Well, after my last post I sat down to eat, felt uncomfortably full and retired to bed. I awoke feeling like a boa constrictor had wrapped around my chest, got out of bed, took a half dozen steps and collapsed. Another damn heart attack. So I’ve been stinted again, and I’m home, exhausted, sore and very glad to have how many days I’m given to love my family and appreciate life.
You know, I considered, while laying there in that clackety-clack hospital bed, (the new-fangled kind that shifts under you automatically, supposedly to prevent bed sores but gives a really creepy feeling if you’re cognizant and able to move yourself) why I really love genealogy so much when it’s those darn genetics that are a huge part of my health problems. Dratted ancestors. Did they all have to have peanut butter pipes for arteries?
Okay, truthfully, I have to lay more blame on my own choice of lifestyles, since I smoked from the age of 18 on. And being naturally thin and lanky, I never really worried about what I ate, gobbling buffet lines of fried foods, eggs, butter, cakes, pies, pizzas and pastas without considering what all that fat and cholesterol might be doing to my heart plumbing even if it wasn’t fattening me up. I enjoyed every damn delicious bite, too, so hold the sympathy. I’ve loved the hell outta life and I ain’t done yet, Jack.
All this means is that I am living a new kind of life now, and its one I intend to enjoy just as much – as soon as I can adapt to the taste of skim milk and egg beaters. They say its kind of an acquired taste – foods with no fats, I mean; and once used to “no fat” the old fat-filled foods taste bad. I hope to hell it happens soon, though because the “no fat” varieties of ice cream, for instance taste like crap. Soy meat tastes like crap. Skim milk tastes like whitened water. Someone said to me, try tofu, it tastes good and its great for you. I tried it and spat it out. I wanna ask my friend “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Food, of course, is an acquired taste for all of us. Cultural and personal choices made from early years on tend to accumulate in our brains as tastes we love and crave. My grandkids for instance think raw rolled oats cooked the old fashioned way tastes like crap. They want instant stuff with articial flavoring. Personally I think that stuff tastes like sweetened shredded cardboard.
Same with hamburgers – my grandkids want hamburgers from McDonald’s. When I grill a nice juicy thick hamburger they complain it doesn’t taste like McDee’s. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” I wanna ask.
It’s not just tastebuds that you have to fight if you truly want a healthier diet – its the pocketbook, too. Why is it that foods made with loads of artificial chemicals and a lot of energy intensive processing cost half as much as foods with no artificial chemicals, and far less processing? I’d like to get the heads of some big companies like Con Agra, and Sara Lee, and General Mills together and ask them “What is the hell is wrong with you?” Put the good foods and the bad on equal financial footing and hey- it’s all on you brother. Eat stupid and suffer the consequences. If you can afford the good food and eat the bad anyway I go back to my key phrase “What the hell is wrong with you?” (By the way – I put myself in this category). I wonder, though about young families with children who are struggling with every dime they make, and elderly or disabled on fixed incomes.
All this talk about food has me starving. I’m thinking of phoning in a Pizza Hut Supreme and having a dish of Rocky Road for dessert. After all that hospital blandola I’m due, right?
“What the hell is wrong with you?!”
Short poems are like pop-up windows that just appear from nowhere while I’m “surfing” life. Things just hit me and I dash off a quick line or two under my breath. Sometimes I even write them down. This morning it was cold and a fog drifted in off the Missouri River while the moon tried hard to shine through. Then I went cemetery hunting, photographing graves for Find-A-Grave online and I thought how for everything we hold important and do to “raise” ourselves – in the end we’re all the same. Finally, I had lunch and discovered that its almost time for a new pair of jeans.
The grass is as green and the sod as bedewed
No matter whose bones are providing the food.
A Bowl Full of Jelly
Isn’t it funny that meat
Or anything else that I eat
Turns up on my belly
In a bowl full of Jelly
That disguises my eyes from my feet.
It is called a Missouri Moon,
A butterscotch disc
Melting in the mist of morning
Are we living in a real Matrix? A simulated reality generated by some wacked out video game programmer in a higher universe? According to Konrad Zuse’s “Calculating Space”, it’s a possibility. Zuse, is not some science fiction novelist but a physicist who postulated the theory that life may just be one big program in 1970. This ‘digital physics’ theory still has proponents, including Seth Lloyd, one of the world’s leading physicists who proposed a modified theory of digital physics that attempts to reconcile it with quantum theory. Basically all the universe and all within are just bits of information, quantum particles that are either “on” or “off” to drastically simplify things, like bits in a program. The ‘Matrix’ movie series borrows much of its underlying premise from the theory. The difference is in the movie all those humans hanging in baggies – suggests that once humans were other than programs, while the theory suggests that basically that is all we are. God, as a programmer, is a more than a bit jarring, but at least that suggests the program has a direction and purpose – in reality the theory proposes no such direction. We are simply random, complex interactions of all information that exists, bytes that pass in the quantum night. I wonder what they call the game we live in up there in alternate universe land? Warcraft, Earth Version? Doom Too? Quake – Its Just a Game? Now, at least, I can quit worrying about my foibles and quirks – it’s just the way I’m programmed. And the kid that’s playing me? Boy did I get a dumbass!
Happy New Year!
It is officially 2009. It is the New Year which I celebrated by sucking snot all night. Midnight came and the ball went up at Times Square. Meanwhile, here Dan Jello’s nose wasn’t running – it was sprinting. He slept fitfully, he couldn’t breathe. I could hear him wheezing in his bassinet set up in the Lucretia’s room.
It sounded as if he was trying to drag a milk shake through a straw up his nose. By the time Times Square revelers were cheering 2009 in (and I was looking for Frankie and Jennie in the crowd but didn’t see them among the zillion revelers), Dan Jello’s nose was completely clogged. Lucretia got out the snot-sucker and assigned me the “hold im down” task. I am sure my nephew will be scarred by this, and probably hate me forever for immobilizing him as the snot-sucker is rammed up his nostrils. It looks like he has an onion sticking out of his nose. The trick is to squeeze the onion bulb first before putting it in the nose or else you might blow snot out of the baby’s eyeballs or something. Then release the bulb. It vacuums out a long, disgusting strand of thick goo. Dan Jello screams very well, even when sick. My ears hurt. I am not supposed to have to deal with this stuff anymore. I am reminded that I am old, I do not like screeches, squeals or prolonged noise for the sake of noise any longer. Lucretia repeats in his other nostril. Another gloopy gob of snot pops free. Surprisingly, Dan Jello snuggles up to me and quiets down. He sleeps. I sleep. At least until 1 am. Then 2. Then 3. So on and so forth, snot sucking on the hour. Lucretia sleeps. She has to work in the morning. I don’t wake her after the first snot-sucking. She will have many, many more nights like this ahead of her. I will have very few, if any more. In my mind there is some homily about the beauty of the small things in life. This morning came and I picked up a basket full of wadded Kleenex. Dan Jello is peaceful, his sinuses have been defeated in this battle and tiny guy’s defenses are regrouping as he sleeps.
I am taking this chance to write, listening for any gurgling from the other room that alerts me to the need to grab the trusty snot sucker plunger thing and deplumb my nephew again. His head is so small. How many pints of snot can it hold anyway? I am rather amazed.
New Years morning and I am sober. I am one of three or four people in town who are not retching in the New Year. Why do people find it so much fun to make themselves sick? Drunk watching is a fun sport, though. They are such idiots and, I smugly think, I used to be one of them. I survived. I still get idiotic once in a blue moon. Then people watch me and think smug things.
My house is a mess. How can one two year old and a baby upend the order of the universe so quickly? I forgot what it was like to have a wee one underfoot (literally). Lucretia and Renee think they are on vacation because they get to escape to work.
There is gurgling in the other room. I am being called.
The snot sucker is broken. I wonder if a turkey baster will work. I am not repeating my Wal-Mart nightmare to go get another one. I disassemble the snot sucker onion bulb thingy and clean it out and super glue it back together. Voila! It is working again. Dan Jello is plunged out like a tiny toilet bowl and is back asleep. I am still thinking the turkey baster might just work…but the bulb is awfully big. It might suction out his adenoids or something so I better not try. Besides I could never use it on another turkey in good conscience again.
I just fixed eggs and toast. Now I am full and I sit here listening through windows fogged with cold to boots crunching in snow, and the smooshing sound of car wheels plowing through slush, and the tinkle of icicles falling to the sidewalk from the eaves. My feet are dry from the forced air heat, they itch, I lotion them and think of tomatoes. Fat, red, juicy tomatoes, ripe from the vine, hot from the sun. For a moment it is July in my mind. I could eat a tomato from the icebox but it will have the cardboard taste of hothouse produce. Could I have a more unattainable thought on January 1st than garden grown tomatoes?
In Iraq the war drags on. It will rage forever as it has for two thousand years. As long as religion exists men will ignore its teachings and kill each other in its name. Over 3000 sons and daughters of America have already died and my son is at risk. I do not want to hate my country. I think I will if I lose one of my sons over this insanity. I saw Vietnam. We have traded a jungle for a desert. I watch the news daily looking for reports out of Iraq and Afghanistan. My son Jay goes to Kuwait in a couple weeks, he has already done a tour in Iraq. Now they send him back to the area. There are few things I can find nothing to laugh about but this war is that. I try to ignore it most of the time. Understand, I am a patriot. I served, my father served and my grandfather and great grandfathers, clear back to the revolution. My sons are the nth generation of Elledge men to have served in the Armed Forces. Right now I am sorry I ever encouraged them when they were young, or told them I expected them to do their part. I am also proud of them, for ignoring their parent’s fear and doing their duty anyway.
My sister is staying. Yee gads. We decided today she’d stay til around April. Her husband, Joey, is going to be in training until then(Army) and she wants to stay here rather than live alone with nobody to help with the kids. That means my niece and nephew are staying, too. My neice came in and descended upon me, all hugs and giggles and sniffs and snotting. She has a cold. She is a little faucet of phlegm. She hugs me tight and holds my ears and sneezes. I blink and she coughs. She is so adorable, I am thinking. “Cover your mouth, honey” I tell her. I cover her mouth for her, then she wipes her hand on my head. I am wondering if it is safe to wrap her in plastic. It is time to exercise my “Uncle and Grandfather” rights. I love nieces, nephews and grandchildren so much exactly because they are returnable.
I decided to take Ezzie, my niece to WalMart with me. I forgot it is New Year’s Eve. Saint Joseph has gone shopping (buying liquor for tonight or returning Christmas stuff they really didn’t want) and its 75,000 inhabitants are at Walmart. My sister and wife are the only people not at WalMart, and I realize that I am insane for coming here. Only “Black Friday” could possibly be busier.
I managed to wend my through the first few grocery aisles, darting around like Pacman when we are hemmed in by a crowd going nowhere. We are standing in the aisle, unmoving. We are not moving because the woman in front of us has quit moving. She is either studying a label very hard or else she has had a paralyzing stroke and cannot move. I am not sure. I have to pee very badly. The other side of the aisle is blocked by a large black lady in a wheelchair shopping cart. She cannot steer very well and has locked up her cart on a gondola full of baking supplies. She is reaching for pumpkin pie filling with one hand, cursing, and trying to steer the wheelchair free with the other hand. Her wheels are spinning. I have to pee very badly. Ezzie is crying. The paralyzed lady is still bent over the Sweet-n-Low boxes. The 37 people directly behind me are trying to go around. I cannot move. My cart is blocked on all sides. Shoppers at an impasse. I have to pee in that worse kind of way that only happens when you know you can’t get to a restroom.
Ezzie is still crying because we are not in the toy aisle which is where she wants to be. There is a traffic jam on aisle thirteen. Really. I hear that over the loudspeaker. There is also a special on Rotel and Velveeta in aisle 9. Now there is another traffic jam between me and the bathrooms. I do not care about groceries any longer. I want to go home. I want to reach the bathrooms up front. I want to move. I have to pee! I am not kidding, I really have to go! Finally I break free when wheelchair lady suddenly bounces off the gondola and shoots through the carts in front of her upending several Walmart shoppers in the process.
I ditch our cart in the center aisle, grab squawling li’l Ezzie from the seat and dart through the opening like a fullback following his lead block and head for the front of the store. I have abandoned the groceries as a futile exercise and am concentrating on the endzone – the Men’s Room! I get there while alternately squeezing my bladder and wiggling my knees together as I walk – rather odd looking but it works – when I remember I have Ezzie with me. I know she is only 2 but somehow the thought of holding her in one hand and whizzing with the other in a restroom full of men seeking similar relief is impossible. Wildly, I think for a moment of handing her to a clerk or a passing shopper or hanging her from her suspenders from the door knob but I know I can’t. I CAN’T. I have to pee and worse – I quit the kidney stopping exercises when I got near the goal line and now it is REALLY hard to hold on. Oh Lord. Help me hold it in. Please. I promise you – I’ll never take your name in vain again. Just keep me dry. Lend strength to my bladder. When you pray because you have to pee so bad you are definitely in trouble. Running to the car also helps. Rapping knees together while driving helps. Bouncing up and down on the seat while driving helps. I make it home, tossing Ezzie to Lucretia as I run past and enter a state of nirvana in the bathroom. Nothing quite has that feeling of blessed relief….
Dad painted our house one June when I was about 5 or 6. He painted it white, and it took several weeks, painstaking perfectionist that he was, all white, with green trim, and every inch free of runs and neatly cut in as if the paint was laid with a ruler. Then he resodded the front lawn but it rained and rained for days after he’d skinned the old grass and he had to put the sod on hold. Meanwhile there was this huge pile of mud in the yard, an irresistable chocolate earth playground. Soaked, squishy, mud pie packing and mudball rolling big ol’ pile of forbidden mud. Quite forbidden. Which made playing in it all the better.
Where or how I got my imagination I do not know, but I suspect it was a giant jape the angels played on my poor mother and father, because you know what I saw when I was six and looked out there at that giant heap of mucky clay? A pitcher’s mound. And I imagined I was the greatest hurler of all time…I WAS ……
“Nice arm, young fella,
Do you think you oughta stop now?”
Mailman Joe grinned at me.
No way, I thought, winding
Up and firing another juicy mudball.
I’m Joey Jay, after all,
Steely-eyed Redleg facing down
Those Brooklyn Birds – SPpla-at!
Try and hit my aloysius curveball
You pinstriped rat! 5 year old boys
Throw curveballs in their minds-
I had the best bender any ghost batter
Ever faced, even the mailman saw that.
I stood in drizzling mist, early June in ’59,
Proud and tall (tall in my own mind)
And blurred another mudder at the wall.
Someday, I thought, squatting to squish
Another dripping glob, Daddy will turn on
His radio and there I’ll be – chucking
Blazing fastballs – one and two and three!
Enthroned in favorite chair, beer in hand
Dad will yell “SHUT UP!” point at box,
“I want to hear my boy for once!”
The mudball kid, with his aloysius curve -
Granted audience with the Frightful Man!
(What really happened now)
When you’re 5, with accordioned socks
And everyone else in the world is tall,
You’ll get your frightful audience alright,
If you fire mudball strikes against your
House’s freshly white and painted walls.
Remember that old Art Linkletter Show and the books that followed? Every parent has those moments when their child says something so funny or embarrassing…last night was one of those moments…Ol’ Grandpockets was babysitting grandsons Nathan, Kordell, Payton and Kade so their Mamas could help Santa Claus at his local Wally World Workshop. It was getting late, around ten and Renee, my wife and a nurse, was in bed because she had a 5 am start for her shift. In an attempt to keep the boys occupied, edified and culturally educated we popped in that wonderfully educational Jackass 2 and when the laughter started getting too loud and raucous, Grandpockets put his foot down.
“Either quiet it down or I turn off your Sesame Street by Johnny Knoxville show” I growled, then repeated, then, well…shouted. Grandpockets has discovered his grandchildren are all nearly deaf because I have to yell before they hear me. The boys had finally quieted down when 7 year old Kade-alator mutters,
“Well, then we’ll all just sit here like monks and masturbate!”
Okay. When a child comes out with something like this, first I smack my ear to clear it from whatever caused me to hear wrong, then I ask for..ummm…clarification?
“What did you say? I asked. His older kith and kin were rolling around the floor, of course, howling with glee to rouse the dead – in this case, Renee from her sleep.
Kade-alator looked at me, baffled at all the laughter and worried because from Grandpockets look he knew he’d said something wrong.
“You know,” he explained, “like those Kung Fu dudes do, they sit around and masturbate.”
It was hopeless. I joined the other boys for a moment of uncontrolled laughter. Even Renee was laughing as she caught the tail end of things.
So what would you have done? Meditate on that for a moment….or maybe, take Kade-alator’s suggestion. Johnny Knoxville would.
Once a bunch of us kids went swimming at old man Goos’ farm pond near Loveland and I was wearing cutoff denims as swimming trunks. There was a girl I had a thing for there and her friends and her were swimming from one part of the bank and us boys from another, as if we’d all catch something if we swam too close together. We boys had a steep embankment to jump from, a good way to show off for the girls who were mainly sunbathing in the grass anyway. I suspect most of them weren’t there for swimming as much as to show off themselves and let us act the fool for them.
Naturally I obliged. I made a most spectacular half-twist and huge-splash running cannonball from the bank and hit the water a bit topsy turvy. Hit it hard, too. Enough to peel those baggy cutoffs clean down as the water filled em like a parachute catching air.
So now I am buck nekkid in cold water with an audience of giggling girls who have already seen my shorts surface several feet away from me. Far enough away in fact that rotten Melody Barnes, who I shan’t forget as long as I live, plucked them from the shallows and made for the hills, so to speak.
Now I can swim. But in the matter of how long I can tread water I was soon to find out because those rotten girls weren’t about to tender up my shorts to me. My so called friends, rusty Randy and runny nose little Nick Gabbard were laughing and not about to help, either. So there I was and might have remained treading water to this day because I am sure Melody was not going to leave before I clambered out nekkid…and cold…and smallll…when I was rescued by old Farmer Goos coming up the track hollering at us dang kids and cursing us good.
He was an old German and had a colorful vernacular. Everyone disappeared hither skither about as fast as a bunch of rabbits busting out of a grass clump and Old man Goos come barreling around the bend before I could get out of there.
“What the hail in tarnation”..then he saw the shorts abandoned on the spot whence the girls had fled.
“Caught ye with yer pants down, din’t ee?” He cackled. “Hoo boy had I un camera boy…”
I dog paddled to the side opposite him and was ankles up in pond muck wondering if I could make it home without being seen. I’m fast I’m thinking but probably not that fast…
The old farmer turned, his striped coveralls hanging off his sweaty longjohn tops as he put his hand in his pocket and pulled put his kerchief.
“Come on out boy…I ainta lookin..betcha that..”
He made a lot of moaning sounds which shivered me more than the cold as I swam for the exit closest my shorts. I dashed out and grabbed em on, kinda hopping one legged and turned for a last look before I beat it pell mell outta there. He was laughing, I realized, not moaning, holding his sides crying, he was laughing so hard.
So you see, I had many less than dextrous moments as a young man enthralled with but vexed and stymied by the fairer sex.