Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pick of the Litter and a Pair of Real Dogs

"All Dogs Go to Kevin" by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang  Grand Prairie Publishing  323 pages   $26

This pick of the litter is an engaging semi-biography from a female vet in the San Diego area.  She credits her three dogs with giving her at least as much of an education as vet school did.  The Kevin in the title is a reference to one of her and her husband's best friends, who died young. 

When the family dog died, one of her little kids misunderstood that "the dog went to Heaven" for "Kevin."

"Black Man In a White Coat - a Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine"  by Damon Tweedy, M.D.   Picador   291 pages   $26

Of late I have been making a sincere effort to learn why there is such a distinct separation between the white and black races.  I'm not talking about the professional racists like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Barack Obama.  I am talking about people just like us - regardless of skin color.  Whitey bashing seems to be the new indoor activity.  #Black Lives Matter or #Oscars So White.

When I saw this book, I thought, "At last!  A considered account from a doctor that happens to be black!"  In the end I was no wiser and rather saddened at Tweedy's ability and willingness to hang onto slights other people - no matter their skin color - would undoubtedly have laughed at and then turned into an anecdote to be shared over many a convivial dinner.  .  The prime example - his freshman year as a medical student, the professor turned to him on the way out of the auditorium and asked, "Are you here about the lights?  Look how dim it is over there (pointing)."  He just said, "No" and has been stewing about it for more than 20 years.  I stand my ground!  There four references to it throughout the length of the book.

He bewails the statistics that favor white longevity over black, but has to admit that black lifestyle habits account for diabetes, bad hearts plus the fact that blacks are reluctant to change life styles.  In short, he concedes that blacks could help themselves, but refuse to do so.  But:  he wants the rest of us to take care of them despite this!  Say, what?

"Stories I Tell Myself - Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson" by Juan F. Thompson   Alfred A. Knopf   271 pages   $26.95   

Thompson describes his father Hunter Thompson thusly:  He was an alcoholic and drug fiend, a wild, angry, passionate, sometimes dangerous, charismatic, unpredictable, irresponsible, idealistic, sensitive man with a powerful and deeply rooted sense of justice.

Let me shorten that a little (I am a writer, too)  He was a flaming ass hole. 

Juan, the poor kid, excused all of Hunter's bad behaviors in the end.  The great dramatic resolution, open arms, reconciliation was only because as Hunter aged,  weakened and was unable to write due to a 5th of whiskey daily for 40 years, he knew he needed help.  And the poor kid went for it.   

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Multitude of Choices

Trying to write a near-daily column can prove problematic when the writer has nothing to write about.  Trust me on this

Still, one's luck can change and you will have what I do right now -- we ate out twice this week so reviews on El Torito and Scardino's are in your future.  The library was generous and I have two books and a third to report on.  I saved Hunter Thompson's son Juan's account of growing up with HST as Daddy as a (dubious)  treat. 

So today I'm going to vamp with photos - meet Fred the tuxedo cat.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

High Anticipation!

No, we are not sitting around smoking dope at 9 a.m. (or any other time for that matter.)

The new sofa bed is being delivered "between 9 and 11 a.m."  If they can get it through the front door - the steel security door may be a problem.   The Sofa Lady came out and measured and said it shouldn't be a problem, but then she's not a furniture mover.

We shall know all in the fullness of time. 

Later that same day ....

Well, they came, they tried, they laughed and drove away.  With the sofa bed.  Many of you who have visited here might snicker and think (or worse say)  "Poor thing - it got one look around and fled as fast as it's little wheels would carry it!"

I would remind those parvenus that it never got INTO the house.  It has no idea of the fate escaped/

Tomorrow we go pick out a smaller one.  This is La-Z-Boy's philosophy:  "if a 3/4 bed won't fit, a full will.  It's smaller."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Shorts

East Coast
Richie's brother Charlie of Huntington, Long Island, reports they had 28 in. of snow so far.  Son Bryan is out in his pick-up with the snow plow making money.  He has a contract with a big supermarket to clear their parking lot.  Whatever he's paid, it's worth it because the job starts during the middle of the night.

West Coast
My sister sent me a photo of a window and a vista of falling snow.  The caption said that it was lovely seeing the snow -- from Hawaii.  They are in Maui.

Something New for the Oscars
I have never been a fan of The Cinema so who wins what is a matter of utter disinterest to me.  Back in the day though they were a big deal to my posse (Crazy Suzanne, Patty the Lawyer, Louise the Tease et al) because we would gather, amply supplied with bottles and bottles of wine and proceed to watch avidly -- for:  who was drunk on their butt or high on drugs; who was wearing the worst dress; who needed to wash their hair, the merriment was wonderful!

Now, though separated by distance, we all know a new attraction has been added to our viewing pleasure - shots of empty seats that once held black behinds, bitter statements from the likes of Quincy Jones, Jada Pickett-Smith; accusations leveled at Chris Rock for remaining as emcee of the program ...  The films themselves often disappoint, but never the attendees.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Making A Left Turn

The nerve affected is my right arm and hand which is my dominant hand.  With it trussed up like a calf after being roped, it isn't much use.

However, nothing wrong with my left hand and arm.

Things that I can't do very well  left handed:

Brush my teeth with either manual or electric toothbrush and I'm sticking to "I can't wipe the mirror off with this hand."

Use a dinner knife with any kind of grace or dignity.  Grip it like pole, teeth pointing down and saw.

Carry much of anything bulky - whatever has to have a handle like a shopping bag.

Write or print. 

Handle eye make up - safe enough with a dot of soft blue eyeliner, but attempting mascara would be begging for trouble.   Putting on lipstick in a moving car.  They really should fix some of the potholes around here.

What I can do that I couldn't before: 

Very nearly cross my fingers, a conversational tool previously.

Snap my fingers - a signal to Fred the cat to "Get down!" 

Use a lighter one-handed.

This is only post-op four days and so far so good.

My sister, age 67, uses her left hand since birth as I will be using my right again soon and I asked her how the hell does she do it?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Inside the Surgical "Suite"

I had surgery Tuesday to repair the ulnar nerve compression in my rt. arm,  This is Thursday and all seems to going quite well.  The half-cast; half dressing is beginning to itch faintly and I am hoping that is a sign of healing and not just an itchy bandage.

A nurse told me I was the only procedure that day and I thought. "Hardly worth turning on the lights."

Very often surgical prep starts with an injection of a drug called Versed which is a combo sedative-forgetter drug.  Since I have never been apprehensive prior to surgery, if given a veto, I'd use it.  I think the forgetter part is so that the surgeon can tell ribald jokes to the nurses and a patient like Sister Mary Patrick wouldn't rise up with a ruler and deal with them all.

The drug is administered in the pre-op room and the patient, now in la-la land, happy as a clam is wheeled into surgery.   I was that but also alert enough to now tell you what I saw.

"Suite" is a misnomer - the room is approx. 14x16 with a very narrow surgical table.  Fat people would make it look like it had drapes. 

The OR lights - two of them - are easily 3 ft. across.  I was interrupted in my examination and told to scootch from gurney to table.  Then a nurse came and put the world's largest blood pressure cuffs on my legs.  They stretched from ankle to just below the knee.  They're automatically inflated and deflated during surgery to discourage blood clots.  Most welcome was the warm blanket.  ORs are apparently also used by the kitchen to hang sides of beef.

I do have to  regress from cane to wheelchair as the sling puts me off-balance with the cane.  This, too, will pass.    

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

All is well even if the typing is not

this one-finger leftie stuff leaves a highway-sized margin for error.  And, of course i'll fall  into it!

Monday, January 18, 2016

No, an OR Is Not My Natural Habitat - It Just Seems Like It

Tomorrow I'm having outpatient surgery to free up an ulnar nerve compression, right elbow.. 

We're due at the surgery center at 10:30 a.m. for an 11:30 "procedure."  Procedure seems to be a rather benign description for being put to sleep, draped, cut on and sewn back up, off-loaded on a gurney and put in a Quiet Room.  With an audience at all times, no less. 

Happily this surgery is projected to take around and hour and a half (with or without recovery room unknown at this point) so looking forward to lunch while I'm still awake will provide something of a distraction.  There are a number of restaurants nearby and Type of Cuisine Most Satisfactory Post-Surgery will engage me until the lights go out. 

Readers with better-than-average memory skills will remember that back in July, I planned my underwear for maximum shock value - I yanked up my traffic cone orange Victoria's Secret Cheekies (a version of underpants) and sallied forth.  Unfortunately the only person who ever saw my statement was the undressing-for-surgery nurse and she was greatly non-impressed.   Well, we know what we think if they can't take a joke, right? 

I'm told that I will be sent home with "a great big bandage" on my arm/elbow; cannot get it wet for three days until it's removed, presumably by the physical therapist I see on Friday.  The medical profession today is hell bent on getting you movin' and groovin' at the earliest possible moment.  Example:  for the hip replacement, I had to slide off of the gurney that had brought me from the OR to recovery and walk.  Had I been more sensate I undoubtedly would have protested. 

As I don't walk on my hands, am not concerned about this.  But walking using a cane in my left hand only with no help from the right may provide some rather dicey moments.  What the hell -  no worries until they happen.  That's what ORs are for, right?

Not a good idea:  Playing the Eagles "Hotel California" on the way to surgery ..."They gathered for the feast; they stabbed it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast"

But It Wasn't a Double

Today's issue of the Daily Breeze's My Turn column ran mine.  It's a tongue-in-cheek spoof of our dreadful, bone-chilling winters in So. Cal. and how to overcome them.  You can read it at:

Don't misunderstand me - I am always delighted when I get a My Turn.  Writers are competitive and I appreciate any stray feather (pigeon or peacock) in my hat that I can get.

But I also sent in a Letter to the Editor and was hoping I'd hit the jackpot (to me) of both in the same day.  Alas, the paper doesn't run Letters on a Monday.  Hoping for both is more than somewhat presumptuous on my part. 

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Oh, No! All Joy Is Cast Aside! Doom and Gloom Rule!

Today's financial headlines - Wal-Mart to close 100s of stores. 

This is shocking news -- not because of what it may or may not signal about the economy, not about the many Wal-Mart Greeters who will now be forced to stay at home with their nagging spouses... no, it is far greater than even the foregoing.

Very few e-mails with photos of the customers!  There won't be any more morbidly obese men and women wearing scanty clothing that reveals every ripple and more transvestites in pretty dresses - and beards and moustaches...

I tell you, a great deal of laughter has fled the scene.  We're going to have to rely on the political debates (both sides) to provide the laughs. It's a sorry state of affairs, if not the nation.  

A May-December Romance or Lolita Re-Visited?

Singer Celine Dion has long been popular; said popularity leading up to a long-term performance  contract at a Las Vegas hotel/casino.  She has always portrayed her love  and dependence on husband/manager Rene Aguilar.

In mid-December, they celebrated their 21st anniversary together.  Meanwhile Rene has been suffering from a 2000 diagnosis of throat cancer.  Two days short of his 74th birthday, he died. 

The article gave ages and I got out the calculator - Rene's age at death 73; minus 21st anniversary meant that he was 52 when they married.  Her current age is 47, minus 21, makes her 16 when she married him. 

They had met four years prior, when she was 12 and her parents urged him to represent her as her manager. 

Clearly things are different in Canada. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Absurdity and "They're Just Now Thinking of This?"


There is an organization call Improv Everywhere.  Their mission is:  a celebration of silliness.
As proof,  I tender this tidbit.  Sunday was their promotion of Sunday No Pants Subway Ride" wherein volunteers went to subway stations in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, London and Moscow and there, removed their pants/skirt (this includes males)  and got on a subway in their underpants.  The people pictured in the shots I saw seemed composed, if a little nervous. 

A Long-awaited Afterthought

The Tournament of Roses Association will meet in February to decide the amount of the fines to be assigned to those floats  who disrupted the parade by having to stop due to a flat tire, engine fire or other disaster. 

In a fit of giddiness possibly inspired by finally thinking of it, the Tournament of Roses Association will be sticking it to offenders with fines ranging from $1,000 to $80,000 and (sinisterly) up.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Something New at the Jazz Club

The Royale Garden Jazz Band added a touch of class when a woman came to each table handing out a program!  On heavy stock paper!  Unknown in our time there!  Some bands give the audience a clue by announcing the number; others do not as aficionados are expected to know the music and recognize it after the first five notes.

I sat back and admired this formal oddity and finally read it and discovered that the band has a very sly sense of humor, to wit:

Equal Opportunity Band
The Royale Garden Jazz Band does not discriminate in the selection of its musicians on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, political affiliations or the lack of musical ability.

Mission Statement
Correcting Composer Errors
While the band's primary task is to entertain, it simultaneously makes a concerted effort to correct any errors made in the composition of the various songs played.  As a result, you hear the songs played as they should have been written in the first place.

If you would like to see these wits performing in public, they have a regular gig on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. at El Patio restaurant, 1750 W. La Palma, Anaheim.  There is no cover charge; the food is good and the dance floor is reportedly quite adequately-sized. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

You Know You're in Texas When ... Tornado Update

Red called this morning to tell us that daughter Kirin, her husband George, and all five dogs are no longer homeless. 

A woman down their block bought a four bedroom house with a big fenced yard for her daughter, but the daughter didn't like it.  So the mother has offered the house to Kirin and George rent free - they pay the utilities for a year.  How's that for neighborliness?

The other news is that the car that got flipped into the pool belongs to their son who's currently in the Army and who doesn't need a car. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Gitcher Ya-Yas Out!

Tomorrow, Sunday 1-10-16, is the second Sunday of the month and therefore, the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club's monthly meeting from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall, 214 Avenue I, Riviera Village.  Free parking in the Wells Fargo bank parking lot.

This is nothing new - the jazz club began in 1962!  That's 54 years ago for those, like myself, that like someone else (in my case ANYONE else) to do the math. 

Good, lively music, dancing and a no-host bar with reasonable prices.  Non-members pay $9 admission and go try to see a movie for $9.  I think they're more expensive and what goes on at the jazz club is often as interesting (or more so) than a movie. 

I think of our resident Dancing Fools who take to the floor like professionals...I remember how Lou used to drag Bernie out on the floor and twirl and show off while he basically shifted his weight from foot to foot ... I remember the pair of visitors who put a great deal of pep into their appearance; she would slink up to him, their belt buckles would click together (magnets?) and off they'd go, pelvises locked together,  fox trotting away. 

As if all of that is not enough, the club also sells hot dogs, chips, homemade baked goods and coffee at reasonable prices. 

And to think all of this excitement only happens once a month - the second Sunday which is tomorrow.  Be there or be square!

(We generally get there at 2 p.m. and would welcome you.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Sun Is Out!

Let's celebrate!

Phyllis Diller on Sports

Do you know why women don't play football?  I do.  You will never get 11 women anywhere in public all wearing the same outfit. 

When the golf pro tells you to keep your head down, it's so you won't see him laughing at you.

From a  Berlin zoo keeper - What do we do with unsold Christmas trees?  We feed them to the elephants at the zoo!  The trees are pesticide-free and the elephants love them!  They also enjoy rubbing up against the trees for a good scratch before dining. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sometimes Turning the Other Cheek Requires Major Neck Surgery

Our 1st Amendment provides us with the ability to use free speech to put out any damned lie, biased bullshit and outright lunacy we want to spew.    Fair enough.  We aren't Communists or Shiites or whatever.   No one should be punished for making an opinion known despite the loathsomeness of some of the messages.  .

However, that said, there are groups and individuals whose opinions are nauseatingly repugnant to most of the rest of us.

A case in point is a group of about 40 "extended family members" (read:  incestuous) in the Phelps family who describe themselves as members of the Westboro Baptist Church.  It should be immediately noted that the great body of genuine Baptist churches decry their actions just as much as most of us do. 

Here is a short list of items the Westboro loonies decry:
Gays of any stripe

Most loathsome of all is their mission which is to show up at funerals and tell the mourners that whoever it was that died, deserved to die.  However, they are idiots viz a viz this:  Phelps daughter put out a Twitter notice that they would be picketing Steve Jobs funeral.  On an iPhone.

They picketed a store in Topeka, KS (unfortunately for Topeka, that's their headquarters) because it was selling a brand of Swedish vacuum cleaners!  The Westboros thought the store was promoting homosexuality because a Swedish pastor - in Sweden - was gay-friendly. 

  They're coming to a town very near us - Redondo Beach, in fact.  They plan to picket Redondo Union High School's gay club at 7 a.m. on Monday, January 11th.  There is hope for us all if a high school is the best audience they can dig up. 

Of some note (but not much) they consider that Obama, Satan and the late Pope  Benedict are/were a triad of the Anti-Christ.  I had always thought it was Bill and Hillary Clinton!  My bad. 

Anyhow, if you're local and you commute to your job - avoid PCH next Monday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Rain Comfort Food

It is raining right now, clearly audible drops as the rain hits the skylight.  The cats looked puzzled, but as we weren't reacting, they settled back into their preferred morning nap spots and resumed sleeping. 

Rain out here is something of a mixed blessing.  Yes, we need the drought-quenching rain.  No, we don't need drivers who got their licenses at 16, are now 21 and have never driven in the rain.    "Wet stuff on the road makes you skid?  Huh, what's a skid?"  In the lamentable habit of running red lights, they are due for some unpleasant surprises, if not hospital time. 

Therefore, all things in consideration, you are safer, if not more content, in your own house.  This is the time to surround yourself with interesting books or old DVDs  or whatever you haven't gotten around  to with Netflix or library freebies for Mid-Afternoon Movies. 

Most of us seem to have some 500 channels to pick from - go a'roving. 

Whichever  you choose, food is an important factor in unadulterated, sensual pleasure.  Nuke the popcorn and give it an additional swoosh/dump of butter.  Chop red onions, throw them into sour cream and dip away or make your own hummas  and cut up some carrots, green pepper, cauliflower chunks and have a healthy dip at your disposal.  My own personal feeling that comfort food was never meant to be healthy shouldn't rule your passions.  Comfort means just that.

Toward that end, Richie is making chili for dinner tonight.  We got guacamole and fresh salsa from the International Market yesterday (and we've both been into the guac and it wasn't even raining yet.)

1 lb. hamburger
3 T New Mexico powder
3 T cumin/cominos
2 serrano chilis, diced - He's trying jalapenos this time
1 14 oz can tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 7 oz. can diced green chilis

Brown meat, drain, add all the other ingredients and let simmer. 

Let it rain, let it rain.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Finding the Last Pine Needles on the Living Room Carpet

Statistics -
Having an orderly mind, New Year's is a pleasant time for me.  I have a list - by month - of family and friends' birthdays.  Newborn babies get the year posted beside their date so that I always know how old the kid is on their birthday.   I go through the 2016 calendar writing them (in order by date) in the appropriate month.   This makes sending cards on time -- and knowing to buy them in bulk for that next month - easy.

I have another, rather doleful list of the deaths of family members and friends.  I started it when I realized that I couldn't remember when So-and -So died.  Actually, it's two lists.  "Deaths" for humans and "Cats" for our departed pets.   

Casting a Critical Eye
As of 1/1/2016 I had written 2,383 posts with 73,444 page views.  Dividing post numbers by 365 (# of days of the year) I got a total of 6.52 years' worth of writing.  Dividing blogs written into views averaged 30 readers per blog.

You made this possible and I thank you all very much.

Blacks Have a Better PR Machine Than Whites or Any Other Skin Color
Item -
It's a fledgling strike at the Oscars and it's call #OscarsSoWhite.  The site is annoyed that there are comparatively few black nominees.  This confused me because innocently enough I thought the Oscars were awarded to whoever did the best job in their field that year.  I apologize for my error.

In other headlines, #BlackLivesMatter* disrupted a diner by showing up and presumably bleating their gripes.  I can tell you that I have been in my share of Long Island diners and if anyone - black, white, purple - whatever - showed up and tried to interfere with a diner's meal, he or she would get a fork stuck into them.  Eating is serious business among the Diner People. 

*Not to pick favorites, but ALL lives matter. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Everything's Coming Up Roses! Um, Not Exactly

When I moved to Southern California in 1964 from Kansas City, MO, I was anxious to see if not embrace the cultural differences.  Kansas City had the annual American Royal Stock Show with a parade through the city and a presentation of debutantes on the floor of the arena.  It was hilarious to watch the debs avoiding the cow patties in their long, regal dresses but that was about all of  the amusement there was.  Other than the year a running mate and I stalked a Shriner with the intent of stealing his fez.  He was drunk, but we were, too.  Conclusion:  zip.

But the Rose Bowl Parade, I was told was the granddaddy of them all for sheer exuberance and beautiful flowers used to make imaginative floats.  Dutifully I watched my first and was impressed by the floats.

Over the years, my viewing devolved  into watching for what had become the set pieces for this parade:

The truck transporting the float overheated and stopped, holding up everything behind it. This might happen several times.

One of the horses in one of the equestrian clubs would freak out and the rider's maneuvers to contain the horse would again provide a delay.

One of the float makers had miscalculated and the float was too tall to go under phone or electric wires.  Much ado with designated pole workers who manually lifted the wires. 

But the biggest surprise came when I, in my ignorance, was to learn that all those flowers on all of those floats were not flowers at all. 

A partial list, gleaned from various sources:
Seeds and grains
Dried beans - kidney, lima, etc.
Dried seaweed - sushi quality
Coconut flakes
Kumquats, oranges, lemons
Brussel sprouts
Spices for color, such as turmeric
Split peas
White rice
Asparagus spears

Since Thanksgiving, various organizations that feed the homeless have been pleading for donations for the rest of the year.  Maybe they could come and forage among the floats that are destroyed two days after the parade?  Otherwise all that food will just be wasted which is pretty much what the Rose Bowl Parade is - a waste of time, money and resources. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

An Irish Blessing for the New Year

May joy and peace surround you
Contentment latch your door
And happiness be with you now
And bless you evermore.