Monday, August 31, 2009

Early Sunday Morning, Posted on a Monday

Rocky Mountain National Park, in June.

Geez, It’s past 7:30 in the morning and I haven’t heard a sound from anyone. There are four other people and a dog here, they’re all sleeping in I guess. I’m surprised that even Zeke the dog hasn’t come up and licked my hand and tugged at me for a jaunt in the back yard.

Looks really nice outside. Yesterday morning, it was downright cold. We went around closing windows and shutting doors and donning sweatshirts. Of course by noon, I was in short sleeves. I’d also noticed that it was dark by 8:00 p.m. Summer is losing ground. Fall is in the air. Up north, on our last water run, we noticed some bronze, red, amber and golden colors on trees. The geese are flying low in small packs over our yard.

My pal Zeke.

Many people I know tell me they love the autumn. Up here, it usually means the mosquitoes are gone for the season. Fishing picks up after the water turns over. By the way, the turn over, or water stratification, is explained in a short definition in laymen’s terms, right HERE.

The crows have had their morning concert. A Sunday morning here at Spadoville. I guess I’ll wander up to the store, it’s only a couple of blocks away, and I’ll get a quart of buttermilk. I’ll make some pancakes from scratch. The kids like pancakes. They're easy to make. I happen to have some self-rising flour on hand. II had to get the self-rising stuff because the recipe for the southern fried chicken I made a week or so ago called for it.

I’ll put some flour in a bowl and add some vegetable oil, a couple of beaten eggs and some buttermilk. I’ll stir only until the whole mess is wet. I leave the lumps in there. I’ll heat up the cast iron fry pan and pour a 1/4 Cup or so into the middle and watch for them to bubble. Flip ‘em once and serve them hot, one at a time.

Usually, we’ll all be sitting at the table and there will be talking while we either eat or wait for a hot pancake to come out of the pan and onto our plate. Three of the Grandkids are here. They spent the night last night. These sleep overs are about to slack off pretty good because school starts Tuesday, September First. I don’t think sleepovers will take place during the weekdays, but I see plenty of weekend nights with kids here.

Buttermilk Cakes!

I took on the commitment and responsibility to make sure the kids get to the bus stop in good fashion this year. I’ll be home when they get off the bus, too. Their Mom will drop them off at 6:15 a.m. In the morning. The oldest will get on the bus at 6:50 a.m., the other two not until 8:00 a.m.

I guess this means I’m grounded. Traveling over for the year. No more motorcycle trips or traveling. This isn’t even easy for me to say as I have traveled, especially in the Fall and Winter, readily over the past 15-20 years.

I guess Mrs. Spadoman understands that I may still have the wanderlust from time to time. She has already made a plan so she can be here for the kids both before and after school while maintaining her job. That’s awfully nice of her. After all, it was my commitment, but she found a way.

Sure enough, the first trip opportunity has come up. My friend Hal, from California, interested in finishing the motorcycle trip we started last June, will be flying into Minneapolis this week, on Wednesday. After some housekeeping with visits and motorcycle maintenance, we’ll be on the road again, on the scooters, headed West. I’ll ride for a day or two or three with Hal, then turn around and return home.

Loaded and ready to go. Pic is from our 2006 road trip.

Riding in the Fall, my favorite time of the year, will be great. Not sure what route we’ll take, but we’ll figure that out. I’m excited about one more motorcycle trip this year.

Better go get that buttermilk. Folks are starting to stir around.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hot Springs Reunion, 2009

Just a nice photograph to get things rollin'

I left last Wednesday and took a great drive in our new car. It was the first road trip of any length for Goldie. Goldie is the name we came up with for our gold colored Ford Focus. I know, not real creative, but easy to remember. There aren’t many of these gold colored cars out there. I have had quite a few people comment on the unique color. One guy, as we were exiting a restaurant in town, mentioned to us that he liked the color. I immediately had to ask him, “You know what we call this car?” When he said, “No, what?” I told him. He snickered, then probably got into his car and told his companion what an asshole I was. That’s another subject for another post, someday.

Goldie. Our 2009 Ford Focus.

Goldie settled in with around 38 miles per gallon. That is good I think. I took the two lane road through northern Nebraska. US Hwy 20 from Sioux City, IA to Chadron, NE, then North on 385 into Hot Springs, SD.

The photo just doesn't do justice to what I was seeing in the clouds on my way West

Hot Springs South Dakota is where I was to meet up with a couple of old friends. These are a couple of guys I met in Hot Springs in the Winter of 2005. We were in a group together, enrolled in a program at the Black Hills Regional Health Care facility at Hot Springs, in other words, the VA hospital. It was treatment program, designed to help Veterans get through and understand better the hard times caused by PTSD. Both my friends, both named Larry, and I, became good friends when we met and that friendship has lasted.

A beautiful stretch of US Hwy 20 Westbound in Nebraska

Larry G. Came there with his wife and one year old child. They were continuing on to Denver to visit his parents after stopping in Hot Springs. Larry C. Lives about 80 miles away from Hot Springs and still attends a group meeting here weekly. I came from my home in River Falls, WI just for the occasion of an annual reunion event put on by the staff of the PTSD program there.

After we left the program, Larry G. Had a hard time and fell back into his old habit of drug addiction. He got caught up in it and ended up doing some time in jail. A couple of years worth. Larry C. And I paid him the occasional visit and supported him until he was released. We were there when he got out of jail. We drove him home and helped him get stable at his uncle’s place in Duluth. After that, we didn’t hear much from him and efforts to contact him were futile. We thought the worst. We thought he fell back into the life of drug abuse and might have even got arrested again and was doing more time.

Low and behold, Larry G. surfaced and all was okay. He had met a woman, got married and had a child. He bought a home in Duluth and was doing quite well. All this time, Larry C. And I saw each other last September for a brief visit as I passed through Lusk, Wyoming, where Larry C. Lives, while I was on my way to the West coast to visit friends. Other than that and a brief phone call around Christmas, we hadn’t had much contact.

My friend Larry G. with wife Natasha and baby Lataysia

I felt like it was over. I didn’t think we would all hang out and talk to each other so regularly any more. But I was wrong. When I had heard from Larry G., I called Larry C. And we all started talking back and forth again. We talked about this phenomenon while sitting poolside at the Budget Host motel in Hot Springs the other night. We laughed at ourselves and how we still can’t believe that we have people out there that would actually want to hear from us.

Larry C. and me at the reunion

We made sure we all had each others phone numbers, both home and cell, and made a pact to stay in contact at least once per month just to say hello. I set the sights higher by saying that it wouldn’t count to call when you knew the other guy was busy or sleeping and leave a message. The call had to be one-on-one conversation, not a voice mail. We laughed and the conversation went on like we never took a break. I guess that’s what real friendship is, understanding and accepting of the quirkiness of each other.

To prove this, all it took was the actual attendance at the reunion. This event is just the Vietnam Veterans from the past groups sharing space in an small auditorium at the Hot Springs VA. Burgers and hot dogs are offered and shared along with a few side dishes and some chips. It was understood that I would meet the two Larrys at the auditorium. I got there first and within a few minutes, Larry C. Arrived. I was seated at table, alone. I got up when I saw larry come in to the room. I walked over towards him and one of the staff asked us if we had signed in.

Well, we had signed in on a sheet of paper that was on a side table by the door of the auditorium. But this staffer was talking about going to the other side of the domiciliary complex, into the dom office, and sign in and get a visitors pass. Both Larry and I turned and walked out. We both grumbled that it was the same old shit and a different day and that we weren’t going to get a visitors pass. After all, we’re Veterans, we used to live in that building and everyone knew who we were and we were invited to be there.

Larry C. was visibly upset, (read: pissed off to the max!), I was calmer, but just not willing to jump through the hoops that they wanted us to. After all, I came there to meet up with my friends, the two Larrys. We walked out together. I suggested we get a cigar and cool off out on a bench and that we settled down a bit while we waited for Larry G.

We did exactly that. Larry G. Came with his wife and child. We told them that we’d be out there and we’d see him after he ate. Larry G. Went inside. Another guy came out, a veteran we didn’t know, and we talked a bit. He tried to coax us into coming back inside, but we just sat there. His name was Tom.

A few minutes after Tom went back inside, one of the staffers came out. It was Rosemary, one of the counselors from the program. Seems that Tom ratted us out. Larry and I knew Rosemary very well from the program days in 2005. She looked at us like we were a couple of disgruntled little boys who were being belligerent. After rolling her eyes, she told us to come inside and get something to eat and that we were being silly.

We followed her. Seems her invitation was the encouragement that we needed. We both felt a little awkward. I apologized to Rosemary and told her that we caught in the act of being ourselves. She shrugged it off and just shook her head. She is used to the reactions exhibited about every day things she gets from PTSD Vets I guess. But this is the type of friendship and companionship I'm eluding to. Both Larry and I were willing to miss the entire event to show support for each other. And even Tom, the guy we really didn't know, did his bit to support us and help out. That scenario epitomizes how we never stopped supporting our Brothers some 40 years after it all.

We ate and talked a bit more. Took a couple of pictures and went on our way. Larry C. Drove home to Lusk, Larry G. Went back to the motel and had an afternoon of sightseeing on his calendar. I left for home in Goldie.

All in all, it was good for each of us to put forth effort to see and talk to the other guys. It was good connection. Thursday night, we had sat around a picnic table by the pool at the motel after a great dinner we shared. We caught each other up on the happenings in our lives. We laughed and cried and hoped the best for each other. We puffed on cigars and life was good. We told each other how much we loved each other and thanked each other for the friendship.

At the reunion itself, we ran into another fellow from our group of Winter, 2005. Russell C. was there. We sat and talked a while. It was good to see him there. There were ten in our group. One of us had heard from or knew the whereabouts for all but one.

Another old friend I met in Hot Springs, Russell

If I indeed do get to take another motorcycle trip yet this September, as is the plan, I told Larry C. I’d call him and pay him a visit when I passed by Wyoming. He told me, “Make sure you do!”

All is good after that visit. We decided not to attend the wedding in Duluth. I drove the 650 miles straight through to home and am spending a nice weekend here in Spadoville.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Travel Plans for the Weekend

This made me laugh when I got it in an e-mail. I've only seen pairs 1950, 1970 and 1980 in person.

Just a short post to mention a few things. First of all, thanks so much for the encouragement in your comments on the post just before this one. I don't whine much, but I just felt a lot of frustration and vented it all out here. We all have our days, don't we? I appreciate people trying to help out another human being. That, in itself, is a statement that says a lot, not only about the people who write the blogs listed on my side bar, but about people in general. There are good values out there, and good people. I am honored to know a few great ones.

Speaking of great ones, Teddy Kennedy passed away. You may not have liked him, especially if you are a Republican, but he did serve his country all his adult life. Dusty did a nice piece on her "It's My Right to be Left of Center" blog. And like any soldier that we support, this service needs to be recognized as well. Now he joins his brothers. Thanks Ted. It's been an honor and a pleasure.

I'm leaving today for a short week long trip. I'm driving to Hot Springs, SD to meet up with a couple of old buddies. Larry C. and Larry G. There is a small reunion going on at the VA and we're all going to meet there and catch up a bit. We spent a couple of months together there in the winter of 2005 and became quite close. I haven't seen those guys, or even talked to them much, in about a year. I'm looking forward to seeing them for sure!

The Hot Springs, SD VA hospital.

You might remember me talking about my "Larry" friends some time ago. I have a plethora of friends named Larry. I separate them by the first initial of their respective surnames. We'll be having dinner and smoking cigars. Not exactly the behavior I need to be establishing after, what I will call, "The Frustration Post". That was the one before this one entitled Heart Stories. I will attempt to eat a salad and smaller, less fattening entree. I will not inhale the cigar smoke. I will drive safely and adhere to the speed limit most of the time. I promise. Wouldn't want to go against the grain for my friend susan, who pens the "Phantsy That" blog. She told me she'd like to see me around a while longer! That was such a nice thing to say to someone, let alone the fact that we don't really know each other except on blogger.

When I leave South Dakota, I'm heading directly for Duluth, MN to attend a wedding Saturday night. A good friend is getting married and we're invited. I won't eat or drink a lot there either, but I certainly see another cigar in my future. This young gal is a friend to my daughters, and therefore has become a friend of ours. I am grateful for these kind of friendships, the ones that pass over the age barriers. When your children's friends become your friends and it stays that way until the children are adults. That's cool. Shelly is one of those folks. We're delighted to be invited.

So, this post is a bit fluffy and full of good feelings and things. It will have to pass for my Only the Good Friday post this week. The death of Teddy Kennedy is not the best of news, but death is an inevitable part of living, so I won't say it is a bad thing. Unfortunate that we lose anyone, but inevitable just the same.

Incidentally, pertaining to the cartoon above, I wear those that resemble what was worn back in 1900, you know, boxers. I think I'll start a new weekly blog theme and call it, "What kind do you wear?" You can post the results, with pictures! Wait, that wouldn't work, would it?

Take care and be well. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And above all, Peace to all of you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heart Stories

I was 36 the first time it happened. Around July sometime in 1985, I was playing softball in Hinckley. I played for the Alpine Inn team and we had a game one evening. I had been the pitcher and batted cleanup for all the time I had played in the Class B Minnesota State Softball Association sanctioned league.

Danny Johnson, the owner of the Pine City Bakery where Barb worked, had played for the Alpine Inn team for a number of years. I guess there were plenty of teams around, guys getting together to play softball, having fun, re-creating.

But there were only two really well known teams in East Central Minnesota, Alpine Inn and Bob’s Standard. Bob’s Standard, sponsored by the local Standard service station, was a really good Class B team. Nobody hardly ever beat them. Alpine Inn, the other well known team was good too, no one hardly ever beat us either except Bob’s Standard! I always thought of Bob’s as a really serious team, and Alpine as the bunch of guys who wanted to have fun, laugh, joke around, go out after the games and get drunk, that sort of thing.

So Danny, remember the bakery owner, had seen me play on a very recreational church league. He played left field for the Lutherans. I played wherever the born again christian Evangelical Free Church would ask me to.

At one of the church games, Danny in left, me up to the plate, I whacked one over his head for a homer. Next time I was up, he backed up, and I whacked another over his head. This happened a third time and I wish I could remember a fourth, but definitely three times in a row. After the game, Danny asked me if I’d be interested in playing for the Alpine Inn team. I was flattered. things like this happened rarely in my life and I enjoyed being appreciated.

I had played for the team probably about two years, it was a hot July night, we were playing in Hinckley and I was up for my first at bat. It was a hot grounder easily played to short with a routine throw out to first. As I had made it to the team, I would end my career, because this happened three times in a row, just like the homers over Danny’s head.

I was 5’8” and weighed in at about 260, maybe a few pounds more depending on the weekend I had.

Each time I hit the ball and ran to first, I got a sensational pain in the middle of my chest. I had never experienced heartburn very much, but I thought that’s what was happening. I’d run to first as fast as I could, just like Pete Rose always did, I’d get the pain, rest and it went away. Well, almost all away, the third time it lasted for a while longer.

My rest took me to the bench then to the ground where I chose to lay down and just stop moving. After a few minutes, I got up and the pain was gone. I was still trying to get something for heartburn because this was bad and I didn’t want to start getting heartburn and not being able to do anything about it. I was on a kick of drinking a bottled sparkling water called “LaCroix”. I wanted some now ‘cause a burp would feel so good. I think someone actually went to the store and bought me one. It wasn’t a good evening at the old ball park. Mighty Casey was going down and he didn’t even know it.

A school teacher on the team suggested I see a doctor and have myself checked out. I should have listened. no-one else could care less. I’m sure many of them wondered how I could do what I did being as big as I was. I must have looked like a water buffalo running around the bases.

Some time, a few months later in September, I was playing some touch football at the high school field. I remember scoring two or three touchdowns. I also remember laying on the ground like I had to do that July night playing baseball. I don’t remember the heartburn type of pain, but it took laying down flat on my back for me to recover.

Now just a minute here. This story isn’t about how good I was at sports. I mean, I wasn’t when I was a youngster. I was just hitting a stride and living up to my potential and had a few good years back to back, okay?

The next day was Sunday and it was the day to go over to the Pine City municipal liquor bar and store and do the weekly cleaning. I ran a small business called, what else, “Joe Spado Maintenance Service”, and I had a few accounts around town. The “muni”, what the locals called the municipal liquor store, was my biggest account and my pride and joy. I often went over on Sunday, the only day in the week they were closed, and did a super clean. I tried to get Barb to help me often. She hated it. It was my job. I solicited it, I got it, but I always thought she should help me do it, and she did, a lot! I realized many years later that I should have been fully responsible for getting it done and that without her help I was doomed. She held the account together and managed the business when I was away with health problems. Thanks for everything, Barb.

Well, on Sunday, September 22, 1985, I was there cleaning with my oldest daughter Maggie. That “heartburn” came back again. I had done everything and saved the vacuuming for last. I used a large upright bagger and was pushing this thing around with precision. I was strong, so, I was able to direct its path with my muscular arms and wrists. I was close to being done, maybe another ten minutes or so when the “chest pain” came on. I picked up the pace because my nature tells me to get the job done so you can get home and get some relief, even though I don’t know what I wanted to be relieved from. As I hurried to finish, the pain got worse. I’m sure I drank a bottled sparkling water or two to try and burp to relieve the heartburn. We finished and headed for home.

When I got home, I laid down on my bed, clutching my chest. I don’t remember doing this or how it actually happened, but I’ve been telling the story this way since it happened so I’ll stick with it, and that is, my oldest daughter Maggie, let’s see, she would have been 12, came to my bedside and said,” Gee Dad, you don’t look so good, maybe you oughta go to the doctor!”. (or, words to that effect). Our foster son, Joe, was there and he was old enough to drive. The pain was not letting up and I asked him to drive me to the hospital emergency room in Mora, 23 or so miles away.

We pulled up to the emergency room entrance, I walked in. When someone asked if they could help me, which was immediate, I said, “Yeah, well, er, I don’t know. I got this pain in my chest and I got some real bad heartburn or somethin.” There was a doctor close by, he had heard me. He looked up and told me to come into the room and lay down right away. Soon a flurry of activity around me was taking place with blood being drawn, shirt taken off, wires with leads pasted to my chest, and a little white pill was given to me and I was told to hold it under my tongue.

A common wall hanging in the cardiologist's office.

It was only a moment later that the pain disappeared completely. The doctor had given me a sublingual nitroglycerine pill. it is used to relax the blood vessels and relieve angina pectoris, the “heartburn” pain I had been experiencing. My doctor, Doctor John Wilson from Pine City, showed up soon after. He told me about the pill and that he thought there might be something wrong with my heart. Only minutes later, he spoke to me and told me the blood test results beared out I had had a mild “MI” or, a heart attack, a Myocardial Infarction.

Now up until this point, I had not put together the instances of chest pain and how they related. I soon realized that they were all connected. the ball park, the football field and the vacuuming.

My life would change forever, I was 36 years old.

After that, it was a trip to the big hospital in Minneapolis, the one that specialized in heart problems. They put me in an ambulance and sent me on my way. I got an angiogram first. They put a tube up into my heart through an artery in my groin. They inject die through the tube and xray the image. Any blocked areas show up on a TV monitor. I was awake the whole time and didn’t care ‘cause they inject me full of valium so they can do what they want and I just didn’t care. When they find the blockage, they insert a balloon into the tube and inflate it, flattening the blocked area into the walls of the artery. This opens you up so the blood will flow again freely through the arteries. They used the balloon in 1985, now, they use something called a stent.

Look closely and you can see the "zipper" scar on my chest.

I went through this procedure in September and again in December. You see, the one I had done to me in September collapsed. They call it restenosis. My angioplasty procedure restenosed in December and was done again. That procedure also restenosed in late January and the doctor then told me that it would do no good to keep trying the angioplasty procedure. I needed to have a heart bypass operation. So now I was admitted to the hospital and had this open heart surgery operation. This put me on recuperation for about a year. I did have some luck and recovered nicely.

It was time to make some real changes in my life. I had already started to do this since the first onset of the heart problems, now it was time to get serious.

I must change the diet entirely, add exercise to my life and get rid of stress. Let’s see, change the diet; 36 years of eating like a pig must come to an end. Let’s see, start exercising; start walking or biking or something, I’d never done this before. Let’s see, get rid of stress; yeah, right!

Fast Forward a Few Years

I wrote the above article in March of 2003. When I looked at the date I wrote it, it was exactly one week after my second heart bypass which took place in Palo Alto, CA at the Stanford VA hospital. I need to also say that I had another heart episode in 1993. I was living in Grand Junction, CO. I had the same chest pain sensation and the nitro pills didn’t take it away. I laid in a hospital bed for about a week with an intravenous nitroglycerine drip. When the pain finally went completely away, they took off the drip and tested me. They told me I had a small piece of my heart tissue die. They told me it was on the right side near the back of my heart.

The Colorado heart attack came in the morning, soon after I woke up. The California affair came at 9:00 p.m. I waited all night and drove myself to the VA clinic in Eureka, CA in the morning, only to have them tell me to go to the hospital. I drove myself to the hospital and found I had another heart episode. I was transferred to Palo Alto via a little twin prop plane with a nurse at my side. That’s when they cut me open again.

The funny part of all this is that here I am, 24 years later, and I have the same issues as I had when I was 36 years old. I carry too much weight, I eat poorly, I don’t exercise enough and sometimes not at all, and although I am making huge inroads on dealing with stress, I still haven’t got a handle on it completely. Oh, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in 1998 there abouts.

Still, I awake everyday in hopes that I will have a good day and do something good for my body, something that will make a difference.

On the face of it, the stress factor is different than ever before. I am much more relaxed and willing to accept that it will take time for me to change habits completely, and that I’ll get answers to all I anticipate when I get started taking better care of myself. I have already started a trend where I don’t eat certain foods and I am much more active than I have been this past year. So, seems like I am off to a good start of this challenge.

We’ll see as time goes on. It sure is a strange thing. I know that my poor behaviors, as far as eating and exercise are concerned, can be harmful and even fatal to me since I already have heart disease and I am a diabetic. Yet like the smoker that is dying of emphysema, he must have that cigarette. I tempt fate with my style of living. Fast paced, stressful, worrisome. Add to that the lack of any significant exercise and a diet full of sugared and salted fat, red meat and heavy carbohydrates and you have the makings for another heart episode. I can not have a third heart bypass surgery. If I don’t die from my arteries closing up, then I certainly will spend the rest of my life in a wheel chair with an oxygen tube in my nose.

A plain lettuce salad is good for your health.

I have tried to make wholesale changes in lifestyle and eating habits over the years. I have succeeded from time to time with weight loss and bringing my blood sugar levels down to normal levels. Just last winter, I embarked on a no nonsense plan to lose weight through diet changes and regular exercise. I did good.

I started out on January first at 227 pounds. My A1c, the measurement of how much sugar is in your blood, was somewhere around 12. A 7 is said to be the goal A1c for a person with Type II diabetes. My blood sugar readings were well over 200 when I used the glucose meter from time to time.

In five weeks, I lost 14 pounds. My blood glucose levels averaged around 100, (between 90 and 120 is normal), and the A1c dropped to 7.8. I felt good. I had more stamina. I had more energy overall. Even my mind seemed sharper and a lot of the depression behavior I had experienced was gone.

A month after that, I stopped walking for exercise. I had been walking at least a mile or two, and sometimes more, every day. I started eating whatever I saw and craved sweets like donuts and toast with butter, peanut butter and jam. Yes, that’s always been one of my favorite snacks. I completely disregarded thinking about anything I put in my mouth until now, six months later, I am totally out of control.

My Oh My, but these things taste so gooooooood!

My weight is back up to the 225 mark, my blood glucose was 289 yesterday morning and I don’t want to keep doctors appointments as I know my A1c has risen dramatically and the doctor will put me on insulin injections instead of one small pill a day. The thought of insulin and the self persecution because I allowed myself to slip back into really bad habits has caused stress and worry, and as I get older, my mind is telling me that I can’t do it. It’s like suicide by eating with a dose of stress to help me along.

Cooking is right up there with eating on my happiness scale.

In the late afternoon, I get the idea in my head that “Tomorrow for sure, I’ll walk to the coffee shop every day and join a bowling league for regular scheduled activity. I’ll ride my bike at least once every day”. I also say to myself how I will change my diet by eating oatmeal every morning, a salad for lunch and beans and rice for dinner, and never ever have bread and butter again, quit eating meat, donuts, candy, ice cream and pasta!

When I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee. Then I drive to the coffee shop and eat a delicious scone or some other coffee cake. I come home and eat more food. I don’t exercise at all and when I think about it, my brain tells me “No, not today.” I won’t even go into the stress thing. It’s better than ten years ago, but still way out there on a fast track to an insane asylum.

So, here I go. Like the alcoholic, One Day at a Time. Maybe today is the day I turn the corner, or die trying.

Peace to All.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Small Town Diner, 1983

Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs

She was tall. Now someone’s height is definitely relative to your own and of course whether or not you are sitting or standing when you make first contact. It’s also relative to whether you are sitting on a hard chair of a soft cushy one. In this case, the old vinyl clad booths at the diner in Glenwood Springs had been there a while and were worn to the point where the stuffin’ was almost gone from the seat part.

When you sat down, your rear end went down to something hard, and for my particular anatomy, the wooden board that made up the front edge of the seat fit neatly into the crook of the back of my knee joint.

I had been traveling from Reno, Nevada by rail. I had accompanied a good friend out west from Chicago and after a week or so of camaraderie and visiting old pals, I was headed back to the midwest and home.

The California Zephyr train route was established long ago through the Rockies of Colorado and the Sierra Nevada range East of Sacramento. The train made the same stops it did in the 1930’s. The old depots along the way were still used in most cases and that is how it was in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

I asked the conductor how I could manage getting off this train and onto the next one when the California Zephyr came through Glenwood the next day. He allowed me to pay a small fee, and punched my ticket stub so supposedly, I could get off, and re-board 24 hours later and continue my journey.

The station house in Glenwood Springs was one of those nice refurbished old buildings with a wide overhang all around itself. If you’ve ever seen a travel show or National Geographic pictures of say, Japan or Thailand, you might see buildings of a certain type of architecture that would depict that particular country. I like to think people in those countries are shown pictures of our old train stations and know it’s a train depot in America when they see them as well.

I got off and looked around. I had spotted this hamlet on the trip headed West some ten days before. It looked quaint and I really wanted to visit the hot spring pools and the cemetery where Doc Holliday was buried. At curbside across the street, there was a magnificent older building that was the Glenwood Springs Hotel. Convenient, looked okay, and not a chain drive dive.

I carried my bag across my shoulder and bypassed the taxi that waited in the event a fare would come his way. I walked across the street and went inside. A pretty nondescript place for an old hotel, but looked like it might be fun as long as I didn’t have to go down the hall from my room for a toilet and a shower. I checked in and found a small room on the third floor. I felt like I was a real travelin’ man. Maybe one of those traveling salesman of the older days, selling my wares from town to town, staying in these old hotels.

Maybe I had been a salesman in a former life and I had been there before. Maybe I would be planning my visits to the merchants of the local area and attempt to sell them goods, like a line of hand fools or a commodity like freshly roasted coffee my employer made, so they would sell it and serve it in their stores and restaurants. Maybe I needed a cup of joe right now. And a sandwich, too. For I was hungry as the train really didn’t have much to offer.

I put my pack in my room, and after a quick look around, I headed outside into the sunshine on a quest for sustenance. It was about 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in May, 1983.

I hadn’t wandered far from the hotel when I spotted an old building that housed a small bustling Diner. Now the term ‘Diner’, like the tallness factor, is relative, and comes under scrutiny by folks everywhere I go. The purists out east tell me it ain’t a diner unless it’s out in Massachusetts or New Jersey and is housed in an actual railroad dining car that was transformed from use on rails to use on the street. Others may call the small cafe on main street in their particular town a diner.

I don't know this guy, but he did post a picture of the 19th Street Diner in Glenwood Springs, CO.

We’ll use my definition because it’s my story. A diner is both the descriptions above and more. It’s a place to eat, privately owned, with calendars on the walls. The calendars given to the establishment by the customers who sit around the big table in the morning and congregate over coffee, spewing forth their take on all subjects. Religion, politics, local issues, the business climate of their town and the one nearest to them that offers competition at the bank and at the high school sporting events and, of course, the weather. The insurance man, the banker, the auto dealer, the farmer and the seed company rep reign supreme.

The more calendars that were on the walls, the better a place is because that meant folks came there and ate there and left the free calendars there about the new year. It can also mean it’s a really small town and there was just no-where else to go out for coffee and conversation. I learned this tidbit about the calendars from a book I read years ago called “Blue Highways”, by William Least Heat Moon. He describes the best diners and eat shops had the most calendars on the walls. Since I read that, I looked and what he said in 1978 is very true. The more calendars, the better the food.

This place had calendars all right. Now, I had to see about the service. The tall one approached the booth where I had sunken down and reached a new level. The broken down upholstery was comfy and I had completely settled in.

She moved her mouth into a quick smile then quickly asked me in a straight-to-the-point forceful voice, “Coffee?”

I said “Sure”, and grabbed the menu from the stack at the window end of the table that were sandwiched between the salt and pepper shakers and the wooden holder that held the jelly and the sugar. This set-up is what made a booth a booth. She returned in an instant with a steaming cup in a thick tan mug. I nodded and muttered my thanks as she smiled again and asked, “So, What are we having today?”

I had a momentary lapse in judgement and before I even realized I was letting out my pat smart alec response for people who speak in the third person, “We? You got a mouse in your pocket or are you planning on joining me?”

She was unamused as she stood there, tall and sleek. She had chestnut brown hair, lots of it, wore a pair of jeans and a loose navy blue t-shirt. Her frame had small curves up top and a shallow widening on the bottom. I immediately thought she was beautiful. She thrust out her pelvis as she stood and had her hands placed on her hips in a position I had not seen before. I could see the palms of her hands. Her fingers were slender and I did detect some movement beneath her shirt as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, changing the pelvic thrust to a more leering stance. Did I mention she was tall?

The name tag said “Gretchen”. I asked her if that was her name. Her body language shifted again and made an exclamation point as she smiled and responded, “Now why would I wear this name tag if that wasn’t my name?”

Good point. I was figuring that maybe she grabbed that one from a pile in the back room because she left hers on the edge of the bathroom sink this morning. You don’t see that name often these days. Like Trudy or Delores. Gretchen, I liked it, I liked her. I wanted to get to know here and learn everything about her. I wanted to know her well enough to know what she liked to eat, what she liked to drink and what she enjoyed doing for leisure. I wanted her to know me and like me.

I already had two big strikes against me, I was on the wire, I couldn’t stand to make another blunder. It would be the difference between a good experience and a bad one. This is paramount when traveling alone and eating in a diner. Forget the food, the food means nothing if the waitress ignores you and the most telling sign is when the dreaded coffee carafe is set on the table. You know then that dining will be a lonely affair with the next and last visit to the table is when you get the check. No more chance to talk to her. If she puts the check down when she delivers the food, it will be a lonely affair to be sure.

There was no carafe and I went for it, “You been working here a long time?” I asked.

She smiled and said, “About six years.”

I ran with it, “So, you from Glenwood here then?

“Yep, been here all my life” she was still smiling.

Before I could say another word, a bell rang, like the kind at the front desk of a hotel, and Gretchen turned quickly and was gone. She moved her sleek frame across the floor with fluid grace and in one motion grabbed six plates of steaming hot food, lined them up her arm, balanced perfectly, and without a hint of hesitation brought them to a table of patrons waiting to eat.

She was a real waitress in a diner. Experienced. She wasn’t going to take any crap from anyone and had all the bases covered. You needn’t ask for the condiments, they were there before you needed to ask. If you ordered eggs, the tabasco was on the table. The steak sauce when appropriate or the small ceramic pitcher of milk for the oatmeal was already there. She had this place down. She wasted no steps. A true to life Hash House Queen. I loved her immediately and wanted to talk to her some more.

She wore little makeup and I’d guess she was 39 or maybe a young 44. That would make her closer to my age, the latter one, and the idea that maybe we’d share some things in common. More than I’d have if the waitstaff were teenagers.

This diner had the aforementioned calendars on the wall and a decor that may have been created by hanging up this and that when it came into the hands of the owner, not by a certain design theme. Insurance, bank, hardware store and tack along with a three piece collection of seashells. Not much dust accumulated on the blades of the slow moving fan at the ceiling. Not much black around the legs of the tables. Not too many crumbs on the floor. Not too busy this Wednesday. They served breakfast all day.

I ordered steak and eggs with the homestyle potatoes. Gretchen told me she didn’t make ‘em, but that they made ‘em fresh everyday. The bisquits were made from scratch and you could get toast made from homemade bread or the regular wheat, white or rye from the store bought bags.

Steak and Eggs

She paused a couple of times when I was watching her work the room. I spoke to her when I thought she’d stop. Once she did, once she didn’t, or couldn’t, I like to think.

The coffee was good. Not sour, not colored hot water, but not freshly roasted top quality French roast Java either. I gave it a 7 on a scale of 10 for diner coffee. Anything between a 5 and a 10 is adequate and will not detract from a diner’s overall performance. The food was good. A small steak fried neatly on the flat top grill, eggs flipped in a pan. I opted for the homemade bread toast with jam served in a small glass crock with a little spoon that stuck out of a small hole on the lid.

I lingered over coffee and did get quite a few refills. The cup was thick ceramic so the volume wasn’t much. If Gretchen didn’t know I was nursing the coffee cause I didn’t want to leave, then she’s as dumb as a tack. She knew what was going on.

It was time to go for this round, and although I wanted to explore the town and experience another place for another meal at some time during my short stay, I knew I’d return for breakfast the next day.

I asked, “You work everyday?”

She answered this question with the same sarcasm I used when I answered the first one she asked me, “Why? You writin’ a book or sumthin’?”

I told her that maybe I was and how did she know I wasn’t a famous writer anyway?

She put her hands on her hips in that unique pose with her palms facing out and said, “You’re not a writer, I can tell.”

A memorable smile came on her face and she told me she worked every weekday from 6 a.m. to 2.

I wandered in the next morning at around 9:00 a.m. She smiled when she saw me and asked if I had to leave today. I reiterated the fact that I had to be on the train before noon if it stayed true to schedule and on-time and that I was planning on sitting there sipping on coffee, if she didn’t mind, until then.

She said, “Sure, sit as long as you want, you’re a paying customer.” I know I saw her wink, maybe. I got a few more smiles out of her and left with coffee sloshing in my belly and that was after I emptied the bladder a couple of times besides. I was hoping for one last flash of her. Maybe she would smile at me once more. Maybe she would speak to me and not the customer. A short 24 hour affair with an angel for me, just being part of the diner landscape.

One could only hope. I put all my eggs in one basket. This was my last chance. The question I had been saving for this extreme moment. The words that would change our meeting from a chance encounter to a lifetime memory of fantasy.

“So, why is this place called the 7th Street Cafe when it’s on Main Street?”

She struck her patented pose, and this time tilted her head to the side and smiled a big smile as she told me, “Because it used to be on 7th Street”

She inflected her voice as if to say “Everyone knows that you silly boy”

I had a memory to last the rest of the trip as I tried to get comfy in my coach seat on the California Zephyr. I closed my eyes and fell asleep thinking of Gretchen the waitress in the 7th Street Cafe in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Author's Note:

Looking back at some old stories I had written, I came across this piece. I wrote this many years ago, around 1995. My attempt at writing fiction fashioned from some personal experience. There is a 19th Street Diner in Glenwood Springs, located on Grand Avenue. There is a Gretchen as well. She worked at the 19th Street Diner before she moved to Grand Junction, CO and worked at the 7th Street Cafe where I was the cook in 1993. The 7th Street Cafe did move to Main Street after a time, long after I left there, and is now called the Main Street Cafe. Gretchen and I were good friends and I admired her for her skills behind the waitress apron in the small diner world.

The California Zephyr still runs from Chicago to Emeryville, CA and is part of the Amtrak train service.

The 7th Street Cafe is a story in and of itself. I’ll tell you about that place and the parade of unique individuals some other time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good stuff, posted on Friday 08/21/2009

Hatch, New Mexico Chile peppers. The Festival is just around the corner!

NOTE: This post is NOT about Chile peppers. It is long,(well, not that long really), full of personal information, (not really a lot of it), archived pictures,(and a couple of my own), remembrances of the olden days and may be entertaining. Enter at your own risk.

I realize that Shelly changed the parameters and even the name of the Only the Good Friday theme, but here I am, early Friday morning and I am determined to write something Good. To be honest, it happens to be Friday and I want to write about something Good, but it is a coincidence that I am writing on a Friday. You see, before she changed the rules, it was determined to be written on Friday. Anyway, now it’s called Only the Good, and folks can write about Good stuff any day of the week. This week, or this time, I am doing it on Friday.

My problem is that I’m struggling to find any Good right now. Sometimes I get into a funk and feel lowly and stinky. I’ll reach way back into my bag of tricks and see if I can pull myself out of the doldrums. You see, I had a weird dream just moments ago, that’s why I’m up at one O’ fucking clock in the morning. I can’t get back to sleep. I laid there for an hour and tossed and turned. This was a dream that could have been a Good one, but turned pretty bad. I woke up unsettled.

When this happens, I get up and wander around my own home. I don’t know what to do. I could watch TV. Often, I get on the computer. I answer e-mails. I read blogs, comment on blogs. I check the bank balances and generally just try to pass time until the day begins to brighten. In my life, this has been going on for years. In the old days, before internet, cell phones and digital TV with a thousand channels, I would hop in the car and ride up and down the commercial drags of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I’d stop in at an all night diner or a truck stop along the freeway and have a cup of coffee.

Tonight, or this morning, depending on your perspective, I am writing this. If you’re reading it, then I posted it. Sometimes I write it all out, then delete it and pretend all is right in the world and write something else. It does me Good to try hard to remember a story or an experience and share it with you. Sometimes I even post articles like this, then go back and delete them from the blog itself after they’ve been up a few hours.

I used to write stories about the travels I did. For many years I was on the road both professionally as an over-the-road trucker, or just traveling around because I had the time and money to do so on a regular basis. Certainly, while living on the road as I was traveling, I would have life’s little interactions with people and places. Some of these things were humorous, some were dangerous and some were mundane, mostly mundane as life has a tendency to be that way. I’d put forth a portrait of something that happened. I look back at all the stories I wrote over the past five years, (That’s how long I’ve been blogging), and sometimes think I have told everything that has ever happened to me on these pages. My mind goes blank and there is nothing left to tell you about. Maybe I should repost old stories, after all, I have them. I cleaned out the blog a year or so ago. I do have some newer readers, maybe they would enjoy them, but then again, the few regulars that have stuck with me would shy away as I repeated the old crap.

I did politics for a while. Every day, beating out my opinion on the hottest issues. Gathering information and re posting it, calling attention to things and voicing concern. Always from Left of center. Time marches on and things change here and there. I lost interest in political posts too. The down side of not knowing what to write about for fear of repeating myself and not wanting to write about politics or mainstream issues is that it leaves me with idle time sitting here. I want to be productive.

Not all I do needs to be on the blog and posted in public. Sure, I could edit music files or picture files, get things in order so to speak. I have some video to make into DVD and I have good enough equipment to do it, but I lack the motivation for that in the middle of the night. Getting out the archiver and hooking up the cables, finding the Good earphones. Looking for the blank DVD’s. See, I just talked myself out of that. I say I’ll wait for a rainy day. Guess what? It’s been raining for the past two days and the forecast says more rain today. I guess that in itself is Good somewhere for someone. It makes it rather gloomy, three days of rain in a row, but it is not a bad thing. I accept the weather as what is happening. It’s not always a bad thing for it to rain on a parade. Might be a reason I don’t know about that makes it Good. The farmers always seem to need the rain.

It’s barely 1:40 a.m. I’m done with this post and I am thinking of a way to put it all into perspective and end it. I could lie. If you believe me, you’ll come away with the idea that I really have my shit together and possibly think that I’m a cool guy. I may motivate you or inspire you as I motivate and inspire myself in the doing. But I can’t lie. It’s the only thing I have left, it seems, my dignity. I won’t succumb to being a liar. I won’t ever cheat you, the reader, or myself, the writer, with lies. Just the bold honest ruthless truth, and tonight, it is that I am alone in a world full of people in a life full of love and friendship and it sucks. Where is everyone?

Go figure, you can buy these legally! And the VA hands them out to trained killers.

In years past, I’d have nights like this and I’d get on a chat line. Other night owls doing the same. We all seemed to have that in common, being up in the middle of the night. I did go through a spell when I was taking sleeping pills administered to me by a psychiatrist at the VA. They came along with anti depressants and anti anxiety medication. I guess they knew that I’d get rattled and it was best to sedate me for at least eight or nine of the hours in a day, the rest of the time I was neither depressed or anxious. I was agitated instead. Agitated and angry. I stopped taking the meds, all of them, and live with the sleepless nights a couple of times a week.

Yah Mon, we be Irie, Mon

There was self medication. Marijuana and/or alcohol. That got me to sleep, and kept me asleep, but took a toll on the senses. I don’t remember the last time I was drunk. I got stoned in the not too distant past and don’t recall that being like it used to be. I never did like to get high alone anyway.

Hard Liquor


I just went back to read what I had written and found that I started to daydream, in the middle of a sleepless night, and thought of the old days again. In a strangely different world, we’d go to the airport and hang out. (can't do that anymore). There was always a coffee shop open at O’Hare, or at the Tollway Oasis on the Interstate. A short drive out there to a place where the world was still alive. In the beginning, they were full service Fred Harvey restaurants. Now, they're Mac and Don's supper club. Not espresso coffee or latte’s back in the early days, no sir, cups of robusto bean heavily caffeinated coffee, dark and rich, cups, on saucers, with linen on the tables unless you opted for the counter stool. I liked mine with cream, Boston style it was called. You paid a dime for a cup and it got refilled as long as you sat there.

The Illinois Tollway Oasis in the 1960's

Now I’m thinking I want to go back some more. Candy bars were a nickel. A quart of milk, a dozen eggs or a loaf of bread was a quarter. Pop, or soda, or whatever you called Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nehi or Canfield’s was a dime with a two cent deposit on a glass bottle. I loved an ice cold Pepsi in a bottle. First, the twelve ounce, then the king size 16 ounce eight pack, or, you could buy them one at a time at a small grocery. The small groceries were separate from the gas stations.

That's what I'm talkin' bout.

We never used credit cards. There were no cash machines. We wrote checks to pay for stuff, or cash. You mailed in your bills to the bank or land lord for housing, to the bank for a car payment. To Sears or Montgomery Wards for items you purchased on time. Big items, like a refrigerator. You never “charged” a pair of slacks. You cashed your paycheck at a small window in a bar after work on Friday. They never charged you a fee because you’d have a few beers before heading for home. You put what you needed to pay the bills in a bank account.

On the road as a trucker, I used long distance “collect” to call home. It was expensive, so my calls were not frequent. When I talked with friends that lived far away, we were always making the calls short as to not incur large phone bills. Funny, my Mom still says to me, “I’ll let you go, this must be costing you a fortune.” I sometimes wonder if she just doesn’t care to talk on the phone and used her old age and old ways as an excuse to hang up. Probably. And that’s okay. It may even be Good.

Gasoline was under fifty cents a gallon. Two or three bucks got you cruising around all night and all the next day. Someone pumped the gas for you and used a glass cleaner on your windshield. They’d check your tire pressure and look under the hood and check your oil and coolant, (or oil and water we called it back then.) If it was low, they filled them up, the oil and the radiator with water.

Recently, in Oregon, I remembered that they still pump your gas there. It’s the law. Here is an old article about the Oregon gas pumping law. Still, whether an attendant pumps my gas or not, the service station has changed from doing service on a motor vehicle to being a small grocery store, deli and fast food destination and hang out, not to mention a bank, (there is always an ATM), a smoke shop, (tobacco make up a large percentage of sales at most convenience stores), and gambling casino, (legal gambling states like South Dakota have machines, other states have State game lotto tickets and Powerball).

The joke around here in our family is that the favorite coffee shop for my son-in-law is the convenience store. That’s really not so out of whack because in the old days, when I was hauling gas and oil to the farms in rural East Central Minnesota, we hung around a coffee maker at the gas station. The regulars would come in, fill up the pickup truck, go inside and chew the fat over a free cup of coffee, then go back to what they were doing.

Speedway in Wisconsin, Superamerica in Minnesota.

I also miss the donut shops. Sure, Dunkin Donuts is still around, and Krispy Kream. But there used to be a plethora of donut shops. You could always find a place. Now, they are neatly tucked away in full size grocery stores and gas station convenience stores.

Donuts, or Doughnuts? You decide.

Not the same, I tell you, just not the same as going into a joint, sitting down at a counter stool and having a raspberry filled powdered sugared bismark and cup of steaming hot black sour tart coffee, lightened with an ounce or two of half and half. Really, it is hard to find those places around Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Other cities still have them. Winchell's, Donut Connection, Tim Horton’s to name a few, but they are a needle in a haystack around these parts. If there was one like one of the old ones, open 24 hours and serving right now, I’d be getting dressed and heading to it. I could use a good donut and a cup of Joe right now!

I don't care if they're Good for you or not, I just want some once in a while

In my travels, there are plenty of convenience store/gas stations that have a table or many tables and booths set up for people to eat hot entree’s bought from their deli or from their franchised food options. Home Run Subs, Hot City Pizza, to name a couple, and the list of names of the convenience stores themselves are, well, here’s a list:

1st Stop at Phillips 66 gas stations.
ampm at ARCO gas stations.
Albertson's Express gas stations/convenience stores
AmeriStop Food Mart
A-Plus at Sunoco gas stations.
Bill's Superette
BreakTime formerly at Conoco gas stations.
Circle K
Convenient Food Marts
Corner Store at Valero and Diamond Shamrock gas stations.
Express Mart
Express Lane
ExtraMile at Chevron Gas Stations
E-Z Mart Farm Stores The nation's largest drive-thru grocery, with more than 100 double drive-thru only stores in Florida.
Fas Mart
Flying J

Interior of the modern day gas station.

Fastrac Markets
Food Mart at Shell and Texaco gas stations.
Friendly Neighbor Convenience Store
GetGo, a division of Giant Eagle
Git n Go
Go-Mart, convenience store chain with locations in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.
Go-At-C Mart
Golden Gallon
Han-dee Hugo's
Holiday Stationstores
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores (Typically operates travel stops, but also owns many convenience stores in the Central United States)
La Express-Louisiana
Loaf 'N Jug, a division of Kroger
Marisol's Convenience Store
On the Run at Exxon & Mobil stations in the US; Esso and Mobil stations internationally. Pilot Corporation (Typically operates travel centers, but also owns many convenience stores in and around Tennessee)
QuikStop, a division of Kroger
QuikTrip, Tulsa-based chain of convenience stores primarily found in the Midwestern and Southern United States
Road Runner
Royal Farms
Shore Stop
Stripes Convenience Stores
Store 24
Speedway SuperAmerica
Sugarcreek, owned by Wilson Farms
Tedeschi Food Shops
Texas Star Investments, Inc.
TownPump Food Stores
Wawa Food Markets
White Hen Pantry
Wilson Farms

Here are some pictures of gas station convenience stores you might recognize:

7/11, All over the world, not selling gas anymore at a lot of places, but I credit them as starting the convenience store/gas station trend.

AM/PM, open all night?

Another convenience store/gas station/donut shop. deli/restaurant/tobacconist/liquor store/video rental/ and on and on.

Well now, look what’s happened. I’m interested in something, doing research and writing an article on old time 1950’s and 1960’s america. I’ve managed to kill over an hour. It’s 2:25 a.m. Now, and I’m just getting started.

I’ll close this article off and post it. I would actually be amazed if anyone but my closest of friends stops by and reads this garble. But that’s okay. It was Good for me. It got me through the night. I’m yawning and going to lay down in the spare room and see if I can get some more sleep. And there’s Zeke, my dog pal. He hasn’t left my side in two days, (the rain, thunder and stuff), he’s right here on the floor in the computer room. We’re calling it Zeke’s room these days.

It’s all Good here. I wish and hope and pray for it to be Good for you. It's 3:11 a.m. I managed to get through most of the sleepless night. Now, I am seriously thinking of making donuts from scratch and serving them to Mrs. Spadoman when she gets up. I think she'd like that and think it's Good. After all, a Good donut is a nice treat, especially with a steaming hot cup of Steve's Smokey Double Dark "Damn" coffee.

That's what's Good so far today.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Healthcare: Spadoman Checks In

Look, this is a tough one. There are so many people in this country and you'll never please all of them. There are some that will never want a plan to insure everyone no matter what. They will continually want the pharmaceutical companies and large healthcare HMO's and the like to make huge profits. They will never agree to having the healthcare industries CEO's make less money than the obscene millions they already make.

Then, there are those that think everyone is entitled to have health care and that we should raise taxes and make sure every American, and even those in this country to pick lettuce, have access to get medical care and treatment. There might be a few that would or could be swayed to change their minds. Those thinking people who seek out the facts and measure the talk and decide to do the right thing.

You have these folks, and every scenario in between. The legislators vote, supposedly, as the constituents want them to. Their ways to measure what the people want is by calls, e-mails, letters and polls, so they say, but how do we know for sure? I have healthcare. I am a disabled Veteran. I was promised, in 1968 as a nineteen year old kid when I got drafted into the US Army, that I would never have to worry about health care the rest of my life. They were telling me that the VA would cover me. I went to work when I returned home and the job I got offered me healthcare as a benefit to working where I worked. I was in a union at first, but managed to get jobs that offered me healthcare that weren't union jobs. I also had jobs that didn't offer me any healthcare benefits over the years.

Later in my life, things started to change and health care was not offered with every job, and if it was, you had to pay some out your own pocket to cover your spouse and children. Then, copays started and you had to pay a premium for your spouse and children and have a copay when you went to see a doctor. Slowly but surely, it changed from getting healthcare as a benefit for a job you held to having to pay for healthcare because you had a job. If you were out of work, you had to continue to pay the premiums or your healthcare would be cancelled. Also, if you had some malady, you might not be covered because you had a malady. The health insurance companies wanted to cover only when you got sick, not if you were sick and recovering. I don't have, nor can I get, life insurance because I had a heart attack when I was 36 years old.

This played out to where many places where you went to work didn't offer healthcare insurance at all. In the 1980's there was talk of an all service workforce by the year 2000. This has manifested itself as truth as the manufacturing segment of the United States of America went down the tubes and with it, millions of jobs. Jobs that offered healthcare insurance to its employees on a regular basis overt the years. When goods were made overseas, the corporations didn't have to pay healthcare costs for workers in Taiwan, for example, and healthcare companies were starting to make less money. So, they charged more and gave less to make sure the bottom line for the shareholders was up to snuff. Corporations took over the corners where retail used to be. Now, not only do all towns look the same with their strips of Office Max, McDonald's and Wal Mart, but they all hire predominantly part time employees, and the corporation policy dictates that you must be full time to get healthcare benefits.

Either there is no healthcare plan that offers healthcare to everyone, or there is a healthcare plan that offers healthcare to everyone.

It's simple, really, either you are a Capitalist or a Socialist. There is no Republican and Democrat on the health care issue. No gray area. Black and white. Oh, by the way. The people who want NO healthcare plan that covers everyone, they don't want Medicare either, unless they're on it. Medicare is the epitome of socialism, but they, the die hard people who think they are in the right wing, won't ever admit that as the elderly, those on Medicare, are usually the most conservative of voters and hold the old fashioned notions that the corporation lovers beat on day in and day out.

Me? I'm a socialist. I'm not registered, but I think that way. I read this article about Denmark and their healthcare system. they pay a lot of taxes. They have healthcare and job security and a good honestly livable wage when they retire with their social security. You get what you pay for. Every politician touts the idea that you'll pay less taxes. If this country was so fucking great, wouldn't you stand in line to pay your fair share of taxes to keep it great? I would and I do. I pay tax on my social security. I have no objection to doing so.

The last thing I feel the need to mention in this rant is that the people on the talk radio shows, the Rush Limbaughs and the Glenn Becks, are entertainers. They say things that are outrageous. They get attention. Advertisers buy time on their shows because they get so much attention and so many people listen to them. Sure, some big ads were pulled from Glenn Beck, but how many new listeners heard about the outrageousness and tuned in? The ads will be back at some point. For every scrupulous corporation that has a conscious, there will be ten that want to make more money and will advertise. The bottom line here is that they are entertainers in an entertainment industry and we pay them so much attention that we cheat ourselves out of paying attention where it would do the most good towards your agenda.

The time spent writing blogs and commenting and bitching about the healthcare issue and this guy and that guy and what he said and what she said could very well be spent writing, calling and generally putting pressure on your elected officials to tell them how you want it to be, or by talking to your neighbors and seeing how they see it and getting them to do the same.

Personally, I think it's too big. You are not going to dismantle the whole healthcare industry and the billions of profit dollars they generate. Just like you are not going to stop war and the billions in profit there, and all the other spendful wasteful things this country has perpetuated to make the American way of life, like the drug companies and the chemical manufacturers and polluters. You close down the war machine and healthcare and pollution and pork and this country would be on its knees. Each and every one of us has a great way of life compared to so many others because of the above mentioned, and other, industries.

The country didn't want to take a chance on a downward spiral, so they gave money to the largest banks so they wouldn't fail. They gave money to the auto manufacturers too. As I see it, we are all living on the skin of our teeth. Money is paper. Wealth is on paper. If you have to live in your house, what difference does it make how much it is worth? If you can't sell it, what does it mean to own it? Healthcare is the same. No matter what, the largest profits, those to healthcare providers and their bosses, will not be compromised. The people in power now in the white house want more of the regular rank and file to have healthcare, and that will probably come, but don't expect any big changes in how it gets administered.

By the way, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the states I've lived in for the past 35 years? They have social programs that make healthcare available to those that need it and can show the need financially. They've always had it that I know of. We used it in the 1970's when we were expecting a child and had no insurance. Either from the County administered state and Federally funded program to the Catholic Charities and Lutheran Brotherhood.

Now, I'm gonna call Russ Feingold's office and tell him how I feel about it. The motorcycle ride I was going to be on fell through. My friend in California isn't coming back to ride any time soon. His wife, also my close friend, is awaiting a kidney transplant and they are on call. He will wait until she receives a kidney and is on the mend before coming back to ride. They have insurance because she is offered it, at a premium that she pays part of, and the company pays part of, as a benefit package where she works.

I wonder how someone would feel that doesn't have a job that offers insurance, even at a shared cost between employer and employee? How would they feel if a kidney wasn't available for them or a loved one and they had to watch them die.

Peace. Try it, you'll like it.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I read a post someone wrote about Facebook and how the author didn’t like it so much. Many of the comments mimicked the same about it. The complaints were right on, that is, Facebook crams useless stuff down your throat, lessons your chance of privacy on the internet, generates spam e-mail to your e-mail account and generally is just another tool to gather information and demographic stuff to sell to the corporate giants and the, now tainted as dishonest, US government.

All true, I guess. Maybe it is, most of it. I don’t care. First of all, if the government wants information about me, they can get it anytime they want by other means. I have a drivers license and since I own a home I am part of the public record. Besides, I am a Veteran. You don’t think there isn’t a folder with my name on it at the VA? Facebook can gather all the crap they want about me. Just because I click on a link to a local State Farm Insurance brokers site, the one she uses to advertise her office in Eau Claire, WI, doesn’t make me someone that purchases car and home owners insurance on line from an ad I’ve looked at. Incidentally, the State Farm agent, Deborah Becker, is a very attractive woman and advertises herself in costumes. She has used her pretty face for one, and has a humorous approach to selling insurance. The one that caught my eye was her dressed in pirates garb with black mustache and heavy eyebrows “drawn” on the picture. Since I am a pirate buff, I had to have a look.

My point is that I have had good fortune on Facebook. I have been put in touch with many old friends from my past. Important people in our lives, that had gone on and lived their lives away from where we were, that we had lost all contact with. Young people that worked at YMCA Camp Menogyn way back in the early 1990’s. Old friends from where we grew up. The gal that introduced me to my wife. School chums from elementary and high school.

Yours Truly in 1969

Sure, I could have done searches for these people, but that’s something that takes time and patience, and there are so many. I put my mug and name on Facebook and they come out of the woodwork. It works the opposite as well. I’ll type in a first and last name and find someone. Then there is the friends of friends, many people we knew back when still have contact with others we knew back when.

All in all, it has been a good experience for me. I enjoy talking via e-mail to old friends. Many have exchanged phone numbers and we’ve talked on the phone. We’ve visited a few too and have plans to visit more in the future. One of the biggest thrills I got off of Facebook was an e-mail from a young guy who worked for me back in the 1980’s when I had a small business in Pine City, MN. Pine City was where we lived, along the Snake River in East Central Minnesota, from 1980 to 1989, (see This Post and look for numbers 11-15)

I had a service company and did many kinds of maintenance. This young man mowed lawns for me. He’d drive out to commercial accounts and mow the lawn. He’d clean up the equipment. I also did some janitorial maintenance and Billy, (not his real name), worked for me at numerous businesses along the way.

I hadn’t heard from Billy in over 20 years. In fact, I never gave him much thought. He worked for me. I liked him. But when life went on and we lived it, people like this pass through and life goes on. When I opened Facebook a couple of months ago, I see the icon indicating that I have an e-mail message. I open it and it is from said “Billy” who tells me this:

Seeing your picture brings back a flood of memories,Even tho we haven't talked in 20plus yrs I always remember you as a good person and someone who gave me a chance when no one else had.And I prolly let you down but ive always kept my nose clean and outta trouble and never forgot the lessons I learned from you.Work hard ,be honest and treat others like you want to be treated.I just wanted to say thank you even if it has been 20yrs..your a good man...peace..(Billy

Now I never thought myself anything other than a guy trying to make a living by mowing lawns, cleaning bars and fixing plumbing, (I used to be a pipefitter in Chicago before I got the land in Pine City), and I sure didn’t try to be a father to Billy Boy here. But I guess by being who I am, I made an impression in his life. He felt it important enough to tell me about, and Facebook was the place it happened. Sure, he could have sought me out another way, but he just happened to put in my name and found me and said to me what he had to say.

Laughing Joe sometime in the early 1970's. Maybe how some old friends might have remembered me.

I appreciated his words. In life, you just don’t get many chances to hear about what impact you might have had on people. In the Army, you got a medal maybe, or an old Army buddy finds you and shakes your hand. School mates have reunions and such. But when you move as often as I did, and change your phone number, etc, etc, you lose the contact and get lost in the shuffle. I was pleased to talk with a couple of gals I went to high school with and find out they remember me in a good way. (They liked my dimples), and a friend I played with as a twelve year old remembers me too.

If you go to This Post, and scroll down a bit, you can read what my school mate said about me. On Facebook, we connected and now we talk on the phone and will meet up in the Chicago area soon as I have a trip planned in that direction.

About 1971 on a fishing trip, first time to Minnesota

This post isn't about bragging that I am this great individual. It is about the few virtues of Facebook and how I have been blessed with correspondence from people out of my past.

Those of you that think Facebook is bad, please don’t get the idea that I am trying to change your minds. Have your own opinion for sure. It is none of my business at all. And I can say with much certainty that I will agree with most of your complaints about the whole idea of it in most cases. But my experience has been good. No, I don’t play Mafia wars. But I do send little “gifts” to people I want to pay a little attention to. I am hoping they get them and feel as though someone thought of them that day. Or the “Poke”. On Facebook, you can Poke someone. No message, no words of pictures. Just a poke, a nudge, telling them you saw their name and are thinking of them. Sort of like the poking you might do while standing in line at the movie theater at the Saturday matinee when you were twelve.

In other news, the possibility exists that I will leave Tuesday afternoon to ride to Michigan on the motorcycle with a couple of buddies. I might be gone for a few days. I’ll catch up on Facebook and Blogger when I get back.