Wednesday, October 31, 2007

So Far, So...Okay.

I just got back from visiting with Walter. He looks and feels better today. What a relief to see the change in his color. He's on a nitro patch too, no more messing with waiting for the pills here and there.

They'll be keeping him another night. Outside of high cholesterol (248), Walter's blood tests, etc., aren't too bad so far. The changes in certain enzymes they look for to determine if he had a heart attack are coming back clear. I think we got him there in time to stave one off. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

He'll have one more blood test later this afternoon. Then his cardiologist - who's now in possession of a copy of the file from Deaconess - will decide what, if anything, they do next.

An angiogram would be nice. That's where they put the dye in your vessels and map how it travels through, showing blockages or blood clots, things of that nature.

But for now, at least, we do know he's safe. He's in good hands.

Not as good as Deaconess, not by a long shot. Good enough though. That's all I'm asking for now.

Time for a nap. I'm exhausted inside and out. I'd like to be ready just in case some cute little trick-or-treaters aren't scared away by the hurricane. I'm fond of Halloween, but I tend to miss it. Last year it was the terrible leg infection. Now, at least, I'm ready if it decides not to rain itself out.

I hear you all out there. You're keeping me safe, too. I thank you for that.

Sitting in the ER Again

It's Walter's heart.

For the past month or so, he's been having some of the same heart symptoms he did before his triple bypass last year. There's a particular kind of nausea, for instance, associated with it, and he's been getting that again for a while. He only told me last week, wanting to save me from more stress on top of the other things going on.

That's why I was so adamant about getting him to his new cardio doc.

Now, this doc has only seen Walter once before. And apparently he never received the copious file from Deaconess in Indiana, where Walter had the surgery.

Had I known he never got it, I could have remedied that: I have my own copy. I made sure to have my own. Experience taught me that lesson.

This is why Dr. M the cardio guy had no idea Walter still had fairly bad blockages in other vessels - 2 more are 30% blocked.

At least Walter told Dr. M he was smoking again. He didn't tell me. I caught him in the act a few days ago, and it rocked me. Bad.

kdad the MD tells me that even the few per day Walter's been smoking for the past month is enough to kill him pretty quick. And the fact that the heart symptoms resurfaced with the smoking is, I believe, no coincidence.

Walter had arranged only 4 days off. To get more, he needed to call his driver manager. He did that yesterday, Monday. And got permission for two weeks at home.

That surprised me. He'd been pretty adamant about leaving again ASAP.

Perhaps he had some premonition, or the symptoms were already getting worse yesterday. All I know for sure is, today, he felt bad all day. He told me so this evening.

--Bad? How?

--Weird. And there's pressure in my chest, right over my heart. From front to back through my heart. Like a slow pressure, when someone pushes a fist through you, you feel it in the front and then in the back. A pressure that hurts.

Whereupon, we began one hell of a tussle.

He did NOT want to go to the ER. And this is one stubborn man. Let me tell you, folks. He really is.

Plus, he's a lot bigger than me. Much stronger too. Not that I'm a weakling, you understand. My balance is funky and I usually can't walk so good, but my muscles are certainly powerful enough. Not like they were, but nothing to scoff at.

But him? Yeah, he's strong and big and extremely stubborn.

He has learned, however, that I'm pretty stubborn myself.

It took me hours to get him here. I disrespected his sovereignty left and right. I ordered him about. I did what I could, right or wrong, and it finally worked. I had several tricks up my sleeve I didn't even have to use.

When he told me about the pains, he refused to go to the ER. I explained he did not have a choice. He stomped off to bed to lay down for a while.

Then we negotiated. Yes, he could take a bath first. My 5-10 minutes estimated bath time turned into his 45 minutes. That meter ran after he'd been laying in bed refusing for a good 45 minutes.

Then after the bath, he said, --Just let me finish reading this book first.

That's when the pressure pain had abated for a while and he started saying he should just wait until morning. I replied that it was perfectly common for the pains to come and go, it didn't mean it was suddenly fine in there, not at all. And that if I suddenly had to call an ambulance when the pain resurfaced, much more damage would be done to his heart by the time he got treatment.

My luck turned when Mother Nature took over, and the pain came back all on its own. Suddenly that book really did need only 5 or 10 minutes to get finished, and he walked in the home office with his clothes on.

We're at Holy Cross. They gave him a good scolding here. How with his history, he needs to come in to the ER the minute he feels those pains. They told me they spanked him 3 or 4 times already. I, of course, said --Ah! Did you enjoy it?

He still has no idea how much danger he was in tonight. Later, I may tell him how my dad was saying he has to go now, there is NO time, he's not likely to last until the morning. That, from the calm cool collected scientist who never gets excited about stuff like this.

Waiting here, Walter's in an ER bed and they're trying to stabilize him. He's had 3 nitro pills and 2 big doses of morphine. The first morphine finally got the pain under control. It wore off after a half hour or so, and he got another one. Now he's doing the sweaty gray-face thing again.

He wants to go home.

He's already seen the *Admitting* folks. I'd be quite surprised if they didn't keep him here overnight. But they can't take him upstairs until he's stabilized, so we wait.

We wait.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Less Sin Rolls? Not Sinless, However.

Actually, this version has much more cinnamon. Much less sugar. No frosting, which is my preference anyway.

Cinnamon is said to help regulate blood sugar. So I figure if I make them with way more cinnamon than the law allows, and less of the brown sugar, I can call these...medicinal sin rolls.

More cinn. Less sin.






Walter's cardio appointment was scheduled for Monday, 10/29. That would be tomorrow.

Suddenly, last Tuesday, he was talking about how he could only stay here 4 days. Why? Because that's all the leave time he asked for.

Perhaps it was a communication breakdown. Because 4 days, of course, wouldn't be enough leave time to make a doctor's appointment that was a week away.

Naturally, I jumped on the phone and asked the doc's office if he could come in earlier. --Sure! Is tomorrow okay?

--You betcha.

Nipped THAT sucker in the bud.

So he was a good boy and went to the doc. Said doc pronounced him okay as far as his heart sounded. However, he got a good scolding over gaining some weight and not exercising.

He shot back: You try driving a big rig all day, spending 14 hours including refueling and pickup and delivery times, and see if YOU feel like exercising at the end of it. And the food? I try and try. But eating on the road makes it very difficult to eat healthy. I can't cook in the truck. I do eat a lot of my own food, things I pick up at Walmart when I can. You can't drive a big rig to most grocery stores to go shopping for healthier food, and the restaurants don't have that many healthy options.

All of which is true. It looks to me like getting him off the road is the best thing we can do for his health. We're working on that. Maybe a year or two, we'll see.

On Monday, he'll go do some blood tests, and I think also his pacemaker reading. Then he'll head back out, probably Tuesday.

Well. It wasn't two weeks or more off. But it was about 10 days.

I'll take it.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

RIP: Hurricane Wilma, 10/24/05

This is what my house looked like after being hit by Hurricane Wilma.

In the center of this pic, you can just make out the trunk of the queen palm. As I was live-blogging the hurricane, she was slowly but surely coming down towards the window of my home office, where I sit in front of the computer.

A neighbor checks out the damage. We all did a great deal of walking around looking and talking, checking on each other, helping where we could.

The queen palm finally crashed into the orchid tree, mangling it. Together, then, they slammed onto the roof. This is the debri blocking my front door. It's not clear in this picture, but a large branch of the orchid tree was precariously balanced on the edge of the roof right in front of the door.

Our FEMA guy triumphantly told me this was not considered a safety hazard, and we'd get no help from them in chainsawing it down so that I could get in and out of my house without the tree slipping off and falling down on me.

Here's what it looked like after some clearing had been done.

Two Years Later

This is what the house looks like today.

It wasn't bright and sunny when I took this picture today. But I think you can see it doesn't look like a hurricane house any more. The orchid tree has an odd branch structure now, but still, it's grown way up over the roof again. The triangle palm's trunk is curved, but upright. The queen palm not only grew lots of new fronds, she's also put out flowers and fruit again. In most palms, that's evidence of excellent health. Her trunk is marked with dents and scrapes from the hurricane, and from being hoisted back upright by a big rig.
Scars all over, you see. But thriving anyway.


On the way back home from my summer gypsy trip, I went through an old, tiny town in rural Mississippi called Oakland. We go back a long way, this town and I, and someday I'll tell you the story of it all. It deserves to be told.

This time, I made the small detour into Oakland in the middle of a fairly urgent long drive. I am so glad I did, because in its way - its very quiet and humble and unobtrusive way - it somehow became one of the most important and healing days in my life.

While I was there, I heard this beautiful song by India Arie.

Back when I had a little
I thought that I needed a lot
A little was over rated,
but a lot was a little too complicated
You see-Zero didn't satisfy me
A million didn't make me happy
That's when I learned a lesson
That it's all about your perception
Hey-are you a papa or a superstar
So you act, so you feel, so you are
It ain't about the size of your car
It's about the size of the faith in your heart

There's hope
It doesn't cost a thing to smile
You don't have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that
You better thank God for that
There's hope

Off in the back country of Brazil
I met a young brotha that made me feel
That I could accomplish anything.
You see just like me he wanted to sing
He had no windows and no doors
He lived a simple life and was extremely poor
On top of all of that he had no eye sight,
but that didn't keep him from seein' the light
He said, what's it like in the USA,
and all I did was complain
He said-livin' here is paradise
He taught me paradise is in your mind
You know that

There's hope
It doesn't cost a thing to smile
You don't have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that
You better thank God for that
There's hope

Every time I turn on the T.V. (There's Hope)
Somebody's acting crazy (There's Hope)
If you let it, it will drive you crazy (There's Hope)
but I'm takin' back my power today (There's Hope)
Gas prices they just keep on rising (There's Hope)
The government they keep on lying
but we gotta keep on surviving
Keep living our truth and do the best we can do

There's hope
It doesn't cost a thing to smile
You don't have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that
You better thank God for that
There's hope

Stand up for your rights
Keep shining your light
And show the world your smile
~There's Hope (India Arie)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sometimes...Takin' Care of Business Means Coma Days Too

Yesterday afternoon, Friday, I was supposed to see Dr. S, the lung doc. We made that appointment six months ago.

Well. I woke up late Friday morning and could not stay awake. After calling them up and mumbling excuses about scooters on the fritz (true) it was back to bed.

Every time I woke up, I couldn't stay upright. Back to bed.

Livey calls these *coma days.* I like that. It describes it perfectly. And when it happens, trying to fight it is just counterproductive. It's time to go with the flow.

Luckily, I've seemed to developed the ability to wake up just long enough, and at the right time, to take my meds.

I pretty much slept from Thursday night until Saturday morning, when I woke up at 10:30. Finally, almost suddenly, I felt awake again.

Next Wednesday, the 24th, I see Dr. C, the ID (infectious disease) doc.

The following Monday, the 29th, I see Dr. K, the rheumatologist.

They'll both play a role in the place I left behind, medically, when I set off on my summer odyssey. Between them they'll determine where I am physically, and where we go from here with the antibiotic treatment to clear up this 3-year-old mycobacterial infection in my right arm.

By the middle of next week, I'll need to be finished with this huge big paperwork project I've been working on. Big tight deadlines on some things in those papers. Be even better if I can finish it tomorrow, Sunday, instead. I have some cooking projects in mind.

So I'm cranking away. Paperwork paperwork paperwork. Lucky for me? I like it.

OH. And SURELY you didn't think I forgot about Walter, didja?


This afternoon, he was an hour south of Atlanta. It looks like he'll be back on Monday. It was too much of a drive to make it earlier, plus he has three deliveries instead of just one.

Of course, I seized the opportunity to explain to him how this means he has to stay at least two week at home to be properly rested.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming Home, Part 2 (b): Walter


Yes indeed. Ah, my baby's coming home.

He'll get here around Saturday, October 20. He has a delivery in West Palm Beach on the 22nd.

The last time he was home was in March. Yeah. MARCH.

That's too long. He's plumb wore out.

On the other hand, he's acquired something like 27 days of leave time. Unpaid, but it's his time and nobody else's. He will NOT be allowed back on the road for a while. Not if I can help it.

And when he's here, he needs to see his cardiologist. Big time. He hasn't had his pacemaker read since March either.

Much worse: Last week he said he's been feeling the same type of nausea as just before his heart attacks last November. The series of near-continuous heart attacks that nearly killed him. Should have killed him. Would have, except for some very good luck, and extremely fierce arm-twisting by yours truly and Dr. Dad. We ganged up on him and made him go to the ER.

Another hour or two without treatment and he would have died. A less skilled ER doc and he would have died. A less talented team at the cardiac hospital where he was transferred and - Yup. You got it.

After the triple bypass and the pacemaker surgery, Walter found out he still has some fairly bad blockages in other major arteries. Something like 30%, if I remember right. Perhaps an experienced cardiologist doesn't look at that as such a big deal. Me? I sure don't like it. Not one bit. Come ON. That's a whole THIRD.

Walter quit smoking after 33 years. Only one backslide, when he smoked 5 cigarettes. Naturally we jumped his ass over that. He hasn't smoked since. I'm extremely proud of him. If any of you have ever been addicted to cigarettes, you know it's not easy to quit. And despite what some of them say, virtually all tobacco users are addicted. Very badly addicted, physically, emotionally, mentally.

He did it. He quit.

I told him as long as he stayed off the tobacco, I'd cut him some slack over his Heart Healthy dietary requirements. That's not as bad as it sounds: I can make lots of relatively low-fat, low-sodium dishes that are very tasty. Good thing I can cook, huh?

Other than doctor appointments, I've taken a certain Wifely Stance over his time off, as follows: he's under stringent orders - uh, I mean suggestions - to do absolutely nothing but rest, play, have fun, sleep, goof off, rest...No chores. No *honey do* list. No no no.

He may, if he likes, admire my gardening, and ask any gardening questions he wishes to ask. That's allowed.

And I gave him a bit of news that helped bring down his blood pressure.

Remember that life insurance policy? The one Chase let cancel in 2006 because they didn't turn over our premium payments to the insurance company like they were supposed to do? Then after running in circles biting their own incompetent tail for almost a year and a half, Chase FINALLY tracked our money down, talked to the life insurance company, and got the policy reinstated? Then - then, after constantly telling me I was not delinquent, and they were supposedly working on a mortgage modification, initiated foreclosure proceedings on my house instead? Then as we hammered out a repayment plan to avoid foreclosure, Chase wouldn't bother checking to see if the life insurance was still in effect even after I asked them nicely five or six times? Then, after turning my bright shiny newly current mortgage over to the Good Guy department for servicing, saying the New Rep will help with with any questions, seem to have assigned me to a rep that feels no need to returned my phone calls? Even Important Calls like, --Could you please tell me if that life insurance policy is still good?

Even though they knew full well that during the time they'd inexcusably abandoned their fiduciary duty and let that life insurance policy lapse and get cancelled, Walter almost died, leaving his beloved disabled chronically ill ex-wife to fend for herself on Social Security?

Well. Sometimes if the folks responsible don't tell you what you need to know, you can simply ask someone else.

So instead of waiting a year and a half for Chase to do the right thing again, I just called the insurance company myself.

The policy is current. He's insured.

Forgive us our morgue humor, please. He really feels much better, knowing he's got that life insurance in place.

Does his heart good.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

An interesting study has just been published. I have some excerpts below, and the link to the article in its entirety.

This is one of the germs I'm permanently infected with. MRSA. It's such a virulent strain that every time I get the smallest break in my skin - or just overdo walking - I get infected again.

Think about this: I get re-infected all the time, even though every single day I take not one but two powerful antibiotics.

It's almost cost me my foot, my leg (twice) and my life. I'm covered in permanently painful scars from it, large and small. My left foot is maimed, and the intense pain inside it never stops. Never.

MRSA killed our close friend Burke, a very fine man, a man Walter and I both loved. It killed my blogdaughter's mother, after Jan had taken exquisitely good care of her for years and years.

Despite all that, the attitude of many medical people about this germ is stupendously careless. This is the first time I've ever heard of our country taking a major look at this superbug.

And what have they found?

MRSA now kills more Americans each year than AIDS.

Click the link, folks. Read it. Learn enough to take the proper precautions. It's all around you. It's why I don't meet other bloggers. It's why I won't visit my pregnant niece, and probably won't have contact with her child for some time.

But that's me.

Other folks? Many of them don't even know they're carriers.

Which means that it really doesn't matter how careful I am: you brush by it all the time.

Your kids do, too.

And statistically speaking, some of you who are reading this are also carriers. Whether you know it or not.

Drug-Resistant Staph Germ's Toll Is Higher Than Thought

A dangerous germ that has been spreading around the country causes more life-threatening infections than public health authorities had thought and is killing more people in the United States each year than the AIDS virus, federal health officials reported yesterday.
The microbe, a strain of a once innocuous staph bacterium that has become invulnerable to first-line antibiotics, is responsible for more than 94,000 serious infections and nearly 19,000 deaths each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated.

Although mounting evidence shows that the infection is becoming more common, the estimate published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association is the first national assessment of the toll from the insidious pathogen, officials said.

"This is a significant public health problem. We should be very worried," said Scott K. Fridkin, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

Other researchers noted that the estimate includes only the most serious infections caused by the germ, known as methicillin-resistant S taphylococcus au reus (MRSA).

"It's really just the tip of the iceberg," said Elizabeth A. Bancroft, a medical epidemiologist at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who wrote an editorial in JAMA accompanying the new studies. "It is astounding."

MRSA is a strain of the ubiquitous bacterium that usually causes staph infections that are easily treated with common, or first-line, antibiotics in the penicillin family, such as methicillin and amoxicillin. Resistant strains of the organism, however, have been increasingly turning up in hospitals and in small outbreaks outside of heath-care settings, such as among athletes, prison inmates and children.
MRSA, which is spread by casual contact, rapidly turns minor abscesses and other skin infections into serious health problems, including painful, disfiguring "necrotizing" abscesses that eat away tissue. The infections can often still be treated by lancing and draining sores and quickly administering other antibiotics, such as bactrim. But in some cases the microbe gets into the lungs, causing unusually serious pneumonia, or spreads into bone, vital organs and the bloodstream, triggering life-threatening complications. Those patients must be hospitalized and given intensive care, including intravenous antibiotics such as vancomycin.

In the new study, Fridkin and his colleagues analyzed data collected in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia , Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Tennessee , identifying 5,287 cases of invasive MRSA infection and 988 deaths in 2005. The researchers calculated that MRSA was striking 31.8 out of every 100,000 Americans, which translates to 94,360 cases and 18,650 deaths nationwide. In comparison, complications from the AIDS virus killed about 12,500 Americans in 2005.

"This indicates these life-threatening MRSA infections are much more common than we had thought," Fridkin said.

In fact, the estimate makes MRSA much more common than flesh-eating strep infections, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis combined, Bancroft noted.

"These are some of the most dreaded invasive bacterial diseases out there," she said. "This is clearly a very big deal."

Studies have shown that hospitals could do more to improve standard hygiene to reduce the spread of the infection. Individuals can reduce their risk through common-sense measures, such as frequent hand-washing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Walrilla Juice

This here is some GREAT stuff.
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Dear Mom and Dad,

I don't know if you'll ever read this. You're both busy people who work very hard, and don't always have much time for other things. Still, you do come here now and then, so perhaps you'll see this someday.

You know by now that the house has been rescued from foreclosure, and we're safely set up to begin our new payment plan. I've thanked you in words. Words seem so feeble sometimes.

Could we have done this without your help? Maybe. But only maybe. And it would have involved far greater anxiety and shock and despair than we were already in. What we were already in, that was bad enough.

Losing the house would have broken my heart. I would have lost my gardens, the plants and flowers and rocks, and all the love we've poured into our home. April and Babycat are buried here.

This is the only home I've ever owned in my entire life. Off in the distant future, if we're lucky and work hard, we may be able to buy more property. But none of it could ever replace this as my own true home.

Going back to living in rented apartments would have been terribly damaging to my health. There's only so much you can do to a place when you're only a tenant. Our modifications to the house have gone a long way toward making the improvement in function I've seen over the last several years. Simple acts like removing draperies and carpeting, altering the HVAC for allergy control, and especially cleaning the air of pollen and other allergens and particulates - those little things made a noticeable difference in my health, in my ability to do things. In my life.

In rented space, we could never control the air quality. Florida housing construction codes mean our air was always *shared* with other tenants. When they'd spray *air freshener* in their living quarters, our own HVAC system would draw that air into our apartment. Not to mention, if any previous residents of our space used ordinary scented cleaning products, it was impossible to eradicate the remains. Those remains made me quite ill.

You saved me from that fate.

You did so at some cost to yourselves.

I want to go back in the past and change what I did so it never happened at all. I can't do that.

All I can do is make sure I pay you back as soon as humanly possible - and get my act together a little better here so emergencies like that will not happen again.

As of yesterday afternoon - 10/15/07, when it was due - Walter's 2006 tax return was filed. If all goes well, the refund will repay 75% of your loan. We'll turn that over to you the instant it arrives, then get to work repaying the rest of what we borrowed.

Looking around my home with the fresh view one has after a long absence, I saw disorder and disarray that were probably perfectly obvious to everyone else all this time. I personally dislike having clutter and unfinished tasks around me. I think I understand better, now, how all that came to be. Deteriorating health played a large part; but of course, there's more to it than that. Revising my life to accommodate health issues is an ongoing project. Clearly, I need to pay more attention to addressing those old unfinished tasks, too.

So I am.

There's no other way I can think of to thank you by my actions.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr. Espresso

Commenter Betsye has just consumed her first ever Starbucks quad venti latte - resulting in the instantaneous addiction where so many of us innocently fall prey, and are never quite the same again.

Upon which event, she may have discovered that the latte cost her far more than the gas to get her there. Me, I had to fork over lots of $5's and more for this out on the road, when I couldn't plug in my espresso maker or nuke the milk and cream part on my own.

So! Here's how I make it at home. Or when camping in a little tent in the mid-Keweenaw with all the electricity a person could wish for. This strategy can pay for itself in less than a month. Don't worry. Starbucks won't miss your business, they're doing just fine.

On the way up to Chicago on the Great Gypsy Trip this summer, my old espresso machine bit the dust. I dashed off to Walmart and replaced it, so I have some recent Cheap But Good Espresso Machine Purchasing Experience under my belt.

This Mr. Coffee model cost about $30. Some of you may remember the advent of Mr. Coffee, the first drip (versus percolated) coffee maker available, back in the mid 1970's. It was simultaneously regarded as both horribly kitsch cheap plasticky stuff - and as heavensent. The TV ads featured Joe DiMaggio, who said, *A perfect cup of coffee every time!* This inspired a musician acquaintance of mine to dream up a name for a new band: *Mr. Coffee and the Perfect Cups.*

Well. Time went by. The old coffee percolators bit the dust. New entrants into the market tried to leave Mr. Coffee in the dust, but he's never been shaken off the top perch. Caffeine was declared Highly Unfashionable by the Food Fashion Police, so coffee became much weaker. Then, in a powerfully fueled backlash, drinks like *Jolt* high-caffeine cola - and espresso - hit our taste buds.

And nervous systems.

And wallets.

I can tell the difference in taste between the antique-type Italian espresso makers, and this Mr. Coffee one. I can't tell much difference between the Mr. Coffee model and most of the up-market ones available. So me, I'll take the Mr. Coffee maker, and let the Espresso Fashion Police sneer to their hearts' content.

My personal favorite brand of grocery store espresso grind is Cafe Bustelo, a Spanish brand: the famous Cuban coffee we drink in South Florida is simply a shot of espresso. If you want it sweet, then to do it Cuban style, you put the sugar in the little basket with the espresso grind - you don't mix sugar into the prepared cup of espresso. Other espresso grind brands are available, including Starbucks itself at some stores. Whatever brand you like, most agree it tastes better if it's freshly ground coffee beans. Me? I just don't have the energy, and buy it already ground.

When you put the grounds in the little cup, you may want to leave some space on top. Some commercial establishments then pack the grounds tight. Not me. Down here, Cuban-style, one carefully leaves the grounds very loose. To me it tastes better that way.

The water is best if it's distilled or purified (reverse osmosis, virtually the same as distilled.) When water has the fewest *extra* ingredients, like naturally occurring minerals, it can absorb much more of the flavor of coffee or tea or chicken soup or whatever.

The hot milk and hot cream bit I've been indulging in since the mid-1980's. It's basically latte, which of course isn't a new recipe at all, but an old French one. That type calls for a ceremonious display just before serving it: holding the coffee container in one hand and the dairy in the other, high in the air, pouring each ingredient simultaneously into a big coffee cup, and perhaps tossing in a throwaway comment about how Italians can make good espresso, sure, but they certainly can't do it with style, those cretin barbarians.

For much of my life, my senses of smell and of taste were extremely potent. The way food tastes matters a great deal to me. Some of the ways I get there seem odd to others; again, let them sneer all they like. Me, I couldn't care less. Eat your food how YOU like it, right? The other guys have taste buds of their own to please. Mine are simply Not Their Business.

The formula for my own favorite latte type blend measures out to 1 part prepared espresso, 1 part hot milk, and 1/2 part hot cream.

That means making the maximum amount possible in this espresso maker. It comes out to 1 cup. Meantime, I'm nuking (for 3-4 minutes) 1 cup of fat free organic milk in a big chipped and crazed old coffee cup. Then, I take it out of the microwave, add 1/2 cup heavy cream, and nuke again for 2 minutes.

If you prefer your milk frothed, cappuccino style, there's a little thingie for that too; it works by forcing steam into your cup of milk. It's the black and chrome part hanging down on the right in the pic.

The on/off knob on the upper left works like this: turning it toward the back sets it for espresso; turning toward the front, for frothing the milk. Either way, it makes that satisfying self-important hissing steaming noise that announces, --I'M making ESPRESSO just now! oh what a FINE little machine I am! Not nearly as loud as the old Italian machines, but hey. Can't have everything.

The nuking the milk mix business? I have no idea why in the world this makes it taste so good to me. The fat free organic milk has much more flavor than 2-4% non-organic milk; that one makes sense. But why do I need to nuke them in two stages, separately? And use fat free milk, with added extra heavy cream? Yet if I don't do those things, I can taste the difference. No sense to it at all.

The cream is absolutely best if it's very heavy cream, organic if one can find it. In the pics I'm substituting some Sam's Club el cheapo wussy so-called heavy (not!) cream because I ran out of shopping energy last week.

Right when the espresso is done, so is the dairy nuking. I pour the espresso into the milk mix - not from an exalted mid-air stance - and proceed to enjoy myself just immensely, drinking it up. I almost never finish it. Often I only have a few sips. But I still make the whole thing, almost every morning.

Nuking the milk and cream, rather than steaming or frothing it, makes a skin form on top. Many coffee connoisseurs just abhor this.

One day back in New Orleans, staying at a friend's place for a few days, I stood beside her husband in the kitchen one morning, making my coffee as he cooked griods and grits. He watched with great approval as I made my potion. (At the time, I was totally hooked on French Market brand coffee with chicory, which really must be perked to get the great flavor. But the milk and cream bit was the same.)

Half-asleep, all quiet and poker-faced, I softly said that if I were down at Cafe Madeleine, they'd never let me nuke it; I'd have to use their proudly displayed *STEAMED MILK!* dispenser.

To which he cheerfully replied: --Hey, cher, but then you wouldn't get the skin on top. That's the best part!

Whereupon we all fell about giggling our coonass asses off.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

But Here's The One That Counts

On my way home, I'd called and left message after message for Jill to let her know where I was: *Hi, I've finally left Chicago...* and *Passing through Hattiesburg, Mississippi today...* She never returned a single message. I got the feeling her boss had a little talk with her about not having nice long conversations with someone who faxed in a letter referencing contemporaneous notes on phone conversations that took place two years ago.

Still, she knew when I got home. After only a few hours of sleep, I got up early Thursday morning for an appointment with the pain doc. When I got back, this UPS overnight letter was sitting in my living room, holding a contract containing the terms of the repayment plan. To my surprise, Chase had already signed off on their side of the bargain. Maybe that's SOP. Maybe they want to waste not one second getting me out of their hair.

UPS must have run into one of the guys with a key to my house, because it was delivered while I was at the pain doc's. That date was October 4: my SSA was in, and Walter's paycheck. Another cashier's check, for the bulk of the *down payment,* was safely ensconced in my computer case, where I'd ferried it home from my parents. Now all I needed was to convert our own portion of the down payment into a cashier's check, sign the contract, and send it back.

Not on Thursday, though. No way. After driving safely back from the pain doc's and then the pharmacy, the only other action I was capable of was sleep.

Friday! Yes, lovely day! Off to the bank I went. The poor abused Saturn, which had so faithfully gotten me thousands of miles back home, had a dead battery. argh! My fault. The battery's been going, and I knew that, and still I forgot and left the lights on as I went inside the bank.

Ah well. That's why I have a decent set of jumper cables. Like any former Chicagoan, I can jump a car in my sleep. All I needed was another willing driver. Lo and behold, a nice man driving an auto parts pickup truck offered his services, and in two minutes I was good to go.

Inside the bank, there were clear signs of a very busy Public Relations campaign. This free coffee is new. It says, *Caution. Sleepwalking through the bank may result in hazardous financial decisions. Have some coffee.*

Well, all right. Good advice. I know it wasn't directed at me personally. I'm positive it wasn't. Pretty much.

YES!!! The contract is signed. My printer is down, but the bank kindly photocopied it for me. The contract and the two cashier's checks are in the return overnight envelope. After discovering the local Mailboxes Etc. had closed down in my absence, I called for a UPS pickup. It was a substitute driver, not our usual guy. Not knowing I'm half deaf, he knocked on the door just a bit then ran away. NO. Sorry guy, ya gotta come back, I called your boss.

Come back he did. At 6:45 Friday evening, my letter was picked up by UPS.

Jill got it Wednesday. She called and left a message saying it was a done deal. The repayment plan was accepted and activated; here's the name and extension of the new guy who'll be servicing your account now; it's already out of her department and her file is closed; goodbye and good luck.

heh! Doesn't sound like they wanted to get rid of me, does it?

I think - I believe - I'm pretty sure here -

this cat has landed on her feet.

The Mail in Question

Ten days ago, stumbling in at 3am, I knew I'd see a BIG mess of mail in my living room. My 20 boxes of rocks, the ones we'd mailed from Wisconsin? I thought they'd be outside, and when I didn't see them in the carport, I was concerned for a half-second or so.

Then I put my key in the door, opened it up, and saw this.

That there is a portion of my 4 1/2 months of mail.

I used to get a lot more mail than I do now. Business mail, mostly. And of course, back then, we had many more personal bank accounts and credit cards too.

Still, it's a pretty good haul for 4 1/2 months, don'tcha think?

It looks like my boxes of rocks morphed from 20 to 19. There were no *delivery confirmations* on them either, so the missing box is lost out in the ether, never to be seen again. Well, all things considered, losing one box of rocks out of 20 isn't so bad, I guess. The ones that arrived were pretty beat up. I really could have packed them a little better, not tried to cram so much into each box. I didn't realize they'd be machined.

After sorting through the mail, I have a lot of trash. Junk mail occupies the large PO tub in the upper left, and empty envelopes and stuff are in the red container below. *Real mail* is in the black tray to its right.

The red container in the upper right is nothing but solicitations from lawyers and so-called investors and consultants who want to save my house for me, or sell it for me, or whatever. That doesn't even include the real estate salesmen solicitations, which went into the junk mail box.

Anything to do with the Chase mortgage folks is in the other PO tub, in the upper middle of the pic.

Hmmm. Unconsciously, I've positioned Chase right between the *junk mail* and *we'll save your house* solicitations.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Home at Last

Yes! I've arrived. Safe and sound. I got in very late last Wednesday night, or early Thursday morning, however you count such things. Finally now, Monday night, Columbus Day, I can take a moment to tell you how I finally got back home.

After leaving Crestview, nicely refueled with my first espresso in days, I decided to take the Florida Turnpike home.

I usually avoid it. Not only would I prefer not to pay $10 or $15 in tolls, it's far more boring. More direct, too, of course; that's why they built it.

I knew I'd left Crestview late enough that the *boring* aspect wouldn't really matter, because it would be night by the time I got to the turnpike. So hopping over to I-95, or taking I-75 and coming over Alligator Alley - a drive I really love during the daylight - wouldn't help me out in the Scenic department.

Not to then, the drive to get home was pulling me along, and powerfully.

Okay. Turnpike it is.

The feeling of seeing the towns and roads I know like the back of my hand was wonderful. Here, in this state, which has its share of oddities - here, I am home. I love Florida, with all its positive and negative characteristics. I love heat and humidity. Flowers. Palm trees. Lizards. I've lived all over this state, and driven most of its highways and back roads at least once.

I drove.

Tallahassee, the state capitol. Construction mess, at rush hour no less. No biggie.

Live Oak, a beautiful and charming old town.

Lake City. Yes!!! Time to leave I-10 and pick up I-75.

Ft. White. Not a town that you really *pass by* if you're on I-75. You have to exit and drive the country roads for a bit to get to Ft White. I had a small mission to perform there.

Exiting off I-75 to Ft. White. Toney's Big Truck Tires!

Past the hamlet of Mikesville...

and the pretty little farmsteads...

...and kudzu.

It didn't work out; it could be that this one is *mission impossible.* But, hey. I can come back, you see? This is my home place, and I take day trips around here every chance I get.

Back on I-75.

Gainesville. Home of our flagship state university, UF, my alma mater. I lived here for two years, getting my four-year degree. Here is where my cat Babycat and his three siblings were born, born to my pretty little April girl in 1984.

Paynes Prairie. I think of Archie Carr and his descriptions of the wildlife he encountered walking Paynes Prairie on an ordinary day, and how most of that wildlife is not there any more, even though this is now a preserve.

It's 9:00 pm.

On the other side of Paynes Prairie is Micanopy, where long ago, I helped a friend buy 13 acres of land. It was both higher land with huge live oaks and also some wetlands, bordering the state park. When April had her kittens, one went to him. A truly beautiful cat, that was; my friend named him Arthur, because he was a king among cats. He really was, too.

I wonder how my old friend is doing, how his house project came along. Wondering if he's still battling poachers all the time, often unable to walk his own land without a shotgun for protection from illegal hunters trespassing upon his domain. And sometimes poachers are willing to become hunters of humans for the sole purpose of not getting arrested for poaching.

Ocala. Rolling hills, prize racing horses; picture perfect pastures, grass like velvet dotted with majestic live oaks hung with Spanish moss, tidy wood fences painted white. Elegant and gracious.

Wildwood. Here's where we pick up the turnpike.

And I wasn't on it more than a few minutes before one of the huge overhead signs, installed to display information during emergencies, flashed a message to us all.

Up ahead, the turnpike was closed in both directions; seek alternate route.

Grrr. If I'd known this, I wouldn't have taken the turnpike! I follow a big rig, knowing he's probably already gotten informed and rerouted by his dispatchers. The closure location wasn't specified, but that trucker may know; if he hasn't exited yet then I should be okay until the next travel plaza.

They have these plazas every so often, places to fuel up, eat, get your car fixed 24/7. Places to get info.

I pulled in to Okahumpka Plaza. First, I turned on the computer and checked my mapping program, seeing where the next exits and access ramps were.

A very helpful plaza employee was marking up a big notice about it all. The closure was between Minneola and Lake Apopka, west of Orlando. Exit on US 27, go south, then take Rt. 50 to the on-ramp there. He tells me it was a big messy accident - as the article explains, it looked like the Battle of the Big Rigs, aka, Biggest Monster Trucks Ever! - and the fireball fallout still wouldn't be cleared for quite a while.

Okay. Thanks. I went on, then exited at US 27. Yay hooray, they suspended the tolls for us! This has a huge impact on keeping traffic moving during emergencies. Call it a hurricane thing. Florida is very decent about that, it's a lesson from Hurricane Andrew. Don't screw around collecting your bits of toll road income when people are dealing with a disaster and traffic is way abnormal.

Of course, with all drivers re-routed, we crawled along for much of the detour. As we drove down US 27 and approached Rt. 50, it was glutted. The sign for Rt. 50 came up fast after we topped a small hill, and I was stuck in the left lane, in near-gridlock, surrounded by impatient drivers who didn't want to let anyone in.

I put on my turn signal and waited. Stopped dead. I wasn't going to drive one foot farther to hop to the head of the line. It's just not nice.

I saw a big rig behind me in the right-hand lane and had an idea. Would the trucker let me in? I turned my headlights off and back on again, to ask politely. The truck driver instantly did the same thing, signaling back to me. His lane opened up a bit and he let me in.

Ah, thank you, trucker. Thank you.

We exited. The signage was a bit difficult; there were more of the little hills and so forth that obscure them. The trucker was still behind me and we stayed close to each other, looking for the signs in the dark. In his cab, he's way higher than I am, so he can see farther; but this isn't usually a truck route, so he's on unfamiliar ground. Maybe we can help each other watch out for the sign for the turnpike entrance.

It jumped up way quick. I'd been in the right lane almost the entire time, but I'd just changed lanes to bypass a driver in the right who looked unsteady, maybe drunk. I had to hop back over pretty quick.

The trucker caught my signal just in time, and put his on too and braked. Yay! I love to be able to return those driving favors.

We got back on the turnpike, and flashed *bye-bye* with our lights, and I took off again.

Orlando. I lived there for a year, back in 1985-86. The place creeped me out. 'Scuse me, all y'all fans, but the only kind of mouse that gives me the willies is the Disney version. Erk. CanNOT stand it.

Long stretches of empty highway now, places where there's basically nobody around for miles upon miles upon miles.

Drive. Drive.

Yeehaw Junction.

Yes! To me, that's the place where I think: Almost home now. Crossing into South Florida, at any rate, not in North or Central Florida any more; 135 miles to go. It's around 1 am now. The turnpike closure threw my schedule way back, but I'll be all right.

Yeehaw Junction is an interesting place in its way. Some fun stories about that town.


In Florida we treat accident scenes with firm and specific laws. When I was growing up, Illinois law fiercely enforced their requirement that you don't move accident vehicles until the cops arrive. In Florida today, they're just as fierce about moving your vehicles to the side of the road, not blocking traffic, as you wait for the cops.

Here's another one: It's a meaningful courtesy to change lanes to move away from vehicles and/or people on the side of the road. People get killed that way all the time; there they are on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck or cops or friends, or changing a flat tire, and a driver doesn't see them or drifts too close and hits them at 70 mph.

Now, it's a law. If you see emergency vehicles there, then you must change lanes, moving away, if it's possible to do so.

But what happens if it's a two-lane highway, and accident vehicles are on both sides?

A trucker and an SUV ahead of me have slammed on their brakes. We're the only ones on the road for as far as I can see. I brake too. I see them flashing their lights and signaling and moving to the right hand lane. But why? There are at least 2 cars on the shoulder there. I know the trucker is sitting way high and can see things I don't. That's one reason I usually follow their guidance. And I get the feeling he's trying to communicate to me, the way he's playing his running lights. But...all I can see are vehicles on the right shoulder.

I stayed left and slowed way way down. Going over a little rise in the road, so slowly, the rest of the accident scene suddenly came into view. Another SUV, but on its side, wheels still spinning, roof smacked up against the concrete divider.

It must have just happened. There were no first responders I could see. Someone was using a flashlight to wave traffic on, and I saw two young men milling around the rollover vehicle, looking dazed and helpless and stressed.

This locale, between Ft. Drum Wildlife Management Area and Ft. Pierce, is completely unpopulated. The emergency crews have to drive a long way to get here, and if someone in the rollover car or the other cars was injured, that could mean the difference between life and death.

People react to emergencies in very different ways. Some folks can't handle them, which - luckily - most seem to readily admit. It doesn't much matter what your reaction type is. What matters is this: KNOW what it is, so you know whether to step in and help, or lead other helpers, or simply get out of the way.

I'm in the other category. For whatever reason, I was built for emergency work. I've noticed an exception to that, one that pertains only to traffic accidents: when it's not my emergency - not my vehicle or a friend's, but an accident where I have no role as helper or as crash victim - then it can really rattle me. PTSD time, looks like.

I take a deep breath and drive on. Soon I see the emergency vehicles, six or more, coming up the turnpike from Ft. Pierce. That's perhaps 20 miles away from the accident. I send up a prayer for everyone.


Ft. Pierce. I exit and pay my toll. The lady in the tollbooth didn't know the particulars of the accident yet, and asked me how far up the road the crash was. Not sure, maybe 20 miles or so. She said they dispatched rescue out of Ft. Pierce; it was far away, but still it was the closest location. We talked about how last year, they finally put an emergency station in the middle of Alligator Alley, because so many people died in accidents when the rescue crews couldn't get there quick enough. Time is everything when you're bleeding out, huh?

I drove on into Ft. Pierce. The turnpike and I-95 are so close there you could literally throw a rock from one to the other. Since I-95 takes me home, we switch over at Ft. Pierce. The FL Turnpike folks kindly put a sign up for the exit, explaining it something like this: Exit Here to I-95 South to Miami...[so you don't have to pay us any more tolls]


Ft. Pierce. This town is only 100 miles from home. There's a Flying J here, the only one in South Florida, and I should have gone there to fuel; but it's the only Flying J in my experience where the personnel are consistently rude and unhelpful. I don't like that, so I went to a Pilot station instead.

By then, my feet were in bad shape. I'd been driving for days and days and days. I can't properly elevate them while driving, so they swell up pretty badly; and I can't take adequate pain meds either because I don't want to drive impaired. So I was a hurtin' puppy, by then, and not as patient as usual. It's harder to speak gently when your teeth are gritted shut, clenched really tight - and that's before you even have to get yourself up and walk on those feet.

I pulled up to a pump, got out of the car, stood up, got my debit card out, ran it through the reader...and nothing happened.


Tried again, over and over. Reset the fuel handle. Nothing.

Irritated, I moved the car to another pump.

Same thing.

I looked all over for a button they usually put there, an intercom marked with a little blue wheelchair, where disabled folks can call the store clerk for questions or assistance.

No button.

I got back in the car, drove up to the c-store entrance, got out, cripped up to the door. Walking even one step was an extremely unpleasant thing to do just then.

I opened the door and stuck my head in the convenience store. The cashier was WAY inside, a good 50 feet, not really a walkable distance at the time.

There were a lot of people inside. This is a fairly high-crime area, lots of poor people around, and an adult store next door. I suspected we had Nasty Rules that Don't Actually Promote Safety at play.


Most officiously, he told me: --That's because you have to come inside to pay.


--That's the rules, you have to come up to the counter here to pay.


If it's a cash sale, I can understand this. People do fill up and drive off without paying, and most stations work off such a thin profit margin that a few gas thefts can really hurt.

With a credit or debit card, though, it makes no sense at all to go inside to pay. I can't pump gas until my card's been authorized. There's no difference between getting it authorized at the pump, or getting it authorized inside.

Maybe he's checking signatures or something. But I bet he doesn't even know how: just looking at the signature on the card tells him nothing, if he doesn't compare it to another of my signatures, one that's known to be accurate and not forged. And if my card is bad, stolen or something, he's not going to get any more info from me in person than the card reader at the pump. That asks for my pin or my zip code, just like the reader inside the store. Who cares where I input the info?

If they'd had an intercom button for people like me, so I didn't have to go through way more walking than I could handle, I wouldn't have been irritated. Dumb ineffective rules are bad enough. Causing me pain because of dumb ineffective rules is another thing altogether.

When we had the shipping business going, we spent tens of thousands of dollars on fuel at Pilot alone. They weren't my first choice stop, but they were okay. Now? No more Pilot fuel for me.

This was one of the few times I wished we were still in business. It would have been comforting to tell the jerk of a cashier that he'd just cost his employer a fair chunk of change in fuel sales. But to say so now? Naw. It's no fun to BS about stuff like that; the cheap thrill only comes if I'm telling the truth. And I no longer have trucks to fill up at Pilot truck stops.

Well. I have enough gas to get home. Screw Ft. Pierce.

I drove on.

a hundred miles
a hundred miles
a hundred miles
a hundred miles,,,

What feels like *home territory* to me starts at West Palm Beach. The huge I-95 construction project is still not complete - but at least it's not the horrid potholed narrow crowded work zone nightmare of the past several years.

Forty more miles.

Lake Worth.

Boynton Beach.

And around there, once again, the blue lights of emergency vehicles splashed the dark.

This time it was northbound. The center divider there is built high, with slats on top, presumably to prevent drivers from doing what I was: looking at the accident scene in the opposite lanes.

I have no idea what happened. There were maybe 20 emergency vehicles there already, mostly cops. As I drove on I saw another fifteen or twenty, mostly ambulances, tearing up the road to the scene.

I never did find any news on that accident, or the one by Ft. Drum. We almost don't even notice accidents any more.



Now it's not the towns, but the streets I'm counting down.




10th St./Sawgrass Expressway.




I used to turn off there when I lived in Pompano Beach.

Cypress Creek.


Oakland Park...



It's almost 3 am. I go to my favorite local gas station to fuel up. It's $.23/gallon more than the Pilot was charging. I don't care.


I'm home.


I made it.

Thank you, everyone. Friends and family. That's a phrase that matters to me. I felt your support, holding me, comforting me all this long way.

I am home, safe and sound. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm Going Home

I'm in Florida.

Back in the land of Minimal Clothing. Back to where my license plate matches everyone else's.

I still have a long way to go. I'm in Crestview, the exit for Eglin AFB. In the Panhandle. It's a very long panhandle. Then I head south again, through this giant peninsula of a state. It's a very long peninsula.

Home is 600 miles away.

Last night, coming through Mobile, the sun was setting. By the time I hit Pensacola it was dark. I haven't seen the I-10 bridge in person since the hurricane collapsed it and that trucker went over and died. I wasn't sure I was ready for it now, even; I have a huge capacity for viewing disaster scenes, but I know full well I need to be ready for it first.

In the dark I could see huge cranes in the air, one after another after another, a dozen or more. They've finished building one span and sent two-way traffic over it, as they complete the second span, which will become the westbound bridge. The surface I was on was fresh and new, that perfect smooth asphalt you're so glad to encounter on a long road trip.

After a while I came upon a brilliant light, something used for night construction, like they had on at the World Trade Center site. I saw work vehicles moving on the westbound span, driving in a line.

I drove on.

There were few lights up. The overhead lights on the roads and the businesses and houses one usually sees in a populated area were sparse. It was very dark, and I was glad.

I slept well last night, in a hotel, using the last of my carefully hoarded funds. But it's Social Security day today, and I'm full up again, ready to go.

I'm exhausted and the pain is bad, slow slow slow. I get frustrated with myself sometimes when I get like this. But the hotel was very nice about me checking out 45 minutes late, and told me where the cheapest fuel was. On the way I spied me a nice little drive-through espresso place.

And does k just love drive-throughs? Oh my goodness yes.

I pulled up and gave them my order. I always think it's complicated, but I tell you, these folks know their complicated orders. To them I'd guess I'm mostly just old-fashioned.

Hot milk, hot heavy cream, 4-6 shots espresso, no sugar or flavors.

And a blueberry muffin.

They were the sweetest, cheerfullest, fastest, smartest, funniest, prettiest espresso sluggers I've come across yet. And THAT, my friends, is saying something.

It's for sale! If those coffee cowgirls come with, folks, this one could be a winner.

See? So cheering.

I'm going to run by the hotel parking lot and see if my free hotel wireless will still let me post this.

And then I'm on my way.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Road Tripping

It took me a while to figure out what this one meant.

Luckily, a certain Mr. Dykes had other signs up down the road.

Catfish? CATFISH?

Whoops. Nope, wrong state. He's in Georgia. This is Mississippi.

Do the clicky and see the beautiful oak tree tunnel to the right.

Would YOU buy a used car here?
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Now and Then There'll Be Days Like This

I woke up this morning and got ready to go into the Flying J. I like to park close to the restaurant entrance. The handicap spaces are close to the door, and the rest rooms close to that entrance too.

First thing in the morning, before I've had my anti-inflammatories, Prednisone, Benadryl, Protonix, glimepiride, Glucophage, Synthroid, acyclovir, Cipro, minocycline, Prozac, and Xanax, I tend to move a bit slowly. I can take my four inhalers (Afrin, Flonase, Atrovent, and Azmacort), but for the rest I need a little cushion of food in there. A sort of food pillow to plop those pills down on. (Well, except the antibiotics, which are more effective on an empty stomach, so I have to time those. And that list didn't include the supplements I take. Details details.)

So I pull up to the Optimal Parking Area and find - the handicap spaces are being restriped.


I look over to the kitty-corner entrance, the one to the c-store. NO! They're striping ALL of them at the same time. Cones up, barriers.

grump grump grump!

Okay. I'll fuel up and do the car windows. Usually I do that the night before, but I was too tired last night.

I'm watching to see if a close, non-handicap space opens up. When I'm almost done fueling - one does.

YESSS!!! Quick quick quick! (Which, see, my current version of *quick* is NOT what it was.)

And just as I was wiping the last drips of water off the back window, some perfectly talented-at-walking person pulled in and swiped *my* space.


grump grump grump!

I drove back to the Optimal Parking Area. And spied the Striper Man.

I pulled up and lowered my window. --Excuse me. Any idea when I can go in and get my breakfast?

He comes over. At first he starts explaining, --OH, no no, can't park here just now... --I know. Sir. I can't walk good.

--OH! I see. Well, hell. Just pull in and park in front here, parallel. It's okay.

I hesitate.

--I'm telling you it's okay. You won't get in any trouble, don't worry about it.

I still hesitate. I don't want to be in the way of other cars, RVs and things go by. But he insists, points out they have a lot of room to get by me, so I accept it. He guides me in so I don't run over his nice fresh wet stripes.

I get out. I'm verrry slow this time of the day. I'm still talking to the man, he's a little distance off now. And an elderly lady lets him know, --There's a lady yelling at you over there!

--HELL no!-- he hollers back at her. --We been talkin. She's okay! She's FINE! She's my CAUSE, now. That lady needs a space so I'm making sure she can eat her breakfast.

I'm grinning. --Didn't mean to yell. I talk loud sometimes because I can't hear myself.--

He tells me, --If you're a cripple, hey. You deserve to park close. I may be one myself one day. I've got diabetes, since 1983.

He's in great shape, and I compliment him.

--Well, for a long time I was. I worked out a lot. But the last two years it's really fallen off. My blood sugar's probably between 200 and 400 right now.


--How are your feet?

--Not too bad. This one's getting pretty numb sometimes but I can still feel it, so that's okay.

We chat a bit, then I head on inside the building.

crip crip crip

huff huff huff

I plunk my purse and computer bag on a bench in front of the ladies' room, and go in there, come back out. Pick my stuff back up. I need to go ALL the way to the back of the restaurant here if I want electricity as I dine. I do.

crip crip crip

huff huff huff

People are looking at me, as always, and trying not to let me see them do it, as always. It's okay. While I was in the ladies' room I hooked my bra back up.

I finally arrive at the same table I sat at last night. And just before I sit down, I realize I've dragged a piece of toilet paper, stuck to the bottom of my flip-flop, all the way down that gauntlet.

blush blush blush

I sit down. Lively damn waitresses in this joint, I've noticed. The nice lady brings me a Diet Coke.

But it's not.

Tastes great though.

Tastes like Dr. Pepper.

With sugar in it.

I tell the waitress. She says she got it from the Diet Coke fountain, so, let's see. She brings me another one.

Nope. --Tastes great,-- I said. --But I sure don't think it's Diet Coke. I don't mind the taste, it's just that I have diabetes, and I was saving my sugar for something from the buffet.

--I bet those guys crossed the lines. Tell you what, I'll make them change it back out and bring you a REAL Diet Coke.

--No, no, that's all right, water's fine, thanks.

I sit down and eat and so on. Pretty soon, Striper Man and Wife sit down right next to me. Wife's the boss, it's her business. Mostly now he's a driver escort for heavy loads, he's just helping her out today. He said the wife is rough. I'd told him,
--That's GOOD for you!-- Listening to her at the table? Yup. She's rough, all right.

We nod. After a time he goes out, removes the cones, comes back and lets me know I can move the car any time I want.

About half hour later, a guy with a managerial air comes by, and leans over me at my table. --Is that your car parked that way? I mean, that's not how you're supposed to park. All we need is some yahoo come barrelling around the corner and --

I point to Striper Man. --Ask him. We were getting striped.

Manager man wants me to move my car. When I get up and his eyes drop to my feet he wants to do it for me.

--No, no, I'm fine, I'm much better now, thank you.

I came back to find the breakfast buffet gone, and the lunch buffet in its place. Well, hell, I was done anyway.

I did, however, decide that this morning required a certain Healing Medicine in the form of a small piece of warm fresh chocolate pudding cake. The kind that comes with the lunch buffet - but not the breakfast one.

Keep Her in Your Thoughts and Prayers, People

Nancy just told me her mother's in the hospital with bacterial meningitis. This is really serious, and it doesn't look that good for her.

I've never had any contact with her mother. But I do know she's been a good mom to Nancy, and helped them through when Nancy had her pulmonary embolism and Richie hadn't gotten his new job yet.

Send her your best wishes and prayers, however it is you each do that, okay?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Slowly but Surely

I'm in Jackson, Mississippi.

As you can see, I'm kind of poking along here. I have 900 miles to go still, and I don't want to overdo the driving, so I'll probably take two days for that.

When I drive too much I never have time to post!

An Extra Side of Cotton for Jan

Well. Is the boll is seed, or that hard shell-type thing the cotton bursts out of? I bet it was the second. Those things ARE hard and sharp-edged.

I pulled a seed out and put it in front of the cotton here. See the dark shadows inside the cotton? More seeds. Do the clicky thing, and they're much more clear.

(As you can see, I decided that cotton might be okay to put on top of the laptop, as opposed to a nice big rock.)

If the boll is the seed casing, I may have a boll or two hanging around in the car still, I'll have to check tomorrow when it's daylight.

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King Cotton

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton...

These were taken in New Madrid, Missouri. That's pronounced New MADrid.

It's cotton harvest time. The loose bits of cotton fly everywhere. They line the side of the road and pile up in little snowdrifts.

The huge modern bales get stacked up at the cotton yards.

And covered - only halfway down - then spray painted with names or numbers.

The Machines, Old and New

Old times there are not forgotten...

Some folks like to put out the old things just to look at them.

Different ones are used, today.

I don't know what these are. But they look like some kind of cotton silos to me.

And - in case we forget this part - it's never just machines at work here.

From That Past to Now

Some places are a jumble of the used and unused machines.

To my eyes, they're all beautiful.

I don't actually know how any of this is processed.

I just like to look.

And I know I'm not the only one.