Gloom Versus Spasms

Today is a glorious sunny and cold December day, and we are making electricity. We just passed three days of gloom. How gloomy? Let me tell you how gloomy. Gloomy is when all of your light activated night lites turn on in the middle of the day. No joke that’s how dark it was. Then, to make my life more interesting I am living through the after effects of a minimally invasive procedure. Which involves a catheter and an unknown unheard of phenomenon called spasms. I’ve lived through some tough health problems in my lifetime but these spasms are the worst. I never know how to answer a medical person’s question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is no pain, and ten is unbearable-excruciating pain, what level are you experiencing?” This time, my answer is that when a spasm occurs it is a bonafide 10. Thankfully, a spasm probably doesn’t last longer than 10-20 seconds, but it feels like a day. I think I have come close to child bearing pain. It is amazing that there are nine billion people in the world if the women have to bear that level of hardship.

If I had to choose between a month of gloomy days and three days of spasms, I’d choose the gloom. Over the last four score and four years I’ve experienced as many gloomy November and December days as God gave us, and I’m still here to talk about it. The only thing I will remember about these last three days are the spasms. The funny thing about my brain is that it likes to instantly remember the lousy things that happen, and push the happy, joyful things deeper into the abyss of memories. When I think about my two wives I never think about how we fell in love, or all the beautiful places we saw and the friends we made, I think about how much they suffered during their final years. Why is that? I have to consciously raise a memory of a particular trip or event to have happy thoughts, but gloomy, sad events immediately come to mind.

Happiness and sadness are very similar to positivity and negativity. We are programmed from birth to go negative automatically with our parents always telling us “no.” How many times did you hear something positive about your actions? The ratio is 100 negative to one positive. I was raised like that. As an adult I had to learn the benefits of positive thinking, and then train myself to become positive. At this age I feel I am very positive, but I often find myself reverting to the negative side of the situation. Just like these past days with the minimally invasive procedure, I should be thinking of all the easy times I will have during urination, but all I can focus on is bearing up to the “spasmodic TEN.”

My urologist has hinted that this healing process may take as long as three months. That is how long I have to continue the medication that did the job for the past ten years. I believe that if I did a payback analysis on this personal improvement it will come back with “not worth it.”

Wind In My Face

I sit here wondering what I will write about as Lovely and I just returned from a late morning walk and are tuckered out. The wind is out of the south and very strong. Yahoo weather claims it to be between 19-21 mph. Yes, that is strong. I remember the days when I still rode a bicycle to commute and on the way home from work I faced a south wind that often stopped me dead. Even though I have granny gears to climb steep hills they sometimes aren’t enough to ride head first into a stiff wind. God forbid I have to restart when the wind is that strong. Starting into the wind becomes downright impossible, and many times I turned around to start with the wind at my back and then made a U-turn to return to the direction I needed to go. Balancing a bike when riding into that strong wind is a lot like walking a tight rope, progress is slow and wildly unsteady.

The gusts this morning hit hard enough to stop us from moving forward. I told Lovely to walk behind me so I would break the wind for her. Thank goodness it is only three blocks to the Old Plank Road Trail which is flanked by trees and the wind is cut off. We finished our 1.5 mile walk in thirty-five minutes and were glad to enter into the quiet stillness of our home.

Lovely always complains about the wind. This morning the only conversation she braved was to ask me to move to a place where there is no wind. “It doesn’t exist” I told her. Even in places that are warm during the winter months there is always wind. I remember once coming out of a movie house in Peoria, Arizona during early afternoon, and the sky was beige. It kind of looked like fog, but it was sand. Visibility was limited and there was stinging in our eyes. It wasn’t pretty.

As a ten year old kid, my cousin Joe, who was a lot older than me, and who had kids that were the same age as me, telling us a story of one of his cross country driving trips to California. He described traveling in a desert sand storm so violent that the visibility was only a few feet. There were no places to stop to rest, he had to keep moving. When the storm finally finished the paint on his car was gone and the engine needed an overhaul. I couldn’t imagine such a fury. Dad didn’t drive further than Michigan. That afternoon coming out of the theater I recalled Joe’s story and finally believed every word.

A Wordy Post About Stuff

One problem with writing a post everyday is finding themes. In that regard I admire Daniel Greenfield who writes for his blog called Sultan of Knish. He posts several times a week and each time it is an academic essay on some aspect of politics or world affairs. His posts are between 1200 and 3200 words each time. On the other hand, when I am in good form I will post about three times a week and average about 600 words. Lately, my posts are about four times a month, and I am having difficulty thinking of stuff to write about.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone labels me racist again, because when Obama was president he did so many things I disagreed with that I couldn’t stop writing negatively about him. When Trump was president, I didn’t want to fan the fires of those who were against him because the press didn’t need any help from me. Biden on the other hand hasn’t done anything I like, and I believe he is destroying the country. Biden is making Obama look like an amateur when it comes to stupid policies and stupid governance. I don’t want to waste my time repeating what the daily news is already doing. Besides sleepy Joe is an old timer like me, and I won’t pick on someone who can’t help himself because his brain has stopped functioning. There is nothing sadder in life than watching a person who was a fireball while younger, and who has lost it to Alzheimer’s. I saw what happened with my wife, and it is truly saddening that so many people end their time on earth by slowly losing their memory to the point where they forget how to breath.

One memory invoked by Sleepy Joe is the era of Jimmy Carter when inflation kept rising and the Federal Reserve couldn’t do anything but raise interest rates to 16%. It was a great time for people with cash who could buy Certificates of Deposit earning a 16% return for a five year period. They advanced the size of their savings dramatically. The high interest rate eventually worked, and the economy adjusted so the rates began to drop, and about the time the 16% CD’s matured the rates were back to a paltry 3%. So for anyone looking at how long this pain will last history says it will be at least five years after the current rates rise to 16%.

For the past twelve years we have enjoyed an economy that was operating on free money. Loans were down to the low 3.0% range and that allowed many people to buy the house of their dreams. Those who had cash in the bank were sadly only making 0.1 % on their savings. Most people invested in stocks to make decent money. My retirement has been happy because of the earnings I have received, but I’m not so sure I will be happy moving forward as the economy begins to falter. My advisor continues to admonish me to look at the long run, and not the short term. Excuse me, but just how much longer do I have? Ten minutes, ten days, ten months, ten years? I worry that my paltry portfolio will not be strong enough to keep me going for the duration.

Last week I went into a McAllister’s deli for a sandwich($20 for a cup of soup and a six inch sandwich), and I swear the lady who took my order was older than me. I had a vision of me behind the counter making sandwiches, and that is not appealing. I’d rather spend my time standing in the middle of busy intersection dodging traffic with a bucket in my shaky hand collecting money for my Lions club.

In the good old days everyone was a farmer who worked until he died. It was only after the industrial revolution, and the Great Depression that people began looking at work as a forty-five year duration. Pensions, vacation, and medical insurance all became perks for workers. These benefits were being offered by companies desperate for help. With Trump’s economy we saw a huge shortage of help, but I didn’t see anyone offering huge new benefits to lure workers to their factories. About the most extreme benefit I saw was the work from home model which came because of Covid. Let’s hope things get better sooner than later.

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Something I Can Do

” I have a project for you, she said.

“Oh, and what might that be?” Then she handed me a cute little jewelry box clad in white open to reveal a pendant meant to hang around the neck. There chain was gone, but the lacey looking silver pendant of an antique design with a cluster of emerald green stones moved around loosely among three loose stones. It was apparent that the three stones belonged in the center of the metal frame. I had immediately suspected I would have to reset the stones using tweezers and a eye loop. “Just glue them back in,” she said.

“I can do that,” I replied. That is when my new found career as an amateur jeweler came into being.

In my job I regularly used a microscope to look for product defects. Using a scope is not foreign to me and moving things around under the scope with tweezers is something I have developed dexterity to do. The real question is could I make a living doing jewelry repair?

An October Day

The view from my office window is simple, a beautiful sunny day, with an azure blue sky and a few wispy clouds. The temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit which requires a light jacket to endure. The trees around the neighborhood are holding their leaves and providing us with an array of yellows, reds, orange and some green. It is a beautiful fall day, one to behold and cherish. In the year 1961 this was the eve of my wedding. The actual wedding day was a carbon copy of today. The milestone matched the day, beautiful, exciting, refreshing, and eventful.

I kept busy on this day, washing and waxing my Volkswagen Bug in readiness for the great escape following our wedding. I hid the bug in my Mother-in-law’s garage so my groomsmen wouldn’t get any ideas about bedecking the little runt of a car with tails of dangling tin cans and white ‘Just Married’ signs painted on the windows. These acts of love were often carried out by friends of the groom in a show of endearment and jocularity. Our plan was to be chauffeured all day by Gene, my wife’s cousin, in his massive Cadillac. All I had to do was show up at the church which I did in plenty of time. Amazingly, I do not remember how I got there.

Barbara was of Polish heritage and I of Hungarian we decided to get married in her church which was heavily attended by Polish people. To appease my mother, I asked father Joe Adams, a priest from my parish Our Lady Of Hungary to officiate. To this day, I never understood my mother’s animosity towards any nationality not Hungarian. Mother never accepted Barbara until after our first child was born. At that point she must have figured that if she can’t beat her she would join her. We had a very happy family for the entirety of our years together.

Our wedding party was held at the American Legion hall in the town of Summit at 57th and Harlem. Chicago was on the east side of Harlem and the Legion hall on the west. This location was but a couple of miles from Barb’s home. It was ten miles from my family and friends. We hired Bill Kenny, the brother of Barb’s Aunt Frances to play for us. His repertoire was all Polish music. Needless to say we danced the Polka all evening. The food was cooked by a Polish lady, a friend of my mother-in-law, it was Polish faire. Right there are two reasons my Mother didn’t like me to marry outside my ethnicity. She survived, as did all the other Hungarian friends that attended. A few years earlier when my brother Bill married, Mom got to be the ultimate Hungarian hostess, so she was batting 500 between the two of us. Bill married a girl he met while serving in the army in Germany. She came to America to get married. After they were married here, they returned to Germany and married there too. Both mothers got to deliver their best.

I had called a motel in Chicago to book a room for our wedding night. The reservationist insisted that I was booking Saturday, and I persisted that we were arriving on early Sunday morning. That was my first lesson in booking hotel rooms. We got to the motel at three a.m. to learn that we did not have a room. They played my game and booked me for Sunday which in their world is includes Sunday night. I was wrong and they were right, I should have booked a room for Saturday which would have included Saturday night. After a considerable amount of time arguing who was right and who was wrong they relented and gave us their honeymoon suite for the night with our promise that we would move into a regular room the next day. I’ll skip the boring details of our activities of the next couple of days.

On Monday we fired up the Bug and headed for Miami, Florida. We landed in Indianapolis, Indiana in time for dinner. Barb used her iron to freshen her dress and that is how I learned that many hotels have only DC current. She burned out her iron, but her dress was wrinkle free that evening.

Along the way we stopped to tour a cavern along the Tennessee-Georgia border. It was another first for the both of us. We enjoyed seeing stalactites and stalagmites although we took a lot of shit from the tour guide once we let on that we were honeymooning. Eventually, we crossed the border into Florida and stopped at St. Augustine for a couple of days. We lived the uniqueness of the city. Old by US standards having been established in the 1600’s. There is a competition between St Augustine, Florida and Santa Fe, New Mexico for the title of first city in North America. I don’t think there are too many people that visit both towns since they are so far apart so the guides in each town make the claim and people go along thinking they know the truth. The truth is that the Spanish established Santa Fe first.

Eventually we landed in Fort Lauderdale. After a couple of days looking around we found a flyer advertising a three day trip to Nassau, Bahamas. We bit, and booked the tour. Another first for the trip, a flight in a DC3. It was noisy as hell but the trip only took 45 minutes. We fell in love with Nassau immediately. This was long before I knew what a passport was and didn’t know for many years after, as none were required. The unique thing about Nassau was that everyone spoke the King’s English. Coming from Chicago we were familiar with blacks and seeing blacks was not strange, what was strange was to hear them speak perfect English with a British accent. Twenty-five years later we returned to Nassau to find that the blacks had dropped the British accent and English in favor of Ebonics.

Our time in Nassau was unforgettable and a topic for another post. When our plane landed in Fort Lauderdale we found our car packed and ready to leave for home. I made a big mistake in navigation and instead of back tracking the way we came I routed our trip westward toward the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to visit New Orleans. On the map it looked doable, but it is clearly five hundred miles longer going that way. We crossed Alligator Alley toward Fort Meyers and turned north along the Gulf coast. The drive could best be described as driving through jungle. Lots of tall palm trees and dense foliage along both sides of the road. Small town dotted the road sides and gave us views of the gulf. Occasionally, we stopped at a white sand beach to take pictures.

By the time we rolled into New Orleans I was tired of driving. It was dark and busy with traffic on very old and narrow streets. I got lost making four circles around the city until I finally found a corner that was the key to exit. I have never returned to New Orleans since. We found a motel north of town, and collapsed. The next morning we got a good start, and drove straight through to Chicago, my second mistake of the return. The drive took twenty-nine hours. I’ve never done anything so stupid again. Thank God we arrived home safely in time to go to work the next day.