Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Week after the Theft

 It’s been a week since thieves stole a bunch of things from my house. I haven’t seen or heard from anyone though I think a detective was supposed to contact me. When I called the police after realizing I’d been burgled, a very nice officer came by, dusted for prints, asked for the iPad’s serial number (“Sorry, I don’t have that. It was a gift.”), the Bose radio’s serial number (“Sorry, I don’t have that. I bought it used on eBay.”), and my late father’s  watch’s serial number (“You’re kidding, right?) So I guess I wasn’t that helpful.

Somewhere in the deepest sitcom part of my brain, I had visions of an angry parent bringing a chastened teen-ager to my house and returning all my stuff. There would have been a speech about a life of crime narrowly averted, and the kid would have come back to atone for his sins by mowing my lawn and shoveling my walk after snow falls. This did not occur. What did occur were a couple of sleepless nights full of revenge scenarios involving samurai swords and other sharp objects.

The day after, Arielle gave me a gorgeous watch engraved (in French) to commemorate our successful work together on a book. The engraver misspelled one of the words which makes the gift even more special. It won’t replace my father’s timepiece, we both know this, but at a very crappy time it reminded me there were things to be grateful for. She also set up a GoFundMe account (https://www.gofundme.com/247vr9tg) and friends (and a few strangers) have kicked in money so I can eventually replace the stolen stuff. To those of you helping, thank you!

Oh. And my cat vanished.

I have to be clear here. I don’t write about pets or four-legged companions or service animals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just don’t do it.  I do, however, have a cat, Junkie, an aging medium-hair Burmese who’s been with me 15 years. He’s indoors/outdoors and mostly likes to sleep in the sun, and we sort of depend on each other. When I was sick and following surgeries, he spent a lot of time on my bed looking at me thoughtfully and occasionally yawning in boredom. Following the thefts, I didn’t see him for three or four days. Arielle and I worried.  I walked and drove around the neighborhood terrified that I’d find his run-over carcass somewhere.  He was not, thank heavens, squashed or eaten by a coyote.  He reappeared looking none the worse for wear, made give-me-food noises and left again, so that worked out well. 

Yesterday a bunch of teens walked by my house as I was doing yard work. I stopped and starred at them malevolently. None were carrying my stuff.  They gave me the disinterested looks young people give dreary old people. 

The world, I suppose, is returning to normal.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Morning

It is 5:15 a.m. and the hamsters are rattling around in their cage. The moon is a crescent and in my driveway I see something shuffling along. A raccoon. I am sitting on the steps of my kitchen stoop eating a lukewarm bowl of Maruchan Ramen Noodles with Vegetables (Hot & Spicy Chicken Flavor). The raccoon stops about ten feet away.

I know this guy, he’s a regular visitor. On two occasions he craftily pried open my large outdoor plastic garbage can, dropped inside it,  and feasted on the remains of past meals. When he couldn’t get out, he made a huge racket and I had to tip over the can so he could escape. He hissed at me and I was stuck with picking up the littered garbage off my lawn.

I dig a few Ramen noodles out of the paper bowl and throw them to him. There’s no hesitation. He picks them up and scarfs them down, then looks insolently my way. More. What the hell. I’m not really hungry. I place the half-empty bowl in the middle of the driveway, a short distance from my feet. The raccoon approaches, not wary in the least, picks up the bowl and sticks his head in it.

I can’t help but remember when I was dating my soon-to-be-second wife, a lovely Vietnamese woman who took me to a pho place. It was my first time in one of these traditional restaurants. We sat at a communal table with her kids. I watched as an elderly Asian lady across from me lowered most of her head in the soup bowl and noisily sucked in noodles. When she came up, she smacked her lips and gave me a gap-toothed grin that I returned. It was a good moment.

The raccoon is destroying the paper noodle bowl with his paws and teeth. I stand and wave my arms. He almost shrugs, drops the bowl and ambles away. I see him enter the bamboo patch near my garage and vanish.

On the kitchen counter, the Roborovski hamsters are dancing a caged fandango. There are two of them, tiny little furry creatures full of curiosity. I watch as both of them climb aboard their exercise wheel and start running in tandem. Is this collaboration or competition?

The raccoon returns. I get a handful of nuts and toss them in the driveway. He eats most of them save for the coconut-flavored cashews from Trader Joe’s , which is a shame because I don’t like the cashews either and I have two bagfuls I would have gladly sacrificed

The sky is turning pink.  I don’t much care for Sunday mornings. I miss the Sunday intimacy of bed and breakfast as a couple. Sunday morning may be a bountiful time for the raccoon but it is not a good time to be single. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Hold

I have been talking to people and on hold this morning for a total of 57 minutes and 32 seconds. My upper back is beginning to ache from cradling the phone between my neck and shoulder.

I have just spelled the word ‘barf’ on WordTower for forty-three points which brings my total to 2537. This is an all-time high, so I suppose I cannot classify this as wasted time. Earlier today I also waited a much shorter time to make sure I was indeed scheduled for some workshops at the Writers’ Center. That was resolved in a matter of minutes.

At issue on this latest call is a recently received bill for $5,670 from my healthcare provider. I suspect this is for three five-minute chemotherapy sessions made as a follow-up to my most recent cancer surgery. This is not right.

This morning has been devoted to spending money on things that are not in the least fun—Verizon, Virginia Power, Kaiser Permanente, etc.  There’s a mysterious charge for a couple of hundred dollars that I identify by going through past payment vouchers—yes, I do owe that sum—but so far the biggie is the $5,670.

I spell the word ‘mucus’ for thirty-eight points.

I have spoken with three different people regarding the provider bill, and each has—very politely, I must say—shuttled me off to someone else.  I am now back to Person Number One, whose name may be Serafina or Jo. I don’t remember.

I spell ‘boob’ for next to nothing in points, but the total score is climbing steadily. Since English is not my native language, I am feeling prouder by the moment at my mastery of complex vocabulary. I am sure I would be prouder still if I weren’t on hold, but then again if I weren’t on hold I would not be playing WordTower and spelling out ‘shit’ which, to my amazement, the game accepts.

I discover that it is neither Jo nor Serafina but Mavis to whom I am now talking, and she says, “Let me look into this.”

“Please,” I say.

I am topped out on WordTower and wonder if there’s anyone out there playing Words With Friends.  My regular WWF partner is at a brand new job, so she can’t play; her employer might frown at such behavior. It appears no one within my tiny Facebook world is available today save a guy I worked with decades ago who now lives in Jamaica. I didn’t like him then and probably wouldn’t care for him now, so I decline his invitation. Plus, he’s a Brit and would probably trounce me.

We are now at 69 minutes and 22 seconds. As I am starting a new WordTower challenge, Mavis returns to the phone to tell me I will have to speak to her supervisor who is at lunch. Can I call back?

I sigh. I say, “Yes, of course,” and spell Jeezus on WordTower, but it is not accepted.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Excuse the typos. I can’t see well as my eyes are dilated from today’s ophthalmic exam. I have bilateral cataracts, it turns out, as well as something that causes drooping of the left eyelid. I couldn’t resist the internet and found there are four possibilities for the latter: third cranial nerve palsy, Horner's syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and musculotendinous disorder of the levator. You got all that?

The eyesight in my left eye started getting a mite strange about two months ago but I put it down to stress and post-chemo reaction. It hasn’t gotten better and a couple of days ago I noticed a definite worsening blurring.

I mentioned it to Arielle, whose father is a pediatric ophthalmologist and who herself has had vision issues. She suggested I get the condition looked at. Suggested is a polite word.

This morning a very nice nurse put a variety of drops in my eyes that stung, burned, and dyed the whites of my eyes yellow for that elegant jaundiced look. He explained to me that he washed his hands about 200 times a day, which is more than me from August to December. He recommended Shea Butter Hasnd Cream, which is slightly more expensive but well worth it.

The doctor I saw reminded me that I had been her patient after what I will refer to as the gardening incident, during which I lacerated a retina by injudicious use of a hedge trimmer. She remembered me, she said, because hedge trimmer mishaps are rather rare in the ophthalmic trade. She also put drops in my eyes, made me read letters on a faraway wall, hmmed a couple of times and told me there was a slight chance of the aforementioned odd eyelid disease. She explained that though the surgery to correct that situation was not complex, the paperwork involved was. My provider does not do elective facial surgery to make a patient look better, and the eyelid procedure is just that unless it can be categorically diagnosed as a disease or injury. She gave me disposable sunglasses that I am told are very dashing.

The cataract surgery is simple. I’d get both eyes done in one procedure and would be well on my way to recovery within a day or two. It’s one of the most commonly done procedures world-wide. Still, the idea of someone cutting away part of my eyes and implanting little plastic lenses is horrifying. I’m going to do it of course, but I can’t say I’m elated. More than anything, I am getting terminally tired of clinics and doctors and nurses, even very pleasant ones who wash their hands 200 times a day.