Sunday, February 26, 2006


I've been battling all weekend with the computer. And Comcast broadband. Now I'm back on dialup, until Thursday, when a tech can come out and do mysterious things to my modem. Meanwhile, the keyboard only wants to work here and there.

Which all put me in a crappy frame of mind.


It's come to my attention that there's a whole subset of blogdom called Crapblogging.

Not everyone appreciates this earthy form of humor. Some, in fact, can't tolerate it at all.

Others live and die by it. They even have contests for the best poop stories and stuff. Recently, Acidman won, and was declared Crapmaster, or King of Crap, or something. It really was a very funny story. You can read it here:

Then there's folks like me. Not at all a connoisseur, but certainly a sincere part-time appreciator.

This one here? It's up among the funniest I've ever read.

Maybe - besides satisfying my need to hear about other crappy situations today - maybe this story appeals to the do-it-yourselfer in me. You know. The one who has some friction with my town's Permit Department sometimes?

Anyway - If crapblogging is up YOUR alley - enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Severed Male Body Part Brought To Local Store

Not ANOTHER one!

Feb 24, 2006 11:38 am US/Eastern

Police: Man Fled With Severed Body Part

Bob Allen


McKeesport Police say they are now checking surveillance video to get a picture of the man who allegedly asked a clerk to heat up a severed male body part in a microwave at a local convenience store.

McKeesport Police say a man walked into the store, located on Fifth Avenue, and asked the clerk to use the microwave oven.

After the clerk noticed a strange smell coming from the microwave, she told police she opened the door and discovered human male genitalia wrapped in a paper towel cooking inside.

McKeesport police told KDKA the man fled with the severed body part after she made the discovery. She then called the police.

According to police, blood was found on the bathroom floor.

Some people were shocked at the news.

“I mean what can you say. Hopefully, they’re looking for the person who it belongs to,” said Sandy Furman of McKeesport.

One man told KDKA he wasn’t surprised by what happened.

"I think that's the one they ought to look for - the one who may be hurt," said Denny Adler, of McKeesport. "It's shocking that I'm not (surprised). It's just the nature of the beast."

Authorities are now trying to find the man who fled the store.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Now, here's the kicker:

Feb 24, 2006 4:32 pm US/Eastern

McKeesport Police Uncover Twist In Bizarre Case

(KDKA) McKeesport

There’s a new twist in an extremely bizzare story out of McKeesport.

Police had been investigating a report that a customer handed a clerk a severed penis to heat up in the store’s microwave.

Investigators have since learned that it was not a real body part; but instead, it was part of a couple’s alleged plan to pass a drug test.

According to McKeesport’s police chief, a man and a woman had inserted urine into a fake penis that the woman was planning to use to pass a drug test.

One of them then went into the store and asked the clerk to microwave the object, which they had wrapped in a paper towel, so the urine could reach body temperature.

When the clerk noticed an unusual odor, she unwrapped the item to discover what she thought was a severed body part.

“Hands down the most bizarre. I’ve never come across anything like this before,” said Chief Joe Pero.

Upon hearing media reports about the incident, the couple contacted police to explain the situation.

The couple could face charges of harassment, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

Giant Eagle, the company that owns Get-Go, says the microwave involved in the incident was immediately removed from service and will be discarded.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Another Odd Florida Neighbor Murder

You see? This stuff just keeps happening down here. Check it out:
Police: Man Angry About Slamming Door Killed Neighbor

POSTED: 7:30 am EST February 23, 2006
UPDATED: 12:53 pm EST February 24, 2006

BELLEVIEW, Fla. -- It's an unusual motive for murder. Investigators in Belleview said slamming the door drove a man to kill his next-door neighbor in Marion County.

Investigators believe Betty Shepperd was murdered over something that sounds extremely trivial. They said 45-year-old Vito Loiacono was irritated that Shepperd was slamming the door at night and waking him up.

The two allegedly argued earlier in the day and then Shepperd's friend said she got a strange phone call from someone else in the complex.

"[The person] said, 'The reason I'm calling you is I saw Vito coming out of Betty's apartment.' I said, 'That can't be,'" said Shepperd's friend, Maria Folks.

Folks went to Shepperd's apartment and found her in the bathroom, where she had been stabbed to death.

"I found the door ajar. I started yelling, 'Betty! Betty!'"

Other neighbors told police they saw Loiacono carrying a plastic bag behind the building. Investigators found the bag with a knife and bloody clothes inside and arrested him.

Now one of Shepperd's closest friends is stunned by her death and what apparently led to it.

"She didn't do nothing to that man," Folks said. "She got along with everybody."

Loiacono is in the Marion County jail charged with first-degree murder.

Copyright 2006 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Man Angry About Slamming Door Allegedly Kills Neighbor

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A Life in the Day

I'm sort of taking a week off of my medical duties. Except for the dentist, and some rx refills, and a prescription pickup three towns away, and a couple of medical appointments I need to make...

And, dealing with the day's current health issues. See, the reason I decided to approach this as a full-time job - which not all disabilities are - is because it has issues to address every single day, and those issues change all the time. For that reason, I can't make a standard, unchanging plan of action. It's always a series of decision trees, it's this complicated multi-branching adapting thing, and the day's decision tree course isn't often repeated.

So, lately, I've been remembering how to work with the Zanaflex muscle relaxers under time-pressure physical activity.

Hurricane cleanup, outside, is the task at hand. I have rescue plants I must plant before they die. The tree pollen is out in force, meaning I'll steadily get sicker and weaker until next December. I'll probably be mostly housebound in another few weeks, and may not come out again until May or June. That may only be for a few weeks, then weeds and grasses send me back inside until winter comes again. Every year the pollen patterns are somewhat different, but they follow a general path each season.

So I have things I really want to do, and only a short period of time to do them.

Working around crippling pain.

I'm steady on the Fentanyl patches, that's continuous, non-stop. But when I do the heavy labor I love to do, the work that keeps me happy and strong, it cranks the pain up way high.

I'm supposed to take a 4 mg Zanaflex 4 times a day. That's a lot. It makes me sleepy and dizzy. The doc said, Try taking 2 at night, and then breaking up the remaining 2 to use throughout the day.

That works. Now, as long as I'm not driving, I break the tab into halves or quarters. I don't take these crumbs until just before I do the labor. If I come inside for a break, and I'm spasming, I wait until just before I go outside again before I take the next crumb. This way, for whatever reason, I don't get sleepy from the med, and the pain relief works.

The other major issue of the day was my strange temperature sense. I believe this comes from the blister attacks, this "fever sickness." Working in the sun can trigger cold sores, so it surely could trigger the same germ if you have it from head to toe, right? And I've been getting pretty bad blood blisters in my mouth, which tells me it's really active right now. Blisters. Blister attack is under way. From the sun or not, it doesn't matter.

One of the odd effects is that I have no idea how hot it is. I can't take cold, for maybe four or five reasons. But only the fever sickness makes me insensitive to heat.

Today it was 85 out, and I barely broke a sweat. This, when I was hauling wheelbarrows full of compost and plants, and pruning the bejesus out of the glorybower, and digging up shoots from the ground... When I came inside, I didn't have the A/C on. All day. The thermostat went up to 90 degrees. But my hands and feet felt like ice.

The butter was almost melted in its container. The poor cat was so hot he was laying on the terrazzo floor to stay cool, instead of his nice comfy pillow or my office chair. Old bones don't like hard floors.

It didn't really matter much, as far as things to do, except I had to remember to drink a lot of fluids. I usually do that without thinking, going through at least a gallon a day, but when I'm insensitive to heat, I don't feel the need. Even when I should.

I've never posted these details before because I actually just don't think about them much. My approach is to set up a sort of management plan - which does require thought and attention - and then, just follow those guidelines so I don't have to be thinking about it all the time. My health issues, unfortunately, bore me.

If they bore you too - sorry. Believe me, I leave almost all of it out.

Yet when I do, people don't understand why I do the things I do. Some poor misguided idiots think I'm goofing off here, doing strange things just to amuse myself. I have an extremely good reason for everything I do. Just because you don't know what I'm doing, doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing.

Other people, purely innocently, don't know what a life like this is like. They don't understand that I can't just walk around in a store like normal people do. I'm lame in both feet; most of my joints and connective tissues are diseased; a lot of my nervous system is too; I'm immunocompromised from steroids, so I'm way too susceptible to illness from contact with the public; I carry at least two, maybe three, serious infectious agents; and I'm extraordinarily allergic, with the asthma and sinusitis and itching and blocked ears and such that goes hand-in-hand. It's exhausting.

To go to the doctor means I scrub with surgical soap (Hibiclens) from head to toe first. I don't ever want to infect anyone else again. Got a cancellation, want to fit me in sooner? I'd love to come, but it can't be in the afternoon because the pollen and chemical allergens (e.g., gases released from sun-baked asphalt) are much worse as the day goes on. Mornings only.

I usually need to know a day ahead of time, minimum, so I can take extra and/or different antihistamines to protect me from people who wear perfume to the doctor's office. Or who wash their clothes in Tide. Not to mention the pollen, car exhaust, outdoor cigarette smoke, any new carpeting or furniture at the doctor's office, their cleaning products, so-called *air fresheners,* mold they don't bother killing because they use *air fresheners,* trying to use a public bathroom with all of the above crammed in it plus scented soap, hair spray, nail polish, more perfume, scented deodorant...You get the idea.

I also have to stop most physical activity for a day before an appointment. Otherwise, I'm too weak and tired to drive safely. Or, to communicate once I see the doc.

When it's bad, I can't talk very well. Questions are especially hard: my mind goes blank.

Here's what happened one fine day.

I went to get my monthly bloods done. I was especially sick and had some extra labs to do so I really had to go. Had to drive myself that day, no one to help. And I had to go there fasting.

The pollen was terrible. I was braindead when I walked inside and went to the receptionist.

She asked me what my name was.

I couldn't remember.

I went blank. So blank, I couldn't even think of how to tell her I didn't remember my name just now. I could not make words.

She asked me again.

Panic. Panic. Don't cry. Don't.

She looked at me. Officious. And then - miraculously! - saw what was happening, and calmly said: Got a driver's license for me?


She read my name out loud to me. So I would know it, too. See?

I could have kissed her. She knew. She knew. And she took care of it without embarrassing me the tiniest bit.

I'm usually very conscientious about driving. That sick, a person shouldn't drive. It's not right. I'll leave my car in the parking lot, and call a friend or family or a cab to take me home. We can go get the car later.

But that day, I was both alone and broke. I drove home. I feel guilty to this day. I try to forgive myself but it's hard sometimes.

It struck me today, doing comments on another blog, that not everyone gets that I don't have anything approaching a normal life. Just saying, *I lack function*, doesn't get the message across to total strangers. Of course not, how could it?

So I thought I better spell it out, here and there. I need to remember that dealing with this strange hermit life is a big part of why I blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I Love the Smell of Bricks in the Morning

So, off to the back yard I am! Ta.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Man Charged With Killing Roommate Over Toilet Tissue

I haven't been discussing the news much lately. But this one, I just couldn't resist.

People do a lot of strange things here in Florida.

Most everyone I know has had, sometime, somewhere, Toilet Tissue Issues.

But this is the first time I've ever heard of someone killing their roommate over toilet paper.

Here's the link. The full story follows.

Man Charged With Killing Roommate Over Toilet Tissue

POSTED: 12:00 pm EST February 20, 2006
UPDATED: 11:15 am EST February 21, 2006

MARION COUNTY, Fla. -- A man has been arrested for fatally beating his roommate with a sledgehammer and a claw hammer because there was no toilet tissue in the home, authorities said.

Franklin Paul Crow, 56, has been charged Monday with homicide for the death of Kenneth Matthews, 58, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Crow told investigators that the men were fighting over the weekend about the toilet tissue when Matthews pulled out a rifle. Crow said he then began beating Matthews with the sledgehammer and claw hammer, according to an affidavit.
Capt. Thomas Bibb said Crow initially denied his involvement with the crime, but confessed when questioned.

Matthews was beaten so badly he had to be identified through his fingerprints, detectives said.

Crow was being held at the Marion County jail without bond. It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another Chamber of Commerce Day

'Scuse this, all you Northerners. Don't get mad. I paid my dues.

Now, at 6:45 - sunset time - it's 74 degrees. Humidity's only 76%, not sticky. 63 tonight, 82 tomorrow, which is around where it was today. Sunshine pouring down on us, all day.

And oh I feel GOOD.

It took this long for me to warm back up from that cold spell. But I finally got there. Today I was full of energy and went to work on the back yard.

That's the first picture. Those dark red flowers along the fence? That's a glorybower. Great name, huh? Every butterfly and hummingbird in the neighborhood comes to visit it. Glorybower can get out of control and annoy people, but I never mind it one bit. It's worth it. My neighbors on either side have some butterfly attractors too. All day long the butterflies just stream by. They visit next door, then make their way across my back yard, finally fly over the fence...I call it Butterfly Central.

Maybe one reason I'm such a happy person is because it's really hard to stay anxious and depressed when you can sit outside in the sunshine and watch the butterflies go by. It might only be for a few minutes, but those minutes are gold. In the times when I'm too sick to do much - even too sick to go outside, when the pollen's bad - still, I can almost always bliss out on those butterflies.

And the birds and lizards and bees and little snakes and squirrels and possums and coons and all o' that.

Well. I can admire that glorybower all I want, but the fact remains, the back yard's a huge mess. The hurricane mess in the front yard gravitated toward the back. So the front's reasonably tidy now - not ANYTHING like FINISHED, okay? but it'll hold. Time to do the back.

So until I have the "after" pics, that's all you get to see of the back yard for now.

I worked. I blissed out. I got all dirty. I sweated. See the white marks on my shirt and boxers? Salt, from sweating. And l hardly drew any blood at all today, only one of my little boo-boos bled worth noticing.

The orchid tree, bare naked for several weeks after the hurricane, is completely covered with lush new branches and leaves. And, yes, with flowers.

They have this delicate heavenly scent. Petals like satin.

It's so very good to be alive.
Posted by Picasa The flowering vine on the fence is a glorybower.

The stuff in front of it is my back yard mess. Y'all don't have to look at that part.
Posted by PicasaThe orchid tree, blooming again.
Posted by Picasa It's such a profuse bloomer. Look at all the buds coming out on one small part of one branch.
Posted by Picasa These aren't actually orchids. They just look like orchids. A lot of people think they're orchids, though.

I like little horticultural jokes.
Posted by Picasa This is in the front yard, on the walkway that leads into the fern forest. The purple flowers are on what's left of the bougainvillea. The white flowers are another kind of glorybower (clerodendrum), called Bleeding Heart - heart shaped white flowers with little red bits on the bottom, so it looks like the last drop of red from a heart that's bled dry. The blue flowers on the lower right are ruellia.

Boo-Boo Alert! Don't Like Blood? then look away!

Posted by Picasa When I work I get very dirty. Fine by me. I also tend to drip blood. It happens so much I just ignore it.

Wash it all up at the end of the day.
Posted by Picasa I sweat a lot when I work outside, too. Also fine by me. Most people down here do. It may be the humidity. When I do physical work in desert conditions, I stay perfectly dry.

The white marks on my t-shirt and shorts are the salt left behind from the sweat.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Worst is Over

It's 10:30 PM and it's still 68 degrees out there. I'm still shut up in the house, but tomorrow I have a doc visit, and I know I'll be okay to go outside. I was better enough today that I even got some house clearing done. I feel better. I had some function again.

My Big Gun pain control, after the anti-inflammatories, high dose muscle relaxers, Doxepin, and vitamin supplements, is 50 mg Fentanyl patches. What happened the last few days is what I used to call a *pain attack.* Relying on oxycodone for something like that just doesn't do it. The med wears off in a few hours. You wake up at night in a terrible condition, and during the day you can feel it fluctuate on you, and then you try to wait a little too long, not wanting to over-medicate and get in all kinds of trouble, living here in Florida...

The patches last for 3 days. Well, not really, but hey. Close enough. I know very well what I would have felt without them. I am grateful.

So thank you, all powers that be, for keeping me out of that abyss this week. And then - for making it warm again.

Oh, I can't wait to go outside again. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Big Chill

Last night it was 41 degrees in Ft. Lauderdale.

I don't know if it set a record. But it sure was unusual, and the coldest air I've felt in many years.

I cranked the heat. I piled blankets on the bed: two beat-up old small hospital blankets that are amazingly warm, a *regular* type one, and then my Big Gun. That's a huge blue thermal-type thing. I folded it over, making it double-thick.

And slept and slept and slept.

I was just warm enough, under those covers. But when I got out, I was not.

For one thing, I still have broken windows from the hurricane, and my jalousie windows on the back door are all out of whack from some kind of damage and wood swelling. They slide down and open up big gaps. The cold air is pouring in.

So is pollen, by the way. My carefully filtered air has been breached since October 24, 2005, and without assistance from FEMA, or getting my insurance checks released, I don't have the funds to repair it all. This really impacts my health. Because of an incompetent FEMA inspector, I am much sicker and in much more pain than I would be otherwise.

I'm not just bitching for its own sake, folks. I can deal with it. What I'm doing here is making this point, one that I've made before and will again: Incompetence isn't just annoying. It's harmful.

This cold-pain is nearly unbearable. I'd forgotten how that particular pain feels, it's been just one of those dim nightmare-memories most of us have buried in the archives of our brains.

I'm useless.

I've done all I can for now. Nothing else to do but ride it out. Can't work on clearing up the house, hurts way too much. At least I can sit at the computer, that's nice. And take plenty of hot baths. Pet the cat.

This afternoon, I turned off the heat for a couple of hours, as the sun warmed us up a bit. Someone came pounding on the door. Those who know me - and know how I sleep and rest so much - would never bang on the door that loud. Or do so two times! ?? I opened 'er up.

And there stood FEMA. An Official FEMA Re-Inspector.

Well well well.

I hobbled to the car and got out my canes. But we didn't walk the property. Just sat on the front porch and talked.

I told him how happy I was to see him. I gave him a good earful about FEMA Dave. He told me a lot of the things that Dave said weren't covered under FEMA, actually should have been - just as I thought.

I told him about the trees blocking the front door and threatening to come down on us, clearly a safety hazard. But FEMA Dave didn't want to see the pictures. The chainsawing guys took them down without payment, but wouldn't finish the back yard mess till they were paid, and of course not! Why should they? They're supposed to work for free forever? They were very good to me.

I told him about my unreplaced and/or unboarded windows, medical costs unreimbursed, how dangerous untreated MRSA is. Showed him the foot, the scars everywhere, and explained how I constantly reinfect myself, so those minor glass cuts were a much worse problem than they might seem.

And explained how I'd already infected both Sylvia and Walter, back before I knew any better. How Sylvia had to spend five terrible days in the hospital, sick beyond words, and get a 6-hour operation to save her arm, because she was kind enough to clean my house for free - when I was in the hospital in danger of losing my foot. She handled my bedding. Even though I'd been in the hospital for a good week, she got infected from that bedding.

When the FEMA Re-Inspector presented his form for me to sign, and offered me a pen, I said, Excuse me, I use my own, I left my pen inside, let me get it.

Stopped him in his tracks.

He asked: It's that contagious?

Sure, from contact. Not airborne.

He decided he'd do just fine without any signature at all. Oh --! I don't mind, I can grab my pen in one sec, really --!

No, no, that's okay!, he says, backing away from me to his car. Quicker and quicker. Crawfishing.

heh heh!

Usually it's only medical personnel who do that around me. You know. Tell 'em what you've got, and they all take a Giant Step Backwards in unison?

Poor guy. I'm glad I'd already thanked him for his patience listening to my gripes, and that I wouldn't want his job for anything. He was very nice and said he didn't mind at all.

He told me to submit an appeal, even though I probably missed the deadline. I think that deadline was yesterday. I thought it was President's Day, and that FEMA would be closed. Besides...I really wasn't up to it. I spent all my *health* time lately on a backlog of medical appointments, and Lord it wears me out.

So yeah, I'll do that appeal. If nothing else, FEMA needs to hear about Dave. Clearly he wasn't following guidelines. Maybe we can keep him away from some other poor hurricane-smashed folks in the future. I can take this stuff a hell of a lot better than many other people I've been talking to. When your life comes crashing around your head like that, the last thing you need is a dumb, rude, foolish, ignorant, cold-hearted bigot telling you how you shouldn't get any help, and how disgusting we all are to him.


The more I think about it...


This here is a heart-warming thought.


FEMA Dave is toast.

Hey, Dave? Listen:

What you do comes back to you.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Innocent as a Cat Toy

Livey's cat, The Little Prince, got totally zonked out from his trip to the vet. (Don't worry, he's better now.) Horrabin suggested tossing a scrunched-up empty cigarette pack as a toy to perk him up.

My cat April was so big on those crumpled up soft packs it was a real problem when I finally quit smoking. I had to *borrow* empties from my smoking friends, so April could play. She loved them so much she'd *fetch,* she'd bring them back to me to toss again, over and over, keeping it up for hours sometimes.

I'd pretend to toss it but fake her out. She'd take off like a rocket, then slam on the brakes - WHERE? WHERE?!? whip her head back and forth then turn and give me a Look, figure it out, come ambling back with her eyes half closed in feigned scorn -- who'd I think *I* was fooling, huh? -- get all happy again just from the noise I'd make scrunching the pack, but still this time keep an eye on my hand as I tossed the toy! - and go skittering and sliding as it ricochet'd around. She'd bat it about, slide, skip...poke at it, careen around after it, catch up again, POUNCE, glare at it -- take THAT! haha! -- and grab it up in her teeth, head and tail held proud and high -- and bring it back to me, mincing her paws. She'd stand there thinking a minute...then gently bend her head down and drop it delicately at my feet.

She was 19 years old when she died in my arms. I buried her with her toys. I couldn't find any crumpled cigarette packs. So I went to Publix and bought a pack. I had to go to two or three places before I found my old brand. That was important.

I was trembling, shaking like a leaf from head to toe, silent tears rolling down my face. Tried and tried and finally gave the smokes themselves away before I left the parking lot. I didn't want the temptation, even though it had been years since I quit.

And then, I made it home. I made it, and crumpled up that cigarette pack and buried it with her.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hurricane Blizzard

I'm sitting here huddled inside against the cold. Of course it's nothing like they're having in the NE right now, but hey. It's all relative.

Watching the weather news on cable TV, I see how this nor'easter formed an eye, just like a hurricane. The wind gusts are approaching hurricane force, too.

Hope LMA's ok. This may be her first experience with serious snow - if Washington, DC gets it hard, anyway. New York, Boston, they're getting eaten alive.

Don't think I don't know snow. After living in sunny Southern California until age seven, I finished growing up in the Far North Suburbs of Chicagoland. I was there during the three record-breaking winters at the end of the 1970's. In fact, one of those winters, I spent most of my working time outside. I could tell you snow and ice and way-below-zero cold stories all day and all night and not run out.

I really, really, really hate that stuff. Those people have my heart, today.

What we're having here is bad enough. It's in the 50's. Sure, I still feel it. Worse, in some ways. Between the cold air pouring in the imperfect seals and the hurricane-broken windows, and the hideously expensive HVAC heat, it's zonking me out.

Maybe it's some sort of cold-weather flashback.

Some of those people would probably be traumatized by a hurricane. Since I love hurricanes, that's hard for me to understand. (I mean, leaving out death and destruction horrors like Katrina killing New Orleans.)

An old friend, JP, sometimes tells me, Yeah, but all that cold and snow made you tough, didn't it?

Nope. I already was tough. Still am. The cold didn't do that for me. It only made me run away to somewhere warm, like any sensible person would do.

And I'll do the sensible thing now, too: shut off the budget-eating HVAC, curl up in my nice warm bed, and take a nap with my cat.

'nite, all

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hair Fetish

A certain neighbor, a good-looking college guy, just got his hair cut.

Like a lot of college students, he's pretty broke. A little money goes a long way.

So he turned his haircut into an economic endeavor. He made $60 by cutting his hair.

Did you sell it? I asked, curious. Real human hair doesn't sell for what it used to.


He was paid $60 for a video of his hair being cut.

The reason? Hair fetishists.

I kid you not.

k's bun is composed of hair that's around 44" long. Extremely thick, fine, very slightly wavy, multi-colored, streaked, shiny, luxuriant hair. Where everything else about k has become decrepit and unhealthy, one thing remains to her: this really is special hair.

k's broke, too.


BabyCat's Latrines: Seek and Ye Shall Find

My cat is 21 years old.

Now, that's a very old cat. The vet tells me cat years in human years are approximately this: 10 years the first year of the cat's life, then 5 years after that.

So my guy would be around 110 years old, in human terms.

Like a lot of older gentlemen, his kidneys and prostate aren't in such great shape any more. He gets pee issues.

He drinks loads of water. Then he wants to go - but he can't.

This never fails to surprise him.

We keep two indoor boxes for him, and have a cat door to the outside. In Florida, especially the central and southern parts, we have sand for our dirt. For a cat, this is great. One big giant natural outdoor litterbox. And this particular cat has always been a rather fussy, tidy-minded guy. He constructs nice neat holes, covered up afterward with attention to detail.

So imagine his confusion when he carefully prepares his little latrine - and it doesn't work.

I watch him at this exercise in the back yard. He'll dig his hole, squat, wait - patience all over his face - wait some more - look puzzled - stand up, turn around, check the hole, and...NOTHING THERE!

Hmmmm. He sniffs around. Thinks a while. Looks around - is there some pee-stealing entity causing this condition? Nope, doesn't see anything.


That hole he dug just plain didn't work.

So he goes to dig another one.

Digs. Squats. Waits. Checks it.


Two broken holes in a row?!

Now, this is getting strange. He looks around again for the Pee Stealing Conspirators.

Doesn't see any.

Thinks awhile.

Well. Another latrine Out of Order. That's life. Got to try again in a different spot.

Okay, he decides. I can do that.

He hunts and hunts for a Working Latrine plot of land.

Sometimes this goes on for 10 or more tries.

Finally! The search is rewarded with a hole that actually works. Yay! He pees about a gallon into it, then carefully and respectfully covers it back up. You don't want to dis the only working latrine in the whole back yard. Might jinx your next try.

And holds his dignified old head up, and comes back inside for a well-earned nap.

All that latrine construction can tire a guy out.

Two Dog Night

The weatherman says it's going to be a two dog night tonight.

That's because it'll hit a bone-chilling 47 degrees.

He should know better. He's from the Midwest, years back.

That ain't nuthin but a one cat night.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I LOVE my dentist.

I have the best dentist in the world.

He said I could put in his name, so here it is: Dr. Joseph Imbriale, in Coral Springs, FL.

It's not just him. It's how he chose his whole staff and office, too. They're just a happy, good bunch of people. It's a comfortable place to go. Welcoming. Safe. So cozy it makes me want to stop by on my errands, just to stick my head in the door and say, Hi!

To a dental phobe like me, that makes all the difference in the world.

When I first started seeing him in the early 1990's, I'd just moved back to Florida from Louisiana. Newly disabled, broke, ill, and unsure of how to work around my disability, I was also determined not to fall behind on dental care.

It's not a small point. Teeth are really important. Got a heart defect, like my mitral valve prolapse? Keep your teeth professionally cleaned and cared for. You'll live longer. Literally.

Dr. Imbriale never once made me feel like I was asking too much with all the special needs I have for super-clean air. Never made me feel like he thought I was some crazy nut, either. Ever. The first time we did a bond-type filling, I had a sensitivity reaction to the chemical before it hardened. My whole airway spasmed. Scary. This guy thinks quick. He got a suction tube to suck the tainted air out so I could breathe again. I will never forget this. And after that, he'd set up to do it that way from the beginning, so I could get my nice metal-free fillings.

More yet: He has always, unfailingly, been completely and absolutely patient with my dental phobia.

The only way I can get dental work done is with nitrous oxide and extra novacaine. I didn't learn this until a couple years ago, but fibromyalgia patients have way extra pain nerves, to go along with our brains being hard-wired to feel pain so intensely. In PET scans, our brains light up in a whole different place than *normal* people in response to pain stimulus.

This research wasn't done yet, back in the early '90's. But Dr. Imbriale could tell I had *aberrant nerves,* and knew how to go about numbing me in places that most people don't even have nerves to numb. No other dentist had done this for me before. It worked.

I also have post traumatic stress disorder. This is mostly from non-dental experiences, but dental ones too. Horrible things happened to me at other dentist's offices, like injuries from slipped tools that needed stitches, oh I won't go into all that on THIS post. Terrible stuff. And PTSD has a way of popping up inappropriately. It used to happen with me at his office sometimes. And again, he understood, and never once lost patience with me.

Want more? I have *arthritis* in my gums. Okay, they call it something else, I forget the name. But the ligament in your gums - the part that connects gum to teeth - gets inflamed from the inflammatory disease I have. And God above, that hurts.

Better yet? I have extremely sensitive teeth. Getting them cleaned can have me climbing the walls in pain. Not just *pain* - there's something about that gum line tooth scraping that is just absolutely totally creepy and horrid. Oh.

Suffice it to say: I was a white-knuckle patient. This, in the presence of the one dentist who never ever EVER gave me reason to go white knuckle.

Like that Billy Joel song - *I am an innocent man!* And here my dentist goes paying the price for something he never did wrong.

He's got marine life pix on the walls - dolphins, here. Talk about soothing. He has a boat, so he comes by his love of dolphins honestly. Want music? Got music. Just my kind for relaxing, too.

He uses that topical anesthetic before the needle.

Everyone in there gets along very well, cracking jokes and doing their work, so there's never any feeling of interpersonal tension in the air.

His assistant is smart and nice and very good, intent on doing an exceptional job. A lot of other workers could learn a lesson from her on that count.

I was embarrassed about my teeth, this visit. Very. When I say we had it rough the last three years, here's one place it showed. And dental care has a very high priority in my budget. I'll go without food to keep my teeth healthy.

But what did he say? --Oh, look, that's really not bad at all!


not to mention---

HA! (not BAD?!? I don't think so.)

He says this to a patient who's been walking around for like six months with a tooth that's broken and crumbling away to a nub.

Either he's that nice, or some other people out there have worse teeth than I thought.

Okay. Obviously that broken one needs a crown. But the other one that was hurting? A big ol' cavity UNDER a crown. It went so far down into the gum he pulled out all this odd-looking equipment I'd never seen before, in order to get in there. But he did it. He got the job done. And now, I won't need a root canal.

See, on top of everything else? He's the best dentist I've ever had. By far. His work is superb. His fillings never fall out. He fits your dental work in perfectly so your teeth don't bump and hurt. He knows how to shape them so if you had a spacing problem, where you couldn't fit the floss in, or where food would get stuck, he can correct it. When he does special type fillings, he shapes them like an artist. Just extraordinary.

If you have a piece of floss or food stuck in a gum or tooth? Come on in and he'll take it out for free. He doesn't want his patients to stop flossing for fear of those little shreds we sometimes get.

He doesn't BS you about expensive gum disease treatments if you don't need them.

Your tooth is broke and so are you? Talk to him. Chances are real good y'all can work something out.

It's been a long time since I had any white knuckles over there.

Great dentistry is one of those supposedly *little* things in life that aren't actually little at all.

Mr. Handyman and a Nice Lady at the IRS

The last Estimator has come and gone. He was from a place called Mr. Handyman, and I like the company, and feel comfortable with this guy, too. Of course, you never know until the work is actually done. But most of this is just insurance company stuff anyway. We'll get paid for the actual damages, then decide what to fix, and what not to fix, and how much we think we can do ourselves.

Here's what we'll do so far: He'll schedule a come-back time to fix the remaining plumbing problems, and the rest of the hurricane repairs will be estimated, not performed. So I'll submit a receipt for the completed handyman work to Citizen's, and an estimate for the rest.

Good thing, too. I can barely scrape up enough to pay for the plumbing repairs.

BUT! I already got an email confirmation that my e-filed taxes (well, Walter's that is) were accepted. They say the refund should hit the bank account in two weeks.

In the past, they've always beaten that estimate. First they said six weeks, last year three weeks, now it's two.

In order to e-file, you have to provide your last year's AGI as verification that you are who you say you are. Computer challenged k thought she printed out last year's 1040, last year. Not. I pulled it out to get the AGI, and saw that the printer ran off the page - so the lines were printed correctly on the left (eg. it said the *salary, wages, etc* bit just fine ) - but the numbers were left off.


I called the IRS. Now remember, these are Walter's taxes not mine. We're not married any more, he's my ex-husband. Sometimes this makes people not want to discuss Walter's private information with me. (silly people!)

So I have an IRS power of attorney on file there - I forget the form number - but could they find it? No. I had a jackass on the phone: Can't I fax you folks a copy of this Florida Durable Continuing Power of Attorney? It's the most all-encompassing POA there is, surely it's good enough, even for the IRS. Okay, he says, fax to this number, to my attention, and I'll call you back.

He never did.

Walter was asleep, so I had to wait until morning to ask HIM to call the IRS.

He told me the nice lady was very careful. She didn't just want his SSN. Who did he work for in 2004? Who holds our mortgage? Stuff like that. Finally satisfied, she gave him the number.

I liked that. Walter too. On stuff like this, I WANT them to be very careful who they give this private information out to.

Now, me, I had left the almost-completed e-file 1040 up on my computer screen all night. Then I went off to the dentist in the morning. I talked to Walter in the waiting room and asked him to please get me that AGI asap, I sure did want to file for that refund, the sooner you tell me the sooner we get the money! - making one of the other patients, hearing me on the cell phone, crack up. So Walter called me back as I sat in the dentist's chair, sucking down nitrous oxide, waiting for the novacaine to take effect. I wrote the AGI down on my little paper dentist bib. And giggled.

I LOVE my dentist.

And then I went to Sam's, and the bank, and finally home. Where the e-file form was still up on the screen, yay! I plugged in the number and filed.

So satisfied with myself, I am!

***smug*** ***smug*** ***smug***


Tuesday, February 07, 2006


There! Walter's taxes are e-filed. A nice little sum should be hitting the bank account in a few weeks.

Tomorrow, the last estimator comes: Handyman Repairs. Then I do my pics and cover letter and gathering of receipts, and file the Supp.

Soon, I can rest.

For now, I'm going to bed. I'm wiped.

A Better Negative

This time, I'm really glad.

Both the stomach biopsy and the polyp came back totally benign. No cancer, no bacteria. Nothing.

The extensive inflammation is probably from all the meds and all the post-nasal drip - all on a low intake of food.

I've been told post-nasal drip can be seriously corrosive. It causes nausea, all sorts of acid-related problems. Being a hyper-secretor - a nice way of saying I make way more goop than the law allows - I'm probably a hyper-corroder too, huh?

I don't know if this is enough to explain the gut pains, I'll have to wait for my confab with the gastro doc to hear. Surely it's enough to explain a lot of it, though.

Good. Good good GOOD!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Does YOUR Pee Glow in the Dark?

It used to be, when I got injected with radioactive dye for a medical test, they handed me a warning about the radioactive stuff getting excreted in urine, so take extra good cleanliness precautions.

Translation: Wash your hands real good after peeing, cause now you got pee that glows in the dark.

I didn't get those warnings the last couple of times - not for the foot studies just before Christmas, or the stress test yesterday.


Did protocol change? Or it's some different type of dye these days?

Last night after a good long pee I quick turned off all the lights and looked long and hard into the toilet.

No glow.

There never is.

Which always makes me feel a little bit ripped off.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Double Doctor Day, Part One

On Friday, I had two important doctor visits.

Here's why I say, Dealing with these multiple health issues is more complicated than it looks.

The first appointment was at 7 am. Stress test, completely fasting since midnight. That's tricky right there: fasting usually means I have to leave the house without taking my morning meds.

Synthroid can wait. But without Prednisone, Benadryl, and guaifenesin, I leave the house less protected against allergies and congestion.

Going without anti-inflammatories means more pain; same for Protonix, because stomach acid eats me alive. Without acyclovir (anti-viral for the disseminated HSV-1), the fever-sickness spikes. No Prozac or Xanax leaves me subject to those big fast biochemical changes that produce things like panic attacks. Neurotransmitters can be profoundly and immediately impacted by an allergic response.

So fasting for tests and procedures isn't my favorite thing to do.

The stress test team at my wonderful cardiologist's is a sweet, expert, hard-working bunch. Excellent teamwork. Each doctor in the practice has their own Stress Test day, where they line up their patients that need the test, and process us one by one as the doc pays close attention to it all. My doc's day is Fridays.

They got an IV in me on the first try. I always thank 'em for that. This one took a little digging and repositioning and shoving around, but hey, it was still one stick, and it held. They wrapped it up good and tight when they were done.

They plastered a whole bunch of leads on me next. The glues are a lot less allergenic these days, but still, they'll often leave a circular red allergic rash for weeks afterward. Colorful.

Now: Go in that waiting room, drink a full cup of water, and wait.

Ok. No problem.

Until the next patient in line walked in. She looked like a perfectly nice lady.

But she was absolutely reeking of a hugely sickening perfume.

Now, I'm not talking about personal taste here. I'm allergic to lots of stuff that I really love. God, I had to go an entire year without garlic once. That's one of the few times I cried, when I saw what that garlic skin test did. 1994, that was.

The perfume thing has actually gotten better the last year or so. So I wasn't really prepared for this like I used to be. I'd left my pesticide mask in the car. You know, the NIOSH kind, with the canisters? I really hate wearing that thing in public. It makes you look like a giant bug.

The second she walked in the door I knew what was about to happen. I held my breath, gathered up my canes and bag, finished my water - still holding my breath - and hobbled out the door as quick as I could.

I nearly passed out before I could sit far enough away to breathe.

I could feel my face doing that thing Walter notices - I still don't know what this looks like, because the people who see it can never really describe it very well. It means trouble. I got cold clammy sweat, and dizzy and unbalanced. Shaky. And that horrible emotional hit that brings me from perfectly calm and cheerful to viciously depressed and tearful and afraid in the space of a minute or two.

These are not what many people would consider symptoms of an allergy attack. But that's exactly what they are.

I tried to call one of the team over and explain what happened. This is hard. I can't talk very well during these episodes. I can't think straight and the words don't come out. I wanted to tell them, Get me away from that person, please, please, and don't make me go home, I don't want to reschedule. Please finish this test somewhere away from her, don't put me in the same room or make me walk by that door again, ok?

It was really difficult to make them understand. I can't fault them a bit, of course. They got me a chair right away, sat me farther away, but weren't sure what I meant about the rest of it, or how urgent it was. They offered me a surgical mask. That's useless. But it was a good thought.

I think they must have talked to the cardiologist. She knows all about it. At my appointment a few weeks ago, my first heart check-up for a couple years (scold scold), she didn't recognize me without the mask. She was THRILLED to see me without it, kept saying how great I looked. Ha! This is what I get for feeling so smug.

They solved the rest of the problem by keeping the perfume lady out of the testing rooms I'd be in until mine were all done. Get me out asap, and home to my safe air.

What a relief.

So. After the drink of water and a little wait, you get a series of pictures of your heart. They show what your heart looks like at rest. You lie down on a narrow bed, and this camera assembly over you moves slowly around your heart, from right to left, taking pictures from different angles.

Then you get stressed.

Since I can't walk much, I don't do the treadmill. Instead, they put this drug in your IV that makes your heart race. They push some in, watch the monitors, push some more, till your pulse and blood pressure are high enough. They were aiming for a 147 pulse.

Once there, they inject a radioactive dye, a "tracer," in your IV. Since your heart is kicking and pounding, it pushes the tracer into areas that will show what your heart looked like while it raced.

Neat trick, huh?

Back you go for more pix, and you're all done.

I'd asked them to please ask the perfume lady, nicely, not to wear perfume to a medical office. See, lots of times, there's sick people there. Perfume isn't good for them. Even if they aren't allergic they may have emphysema or something. This is not a date.

But I don't know if they did.
Posted by Picasa The big thing on the left, hanging over the bed, is actually a camera. It slowly rotates over you, taking pictures of your heart.

Times like these I'm really glad I don't have claustrophobia.
Posted by Picasa They dim the lights for the pix. Looks like something out of the Munsters, huh?
Posted by Picasa My hands don't always look this awful.

The middle joints on the first two fingers got huge red swellings a week ago. The rheumatologist thinks it's infectious. The dermatologist thinks it's arthritis. So do I, but I won't place a bet. The big lumps aren't showing much in this pic, they're on the left side of the knuckles.

There's a big swollen area toward the outside of the hand, below the pinkie. A big vein shows. That's from an IV a week before Christmas. It got infiltrated and spasmed. I can't use the pinkie, the tendon is affected from fingertip to mid-forearm. It was so huge and red for a while that I ran off to the ID doctor, worried I had MRSA in the tendon sheath again. But no. Just a spasm. For six weeks now. Does it hurt? Like a sonuvabitch. My right hand is nearly useless.

I tell phlebotomists, --I know everyone says this, but I'm a hard stick. Don't even think about using the arm, there's nothing there for you. The hand veins usually work but they'll roll, shrink, collapse, spasm, and try to dive under the nearest muscle or tendon or bone. And say horrible curse words at you, too. Just ignore that. Tell 'em who's boss.

OTOH: If I say Stop, then stop.

I almost never do. But if I do, and they don't, they're fired. I politely but adamantly ask for someone else. Brick wall time.
Posted by Picasa The tech who did the IV and the pix regaled us with the tale of last night's excellent rice and beans. Me, I think that's one of life's underrated meals, on both taste and nutrition. But it takes an exceptional cook to make them so outstanding that people go back for way more. He said he couldn't have a girlfriend who wasn't a great cook. Dealbreaker.

Being Disabled is a Full Time Job

Being disabled, sometimes I fall down on the job.

musKEEEEETOES?!? in THIS weather?!? :-O !!!

I canNOT believe this.

It's 65 frigid degrees out there. My hands and feet are numb. How in the WORLD can any self-respecting mosquito be flying around biting people in this cold? They should be SLEEPING. That's what all the lizards and snakes and most of the butterflies and stuff are doing.

So wtf is Florida's state bird doing swooping around sucking people's blood on a day like this?


Ah. I get it.

These must be TOURIST mosquitoes.


(heh heh snowbirds, state bird, get it?)

They idiots think this is WARM.

--All right. You're not welcome here today. Go away. Go back up north where you came from. Go bite Livey and leave me alone.

mosquitoes, on a day like this!



It's only 65 degrees out there!

Another VICIOUS cold snap!

And here I wanted to go out and work in the yard.

I had already decided to skip the usual Sunday morning nefarious business, time to give it a small rest.

But I do need to hit the back yard cleanup. I have a WHOLE lot of empty pots to sort out and stack. Plants to plant, cuttings to root. You know.

Okay. If it can't take the blue boxers I'll give up, come back in and efile Walter's taxes. I HATE wearing long pants.

Here I go. If y'all don't hear back from me by an hour after sunset, send out a hypothermia search team, ok?

Cable TV

For around three years now, we've been living on a shoestring. A very, very tight one.

We'd lost a small business - very small - that we owned and ran. Walter started it in 1997, shipping new furniture to customers out of state who bought things here in Florida. I say *We* but it was mostly Walter, of course. I'm not much of a furniture deliverer!

I did the books, what there was, and called customers to schedule deliveries. Even that took a lot out of my limited functional time, my little bits of relative *health.* I wasn't any part of the business when Walter started it, but that's how it worked out. I didn't like it, but hey, shit happens.

We'd survived terrible business losses from 9/11, and downsized, and after a year or so we'd finally built our orders back up. But in times of economic uncertainty, the first thing sensible people do is to stop unnecessary spending. Like buying a whole new furniture set for the vacation home.

And who can blame them? They're doing the right thing. Spending your family's money that way would be irresponsible.

When a certain news item hit the media, our shipping orders dropped from around 20 per week to 1 per week in the space of 10 days. If I remember right, this was around August, 2002.

I do remember, with perfect clarity, the news that put a screeching halt to that type of discretionary spending: We were going to war with Iraq.

We tried to hang on through Christmas, our busy season, especially since we still had a chance to sell the business for a pretty good sum. We were trying. But on December 19, 2002, Walter was at the tail end of one of those big multi-vehicle collisions, out on the Long Island Expressway. Not his fault, but that didn't change a thing. Our last significant asset, a big rig, was totaled. Walter was - astonishingly - ok, just bruised up a lot. Emotionally, it was very hard on us both.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Walter made it home in time for Christmas. We liquidated the business as best we could, and didn't file bankruptcy. But the insurance money and other proceeds still didn't nearly cover all the business debts we'd personally guaranteed.

So we've been drowning in debt ever since.

Walter drives for a big firm now. Me, I'm still on disability, and always will be; I'll keep getting worse from here on out. Then Walter was on Worker's Comp for 15 months. He'd had a shoulder injury that needed surgery. So less income there, while my own medical expenses go up and up.

He's back at work now, thank God. Just in time for this new Medicare D to wipe us out again financially. We'll be sort of ok on the rx costs for a few more months, then it'll hit the fan.

And last summer we had this awful series of hardships, one after another after another...just awful. They kept coming like the hurricanes, in waves off the ocean, washing over us, like they would never stop.

The last one from the summer - I don't want to jinx this here by supposing the troubles may be over for a bit - anyway, that was Hurricane Wilma. When the trees fell on the house, and everything else.

I'm pretty calm about this sort of thing. I don't know why. All I can say is I'm glad I am. I was alive and had food and some water, and the house still stood. I couldn't get to an emergency room, but I had all I needed to home-doctor my minor wounds. Walter was on his way home, bearing gifts like water, bleach, charcoal, gasoline, and his strong and smiling self. I knew we would make it through.

Now, we have the first of three insurance checks we'll be getting for hurricane damage. It's small but it's very good to have. A second check is being held hostage by the mortgage company over some computer-type idiocy. It'll kick loose one of these days. The third check will come after I file the supplemental claim, the one for the furniture and so forth, as opposed to damages to the building that the adjustor filed directly. The *supp* is almost done, too.

It looks like it'll actually be enough to make a dent in all that debt.

I do a 6-mvonth budget, and we live by that sucker. Mr. Budget. For three years, we've lived on so very little, pouring all our funds into making payments. We cut everything off or out that we could. Including cable TV.

The goal was to refinance the house. But when we finally applied, our credit was still shot. We'd been rehabbing and renegotiating debt for so long, years really. We were one point - one - below the minimum credit score the mortgage holder required to approve the refi. With a couple month's good work we could bring it up enough to refinance and pay everyone off.

Then one of those setbacks hit. We emptied our bank accounts to help out family. In the process, we missed making some payments, and lost all chance of getting the mortgage refinanced. And I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, even knowing what I know now. I bet you would too.


Here I was, a couple weeks ago now, sitting right here where I'm sitting today, looking over that budget. I'm allocating the insurance proceeds towards debt payoffs. I could see something else there too. I could see that even if that third check isn't so hot, we can do one thing for ourselves that will really improve our lives. It'll cost about $50 more per month, net. $50. We can do that.

I ordered up cable TV.

We haven't had cable TV for three years.

For someone who's chronically ill, sometimes bedridden, who loves to read but is sometimes too sick to even do that - even if you're not a TV fan, maybe you can see that cable TV can make a difference in that sick person's quality of life.

I never watched much broadcast TV when I had cable. I live a simple life, not a lot of possessions or expensive hobbies. When I was younger and working I blew money on college tuition and travel, but that's about it.

I did usually get basic cable, so I could watch things like Court TV and Discovery and science shows and the History Channel and The Weather Channel. I love The Weather Channel. Hey, I'm a gardener.

I'm also a blogger.

I want a faster internet.

So we got cable, and also broadband. We can shut down the second land line, which is skyrocketing in cost here in Florida. All told, we'll end up paying around $50 more per month than before.

But lord God. What a difference in my life.

I installed the new modem yesterday.

Me. All by myself. (almost!)

Me, the technophobe.

And now some things are gonna change.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hurricane Phone

Hurricane Wilma hit us on October 24, 2005.

All modern services went out. Electricity, water, land line telephones, and cell phones. Most of this stayed unfixed for a long time.

Two weeks later, some of our regular land line phone service was finally restored. We have two lines. One's the *house phone,* the other for computer-fax-etc. This is partly due to this little shipping business Walter and I used to own. Since I could only do any business management from home, we made sure to keep the home and business stuff separate.

Anyway, when BellSouth was restored, only the computer line worked. The house line was still dead.

We called them in. The phone guy worked on the part of the line from the pole to the house. The signal was clearer, but still no house phone. He did some more stuff, said it was fixed, and left.

But what happened was this: Now the house phone worked but the computer line didn't. So we called again right away and he came back.

He tried to blame it on Walter, saying Walter'd messed with the lines during that one hour the phone guy was gone. I knew this wasn't true because I was there.

We could have gotten pretty pissed off. But you see, that phone guy was clearly under enormous stress. I mean, he was half-crazed. Wild-eyed. Many of these workers down here were, how could they not be? The phone guy was really upset about having so many customers without phone service of any kind. What if they have to call 911? he kept saying. So it was obvious to me that his stress was actually because he cared too much. Not the other way around.

He worked on the lines again. Now we were back where we started. The house line was dead but the computer line worked.

He said the only remaining problem was in the wire that ran from the connector box on our back wall into the house itself. This becomes *inside wire maintenance.* Since we didn't pay that little monthly charge, he couldn't fix it on BellSouth's dime. And we, of course, were worse than broke.

We didn't necessarily agree with his diagnosis. But we talked about it and decided just to let it go for now. We had one land line working - not very well, but working - and our cell phones worked again. So we wanted him to go off and hook up those folks who had nothing. Mattered to us, too.

About ten days ago I called BellSouth again.

I told them the poor phone guy from the earlier visits was stressed crazy, clearly because he just wanted to hook up people who desperately needed phone service restored. I told BellSouth I could never fault him for caring too much. But I did need the other line back, and it was time. Also, could they please credit us for the cost of the dead line we couldn't use for three months? And I just wasn't convinced it was an *inside wire maintenance* thing.

It was obviously hurricane damage, because it worked fine before Wilma. Maybe water damage. Long ago, someone had put a splice in the line from the connector box into the house. Redneck style, that *inside* line ran on the outside of the house, under the eaves, but in an almost exposed position. A place where it shouldn't have been put. If BellSouth did that, maybe they should fix it? If not, could the tech please give us a written estimate for the cost to fix it, so I could send it to the hurricane insurance company - the only way we could afford to pay for the repair?

To my absolute astonishment, she did this:
--Credited back the charges for the dead line
--Gave us a complete *inside* replacement line and one new jack, at NO CHARGE
--Would make sure both lines worked before the phone guy ever left.

We suddenly went from being overdue on our phone bill, to having a credit balance.

I've never heard of BellSouth giving up payment on an installation they can charge for. Never.

I thanked her, profusely. I asked, Why?

She said: because I was the most patient, polite, and understanding hurricane-hit customer she'd ever talked to. Or heard about. Bar none. She was gonna tell all her co-workers. So the guy was stressed. Well what about the customers? We had at least as much *right* to act out as he did.

I was amazed. I mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

She said this was a two-step thing. First, in a couple of days someone would go over the line from the pole to the house. Next, an installer would come put in the new line and jack. But she couldn't schedule Step Two for a week. So very, very sorry! was it ok?

--Well sure! I don't mind. We've waited all this time already, I was used to it. And certainly a nice new line and jack, for free, was worth waiting for.

He came. He fixed it. He left.

He was the same guy who came out in the first place!

And he was a much different person this time. Calm and professional, relaxed but focused. Clear-eyed. Talkative. We talked and talked and he's an intelligent interesting guy.

Who did a great job for us.

And now? No more fast busy signal when someone calls the house line. No more unstable internet connection. And I can blog and call at the same time, once again!

Just like regular!

I can even use my caller ID again! Thumb my nose at those jerks harassing me for payment!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Walkingstick. We Should All Be So Lucky as to find a Walkingstick. Just sitting there on our screen door, one fine summer day...

I'm going to swipe some text out of Miss Livey's here. I hope she doesn't mind. If I knew how to swipe and post pix, I'd do that too. Instead, please click on this link for a drop-dead kick-ass bug pic:

Here's the text:

Sunday, July 31, 2005
What the Hell is This?

I found this on my screen door this morning. At first glance it looked like a weird twig. Upon further examination it looked like a weird twig that sprouted legs. I touched it and it moved! I'm guessing its some weird kinda bug? Anyone have a clue?

Me, I posted a comment. I figured no one would read it since the post was from last July and my comment from this January. Here's what I said, slightly edited:

What you had there is called a walkingstick. It looks exactly like a stick, thus the excellent name.

It's a bug. [Well an insect, technically.] Bugs have 6 legs, always. What you noticed was its long twig-like body and the legs sticking out like littler side twigs. Except the two forelegs. They stick straight out in front and make it look longer, bigger, to scare people more.

You said before that you hate bugs. Me, I love bugs. I'm just lucky that way.

I've wanted to see a real live walkingstick in person - I mean out in the *wild* - all my life. But I never have.

Oh I am SO jealous! You have NO idea how lucky you are! That's one mighty fine walkingstick you got there.


A Nice Visit at the Pain Doc's

I love this lady's cat pin. It's two cats, intertwined.

I asked if I could post a picture and she said Yes. Then - Wait! - she pulled out this postcard of the sunbathing cats. She said her little grandchild was awestruck by this: --How did they make the cats let them put the bathing suits on them?


hee hee! Posted by Picasa

Long Ago, in a Quieter Time

One of my all-time favorite neighbors lives sort of kitty-corner to me. Kitty-corner, one yard down.

BB's an older lady who's a born-and-bred South Floridian. She worked for over 40 years before she retired. Not many women did that, back then.

I find her vastly entertaining.

I stopped by a couple of days ago with some Sin Rolls and fresh-baked bread. No, don't worry, there aren't any hurricanes coming. (I don't think....) This was just regular baking. Well, it was the day before my endoscopy, so it was still comfort cooking, just not Hurricane Baked Goods.

I couldn't stay very long. But I got to say Hi to her gorgeous cat Ruvy, and hear about this incident from her childhood.

Her sister, who now lives across the street, is about 5 years older than she is. Like kids will, Big Sis and her friends made many efforts to ditch BB, the baby of the family, when they played.

One day they did this by playing Hide and Seek. Little BB found a great place to hide, while Big Sis and company promptly ran off on their own, with no intention of looking for BB.


BB was hiding in the clothes hamper in the bathroom.

She could see out of the little holes in the side of the hamper.

She waited. And waited. And waited.

Hmmm. She must have hid so well Big Sis would NEVER find her!

BB stayed in that hamper for so long, her dad came home from work. And - like we often do when we first get home - headed for the bathroom.

Little BB saw him come in.

Uh-oh. She did NOT want to see her dad using the bathroom. She wasn't quite sure just how boys and girls were different from each other, but she knew they were. She also knew she didn't want to accidentally find out firsthand from her patient dad, who was innocently trying to go about his private business.

So just as he was standing in front of the john, up comes the hamper lid. Little BB crawled over the side, dropped to the ground, and toddled out the bathroom door. Just in the nick of time!

Dad stood there - still decently zipped - and watched her go. He raised his eyebrows just a bit, but he never said a word.

Neither did she.

I asked what Big Sis had to say for herself. Did she get in trouble?

No. She never told anyone. No one ever knew. No one ever found out.

Until I came along, I guess. Now I harbor someone else's ancient family secret. Which secret, you see, I've promptly blabbed to one and all. Because that was long ago, in a quieter time - but me, I'm on the internet.

Something about the image of this tiny child crawling out of that hamper and scampering away, with no explanation to her bemused dad, just cracks me up.