Saturday, June 28, 2014

Father and Son

One of my favorite family photos is one I never saw until summer before last when my stepsister gave it to me. It's a picture of her paternal grandfather, an old Kentucky farmer, resting for a moment while working in his field.

Otto J. Hofmann - 1868-1939

I love pictures that show people in their natural environment, as opposed to all stiff and proper in a formal studio setting. Another reason I love this one is that Otto bore such a close resemblance to his son Tommy, my stepfather:

Thomas J. Hofmann - 1913-1996

In honor of these two gentlemen from Kentucky, today's Saturday Song Selection is a bluegrass number, another in the recent series of "old man" songs:

The song is "Old Man and His Fiddle" by Michael Cleveland and Larry Sparks.
Thanks to Marvin Nicholson for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Not Always as Good as We Think We Are

It's time for a story, kids, and this one's a real doozy--an embarrassment in more ways than one. All the recent news about the "hot convict" make my story a timely one, even if it happened more than thirty years ago.

I was 38 years old, separated from my second (and last and best) husband for more than a year, awaiting final divorce papers, newly promoted into a mid-level management position at work. The company I worked for hosted an annual crawfish boil for customers, and on that occasion we traded in our business attire for jeans and T-shirts, let our '80s hair down and danced the night away under a tent erected on the back lot. Employee attendance was mandatory, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss it anyway.

That's me in the turquoise shirt at the 
far end of the guest-registration table.

That year a couple of contract employees had spent a week or two rewiring some equipment in our plant, and they were invited to attend the crawfish boil. One of them, whom I'd seen only from a distance, asked me to dance. I hadn't dated or otherwise been in the company of a man socially since separating from my husband, and that first dance reminded me how much I'd missed it.

My new dance partner--I'll call him PJ--was tall, lean and broad-shouldered. In the style of the early '80s, his brown hair touched his ears and his collar and swept across his forehead. A carefully tended handlebar mustache perched on his upper lip. His light-colored eyes were as pretty as any I've ever seen.

We danced again, talking and getting acquainted. By the end of our second dance I knew he was nine years younger than I. By the end of our third, he'd asked me for a date. Flattered as I was, I declined, explaining that the age difference was too great and he'd do better finding a girl his own age. "I'm not asking you to marry me," he replied, those pale eyes twinkling. "I'm only asking you to dinner." All of a sudden that sounded reasonable to me. I accepted his invitation for the following Saturday at seven.

Mid-morning on the next day, a co-worker I'll call Sally came into my office. "PJ told me he has a date with you. Is that true?"

"Yes," I said. "I know he's too young for me, but it's only a dinner."

"Ohmigod!" Sally's eyes grew big. "It's not about the age difference. Did you know PJ's been in prison?" My own eyes grew bigger than Sally's as she continued: "I mean, I think he's probably a nice guy now and all, but I thought you should know what happened when he was younger."

My thoughts were running all over the place as Sally related that PJ had served time for attempted bank robbery. My god, I thought, not only is he a criminal, he isn't even very good at it! I did not need to get involved with somebody who had a bad reputation. I was a nice person, a business professional who participated in charitable events with the local Woman's Club in her spare time. I tried to imagine myself in gun-moll clothing as opposed to the plaid wool skirts and blazers that had become my normal attire; my brain wouldn't go there.

Me in typical work clothes (with my '80s dog, Radar).

I figured Sally had given PJ as much of a rundown on my life as she was giving me about his. If so, if she'd told him I'd never go out with a bank robber in a million years, then I had to do it, didn't I? Because what if he'd completely reformed? What if he'd paid his debt to society and done nothing since then but go to work and try to be an upstanding citizen? How could I, a human-resources person who worked diligently to keep discrimination out of the workplace, shut him down so heartlessly? No, I'd do it gently. I'd buck up and go out to dinner with him. One time. That's all it would be. If he happened to ask me out again, I'd decline for some reason that would seem acceptable to him, a reason that allowed him to save face.

I fretted about that upcoming date for the rest of the week. PJ was there only a couple more days before the work he was doing was completed. I didn't see him during those days, but our paths didn't cross at work naturally. I'd seen him only a time or two before the crawfish boil.

On Saturday evening I dressed carefully, choosing an outfit that was attractive but somewhat matronly, not at all provocative, and waited nervously for seven o'clock. Then I waited for seven-thirty. Then eight. By nine o'clock I accepted the fact that PJ wasn't coming. I had been stood up by a wannabe bank robber--no phone call, no nothing. For the most part, I felt immense relief. But another little part of me? That little part was offended. How dare he? Didn't he have a clue how charitable I was being by going out with him?

More than my decision not to break the date (perhaps a well-meaning breach of good judgment), more than being stood up, what embarrasses me most in this story is my own sanctimonious attitude, the faux-virtuous BS I fed myself that night. I don't like snobbery and am ashamed to have seen that side of myself.

This would be a good place to end the story; however, there is a brief epilogue. I never saw or heard from PJ again, but a few short months after our non-date, his handsome mugshot appeared in the newspaper. The article that accompanied it stated that law-enforcement officers had entered his home with a search warrant and recovered an enormous cache of assault weapons, enough to arm a small militia.

I've changed the names in this story so PJ won't come across it if he Googles himself. Wherever he is, he's over 60 now. I hope his failures at bank robbery and white supremacy, along with his years in prison, haven't damaged his psyche. Lord knows I was willing to help preserve his self-respect.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I've Been Reading

The Rope
by Nevada Barr

Just the Way You Are
by Barbara Freethy

Gray Matter
by Nick Pirog

by CC Tillery

by Jay Giles

The Escape Artist
by Diane Chamberlain

Electric God
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Pawleys Island
by Dorothea Benton Frank

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

This was a good batch of books, my favorite among them being Catherine Ryan Hyde's Electric God. Hyde has written that some readers didn't like the main character, Hayden Reese, but I loved him from the get-go. Hayden, though human, is a lot like my dog, Gimpy. Sometimes he does bad things--he just can't help himself--but he's always sorry, he always tries to atone in the best way he can, and his heart has more love in it than he'll be able to give away in his whole lifetime.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hitting Too Close to Home

The Google Map screen capture at left is an aerial view of the area where I live. (Road numbers and names have been obscured to preserve privacy.) The curvy white line running vertically down the center of the map is the road that runs right in front of my house. It was only last Friday that I wrote these words about that same stretch of pavement: "I was not about to stop like a sitting duck on that narrow, two-lane, curvy, high-speed road."

I didn't mention that the road has no shoulders except in a few spots, that in most places along its length the edges drop off into deep ditches. Nor did I mention that most of the land on the western side of the road is swampy and tree covered, that this route is a lovely, scenic drive until peak traffic times turn it into a literal hell on wheels.

Many commuters traveling to and from Baton Rouge avoid the main highways and use this rural road as a shortcut. Bumper to bumper, they exceed the speed limit, which, at 55-miles-per-hour, is already too high. They ignore the no-passing stripes in the center of the road. They're thinking about getting to work or getting home, they're fiddling with their radios, they're using their cell phones ("Do you want me to pick up something for dinner?"), and they're not paying attention. Some of them are drinking. More than once a beer bottle has landed in our front yard, having been tossed out the window of a passing pickup truck.

See the red spot on the green map above? At right is a closer view (obviously taken in winter) of that same spot. The dark slash you see crossing under the road is a bayou. The light tan areas that appear to be wide shoulders alongside the road are actually the deep slopes of embankments.

My daughter got off work early yesterday afternoon, passed this particular spot on her way home, and noticed some children fishing in the bayou at the bottom of the embankment. As soon as she arrived home, she picked me up and drove me to retrieve my car from the tire shop. She came home from there the same way she had come from work a short while earlier. (I came by a different route.) When she approached this bayou overpass again, she found traffic at a standstill. She could see that an SUV had driven off the road and into the bayou, and she saw someone giving CPR to a child. No emergency vehicles had arrived at the scene yet. Because of heavy traffic conditions, it would be a while before they did.

Later, at home, we could hear sirens passing our house for what seemed like an hour. Finally, we read on the internet, state police closed our road in both directions. Still later, on a televised newscast, we learned that the SUV, driven by an apparently unimpaired middle-aged woman, had run off the road and plowed into two children, their father and two of his friends, all of whom had been fishing peacefully a moment earlier. Both children died at the scene of the accident. The three men were transported to the hospital with injuries that turned out not to be severe. The driver, her seatbelt secured, her vehicle stopped by a tree from sinking into the bayou, suffered only minor injuries.

What a tragedy! Our community mourns this morning with the families involved in this terrible, surely preventable occurrence. What are the odds of someone losing control of a vehicle in the one spot on a five-mile stretch of road where people stood unprotected and unaware in her aberrant path? A broad combination of factors contributed to this accident;  a change in any one of them might have prevented it.

Reducing the speed limit on this road would be one good place to start.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shaken Confidence

Well, I was right. My perfectly fine looking tires are cracking from the inside out. Two hoses and one belt (or was it two belts and one hose?) also need replacing due to age. The front brakes need relining, and a broken fan is the reason the air conditioner isn't cooling when the engine is idling.

Before I took the car in this morning, I made a checklist of all the things I wanted them to inspect. Basically, the list included everything that's old enough and/or worn enough to potentially break down and leave me stranded away from home. I'm too old--and the weather is too hot--to take unnecessary chances.

Some of the work on my checklist didn't need to be performed, but most of it did. Since the repairs will take the better part of the day, they offered to drive me home, so here I sit, cool and comfortable, with nothing I need to do, no place I need to go. Being stuck at home without transportation usually makes me feel antsy, but not this time. My patience this time stems from the knowledge that I'll be safer the next time I get behind the wheel.

It's funny how vulnerable one blown tire can make a person feel.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"We Struck a Friendship Up"

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a cluster of "old men" songs I'd heard on iTunes. Of all the old men in those songs, the gentleman in this week's Saturday Song Selection is the one I'd most like to have known.

You've probably heard this song; it was a big hit. If so, I'd be surprised if you haven't found yourself wishing once or twice that you'd had a chance to sit on Old Man Wrigley's porch for just a little while.

The song is "Believe" by Brooks & Dunn.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to BrooksandDunnVEVO for posting this video on YouTube.

Friday, June 20, 2014


First it was the broken pipe on the bathroom sink, then the compressor fan motor on the central air conditioner, then yesterday a rear tire blew out minutes after I left home to go grocery shopping. That's three repair emergencies in ten days. Don't "they" say bad things happen in threes? I should be free and clear now, right? Should be able to come and go without a worrisome thought in the foreseeable future? Sorry, that's not my style. I'll worry that one more thing I can't do without will break, making me the exception to the three-in-a-row rule.

I barely felt it when the tire blew, but the sound was so much like a gunshot that I checked the windows to see if any had been shattered, then I checked the rearview mirror to see if I'd run over something. Everything seemed fine and the car kept on tracking normally until a few brief seconds later. I actually heard the telltale wobble before I felt it. Fortunately, I was still close enough to home that I could turn around and limp back here on the rubber-covered rim. I was not about to stop like a sitting duck on that narrow, two-lane, curvy, high-speed road.

My son-in-law stopped by on his way home from work and changed the tire for me, bless his heart. He's a good, kind man and always seems willing to help, but I'll bet he secretly wishes I'd at least try to find a healthy old man of my own to take care of jobs like this one.

The tire that blew out was only three days short of being five years old. I dug out the receipt when I got home and saw that I'd purchased this set of tires on June 22, 2009, a month before my retirement. (I re-tired right before I retired; go ahead and groan.) Before and after odometer readings tell me I've driven only 9,075 miles in all that time--about 35 miles a week. Whoo-eee, what a world traveler!

Did you know that tires dry rot? They do; Google it. The rubber rots faster in hot climates (say, here in Southeast Louisiana), and tires on cars that are not driven much rot faster than those with higher mileage. Go figure. The thick tread on my tires makes them look almost brand-new, but, according to what I've been reading, the inside layers are most likely crumbling. I suppose the spare tire that was put on yesterday is in similarly poor condition.

Spare tire marked "temporary use only."
guarantee it'll be temporary.

Anyway, based on tire knowledge acquired yesterday, I think it's probably wise to go ahead and spring for a whole new set. Years ago I was driving when a front tire blew out and I had the dickens of a time controlling the car. That was an experience I'd choose not to repeat.

The rotting-rubber information also makes me wonder about belts and hoses that could be deteriorating deeper into the danger zone with each mile I drive--or each hour that the car sits in the carport. Have you ever opened a drawer and found rubber bands that have been in there for years? Hard, broken short pieces and longer pieces stuck firmly to other objects in the drawer? I presume automobile belts and hoses are made of sturdier rubber than that, but how do rubber years compare to human years? I wouldn't feel safe knowing my engine is being held together by parts in the same life stage as I am.

I was going to take the car in today for new tires and an overall rubber inspection, but my experience with young mechanics tells me they'll be rushing through their work today to make sure they don't have to work late on a Friday afternoon. Jobs that are rushed aren't always done well. My preferred tire company is closed on weekends, so Monday is the next earliest day I could go, but everybody knows not to get mechanical work done on Mondays when, according to urban legend, workers are nursing hangovers and couldn't give two s**ts about the quality of their work.

Tuesday. I'll do it Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Puppy Dog Tales

Three of our four dogs had to go to the vet last week for their annual examinations and shots. Only Levi was exempt, having had his turn earlier in the year. On Wednesday I went with Kim to help her wrangle Lucy and Oliver. Except for a small amount of leash tangling, they didn't really need wrangling. There was one semi-chaotic moment when the vet tech took off Ollie's leash and picked him up to carry him to the back for blood work. Lucy, still off leash from having been the first to go back there, scurried through the open door and took off down the hall. Kim and I stood by helplessly and watched half a dozen vet workers bump elbows in the narrow hall as they scrambled to catch Lucy.

On Friday I went back there with Gimpy. He's the smaller of my two Goldendoodles but much, much larger than Lucy and Oliver. Size, evidently, does not equate with courage. The same vet tech who had taken Lucy and Oliver's leashes off left Gimpy's on to lead him to the back. Gimpy had other ideas. He wouldn't go. She talked soothingly to Gimpy as she tried to pull him toward the door; he sat back on his haunches and pulled backward, his eyes steadily on me, as if begging and expecting me to come to his aid. I got up to take the leash and encourage him to go through the door, but it didn't help. The vet tech pulled Gimpy and I pushed him. When the tech brought him back a few minutes later, she said he'd been nothing but cooperative in the back.

While we waited for the vet, Gimpy relaxed, alternately lying on the floor and getting up to sniff all the equipment in the room. I was relieved that he was back to behaving normally. Then the vet opened the door, and Wimpy Gimpy was back. He scrunched his big body into the corner behind my chair as if he were trying to make himself small enough to disappear. Pulling and pushing once again, we managed to slide him on his rump far enough out of the corner for the vet to examine him. The vet and Gimpy both sat on the floor through the entire examination.


Three people live in our rent house across the carport from my own home. Every time one of those people steps outside the house or pulls into the driveway in a car, our three male dogs go nuts, barking and growling like trained guard dogs bent on keeping those friendly, familiar people from entering our home.

On Tuesday, when the plumber drove his truck into the driveway, the dogs made not a peep. To keep the dogs out of the plumber's way, I had closed the gate and shut them behind the indoor fence that separates the front half of my house from the rear. They watched in curiosity as this man they'd never seen before walked in and out of the house several times, but they never made a sound.

We replayed that scene on Saturday when the air conditioner stopped cooling and I had to call out the second repairman of the week. Once again, the dogs didn't voice any warning or concern whatsoever. After the A/C repairman finished the job and I handed him a check, he asked if I'd mind if he opened the gate and played with the dogs for a minute. I gave him the go-ahead, and in seconds he was surrounded by all four of them. He petted and played with each one in turn, much to their delight and his, too. As he cuddled with Lucy, Levi broke away from the pack just long enough to retrieve a tennis ball, returning to poke it at him. The repairman bounced it toward the hall and laughed heartily as Levi and Gimpy lost their footing and skidded after it. What fun!

All the vicious barking as the neighbors come and go had made me think our dogs are good burglar deterrents. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe they are, as long as the burglar doesn't show up driving a big van and carrying a toolbox.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's a Good Thing I'm Not God

The news is not good, is it? There's trouble brewing all over the world, enough trouble to keep all the 24-hour-news reporters hustling to gather every fact and opinion and regurgitate it to us whatever time of day we tune in via our media of choice. It's enough to give a sane person ulcers or inspire a crazy one to go out and buy an assault rife.

No school shooting or other mass murder today? Wait for it; it won't be long now. In the meantime local newscasters will keep you up to date on the latest drug-related, drive-by shooting in the nearest city. Or the domestic violence in your own quiet suburb that ended up in the death of a family. There's plenty of that kind of news to go around.

So your crazies and your druggies and your abusive spouses keep things stirred up, and then there are your religious zealots all over the world--all sorts of sects and denominations who are convinced their way is the only right way. If they can't force their fellow citizens to follow their rules through political means, they sometimes become angry and self-righteous enough to take matters into their own hands and kill the dissenters themselves. They're that certain that God (or Allah or any of His other names) has their backs.

Right now the latest upheaval in Iraq has many of us rightly concerned. We don't want to lose any more of our young men or spend any more of our tax dollars on wars, and we're worried about how this is all going to shake out. I wonder if peace of mind is as important to God as it is to some of the rest of us.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I have an idea. Some say God created everything, right? And they say He is omniscient in that He (like Santa) "knows if you've been good or bad" and plenty of other stuff, too. What if God were to retrofit the earth with a modular anti-gravity system? Then, if He decided there were too many troublemakers in any given area (let's say some Middle-Eastern hot spot or, I don't know, the right side of the aisle in Congress), He could flip a switch to turn off the gravity supplying that little section, and everybody there would simply float off into the atmosphere: no fuss, no muss, no bloody bodies to show us on TV. Instead, we might see Anderson Cooper on the screen talking to Wolf Blitzer: "Uh...wait...what happened to Mosul and Tikrit?" And Wolf would reply, "I don't know, Anderson, it's the most bizarre thing. People were fighting there a minute ago, but it appears that everyone's vanished. Wait, what are those things floating way up in the sky?"

Granted, there'd be some collateral damage--there always is in human-instigated wars and conflicts, too--but the important thing is that God would be the one making the decisions; it wouldn't be necessary for you or me or some non-omniscient, elected government officials to institute violent action on His behalf.

Personally, I think this idea is worth His consideration. It would definitely improve the tone of the news coverage.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Snail Trails

I've written before about the tiny snails that live in my backyard. They mostly stay in the grass, so I forget about them until we have a bout of heavy rain that drives or floats them up onto sidewalks and patios. One rode into the house on Levi's leg the other day. I gently plucked it off and set it carefully back on the patio, which was ridiculous since the snail population out there is often so thick we can't help but step on them.

This photo of two brown snails and a dragonfly will give you an idea of how small the snails are:

I didn't realize how much traveling these little popcorn-kernel-sized creatures were doing until the late-afternoon sunlight caught their slimy trails on the slab in front of the garden shed:

Where do snails go, I wonder, and why do they go there? The photo above shows that the snail at the upper right had traveled in a nearly straight line, so why did so many others take crooked paths to get where they were going? Do you suppose the shells on their backs make them wobble? Or that most snails are male and refuse to ask for directions? Or that there's a high incidence of craziness among snails?

The older I get, the more I realize how many questions there are that I can't answer. With new ones popping up all the time, I'll never be able to catch up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sink (Sank, Sunk)

Remember the days when your bathroom sink stopper was a rubber plug? How simple was that? As long as you didn't lose it, it performed perfectly every time.

My 1970s-era sink plumbing came equipped with a chrome, disk-shaped stopper that was raised or lowered by means of a lever behind the faucet. The disk came off years ago, leaving a little X-shaped plastic gadget sticking out of the drain just far enough to keep an old-fashioned plug from fitting into it. It wasn't a big deal; we quickly got used to not filling that sink.

On Tuesday things got trickier: Kim lifted the lever while she was cleaning the faucet, and the entire stopper assembly fell apart.

The rod that had held the little plastic thingamajig up in the mouth of the drain fell down into the pipe. Since those parts had originally been situated in the drainpipe on purpose, we weren't too worried about it and turned on the faucet to see if water would flow around them in their new position. In fact, the water flowed more freely than ever. As we stood there congratulating ourselves on our good fortune in a close call, water flowed down the drain, past the broken parts, through a brand-new hole in the side of the pipe, and onto everything in the cabinet below. The good news was that it happened early in the morning on a stormy day, so we had no problem finding a plumber who was happy to have an indoor job.

It had been a while since I'd squatted down to look into the back corners of the cabinet under the sink. When Kim pulled everything out of there, I was surprised to discover how many bottles of bathroom chemicals I own. Turns out I'm rich in terms of basin, tub and tile cleaners, mildew removers, glass cleaners, and toilet cleaners. There are multiple partial bottles and new unopened bottles, some in the same brands, some in different brands to be used for the same purposes, each one claiming to be more powerful than the others, each toxic in its own way. These are the types of items I pick up at the grocery store because I can't remember if I need them or not. I spot them on the shelf and know they aren't on my list, but they won't spoil, so I buy them to be safe instead of sorry. After our inconvenient inventory, I know I can safely bypass the bathroom cleaner aisle for at least six months, maybe even a year.

The plumber pointed out that the shelves all those products have been sitting on were built after the plumbing was installed, and they were built to last. Whoever made them was a fine craftsman. He sawed out intricate slots to fit perfectly around the piping, then installed the boards with enough nails or screws to keep them in place long after the roof caves in and the walls fall down. He did not, evidently, consider the possibility of future plumbing problems. When the plumber was unable to maneuver the curvy pipes out of the custom-fitted shelves, the choice was to cut and replace the pipes or break out the shelves. The shelves prevailed. Shelves 1, Pipes 0.

The new $205 sink stopper is very shiny. So far it's worked every time we've tried it.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

What Lies in the Hearts of Old Men?

"If you're a writer, you know that the stories don't come to you--you have to go
 looking for them. The old men in the lobby: that's where the stories were."
Tom Waits

Lately I've had old men on my mind. Since I'm an old woman, you might think there are some last-gasp hormones at work here, but that isn't the case. I've been thinking about old men because my iPod shuffle recently randomized and played a cluster of songs by, for and about old men, and I quite liked them. The songs, that is. I suppose I might like the subjects of the songs, too, if I met them in real life. They're a deep-thinking lot for sure, their stories poured out poignantly for all the world to hear.

Most of the old men I know personally would rather die than talk meaningfully about their loves or their regrets. They'll talk at length about golf or football or fishing, and they'll preach about politics as though they alone have figured out the solutions to the world's problems. They might even tell a true story about something they experienced, but they won't say how they felt about it. A man who can talk about his feelings is a rarity down here in good ol' boy country.

Anyway, it's time for a Saturday Song Selection, and I think I might dedicate a string of upcoming Saturdays to some of these old-man songs. The first one is a pretty, pretty tune about a man who finds himself feeling alone and useless. My take on it is that he enjoyed all the perks of being a musician--sowed all his wild oats--then he burned all his bridges, and now he wishes he'd done things differently. I feel sad for him but, to be honest, he's a bit of a downer. He's such a pessimistic sort that I can't imagine any widows in his neighborhood trekking up his driveway with a red velvet or apple cake and hoping to spend a little time with him. If he wants company, he's gonna have to stop feeling so sorry for himself and sing a different tune.

Still, I give him points for being open about his feelings.

The song is "Old Violin" by Johnny Paycheck.
Thanks to Renee Brown for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Baby Boy and Big Brother

As many photos as I've taken of Levi and Gimpy, this may be the first one that clearly shows the difference in their sizes. Full brothers from the same litter, Levi (on the right in the picture below) is taller than Gimpy and outweighs him by at least twenty pounds. If I correctly remember what I was told by my niece, who owned their parents, Levi was the anomaly in the litter; the other pups were Gimpy's size.

Long-time visitors here may recall that I got Levi almost a year and a half before Gimpy came to join us. They've been inseparable ever since, so close I can't imagine how either one ever got along without the other. It's even harder to imagine how I could get along without them. God, I love these curly blond boys!

The other day I was tinkering with this blog and browsing through the list of personal favorite posts in the sidebar. One of them (from 2007) featured a picture of a pile of Butch and Kadi's dog hair I'd swept up, sprayed with water, sculpted into a dog shape and digitally painted facial features on. Seeing that image again, I was surprised at how closely the fake dog resembled the two big boys I have now. Levi and Gimpy weren't even born until four years later, but maybe the idea of them was on my mind (or in my heart) way back then.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Baseball Bats Don't Vandalize; Knuckleheads Do!

It's been a little over six years since I last wrote about my mailbox getting bashed in, most likely by teenaged males seeking recreation. I'd replaced the box a few days before I wrote that post. Since then I've replaced it four more times. This afternoon I'll be doing it again for the fifth time in six years.

Each of the first couple of replacements was stronger, sturdier and more expensive than its immediate predecessor, and the steel frame of each one eventually crumpled up as easily as the others had. It stands to reason. If a fine automobile were struck by a baseball bat or a tire iron in the hands of a redneck boy hanging out the window of his buddy's pickup truck, the car would sustain significant damage. Why would I expect a mailbox to hold up any better?

Mailbox vandalism is so common it has its own Wikipedia page and its own news article on the United States Postal Service website. That's strangely reassuring. The first few times it happened I took it personally; it left me with a creepy, vulnerable feeling. Now it doesn't. Now it just makes me want to pinch some yahoos' heads off.

My mailbox sits next to two others on a structure that looks like a tall, wooden hitching post. A fourth box, attached to a metal post of its own, stands right in line with the other three. I have to admit that I understand why four mailboxes in a row, all at the same height, would make an attractive target for young males bent on destruction. It's all about the challenge; I get that. What I'll never understand is why some boys are so doggone stupid.

The mailbox I bought today is a hard-plastic one, the cheapest kind available at one of the big-box home improvement stores. The neighbor in front of me turned me on to this kind about three years ago when several of us had to get replacements at the same time after someone's night of ridiculous madcap adventure. The plastic ones are more resilient; they don't dent like the steel ones do. And if they do get cracked--or if the door gets broken off and thrown on the ground like mine and a next-door neighbor's did the other day--they're less costly to replace. The one I bought today is my third one of this style.

So, my neighbors and I have learned how to reduce the cost associated with repetitive acts of vandalism, and I'm less stressed when it happens than I used to be. There's still the matter of the inconvenience:  the trip to town to buy a new mailbox, the time involved in taking the damaged box down and attaching the new one securely while traffic whizzes by, the day(s) when there's no mail delivery because there's no usable mailbox. It's annoying as all get out.

I live in a nice, safe, semi-rural area where a mailbox-bashing spree every year or so is the height of crime. That makes me lucky, I know. And I love my house. It isn't fancy, but it suits me, and coming home to it always feels great. If I could change one thing, I'd have a--no, wait, make that two things. First, I'd add another bathroom. Then (second thing) I'd want a mailbox like the kind they have in my sister's East Texas neighborhood:

Try to bash that, bozos!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Five Too Few

I called the pharmacy to request prescription refills and got a recorded message suggesting I arrange to have my prescriptions ready on a certain date every month to save the bother of a monthly phone call. That sounds convenient, but how would it work exactly? 

My medications for high blood pressure and (sort of) high cholesterol come in 30-day quantities. I suppose most common prescriptions are packaged that way, yet seven of the twelve months in a year have 31 days. Only four months have 30 days, and then there's February, which, even at 28 days (in three out of four years), falls short of making up the difference. 

This bugged me enough that I made a little spreadsheet on it:

You see what I mean? If I were to get a prescription filled on the same date each month, I'd run out of it five times a year. I realize that 31 pills can't be laid out as neatly as 30 pills in a pre-packaged prescription packet (Peter Piper, etc.), but I could live with the disorder. Does no one in the medical profession care if we skip a daily dose now and then? Do doctors and pharmacies think most of us forget to take our medicine at least five times a year anyway, so what's the big deal? Nope. I'm going to have to keep calling in every month, adjusting the refill date as necessary, convenience be damned.

You go ahead and worry about world famine, foreign wars, the economy and global warning. I'm on top of the pill shortage.