Post a day 2011 – Post 1

So, I’ve lost my mind. I signed on to WordPress‘s post a day.

One of my favorite games and one I can crush anyone at in the most ruthless manner possible. Wikipedia Commons.

I’m not sure what to call it. It’s not a contest. It’s not a vitamin. It’s not loaded with nutrients. It’s a way to blog more – every day.

They say it’s about quantity, not quality. Hell, I’ve been delivering quantity over quality for about two years to a total of 9 or 10 readers per post. I can “abso-tively” work up the hot air to drop a deuce of a post here once a day.

Consider this gem to be post #1, or as we say in my house these days as my daughter learns and mutilates one of the most beautiful languages in the world, Spanish, post numero uno.

All 9 of you have been warned, though you may want to visit each day to watch the word-train derail, killing all of its innocent letters.

X and Z, we hardly knew ya. 

Autumn stumps me

I’m not sure why autumn doesn’t like me. It’s been a trend for many years for it to kick my ass up and down and back again.

This is not Los Angeles in Autumn, which is palm trees and cement. (SXC license)

All three of my embolizations have been in the fall, including one in Germany thanks to hemoptysis over the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve mentioned this before, but I never get tired of telling it just because I survived to live another day.

Even without bleeding in the fall, it’s the season when I’ve experienced the most hospitalizations. I don’t really understand it and my feeble brain has never been able to decode it. I go into the hospital during autumn and usually stay out until I catch the Flu in March.

This year, I’m doing my best to load up on broccoli, wasabi, vitamin C, which I got out of the habit of using in high doses, and vitamin D. I would start taking curcumin root, but with the Lovenox shots, I read it might increase the chance of bleeding, though I may risk it.

I feel like an ex-con who doesn’t want to go back to prison. The thought of it makes me ill.

I should start a pool with donations going to the CF Foundation and have my friends bet on the day I go in. Just by writing this, I have tempted the CF gods to punish me.

My insider advice to any pool players: take tomorrow, Friday. The CF gods are a vindictive and angry bunch.

Anchors disguised as people

Have you ever worked with a person who has nothing to contribute to a situation or project? The type who lives to criticize work and never offers any constructive feedback? Who sits in meetings quietly and only speaks up to point out why action is a bad thing, why change brings risk, and why sitting on your ass doing nothing is always the best course of action?

People who “don’t” not “do”?

I hate these people.

I work with a lot of good people. And yet, I work with a few who the universe dropped on the planet with the sole purpose to point out flaws and imperfections, or  why something won’t work or isn’t right or who knows what. I like to call them “anchors” because they keep projects from moving forward by creating obstacles to dodge and hurdles to jump.

There's one of them now, hanging out, making life difficult. Creative Commons: Michael Wilson

I see this quality in many of our current politicians and the people who follow them.

They have no plans of their own and they hate everyone else’s plan.

Don’t give Americans the right to purchase healthcare, they say.

Then what should we do instead to solve the challenge of affordable healthcare for all?

Well anything but that plan?

Okay, what about this plan?

Well, not that plan either.

What’s your plan?

[silence]

So, you’re just going to say “no” to anything we come up with?

[silence]

Nothing is ever right with these people. It’s all wrong.

My daughter was like this when she was two-years old. I would build a tower with her blocks and she would come along and take a swipe at it like Godzilla walking the streets of Tokyo and down it would go. She’d laugh and it was quite a game we played. But then she grew up and understood it wasn’t so cool to destroy something someone took the time to build, especially if she was the builder.

Here’s my remodeling math: It took me a day to demolish my bathroom to the studs, and six months to rebuild it. So, anything politicians or others want to blow up, like Social Security, takes a long time to rebuild. It’s easy to remodel when you have some structure in place. From scratch is hard and takes a long time.

If we really want to “fix” this country, we have to stop listening to the people who tell us why we can’t do something before it has ever been tried, and who have no original ideas of their own. It doesn’t matter what party they’re from – they live in both.

If we don’t cover our ears to these Eeyores with half-empty glasses, we’re going to find ourselves peeing in a bucket asking when the bathroom is going to be finished while these knuckleheads debate the color of the tile.

Or, to borrow from Facebook: Done is better than perfect.

Standing in line is agony

I’m not a patient person. It’s one of the reasons I was such a screw-up early in life, though one could argue I haven’t changed. I do feel I’m able to manage my impatience now, as an adult, and understand the value of working hard toward long-term goals.

But standing in line is still my Achilles heel and forces me into mental tailspins.

No, there are three registers and one line. What if someone makes a new line?

This weekend, at Barnes and Noble, I entered their line at the point the sign says to enter the line. But thanks to the incompetence of B&N line designers at that store, there is also an opening in the line at about the spot where you stand waiting to be called to the next cashier. So, as I walked closer to that point, a woman with two kids and man broke into the line, failing to see the beginning of the line or choosing not to walk that far to enter it.

As I was still waiting for my wife to pick out some new reading glasses, I said “go ahead” to the woman to take the first spot. I thought the man was with her and the kids. Then I noticed that he wasn’t and was on his own with a separate purchase, but had taken advantage of my hospitality to the woman.

And that’s my problem with lines, I find them very stressful because they force me to put my “asshole” hat on, to confront other people who are trying to scam to get ahead or are just plain clueless.

At B&N, I had pent-up anger left over from the day for reasons unknown, and had been a bit snippy with my wife. So I held in my need to have a deep conversation with this man and ask him what he was thinking, lest I blow up, get in fight and knock down rows of gift cards and discounted books, leading to my arrest and subsequent new profession making shivs from old nebulizers.

Lines make me feel like a chump. They are pianos being loaded to an 8th-floor apartment waiting to fall on my head and crush me.

Our next stop was World Market where a couple in their 30s walked up to the cashier ahead of me, but chose the wrong side, which happens there because the layout to pay is confusing. I’ve done it a few times myself.

Now I had a choice. I could have ducked in and been first to the register, having mastered the puzzle, or I could be a nice guy and wait for them to return from the dead-end they’d scurried into. I was a nice guy and let karma guide me by allowing them to come back around and go first.

But I paid a price for my niceness, or what I might argue to be wimpiness in the city of Los Angeles where we all want to kill each other with our cars.

I was punished when I saw the couple carrying a tall stack of dishes, each one having to be individually wrapped by the cashier. Edvard Munch, you were a genius, because The Scream was really about standing in line, wasn’t it?

More pain and suffering when the man tasted the sample chips, and liked them, doing his best to be cool for his lady and the cashier, who I’m positive wondered why anyone would spend a Saturday night at World Market, as she could attest to the torture of the place with its rugs “fresh off the boat” emitting an odd odor that made her dizzy and which she was sure wasn’t good for her health, made worse by the constant temptation of the food from countries she longed to visit but would never, but which she relived her pain by opening up cherry-gummy packages to see how many she could stuff in her mouth at one time – 16  – or eating a blood-orange chocolate bar one piece at a time by hiding it in her apron right next to a picture of her mother, whose house she would live in forever because no one would ever marry her if she didn’t find a way to lose the 35 pounds she had gained since she started sampling different foods from around the world with her five-finger discount.

Who was here first? I don't know. Did he just walk up? Hey, he's not with her. Line-cutting asshole.

So, did this dude pay for the chips when they were ringing up the endless stack of dishes? No, of course not. He decided to buy them after the first transaction was over, bringing my head close to the point of a total blood-swelling explosion. I watched the crumpled bills come out of his pocket one by one and his quest to pay with the exact amount of coins and the clock in my head slowed and I thought about paying for the chips to speed up the process or just smashing him across the face with my plastic bottle of wasabi mustard from Germany. But I didn’t.

When another employee, fresh from her nap in the stock room, opened another register I ran to it like a fire-starved pyro to a warehouse fire.

Then Sunday night we went to dinner in Topanga Canyon. At the restaurant, you stand in line and order dinner and drinks and they bring the food to the table. But you have to go to the bar to pick up your drinks. Madness at the bar, of course. No clearcut line, one bartender and every person for himself.

So I was patient, and a small line formed behind me. But other people came in and wedged forward, so I started moving forward, fighting for position.

After we received our drinks, a loud, attention-seeking woman who came into the line after us, made some passive-aggressive remark about “this guy (me) needing his drinks really bad” and that’s why she hadn’t been helped yet. I told her she came after us, but in the din of the restaurant and her own need for attention – this is, after all, a community of actors and artists – she didn’t hear me and I let it go.

I hate lines because they make deal with the clueless, the scammers, and the idiots in life who cut you off on the freeway then flip you off. They’re the people you can’t reason with, who see life in a way the rest of us can’t. The sky is blue, but they’ll argue it’s raining and believe it, or when caught in a lie will lie to cover the lie.

I like places with numbers. I take one and roam around. I don’t have to worry about jockeying for position or monitoring the line for anyone who tries to cut ahead. I just have to watch the display and listen for my number to be called.

And with numbers I get to go ahead of the people I see waiting with frustrated faces because they just F-1’d their Land Rover through traffic, making over 50 lane changes, to get to the grocery store. And they walked in knowing they were more important than anyone else there, and smarter and wealthier. But with the number system there was no way they could push forward, intimidate anyone or work their way to the front of the line ahead of the guy in dirty shorts and a ratty t-shirt smelling like he only takes showers every four days or so – what the fuck is he doing in a grocery store like this ahead of me, Mr. Range Rover thinks.

And I look back as I place my number on the counter and grin, ordering the last of Tuesday’s night’s delicious and highly sought after beef stew. Sorry about your bad luck, number 13,  I say and walk out into a world without order.

Drive like a maniac while eating bags of fried pork rinds – why auto insurance should be more like medical insurance

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get in your car, pick a long, desolate stretch of highway, crush the accelerator to the floor and exceed the “suggested” speed limit. 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, as your speedometer covers numbers it’s never met before. Bliss, pure bliss, as your shaking foot settles down at 130 mph.

Little red Corvette. Well not quite, but this picture was free to use if I mention Balaji Dutt and Creative Commons

And when you start racking up the tickets and paying fines for your weekend jaunts to points far away, wouldn’t it be great if the infractions didn’t raise your auto insurance rates?

So, you blow a grand on some tickets. What fun it was. And worth every dollar you’ll no longer have to spend on your wife’s anniversary gift next year. So much fun, in fact, you tipped the officer when he gave you a ticket. “For the police officer’s retirement fund, Sir Kill My Fun.”

What if you decided red lights were optional and caused a three-car pile up on your way to Starbucks to get your pumpkin latte before you were late to work?

Your insurance company would inflict a world of hurt on your pocket-book by raising your rates to the moon, Alice, and back again. Perhaps even drop you for being an idiot, which would surely happen the second time you crashed your car while running late to your massage therapy appointment due to the first accident.

Now if auto insurance were like the health care industry, your rates wouldn’t go up for being reckless.

Isn’t that the way it is with medical insurance? You can drink and smoke in excess and gain a couple hundred pounds eating McGriddles but your rates stay the same.

Want to sniff a pile of blow Tony Montana would be proud of? Take a dozen coke-induced trips to the ER with your heart ready to explode like Alderaan blasted to smithereens by the Death Star? Be our guest, you’re covered by the company plan as long as you keep your job at the law firm billing 70 hours a week. And the cartel in South America thanks you for your patronage, Señor Deviated Septum, which was also covered, though you lied to your doctor and blamed it on a face-plant you took when you borrowed a neighborhood kid’s board to show off. Oops, my bad, Doc. 

So, here’s my real question that took me an hour to get to: Would our health care system be busting at the waist if it were punitive like auto insurance?

Now I know the argument to this crazy idea because I shared it with my wife, who put the pin in my balloon by asking me how we’d measure what is considered healthy.

A minor obstacle, my dear wife, who had the misfortune of marrying me, King of the Pre-Existing Condition.

If I placed a picture of a McGriddle in every blog post, I'd feel pretty good about the decision

It’s a good question, but couldn’t we start with BMI? The higher your BMI over normal, the more you pay, except for conditions where the person couldn’t control it. But for the rest of us who fill our bellies with McDonald’s three times a day and think anything can be deep fried (dead or alive) and eaten, it’s going to cost us more in insurance premiums. (Damn the thin vegetarians who will be loving their cheap rates and stick-thin BMIs.)

And isn’t this really why medical costs are at a breaking point? What incentive do people have not to use it?

With auto insurance the incentive is losing your insurance or paying more if you’re reckless. Do you lose your medical insurance if you’re reckless with your eating habits or if you smoke a pack a day, which by the way should be Philip Morris brands if you do smoke, as baby needs some new shoes and our PM stock needs to keep going up, up, up.

Yes, radical ideas from an idiot, no doubt. But change doesn’t happen until you tap someone’s wallet or purse.

Perhaps we need to raise rates really high for everyone and follow the “discount for cash” plan some businesses do when you get money off for using cash instead of a credit card. If you take care of yourself and avoid fried McGriddles, which I would eat in a heartbeat if I could talk my girlfriends at McDonalds into tossing one in the deep fryer for me, you’d receive a big discount on your medical insurance. Do your best to stay healthy and you save money and live longer.

The question is . . . would someone be happier passing up their usual lunch of two Big Macs, large fries and super-sized coke for a salad and water? I know I wouldn’t, which makes me think this has all been one very stupid idea. Nevermind.

How I spent (and didn’t spend) my summer vacation

I didn’t spend summer in the hospital. [Fox applauds, then passes out.]

I feel like I won the lottery by not going in, though the pattern for me has long been one without summer hospital stays. With falling leaves, colds and other viruses on the way, you can bet that I’ll soon be returning to hell.

Ebony and Ivory, living in perfect harmony on the beach

I didn’t spend June, July or August coughing up blood, though summer hasn’t officially ended.

And if you’re a betting man or woman, I’d bet on the blood thanks to the blood thinning shots I’m stabbing into my McGriddle-fattened six-pack twice a day. And I’ve just tempted fate by mentioning it on the blog, which means I’ll probably be in the hospital coughing up blood within the next two or three days.

I did spend June working on what the Donald would call a “super-big, important, super-large” project at work. It was a success and once again I proved it’s better to be lucky than good, and assembling a talented team always makes one look better than they truly are. Go Team Unknown.

We did spend the summer with a new puppy – a goofy, mischievous, shower-squeegee stealing, whining, scared of her own shadow, mystery of a black lab that I wanted to give away, but was outvoted by my wife and daughter, who are both attached to the black shadow-thief. (That’s all I can write about the dog, otherwise my friend @onlyz tunes out at this point and starts to read the back of the vegan muffin package.)

I didn’t spend this summer blogging or watching TV, but I did spend it reading. I read over 8,000 pages and enjoyed every minute, staying up late and making the most of when time takes its mandated-by-law break.

Malibu coastline on a nice summer day.

I did spend the hot months milking every bit of fun I could. I filled every weekend with an activity and dragged my wife and daughter to all kinds of places. From the American Idol concert, to the beach, the circus, a dog agility trial and canyon roads we’d never driven. We didn’t take a summer trip this year thanks to the blood-thinner shots, but we still had a great time and spoiled ourselves by eating dinner at restaurants more often.

The end of a great concert at Theatricum in Topanga. Check out a play here if you're in Los Angeles.

Monday, Labor Day, we ended the “holiday to holiday” summer with the annual benefit concert at Theatricum in Topanga. What an amazing afternoon filled with talented singers singing Burt Bacharach songs. A great way to finish my favorite season of the year watching some of Los Angeles’s most talented musicians, like Inara George and Sara Melson, play music for two hours.

So, I’m happy with the job I did having fun this summer. I cannot guarantee I’ll see another one. I hope I do, but it’s not written in stone that I will.

Now it’s time to focus on autumn and the Denver Broncos winning and me staying out of hell and not catching colds or the flu or coughing up blood. I’m optimistic, but know sometimes there is nothing I can do but ride out ill-timed surprises.

Here’s to a healthy fall and winter to all.

Bye bye, Tooth. Hello Happiness – I think I’m gonna cry

[adult language used in a childish manner]

It’s gone. Lost forever. Pulled out by an oral surgeon who went to medical school to learn how to do it without a hammer and chisel, or string and doorknob. Or black magic. Thank the universe for good, old-fashioned science.

This is the same type of x-ray they took for my tooth extraction. Scary looking. It reminds me of the alien Predator. Creative commons.

It wasn’t as bad I thought it would be. I tapered off the blood thinner to avoid a small gusher when he pulled it, but it wasn’t as bad as the root canals I’ve had, which last a couple of hours.

Five minutes of tugging on it while I was loaded up on a full dose of Xanax and listening to Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” and life was good again with a piece of gauze to bite down on for an hour.

I was so happy when it was over I think the dentist thought me to be a wee bit mad, as in “Mad Hatter” mad.

It’s just that the stress of the decision to get it removed while stabbing myself with generic Lovenox twice a day worked me over in the head for a few weeks. I had visions of bad things happening, something I’m sure a mere dentist couldn’t understand.

And when I lived, I was so damn happy, I must have confused him by acting like a lottery winner who was happy to lose a tooth because he still had a million bucks in the bank.

I’ve alive. How do you like those apples?

Pulling my big fat tooth, which cracked thanks to the stressors of life causing me to grind my teeth, didn’t kill me – yet. I survived another medical procedure, one of hundreds, which I’m experiencing like restaurants on a “Best of” list.

The dental assistant told me it would take 45 minutes, which meant from the time I got in the chair and received the many Novocaine shots, including one into my infected gum that brought tears to my eyes.

“That area was a little sensitive, huh?” the dentist said, which makes me think it would be hard to lie to dentist, as they’re probably good at reading minute changes in facial expressions, and could have second careers working for the CIA ferreting out lying informants, thus bringing down the need to waterboard every motherfucker in Iraq.

So, I drove home, carefully, but happy I didn’t transform into a Bellagio Fountain of blood and that it didn’t take 60 minutes of chipping away and drilling to dig the tooth out. Pull, pull, pull – it’s out, go home. Yay.

But I do miss my tooth because, slowly, life is chipping away at me one piece at a time, most of which I cannot see, but feel.

But I can see the bloody socket where the tooth was and work at it with my tongue.  I have a feeling of loss, along with memories of drinking 8 16-oz bottles of Coca-Cola a day when I was younger. And letting the sticky soda work its magic on my teeth for hours at a time.

It all catches up to us at some point down the road, they say. And they would be right, whoever they are, fuckers who want to be right all the time. Well, they are.