I’d Never Steer You Wrong

The problem with giving advice is that you sort of have to know what you’re talking about in order to make a difference in someone else’s life. It’s not a hard and fast rule, though. Many people fake it. They express a noticeable sense of self-confidence and put up strong airs about their superior knowledge. We call such people blowhards, but in fact it should be mentioned that a hefty number of our citizenry here in the U.S. were dazzled by such an approach in the most recent election– 62,979,636 of them to be exact.¹

But with apologies to Oscar Wilde, one can also impress simply by showing a little earnestness.

I learned this myself recently when I unwittingly became an advisor on health insurance to a couple who live in our community. The husband, Billy, is a retired postal worker. We became acquainted by floating on pool noodles in direct proximity to one another over the previous 12 months. This same kind of camaraderie is also formed by men who congregate at doughnut shops every morning in most of your towns. It works the same way at the pool except that there are no carbs, caffeine, or calories ingested. Instead, you have two lazy dudes who pass the time with their belly’s floating up, each pontificating about the status of their pensions or the wait time at the local Jiffy Lube. John Waters, Barry Levinson, or Albert Brooks could have a field day with us.

Billy and his wife Phyllis both turned 65 in the last year and signed up for Medicare Part B. They also wisely kept the health insurance Billy earned by being a postman for 40+ years (the same health plan under which I am also covered as a retired federal employee). But being covered by both Medicare and a second health plan quickly brought unintended stress and confusion into their lives. They weren’t sure whether to stay with their current policy or shop for a new one. And in either case, would they lose all of their current doctors? They felt overwhelmed and confused, and the Open Season health insurance deadline was fast approaching.

In addition to making a call to their eldest daughter, a bright and accomplished accountant, they also sought out a fellow federal retiree who in their eyes knows his stuff. That would be me, your humble blogger.

I’m no blowhard, but I do walk an earnest strut.

Source: Clip Art Kid

Source: Clip Art Kid

Billy, Phyllis, and I had long poolside conversations over a series of days in late October and early November about their many Open Season options. Medicare is now to be their primary insurer, and the policy offered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) will be the secondary. Their previous policy, which they had without interruption for nearly 30 years, had become too expensive in combination with the monthly cost of Part B. So they needed to find a more affordable alternative that is economical, yet still allows them to retain all of their doctors, and offer a seamless coordination with Medicare. Not all plans are alike, so shopping and comparing was crucial. Billy and Phyllis admitted to being intimidated by this process.

In short order I went from being Billy’s wise-cracking noodle mate to that of a helpful consigliere. I also had a laptop that when connected to WiFi in the pool area, allowed us to review plans. They do not own a personal computer and that made their struggle all the morning challenging. The three of us would sit at a deck table under an umbrella, and we talked through all of their concerns.

The more we all talked, however, it also became apparent that Billy’s interest and grasp of health insurance matters took a backseat to Phyllis. Although he was the actual cardholder, Phyllis herself would be making this particular decision. While not wishing to deflate or marginalize Billy, my discussions nevertheless became singular with Phyllis only. A private and personal marital dynamic had exposed itself, but it was my polite duty to acknowledge it and not belabor it. We were all on the same page no matter who was doing the talking.

I’ll spare you the details of their ultimate decision, but suffice to say that it was both flattering and stressful to have them ask me for assistance about something so vitally important. In spite of the fact that I myself won’t be eligible for Medicare for another eight years (very comparable to dog years if you think about it), my quest since taking early retirement to learn as much about Medicare and Social Security as I can came in handy.

In the end, Billy and Phyllis chose a very good health plan that has a much lower monthly premium than their previous one. Because Medicare is now their primary insurer, and payments between it and their secondary will be coordinated, this new plan won’t require them to cough up office co-pays or any yearly deductible. It also includes all of their current doctors (who thankfully also accept Medicare). In the words of a song I helped compose while in college, their new policy “filled their basic needs” and then some.²

The experience was both uplifting and gratifying. The other day I bumped into the two of them, and they happily reported that they received one billing statement that showed everything was being handled as it should be. May that continue!

But now dark clouds are appearing on the horizon for what the Trump administration and a Republican Congress have in mind for “reforming” Medicare and Social Security. Candidate Trump said that these entitlements work well for people, and that it was his desire to keep the current system in place. Let’s hope he stands firm not only to Paul Ryan but his own chosen cabinet officials as well. I know I plan on watching closely.

Oh, and my advice to you?  Why, plastics, of course.

Until next time…

¹ Cook Political Report (January 2, 2017)

² The lyrics to the song was one line only, sung both as verse and chorus: “You fill my basic needs.” What we lacked in originality and depth, we more than made up for by acting pithy.

 

Is That a Hernia in Your Abdomen, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Source: Chronically Vintage

Courtesy of the exceedingly kind Jessica at: Chronically Vintage

If you’re like me, you get rattled when latex gloves are pulled out of the examination room drawer. It’s when… and I apologize for this… the rubber meets the road during a doctor’s office exam. That’s the point at which the appointment figuratively speaking goes from getting to know one another over lattes at Peet’s, to warily searching for the exit doors in the lobby bar at a Marriott.

One minute you’re answering questions and having a completely calm conversation, and the very next you’re trembling at the sight of those gloves slowly being fitted around a physician’s hands and fingers. Groping of your most private of areas is about to commence. While I am thankful for his office’s acceptance of my modest insurance co-pay, I’m also thinking that this guy could splash on some aftershave and perhaps pipe in a little Bill Evans or Sade for a more soothing atmosphere. You know, give me something other than the inability to sit comfortably for the next hour.

But no, the experience is really nothing more than a temporary and acknowledged invasion of my privacy and pride. The only saving grace is the knowledge that it’s probably the last thing the good doctor also wants to be doing at that moment. All those sailing magazines in the waiting area and examining rooms are proof of that.

Which brings me finally to the point of this post. I recently endured such violations to my body not once but twice in the last couple of weeks. A simple follow-up visit to my general practitioner for a discussion of lab results inspired him to somehow to initiate one of those “turn your head and cough” exams. One minute we’re discussing a slight increase in my cholesterol count and in the next I’m suddenly dropping drawers. Usually these are quick, how-do-you-do incidents which transpire as we discuss the high cost of docking his schooner at a local marina. This time, however, our conversation is cut short by a sudden kick-back from my abdominal area.

“Turn your head and cough again, please.”

“Again, please”

“Once more, please.”

“Again”

This is not the normal drill. Usually after one pass with the crown jewels, I’m zipping up and we’re jointly complaining about the 12b-1 fees of our actively managed funds. This time, though, he’s annoyingly more interested in my jewels instead of Wall Street equities.

He asks me to put my hand where his just was, and again repeat my turning and coughing. This is quickly turning into a re-creation of some of my earliest dating experiences. The memories aren’t cozy.

“Feel that?,” the doctor asks. “That’s a hernia pushing back at you. It might even be two, one on each side.”

Great. Nothing like a medical annoyance to start out the new year. I’m immediately set up for a consultation with a nearby surgeon. An appointment is scheduled for the following Monday.

Except for some painful kidney stone calamities, I’ve been very fortunate in my adult life to have avoided serious visits with surgeons and hospitals. You wanted retirement and all that goes with it, huh?  Okay, but it ain’t all just part-time jobs and thrice-weekly visits to the beach, boychik. Welcome to age-based medical issues.

The visit with the surgeon turned out to be uneventful and unremarkable. With more turning and coughing on my part, he quickly determined that I indeed have a hernia that needs to be repaired. It was fortunately caught early, and because I am experiencing no pain, he said it’s completely up to me if I want to repair it now or wait till I begin experiencing discomfort later.

It’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, but I was conscious of both Gorgeous and the surgeon staring at me to make the decision right then and there. Neither were giving me any hints as to which way to go, but I decided to be proactive and have it taken care of now rather than later. Time is money; just get on with it.

It should also be noted that the surgeon’s primary magazine of choice is Popular Mechanics. I suppose in some measure that’s reassuring, but I have also decided that his waiting room is not one in which I wish to revisit to read it either. I have my limits.

Tomorrow I have to call his office to schedule my surgery. To be continued.

For some related comic relief, check out the always wonderful blogger Trefology, and his take on Superman being under the weather. As Dave Matthews sings, I ain’t no Superman, and heavy lifting is probably out of the question for the next few months.   Darn it all.

Until next time…

Shattering Me Some Lang Syne

Source: You Tube

The ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Source: You Tube

Whew. Stick a fork in it and let’s roll out of here already. Never mind popping corks to celebrate the new year; let’s just swig directly from the bottles, toss ’em in the garbage, and then forget the old one. Whoever shatters the most glass can apparate directly to 2020.

Forget that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named¹ fellow for a minute, I’m actually gobsmacked by losing so many iconic recording artists in one year. I could write a whole post devoted to all of them, but I’ll settle on at least mentioning just one: Maurice White, September will never be the same for me ever again. Novembers probably also. This was indeed a tough year.

Source: Bossip.com

Maurice White
Source: Bossip.com

Still, ’tis best to still move forward with a stiff upper lip and a hope for a better year ahead. In order to do that, however, I’ll need to review the resolutions I made last year.

Most of my promises were thankfully made with tongue firmly in cheek. I’ve learned over the years not to get too carried away with these exercises in self-improvement. Ask for the moon but settle for the stars and all that.

See, I was an extra good boy back in 1967, yet I still never got that four-level service station I wanted in the previous year’s Sears Wish Book. You may say it’s all about kindness and humanity, and you’re probably even right about that. But really all I think about still are the toys. Plus the endless search for a lower deductible and co-pay.

Source: Pinterest

1967 Sears Wish Book “four level garage.” Source: Pinterest

In reconciling last year’s resolutions, I’m happy to report that I did indeed fulfill my desire to have personal visits with two of my far-flung siblings. I had been estranged from one of them for a time, so it was good to reunite and put the past (mostly) behind us. Sadly, some tensions grew in the past 12 months with a third sibling, and so I’m kind of back to square one on the karma chart. One step forward, one step back.

My promise to support local organizations and groups was an utter and massive fail. Not only did we allow our memberships to the art museum and botanical garden to lapse, but we also never attended one local performing arts production during the entire year. And my thought about volunteering? It was a victim of my desire to chase the almighty dollar instead. I can do better.

So among the minor (and in most cases inconsequential) promises I made to myself last year…

We never did watch more of Conan O’Brien. It turns out he’s not a favorite of Gorgeous, and moreover we seem to only have enough patience to catch up with a Stephen Colbert episode one or two times a week. Sorry, Conan. I still like you, though.

I did continue to send contributions to a slew of worthwhile organizations last year. For instance, in addition to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, we also gave to the American Red Cross after observing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew in our state and those north of us. It’s still not too late give a tax-deductible gift; just click one of the above links.

I ended up only reading two fiction books all of last year (Trollope’s “The Way We Live Now,” and Eskens’ “The Guise of Another.” Huge, nonfiction biographies seem to be like a narcotic to me. I’ve promised myself to read a Charles Dickens novel later this year, though.

I finally replaced the CDs which sat in my car’s player for nearly two years, but I unfortunately only did so once. So again, my embarrassing lack of laziness means that I have probably listened to “Music From Big Pink” at least 30 times during all of 2016. If Levon Helm were still with us, I suspect he’d glance at me with concern and say, “Dude…

Source: Amazon.com

Source: Amazon.com

Nevertheless life is full of second chances and do-overs. What wasn’t achievable this past year for whatever reason, we have another opportunity to make attempts at personal growth and redemption. Or as I once misheard a poem as a kid, “Hope springs a turtle.”

For 2017, I resolve…

To work on that relationship with the third sibling. It takes more than text messages and letting phone calls go directly to voice mail each time to heal wounds. It takes a few long and sincere conversations. I know what I need to do.

To think more about forgiveness. It actually starts with that person I see in the mirror every morning.

To drink more water. My overzealous and truly obnoxious urologist made me go in for an image of my kidneys a couple of weeks ago. Micro stones are apparently visible from the x-rays. Unless I want a return to previous kidney stone drama, I better get with the program. Bottoms up, so to speak.

To start signing my name to comments I make on some of the excellent blogs I follow. Many of those bloggers are referring to me as “Snakes.” Oops, my bad.

To not focus as much of my attentions to the daily machinations and intricacies of politics and governance. This will be a challenge because so much is always at stake, and turning away and ignoring it all is worse. But I’m already groaning and cringing each time I read the news, and January 20th is fast approaching. Pace yourself, brother.

To explore more of the subtle complexities and beauty of the custard-filled doughnut. Hey, I’m not casting judgment on your resolutions.

Source: Images Buddy

Source: Imagesbuddy.com

So shatter those glasses and bottles to your heart’s content. Just clean up afterwards for the sake of the kiddies, the pets, and my tires.

I am incredibly grateful for the many comments and “likes” by those who read this blog over the last year. Thank you for the feedback and words of wisdom, even after a few of my cringe-inducing posts. Happy New Year!

Until next time…

 

¹ Ding-Ding-Ding!!!! Two Harry Potter references in one post!

 

I’ll Need to See Your Voting History For The Box of Cereal, Please

We’re all in strange times at the moment. They in turn lead to strange thoughts and actions.

My mother always said to never wear ratty underwear because someone might notice if I got into an accident. I remember pondering that a bit. I envisioned myself lying in the middle of a street, my bike mangled beyond recognition by an impact with a large truck, and medics hovering over me applying bandages to open wounds.

“Carl, we need to stem the bleeding at his hip area. And by the way, have you noticed the condition of those Fruit of the Looms? Let’s do this kid a favor and just shred ’em with the trauma sheers. His mother should be ashamed he’s wearing those.”

It’s coming on 60 years, and I finally get it. It wasn’t about me, it was about what everyone else would think.

It was about judgment. That never goes out of style.

Looking back, all I was trying to do in those days was to keep up with my peers. For example, when I noticed in the gym locker room that the cool kids were suddenly sporting those hip new colored briefs, I wanted them too. But I accepted my family’s economic situation and instead wore the standard issue, inexpensive, solid white Looms purchased courtesy of a blue light special at K-Mart. I had ten seconds of self-consciousness as I quickly changed my clothes before and after gym class.

As peer pressure and self-esteem issues went, the underwear were the least of my problems anyway.

But if judgments were indeed levied by others in those adolescent days, I at least understood their terms. It wasn’t complicated. It had to do with affordability and status; you either had something or you didn’t. It wasn’t thankfully about ideology. That came later via friends, co-workers, neighbors, and bar stool acquaintances.

Which brings me somehow to this current, post-election period here in the United States. Judgments are rampant at the moment.

Just like our brethren in post-Brexit Britain, we are collectively resorting to finger-pointing and trash talking at our fellow citizens. Except because this is America, and we like to bring in a commercial aspect to everything whenever possible, our onslaught of judgments is about separating and dividing based on the products being purchased. You can judge a man not by the content of his character, but by his credit card statement.

If that’s the case, I’m done for.  I’m headed to putting on my underpants quickly again. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

According to a recent Washington Post article, the level of partisan discord in the U.S. is now reaching such heights that even your favorite box of Kellogg’s cereal classifies you as liberal and anti-American. It’s apparently the fault of that radical, leftist Kellogg Company in Battle Creek. Boy, and you think you know a company.

But come on, how could there be an issue about buying a box of Corn Flakes from the grocery store? For God sakes, what’s more American than a bowl of Corn Flakes? Why, a number of us are brazen enough to select the frosted ones instead. And except for your dentist, no one’s judging you for that, right?

Think again, you innocent.

Quite frankly, I always had a suspicion about that tiger of theirs, Tony. I mean, please. What’s with the bandana? A red bandana at that. This is a good example they’re setting for our children??

Oh, wait, we like Russia now, don’t we? Oh, never mind.

Lest you think this is only a conservative backlash, I’m seeing that liberals aren’t taking this lying down. Not to be outdone, they’ve created an app to make sure that one doesn’t buy from the “wrong” company. Among the slew of products now deemed politically tainted are those from the Nike shoe company. It seems that Nike’s erreur de jugement was to open a store in Trump Tower. Those fascists! 

And those are just two examples. It actually goes on and on. For instance, conservatives continue to call for a boycott on the (note: continuously sold out) Broadway performances of “Hamilton,” while liberals are listing Kitchen Aid appliances as verboten because that company is helping to sponsor a Trump golf tournament. Shout-out to all you liberal foodies out there: stop buying those mixers, stat!

Somewhere in heaven I have to believe Rosa Parks is rolling her eyes right now.

Rosa Parks Source: Wikipedia

Rosa Parks
Source: Wikipedia

I am constantly feeling overwhelmed by the bombardment of so-called movement boycotts against this business or that corporation. Avoid Barilla pasta products because of anti-gay comments made by its company’s chairman (apparently now rescinded); Stay away from Walmart to protest their gun sale policies and refusal to offer employees health insurance (both issues now supposedly addressed); Boycott Target because of their transgender bathroom use policies (I have no clue on the status of that one because it never made sense to me to begin with).

Someone once told me Lowe’s was the “blue” store and Home Depot the “red” one. Well, that might be, but in either place I still have to search high and low for someone to direct me to the right aisle for rust remover. Liberal or conservative, they never hire enough staff to rescue customers like myself who wander helplessly in their stores.

Truth be told, I don’t think I have it in me anymore to constantly keep my ear to the ground of all the latest social protests and boycotts of this franchise or that one.

I’m as repulsed as anyone else by bad behavior, racist policies, and outright prejudice. If it’s an habitual and flagrant violation of another person’s civil rights — such as when certain Denny’s franchises refused to serve African-Americans a few years back — then I can easily avoid patronizing that chain. But please, spare me your politicized agendas to boycott whatever “flavor of the month” cause that will force me to run around in circles to buy a mixer, a pair of sneakers, or see a Broadway show.

No, I’m not happy with the results of the last election. But I’m going to suck it up for the next four years and fight the good fight at the next ballot box. Certain organizations will continue get some of my money, too. I am not burying my head in the sand.

And for the record, your humble blogger is a Hanes briefs man. I’ve got all the colors in the rainbow now, and there’s nary a white shade in my drawer. With adulthood comes rewards.

Until next time…

Source: Kmart

Source: Kmart

Funny Bar Names, Random Dogs, and Holiday Scenery: A Visit to St. Petersburg

A visit to St. Petersburg was on our calendar last weekend. We were guests at a holiday party that my boss hosted for all of her far-flung staff around the state of Florida.

Get a bunch of librarians together, ply them with cocktails, and then watch spouses wince as painfully bad jokes are told for the hundredth time (example: “How many librarians does it take to change a lightbulb? Usually 645.5. Sometimes 808.882”)¹.

It was great to meet new and interesting co-workers, and also fun having the opportunity to visit a place neither my wife nor I have ever been before.

We stayed at the Hollander Hotel, a boutique property located in St. Petersburg’s downtown area. Seemingly everyone who worked there went out of their way give us suggestions on what to see, where to walk, etc. Since we were only visiting for 24 hours, we decided that all we wanted to do was just walk around and see as much as possible. As my dad used to admonish on rare vacations, “no lingering!”  As a result, we did unfortunately miss the popular Salvador Dali and Dale Chihuly collections at two different museums. We’ll have to return for each of them someday.

But on one beautiful afternoon, and an equally beautiful morning the following day, we walked the streets and saw as much of the area as possible. We immediately observed two things: (1) St. Petersburg has some very quirky bars, and (2) it’s apparently a great place to be if you’re a dog. Or a dog owner. We saw lots of both.

I always thought that Portland, Oregon had a lock on the number on the number of fun-sounding bars, but St. Petersburg gives it a run for its money. Everywhere we turned we kept laughing at the different names. I snapped a few of them for you.

It’s always best to ask a dog owner if you can take a picture of his or her pet ahead of time. That’s not always possible, of course, when either dog or master is on a mission and moving fast. Still, we met quite a few fine pooches whose owners were more than happy to make our acquaintance.

I am sadly not a photographer. My six-year-old Kodak M530 is a point-and-shoot specifically designed for camera-challenged people like myself. It fortunately takes better pictures than my five year old iPhone, but neither really produce anything stellar looking. This is all another way of saying how desperately cheap I am.

To add insult to injury, my many thumbs deleted all of the pictures on the Kodak’s SD card during the process of transferring them to my laptop. I have no idea how this happened. Luckily I found a way to recover them courtesy of a shareware app called “File Juicer.” I even happily paid the shareware fee to remove the “File Juicer” label on each of the recovered pictures. But even that I somehow managed to screw up, so please ignore that unfortunate wording on each of the pictures below. File Juicer, you owe me something for free advertising here!

For a real photographic blogger who definitely knows what she’s doing, check out QP and Eye. Linda Stewart is a gifted photographer who takes her readers on many an interesting journey from her home in Australia. She’s also a pretty great writer too. I definitely recommend her.

And now, on with the show…

The Hollander Hotel doesn’t really have a consistent theme. It’s part Hollywood, part Florida history, and, well, mostly eclectic. It was a fun place to stay and the staff was incredibly helpful and friendly compared to most chain hotels.

Dogs, dogs, dogs.

Fun looking bars.

 

There may not be snow, but St. Petersburg still found a way to be festive.

At the Tampa Bay waterfront, we walked around Vinoy Park. It’s named after the adjacent Vinoy Park Hotel, which was built in 1925.

Care to buy a condo with a view?

100_1170

How about something larger? Say, 4000 square feet? $2,000,000 is just a Mega Millions jackpot away.

st-petersburg-realtor-listing

The Useum of Fine Arts. You gotta save money where you can apparently. Start with the lettering before you get to the staff.

100_1175

Ahem. SOMEONE had frozen yogurt at 10:30 in the morning. That breaks all the rules.

gorgous-st-pete-yogurt

I made sure not to discuss politics with this guy.

me-and-elephant

Until next time…

¹ For the uninitiated, these are Dewey Decimal classification numbers. Library humor is not for the hipsters amongst us.

Dumpster Diving

dumpster

For a week I noticed the bike sitting behind the dumpster. It had been rejected at least twice by the garbage men, and no doubt the groundskeepers all passed on it too. It just sat there unclaimed, as if it were stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys.

It was also a pawn in some kind of internal war amongst the different factions of our little community here. The contracted garbage company wouldn’t take it because it wasn’t considered actual refuse according to their contract. Likewise, the maintenance staff wasn’t touching it because whatever resident left it there probably broke at least six condo association rules governing the disposal of personal property.

Rules, dammit. Follow the rules!

So the poor bike just sat there for all those days sitting out in the elements of Florida’s tropical climate. I continued to glance at it whenever I took out a bag of our garbage, but I never even bothered to pull it out for an inspection. It was someone else’s junk, someone else’s problem. Association management would eventually assign a Blue Meanie of theirs to hunt down the scofflaw who had left it there. I pity the fool.

And then I casually mentioned it to my wife one morning on the way back home from the gym.

“What do you mean there’s a bike that’s been just sitting out there? For how long? Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?! I need a bike!”

It’s funny what you just don’t know sometimes. The last thing I ever would have ever guessed is Gorgeous wanting a castoff, garbage dumpster bike. It goes against all the rules in our home about feng shui conventions. Like buying a used wedding dress or leaving a toilet seat up, it’s supposed to be a disharmony to one’s personal karma to “soil” yourself like that.

And speaking of soiling oneself, I don’t know about you, but I think that whole feng shui toilet seat rule is a bunch of hokum. It’s obviously been conceived by new age spouses attempting to curtail so-called bad habits of their bathroom-using better halves. But perhaps we should return to this particular thought another time. I can tax the goodwill of this blog’s readership only so much.

Gorgeous is certainly not a snob by any stretch of the imagination. She loves finding treasures pretty much anywhere, be it a high-brow antique shop or a Salvation Army thrift store. I just thought that this particular treasure was a little beyond her own tolerance level. She surprised me. In the words of my people, go know.

An inspection of the misfit bike was immediately undertaken. Except for a bit of wear and tear on the seat and with the handlebar grips, a smidgen of rust here and there, and the chain in need of some grease gun TLC — it was in surprisingly good shape. With the addition of a front basket and a rear rack, this baby was road worthy. It just needed someone who has tool know-how to get some tools out and fix it.

It’s a funny thing, tool know-how. Not every red-blooded American male gets that gene. If only my lovely wife had chosen to marry a man whose understanding of tool belts was slightly more than a prop for the staging of a two-act amorous play each night, we might have gotten somewhere. Alas, the repairs would have to come via an actual professional.

The before bike, post dumpster retrieval.

The before bike, post dumpster retrieval.

As luck would have it, there is a bike repair shop right across from our gym. We loaded the bike in the back hatch of our car and drove it over. A repair guy greeted us and listened with great interest about the provenance of our sad little find. A man of few words, he looked it over silently for several minutes and then rolled it behind the counter to place it on a repair stand. After giving what I think would be the bicycle equivalent of a pelvic exam, he came back to us with his verdict.

“Nice find. It’s a Sun Bike, made in Miami, you know. A really good company. It’s in great shape. I can tune it up for you.”

And with that hopeful news, Gorgeous happily went on a store shopping frolic strikingly similar to the manner in which she also graces the aisles of Saks, Nordstrom, Williams & Sonoma, et. al. The same careful scrutiny given to a Kitchenaid mixer was now being made to bike seats. Substitute the time in which it takes to browse all shades of lipstick, apply it instead to handlebar baskets, and you get the idea of the total effort being made here. With the actual repair work was now properly addressed, it was time to shop for accessories. It may only be a bike store, but shopping does rear its inevitable head.

If only Wall Street analysts could spend a day with me, for sure they’d see that any presumed downturn in the economy might not really materialize. They say that small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s commerce. I now have the receipts to prove it.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Once all of the bicycle accoutrements were chosen, the repair man assured us that he’d have the bike finished in an hour.

So we made our way to the gym. As usual I got on the elliptical as is our regular joint practice, side-by-side. But this time Gorgeous headed to the stationary bike area instead. I’m always the last to get the memo. From a distance she looked very happy.

When we returned to the shop, our man was making the last of his final tune-up touches. A new seat, handlebar grips, basket, and a rear rack were already assembled. A large number of tools were scattered all around the man’s feet as he tightened bolts and all kinds of screws. His last act was to generously grease the bike’s chain while he manually cycled its wheels. She was transformed into a thing of beauty.

“A really nice find on your part. The tires and tubes are all in great shape; you won’t need to replace them for quite a while yet. Looks like an old lady used this for church and the grocery store only. Dave over there will take your payment at the register.”

The after bike. Soon removable shopping bags will grace the back

The after bike. The rust under the seat was wiped off after this picture was taken. Soon removable shopping bags will grace the back rack.

For something around $130 including tax we have what amounts to a brand new bike. While I was at work a few days later, Gorgeous took it out for a spin to the nearby Starbucks — a 15 minute bike ride. She was awfully happy.

So don’t just toss out your garbage without looking for a treasure or two in the process. You never know what you might find.

My next tool belt performance is at 11:00pm. You are not invited.

Until next time…

 

Gratitude 2016 From A-Z

Once again I shamelessly steal a friend’s annual Thanksgiving message on her Facebook page. Under my government, upon giving two attributions I may hereafter call this idea my own. If Trump feels he can change libel laws, I can make up my own rules too. Welcome back to the eighties– greed is good!

Below is my list of those things from A to Z for which I am grateful this year. Appropriate mine as you wish, but do understand that your own results may vary.

I am grateful for…

(A). My anal-retentive gene. Thanks, Mom!

(B). The block feature on a cell phone. I’ve only used it a handful of times, but I’m awfully grateful for its invention. I’m noticing that family members of mine also use it.

(C). Candles. When you’ve lived through one Florida hurricane you realize how important they can be.

(D). Democracy. It’s messy and full of painful hostilities. But in the end it’s a system worth fighting for and holding dear. Fasten your seat belts…

(E). Electricity. See (C) above.

(F). Florida weather. In spite of hurricanes, sinkholes, and rising sea levels, I’m where I want to be.

(G). My lovely Gorgeous, continually making my life worth living.

(H). Health insurance. Grateful to have it, and I do pray everyone will be able to keep theirs next year.

(I). Index funds. To the extent that any of us can sleep at night thinking about our money, they do at least help in that process.

(J). Jewish Mothers. If Only Donald Trump was the son of one, we’d all be so much better off right now (NOTE: I wrote this on last year’s post, but I thought it was worth recycling).

(K). Kale — the absolute worst representative of the vegetable family. This is actually a shout-out to Tanya at the rapidcyclist blog. I told you I’d find a way to work it in a future post!

(L). Love. I for one still believe it trumps hate.

(M). The mainstream media. Now more than ever.

(N). Nagilas. “Have a nagila, have two nagilas, have three nagilas, they’re very small.” There’s a little Borscht Belt in all of us.

(O). OPM, the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management. Of course, I’m not really grateful for it at all. But perhaps if I act like I am they’ll stop screwing up my pension. Yeah, let’s go with that.

(P). The popular vote. So much for “rigged,” eh?

(Q). The Queen, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second. In a year where really no politician looked very good, she reigns above them all. Pun intended. You’re the boss, Lizzie!

(R). Retroactive payments. I had two this year because of retirement paperwork problems (see “O”above). While I wasn’t happy for the actual reasons they were made retroactive, it was nice getting a big chunk of change all at one time. Cha-Ching!

(S). Single malt scotch. There’s always a bottle of it in our liquor cabinet, but it’s only brought out for special occasions. I need a lot more “Cha-Chings!” in my life to have it more often. For me, it’s the dictionary definition of smooth.

(T). Roast turkey with all the trimmings. My absolute favorite meal.

(U). Unions. Much maligned these days, but I will always be grateful for the indirect benefits I enjoyed as a child from one via a parent who was a card-carrying member. Solidarity forever!

(V). Our veterans. Lest we forget…

[W]. WiFi. When you’re sitting buck naked for 40 minutes in the examining room waiting for the doctor to come back, at least you have a  means to let your Twitter followers know how pissed you are about it.

(X). Xanax. What did I do for dental appointments before this was invented? Oh, yeah, I sweated and panicked a lot.

(Y). YouTube. My absolute favorite way to waste time. Thank you for all those moments that you saved me from paying bills, writing a family member, learning a second language, etc. Watching Paul Lynde compilations on Hollywood Squares was so much more enjoyable.

(Z). Robert Allen Zimmerman. You gotta hand it to someone whose “prior commitments” prevent him from being honored with a Nobel prize. That takes keeping it real to a very profound place. Well done, Bob. And congratulations too.

From our home to yours, we wish you a very beautiful holiday season. Peace.

Until next time…

goergeous-me-beach-bar

 

 

 

 

A Part-Time Affair

Source: Clipartkid

Source: Clipartkid

As I signal my way into the left lane of U.S. 1, I immediately realize my mistake. Not five seconds after doing so, a pick-up truck also changes lanes and is now intimate and somewhat disrespectful of my car’s personal space. Tailgating is one thing, but this is more like bumper cars at the fair. When you can clearly make out the driver’s Circle-K coffee cup in his hand, perhaps things are just a little too cozy at 60 miles per hour

Ah, yes, the morning rush hour commute. I had forgotten its charms.

I am running late for work. How the hell did this happen?

It had always been a pre-retirement plan of mine to return to work in some kind of part-time capacity. After making a few rookie mistakes within a month or two of our settling in Florida (i.e. applying for so-called “jobs” on Craigslist or sites such as Monster¹), I quickly focused on a more comfortable pursuit: being a full-time blogger and establishing street cred as a self-appointed bon vivant. I was in no hurry to return to anything that resembled my former life.

My undoing was subscribing to an email list of actual library jobs in the state of Florida. Along with my morning cup of coffee, I would skim through the daily listing of vacancies while whispering faux indignancies of “never, “are you kidding me?,” “oh, please, or “when pigs fly, maybe.” The mere act of subscribing to this service provided me with a self-fulfilling prophecy to abstain from any formal working environment. Apparently no job in my former line of work could ever be good enough for me anymore.

Until that is when one that is perfect for me in every way ruined my beautifully constructed karma of late morning wake-ups and 9:30pm egg foo young runs. I had such a good thing going for myself too.

Without my knowledge at all, my computer clicked on a link, uploaded my resume, and applied for a job. It’s a scary scenario. One minute he and I are simpatico in spending our afternoons watching old Dean Martin roasts on YouTube (wasn’t Orson Welles freakishly scary when he used his immense girth to fake-laugh through those awful Foster Brooks jokes?), and the next he’s deciding that I need to get out more.

Everyone said, “Get a Mac, it’ll simplify you’re life!” I now live in fear of the damn thing.

Anyway, since August I have been working part-time at a county public law library. I answer reference questions from mostly pro-se litigants (people who represent themselves) and a smattering of local attorneys who use the library. I wouldn’t say I’m back in the saddle again, but it is pretty much like putting on an old fuzzy sweatshirt that’s sat in the bottom drawer for the last two years. It still fits, but it needs a good washing.

Because my knowledge of Florida law was sadly limited to media coverage of the “Stand Your Ground” statute only, I face a bit of a learning curve. But I quickly grasp the “Summary of Administration” rules to probate a will, how to change the terms of a court-ordered probation, and how to assist those who come in wanting to file for divorce or seek child custody. There are forms for each of these things, and I now (hopefully) know which of them to offer someone.

I spent my entire career focused on the sometimes high-minded and esoteric issues of federal law. This job, however, has me interacting with people who have concerns that are more immediate, pressing, and commonplace. It involves a slightly different skill set than the one I previously used. I noticed immediately that I’m rusty.

After three weeks of working alongside each of my new co-workers in informal orientation sessions, I am set loose to work my own solo shift. Poof! I’m an employed librarian again, skill set be damned.

My schedule is generally two days a week, approximately 8-10 hours total, with a mix of either morning or afternoon coverage. One Saturday a month I have to open and close the library from 9-1 pm. Back when I was working full-time I used to fantasize about having hours like these. So what happened the first morning I had to get up by 7:00am? I bitched and moaned, and Gorgeous gave me absolutely no sympathy. Put your big boy pants on, dude, and bring a carton of milk home when you return. She’s strict.

Speaking of pants, I still have no use for my former work wardrobe which continues to sit idle in my closet. I guess they remain for weddings, funerals, and bar mitzvahs only. This job allows me to come in wearing nice jeans, a casual button-down, and a pair of comfy sneakers. It reminds me of that silly “Casual Friday” phenomenon back in the nineties. I wish I had kept the missive management sent out giving us “permission” to dress down in an appropriate manner. In hindsight, it may have been my Buzzcocks t-shirt that inspired their memo. I certainly thought it was appropriate.

Source: Hottopic.com

Source: Hottopic.com

My start at this library coincides with an annual requirement that staff be retrained in CPR techniques. We all have to come in on a Saturday for a five and a half hour class on it, and are required to read a study book ahead of time. I skimmed the book only. Sadly, my interest in CPR and lifesaving is limited to watching Baywatch reruns and pretending to focus on the beaches and beauty of the California coastline. Somehow I made it through the class, though I clearly didn’t fool the instructor at all.

Next year Gorgeous and I will in all likelihood move to what I hope is our “forever home” in St. Augustine, which is about three hours to the north of where we live now. So I’ll lose this job. Perhaps I can latch onto something else similar up there. In the interim, it’s good to make a few extra shekels and build a tiny network of Florida library contacts. I even created yet another LinkedIn account after I unceremoniously ditched my previous one (“2014-2016: online philosopher, spirit mixer“).

So I do ask for your collective patience if you see me on the road on the morning or evening commute. I’m still a little out of practice with that whole rushing thing. And please: don’t be so intimate with my car.

Until next time…

¹ In hindsight I’m really, REALLY glad I never found a job from either of those sites. Only in some parallel universe can I ever imagine saying the words, “Yeah, I found my job off of Monster. Pretty cool, huh?” Who names a web site for jobs “Monster” anyway?

The Impending Closure

Source: Hubspot.net

The proverbial elephant in the room.
Source: Hubspot.net

One blogger’s conundrum.

I could write about the coming open season for health insurance. However, I’ve already decided that last year’s post on the same topic is sufficient, and there’s really no need to do constant follow-ups. You can only test your readership’s patience so much with the same topic. Though, come to think of it, this never seems to stop that rascal Elyse from repeatedly bringing up the topic of bodily functions on her splendid blog. But hey, we all toot different horns.

I do have a post half-written about my new part-time job. In fact, I had been working on it over the last few days in the hopes of having it published and available online today. But a force bigger than me put an end to that process.

There’s an elephant in the room here in America.

We’re trying really hard not to focus on it, yet it still seems to suck the air out of the room anyway. We can’t totally get away from it; even some of our sleepless nights have been interrupted because of its jarring messages.

Our presidential election finally concludes tomorrow. I posted my own thoughts on both candidates earlier and have nothing new to add.

No one really has anything new to add for that matter. Those looking for last-minute Providence sadly won’t find it from any of the Fox News or MSNBC talking heads, nor the political print columnists at this point. Even Wikileaks ran out of… ‘umm, gas.

But I for one am relieved it’s all about to be over. Another four or five weeks of this and I’m sure there’d be a run on Xanax and Valium to get us through it.

Tomorrow night I will follow my nervous election night tradition of holding a clipboard with all fifty states handwritten on a sheet of paper along with their individual electoral votes. I’ll tally the numbers using my trusty Texas Instruments calculator, stolen from my last job sometime around 2008. CBS News will obviously give me this same information quicker and with very fancy graphics, but I prefer to do it all myself. It makes me feel like I’m part of what’s actually happening before my eyes.

Stolen office equipment!

Stolen office equipment!

For those who haven’t already voted via early voting or absentee ballot, please do vote tomorrow. You have no right to complain if you don’t make the effort to participate in the process.

To our friends in other countries, who through no fault or desire of their own, have had their news coverage dominated and hijacked by our sorry display of elective hijinks, I do hope that you are safely returned to a world that resembles something from approximately six months ago before we invaded it. I bet you’ll never bitch about having Seinfeld, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond cluttering up your TV landscape again, eh?

I for one am glad to be rid of those terrible political commercials, constant robo calls that came to our land line, plus the omnipresent candidate signs at traffic intersections.

Just breathe, folks. It’s almost over.

Until next time…

Did You Hear??

Source: ClipArts

Source: ClipArts.com

In spite of all of my better instincts, I have developed a quasi-addiction to a gossip site called Crazy Days and Nights. Its main feature is something called a “blind,” which offers rumors and scandals about celebrities. Regular followers of the site chip in with comments under each blind that help to guess the identity of the person under scrutiny, be it for public drunkenness, a drug relapse, or simply caught in the act of being a real prima donna. Eventually the comments coalesce around one or two celebrity clues. A few weeks or months later, the site’s anonymous host, Enty, reveals the blind.

According to Vanity Fair, what makes this site unique from other gossip media is that it actually names names rather than safely staying with the innuendo. As a result, Enty attempts to stay under the radar with anonymity to protect himself from lawsuits and guys with baseball bats. Or perhaps an unmasking from Wikileaks.

The thing is, I’m really not all that interested in celebrity gossip. So many of the famous people being dissed on this site are 30 and under, and I have no earthly idea who most of them are anyway.

What I do think is fun are the comments from some of Crazy Days and Nights’ active participants. While there are unfortunately a tiny smattering of those usual snarky (and sometimes profane) trolls whom we all try to generally avoid online, most of the regulars on this site make it a game with one another and try to correctly guess the blind. I get more than a few grins from their posted interactions. It’s lately become one of my guilty pleasures.

Inevitably at some point in the process, remaining brain cells kick-in and remind me that I’ve just spent 40 minutes on a freakin’ gossip site. Management might not be monitoring my online activities anymore, but I probably can and should find something more productive, or even — <GASP> — enriching, to occupy my brain instead of reading about Zac Efron’s peccadilloes. Alert followers to this blog might recall a classic novel that I’m supposed to be reading right now, and in which I have a self-imposed deadline of next month to finish.

In the end, it’s between me and my conscience.

I hate it when my conscience rears its sanctimonious head.

Source: Clipartbest

Source: Clipartbest

But come on, please. Aren’t we are all guilty of engaging in gossip in some fashion whether we’re willing to admit it or not?

Gossip has an insidious way of globbing onto us in the workplace and most definitely within our families. There’s no way to really control it. It happens as we navigate around those metaphorical landmines when we exchange information with one another.

I won’t venture a guess which environment is more prone to it — your family or the workplace. But I bet it’s safe to assume that the more extended your family is, or the larger your employer is, the faster all that gossip will spread. Add in a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws, and you have the makings of a 501(c)3 cooperative all set to pass on the tidbit of your recent battle with the gout.

The betters who walk among us feign either ignorance or adopt an air of Switzerland when they come into contact with such lowbrow, déclassé chatter. But you can be sure that these “pillars of probity” are every bit as fascinated as the rest of us when they heard about Wanda in Accounting, and how she was seen groping the FedEx guy in the mail area the other afternoon. You can’t escape gossip no matter how hard you try.

Of course, social networking gives us quite a bit to work with in the dissemination of rumors and innuendo. As much as we all try to put our best foot forward in creating a specific persona of how we want the world to see us, that same public display can also be our downfall when we least expect it.

For instance, it seemed funny at the time when one of your bridesmaids snapped a picture of you in the lap of the male stripper hired for your bachelorette party. A pity your soon-to-be mother-in-law didn’t feel the same after she saw it on Snapchat. Let’s hope it somehow misses the attention of the HR officer three jobs from now.

Probably not appearing in the wedding album!

Other than employers or judgmental family members, there is a more practical consideration to be wary of parading online for gossip or attention: it can be dangerous.

Kim Kardashian West’s recent robbery at gunpoint is a telling example of the dangers one can face by putting too much of a private life on display. Her attackers were apparently well aware of not only her whereabouts, but also the jewelry she had in her possession, courtesy of photos she was routinely posting on Instagram.

In the olden days we would show friends our vacation pictures after we returned home. But thanks to a desire for immediacy and an urgent need to share everything happening in real-time, we now take our “friends and followers” along with us via the cell phone. Ms. Kardashian was very fortunate in that she wasn’t physically harmed. Her experience, however, is a sobering warning that gunning to be above-the-fold in the gossip rags can also be potentially life-threatening. Maybe Greta Garbo had it right all along about being alone.

By Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (work for hire) - [1], Public Domain, Link

Greta Garbo
Source: Wikipedia

Truthfully, though, I get bored really easily. In all probability I suspect I’ll lose my addiction to  “Crazy Days and Nights” in a few weeks.

At one point last year I became utterly fascinated by the Twitter feed of pharmaceutical bad boy Martin Shkreli. His audacity to raise the price of a drug by 5,456-percent and then defend it so aggressively against a unanimous roar of public disapproval, showed a kind of moxie that I thought belonged more in a Tom Wolfe novel than the medical establishment. Soon, though, his boorishness and defensive posture became so ordinary and unremarkable that I lost interest. Or maybe I simply became more transfixed by the boorish, audacious orange guy running for president. I really can’t recall.

So pardon my lowbrow escapades at the moment. In thanks to your gracious deference, I promise to look away when I see YOU thumbing through that copy of the Star while in line at the Piggly Wiggly.

Until next time…