Thursday, February 26, 2009

Get the A & D Ointment, Quick!

Pompous people chap my ass.

Other than me, of course, but then I've had more than half a century learning to put up with myself.

Yesterday I had the annoyance of being at a big meeting. It was a meeting that had a lot of kids at it, a bunch of teachers, and a smattering of parents.

It wasn't the meeting that was so annoying, it was that there obviously had been very little planning done; and also obvious was that the teachers didn't have any idea of what their preparation for the meeting should have been, or what their task was at the meeting. The kids, rather than appreciate the presentation, were just excited not to be in classrooms and were quite ill-behaved. No one had explained to them what was expected of them, either.

I happen to know some of the people involved in the "planning" process ... and they haven't got a bloody clue what they're doing beyond showing up and hoping for the best. They pounce upon shiny ideas they hear at a district meeting and say, "Let's do that! It's so wholesome!" But they don't worry about learning how to do that.

Why not? Because, of course, they already KNOW that if it's wholesome and sounds like a good idea, of course they possess the skill set to pull it off. The woman in charge is a volunteer for the organization of this stuff. She's done that probably for the past 15 - 18 years. She gets by; no great shakes but she makes it from one year to the next.

After so many years, she's the Emperor, and she's buck nekkid -- and in the nature of long-term volunteers in positions of power, she's grown such barnacles that you'd need a jack hammer or an act of God to get her out of that position. Let's add to that the fact that in an organization that utilizes volunteers, there is no one in a position to tell The Grand and Mighty Volunteer Leader to get her shit together or move aside.

As I watched the meeting unfold, I saw the Volunteer Emperor waddle around, her lips pressed tightly together in displeasure. She was being Seen Doing Good Stuff -- that's all that mattered to her. Several times she said to the kids in a smarmy voice "Now we all know how we're supposed to be behaving!"

Hell, no, they didn't. The little ones didn't understand the need for quiet and the older ones know she's a dork.

Oh well. All I can do is avoid such meetings in the future, or live with the chapped ass. No one is ever going to question the Volunteer Emperor's competence: after all, she's a real school teacher in her day job.

I'll bet she'd tell you that, too, if you said, "Lady, what the hell were you thinking?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remarkable Day

21Feb09 031
Originally uploaded by AserSand

This morning I awoke at 6:30am.

Something was very different. I opened my eyes, looked around without moving, and realized what it was -- there was no pain at all in my left arm.

I could have gone back to sleep for another hour, but I was so jazzed by the good feeling, that I had to get up. Once I was up, the now-familiar ache started, but much less even than yesterday. I was able to make a hearty Mardi Gras breakfast of bacon and eggs before gulping the requisite pain pills, rather than shakily gobbling cottage cheese just to get the ibuprofen in.

Wonderful day, with art and laughter and Spring.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


21Feb09 008
Originally uploaded by AserSand

I had a great time taking pictures on a walk to a nearby almond orchard today. Bernie played with the dogs while I snapped pics of the wonderful almond blossoms and reveled in their scent.

I got a number of good pictures, in spite of the overcast sky.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Is the Speed of Time, Anyway?

Fifteen minutes ago it was Monday, wasn't it?

All right, maybe not, but it sure seems like Time is holding up its skirts and dashing willy-nilly along its allotted path. Maybe it has the trots, or maybe it has seen something in the past that frightened it. (Notice I refrain from saying that maybe the trots are from the past eight years of eating shit in the form of the Presidency, and I also refrain from droning about the past and the Great Depression. I am sooo clement.)

In any event, my release from burning pain has sparked a delightful desire to do creative things, so I've been painting, writing, doing pastels, dragging old unfinished projects out and working on them. Studio Prime Time is currently from 2:30pm until 6, when the air gets chill again. That will change as the season does, and the season is boogying. Buds on our pomegranate have appeared, though they haven't turned red yet. The nectarine buds are giggling, standing in the wings, waiting for the end of the almond blossom extravaganza, which has just begun.

Tomorrow I'm spending the day outdoors, hoping for some good blossom shots. Then I'll be content to hole up for a spring rain storm. There are too few of them left before Sweet Spring turns to Hot California.

Monday, February 16, 2009

All Good

Last night I fell asleep, and didn't wake from pain.

I went to the Physical Therapy session with a little trepidation, as Nettie had told me she was going to work on my shoulder aggressively. And she did.

But although it hurt quite a bit as she kneaded a knotted muscle underneath the edge of my shoulder blade, by the time she was done, the pain in my arm had lessened even more.

The Accordion-Head Traction Device was further wonderful.

Over all this, pour a magnificent drenching rain, so much rain that the water stood in puddles on the back brick patio and soaked the orchards that are ready to spring into full bloom.

I'm content with the day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Here Comes the Storm!

In spite of the weather forecast saying that today would be showery, most of the day was sunny and beautiful.

Around 3pm, a wad of clouds showed up, boiling into the sky. Soon it began to sprinkle, then to rain, then pour, and as Lillian and I kept an eye on a rainbow in the east, it began to hail.

Lil was thrilled to see her second hailstorm, and put on a jacket and ran outside to be pelted by hail. (This hailstorm had no thunder and lightning with it.) She looked adorable with hailstones (1/4" across) stuck in her curly hair.

It was a decent day, overall. I had Physical Therapy again today, and the PT person was "Nettie," who was less concerned about my neck than an area under my shoulder blade. As she was starting my massage, she asked, "What about this spot right here?" and poked something that about made me fall through the table. She proceeded to knead That Spot and followed whatever out to areas I hadn't even realized were sore. Ow. "This is so messed up it's swollen," she told me. After the massage, they gave me a couple more exercises to do to help the area. "I'll help you with that spot on Monday," Nettie told me, "but not before a weekend."

Ominous. Good thing Bernie will be available to drive me there on Monday.

In the mean time, thank you, God, for this beautiful rain.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Do You Believe?

Quite a few years ago, I worked in a big hardware store.

As the Security Cashier, it was my job to hole up in a locked room and count all the money that had been handled the previous day. Normally I was done by lunchtime, and if my boss wasn't willing to let me go home early, I would go downstairs and wander around the departments, talking to customers and co-workers.

One day, while I was still upstairs, I overheard some DIRT. It was a busy day, and the head of Customer Service was swamped with lines of customers at the checkout stations. He called for backup; it was his job to do so.

At such a call, anyone who could run a cash register was to get to the front of the store and facilitate the customers getting their merchandise paid for. On this particular day, however, several Department Managers were having a chatfest, and completely ignored his call. Frustrated, he called the boss and complained. The boss came downstairs and instructed the Department Managers that it was their responsibility to help at the cash registers. (Re-instructed, that is, as they all knew what they were supposed to have done.)

The DIRT I overheard was that the Department Managers were furious that the fellow had complained about them. It was then that I decided to go downstairs and watch the drama. (Yes, that's low entertainment, but it was better than sitting in the vault room reading a magazine.)

Mabel (not her real name, of course) was a Big Dog at the store. She was a good worker and was well-respected, and indeed she was an Alpha personality and she expected respect. She had also been my trainer when I first joined the organization, and I suspected that she would tell me what had happened, me being one of her star pupils who made good.

I was right, Mabel TOLD ALL, not only because she was incensed about being reprimanded, but also because she hated the Customer Service dude personally. Then she did something I never forgot: she picked up the phone at her desk and began to punch numbers. "That's it. I'm going to get that little son of a bitch."

Her statement put me into a frame of mind that said, "Too Much Information," so I left, not wishing to know what kind of revenge she was planning.

In a matter of days it was obvious: she had placed a call to the corporate office and accused the Customer Service dude of sexual harassment. In addition, she called as an additional witness one of the cashiers (let's call her "Mitzi") to say that Customer Service Dude upset her by making sexual advances, and when she declined to go out with him on a date, began to pick on her, criticizing her work.

Mabel's plan worked like a dream. Mitzi came to the meeting between Human Resources and the Customer Service Dude dressed modestly, her makeup tasteful, her hair so perfect that Mary Poppins would have beamed upon her. Somehow, her sloppy and inaccurate paperwork and cash totals were not considered a reason for him to "pick on her." And he was removed from his position, a position he didn't particularly like, but was necessary for him to advance into management. He was shattered. He went home, went out and got drunk, got pulled over and taken to jail, had no way to post bail, missed three days of work, and was fired.

What a dumb ass.

What he should have done was call the big boss downstairs and have Mitzi written up for coming on to him and rubbing her tits on his arm the first time she did it -- sexual harassment isn't always about men bothering women. But he didn't; Mitzi was by far the prettiest employee that store had -- and has -- ever seen. She was gorgeous, outrageously vulgar, hotter than habanero peppers, and flirted with anything that appeared to have a dick as part of its operating system. He should have known better than to let her put her hands on him and hang onto his arm in mock arguments, but he didn't. And maybe he should have seen that she was one of Mabel's pets, and maybe he should have known better than to mess with Mabel at all -- I knew those things and I didn't even work downstairs at the time.

Ah, well. Eventually Mabel and another one of her pets took jobs at a warehouse west of here, and I never heard about them again. Mitzi charmed someone in management and was transferred out of cashiering into a department, then another department, and whether it was the hard work or her drug and alcohol abuse, she just was one day ... no longer an employee.

When it comes to sexual harrassment, everyone loses. If you're jolly about flirting, you're sexually harrassing. If you're not, and won't stand for flirting or dirty talk, you're a puritanical old bore.

For the record, when I found out Customer Service Dude lost his battle, I did tell the big Boss what I'd heard and seen, including Mabel coaching Mitzi on what to say. He just looked at his shoes and said nothing; he knew, too.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Amazing Accordion-Head!

Oh, look! Two of my vertebrae!

Ancient, eroded, probably loaded with crevices full of bats and desert mice ...

Today was my first day of Physical Therapy. Long long ago, I pulled something in my back while I was closing a huge gate ( I had complained months before to both my supervisor and the big boss that it was too heavy and sticky to be moved easily); I was sent to a Workmen's Comp office to be evaluated, and told to do a series of stretching exercises and get the hell back to damn work. It was a stupid office visit, mostly along the lines of, does it hurt when you do that? Then don't do that again, and yeah, you're hurt, but ain't we all?

So I had very little faith in what this morning's appointment would hold.

Amazingly enough, the PT dude talked to me for about 20 minutes about how I felt and what hurt and where. He concurred with the doctor and the chiropractor that there is some kind of nerve pinch in there. But instead of telling me what tough luck it was for me, and suggesting I become a Vicodin junkie, he set up about an hour's worth of interesting stuff.

First, I was treated to a scrumptious neck and shoulder wrap of moist heat. It was wonderful. Second, I got a nice warm massage of my sore shoulder and neck. Also wonderful. In a few minutes, these were followed by some gentle exercises (largely to determine my range of movement), and suggestions about how to do them three times a day.

The amazing thing, however, was shaped like an accordion with indents on either end. In one indentation fit my head; the other held my shoulders. I was given a little rubber bulb like you might see on a blood pressure device, and told to squeeze that until I could feel my neck stretch a little between head and shoulders. That I did, and voila! The pain down my arm disappeared.

This would be the same pain that had me in tears Sunday morning because it hurt so bad. For a blissful 10 minutes, it was GONE.

Of course it came back, once the accordion was off my head and I stood up, but it wasn't so bad.
And six hours later, it still isn't as bad as it was yesterday. I'm beginning to have some hope, although they told me that riding the horse is right out for a while.

Physical Therapy is scheduled for three times a week for the next three weeks. I'm looking forward to Wednesday, and another round with the Accordion-Head thing.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It Only Hurts When I Don't Do This

Both yesterday and today I forgot that I was supposed to take painkillers at 3pm.

Not that it doesn't hurt, but it surely does not hurt as bad. At least I didn't notice it as much. Yesterday and today I spent time messing about in my studio, with pastels and oil paints. (See my other blog for details.)

Watching the color flow onto what was a blank page or canvas is absorbing, and time flies by so quickly I'm astonished to look up and find that it's nearly dark.

It's been so long since I last painted that some of my oils are dried up; some tubes of paint won't open. And yet I get so much pleasure out of mixing colors that I wonder why on earth I left it alone for so long.

Howie spent the afternoon on his carpet, watching people walk by; I know he likes the garage studio better than the one I used to have inside the house -- there's a lot more room, and the open garage door is like a giant HDTV for him. I like it better, too. The paint fumes are not so troublesome.

I needed the escape of artwork today. A friend called and told me that on his last two visits to my mother, he found her alone. The 24/7 caregivers ... are not being very reliable. The thought of forcing my mother into a care facility is sure to give me nightmares. Even though she's so far into Alzheimer's that she doesn't know the time of day, she possesses a power of will that is absolutely terrifying to me.

The power of will. Have I written about that before? If not, I will soon.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tormenting My Dog

Oh, how Howie hates the camera!

He only looked at me because I whispered, "Who is it?" -- which is an 'alert' cue. When he looked up at me, his expression changed from 'alert' to 'disgust.' Poor dog.

Nevertheless, I can't resist taking pictures of him because he is so beautiful to me. The softness of his fur, that gorgeous dingo tail, his sweet little whippet face ... and those scrumptious chocolate fudge ripple stripes!

A couple days ago I was soaking in the tub to ease the pain in my neck, shoulder, and arm when Howie came into the bathroom to see where I was. I cupped some of the hot water in my hands, and he tasted it. "Come on, Howie, in! In!"

He backed away nervously. I began to splash the water, an almost irresistible sound for Howie. He came closer, so I squirted water into the air with my hand. He began to bark and stomp at me.

Not wishing to seem like a responsible adult or anything, I got the washcloth, wrung it out, then tossed it into the air. Howie sprang forward, but stopped short of jumping in. I waved the washcloth through the water, and he grinned and watched avidly. His body was tensing, and I knew that I was pushing the limits of sanity -- I am in less than functional condition and having a 65-pound dog leap onto my lap in the tub would not be the smartest course of action.

I wrung out the washcloth again and made it peek over the edge of the tub. He grabbed it, and proceeded to "thrash and bash" it all over the bathroom, growling fiercely and shaking it violently so that its wet ends slapped him vigorously about the face.

When he tossed it the air to better grab it, it flew into Bernie's closet and splatted against the wall behind the hamper.

Between my laughter and slithering into the closet to get the wet cloth, probably all my good soaking was in vain. But painful though it was, it was the first time I'd laughed hard in days, and that's worth something.

Wait till I'm all better -- Howie and I are going to have some fun.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Well, that's it. I'm getting old.

I just got a call from the doctor's office. The x-rays show a certain amount of degeneration of the spine due to arthritis, and some little bone spurs.

They're going to send me to physical therapy, and if that makes it worse or doesn't help, then they have the leverage to ask for an MRI to see what's happening in there.

On the up side, the pain IS a little less today.