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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Monday, August 30

Old Movies

Today was my 28th session at the hyperbaric unit, with nine to go. I can hardly wait. The sessions aren’t any hardship, just time-consuming. And I find that every time I get out of one, I’m exhausted to such an extent that all I want to do is close my eyes and go sleepyby. On weekends, when I have two days off, by Sunday evening I feel much better, more energized. I’m hoping that when I finally finish all the sessions, I’ll feel much better, much stronger, much less exhausted.

One of the positives of these two-hour sessions in the tube is the movies. The first session I didn’t watch anything and what a mistake that was. And three of them were taken up with the mini-series Lonesome Dove. That leaves twenty-four for movies, most of which I had seen before, a few for the first time. One of the not-seen was Wall Street, with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, the truly nasty manipulator of stocks and corporations and people. Douglas makes a much better villain than a hero. In looking back at his career, I remember his comedic roles when he was much younger: Romancing the Stone and War of the Roses, and his role with Karl Malden in the tv series The Streets of San Francisco, all positive portrayals. But now that he’s much older, that smile of his is frighteningly evil. And evil he was in Wall Street and will be again in the soon-to-be-released Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Some actors seem destined to play good guys, seldom bad guys. Denzel Washington and George Clooney, for example, are just better as heroes than villains. I understand that Clooney in The American is a bad guy. I bet I’ll still root for him.

And today I watched Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. I thought I’d seen it when it came out in 1995 but soon discovered I hadn’t. What a powerful movie. Sarandon won the best actress award for her role as Sister Helen Prejean and Sean Penn was nominated for best actor. The movie was almost a two-person tour de force with nearly all scenes close-ups of Sarandon and Penn interacting. I’ve admired Susan Sarandon from way back when she played Ailie Calhoun in a made-for-tv movie called F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Last of the Belles.” This movie was made in 1974 and done in black and white, the outer story about Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda after they’d returned from Europe in 1919. Fitzgerald was nearly broke from too much living the high life and had to write a story for the Saturday Evening Post. The inner story is what he wrote in one long night, “The Last of the Belles.” The movie didn’t get much critical acclaim, but I thought it was wonderful, and a wonderful tool for me to use in my classrooms when I taught a unit on Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. Richard Chamberlain played Fitzgerald and Blythe Danner played Zelda, the woman that Fitzgerald used over and over again in his stories and novels, the beautiful but self-centered women like Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby and Judy Jones in “Winter Dreams,” and Ailie Calhoun as the last of the belles. And Susan Sarandon played her to perfection.

Tomorrow I’m going to watch another movie I’ve long admired, An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant.

Friday, August 27

Texting

The national news informs me that texting is now so prevalent among our young people that it’s now believed to be as addictive as cigarettes. Whoa! That’s sounds too much like the end of well-written prose as we once knew it. What can possibly be the attraction to this two-thumbed communication? What will happen to face-to-face conversation? What will happen to writing, not just by professional journalists and novelists but by the general population? Then there’s the problem that schools must have to contend with. What to do about texting during class, during tests? I’m really glad I no longer have to deal with it. I went crazy enough when students chose to ignore my teaching by chatting or staring out a window. But if I were confronted by a classroom of people, heads down, arms and hands in motion, I’d have gone ballistic. My next question is obvious: What in the world do they have to say to each other in their texty shorthand? Are they trying to solve the world’s problems? Discussing the nature of the universe? No. Much more likely, social small talk. Hi, how ya doing? Where are you? What’re you doing? All in the text code they all use. It strikes me as somewhat similar to the time when I was a very young and dumb lad who flashlighted messages at night to my next door neighbor. But I outgrew that at an early age. Let’s hope that texting among our youth will also pass when they discover how truly simplistic it is.

Thursday, August 26

Crime in SCW

I don’t think I have a racist bone in my body, at least I hope I don’t. But here in Arizona we’re in the middle of a complicated mess regarding our Hispanic population—legal and illegal, first generation, second generation, or no generation. I know that many of the Hispanics who work in Sun City West are legal citizens of the U.S., or at least have work visas, but a good many do not.

When we first moved here in the west Valley, we felt that Sun City West was a safe haven from the rising crime around the country. That was when the population out here had not yet blossomed, when the distances between our city and the surrounding population felt like a moat of safety. We no longer feel that way. Two recent examples of the growing audacity of criminals in our midst: Two weeks ago at Ace Hardware, where Rosalie works, the woman in charge of depositing weekend receipts from the four Ace stores in the area left the store in Sun City West at noon on Monday, the deposit bag on a strap over her shoulder. As she approached her car parked near the rear of the store, a young Hispanic rushed from behind the dumpster, ripped the bag from her, and ran to a nearby car and sped away. Broad daylight. A frightening level of cojones. Three days ago, I went to The Hole-in-One restaurant for breakfast, in the center of the Sun City West business district, and noticed broken glass and a mess of coins, jelly containers, and other debris on the floor near the table where I normally sit, the space on the wall above it now absent the flat screen television set. I asked one of the waitresses what had happened and she quietly told me there’d been a breakin the night before, that both tvs had been taken as well as the cash drawer. Surely there couldn’t have been much money in the drawer and the most that could be realized from two tv sets would be minimal. Yet they’d been visited by someone who didn’t much give a damn about the brazenness of the act or the consequences of their apprehension. We have little or no police presence in our city, at best a quick communication with the sheriff via our volunteer posse. Therefore, these two acts serve as warning that more, and more violent crimes may be in our future.

Back to my opening statement about Hispanics in our community. Across from the Ace hardware store is a car wash, serviced by an almost entirely Hispanic work force. It strikes me as obvious that someone over there had noticed the Monday deliveries of money to the bank, had made note of the time and the person involved. How else to explain the robber waiting for her at noon? We also have any number of different landscapers who work on our yards, most of whom are Hispanic. How easy is it for some of them to case empty houses, to note houses that haven’t been weeded for a long time, houses with newspapers delivered but not taken in?

Once upon a time, we lived in communities where the citizens never bothered to lock their doors at night. Never in the town where I grew up, never in the village in New York where I taught. Believe me, we now have security doors both front and back that are locked at all times. Believe me, we now fear that the moat is dry and the danger is real. And the criminals’ brazenness is frightening.

Wednesday, August 25

Clay Thompson

Clay Thompson is a columnist with the Arizona Republic, writing a column that’s hard to describe. He answers readers’ questions about really odd things here in Arizona or just about anywhere the questioner takes him. Most are non-serious, and the odder the question, the funnier he gets in his responses. People here in the Valley are addicted to him, just as the rest of the country is addicted to the syndicated Dave Barry.

To illustrate, here’s what he had to say on August 24:

“Today’s question: The new bridge across the Colorado River gorge between us and Nevada is called the Mike Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. I know about Pat Tillman, but who is Mike Callaghan? Why is his memory being honored? Sorry, if I’m the only one who doesn’t know.

A few things before we get down to business. You don’t need to be sorry for not knowing about this. If I had to be sorry for all the things I don’t know, I would pretty much just have to wither up and die. Second, it’s O’Callaghan, not plain old Callaghan. Next, have you read any of the stories or seen any pictures about this bridge that is supposed to open in a few months? It is like a thousand gazillion feet above the river. Or something like almost 900 feet. Doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t drive across that on a bet. I don’t care for heights. I bet somebody could make a good living driving vehicles across the bridge with fraidy cats like me curled up in the backseat, whimpering with my eyes squeezed shut. Actually, I’ve heard of such people doing such a service at other high or long bridges and making good money. Anyway, Mike O’Callaghan was one of Nevada’s most popular governors, holding the office from 1971 to 1979. He was a war hero who was awarded the Bronze Star for his exploits during the Korean War, but also sustained wounds that cost him the lower half of his left leg. Before entering politics he was a high-school teacher and boxing coach. (He taught history to Sen. Henry Reid, now the Senate majority leader.) After leaving office, he was a newspaper editor, publisher and columnist. He died in 2004.”

For more spectacular photos of this bridge’s progress, you can go to www.starcasm.net/archives/25085. I think if I had to drive across it, I’d be whimpering along with Clay.

Monday, August 23

2 Jokes

Unemployment these days is no laughing matter, but I have to share this one.

A guy walked into the local welfare office to pick up his check. He marched straight up to the counter and said, “Hi. You know, I just HATE drawing welfare. I'd really rather have a job.”

The social worker behind the counter said, “Your timing is excellent. We just got a job opening from a very wealthy old man who wants a chauffeur and bodyguard for his beautiful daughter. You'll have to drive around in his 2008 Mercedes CL, and he will supply all of your clothes. Because of the long hours, meals will be provided. You'll also be expected to escort the daughter on her overseas holiday trips. This is rather awkward to say but you will also have as part of your job assignment to satisfy her sexual urges as the daughter is in her mid 20's and has a rather strong sex drive. A two-bedroom loft type apartment with plasma TV, stereo and bar located above the garage will be designated for your sole use and the salary is $200,000 a year.”

The guy, just plain wide-eyed, said, “You're bullshittin' me!”

The social worker said, “Yeah, well, you started it.”

And while I'm at it, here's another that's old as the hills, but still funny and accurate.

How are a woman’s breasts like a martini? One’s not enough, and three are too many.

Sunday, August 22

Joey & Last Meal

I had nothing much to watch on tv the other afternoon, so I turned on an old Friends episode. Joey was going to tell Rachel about his feelings for her, and he kept rehearsing the words: “I’m falling in love with you.” That struck me as false. How many levels can one come up with when telling someone you like them as more than a friend? It's like that Bud Lite commercial where the man talks about how much he loves that beer, but he can't bring himself to say the same things about the woman next to him. The honest and most straightforward way is to say, “I love you.” Then it starts tapering off: “I’m in love with you,” Joey’s “I’m falling in love with you,” “I’m beginning to fall in love with you,” “I think I’m beginning to fall in love with you.” Each level is further away from a commitment. Jesus, Joey, just tell Rachel you love her!

As I was eating a piece of Florencia’s sausage/pepperoni deep dish pizza, I thought about what exactly I’d ask for if I were going to be executed and I had a shot at my last meal. It struck me that I’d want to include pizza. Along with a ribeye and some lobster. Forget the veggies or the salad—steak, lobster, pizza. Oh yeah, and a chocolate shake for dessert. And then I thought about how I’d feel if it really was my last meal before someone killed me. Would I even be able to swallow? Probably not. However, at this (not my last) meal, like a shark in a feeding frenzy, I had no problem swallowing three lovely slices of pizza.

Saturday, August 21

Big-Little Books

The days are flying by like the old movable comics when you’d flip the corners of the pages in a big-little book and watch the character do his thing. Big-little books. I wonder who even remembers what they were. They were about 3” x 3” printed on cheap pulp paper with a cardboard cover and back, maybe 100 to 150 pages. I can’t for the life of me remember what kind of stories they contained. Probably nothing very good. Maybe cheap Westerns or Sci-fi like Flash Gordon. I wonder what one would be worth now.

So I went searching on line and found: "A Big Little Book was typically 3⅝″ wide and 4½″ high, with 212 to 432 pages making an approximate thickness of 1½″. The interior book design usually displayed full-page black-and-white illustrations on the right side, facing the pages of text on the left. Stories were often related to radio programs (The Shadow), comic strips (The Gumps), children's books (Uncle Wiggily), novels (John Carter of Mars) and movies (Bambi). Later books of the series had interior color illustrations. First published in December 1932."

Thursday, August 19

Time Flies

The English language is a slippery beast. Non-native speakers (and even quite a few native speakers) have a terrible time deciphering some of our words and their slippery meanings. For example, the old linguistic conundrum “Time flies” shows us how many of our words can be used in different function classes, from noun to verb and back again. To explain further, “time” can be either a noun or a verb. In the first case the phrase, using “time” as a noun, means that time (or life) flies (goes quickly). In the second case, “time” is a verb in the imperative voice, commanding the listener to time (or measure out in seconds or minutes) how fast “flies” (the pesky little winged creatures) travel. Another example is one I thought of in the depths of night, one of those half-waking, half-sleeping moments when the mind takes on a remarkable clarity that is almost always lost with morning’s light, like the dreams we have that we try to hold onto after waking but that almost always slip away before we can write them down or even tell them to someone. Here it is: “I lie on my bed sheets” and “I lie on my tax sheets.” The meanings of the two have a way of slipping around, like trying to run in glass shoes on a frozen lake, or writing with quicksilver on wax paper. My night thoughts were more complete than this, but whatever else I thought of is now consigned to that cabinet in the sky where all our lost dreams and thoughts reside.

Wednesday, August 18

Ed McBain Redux

I hate to keep harping on this same subject, writers and their styles, but again in re-reading some of McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, I’m struck by the quality of his writing. And even knowing that he was primarily a pulp writer, grinding out book after book for the paperback trade, I can chart the improvements in his writing from the early ones to the last, the quality growing past even the more literary writers of the day. I’m now reading for the third time Widows, published in 1991. Carella has just lost his father, killed in a nighttime robbery in his bakery, and in his grief he thinks back to times when he was a young man in the old neighborhood. He remembers Margie Gannon and his first encounter with Margie’s freckled breasts. He and Margie were at her home, reading comic books together, Margie’s parents away for the afternoon, an August rainstorm outside. This passage expresses adolescent desire better than anything I’ve ever read, and more masterfully written than most writers could do.

“He could not remember now which comic they were reading. Something to do with cops and archcriminals? He could not remember. He remembered what she was wearing, though, still remembered that. A short, faded blue-denim skirt and a white, short-sleeved blouse buttoned up the front. Freckled pretty Irish face, freckled slender arms, freckled everything, he was soon to discover, but for now there was only the tingling thrill of her silken hair touching his cheek. She reached up with her left hand, brushed the hair back from her face. Their cheeks touched.

It was as if an intensely sharp light suddenly spilled onto the open comic book. Not daring to look at her, he concentrated his vision on the brilliantly illuminated pages, alive now with pulsating primary colors, red and blue and yellow outlined in the blackest black, focused his white-hot gaze on the action-frozen figures and the shouted oversized words, POW and BAM and BANG and YIIIIKES!

He turned his face toward hers, she turned her face toward his.

Their noses banged.

Their lips collided.

And oh, dear God, he kissed sweet Margie Gannon, and she moved into his suddenly encircling arms, the comic book POW-ing and BANG-ing and sliding off her knees and falling to the floor with a whispered YIIIIKES as lightning flashed and thunder boomed and rain relentlessly drilled the sidewalk outside the street-level living room. They kissed for he could not remember how long. He would never again in his life kiss anyone this long or this hard, pressing her close, lips fusing, adolescent yearnings merging, steamy young passions crazing the sky with blue-white flashes, rending the sky with blue-black explosions.

His hand eventually discovered the buttons on her blouse. He fumbled awkwardly with the buttons, this was his goddamn left hand and he was right-handed, fumbling, fearful she would change her mind, terrified she would stop him before he managed to get even the top button open. They were both breathing audibly and hard now, their hearts pounding as he tried desperately to get the blouse open. She helped him with the top button, her own trembling hand guiding his, and then the next button seemed to pop open magically or possibly miraculously, and the one after that and oh my God her bra suddenly appeared in the wide V of the open blouse, a white bra, she was wearing a white bra.

Lightning flashed, thunder boomed.

He thought Thank you, God, and touched the bra, the cones of the bra, white, her breasts filling the white bra, his hand still trembling as he touched the bra awkwardly and tentatively, fumbling and unsure because whereas he’d dreamt of doing this with girls in general and Margie Gannon in particular, he never thought he would ever really get to do it.

But here he was, actually doing it—thank you God, oh Jesus thank you—or at least trying to do it, wondering whether he should slide his hand down inside the bra, or lower the straps off her shoulders, or get the damn thing off somehow, they fastened in the back, didn’t they? Trying to dope all this out in what seemed like an hour and a half but was only less than a minute until Margie moved out of his arms, a faint flushed smile on her face, and reached behind her, arms bent, he could see the freckles on the sloping tops of her pretty breasts straining in the bra as she reached behind her to unclasp it, and all at once her breasts came tumbling free, the rain kept tumbling down in torrents, and oh dear God, her breasts were in his hands, he was touching Margie Gannon’s sweet naked breasts.

He wondered what had ever become of her.”

I rest my case.

Tuesday, August 17

Movie Reviews

Mitch Miller died last month at 99. The King of Singalongs. I love what he once said about Rock ‘n’ Roll, calling it “musical babyfood.” My sentiments exactly.

* * * * * * * *

A few weekends ago I spent Saturday and Sunday munching popcorn and catching up on must-see movies—Dinner for Schmucks and The Kids Are All Right.

The plot of Schmucks was a little weak, but Steve Carell truly is a comic genius. I can’t think of another comic actor, not even Jim Carey, who could have made this role of Barry the idiot as funny as Carell did. Some reviewers hated it (Entertainment Weekly); some reviewers loved it (Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic). But all pointed to Carell’s skill at bringing out the pathos of the character, whose hobby of building mice dioramas was both comic as well as pathetic. Go see it and then forget it.

Then there’s The Kids Are All Right. You either love it or you hate it. I checked out viewer comments on-line and found the lovers praising the film’s honesty and acting (Benning will probably be up for an Oscar) and the haters really hating the graphic sex scenes (male/male, female/female, male/female). But no film up to now has captured the complexities of the nuclear family as this one has. It’s hard to call it a comedy when it faces so many serious issues relating to families. The plot is as convoluted as the family—a lesbian couple who each bear one child using the same sperm donor, the two children, and the sperm donor. Throw them together, mix well, and you get a very complicated tangle of lives. At one point near the end, Benning, the dominant partner in the marriage, screams at Ruffalo, the kids’ biological father, that he’s an interloper, that he should go find his own family. Ruffalo has indeed inserted himself into the family, first by bonding with Joni and Laser, the kids, and second by the unfortunate affair he has with Jules (Julianne Moore), the other half of the lesbian couple. But, in fact, he’s been invited into the family by the kids, who went looking for him, and the physical attraction between him and Moore is certainly as much her fault as his. Maybe the best scene in the movie is during a dinner prepared by Paul for the other four. Nic (Benning) has discovered that Paul likes Joni Mitchell, one of her favorite singers, and the two of them join in an impromptu duet of Mitchell’s “Blue,” a perfectly charming connection between the two combatants. But then Nic discovers that her wife Jules has been sleeping with Paul, and all hell breaks loose. Later, at home, she confronts Jules and shouts, “Are you going straight on me?” And when the kids find out about it, they part ways with Paul. Will he ever be able to reconnect with this family? The answer to that lies in the hat he had given to Joni one afternoon when they were working in his vegetable garden. She loved it, but she threw it on the floor when she was packing to go to college. And, later, we could see the hat on top of a piece of her luggage, going with her after all. Very complicated, funny, honest, excellent. Go see it and remember it forever.

Friday, August 13

SYTYCD

I’m a seven-season fan of SYTYCD, and this season didn’t disappoint. Any one of the final three—Kent, Lauren, or Robert—were worthy of winning, and I think that any of them would have won any of the previous seasons. I thought Kent would win Season 7, but I wasn’t unhappy to see Lauren get it.

Overall, I love the judges, love the stage, love the routines, especially love the costumes . . . hate the cheesiness of the front ten rows. I hate the phoniness of the staged screaming and oooing (is there someone actually directing them from the side as to when and how loud to squeal?), hate the arms-raised applause that looks way too much like the sea-anemone arms on American Idol. Why would Nigel Lythgoe, a class act, get talked into such classless additions to his classy show? Maybe next season he’ll come to his senses and dump those front ten rows.

Monday, August 9

Tiger 2

Whew! I guess when you hit rock bottom the only way to go is back up. Or drown. Tiger showed us the bottom this last weekend in Akron at the Bridgestone Invitational where he lost to Hunter Mahan by thirty strokes. Thirty. Who could have imagined in their wildest that Tiger would shoot that bad? He beat Henrik Stenson by two, placing next to last in the field of 80 players. Everyone is wondering about but almost no one is asking about his mental state. Certainly the shocking news of his sexual activity and the subsequent accident last November have a bunch to do with the state of his game. Certainly the status of his marriage to Elin and the custody of his children must have a bunch to do with his game. Next weekend is the last major, the PGA at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. It will be interesting to see if Tiger can muster anything, can get his game back up to at least acceptable in less than a week. Probably not. And if not, then he won't be playing in the Ryder Cup matches. He won't be playing in any of the tournaments leading up to the Tour Championship, nor the Championship itself. He'll take the rest of the year off to get his head straight, to get his family matters straight, to get his game and enthusiasm for the game back. Although a lot of golf fans are somewhat pleased by his comeupance, I for one hope for the best. I don't want to see his career end with a hollow thump.

50 & Hospitals

Right to the minute, exactly fifty years ago, Floyd Jerome Travis and Rosalie Carol Zimmer were married in a little church in Pierre, South Dakota, witnessed by Richard Earenfight Travis and Doris Louise Larson Travis. Amazing. FIFTY years ago.

This was supposed to be my blog for Thursday, August 5, at exactly 11:32, which was the time we tied the knot. But it never happened. I wasn’t home to post it. I was in the hospital for five days, beginning on Wednesday and ending, finally, on Sunday. It’s a long story and one I hope never to repeat.

On Wednesday, I went to the hyperbaric unit in Jeri’s Mazda. Her car because Jeri and Rosalie drove to Prescott to finalize Jeri’s house rental and to buy some furniture. I was okay with the Mazda even though it’s about three inches off the ground and I’m too old to be getting into a seat that’s that far down, and it has no air conditioning except for whatever air passes in through a front window and out through her windowless back end. I didn’t, however, reckon with the damnable highway work on Bell. When I went through the light at QT, I could see all the cars stacked up on the rise leading to Sun City. All they have to do is shut down one lane and the world comes to a halt. I made it to the turn at Del Webb in twelve minutes and after four or five light changes, made it to the hyperbaric unit right at 1:00, stripped down and donned my hateful hospital gown, climbed aboard my bed/table and had Debbie take my blood pressure, which was even higher than normal, way higher. Dr. Shaw, the attending physician, took a reading and told me I wouldn’t be doing a dive that day. In fact, I was to be transported to ER to get my pressure lowered and regulated. So Karen packed up my clothes and wheel-chaired me to ER where they took my bp at 235/105, dangerously high. They put me in an ER stall and gave me a shot of something to bring it down quickly, hooked me up to an IV drip, attached lines to my chest to monitor vital signs and an automatic cuff to check bp every quarter hour, sucked out three vials of blood and informed me I’d be spending at least one night with them. After seven hours in ER, they took me to ICU where, although with very good care and wonderful nurses, I was kept against my will for Wednesday night, all of Thursday (our fiftieth), Thursday night, and then sent on Friday afternoon to the transportation unit, where I’d be until they discharged me. And as each day passed, I kept expecting them to release me the next morning. And each morning I’d be informed that they were keeping me another day. I’m not the most patient patient under normal circumstances, but in a hospital bed with wires hooked just everywhere to inhibit movement, I’m a bear. But the people working on me were so nice, I just had to hold my grizzly bear in.

Several observations about my stay at Boswell Hospital.

Hospital food is just as bad as it’s ever been reported to be, especially when you have to eat sitting on the bed and sort of leaning forward to consume it. And it’s usually an unsavory assortment of too many things. The first morning they served me a small cup of scrambled eggs that resembled yellow/gray Play-Do, a carton of milk, a carton of apple juice, a bowl of congealed oatmeal, a small blueberry muffin, and a cup of luke-warm coffee. And never enough condiments: no salt, one low-sodium pepper, not enough sugar to go for both oatmeal and really bad coffee. The rest of my meals were somewhat better than the breakfasts, but still not very appetizing.

Sleep is nearly impossible, at least any kind of sound sleep. There are almost hourly awakenings for more pills or for taking vitals. You’re in a foreign location, you don’t have your own pillow, there’s too much light, the temps are too high, the bed clothes get sort of slippery from a hot body. And when you have a roommate, the awakenings are doubled.

Every doctor that comes to see you asks essentially the same questions you’ve already answered.

I wouldn’t have believed the number of tests I had done while I was there: two EKG’s, a chest x-ray, a sonogram for my abdominal aneurism, a sonogram for my kidneys, and so many blood draws I lost count.

And finally, I was amazed by the number of really attractive nurses and nurses’ aids. I may be old, but I’m not too old to appreciate feminine beauty, and Boswell was loaded with really beautiful women. I was allowed to make my escape just after noon on Sunday, and when I got home and looked in a mirror, I was greeted by a face that had blossomed with rosacia, red skin over both cheeks and chin, and a sort of gray scaling on chin and upper lip. Just what I didn’t need was another medical condition to go with all my other ones.

I’m going to make enough life changes to guarantee that I’ll never again have to spend any more time in a hospital—finally lose that ugly twenty pounds (and I don't mean my ugly head), cut way back on the alcohol, start an exercise plan. And this time I really mean it.

Wednesday, August 4

Anne Thompson & The Taliban

We watch the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams nearly every evening, and both of us agree we’re sick and tired of seeing Anne Thompson telling us nightly about that day’s condition of the Gulf situation, telling us how many gallons of oil are daily spilling into Gulf waters, telling us how many miles of coastline are now fouled by the oil, showing us too many oil-slimed pelicans and turtles and clams, counting out the ships skimming oil and the workers scraping tar balls from otherwise pristine sand beaches. And now we’re getting daily flashes about the capping and killing efforts. For over a hundred days, night after night, week after week, Anne Thompson there with her sad news, delivering it in the same smiling style, standing on the same Louisiana dock or boat offshore. Sorry, Anne. You’re probably a very nice woman, but we don’t want to see you anymore. Ever.

Last week’s Time cover showed the world an example of the barbarism of the Taliban in Afghanistan. A young Afghan woman, otherwise lovely, with jet black hair, satin skin, ebony eyes, looked out at us, at the world, with an accusatory stare. Her nose was gone, leaving an ugly red socket in the middle of her face. The background story described her as having fled from her in-laws, who had beaten her regularly. The husband found her and, with Taliban approval, cut off her nose and ears, then left her there on a mountainside to die. That rational Afghans can still condone or overlook such acts of atrocity stuns me. On Sixty Minutes, an Afghan anti-Taliban spokesman called the Taliban “forces of darkness.” Yes, forces of absolute evil that we need to defeat, the world needs to defeat. Otherwise, we all might soon be dead or noseless.

Sunday, August 1

Politics

Here we are again, in another election year, and I can’t remember any time in the past when we received as many electronic phone calls, received as many political pleas in the mail, had to suffer through as many television ads imploring us for our votes, had to drive by as many tons of political signage along the highways. Only the very wealthy can afford to run for any political office these days. Or have committees that can raise piles and piles of cash. And we invariably toss in the recycle bin all the “stuff” we get in the mail, hang up on the electronic voices, mute the television ads, turn blind eyes to the highway garbage, just as, I’m sure, nearly everyone else does. What effect does all this spending have on most voters, spending on stuff we ignore or throw away? No effect, if my wife and I are at all representative. I’m always amazed at how really vicious some tv ads become the closer we get to election day, and this year is no exception. The barbs between John McCain and J. D. Hayworth, already sharp, will grow sharper and more poisonous as we move toward November. And President Obama will have to dodge plenty of Republican slings and arrows in Arizona regarding his position on illegal immigration and the border fence to the south. Come on, November. Let’s get this silly business over.

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