the night sick as a dog. I ended up in the ER and when the Doc asked me what brought me in I told him that I felt like shit warmed over. Couldn’t put that on the chart.


My five year old granddaughter colored a get well for me. I love it.

Turns out I had pneumonia. Please note the past tense here. After multiple bags of antibiotics plus strong oral antibiotics I felt better, much better. I arrived in the ER around lunch time on New Year’s day. They kept me until Saturday afternoon.

If I ever go to the hospital again (hope not) I’m not letting them stick me in my arms and hands for IV. Send someone down who is certified to access my port. Why? Both arms and both hands are beat up from the IV.

I joked about only being admitted to the hospital on holidays. The first time was Memorial Day 2012 and this time New Year’s 2014. I don’t want another next time.

Anyway, I’m home sleeping in my own bed and playing with my computer. By the end of the week I’ll be done with 5 days of oral antibiotics, a visit to my primary doc and a follow up chest x-ray.

I’m staying away from people and crowded places until the flu season is over. I might get some masks to wear when I do go out. Staying home gets real boring real fast. I’ll get out one way or another.

Got some neat photos from Christmas. Look for them over the next few days (and weeks). Can’t wait to get out with my new FujiFilm X10. That will have to wait.

The weather here is nuts. It was record breaking cold Friday and Saturday, freezing rain on Sunday morning, woke up this morning to pouring rain and most of the snow melted, temps dropped nearly 30 degrees since this morning and the sun is out. Low tonight 8 degrees and windy so the wind chill will be below zero. Going out John? No thank you, I can wait.

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Spam, egg and spam

spam-family-of-productsSpam, spam and egg. That’s two spams and one egg. How many spams in a can of spam? If each slice is one spam then one can of spam is spam, spam, spam, spam for thick slices. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam and more spam for thinner slices. Spam and spam. Spam and eggs (next time more than one egg). Spam and cheese (on white bread with yellow mustard).

I ate spam, spam and one egg for Sunday breakfast. Why only one egg? Because I thought spam times two wouldn’t leave enough room for two eggs. Which is better? Spam, spam and one egg? Spam and two eggs? Spam, spam and two eggs? or Spam, spam, spam and no eggs?

My mother used to feed us spam disguised as a real meal. She would take a couple cans of spam and arrange the whole spams on a baking pan. Then she scored diagonally in two directions over the surface of both spams, put a whole clove at the intersection of each score, sprinkled on some brown sugar to complete the topping and there you have it — spams (plural of spam) pretending to be real hams.

I remember liking spam (I think) but had forgotten what the stuff tasted like so I asked Tracy to pick up a can of Spam at the supermarket. Surprised me. I enjoyed my spam, spam and egg breakfast.

I love to share so I invited my Viking neighbors over for spam. We sang: “Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!” Meanwhile we invited my wife to join us but she said: “I don’t want ANY spam!” (actually she was yelling over the din we made and we didn’t hear her).

Did you know that spam is delightful with baked beans? Honest. Ask any Viking you happen to pass on the street. And you will want to pass them so you are upwind.

Well, I’m off to think about all the wonderful ways I might fix spam. Maybe I’ll enjoy spam, spam and two eggs for breakfast tomorrow. Then again I might wait until lunch and make a spamwich. Or…??? So many ways to prepare lovely spam. Is your mouth watering for Spam yet?

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road02 15 months since I rode my bicycle. I was getting ready for the 2012 summer riding season when I was forced to stop because exercise had me coughing and gasping for breath. Something was wrong and it wasn’t until Memorial Day 2012 that I found out I had colon cancer. Kind of sucks but I’m still here and itching to get back in the saddle again.

I did it today. I pumped up my tires to 85 psi yesterday. I was up way too early this morning to go for a ride (6:15 AM). I felt better after a nice two hour plus morning nap. I put on the bright red Phillies shirt given to me for my birthday by my granddaughters so I’d be uber visible. I have clipless pedals on my bicycle so I hopped into my special riding shoes with the clips. I finished off my riding wardrobe by clipping my geeky but oh so useful rear view mirror to my glasses and donned my helmet. After all this time I was ready or so I hoped. I wondered — could I manage my bicycle? Was I really ready?

Enough talk — I walked my bicycle to the end of the driveway, swung my leg over the bike and clipped my right foot in. Ready or not? I pushed off, gained momentum and clipped in with my left foot. I was flying again. I felt like a kid with the air in my face. I’m doing it and loving every second.

I rode uphill from our house to the front of the development turned around and rode back the other way, past the house all the way down the hill. Not too steep from our house down. I did the steep part first.

I rode down to the intersection and back to our house, not a long ride (maybe 1/2 mile total?). I broke my speedometer a few years ago and never replaced it. 1/4 mile? 1/2 mile? The distance doesn’t matter. I rode my bicycle again — that’s a milestone and a new beginning.

I have chemo tomorrow which means I’ll be hooked up to a portable pump until Wednesday afternoon which puts the kebash on exercise. If the weather permits, I’ll be back on the bicycle on Thursday when I’ll try two circuits. I’m hoping to build my stamina so I can go out on the road for a decent ride.

My legs are stiff after todays’ ride and even though I took it easy, I still ran short of breath. I’ll get there.

PS — I took the photo during one of my rides a few summers back.

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Nope, June 26, 1963 was not the day I graduated high school (graduation was a year earlier in June 1962). Today marks the anniversary of the day, 50 years ago, when I was inducted into the U.S. Air Force and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Uncle Sam for a four year tour that turned out to be 3 years, 7 months, 5 days and a wake-up. I got out early because I had less than 6 months left in my enlistment when I rotated back to the world after my tour in Vietnam.


Who would have thought that a young 18 year old enlisting in the USAF at the height of the cold war, who was naive enough to believe the bullshit the recruiter fed me (more about this later), could have ended up in Vietnam in 1966? Not me. This photo of me was taken outside our barracks at Tan Son Nhut Air Base outside of Saigon.


Me and my big mouth. First I enlisted with the promise of going to language school and becoming some kind of Air Force spy. What was I thinking? I flunked Latin in H.S. just like I flunked the USAF language test. No language school for me. Instead, I stayed on at Lackland AFB after basic training to attend Air Police school. Whoops!

The second picture is me sticking my head out of an Air Police patrol vehicle on the ramp at King Salmon AFS, Alaska. Me and my big mouth got me to Alaska. I could have been assigned to patrol duty at the World’s Fair in NYC but I volunteered for overseas because I always wanted to go to Germany. Whoops! I ended up on a remote base in Alaska instead. Good thing my tour was only one year of either freezing my ass off or being eaten alive by the world’s largest mosquitos.

Most people would have an image of an Air Policeman as some guy (no women back in 1963) wearing a white hat and white gloves directing traffic. Whoops! Most of us in the Air Police were assigned to security duty. Translated meant fatigues (BDUs in today’s jargon), securing the flight line and guarding individual alert aircraft. The aircraft I guarded in Alaska and later at Westover AFB in Mass. were all loaded with nukes.

After I left Alaska, I was assigned to the Combat Defense Squadron at Westover AFB in the middle of Mass. Westover (we called it leftover) was a SAC base that was also 8th Air Force HQ. We were charged with guarding the fight line, the alert B52 bombers (each one loaded with four (20) megaton nukes), the KC135 alert tankers, the alert crew barracks and the gates from the base proper to the flight line. No pictures of me on the flight line. I’d probably still be in jail if they caught us taking pictures on a SAC base.

So how did I end up in Vietnam? I volunteered. What, is the boy crazy? Not crazy, just sick of all the brass and the flag vehicles with stars or bird flags flying. Whoops again! I ended up down the street from General Westmoreland’s HQ. Me and my big mouth again.

But I made it through that year relatively unscathed. I can’t say without a scratch because I ended up with all kinds of nasty cuts and scratches from landing in a roll of rusty barbed wire when we were bailing out of a truck during a mortar attack. What were we doing in the back of a truck during a mortar attack? We were on our way out to the base perimeter to stop Charlie.

One of these days I’ll tell the whole story about that night and early morning lying in the mud watching the hueys rocket the tree line outside the base waiting for the sun to come up. When the sun did come up, one of the guys spotted Charlie. My bud Ralph raised up (dumb shit) and caught a pair of rounds from an AK-47 in the chest. I thought Ralph had bought the farm (he didn’t).

Maybe the VC were trying to surrender. We’ll never know because even though the Lt. was calling for a cease fire, we didn’t hear him. The VC all died that morning.


Damn I was glad to climb aboard that PanAm flight in January 1967. I was tired of the Air Force and ready for my re-entry into civilian life. So why was I separated from the Air Force on January 31, 1967 when my enlistment wasn’t up until June 25, 1967? Convenience of the government when a GI has less than six months to go when returning from an overseas assignment. Who was I to argue?

Here I am, many years later wondering how all those years could go by so quickly. 50 years is a milestone so I figured why not commemorate the occasion with a blog post.

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