“Happy Anniversary, Struggler!”, or “Geez; Give it up Already.”


Toot the horns, don the pointy hats, treat yourself by reading every post from first to last, or do what many do: read this first paragraph, decide “This sucks!”, click the obligatory “like” icon and move on to better things. Celebrate in any way you see fit – for the brunt of you, this means avoiding this blog at any cost – for today is the one year anniversary of Thestrugglershandbook.

Some interesting statistics from The Struggler’s first year: seventy-five posts, or an average of one every five days (you can kiss that stat goodbye); Over seventy thousand words, many of them misused or poorly chosen; almost seventeen thousand views, from over eighty different countries (so cool), including 3,180 in a single day when Cat’s in the Cradle was Freshly Pressed; over twelve hundred comments, half of them mine; six or seven different blog awards (which seem less impressive when I see that most other bloggers have at least some of them as well); and, at last count, two hundred eighty-nine followers (though admittedly, some of them are lagging waaay behind).

And what have I gotten from it all? Well, no book or magazine deals or, for that matter, no life-altering experiences of any kind and my writing future, mired in obscurity and secured for eternity; a few pat on the backs and ego-padding comments, which I eat up with gluttonous pleasure; several “Not my cup of tea” critiques, and a couple of “crass, offensive gutter trash” type condemnations. (From the same person). I have also been fortunate enough to have “met” several other writers, whose work and apparent character I find pleasing to me.

I’ve learned how the game is played: to expand your audience, you need to visit other blogs regularly, comment whenever possible and really put yourself out there. Frankly, I haven’t the time nor the inclination; I don’t see how some of them do it. I’ve got kids, a wife, a veritable zoo of hairy, needy domestic beasts, coaching basketball, and a life of toil unto death; all are more deserving of my time. I suspect that’s partly why my audience hasn’t grown to stadium proportions: like me, people have busy lives and more important things to do than to simply park it and eat the tripe I serve up. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not as enrapturing as I think I am…psssh. As if.

Basketball season starts on Monday. Work is good. I will likely write very little in the next few months, but that’s okay. When I do, I’ll write for myself, and for you if you care to read it. Feel free to comment if anything I have to say moves you spiritually, emotionally or even intestinally; I would love to know who’s really out there. Thanks to the faithful, and for those writers whose blogs I follow, you are the ones I mentioned before. Keep writing and I’ll visit when I can!

Posted in Blogging, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments: Who Knees ‘Em? – Part I


The thick, low clouds provided a contrasting backdrop to the football spinning end over end     as it fell toward my waiting arms. Once I caught it, I scanned the field and the approaching onslaught of opposing players. I started right, then cut back left, and a path opened before me; even someone slower than I (a football-playing turtle, perhaps) could run through this hole. I tucked the ball into my left arm and kicked it into a higher gear. The end zone and glory awaited…

Thanksgiving Day, 1983, began with heavy cloud cover and a steady drizzle; the temperature by mid-morning crept into the low fifties and the playing field of yellowed, dormant bermuda lay soft and wet. Conditions were perfect for two-hand touch football: the War Between the Lines; the Battle for the Field. The combatants, the Gladiators of the Gridiron, were my friends: college students, pizza deliverymen, stoners, druggies, alcoholics – more than one were all of these things. But on this day, we were warriors locked in a desperate and intense struggle for territory. Yards gained in one play were often ceded the next; like the trench battles of World War I, observers could easily see the absurdity of it all, but for those locked in mortal struggle common sense hid in the periphery, lost in the glare from the ultimate goal: sweet and glorious victory.

The game had been particularly rough that day: three players had already left the field, one with a broken nose; another with a front tooth cupped in hand; and a third after projectile vomiting his pancakes and beer after taking a shot to the gut on a pass over the middle. All of us were smeared with grass stains and mud; our breath rolled from our nostrils and mouths in steamy swirls. After two hours of intense battle, the enemy had just scored and we were tied, 14-14. It was decided (in no small part because we were stoners, druggies and alcoholics and withdrawal was setting in) that the next score would win.

As I ran back the ensuing kickoff, I could sense the importance of what was about to take place. I would assume my rightful place in the annals of touch football fame, and for years to come gleefully taunt those who had tried in vain to prevent me from singlehandedly winning the biggest game that had ever been played.

I saw him almost too late, coming in almost perpendicularly from my right. If I planted hard on my left, then cut back straight right, he would fly right past me.

SNAP! The sound shot through the air like a dried sapling broken in two. I hit the ground face first and then writhed in agony, grabbing chunks of the field with both hands in an effort to fight off the pain in my left knee. I alternately screamed and shouted obscenities at the top of my lungs; people for miles around probably thought that Raging Bull was playing outside somewhere. It was a pain like no other I’d ever experienced, worse than when I’d slid shirtless forty feet down a palm tree as a child; worse than when Jeff Patty kicked me hard in the sac when we were supposed to shake hands after I won our high school tennis match; worse even than when my dentist drilled my cavity without Novocaine.

“Aaaah! Holy ****! Did you hear that? That was freakin’ gross!” These were the first sounds I remember coming from someone other than myself. “S***, Ped. Are you okay? That did not sound good.”

After a minute or two, the pain lessened to a horrid, yet manageable throb. Sweet, blissful shock. Two guys lifted me up, and with their help, I slowly headed off the field.

“Dudes, let me see if I can do it myself.” I managed to slowly make my way, moving like Quasimodo with his foot asleep. “Yeah, I think I got this. Thanks.”

I turned to see who had helped, but they were long gone; the game had resumed. I limped pathetically to my car, and though I didn’t know it yet, I probably sensed it at some level: my life had, suddenly and painfully, been forever altered. Worse still, I hadn’t scored, and the fame that seemed so securely in my grasp had been fumbled away, along with the ball  I had dropped on the way to the ground.

Posted in Family, Friends, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

No Checking Under This Hood


Lamborghini Gallardo – Courtesy Google images

I take many things in my body for granted, and why shouldn’t I? My lungs expand and contract, my liver filters impurities (the things I’ve thrown its way; it likely resembles an ancient boiler in a crumbling Queens apartment building: huge, rusted, clanging and sputtering inefficiency), my stomach diligently breaks down all the poor choices my palette passes along, no matter how offensive to its purpose, and my heart pumps, almost rhythmically, oxygenated blood throughout to ensure proper function of various organs and internal parts.  All of this is done without any input from me, and for the most part, while the machine as a whole may outwardly appear more Ford Escort than Lamborghini Gallardo, it works pretty well. Frankly, and I’m certain I’m not alone here, I don’t notice any of these vital parts unless something goes wrong with them. If things are functioning well on their own, I’m not messing with them; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (Only old people espouse the virtues of this particular axiom; their longevity lends to its credence).

When something goes wrong with your car, you take it to a mechanic. (Or, in my case, try to fix it yourself, botch the job beyond any discernible hope for cure, then take it to the mechanic to see if he’s as good as he claims to be). Forgive me now for employing the car analogy beyond any sensible or even tolerable limit, but when the body fails, the mechanic is your doctor. No offense to anyone in the medical profession, but I have about as much faith in my doctor as I do my mechanic. Let’s face it: if you take your car in, complaining that there’s a sudden, consistent noise emanating from the front of your car, the mechanic will find it. Twelve hundred dollars and three days later, you have your car back, running more or less as you expect. The mechanic spews forth some jargon about steering anomalies or suspension adjustments, but do you really understand what was done? Perhaps you ran over a deck of playing cards and the constant noise you hear is one or more of them stuck in your wheel, flapping against some surface with every revolution.

Your physician is no different. Suppose you have a nagging pain in your abdominal area; because it hasn’t gone away in one or two day’s time and you have great insurance (an oxymoron if ever there was one), you go to see your doctor. Given a novice’s description of what you perceive as a problem with the operation of your vehicle (you), he or she will attempt a diagnosis. He or she orders a battery of tests, and the booger the technician wiped on your MRI image becomes a disturbing, life-threatening tumor. Forget that the chorizo burrito you gulped down at El Coli’s has finally clanked down through your small intestine like a Pachinko ball, announcing its arrival in your colon with a twenty-seven second sphincteral bleating and that you feel instantly better. I’m sorry to have to tell you this: you have stomach cancer. 

Perhaps I’m overstating things a bit, but my point is that often those to whom we defer wield infinite power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the likelihood of being taken advantage of is very real and, in the event that a problem exists and a diagnosis required, often they’re likely just guessing. I can usually tell when something’s wrong with my car that requires something more than my usual mere avoidance or disinterest, and in those instances I will begrudgingly defer to those better equipped to handle it. I’m no different with respect to my health; if I spontaneously bleed from my eyes or any of the southern-most orifices, I will likely seek help from a trained professional, after giving time a day or two to take care of things on its own. I feel I’m much more in tune with my body then I am with my car, so I’m not taking it to the shop (i.e. the hospital, where germs, MRSA, and all the things wrong with other “cars” are highly contagious and dance with glee on literally every surface) unless I absolutely have to. I’ve probably been to the doctor maybe five times in the last twenty-five years. Preventative medicine to me means avoiding any prodding or probing of my body (in a medical sense) by professionals unless I, the everyday driver and therefore preeminent judge, decide that something is wrong to the extent that time alone cannot repair it.

Most of you probably think that I’m an idiot and that I’ll die before my time. You’re probably right, but at least I won’t suffer any lame attempts to prolong my life or die prematurely as a result. Colonoscopy? Thank you, no. In the avoidance of exploration of my chute, I am stubbornly (and poetically) resolute. I apologize to any physicians or mechanics who might stumble upon this particular rant; I’m sure you’re more than competent and that you’ve helped a great number of people. I just feel that in the case of the human body, thousands of parts, moving in perfect synchronicity, completely dependent upon each other and functioning interactively literally millions of times in a lifetime, cannot be explained as existing through the convenience of nearly infinite time. God is my creator, and He is infallible; He will always get first crack at making me better. However, in the event that I urinate in a color outside the spectrum of almost clear to bright orange, or find myself cradling (through some misfortune) my entrails in my arms, I resolve to seek prompt medical attention.

Posted in Cartooning, Christianity, Health, Humor, Illustrating, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tucson, You’re My Town


I suppose it’s not unusual for people to be proud of where they’re from. I’m sure there’s a few people from Grand Forks, North Dakota who think they live in earth’s Eden. I lived there for a year as a child, and I thought it was absolute hell. (By default, the old saying “When hell freezes over” therefore means annually, from late September until early April). Still, there were positives: I remember some good fishing, and about two weeks in early September that were pleasant weather-wise. I also remember swimming in a lake with my brother and, upon returning home, finding I’d inadvertently removed dozens of ticks and several leeches from their natural habitat; more than a few of both had affixed themselves to a most personal appendage and its accoutrements. While traumatic at any age, it was, as you might imagine, particularly so for a nine-year-old boy. But I digress; the point I’m failing to make is that there’s good and bad to be found anywhere you live, and the place I’ve called home the last forty-two years (good Lord) is no different.

Looking Down on Tucson from the North

I’m from Tucson, Arizona, and my town rocks. And my town sucks. There’s some really nice features about Tucson that make it a desirable place to live, and some characteristics that make it less so. Ultimately, there’s been enough to have kept me here for this long: there’s the climate, the people, the natural beauty around Tucson, my laziness and maddening (to others – I’m cool with it) resistance to change, and the lack of sufficient funding and opportunity elsewhere should I somehow be compelled, either by threat of divorce or imminent arrest, to leave.

Perhaps you’re considering a move yourself. I feel it’s my duty, as an ambassador for my hometown, to show you why Tucson could be an attractive choice for relocation. I also feel compelled, for reasons of morality (and to take up more space in this post), to tell you why you should look somewhere else. Like everywhere else, Tucson has its pros and cons. Consider:

PRO: Though the Tucson metro area is home to almost one million people, it retains a distinctly small town feel. I am constantly running into people from my past: those I knew from primary, middle and high schools, while in college and during my party days.

CON: I am constantly running into people from my past: those I knew from primary, middle and high schools, while in college and during my party days. I didn’t like most of you thirty and forty years ago; why would I now? And why are you still here? This is my town; find somewhere else to live.

PRO: Tucson has only one freeway, and it skirts around most of the city, so most of us don’t have to live in the shadow of a raised thoroughfare slicing across our yards. Conversely, our bigger, uglier sister to the north – Phoenix – is crisscrossed with an elaborate freeway system that visually mars every section of town. Phoenix wears the face of a woman whose plastic surgeon works from a small bedroom with an alley entrance. Tucson is set up in a fairly comprehensible grid system; major streets going in the same direction run generally parallel, and street numbers coordinate well.

CON: Tucson has only one freeway. The city and its satellites encompass an area greater than that of San Francisco, a city with four times the population; it takes forever to get across town. There are stop lights everywhere, each preset to change to red whenever I approach. Furthermore, many of the intersections have cameras which take your picture if you commit an “infraction.” Because I drive so much for work, I’ve taken to driving with a ski mask on, which can be very uncomfortable during the summer. Often by day’s end my features have been reduced to tribal shrunken head proportions, while still perched upon my ample (though still fetching) body. Like most cities, Tucson has no money and the roads are in disrepair. Potholes are so large and numerous that the city has suggested its drivers start wearing Depends, lest they hit one with enough force to spontaneously evacuate and then swerve violently from the resultant shock and embarrassment.

PRO: Tucson is a pretty safe place to live; I’m fairly comfortable in my surroundings, even at night, and have never witnessed a murder, though admittedly I’ve considered committing a few myself.

CON: I’m fairly comfortable in my surroundings because I live on the east side of town; on the south, southwest and central parts of town, people rob, rape, shoot and stab each other with regularity. I once had a gun pushed to my nose – see the Ten Times I Nearly Died – and my wife was once struck in the face by another motorist. (Yes, she’s an awful driver and he didn’t want to ride on the hood of her car, but still).

PRO: Tucson has mild winters and, as a result, many snowbirds flock here during the winter. I often walk around in the winter wearing t-shirt and shorts; though the coldest mornings might begin with sweater and heavy jacket, by afternoon they sit in a rumpled pile on the passenger seat of my work truck. It almost never snows and when it does it doesn’t stick. If you miss the snow or just want to play in it, you can usually find some after a forty-five minute drive up the mountain to the north of town.

Here’s One of the Old Birds Now

CON: Tucson has mild winters and, as a result, many snowbirds flock here during the winter. Driving across town can be maddening enough; it is particularly so during the winter months. Invariably I’ll come upon a newer-model car, puttering along at ten miles an hour below the speed limit, in the fast lane, weaving back and forth and without an apparent driver. Upon closer inspection, one can see a schlock of wispy, snow-white hair peeking barely above the headrest and a pair of white-gloved hands locked on the steering wheel at ten and two. Even more maddening is the obliviousness to the honking, screaming and rabid shaking of fists as I roar past them on the right after every other car on the road has passed and left us both in the dust.

In the summer, it’s hotter than hot. Nowhere on my body is the skin more taught and youthful in appearance than that on the backs of my thighs, because every time I leave my car the previous layer of skin remains with the seat.

PRO: Tucson is surrounded by mountain ranges in all four directions and some amazing desert scenery in between. It is an interactive delight, with several state parks, a national forest and hundreds of miles of hiking trails at various elevations and degrees of difficulty. Tucson is a “bike friendly” town; thousands of riders use the streets in and around town daily.

Sabino Canyon, Tucson

CON: While there is ample natural beauty in the area, many who visit show it no respect, and leave trash and recyclables strewn about in their wake. My wife, the envirohippie, picks up beer bottles and cans and stores them in our car. In addition to transporting the DNA of some of the more despicable elements of society in my auto, I also resent the false evidence available to the authorities should I be pulled over for drunk driving. The bike riders are, in most cases, an acceptable nuisance, but occasionally one oversteps their bounds and presents an intrusive, yet somehow enticing obstruction to my driving experience. There is a solid white line painted on the right side of the road; bikers are supposed to ride to the right of it. Often, though, the bike rider pedals slowly along to the left of the line; I can only assume they’re British. I briefly consider how their neon green gayshirt with corresponding black buttpad shorts splayed across my front grill might liven up the overwhelmingly dull white look of my truck, but invariably reason (I might get caught) takes over and I’m reduced to an exaggerated toot of the horn and one finger salute as I pass.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Tucson, like every other city in America, has it’s good and bad sides. Hopefully, if you’ve considered a move here in the near future, I’ve provided some solid information to help you make a decision. I’ll be sure to peruse the chamber of commerce statistics for the next couple of months to see if I’ve made an impact.

Posted in Arizona, Christianity, Family, Humor, Life, Living, Photography, Travel, Tucson | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Letter to My Neighbor


I feel it important, when communicating to people with whom I have issues, that others with direct, peripheral or mere positional involvement consider it obvious that I am the better person merely by how I conduct myself. Whether defending a position verbally or by correspondence, it is absolutely critical that any characters within earshot (or eyeshot, in the case of written word) see me as the more reasonable party; if I am successful and my conduct beyond reproach, the strength of my stance or argument often becomes of secondary importance. This is a good thing, since admittedly I find myself dancing far more  often with hideous, blubbery, pimple-faced Miss Taken, instead of curvaceous, smoking-hot Shirley Wright.  No matter; no one likes a loud-mouthed jerk or a blithering, out of control know-it-all. A calm, reasonable and polite stance inevitably sways the public opinion to one’s favor, and a byproduct is the gift of righteousness, whether deserved or not. Even the one with whom you have issue will likely question himself in the face of an onslaught of good nature and grace.

You might well imagine that this winning formula may be a problem for me; I am not by nature calm, reasonable or polite, nor am I good-natured or in the habit of dispensing grace. When asked to describe me, I feel confident that few who know me well would toss around the word “kind”, unless it’s behind a bush or in a trash bin.(Whatever. Stupid jerks; who needs ’em). But knowing the best course of action is most of the battle; putting it into practice should be a simple thing. Consider this letter I am writing to my neighbor, who I consider so merely by virtue of proximity and who I loathe with every fiber of my considerable being (please understand it is a work in progress):

Hey, You Dear Old Bag of Dirt Neighbor,

I’ve noticed you stumbling walking down our street with your mangy mutt lovely dog these past few days; what’s holding you up? How cute you two look together! I think it’s hilarious how your dog takes you for a drag every day awesome that you walk together; it’s probably the only thing keeping you alive great exercise for the both of you. Listen, you old fart I must admit, though, there is one major small issue that is really pissing me off  I begrudgingly must address. You’re a real a I hope I don’t offend.

If your dog craps in my yard one more time I’ll kill you. It would seem that your mongrel pet seems to enjoy taking a dump have deposited fecal matter in my front yard every stinking day on more than one occasion. I saw the little bast I observed it happening yesterday, but I was lying on my couch in my boxers eating chocolate chips off my stomach very busy with something and was afraid they would fall off into the cushions and melt unable to speak to you about it. I can understand that you’re older than dirt and can’t bend over it may be difficult for you to pick up after him; might I suggest that you stay home and let him defile your own yard bring along a pooper scooper to pick up the waste? If money is an issue, you should take a handful of Geritol and call it a life I would be happy to pick up the crap with a baggy and smear it all over your wrinkled face buy one for you.

I can tell that mutt is all you have left you love your dog, so I thought I should mention I stepped in your dog’s crap and there were pieces of aluminum foil, rubber bands and bits of Depends on my shoe there was evidence of foreign materials in your dog’s steamy pile waste. Do you throw anything away? I should call social services on your butt These items can make your dog ill or even kill him, which would be cause for celebration in my home a tragedy.

This is your only warning Thank you for your attention to this matter. I can’t stand appreciate crappy old good neighbors like yourself, and if we see each other in the neighborhood, you better waddle off the other way can be sure I’ll flip you off say hello.

With Venomous Hatred Your Good Neighbor,

Richard Ramirez

Posted in Dogs, Humor, Life, Living, Pets, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

“Not This Time Man” is Victorious!


I mentioned in my last post, How I Became #15 on the “Save in Case of Fire” List – Part III, that my alter ego, Not This Time Man, was standing strong in his refusal to allow cats eight and nine to take up permanent residence in my already feline-infested home. Even the best of men, exuding only the finest personal qualities and showering benevolence beyond that which most guys are capable, has a breaking point when unfair demands are forced upon him. I submit to you, since most of you don’t know me, that I am such a man, and when forced to confront injustice, I call upon the colors of Not This Time Man and wrong is quickly made right.

Granted, these cats were owned by someone else, who merely had asked that my wife take care of them while he dealt with some personal issues and found another place to live. Clearly, he loved them, had every intention of reclaiming them, and only death or institutionalized infirmity would prevent him from doing so. And, true to his word, he was recently able (though it took longer than the month I was told he would need) to move back into a place and then quickly called my wife to reclaim the beasts.

Not This Time Man Stands Triumphant

Admittedly, then, given this seemingly compelling pile of evidence, you might feel secure in saying that my calling upon the considerable influences of Not This Time Man may have been premature. Well, to you I would respond, in most manly, emphatic and fist-pounding fashion by yelling, “Nuh-Uh, stupid idiot head!” Yes, NTT Man comes when I call, but as a true superhero, he often senses danger before I do and comes (and goes) as he pleases. (Not a superhero in the conventional sense, when real physical danger exists, he usually dons the Cloak of Invisibility). Who am I to deny him a victory, whether richly earned, ill-begotten or simply cheap and easy? Victories are elusive, as NTT Man is painfully aware; he, in true American fashion, takes them in whatever form they come, molds them to his purpose and exploits them to further his fame.

All hail Not This Time Man!

Posted in Cartooning, Cats, Christianity, Drawing, Humor, Illustrating, Life, Living, Pets | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How I Became #15 on the “Save in Case of Fire List” – Part III


In a prior post in this series (see Part II), I mentioned the uninvited dogs who have invaded my once peaceful abode and since rendered it and my existence only marginally livable. As much as these loud, obnoxious, ever-ravenous and flatulent beasts have set my life off-kilter, however, they are nothing compared to the horde of felines that have meowed, purred, howled and hissed their way into my home and violated my olfactories in most brutal fashion. My wife is Noah and my house her ark; but instead of two of every kind, all that enter in droves seem to be cats, and when the flood waters recede none of them will leave.

At present, there are nine cats, lying resplendently in various poses of leisure around my house. There is no escaping them in any room. As social animals, they prefer an audience and/or victim should they desire to knock over or otherwise destroy something expensive;  jump up from a dead sleep and schizophrenically skitter across one’s sensitive regions with claws extended; or expel an offending turd that would quickly clear even the most frenzied, riotous crowd from the gates of an American embassy. (Note: my wife does an exceptionally good job of cleaning up after them and rendering their emissions undetectable, but sometimes she’s not home, and then what?…).

Without further ado, then, the nine cats that (ACK!…BLURP!…sorry, hairball) for now, at least, let me live with them in my house, and in the order in which they invaded:

Tommy

1) TOMMY. Thomas and the next two cats are brothers, orphaned at only one week after their mother was hit by a car. My wife was asked to “foster” them, which included bottle feeding throughout the day; I knew I was done for the first time she did it. Tommy is gray, long-haired and slightly cross-eyed. Each stroke of his back sends a glob of hair floating into the air. (Kind of like me). He is one of my favorites, ranked one, two or three, depending on the week and who’s offended me most.

Calvin

2) CALVIN. Tom’s brother. He often has tiny specks of poo stuck to his emitter, and if you pet him for any amount of time, he tries to suckle your arm. I think it’s because his mother didn’t teach him to wipe or get a chance to wean him before she died. He also almost never utters a sound, which I should find endearing, but instead it creeps me out a little. He’s solid at number seven in the favorites ranking.

Pete

3) PETE. The third brother, Pete is a skinny sack of bones. He’s an amazing escape artist with an uncanny ability to sneak out a door as it’s being closed. Leaving him out is not an option; my wife gets frantic whenever a cat is missing, so I’m forced to chase him around the yard lest I be neutered in my sleep. He has a high-pitched, squeaky meow, and won’t hold still when he’s petted. I hate that. Number five, with little chance to improve.

Rosie in Repose

4) ROSIE. My wife decided to capture feral cats in our neighborhood in order to spay and neuter them. (Actually, the vet takes care of that part). Rosie and her brother Rufus were just kittens when they were caught, and my wife feigned concern over releasing them before they had sufficiently recovered. The recovery process is at two years and counting. Rosie is charming and precocious, though she has run across my face while I slept more than once, which would condemn most cats to a life as tennis racquet strings. She is pleasing to me; solid one or two.

Rufus the Kitten

5)RUFUS. Rosie’s brother, he may have been the most adorable kitten I’ve ever seen. He’s fairly shy, and apparently the lowest in the feline pecking order. Usually I find cowardice abhorrent in animals, but he meows in response whenever I say his name, which I regard as both respectful and necessary. Two or three.

Roy at Right, with Rufus

6)  ROY. My wife caught him over a year ago and had him neutered; his recovery, strangely, is going very slowly as well. He is somehow related to Rosie and Rufus and both love him as much as cats are able to. He is exceedingly good-natured, adores my wife and tolerates me. Because he gives me no grief, he’s entrenched at number four.

Milo

7) MILO. We’ve only had him since the spring; some people we don’t know and had never met were moving away and couldn’t take him, so naturally it fell on us to give him a home. He is missing most of his tail; someone had tied him (by it) to a fence when he was a kitten. He immediately took over upon moving in; he torments all the others alternately and at his leisure. Though I resent his intrusion, I respect his ability to force his will upon the rest. Number six.

Numbers eight and nine I refuse to introduce;  Not This Time Man is standing strong on this one and has drawn the line in the sand (or cat litter, as it were). My wife took them in to help a military vet while he deals with an illness and living arrangements. He insists he will retrieve them when he’s settled. (Heck yes he will).

Courtesy Google Images

There you have it. Should a fire begin to consume my humble abode, I am resigned to tossing my wife, daughter, two dogs and nine cats out the window and into the waiting arms of firemen before I am allowed to try and save myself. By then, if still alive having cooked for several minutes, I will likely resemble (at best) an enormous, pink-skinned, hairless cat. In retrospect, that could be a blessing: in the future, I might have a chance to move up the list…

Posted in Cats, Christianity, Humor, Pets, Photography, Tucson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Blue Moon


I was outside last Friday evening, conducting my nightly search for monsoon chances (yes, I am a partying fool), when I saw this freakishly bright moon. I ran, or more accurately waddled, back inside for my camera, pausing to audibly exclaim my good fortune having stepped, barefoot and in rapid succession, upon a pebble and Eucalyptus seed. Employing all my photographic talents (i.e. pointing the camera at it, sticking my tongue out a la Michael Jordan, clicking futilely several times, staring at and shaking the satanic device, then cursing as I look around to make sure no one is looking and pulling off the

Blue Moon 8/31/2012

lens cap) I managed to shoot this picture before I was ravaged by mosquitos or killed in a drive-by.

Someday I hope to throw out a bunch of technological photography jargon about utilizing film speeds, f-stops and such. For now, I say with pride that I do often use a filter: a mind clouded by poor judgement, exhaustion or a couple gin and tonics. Sometimes I employ all three at once for a “perfect storm” of photographic tweaks. God, as always, is the ultimate artist; we are left to try our hand at mere reproduction.

Posted in Arizona, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Photography, Tucson | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Other Woman


I met her in April of 2001. Like most men, I am shallow and superficial, in that outward appearance grabs me first; it was a prerequisite to finding out more about a girl back in my dating days. Well, she wasn’t pretty, by even the most gracious standards. Her face was sort of flattened, like a Boston Terrier’s, and her eyes set wide apart; she was tall, more so than I, and I’m no runt at six-foot two; and she was a big girl, bigger than any I’d been with before. Her white skin stretched across her considerable expanse; she was heavy-set and especially wide in the rear. I could tell that she had been with several men before me, some of whom had treated her less than kindly. She had a shop-worn look about her, like a tired but willing saloon hag inevitably left alone, still swilling beer and chain-smoking at night’s end. Still, something about her intrigued me; I felt a wobble in the knees and a skip in the heartbeat as I approached her. After spending a little time getting to know her a little better, I sensed there was something about her, some innate quality that satisfied a desperate need, the extent of which I could feel but not fully fathom. I decided then and there I had to have her. I asked, and she came willingly, with a deep and heavy purr befitting a lady of her size; our affair was born.

I’ve seen her almost daily since then. Initially, though completely dependent upon each other for support, we were equally distrustful of one another as well; I sensed she might somehow take advantage of our arrangement or deny me that which I so desperately sought from her. She, having been mistreated by lesser men in her past, was afraid I, too, would hurt her. Gradually, we began to earn each other’s trust. Our relationship has since grown to one of complete mutual reliance, both for our physical needs and for our very survival. Though I’m a married man and love my wife dearly, I am neither ashamed of our relationship, nor to say that I would be lost without her. I love her passionately, and though she hasn’t (and likely won’t) tell me so, I know she feels the same about me.

She’s an older woman, and looks older still. Her name: Bernice, which is a fitting one, in that it conjures images of flowered mu-mus, chained bifocals, orthotics and drooping support hose. She’s old, run-down, moody but feisty; that sounds like a less than glamorous description for a mistress, but heck, I’m getting that way too, and how arrogant for me to think I deserve to get better than what she’s willing to give, which is everything she’s got. I think she’s dead sexy, in her own way, and I definitely look sexy when I’m with her. I know time will take her from me some day, but until then I promise to be faithful…to my mistress.

Bernice

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The Struggler’s Guide to Healthy Living


Healthy living, as seemingly defined by societal norms, is best achieved through a combination of diet and regular exercise and is manifested in a fit and toned body. I would submit to you that a truly healthy body is best attained by the simple avoidance of those things that can most easily cause it harm. I am convinced that I alone hold the real secrets to avoiding and repelling the incessant attacks of germs, viruses and harmful bacteria upon the human body. If you were fortunate enough to be able to see me (some of you are, with regularity; stunning, I know, and there is no charge), you might question my ability to ward off sickness of any kind and therefore be somewhat hesitant to believe what I’m going to tell you.

I’m a big guy, around six foot two and two hundred and thirty pounds. There are a few guys with those statistics who look amazing, but they are all physically active and most lift weights. I’m one of them; I am physically active, in that I am usually moving in some respect: while lying down, I resort, unfailingly, to reaching for and scratching some nether region and, even when I do manage to stay relatively still, my chest still tends to rise and fall rhythmically. (Mostly). Even while sleeping, I tend to thrash around quite a bit; literally, I am a man on the go. Also, I lift weights every day: each morning, I dead-lift the same two hundred thirty pounds (often with great difficulty and cracking of bones) whilst getting out of bed, followed by squatting and dead-lifting two hundred thirty pounds again, plus newspaper, during my morning constitution. During my day, I will lift the same weight countless times off of various chairs, benches and couches.  By day’s end I’ve easily lifted and transported several tons. Frankly, I’m astounded that my physique belies my obvious and considerable strength.

I don’t eat particularly well; again, as measured by the standards imposed by society (I eat better than most, at least in a purely physical sense, with great focus and stamina). My favorite foods tend to present themselves in shades of brown and are enhanced to near perfection with chemicals and preservatives. Foods that offer brighter colors tend to be from the dirt and therefore inedible, unless they are sweet; there are few exceptions.  I get my vitamins from vitamins, when I remember to take them; my calcium I store in ample supply in various joints and my kidneys; and my minerals I drink directly from the tap.

And yet, despite all my apparent indiscretions with respect to diet and exercise, I almost never get sick. I remain a temple to good health, at least with respect to my body’s ability to repel germs, viruses and infection. On the rare occasion that I do get a cold, it is a minor inconvenience at worst, whereas the same virus in another, lesser man would render him whiny and bedridden for a week or more. I haven’t thrown up since college (almost thirty years), and even then it had nothing to do with contracted illness. How do I do it? (Thanks for asking). Through fifty-one years of trial and error. I have transformed my body into a veritable fortress, complete with thick, impenetrable walls and manned with vicious, uncompromising warriors ready and anxious to repel any potential invader. Utilizing a combination of extreme caution with respect to germ exposure and the rendering of my body as an undesirable environment for invasion, I stand before you today a veritable pillar of health. Because I don’t want to be alone should the next super flu be the real deal, I offer you now the main tenets of The Struggler’s Guide to Healthy Living:

1)  Regard every shared surface with suspicion. Next time you’re in a public place, watch what people do. Nose picking, dandruff scratching, wedgie pulling, coughing and sneezing into hands – all are common practices and involve the hands, which are then used to open doors, lift ladles at buffets and grope armrests at movie theatres. Therefore, handles, knobs, shared utensils and seats are each throbbing dance floors rife with sweaty, undulating pestilential germs. If you come in contact with any common surface, touch nothing on your own person – especially don’t pick your own nose – until you can wash your hands.

2) Wait for someone else to open the door to a public restroom; use the back of his shirt to hold the door open should it close too fast. (Shrug your shoulders, tilt your head to one side and raise your eyebrows as if to say “How did that happen?” in the event that he takes offense). If you simply can’t wait, use your own shirt, but remember that the affected quadrant is untouchable until you’re able to change. Avoid the stalls whenever possible, as terrible things occur in them; however, if you’ve no choice, raise or lower the lid with your shoe. Afterwards, wash your hands well, but air dry, because the paper towel dispenser is lever controlled and then you’ll have to start over.

3) Stay away from hospitals. They are full of sick people, many of whom are expelling germ-ridden snot, vomit and/or poo in violent and explosive fashion. Those left to tend to the horrifying scene, understandably distraught over their horrid lot in life, invariably show a lesser duty of care than the situation demands and as a result transport remnants teeming with bacteria wherever they go. If a loved one is in the hospital, send a card, flowers and your regrets. If they love you, they’ll understand; if they don’t, why visit in the first place, and in any event they may contract MRSA and not make it out anyway.

4) Regard every hand sanitizer dispensary as a sign from God. On those rare occasions when I’m forced to enter a care facility’s doors in order to feign my concern for the infirmed, I’ll take a squirt from every bottle I see, and while walking between them hold my hands up, palms facing in, like a surgeon who has just scrubbed for an operation.

5) Implore those around you to act with the same duty of care. The girls on my basketball teams are required to sanitize their hands before and after practice. Without it, that basketball looks to me like a planet-turned leper colony, hurtling through space and ready to infect anyone with whom it comes into contact. They think I’m nuts, but they can thank me after they’ve contracted only five winter head colds instead of the normal nine. Besides, I have to touch that ball too.

6) Eat heavy, deep-fried, carb and starch laden foods. These are the foundations of my diet and have served well to help repel any attack on my body. Germs are just like the rest of us: would you rather vacation in Yuma, Arizona, or in Aruba? We all want to stay in a Windham resort, not the What Did You Step Inn; germs are no different. Some might argue that those who eat healthy have a higher white blood cell count. Big deal. They may have numbers, but my germ fighters are groin-kicking, eye-gouging, hairy-backed, brown-toothed Mongol warriors, battle tested and fearful of no one.

7) Always maintain a measurable blood/alcohol content. Think about it: what do they put on that cotton swab to kill germs before giving you a shot? Infections spread through your blood stream; why not have a little alcohol in there to help quickly kill off any infiltrators? Any general will tell you that if you want an army to fight hard, you have to let them play hard. My Mongols are a happy lot. Warning: too high a blood/alcohol content can cause one to discount or even ignore tenets one and two, and taken to extreme may make one more susceptible to breaking rule three.

There you have it: my secrets to healthy living. I suppose there could be some validity to the claim that poor dietary choices and lack of exercise might take some years off my life, but I feel my heightened awareness of the unseen dangers in this world compensates more than adequately. If I do lose a few years, they’re the last ones and likely of lesser quality than the rest. Until then, I will remain vigilant with respect to pestilence, indiscriminate in terms of consumption, and as a result continue to enjoy the fruits of a truly healthy life.

 

Posted in Food, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments