Thursday, July 31, 2008

You don't know Jack...

Someone...somewhere...will PAY!!!

Yes, I'm still on about Champions Online! I've been going insane over this thing, obviously, and have spent the last few days searching...searching...searching. I was inspired by that timer on the home site. The timer must be for the release date, right? I mean, who would set up a timer for...ohhhh, I dunno...a game trailer? It's not like the game is coming to a theater near me. Correction: it better not be coming to a theater near me, because I don't know any person on the planet who will pay a $7 matinee price for two hours - the running time of the average movie) - of game play.

The timer vanished on Monday. It was replaced with an artistic link that read, "View Trailer!" For some reason, I simply didn't associate the timer with the trailer. It just connected in my head as being so stupid that the timer could not possibly be for a game trailer! NOT! POSSIBLE!

So the quest went on. I would find this game. Oh, yes...I would find it.

Now, in my head, the game must have been released. The timer, without actually saying so, had said so. Still, a little voice said, "This time, when you Google the game, use the words "release date." The results brought up a vital bit of information. The game is apparently not due out until Spring of 2009! That would be close to a year from now. So, for those who might have been going mad trying to find this game for me, you can stop. Between now and then, they could trash the entire project due to an infestation of bugs.

*sigh*

Even when I extend my birthday, it seems to end up being less than happy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You're endangering the mission, Dave.

My obsession to find the games from the last few posts went offline today. They may be elusive online, but they would not escape me offline. So it was off to Wal-Mart to find them, as that's where the net says they should be, as well as the adjacent mall's Game Spot. When the shelves proved to be devoid of my toys, I spoke to sales associates. This was a mistake; I've met smarter salads.

And so I went to the bank. I didn't go for any kind of business there, but to talk to Dave the security guard.

He and I met many, many months ago, and he is a fascinating man with whom to talk. He's been a member of the army's special forces, worked in military intelligence (yes, the dreaded oxymoron), and been a cop. At 53, he's had to take things a little slower, but that apparently isn't stopping him from taking a job that requires him to have a gun.

Our conversations started on one of my runs to get my rent at the start of the month, and we somehow talked about conspiracy theorists, specifically about the World Trade Center. As a native New Yorker, I had plenty to say, and since he considers himself a "country bumpkin," he was very interested in what I had to say on the topic. What amazed me was his input about history, how the political machine leaks so much that it can't hold any kind of secret, and a few personal tales that demonstrated his strength of character.

So every now and again, when I find myself in the area, I stop by and chat it up with him. Today we opened up with a favorite: humans are spoiled by technology and are losing touch with reality. "If G-d got fed up and pulled the plug on all our power sources," he said, "we'd all be up the creek without a paddle."

I was in full agreement, adding, "Indeed. Instead of sitting side by side and texting one another, they might actually have to turn their heads and look one another in the eye." This got a good chuckle from him.

While we griped about the electronic age has eliminated the desire for face-to-face connections, I turned the topic sideways, admitting that I am somewhat spoiled by technology as well. Without a power source, supplies of insulin would go bad, and I would be doomed. He was quick to agree that his wife would also be in trouble, as she has a seizure disorder.

One of the things I enjoy about engaging Dave in conversation is our discussions about things that are supposedly taboo: politics and religion.

For the latter, he's a devout Christian and I'm Jewish. Neither of us declaims the other's religion as being inferior. If anything, my being reared within range of Manhattan gave me a lot of exposure to many different religions, while his country upbringing has left him somewhat ignorant of what Judaism is about. He is not only open to learning about my religious background, but often gets a kick out of some of the stories I tell about the culture that surrounds my religion.

What he found most entertaining at one point was when I told him I'd been called "a very Christian Jew." I went on to explain that we Hebrews are rumored to be tightfisted when it comes to money, and opening our wallets sometimes requires a crowbar. Dave, however, spends his days standing outside a bank in triple-degree sunlight. (That's Fahrenheit for you folks accustomed to the metric system.) The stereotype of the penny-pinching Jew is thrown out the window when, during my visits to him, I offer to head for a nearby store to buy him a bottle of water.

I'm also told that my imitation of an elderly Jew is quite funny, especially when I tell of actual experiences I've had while visiting my father while he was still living in Florida. Personally, I don;t think there's much to it when I roll an R in the back of my throat instead of with the tip of my tongue, but he finds it most amusing.

When it comes to politics, his military background comes into play, especially when dealing with the war in Iraq. After he explained how he would have handled it if he was President, I summed it up by briefly pretending to be the U.S. leader. "'What's that? You say the terrorists are hiding in the mountains? Right!' I would turn to my military advisers. 'Do me a favor and turn that mountain range into radioactive glass, would you? Thanks.'" But we were in agreement that such action would result in a lot of sabre-rattling from other nations, to which I added jokingly, "Oh, then as leader of one of the most powerful nations on the planet, my response to the sabre-rattlers would be, 'Shut up or we'll invade you too.'"

Essentially, it's a nice little relationship. "Country bumpkin" though he claims to be, his down-to-earth, no-nonsense perspective carries more wisdom than some of the most highly educated people on the planet. We also share a willingness to learn more, and when the other brings new perspective to an old argument, we listen and attempt to absorb information.

As for the title of this post...Well, Dave has only endangered the mission when I've had other goals to achieve. I'll become so wrapped up in conversation that I find myself running late on having a meal or taking a dose of insulin. One of these days, when he shows an interest to continue whatever debate we're having, I'm going to have to say, in a sedate voice, "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Celebration of Life

"You can call it a 'Celebration of Life' all you want," said Snow White caustically to the seven little men looking up at her, "to me it sounds suspiciously like a gang-bang!"

Robert F. Pollock's entry for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where bad writing is not only the theme, but the worst writing wins prizes! The concept: write the worst opening line to a novel you can think of.

To be clear, language is what's vexing me this day. From small to large, the misuse of language is driving me mad.

For example, I'll be lying on my bed, enjoying an episode of House, when a local telecommunication company's commercial comes on. They make an offer for "lightning fast internet." Let's look at that a little closer, shall we? The internet sends data back and forth via encoded electrical impulses, right? "Electrical" referring, obviously, to electricity. Lightning is electricity in its most untamed form. So in a most technical sense, even if you're using dial-up, you are using "lightning fast internet," and it's the processors on either end of the line that are slowing down the works. By implication, this company is making a promise to upgrade your computer's processors at no cost to you, other than signing on for their services. I say we make them pay for misusing language!

Then there are things on the net that make me crazy. I mentioned two games in my last post that I'd like for my days filled with nothing. Let's start with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Koei, the company that said the game would be released today, has a link on their home site labeled "Buy Now!" Clicking the link sends you to a page that has a list of retailers. Clicking those links brings up the sites of those retailers. And what do I find at those various retailers? Nothing. At least not the game I'm looking to price up. My favorite was when I went to the site for QVC, did a search for the game, and received a result of cameras, among other things. "Buy Now"? From who? G-d?!? Somehow, I don't think He has an extra copy of the game just waiting for me to pick up.

We move on to the home site for Champions Online, with the timer counting down until the game's release. The counter is gone, now...as is, apparently, the game. News, forums, information, the home site...It's all available with just a quick application of even the most rudimentary application of Google-Fu. But trying to find the game and its current price? Fuggeduhboutit! So my degree of upset in communication with them is, "Why put up a timer prior to its release?" Was it personal? Was it an endeavor to tease me with a possible toy? I feel like a bystander who's come upon a crime scene investigation unit surrounding the corpse of Santa Claus. Someone is keeping the toys from me, and killing Santa is only the start!

But my favorite appeared in the mail today. "Still haven't claimed your stimulus tax credit? There's still time! It's easy!" Easy? Pray tell, for whom is it easy? Certainly not yours truly. But the promise that I could receive $300 in the next few months finally made me cave and fill out form 1040A. Silly me, I went to www.irs.gov and sought to file electronically to speed things along. I always need more than Social Security gives me, so the sooner I get it the better. Every link for their "e-File" brought up a page declaring there was an error. My guess is that it's because it's past April 15.

Fine. I'll just fill out the form. Toddle about the site until I find the instructions on how to fill out form 1040A...and suddenly I feel like English has become my second language. Tax forms are bad enough when the average person has to fill them out. Try doing it while on a steady dose of morphine and percocet. Thus, I filled out the front of the form, turned it over, and my head exploded. I'd already suffered through the first part, desperately trying to hang onto a pen while my neuropathy was saying, "No...How about we have what's left of your atrophied muscles cramp and have you drop the pen?" So I looked at the "easy" instructions, filled in the relevant lines, signed it, dated it, and enclosed a note explaining why I surrendered and didn't fill out every single line that the form asked me to, and told them to call if there were any problems.

"It's easy!" No, sitting is easy. Breathing is easy. Despite the great pain excessive typing brings me, hitting the keys is easy. Filling out a tax form is never easy, and using "easy" is just one more example of people not understanding the basic meaning of a commonly used word.

Now, with such deceptions continuing to weigh on my mind, I will close this post with yet another entry from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest. Barbara C. Kroll's opening sentence seems fitting to what I've said here...

The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the toad's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gimme!

I'm extending my birthday. That is, I'm extending my desire for gifts. In all that is going wrong in my life, I want toys to play with. Most specifically, two computer games.

Now, the first on my list is a bit of a quandary. Every now and again, I seek out "Romance of the Three Kingdoms to see if it's been released for PCs. Ages ago, when I owned a Sega system, I had this game, and had a ball playing it. Keep the people happy, build an army, and work on conquering all of China. Good times, good times. Alas, it's been impossible to find for the PC. If I had some game system that cost me a few hundred dollars I don't have, I could have had the game years ago. But, no...The game remained elusive...

Until now! My online searching has shown that it will be released for the PC on July 29. The first time I saw it, there was a suggested retail price of $19.95. So I have been hanging on to $20 and change in the hopes of buying it.

Yesterday, I tried to see if it was available for pre-ordering. No dice. The game is not only unavailable for pre-order, but when I would find the game and click on it, the price was DOUBLE what I'd seen earlier. Now, this could be wrong. But if it isn't, I would politely ask that someone GIMME! (That's "give me" in a decidedly childish nature.)

The other game that's coming out this week is yet another MMO that would help to sate my hunger to be - or at least pretend - to be a superhero. Champions Online is to be released July 28. It's price? $48.98!!! Now, since I was desperately hanging on to $20 for the other game, can you imagine me having $48.98 at any one time, other than at the start of the month before I pay rent, my phone bill, and then get food, and...Awww, crud. I'll never have it unless someone buys it for me as a gift, or they send me the money. Thus, once again, I say, "GIMME!"

Okay, so these aren't needs. Surely, my life will go on without them. Still, we men are nothing without our toys. Some want large vehicles to compensate for physiological deficiencies. Some want power tools to they can destroy...I mean, so they can fix things faster. Me? I just want computer games. I'm not capable of much else during the day, so having a few toys would be nice.

As for City of Heroes...Well, the fact that my "friends" would rather I remain silent is a pretty good reason to abandon the game. If I had Champions online, I could, perhaps, find a slew of new friends. And maybe they won't be so quick to kick me while I'm down.

So...All you people out there with money to burn...You can e-mail me at CityOfMutants@aol.com or alwayswrite2001@hotmail.com for my address or PayPal account info. Of course, if you just want to send me large sacks filled with money, I'll take that too, and buy the games myself.

Come on, people...GIMME!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"I tell you this...

...because I'm a friend." Such a comment is usually attached to some painful judgment. For example, "I tell you this because you're a friend, but I think you're a jerk." Well, don't I feel better, especially since it's a friend telling me. Trust me...had the decision that I'm a jerk come from a stranger, it would have meant less and allowed me to brush it off. Instead, it's become emotionally painful.

Such is the case with the New Paragon Floor Huggers. I boasted of them during my first month of blogging, for I was proud of my accidental creation. Some part of me called these people my friends, and some of them were. Over two years ago, one of them helped me avoid eviction by sending me enough money for rent. A few others have sent me game cards so I can keep playing City of Heroes.

But mine is a life filled with one crisis after another. Once upon a time, my father would send me $100 a month to help me stay afloat. It was beneath what I actually needed, but I wasn't about to complain with what little help he was willing to send. There came a time when my father apologized and said that he could no longer help me, and so I turned to some exceedingly kind people on the internet for help. Each month, someone has managed to come through for me and help me do that silly thing called "living."

But my friends, the Floor Huggers? From what I can tell, we have about 20 active members. When my brother lay dying in a critical care unit, I went and begged them for aid. Here was a group of people that knew me longer than those on GitP, and so I set up a thread on our forums asking for financial aid, or, at the very least, their prayers. The one and only reply I can recall on the forum was someone suggesting I take a bus. That was it.

Now I am becoming increasingly sickly. The pain from Charcot's joint feels a great deal like I've broken a bone. So I went to our forums to report why I've become increasingly silent on the game, and the post was looked at, but no one said a word. Someone in the Huggers established a thread to announce their birthday, and I replied with a wish that theirs was better than mine.

That's when I received a private message (edited to remove some objectionable language):

"What the heck, man? Are you *trying* to push away everyone??? I mean, the kid is all excited about his birthday coming up and the opportunity to play CoX again, and you just have to go and throw cold water on it??

"I'm sorry, I really am. I know you're in pain, and I know that you've had it rough for a long, LONG time. But the way you're acting lately is really starting to wear on people, and I have to wonder if that has something to do with why hardly anyone comes to our forums any more...

"Sorry to lay that on you, but I think it had to be said, and I'd rather it came from me, 'cause I think you know that I consider you a friend, Rob."

Oh...Well, it's a good thing it came from a friend, otherwise this might well have hurt my feelings.

You know, I exist in a world of perpetual crisis. I have one problem after another. They say that you know your true friends when they come through and/or stick around in times of trouble. For the most part, the Huggers have stood by and watched me go through some terrible times without so much as a prayer for good luck. Only a rare few have actually lent me aid. And when the only thing a friend can say is, "You're being a jerk," then that person pretty much negates his status as friend.

There is a section of the forums that regular players and visitors cannot see. I went there today and made it clear that I'm no longer part of the leadership. I wanted to be in a group with friends, not just a bunch of people who gathered under one banner "because." I removed all but the founding member of the supergroup from the roster. And I posted all of this while fighting back tears.

Thus, for the most part, I am a Hugger no more. It's been made clear without words that they can do without me. Let them do so. I will find other things to occupy my time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Stay off the internet!"

We do it all the time. We sit and plan a conversation, knowing exactly how the other person will respond. We plot our replies to cater to what we imagine, and things will follow the script as written, right?

WRONG!

I saw the doc today for my follow-up visit, with all of my comments and questions repeated so much that I didn't need to write them down. I was going to give him what for, I was! "I am sickly; hear me roar!" After telling him that I need bigger and better responses before I leave his office, because when I don't have them, I research the problems online. His response was an emphatic, "Stay off the internet! You can go online to look at porn, talk to friends, or whatever. But stop looking up medical advice!"

Yeah, I sure showed him.

In answer to my concerns about Charcot's joint being in my neck and why he prescribed antibiotics for it...Well, that's not what the meds were for. He prescribed them to be sure I'd gotten rid of the pleurisy. When I told him the various snags I'd run into getting the meds and what I'd done instead, he said I'd done the right thing. The bactrim and keflex I took were just fine.

As for why he didn't order an x-ray, he said that there was probably nothing to see yet. The wear and tear on my neck (and possibly shoulder) would only show on an MRI, and it wouldn't be enough to take any kind of serious action. It boils down to the fact that the only thing he could do would be to prescribe the same painkillers that I'm already on.

How is Charcot's joint in my neck. Lucky me, it can appear in any joint. Weight-bearing or not, if it moves, it can be affected. If it was arthritis, it would have eased its way into this severe pain.

Why the diagnosis of Charcot's? Well, because I haven't actually done anything to cause this level of pain so rapidly, it's about the only reasonable explanation.

Finally, when asked about the prognosis, and what I can expect down the line, he said, "Look. If this was going to kill you, I'd be the first one to tell you the truth. I'd tell you to get your affairs in order, we'd go pick out a casket together, and I'll even order up four white horses to carry your coffin to the grave site. Meanwhile, it's just going to hurt."

And there you have it, boys and girls. My carefully planned conversation was tossed out the window as my doctor, who obviously takes no BS from any source, laid it out the real deal for me.

My trip into the world has caused me quite a bit of discomfort, so I'm off to get me some rest.

Be well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A promise kept

Several gifts have landed my way this month to celebrate my birthday. It's a bit funny. I posted a while back what I'd like, and it seems everyone said to themselves, "Y'know...I'm just going to send you money and let you shop for what you want."

I told several people that I fully intended to take myself to the movies, and that's what I did on Tuesday. My choice: The Dark Knight. Now, before you read on, I must warn you that this post will likely contain spoilers. If you have yet to see it, you might want to go read something else. I understand Horton Hears a Who" is wonderful.

First thing you need to know about this movie is to leave the kids home! Although the creators skirted the fine line between an R rating and PG 13, there is enough implied violence to make a grown man like me shudder. Personally, the Joker putting a blade into the mouth of anyone with the threat that he's about to scar them like himself is enough to give someone PTSD. And the physical representation of Two Face is enough to instill nightmares. For G-d's sake, you can see bone, muscle, and tendons working when the man speaks!

Of course, that didn't stop a lot of parents from bringing the kids along. It's Batman, right? How scary could it be? Well, when the tale originates from an insane genius like Frank Miller, you can expect the darkest bits of human nature to rear their collective heads.

But let's not point fingers at anyone. If anything, this film was a piece of art in terms of acting, especially in the form of the late Heath Ledger. There are performers who take on a role and make it their lives until such time as the shooting of the film comes to an end. That may well be what happened to poor Heath, bringing about the need for those medications on which he accidentally overdosed. He may have delved too far into the madness of his character.

Which reminds me...Before setting out to see this movie, I decided to read some reviews. "Heath Ledger blah blah blah great." "Ledger brings blah blah blah and greatness to the screen." Almost every review of his performance raved, and I sat here reading them thinking, You sycophantic morons are touting his talent posthumously because it's polite. No one wants to be the one to say his acting was terrible. I'm pleased to say I was wrong. One would think that they didn't hire an actor to cover the job, but a genuine asylum escapee.

Sticking with the Joker a moment, the writers deviated very far from any version I'd ever read of the Joker's origins in the comics. In fact, his varying tales are so dark that they can be downright heartbreaking. I was actually glad I'd taken a Xanax before heading for the theater. His traumas were all too easily imagined within my creative mind.

From there, the movie seems as chaotic as the main antagonist. There is so much happening in this tale and so many characters that one wishes some of it had been cut to add a sense of order.

I must start with the woman who took on Rachel Dawes, Maggie Gyllenhaal. My first response: Maggie who?!? Harvey Dent proclaims his love for her character, but I didn't even like her. When she dies in explosion number 28,746, I simply didn't care. As I said, there were already too many characters, so losing one I didn't like was no loss whatsoever.

Aaron Eckhart, who plays Dent, doesn't get nearly enough exposure in the industry. He can bring to a project anything it needs, either with subtlety or an explosion of emotion. The movie could have survived without a district attorney meant to be the white light of Gotham City; there's more than enough going on that he wouldn't be missed. Eckhart, however, makes the role worth keeping.

The key thing I can say about Christian Bale, our leading man, is that he simply didn't have enough time on screen. Oh, he has plenty to do when he was dressed as Batman. Flipping an 18-wheeler couldn't have been easy, you know. Still, when he's in Batman mode, he uses that husky voice and is one-dimensional. It's Brice Wayne we want to see, moving with confident ease between billionaire playboy and savvy detective. We took an emotional journey with the character in Batman Begins. This time, Bruce Wayne is just there most of the time, waiting to throw on the cape and cowl.

Micheal Caine and Morgan Freeman...Two and a half hours of film, and these two outstanding actors weren't given nearly enough screen time. I felt distinctly cheated. What moments they had were worth keeping their roles, but I wanted them to have similar impact the way they did in the first film. Instead, I left the movie thinking they had little more than extended cameos.

The other main stars of the movie seemed to be guns and explosions. It was like watching an old episode of The A-Team, where a lot of bullets fly and there's a distinct lack of blood. The movie opens with a bank robbery in which William Fichtner plays the mob's bank manager. An automatic weapon is taken to his legs, disabling him. I don't think I even saw bullet holes in his suit.

Of course, with each explosion on screen, I could only wonder how much gasoline was used to make them. Have fossil fuels become so abundant and cheap that we can use them to simply burn away uselessly? I don't even have a car and I'm affected by gas prices. I'm so conscious of this global issue and entirely too civic-minded to let this go without some kind of objection. It is reaching a point where just beneath that fine print claim that no animals were harmed in the making a film, there would be an addition of, "No petroleum products were wasted in this film."

All in all, it's certainly worth seeing. Before you go, abandon any ideas planted in your head from the Batman movies of 1989, 1992, 1995, and 1997. Consider those upscale versions of the old Adam West series. Today's Dark Knight, while dipping its toe into science fiction and fantasy, has deeper roots in reality, which can make it as complicated as real life, and just as scary.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Dearest "J"...

I have received your letter dated 12 July 2008, and...Wow, could I possibly sound more formal? Anyway, I got the letter on Saturday, amidst my mental collapse over my having Charcot's neck. (Some questions have arisen since my last post about that diagnosis, such as, "If Charcot's usually appears in a weight-bearing joint, how do I have it in my neck? Is the doc implying I have a fat head?) Still, because I believe it a possibility, and my mind is still in turmoil over it, your letter could not have come at a better time.

My first smile came when I read the envelope. I can only imagine the postal carrier's response when he read who your mail was going to. "Mr. Bor the Barbarian Monk." They undoubtedly receive plenty of letters to Santa Claus...but a barbarian monk named Bor? I'll bet every person handling that letter wanted to knock on my door to see what a barbarian monk might be. Surely there would have been shock and awe after speaking with me and then looking over my shoulder, only to find me neat in mind and messy in apartment. But then, I'm a bachelor, and our caves often look like this.

The second smile came from the gift within. I have tried to write to you about this, and am unsure if you received my response. I assure you that said gift will be put to excellent use. But thanking you for the gift is perfunctory. The true gift was the letter you wrote.

Which brings us to the next smile, even a bit of laughter, due to the way I'm accustomed to reading letters and the way your words fell. I quote: "...went to a pub where a friend of mine works. Another whose name seemed to keep changing came and lost a game..." Immediately, I'm thinking, Hang on a second. I'm missing something here. That's when I realized you wrote on the front and back of each page, and yet skipping to the next page almost fit. When I was done laughing at myself, I read on.

My continued smiles went on when I saw that the advice I'd given someone else worked out well for you. Bringing a game to a public place tends to be a great way to meet people, though a pub would not have come to my mind. Then again, as people get buzzed from alcohol, you probably get a better view of their true personalities. At a cafe, they can hide behind a coffee that takes a chemistry degree to make. Booze, however, reveals a person's flaws faster than sodium pentathol. Not only was I glad to see my idea work for someone else, but to read that someone has actually been paying attention to my ramblings on the Depression Thread was a bit of a thrill.

But now I've read that you are having a hard time of things emotionally. Your letter, filled with happiness, friendship, and, much to the regret of my slowly failing eyes, your handwriting, seems to take on a new level of...of...Oh, what's a good word to put here? VALUE! Yes, that's it! Your letter now has even more value.

Perhaps that needs a bit more of an explanation. Your letter's timing was perfect in terms of bringing a bit of light to the growing darkness in my life. This Charcot's joint, if that's what it is, caused me to make a call to my brother and ask if he'd have room in his home for me should it become impossible for me to continue doing things for myself. Mr. Bor the Barbarian Monk might well be Mr. Doom and Gloom as well. Messy handwriting is a sign of a brilliant mind, so your letter became an intellectual and emotional treasure to me.

Now, knowing more clearly your woes, I see a woman who is more than a caring friend, but brave beyond common measure. You did not enter into a shoot-out with thugs or rush into a burning building to save a baby. Fresh after a breakup, you ventured into a social atmosphere with the clear intent of meeting new people. You may not see that as bravery, but I can tell you that many others in your position would gladly have hidden from the world and never come out again, all because if they are betrayed once, they choose not to place themselves in a position to be betrayed again.

That first betrayal hurts. Oh, how I know that it hurts. The pain is different for each of us, but that doesn't seem to matter when it comes to the basic reactions. Lovers can cheat, friends can abandon, and close family members can die. When someone leaves us, we humans tend to not want to bring more humans in for fear that they'll alsofind some way to leave. But you put yourself out there, sweetie, and I have great pride in you for doing so.

As my morning meds take their full affect, I'm starting to feel that I'm rambling, with no true point to anything I'm saying. My train of thought was going somewhere...I'm almost sure of it.

I once sent you a message with a bit of "truth" in it. You had requested honesty, I gave it to you, and for what seemed like ages afterward I wondered if I hadn't done more harm than good. Though we haven't spoken daily, we have spoken more of late, and I've come to know you better. The body, including the brain itself, are mere physical items. (G-d knows, I won't be invited to become a male model in this lifetime.) It's the mind and soul of a person that represent where true beauty lies. Those who declare crushes on you, or love for you, are not looking at the cover of the book you represent, but words that cover the pages within. And to be perfectly honest, as I come to know your mind and soul, the cover becomes more attractive.

The fool that has recently left you does not know what he's let go. In all likelihood, he will realize his mistake entirely too late. You have earned your tears of anger and sadness. Shed them. Get them out of the way. And move on. While you're at it, keep taking that Chess board to public venues, and perhaps you will meet his replacement soon enough. If I recall correctly, that's how my friend "Mush" met his wife...a game of Chess at a cafe in college.

I'm going to end this letter, here on this open forum, with a reminder that you now have a friend in the States who cares a great deal about you. While my left shoulder aches severely from what may be a problem in my neck, my right shoulder is here for you to cry on and/or lean against should you find the need.

Be well, my dear.

With the grand love of friendship,
Rob

PS: Because of where this letter appears, I have avoided using your name. That does not make it any less personal. I would write this and send you mail if I could hold a pen long enough, or if my printer was working. And my plan to link this at GitP also doesn't make this any less personal, either; I simply wanted them to see that: 1. My advice actually works sometimes. 2. My caring is genuine enough to shout to the world. 3. I have a cat. (Having listed 1 and 2, 3 was implied, and I couldn't think of a good one for 3.)

+R

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I wish I was stupid...

...that way, when I read something, I wouldn't understand it and worry.

Instead, in an attempt to truly grasp what Charcot's joint is, I did me some web-surfing. It wasn't long before I realized that if this is, in fact, Charcot's joint in my neck, I am SCREWED! I mean royally, majorly, completely screwed.

Not being a doctor, I tend to take facts and relay them improperly, so feel free to do your own searches. Basically, what's happening in my neck is that I'm not feeling any damage to the bones. Wear and tear go on without being addressed, resulting in the destruction or complete loss of cartilage. The bones can grind, break, and become deformed.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

What I really need is an x-ray to confirm this disease, and I fully plan on talking to my doctor about it. And, of course, I'm terrified that there'll be that confirmation. To be honest, my doctor is a pretty smart guy, with a lot of skill and years of experience. If he says I have it, I have it.

But I don't want this one. Retinopathy and neuropathy have been enough, thanks. There have been times when tests come back positive for nephropathy, only to come back negative a few months later. Charcot's joint in the neck? No, no, no. How about a nice case of cancer, instead? At least cancer can go into remission or be cured after some extreme measures.

Charcot's joint barely has any reasonable treatment available, especially for the neck. Almost everything I've found on the net points to feet, knees, and hips. One snippet mentioned something about being in a cast for 12 to 18 weeks. My neck in a cast?!? How would that work, exactly? Then there was mention of joint replacements, and how they usually proved to be unsuccessful. Well, that's just great. Not that it matters, because you can replace a hip or knee. YOU CAN'T REPLACE A NECK!!!

Yes, I'd much rather be a moron who couldn't understand what he reads. I wouldn't be so upset right now.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Charcot infested waters

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...Or go back to the doctor, for that matter.

Every time I follow up with the doctor and ask why things still hurt, he never has good news. Just once, I'd like him to say, "Oh, it's nothing. It's a pulled muscle. You'll feel better in a week." Instead, he has to examine me and announce, "I believe you have Charcot's neck." (Pronounced shark-oh. Hence my punny title.)

Upon arriving at home, I look it up. Hey! Look at that! Charcot's joint is another complication of diabetes. And what does that mean? It means my joints are turning to crap. If I were interested, I'd look more carefully at the information online, but I got just enough information to make me want to play in traffic. Six to nine months of recovery.

Oh frickin' joy!

So my next question is obvious. What do I do? Take it easy. Take some antibiotics. Take a double dose of percocet to deal with the pain.

Right. Take it easy. Because, in my life of wealth and fame, I have dozens of minions gleefully awaiting to fulfill my every whim. "Slaves! Bring me soup and sammiches in bed! Now! Or suffer the wrath some other slave will inflict on you, because I'm certainly not up to inflicting much wrath at all."

Take antibiotics. You mean the ones my insurance decided not to cover? The stuff has been around for ages, and I've been on it before...but now they won't cover it? It's like I'm trapped in some kind of cosmic comedy, and I'm the punchline of every joke. Things like this start making me paranoid. Then again, it's not paranoia when someone is out to get you. I just need to figure out who or what. I am now accepting applications for those willing to take the blame. Interviews will be held when and if my pain meds allow me to remain conscious.

And there's the topper. More painkillers. I hate saying it, but I need them. I don't want them, but my other option is to lie in bed and cry whenever I move my head, neck, and/or left arm. And between my cholesterol medication and these damnable painkillers, I fully expect to wake up one morning to find a gaping hole in my right, lower torso and a note pinned to my chest: "Dear Rob...I've had enough. Thanks for all the fun. Regards, Your Liver. PS: Kidneys are thinking about moving out too, so you might want to reconcile your differences with them quickly! -K"

I find myself somewhat grateful that Rush and I didn't get to the point of developing a romance. Imagine, if you can, it going far enough where we take it offline and start seeing one another in the flesh. And I mean all of the flesh. I can see it now, at the start of each sexual encounter, me saying, "Don't worry, beautiful...I have 911 on speed-dial. Just be sure to put any parts that break off on ice so they can be re-attached later." Of course, were I to actually die during the act, I would want my tombstone to read, "Here lies Rob. The duct tape and chewing gum couldn't hold him together."

My venturing out into the world to see the doctor left me in great pain, and so I took my first double dose of percocet when I got home an hour ago. The pain has subsided enough to be somewhat physically functional, but I find my brain losing its tenuous hold on the ability to think. Thus, I am off to do battle with the great white Charcot.

Be well, folks. At the very least, be weller than me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gollum's cameo

"The drama! It follows us! It burnses! It freezes! Takes it off us!"

Ummm...Thanks, Gollum. My sentiments...kinda.

I wrote what I thought was a relatively lighthearted post about how my romantic drama has come to an end, and my rival came along to beg, "Please don't be mad at us."

Mad? If anything, I'm glad my rival, whom I consider a friend, is hooking up with Rush, who deserves a sweet guy with strong family ties. Oh, I'm not planning their wedding, and I hope they aren't either...but to be with someone whose family isn't filled with intense dislike is better than than being stuck with me and my relations.

A big problem with online communication is that 80% of the message isn't expressed. I learned this in college, I did. Only 20% of communication is verbal. The rest is non-verbal. Online you're missing tone inflection, body language, and facial expression. Even if all these things were possible, there's the perception of the other person. There have been several moments when, after passing screaming children that are beyond their parents' control, that I've sarcastically remarked, "Oh, I love kids." If my tone escapes anyone who hears me, I might get the response, "Awww...So do I."

Another little problem of mine is the fact that I summarized conversations. I didn't think a word for word, blow by blow recap of all the conversations was necessary. Combine that with my language use and you have a potential recipe for miscommunication. I mean, I keep calling my friend "my rival." In the most literal terms, he was my rival for the affections of the same woman. That doesn't make him any less of a friend. Friends can be rivals in sports, games, and in romance.

It's important to remember that "I'm smarter than the average bear, Boo Boo." I'm not claiming to be the smartest or wisest man on the planet. I just don't see why I should become angry over certain circumstances. Disappointed? Well, sure! Who wouldn't feel disappointed when they lose the chance at romance. The thing is that I never had the girl to start with; I didn't actually lose anything other than a potential relationship.

The fact is that I still have friends. One has been around for a bit, and the other (that would be Rush) is a fairly new to me; I only knew the latter in a most peripheral sense. Friends have a tendency to be a greater asset than romantic partners, as friends often last longer. And friends...sometimes have single female friends just waiting on the sidelines. (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)

Mad? Not at all. I swear it.

"Yes! We swears it! We swears...on the Precious!"

Thanks again, Gollum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm in no Rush

There's nothing quite like the end of a drama to make you say to yourself, "What?!?"

After my last post, I sought out my romantic rival to tell him, "She's all yours." I like her. But he says he loves her. When I found him, he said something along the lines of, "Oh, she hasn't spoken to you yet? She chose me."

I must confess that I was a bit hurt. Not so much at the loss of Rush to another guy, but the loss of another potential romance. She and I were not even close to a point where I could be bitter over her choosing someone other than me. I'm better off sticking with the love of my cat; she'd never leave me for another human...unless they fed her, I guess.

My next move was to send an e-mail to Rush. "Thanks for the kicks and giggles. Here's why I'm bowing out. (Feel free to tell me I'm wrong.) We can always be friends. Etc."

Y'know...It occurs to me at this moment that I sent the e-mail first, then sought out my rival to tell him he won. And we didn't even get to duel! "Long swords at 20 paces!" We could have swung wildly at the air until one of us passed out from exhaustion...and that would probably have been me.

Having resigned myself to the situation, I sat back to let the dust settle, the air clear, the water to go under the bridge, or whatever...

And the phone rang. It was Rush calling to apologize. I found it both very touching and very funny. Basically, I told her, "My dear, we are not breaking up. We can't break up because we were never a couple. We were friends exploring the potential for romance...but there was no romance. We didn't get that far. So relax. Have fun. And write or call whenever you want to talk to your friend."

Oh, but she's worried. She read my "Titanic" post and is concerned. Welcome to the world of my friends, Rush. Many people worry about me. My friend Julie has claimed that when she dies, her headstone will read, "Here lies Julie. She worried."

As it happens, that's one of the reasons I don't rush into a romance, even with someone I refer to as "Rush." There's a lot going on in my life to cause great concern. This shoulder of mine, for example, is an ongoing drama that is now becoming a genuine worry for me. Left to my own designs, I am imagining the very worst. Almost two complete rounds of antibiotics and I'm still in great pain. What the hell is going on in there?

No...In a way, I'm glad to have this romantic drama done with. The ongoing drama of my health is enough for the moment, and Thursday's followup appointment with my PCP can't come soon enough.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From the RMS Titanic

CDQ! Come quick! Distress! My coordinates are...ummm...over here!

Okay...I know part of my problem at the moment is that I reduced my anti-depression meds for a bit until I could get more. My idea was that I'd at least have something in my system to keep me from sinking too deeply. The reason I didn't have the proper meds on hand is because of a comedy of errors on the part of the establishment where my psychiatrist practices. I'd missed an appointment due to illness, was told they'd get back to me with a new appointment time, and the next call I got was from the doc himself, telling me I'd missed the appointment. As I told him, "It's hard to miss an appointment I didn't know existed."

Enter the drama involving Rush. I don't think anyone was looking for the drama, but I seem to have landed myself in a love triangle. Said triangle involves a friend from the internet whom I hold dear, Rush, who never intended to let me know she had a massive crush on me, and myself, who never expected to find myself attracted to a woman who'd remained mostly unknown until a phone was forced into her hand when I made a call to an entire group of friends. Have you ever had a pleasant chat with your romantic rival? Ever discuss a romance with a woman who isn't looking for a commitment and is fairly well-decided against a long-distance relationship? The foolish, lonely man within me wants to argue for her to choose me, while the logical part of my mind says repeatedly, "Bow out gracefully, and make everyone's lives easier."

Then there's this pain in my collar bone and shoulder. According to my followup visit with my doctor, the pleurisy is gone. I'm on another round of antibiotics just to be sure, and yet I'm still in a great deal of pain. I take morphine and percocet daily, which is doing a fair job to allow me to walk with the severe arthritis in my right foot. With such powerful painkillers in my system, I should not be in this much pain, especially when the infection is supposed to be got. So what's going on in there?

"Let's go to the video tape!...Ummm...Imagination!"

As reviewed with my PCP, it takes just one case of osteomyelitis to make you wish you never, ever get it again. While cancer can be a cause of pleurisy, there was no shadow on the x-ray...or so I was told. So while such a thought enters my mind frequently, I don't think it's cancer. What I'm wondering is if the infection in the pleura has somehow managed to enter my clavicle. Something in my head says it's quite possible, and I find myself preparing for six weeks of IV antibiotics.

The fun part about osteomyelitis (an infection in the bone) is that it's hard to detect with an x-ray. It's a bit hard to explain, but x-rays are always a few weeks off from what's actually happening inside the body. Let's say you have a hairline fracture of which even your doctor is unsure. She thinks she can see a small crack in the bone, but she can't be sure. So she orders you to have new pictures taken in a few weeks. Sure enough, a cloud of calcium has formed over where the suspected break has occurred, confirming that the bone is cracked. This same issue comes into play with osteomyelitis. A patient can experience its pain long before the infection can be seen on an x-ray.

I sense a hospitalization coming at me rapidly, and I am less than thrilled. I'm doing my best to hold out until I see my doc on Thursday again, but I'm not thrilled by the prospect of being at this level of perpetual pain until we can investigate this thing properly.

Then there's my birthday. One person made a promise of a gift, and gave me more than I expected. It was a monetary donation to the "Help Rob Survive Foundation." Dad also came through with his small check, which went to buying some actual gifts. I went crazy and bought myself a novel and some cologne. You want to hear insane? I bought light bulbs! Talk about living on the edge! Alas, there was mention of implied gifts - various things on the list from my "Escape" post. I have anxiously checked the mail all week long, and there's been nothing.

As a kind of insult to injury, someone started a birthday thread for one of the Floor Huggers, while mine, after being mentioned in a different thread, seemed to go unnoticed. Not for the first time, I have contemplated leaving the Floor Huggers behind. Proud though I may be of my accidental creation and how much it's grown, I'm starting to realize that I see these people as being closer than they actually are.

For example, when my friend Julie found herself abandoned by her boyfriend, I panicked and asked for aid in getting to her. I was the only person that posted to that thread on our forums. When my brother lay dying in TN, one person at least wished me luck; the rest said nothing at all. Some of the Huggers have been instrumental in my ongoing survival, as well occasionally keeping me playing CoX...but that list is short and distinguished. And it's been a very long time since anyone offered me any kind of gift whatsoever.

Right there is another depressing aspect of my life. I seem to spend a lot of my time with my hand held out, hoping someone will give me something - anything - that will help me live at least at poverty level. CoX is my one and only luxury, when I can afford it. I have no cable or satellite TV. I don't own a cell phone, because, as I tell many people, I'm not that important. I can remember owning a car, but no longer dream of actually having one anymore. I always need help; I always hope for it; I have only received it from some very understanding, and markedly well-off people.

I have refreshed my prescription for anti-depressants, and I'm taking them daily to get myself back to the level they should be at in my body. Meanwhile, I raise my emotional sword to battle the urges that slip into my mind daily. I know my meds are at too low a dose because suicidal ideology is sticking in my head longer than when my meds are at the proper level. Even without these dangerous narcotics at my side all day long, the means are always there with my insulin.

Fear not, friends and fans of my blog! If I actually intended to follow those self-destructive thoughts, I would not write about them. This is merely my way of venting. Like the RMS Titanic, I have struck the iceberg. Unlike the RMS Titanic, I am only sinking, but have not foundered completely.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

This time, it's war: Writer's Rant 3

With at least a dozen ideas rolling around my head, you'd think I'd write something! No, that would be too simple. Why not stare guiltily at the computer from across my apartment and just think about writing, waste the day watching DVDs I've watched 100 times, if not more, surf the net for nothing useful, and then, when I'm so exhausted I can barely sit up straight...THAT'S when I'll sit down at the computer, type a few lines, realize it's all nonsense, and then shut down the computer without saving a thing.

For example, an idea popped into my head thanks to two sources. The first is V for Vendetta, where the occasion TV report mentions the civil war in America. The other is The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote. With tensions running high here in the States due to the economic disaster Governor Bush has put us in, (as per George Carlin, that was the last political post he was legally elected to), civil war is easy to imagine.

That is, it's easy to imagine in a fictional setting. But we Americans are so independent at this point that we can barely organize ourselves into a non-violent protest. Unless people are in the existing army, no one would be able to set up another army; we'd just be an easily quashed mob.

Right! I have the idea. It's a good one. Probably not original, but it's there. Even if it is unoriginal, I'm going to tackle it and make it a semi-historical fiction epic. To do so, I'm going to need...well, I'm going to need divine aid. Having the actual Muses on hand would be nice, but I don't see Calliope (speech), Clio (history), or Melpomene (tragedy) arriving to set my mind aflame with ideas. I'm on my own.

Hmmm...Perhaps an outline would help. Yes, that's it! An outline! Open Word, get it started, and Word starts creating lists for me. But, dangit! I screwed up. I need to go back and create sub-headings for a few of the lists. Now Word won't play nice. "Sorry, Rob. I made a list for you already. If you want another list, you'll have to start from scratch."

Look...I was having a hard enough time starting. You think I want to start again?!?

Over the years, when I've written, I've never structured my stories in advance. Fiction is especially difficult when you try to imagine where your characters are going to end up. Anne Rice said in an interview that when she would get stuck during her vampire chronicles, she would "become" Lestat, and let him lead her through the tale. I did much of the same when I wrote my first novel, Faber. When I would get stuck, I'd let Mike Faber take over. With an outline, I have to lead, and I don't really want to be the boss.

But boss I must be, so the outline begins. Somewhere along the way, I decide the United States will attack Canada. Okay. Ummm...Why? Well, a GWB idea first comes to mind: they're there. Next GWB idea: there are reports they have WMDs; evidence of a bacon bomb is strong. Final GWB idea: my masters told me to attack them; "Yes, Lord Cheney...Canada is under siege, and we are working frantically to get the Death Star completed."

Hmmm...Maybe I should get back to that one later.

Attacking Canada would likely get Europe, specifically England, involved. Oh, great! Now I've got a world war on my hands! Let's not attack Canada at all. It'd be uncivil during a civil war to attack a neighboring country, anyway.

Instead, I'll focus on factions and their locations. Perfect! This will be a battle of the "haves" and the "have nots." And they are gathered...Crap! They're everywhere! Just looking at neighborhood structures across half of America, moving down the ladder, we have the rich set up in their expensive homes, surrounded by middle class homes, with the poor surrounding established on the fringe. And who am I going to get to lead the poor in their grand battle for economic freedom? Some rich guy? He won't care! He likes the poor exactly where they are on the money scale.

Okay...Whose idiot idea was it to write about a fictional civil war, anyway? What do you mean, "you"? I'm too smart to think of this level of stupidity. In fact, I know when I'm overwhelmed by an idea. I'm gonna go cruise the net for useless entertainment while someone else manages this war.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More about the "wife."

When I got Nike, I bought her knowing I would need a "therapy pet." In psych terms, this is an animal companion that would aid someone emotionally. She has played this role perfectly, and has literally saved my life.

I suffer from severe depression. I've been hospitalized for it several times. With or without my meds, there are days when all I want to do is stay in bed and hide from the world. The universe will get on fine without me, and my bed is where I'll stay. But then it occurs to me, "Who will feed the cat? Who will give her fresh water? Who will give her the affection she needs?" That's when I drag myself from beneath the covers and get on with my day.

She comes looking for the affection I mentioned. I'll be at my computer, doing whatever it is I've chosen to do, when she leaps into my lap and makes herself comfortable. The cutest is when she's in my lap and decides to groom my arm. I take on a perfectly childish voice and start talking to her. "Oh, thank you for the kitty-kisses! Was papa dirty? Is he all clean now? Thank you, thank you, thank you kitty!" Then she receives kisses and lots of petting from me.

One very funny aspect of my cat is her decidedly dog-like behavior. Aside from purring, which can't really be heard unless you place your ear against her, she wags her tail when she's happy. It's not the fast, rapid wag like a dog, but it's a wag nonetheless.

Her desire to be close to me is endearing. If I'm on my computer, she's usually nearby. If I'm on my bed, she climbs onto the bed with me. And if I become sick, she usually guards me. I broke my right big toe last October. During the three months it took to heal, Nike spent much of her time at my feet, watching over my toe...her papa's toe. Recently, with my pleurisy, she's been trying to snuggle into my torso, mysteriously knowing that something is wrong inside, and taking on the job of defending me while I was sick.

There are times, however, when her desire to be with me can be as deadly as it is endearing. Over a month ago, I was heading for the kitchen to refill my lemonade, when she got underfoot. I went down hard, taking much of the impact in my knees. My very first thought was that I'd shattered my kneecaps, and that I should crawl to the phone and call for help. Within minutes, however, I was up and able to move slowly about my apartment. An hour later, I was aching, but in fairly good shape. The actual fall scared Nike terribly, but I soon had her cuddling with me, giving her as much love as she was willing to give back.

That seems to be the very point. There is nothing on Earth like the love of a pet. Their message is simple. "Love me, and I'll love you." It's the simplicity of this relationship that makes the following an axiom: "The more people I meet, the more I love my cat."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

She's my...wife?

It's like being the victim of an arranged marriage. And I'm the one who arranged it.

I found her in a PetsMart. She was perfect. A little older than what I would've chosen initially chosen, but after that, she had everything I was looking for. I mean, she was already de-clawed, which was perfect for those moments when she might feel the urge to use my legs as sharpening posts, and she'd been fixed.

Oh...wait. Did you think I was talking about a woman? No, no, no. I'm speaking of my cat. I admit, I'm playing to one of Rush's soft spots. She thinks the love I feel for my cat is adorable. One might think I'm insane for it, but I really do love my little Nike.

I can go on and on about her, but one of the things I suppose I should focus on is the name I chose for her. No, I did NOT name her for a brand of sneaker. I chose the name because I thought it would be cool to name a pet for the Greek goddess of victory. That was my starting reason. It was cool. But I also heard that you should get to know your pet a few days before naming it, or choose a physical trait said pet has.

Y'know what? I named her perfectly! Though she looks like I fat cat when she hunkers down, she only weighs about eight pounds. In turn, I weigh around 190 pounds. This does not alter the fact that my cat thinks she can take me down.

When I walk the length of my apartment for whatever reason, be it to get a drink or answer the phone, Nike will find a spot where she can begin hunting me. He first lack of knowledge can be noted in that she has no concept of what is commonly known as "vantage point." She will hunker down behind a box, or some other small object, and peer around the corner to watch for when I come within range. Meanwhile, being 5' 8", I can easily see where she believes she's hiding.

The other bit of knowledge she lacks is any small degree of the laws of physics. My height and weight play strongly against her hunting instinct. So once I get within range, she darts out, throws her front paws around my ankle, and then flips her body with the kitty-assumption that I will follow. She is somewhat disappointed when her attempts to bring down the kill are fruitless.

Another endearing quality is how spoiled she is by my near-constant presence at home. From time to time, I leave my front window open when I step out for such things as to stop at a neighbor's to chat or check the mail. She will sit at the open window and meow as though she were being tortured. It's her cry, "Come home! I miss you!" It's usually at that point that someone will say to me, "You better get home. The wife is calling."

I will write more about her another time. Right now, it's time for bed, where "my wife" is assured to join me for some quality cuddling.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Where GPS fails...

The latter part of my day was spent chasing time to get home so I could await a phone call from Rush. "I have to get to the bank and make this birthday money deposit before Rush calls." "I have to end my conversation with the friendly security guard at the bank to I can be home in time for Rush's call." "I have to be quick with my shopping because Rush is gonna call soon." "I just missed the bus?!? But Rush could be calling any minute!" "Yes, Dad...Thanks for the birthday wish and money, but I have to go, because Rush will be calling soon."

And call, she did.

Our chat went unexpected places, but I started it off with a slightly crude joke to make myself seem more...human. GitP has various rules to keep people from causing trouble. Couple that with my general nice guy demeanor, and I come off as being somewhat saintly. So it was a bit of a shock for Rush when I made a crack about my amputee ex. "Talking dirty hits a snag when you look down at the woman you love and say, 'Ooh, baby..Spread your LEG.'"

Thus, the laughter began, as did the conversation. Unfortunately, the GPS that is so popular in cars and cell phones cannot, and WILL not, track where a conversation has been, and how it gets to where it ends.

The highlight, however, was when we discussed some of the strangeness that can come from one's mouth. For example, there's an opening monologue performed by Marlon Brando at the start of Superman. While visiting a friend in college, I recited this while we were trying to wind down in a darkened room and trying to drift off to sleep. Thanks to exhaustion, I ended the exquisite monologue in a manner more fitting of my NY origins, and we entered a fit of laughter. Sharing this with Rush and hearing her laugh made the telling completely worth it.

I also sang her two alternative versions of the alphabet..the Christmas version and the drinking version. I believe I stunned her at precisely how silly I can be, and she was somewhat speechless after both.

If we'd been in a car and using a GPS, it failed us completely. We managed to find ourselves in a location of conversation that had never been my intent to reach. And the idea for this post came from her, when she mentioned that she was trying to backtrack in our conversation to find out how we'd landed on such a personal topic. I honestly don't know. Had the female voice of a car's GPS spoken up at that point, I would have slapped the car and shouted, "Thanks for the late help! We're lost, bitch!"

Oh, but we had fun chatting, and that's what I deem most important. When asked when she might call again, she left it as a bit of a mystery. But that's okay. I dislike most surprises, but some are certainly worth hoping for.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is it any wonder...

I've got too much time on my hands
It's ticking away with my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands
It's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands
And it's ticking away - ticking away from me!

Gee...Styx much? Between my Renegade post and this one, it makes it rather easy to guess that I'm a bit of a Styx fan.

Ah, but that's not what this post is really about. "Too Much Time On My Hands" might as well become my theme song. Once upon a time, it was Night Ranger's "I Need a Woman," and my friends and I would play it at maximum volume while cruising nowhere in particular. Not that I have a woman, but I do have entirely too much time on my hands.

Atop my usual medical woes, I bustled off to the doctor yesterday to have my mystery pain discussed. The doc diagnosed me with pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the pleura, the tissue surrounding the pleural cavity that surrounds the lungs. He prescribed antibiotics and told me to followup in a few days.

Upon my arrival at home, I decided to Google my illness. This is where I think the internet should come with a warning: "The net has no capacity to filter your understanding of things you look at here!" I say this because the common causes of pleurisy are pneumonia, tuberculosis, pulmonary infarction, bronchial carcinoma...Basically, it's caused by things that kill slowly and painfully. Had the doc and I not discussed what might have caused it, I would have freaked out. "The end is nigh! Red alert! Hide the children! Fornicate while you still can!"

Thankfully, the doctor and I discussed how I ended up with this infection, and I'd only gone to the web to find out exactly what the condition was. And the cause? Well, remember last month when I wrote about the bombing of my apartment? It seems that my apartment wasn't aired properly afterward. I was given an empty apartment to hang out in while my place was unhealthy to breathe in; the reason I was relocated was so that my cat and I had somewhere cool to hang out...most specifically the cat. But nothing, not even the toilet, worked in that apartment, and Nike was meowing up a storm. Four hours of that insanity was more than I could take, and was given permission to return home after that time had passed.

Upon my return home, I ignored a few things, dismissing them to my imagination or previous conditions. For example, I thought I could smell a slight chemical odor. That had to be my imagination; four hours had passed and I was told the chemical had to have dried out by then. And the insane itch I experienced while lying on my bed? Well, that had to be my dry, itchy diabetic skin, right? Nope. Over two weeks later, it's revealed that I must have exposed myself to what was left of the chemicals still drying, and my weak immune system couldn't handle it.

Thus, here I am, temporarily sick on top of my permanent illnesses. I did a lot of nothing before, but now I do extra nothing to fill my time as I heal.

But I'll take this all in stride. Such things are common occurrences in my life, and I was due for my birthday disaster. Thankfully, it's something that should just go away with treatment.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

As the Rob Turns

I finally surrendered to the pain in my collar bone and went to an emergency room. Mind you, I went by bus, stopping along the way at a neighbors' place to let them know where I was off to. Even paused along the way to grab a diet soda to help me survive the triple degree weather along the way.

There was a bit of universal conflict at the ER. I waited an hour to be brought back to a room, and then I was, in the first few minutes, treated as though I might be having a heart attack. My basic response was, "If I'm having a heart attack, I'm having it for a week." Then I pointed to my collar bone and said, "This hurts. The pain is radiating into my neck and shoulder. I'm not here for narcotics; I have plenty of my own. The thing is, with those powerful meds, I'm still in great discomfort, and I would like to know why."

After an exam, a cardiogram, and an x-ray, they shrugged their collective shoulders. They gave me an above average dose of toradol, which is an anti-inflammatory, which had almost no affect. Beyond that, all the hospital staff could do was recommend I see my doctor.

To my regret, I'm feeling that intense pain again, growing to the point where I want to cry from it. Telling me to lie down and get some rest is of no use. It hurts all the time, no matter what I'm doing.

Meanwhile, in less that 24 hours, I've learned that Rush doesn't want a romance right now. No complaints there; I'll live. It's how I learned that bothers me. Party A told me about parties B and C, as well as parties D, E, and F, how all parties seemed to have emotional explosions in a very short period of time. This one reports things to that one. That one talks about what they saw involving those two. Those two aren't talking to anyone. And I write a quick note to Rush asking where I landed in the scheme of things, because I was getting dizzy.

It boils down to the fact that Rush never intended me to know she had a crush on me, and that she was content to admire me from afar. She never thought I'd show any interest back. And a quick glance at her blog reveals a long distance romance isn't her thing.

So where does that really leave me? I have a deep desire to back away slowly, leaving anything and everything in her hands. I never expect these online things to go anywhere, anyway. That she's young, attractive, intelligent, and fun are all very nice. But why build up a great deal of hope when it's bound to come undone in the end?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Renegade

The jig is up, the news is out
They've finally found me
The renegade who had it made
Retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray
This'll be the end today
Of the wanted man

Months ago, I received a questionnaire from the Census Bureau. On the envelope were the words, "Your response is required by law!"

My first instinct was to take the paperwork, fill it out creatively, and finish by - instead of signing my name - signing it, "At least I responded, as required by law."

I didn't do that. Instead, I added it to the growing pile of junk mail, which eventually made its way to the trash, and I forgot all about it. The government has only been an extended thorn in the side of my existence, and I could care less about answering their useless questions.

But there's no escaping the United States Government. They sent another questionnaire, with those same words of warning emblazoned in red on the envelope. "Your response is required by law!"

This time I was tempted to write in large letters across every page, "Take your law and shove it..." Well, my language would have been quite colorful, as per my New York origins. On the last page, I would have finished with, "Here is my response, as required by law. Perhaps not the response you wanted, but until you actually do something FOR me, I ask that you stop wasting time, effort, and the money of tax payers with these moronic forms."

Again, I did nothing, and the envelope, with the aforementioned useless forms, made its way to the trash.

Really...What were they going to do? Lock me up? By all means, please do! Three square meals a day and a bed to sleep in, with medications brought to me instead of me making trips to a pharmacy. And when other inmates would ask me what my heinous crime against society was, I could embarrass the government by declaring loudly that I didn't fill out a worthless census form. Yep. Locked up for exercising my right to ignore what I firmly believed to be junk mail.

My lack of action caught up to me today, as a census representative arrived at my door. I should have barricaded the door and shouted in defiance, "No, you may not have my date of birth, you oppressive bastards!" Then, through a shattered window, point my finger at the poor woman and make silly shooting noises. And as I was carted away to one loony bin or another, I could scream, "Viva la revolucion!"

Che Guevara, I am not. Instead, I invited her in and answered her questions. This doesn't mean I wasn't a clown while answering. For example, when she asked if I knew how old my apartment complex was, I replied, "I'm not sure, but on a guess, taking into account the condition of this place, I'd say 'Something B.C.'" Thanks to my meds, her five minute visit was stretched to approximately one half hour as I babbled away a bit, and then she was on her way.

I couldn't take my anger out on the poor woman who was merely performing her job, but I'd really like to know what difference the information I gave her is going to make. As if living beneath poverty level wasn't bad enough, the price of everything is soaring. The government isn't going to compensate by increasing my Social Security check enough to keep up with the rising cost of the universe. My food stamps balance, which was an embarrassing total of $10 per month, has been cut off completely. The medical insurance they offer picks what medications they'll pay for with the idea that one is enough like the other to not pay for the best, leaving me to take the wrong kind of insulin. After a lengthy search, I finally found work I could do from home, only to learn that if I do start working and earn more than an extra $120 a month, the government would cut off vital programs, and more than what I'd earn would go toward my medical bills. And the miserable programs I have now? I had to fight for over three years, finally taking my case before a judge, before Social Security said, "Hey! Our doctors were right! This guy is disabled!"

They can't care for their citizens, but the United States has billions to spare for other nations around the globe, as well as a Congress that thinks there's more than enough to spare so that they can vote themselves a raise. They also have enough money to waste on printing up numerous census forms that won't make a bit of difference in the quality of my life.

I'd best put an end to this, barricade my door and windows, and make sure my finger-gun is loaded. Once I post this, the FBI is sure to come looking for me.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What a Rush.

I found out by accident that there is a female with a crush on me. This is not to be confused with a deep, abiding love, or even the beginnings of a romance. In my mind, a crush is a heightened state of being"'in like." She's pretty and young. I guess that makes her pretty young.

Old jokes aside, she and I have started talking via e-mail, and I can feel the tendrils of reciprocation starting to wrap themselves around me. I like her. She's smart, has a sense of humor, and is, without blind preconception, physically attractive. In terms of personality, I find it enchanting that writing to me gets her flustered, and that she seems to think she needs to find the perfect words to say to me.

It's the image I've gained at GitP. "Be careful what you say to 'Saint Bor,' or he will call upon the Lord to smite thee." Codswallop, I say! I am far from a saint. As one Playgrounder discovered when he braved a phone call to me, I can cuss with the best of them when the occasion calls for it. Had "he" been a "she," I might have even ventured into the realm of talking dirty. As Robin Williams so eloquently put it, "Men were given two heads and only enough blood to run one at a time." Being originally from New York, I can swear with the best of them.

Before I go on, I should note that I'm going to call the mystery girl "Rush." It's an association with her name (I think), and few will catch on, keeping her identity mostly to herself.

I honor her in this regard because I don't want the world to pressure her into pursuing me romantically. "Oh, come on. He's a nice guy, and you're a great gal. You should totally run to Phoenix to be with him." Rush has enough pressure in her life, and leaping blindly into a romance is not wise. I don't want her being bitter toward those whom she might later deem as the culprits for her getting involved in a relationship in which she's not happy.

Nor will I pressure her. I've made it as clear as I can that she's in the driver's seat. Though we may have an interest in one another, it's important to get to know each other before becoming deeply involved. In one of the first messages Rush sent me, she apologized for being late in replying, partially blaming the lateness on being busy, and the rest on struggling to find the right words. I told her that her apology was silly. She should write what comes to mind and not worry about delays. "That would be like apologizing for having a life and for being yourself." I believe I added, "I want to get to know you, not the person you think you can pretend to be."

I have more time than I know what to do with, so I can write a novella in response to the shortest of e-mails. Rambling on is part of who and what I am. It's why, even here, I don't have entries that say, "Nothing happened today. Just bored. Played with me cat. I'll post something better tomorrow."

Thus, with her, I can get started and go on...and on...and on. It's part of process of getting to know one another. Do I have secrets? What person doesn't? The most honest person holds something back, especially if it's a habit that embarrasses them. These are the things that come out once someone knows another person much better.

Just before coming here to start writing this post, I read Rush's blog. I suspect my heart is growing more attached, as I'm starting to worry more about her. The reasons for my concern involve an overload of drama, frustration with her family, and that she seems to think she should be filled with happiness and joy more often. My first and greatest desire is to seek her out, wrap her in my arms, and tell her that things will improve. By pretending that everything is okay when it's not is only a form of bottling up negativity, which can result in terrible physical and mental difficulties. Pretending to be happy has yet to make anyone happy.

I'm also a bit of a mush. Rush wrote of being in tears over painful words spoken to her, and the romantic part of me wanted to catch her tears with soft kisses to her cheeks. This is not because I'm madly in love with her, but because I want to show her a level of caring to which I think she isn't accustomed. I want to let her know that we can lie side by side on a bed, with her hysterical and in tears, and that I would lie at her side, listening to her woes, giving her what encouragement I can, and let her feel the gentle caresses that come from someone who doesn't see her as a piece of female flesh to be ravaged.

If I'm going to be honest, especially with myself, such romantic actions are not reserved for her. Any woman who'd accept me as I am and had even a slight romantic interest in me would receive such treatment. It's because I have a great weakness for those who are in need, and I happen to care.

Of course, I'm likely dreaming. Rush and I will probably never see one another face-to-face. There is slightly more than two decades between us in age. I don't care about that, and neither does she, but there will probably be others who will object so strongly that they'd make ever attempt to turn our lives into a living hell. She is young, attractive, and healthy, while I am older, not exactly handsome, and far from healthy.

But we'll see. Maybe a "happily ever after" is hiding somewhere down the road for me...and her.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Who was that unmasked stranger?

Off he goes in a cloud of dust and a hearty, "Dang, I wish this wind would stop blowing the dust around so much!" It's...THE LONE ROB!

It would be infinitely more impressive if I had a white horse named Silver and an American Indian sidekick, Tanto. Odds are good that we'd just open a casino. But even that would be impressive. And then I'd be the sidekick, and all I'd do is be nice to people at the gambling establishment.

Being nice is how I tried to spend my day, today. I went out into the world to accomplish several goals, like pay my rent and gather up some supplies I'd need for the month. Along the way, I talked to the humans I came across.

As I went to leave the bus, I wished a very attractive woman the best of luck on her engagement, only to realize I missed the wedding band. And the handsome young man next to her was her brother, not the man of her romantic dreams. Awkward!

In the bank, while gathering my rent money, I tried to get the teller to smile. She must have thought I was flirting, which I was not. I was being silly, which should have been more than obvious when I asked to withdrawn $1,000,000 after I'd swiped my debit card. My goal to make her smile was obviously opposed to her goal of not being amused by anyone.

I was not getting along with the masses.

But then I hobbled over to the movie theater, where I contemplated seeing a movie. There, I met an unfortunate woman who had already bought a ticket. Her brother, David, had died on Good Friday. He would have been 57 on July 23. She expressed the pain of his loss as being unbearable. Maintaining eye contact, I asked her, "Would he want you mourning his loss or raising a glass of wine in his honor to celebrate his life?" I also pointed out that despite her grief and hard times, she'd paused to treat herself to a movie, which was a sign that she was moving along the path of healing. To me, a smile, with perfect teeth or not - and her teeth weren't perfect - is always worth the effort. She took my hand with great human affection, introduced herself with a smile, and thanked me.

Elated by my good deed, I treated myself to a movie, knowing I would likely regret the spending of money later. I'd been waiting for the release of Hancock, and regretted my choice a bit. Still, sometimes you need to treat yourself now and again, and I did so.

Afterward, I was off to Wal-Mart to gather my monthly supplies. Let me tell you, I know how to live on the edge. The razor I've been using for a month and a half has been replaced, and shaving didn't hurt for a change. I also bought some canned cat food so that Nike could be treated a few times this month as well. And as I stood on line to make my purchase, I joked that the man ahead of me was going to pay for my stuff, too. He laughed and declined, saying that he was to be married in two days. I congratulated him, wished him well, and then made the joking demand that I'll take his "man card" now. This had the cashier laughing along with us.

While getting the money order to pay my rent, I complimented a woman on line that her son and daughter were adorable, and asked if they were twins. I was amazed to find out that the six and seven year old were exactly one year apart, both born on July 31.

I shopped for some food, and ran into some neighbors. I goofed around with her and her four kids, and was rewarded by being permitted to make my much smaller purchase ahead of her. Then we walked together back to our apartment complex, losing 700 lbs. along the way under the scorching Arizona sun.

I paid my rent and retired to my cave, reflecting that my day had been filled with mixed blessings. Still, I had brought smiles to a few faces, and that's what made my venturing out into the world all the better. Perhaps I should do it more often.

Be well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Something I hide...

When I go to GitP, there are those who read my every post. Much to my astonishment, I have quite a following there. Here, not many are coming to read my every tale. Over time, I have been keeping things from my online friends, and it bothers me. But I have my reasons, the main of which is that they'd worry.

To report my every pain would have everyone that knows me showing great concern over said pains. I have made an effort to quell my personal fears. Not everything is osteomyelitis or cancer. Heck, I've at least had osteomyelitis. While leukemia has made a cameo in the form of my elder brother, who passed on when I was three years old, no one has had so much as a hint of cancer.

Alas, the paranoid mind can make that leap to the impossible, and with the media having screamed that everything causes cancer, I sometimes wonder if I haven't managed to get it from watching the news too much. It doesn't help that I'm going to be 41 in a week, and now is the age in which various forms of this dreaded disease strikes. It also doesn't help that I've known more than my fair share of cancer patients.

And so, I have pains. Some have been explained, although those explanations don't make the pain any less. I have been prescribed some of the most powerful medications a person can be given to take at home. One is quite common: percocet. The official dose is 7.5 mg. of oxycodone and 500 mg. of acetaminophen, the latter of which is more commonly known as Tylenol. The other medication is the lowest dose of morphine sulfate, a time-release pill that administers 1.25 mg. of morphine every hour. All prescription tablets, and all taken as strictly as possible per doctor's instructions. There are those who happily take these meds because of the funky feeling they give. I take great care with them, as they can suppress breathing and/or poison the body if taken in excess.

It should be further explained that prior to these meds, I was taking a powerful NON-narcotic called Ultram, the generic of which is tramadol. I used this medication primarily to address the pain brought on by diabetic neuropathy. It should be noted, however, that this medication operates by attaching to opiate receptors in the body, and can still give that funky feeling.

When narcotics entered the picture, Ultram left it. As I told my doctor, word for word, "I don't need every opiate receptor in my body doing a happy dance." What's more, with the addition of the morphine sulfate, my neuropathy pain is thoroughly addressed.

And yet I still have pain. It's hard to believe, but in a most technical sense, someone should be able to club me over the head and I should barely notice.

One pain is the infection I don't have in my left big toe. The toenail was removed, and what was left was ugliness to the non-medical eye. It's a tad red. The end of the toe is swollen and somewhat tender. According to the podiatrist yesterday, however, "It looks good." So I dismiss it, and try to ignore whatever pain comes from there. I shout down the voice in my head that fears another infection inside the bone, and I go on doing what I must.

The pain I'm having a hard time ignoring is the mystery ache in my left clavicle, or - to those who haven't paid much attention to human anatomy - collar bone. I blamed it on sleeping in a bad position, and it seemed to fade the first day I felt it. But it was back the next day...and the next...and the next. As an extra "thrill," the pain no longer fades, but even gets worse as the day goes on. And this is while I'm taking the narcotic painkillers!

A part of me keeps crying out that I should take myself to the emergency room and at least have it x-rayed. Another part of my mind says that I should hold out for my doctor's appointment on the 10th and discuss it with my PCP. Then there's the part of my head that falls back on the old quote, "Don't worry about my health. It'll go away."

I already talk about enough of my pains with my online friends. They worry plenty about me. But I don't speak of my every pain; I keep some of them to myself.