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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

J'ever have one a those days?

Before I get anywhere else, I have had a number of folks ask about my eldest son. I got him into a hospital, the doctor there transferred him to one of the major hospitals in Savannah where they hung on to him for awhile, diagnosed major liver problems, and began to remove some of the fluid from his abdomen. They stuck needle in and took out five and one half liters of fluid. It didn’t near do the job. but they sent him home. It seems that they can only take that much fluid out about every three weeks, because if they took out more his kidneys could fail. He is now at home, taking medicine and he is absolutely prohibited from using salt, or alcohol in any form. The salt thing is bugging him because he is a cook (not by profession, by fun, and the things he cooks are smoked turkeys, barbecued shrimp shish kabobs, smoked Boston Butts, etc.) He is now staying with us quite a bit of the time, and his salt problem is getting to me a little as well.

Yesterday, I roasted a Boston butt with lots of spices and no salt. It came out pretty well. (I try not to put my salty Barbecue sauce on it in his presence. )

Today I spent a lot of time working outside. I planted a couple of tomatoes (One of the “topsy turvy ones you see advertised, and one in a similar gizmoe that I made out of a six inch plastic pipe) They are both doing well, so I took the pump on my swimming pool apart for repairs. In the afternoon I needed a wire brush to clean part of the pump, so I went into the utility room where I keep my tools and voila, my freezer was hanging open, the floor was covered with water, mixed with fruit juices and blood from thawing fruit and meat. So far I have blamed everyone but the pussy cat (who no longer lives at our house) for leaving the freezer open, but I know in my heart that it was me, when I removed said pork butt from the freezer over a day ago.

Fortunately the door was only open a little way, so that though everything was thawed, most of it was still cold and “salvageable”.

This was one of those days when I wished I had been wealthy enough, when I bought the freezer, to have bought a frost free one. Though probably some of the layers of frost helped keep the foot cool for awhile. About the only good things about this are the fact that my freezer is cleaned out and I have inventoried what I had in there. I had fourteen pounds of rhubarb. You laugh but rhubarb is precious to a man who was raised where rhubarb is so common it is almost a weed, and to the working poor (actually pretty middle class) rhubarb is almost a food group. Yummm. So I bought this big box of frozen rhubarb and we have been taking out some and cooking it (Pies, bowls of cooked rhubarb, strawberry and rhubarb jam etc.) as needed. It is now rhubarb mush, though a fair amount made it to the cooking pot with some of the other fruit in the freezer. The rest is compost. Also had fourteen pounds of flash frozen strawberries and we are seeing what can be salvaged there. I had about ten two cup bags of blackberries, and equal number of frozen raspberries, and about three times that much of blueberries. Some of the blueberries were still frozen and were salvaged that way, but the rest of these were mixed together in a sort of fruit compote (about a gallon and a half) and are now in a large tupperware bowl in the fridge where I hope we will eat them day by day. Actually I kept the blueberries separate and Janet plans to make the mother of all blueberry cobblers in the morning. About a dozen Marie (I think) Calandar frozen dinners bit the dust. A LARGE frozen Stauffer’s lasagna went into the oven, and another equally large chicken alfredo joined it, so we have a newly roasted butt, large lasagna and chicken alfredo all ready to eat. We don’t even have company invited.

I rewrapped most of the meat and put it back in the freezer. Inventoried: I have six Boston Butts, two large boneless pork loins, four of these little round boneless pork loins, about ten pounds of pork chops, three pounds of Italian sausage, a pound of two of just plain ground sausage, and a fresh picnic ham. I think it is pretty obvious that I am not Jewish. In beef, I have about fifteen pounds of various steaks, mostly boneless top sirloin, but a fair share of T bones and four New York Strips (bone in). There is also a bunch of hamburger, but it was so thoroughly thawed that it went to the fridge till we can eat enough of this other stuff to justify firing up the grill. There is also a fair amount of chicken. One whole roaster, ten pounds of rear quarters, a package of thighs and miscellaneous. My problem is that whenever I find meat that is REALLY on sale, I tend to buy it, stick it in the freezer (love these little vacuseal gizmos) and have to really work to remember that I have it so I wont buy more.

I am too old to clean freezers, wrap meat and mop the blood and fruit juice off the floor and do all that stuff after dinner should have been (but wasn’t ) eaten.

Janet was just given permission yesterday to walk without her walker, but she tried to help for a while and ended up in bed with a vicodin tablet.

By the way, I didn’t mention what a mess six or eight half gallon (actually a bit less that that now) containers of ice cream can make when they are well distributed around the freezer. Not much salvageable there unless you want to drink what is left out of the container (I did a little of that).

I’m on my way to shower off the freezer remains and collapse in bed.

didja ever have ona those days?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More meditations on Coothood, Neighborhood, and Other Hoods.

I live in a really nice neighborhood.  It is a subdivision where most of the homes have lots over an acre in size, everything is well landscaped and well developed.  My next door neighbors are a black family whom I don’t know very well because we have spent most of our time  trying to visit family and going to hospitals, but they moved in just after we did, and we visited back and forth a little when they came.  Down the street on the same side there is at least one other black family because I see their children outside playing with the other children in the neighborhood.

When I came to Georgia in 1970, there was only one nicely trimmed neighborhood where black people lived and most of the other black people lived in medium or poor level segregated onclaves.  It was a year or so after school segregation was officially ended, but it was mainly a formality since it was voluntary and most folks just stayed in their traditional schools.  There was segregation, of a sort, in most retail businesses as well.  Not in terms of customers but among the employees.  One might come to a gas station and a black man would clean the windshield and operate the pump, but there was almost always a caucasian who handled the money  Very few black persons handled money except in the black operated businesses in the black areas of town.

There were exceptions.  A muffler shop that had the reputation of being the best shop in town was owned an operated by a black family, and, speaking from experience, it was  the best shop in town, and there were some African American restaurants in town that were popular with everyone.  As a former bricklayer, I was bemused by the fact that there were, at that time very few (if any) black carpenters or workers in the other building trades except for the bricklayers.  If there were any caucasian brick or stone masons, they stayed well hidden.

Like most southern towns in that period, the black population was necessary to the economics and  there were both friendships and associations between the races, but there was a subtle tension as well.  It was uneasy, to say the least.  A couple of years after our arrival, they officially integrated the schools, using busing to move students around so that there were approximately the same percentage of students of each race in the schools that existed in the  general population.

My wife took a position teaching in the middle school, and the school to which that title was appended was the school that had been the primary black elementary school.  She taught there in the first year of integration and was appalled at the conditions. The school was modern and clean and had all those physical things that you see in a relatively new school, but the only pencil sharpener in the school when it started the year was in the principal’s office.  The inherent lie in the phrase “separate but equal” which had been the Southern definition of segregated schools was demonstrated in that one pencil sharpener.  The books were, for the most part, those that had been discarded when the “other” schools received their supplies.  Typewriters and copy machines were primitive and limited and, in general things were a mess.

Most of this was corrected rather quickly but the start-up situation illustrated how essential school integration was at that time.  Another evidence of  the evils of segregation came to me in the nature of my students.   I came to Georgia from upstate New York, and in my SUNY branch most of my black students were from Long Island, or New York City suburbs, and were in general in the top ten percent of my students.  My black students were, in general, woefully unprepared for college.  IN spite of good high school grades, many were nearly illiterate.

As a professor of theatre, most of the black students with whom I interacted were enormously talented but had many problems because the segregated school systems had robbed them.

I had a “non-traditional student” ( this means that she was a thirty plus year old sophomore) in one of my classes who was, I discovered quite by accident, married to a black man.   We had a long conversation in my office where she discussed some of the difficulties in her situation.  She really didn’t dare go downtown with her husband because on the one occasion that she did so, they were threatened.  She also didn’t feel accepted by her husband’s family and she and her husband had decided that they would have no children till they could move to a different area.  It was an interesting time.

While walking through Wal-Mart yesterday I noted that every person behind a checkout taking money was black.  It is quite a change.  I am not foolish enough to believe that all racial animosity and discrimination has ended, and some new types have evolved, but the changes are remarkable.  Inter-racial couples are common, and seem to be totally accepted.  I noticed a young lady with three children (back to Wal-Mart). walking through the store.  Her little daughter of about six was walking beside her holding onto the shopping cart, and a little boy of about two was riding in the cart.  She had a third child, a baby, lung across her chest in one of those  abdominal papoose gizmos that are popular.  The clothing for all four of them was color coordinated and cute.  The two older children were obviously white, the little girl having blond hair.  The baby slung across her chest was obviously black or mixed racial. 

If I hadn’t been meditating about this post, I might not have noticed.  The group certainly didn’t attract any attention at all.  I seriously think that if she had been in the same situation, with the same children walking through a store in 1970, she would have been taking her own life and the lives of her children into serious danger.

This isn’t meant to be a post on race, but on the discoveries that come as one gets older

I think that one of the problems in the auto industry has its root in the attempt by congress to  legislate car design, but I remember some congressional mandates that made real sense and the carmakers fought against them and won.  I used to have  a 1975 Honda Civic.  I couldn’t legally drive it in the same way today as I drove it then.  I have six children, and we lined the smallest ones up in the back between the hatchback and the back seats, three larger ones in the back seat with mommy and daddy in the front.  I am sure that anyone caught doing that  today would be arrested and who in the world knows what would happen to the driver.

One thing about that car though, ALL NEW CARS SOLD IN THE U. S. AT THAT TIME WERE REQUIRED TO HAVE CRASH RESISTANT BUMPERS.  The bumpers on that little car were supported by what appeared to be shock absorbers and both front and back bumper extended at least eight inches away from the car body.  I had at least three accidents while driving that car that, if they happened today, would have totaled both cars involved.  On one occasion, I pulled out in traffic without noting how fast another car was coming in the lane.  By the time I reached a speed of about ten or fifteen miles per hour the car behind me struck me.  He was going, by his own estimate, about forty five or fifty miles an hour.  The only apparent damage was that we both had sore necks.  I ended up stopped about fifty feet in front of him. and there was no body damage to either car.  In new cars of any brand made today, the damage would probably exceed the cost of the car, and heaven only knows what kinds of physical damage would resulted.  The carmakers managed to get that rule off the books so that they could install plastic bumpers that would follow the line of the car body.

I am running out of rant, but I have to make a couple of other points.  When I was young and working in the broadcasting business, no Doctor or Lawyer was allowed to make commercials or have them broadcast.   Lawyers who attempted to circumvent the law were called ambulance chasers and derided in literature and everywhere else.  I am so tired of hospitals pedaling their latest medical equipment and lawyers seeking suckers to support their latest tort favorites that I sometimes wish I had the power to send them “To a place, faraway”.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vacation and stuff

I have some other things to say, but when we got to our time share I found that now they have universal wireless in all the units.  Smiling, I got out my laptop, plugged it in (I like to save the batteries) turned it on and got that most awful message you can get from a computer.

Beep – Beep Beep- Beep Beep Beep- Beep;

To the uninitiated, that is your computer telling you that it is dead.  (Only a computer can TELL you that it is dead)


My try at sending someone else’s message.

This is from Thotman (who is on my sidebar, but I can’t seem to get and internal link to work)  If you like this, look him up.  He doesn’t post as often as he used to, but he really gets to his points.  He has a new one this week on global warming that is really important.

I have a neighbor who lost his house recently. Oh, not as you may suppose, it was not a foreclosure, just a really HOT fire.  Yep, burned it right down, along with six other homes on that street.  They SAY it started with a wreck of a Diesel tanker. The funny thing is the whole neighborhood watched the newly established fire department as they "fought" the blazes.  The reason we were all standing there was because WE used to be members of the town Volunteer Fire Dept, and we had actually arrived on the scene to HELP fight the fire.  The NEWLY HIRED Fire marshal arrived in his new eco friendly car to inform us that the NEW FULL TIME FIREFIGHTERS would be arriving shortly with the trucks, hoses, and respiration gear and that THEY would fight the fire. WE WOULD NOT BE NEEDED other than to just do what HE TOLD US TO DO.

Many of us having been in the fire fighting business for much of our lives, realized that the NEW hydrants in the neighborhood were out of service... the line had been shut off while a new subdivision connected to the city supply down the street. We told him he would need to do what we had done BEFORE in major fires, bring in all five trucks, and let US DO OUR JOB, and stop micro managing the situation... but he informed us that the new PROFESSIONALS were in charge and that they didn't need US telling them how to do THEIR job.  Well, when the first truck arrived it was the brush fire unit, that has a VERY SMALL tank, pump and hose. It sprayed about 300 gallons on the fire... by that time that grease fire on Wintertons stove had spread from the kitchen up into the stairway. It was then that the Fire Marshall stopped a passing tanker truck so he would have SOMETHING to spray on the fire. GET the hoses hooked up and get that VALVE open he screamed before leaving them to their task...

We were all SHOCKED as we watched him commandeer that passing tanker truck INSISTING that the cargo of DIESEL FUEL be used to douse the fire. At this point Lobb Lindford a rather portly gentleman who ran the radio station spoke up...I HOPE HE FAILS to get that DIESEL VALVE OPEN he barked into his phone, apparently broadcasting from the scene... When the new FIRE MARSHAL  heard that, he motioned to his CHIEF, who came over and started yelling about our lack of SUPPORT for the new fire marshal and telling us all it was TERRIBLE that Lobb, the DEFACTO head of our old VOLUNTEER department was standing there HOPING the FIRE MARSHAL would fail.  Oh, he then went on with a lot of accusations and rantings, pretty much unrelated to the FIRE AT HAND, about how Linford was our chief and how nobody liked him and how he was impeding the great fire fighting effort NOW in progress by SAYING on the radio that he hoped the  NEW FIREFIGHTERS failed to get that fuel tanker's cargo ON TO THAT FIRE.   Some of us couldnt believe what we were hearing...or seeing. 

The longer the fire burned the MORE the fire marshal talked with the news crew that stood there reporting from the scene.  I understood that for HIM this wasnt a fire, but a MEDIA event.  As his crews showed up,  ONE AFTER ANOTHER THEY LEFT for any list of reasons, mostly they said they were preparing their taxes and couldnt miss the deadline just a few hours away. Others simply QUIT after seeing the DIESEL tanker backed up with hoses leading to the fire.  I suppose they didnt mind the uniform and pay,  but when it came to putting THEIR fingerprints on the hose filled with FUEL, they wanted nothing of it.  Those that did stay were oblivious to what was about to take place.

Linford kept BROADCASTING on the radio from his pick-up about the scene that was unfolding, and even people who had voted to abolish the OLD department and HIRE these new PROFESSIONALS were gathering to see the fiasco unfold.  The CITY COUNCIL came and called a meeting on the Johnson's lawn.  They actually voted on whether there would be need MORE fuel tankers diverted help fight the "biggest fire" since Price's market burned down in the late 1930s (forgetting completely the explosion at the refinery in the late 70s.)  Soon after that the fire jumped to the NEXT houses...and the diesel fuel began to flow.

As he sat there in his shiny new car, cell phone to his ear, some of us began to drag our garden hoses toward the surrounding neighborhood homes and attach them but without a freely flowing HYDRANT LINE there wasnt enough water or pressure to really fight the fire. He got out of the car, and spoke to us every few minutes about how he would NOT ALLOW those houses to burn down.  Then stood before the local TV CREW smiling as if he were RUNNING FOR OFFICE, rather than as someone who ALREADY HAD THE JOB or even knew how to do it. 

The old chief was out of town but we old volunteers naturally gathered like friends at a bar. It didnt take long until we began to grumble about the lack of speed and expertise we were witnessing. We heard he had called for the NEW 800 thouasand dollar ladder truck but that it would be a couple HOURS until it arrived since it was at a maintence shop when the call came in. TWO HOURS? What good will that do?  some of us shouted...  It was as if he didn't hear a word we said.  He just went back over to the cameras, told everyone that this crisis could turn into a catastrophy,  then he jumped in his shiny new vehicle and FLEW down the street to the local deli like he was going to a fire.  When he returned, everyone was all abuzz over some claim by the NEW CHEIF that LINDFORD was the defacto Volunteer fire chief and that FLASH was responsible for this tragedy because he had approved turning off the water while new subdivisions connected to the lines...everyone knew that  Flash Michelson, the old chief wasnt that great, but we also knew that Lindford just ran the radio station as he had for the past 20 years... volunteered when there was a fire, and that WE hadnt needed a chief since the city had voted for a PROFESSIONAL fire department complete with a FIRE MARSHAL AND a NEW CHIEF.  When Lindford had said on the radio that he hoped the FIRE MARSHAL failed to get that fuel tanker valve open...mostly for his belief that spraying diesel fuel on the fire would do more harm than good...most folks understood, but some people will hear what they WANT to hear.

By the time the first pumper truck arrived on the scene the first house was fully in flames and three more had roof fires.  Just then Sally came up in her new car, got out, walked over and SPIT on Linford. HOW DARE YOU SAY YOU HOPE THE NEW GUYS FAIL?  she shouted.  She had been one of the most vocal advocates of a "REAL FIRE DEPARTMENT", mostly because they were building the new fire house on land she had sold them.  Alot of the towns people had benefitted from the decision to disband the volunteers and replace them with this new bunch. Why they even took over the AMBULANCE garage and were buying THREE more ambulances from Harv's local dealership.  He too, was standing there being interviewed by the TV station from the Capital, droning on and on about how the town LOVED the new vehicles and how necessary this CHANGE had been.

Unfortunately what should have been a two alarm fire had turned into a FIVE ALARM BLAZE even tho the CHIEF had not yet been unable to get that second fuel tanker valve open.  He had half the crew working on it and the city council had passed THREE emergency measures on Johnsons lawn in less than  15 minutes.  They had approved two new fire stations, six new trucks, four more ambulances and had determined to hire sixty more fire fighters thru JOB SERVICE...OH, and fix THREE city roads, two bridges, and build a railroad spur to the fairground. (not to mention funding five IMPORTANT recreation or arts programs that had never been important enough to fund on their own) 

I had to smile as one after another Small crews from surrounding cities arrived and their leadership stood before the camera shaking their head and testifying to how horrible this fire had been, how it was the perfect storm for all the difficulties that could NOT have possibly been overcome...all while an accellerant was beginning to be sprayed onto the houses.  The Wintertons whose house was now a pile of smoldering rubble stood by in shock that the fire had not been contained in the first few minutes, and worse that the new fire marshal had been so intent on putting that Diesel fuel on the flames... they had lost their entire life's work. 

Six other houses were still in diesel fueled flames, and when I could no longer watch...I got in my SUV and drove toward home, KNOWING that if something was not done the entire town would eventually go up in flames...HAVE YOU GOT THAT VALVE on that next tanker OPEN YET I heard someone yell as I drove past two FUEL tankers? You're DAMN RIGHT...someone shouted.....I recalled Linfords words as I drove away...and thot to myself..., I wish he had failed... 


Sunday, April 05, 2009

more of the same

Our timeshare week in Hilton Head started yesterday.  We weren't there.  The physician in the hospital where my son consented to go simply finished an examination and said that he would need a better operating room to do what was needed (small rural hospital, but nice) so yesterday they transferred him to St.Joseph/Candler in Savannah.  We made a trip to Reidsville where he began the day, then followed him to Savannah, then after treatment began we left for home.  Total of two hundred seventy four miles with two hospital visits between the miles.   Today, we were back in Savannah, his sister had come from Columbia SC to go with us to the hospital.  My son doesn't look good at all.  I hate to think what he would have looked like today if he hadn't gone at all.  At present they have him on what is almost intravenous lasix, and has a catheter, which he hates,  a lot. Tomorrow they begin to try to drain his abdominal cavity.  I am nervous.

When we got home, the toads (not frogs as a said last) had returned to the pool to copulate.  It was a fatal experience for some because they get in the pool more easily than they get out, so there was some re-netting, both for the live ones and the drowned ones.  Tomorrow we go to Hilton Head and what happens in the pool stays in the pool (like Vegas).  We decided to go to Hilton Head because it is actually closer to the Hospital than our home is.

I can't remember if I have an internet connection there or not, so this may be my last post till Saturday or Sunday.  Bye

(I actually started out to talk about politics, but right now, they are even more depressing than hospital visits.)

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Things flitting through my mind.  My oldest son is ill.  He has been ill for some time.   He has had trouble eating, has alternated between savage diahrea and constipation for days, and lately his abdomen has swollen to almost double its size (which is a pretty good size to begin with.)   I talked him into going to our family practitioner who examined him for a few minutes, took some blood, and gave him some lasix and told him to come back in a month.

I described this and his symptoms to a friend who is a semi retired physician, and he suggested that I try to get my son to go to a clinic where he works and get the son reevaluated.  At the clinic, he and the other Dr. there were very concerned and wanted him to be admitted to the hospital instantly.  He hemmed and hawed and said he'd check back in a day or two.  (He really was concerned that he doesn't have insurance and, at almost fifty, he doesn't want his parents-who have some of their own health problems- to have to support his hospitalization).  My friend, the doctor whispered in my ear that he may not have more that two of three weeks if he doesn't get treatment now.

We finally conned him into the hospital today, visited for a while and drove home through a hellatious  rainstorm, then after we got home I cancelled his car insurance for him (his car had celebrated the situation by throwing a rod, or some other part all around inside the engine, and it is old enough that repair was laughable) and went to see about another "minor" problem.  We had acquired  a new swimming pool (actually old, but new to us) with our new home.  The pump failed a few weeks ago so today I finally took the pump to the local pool company, who tut=tutted and suspected that the only hope was replacement.

I failed to mention that  without its pump the pool has turned into a green mess, with leaves, algae, and small critters taking up residence.  When we got home, after all the rain, the water in the pool had raised by almost six inches, but, along with the water we had acquired almost every frog within miles.  They were lined up on the pool steps and all around the edges of the pool to the degree that it looked like we had a frog farm .  We used the leaf net and scooped up at least a bushel of the darn things, which we took to the fence an tossed them over (We have a protected wetland right behind our yard, so except for inconvenience and interrupted mating rituals they suffered no damage.  I suspect that they will leave the creek behind the house and be back in the pool by morning.

It has been one of those days.