Healthcare, Funerals, Costco,Coke and Libel

Nothing like more sturm und drang  in my life to make things interesting. I asked people to answer why they blog and received some interesting answers. Not unlike many of you I am here because it provides both an outlet and a chronicle of my life.

Posts like this one will be something that my children and grandchildren can read so that they understand that my life is like theirs. It is filled with moments of routine punctuated with bouts of craziness. That goes well with the wacky man they call dad now and may call grandpa in the future. Don’t call me grandpa today because I am not old and I will kick your ass, male, female, feline or otherwise.

I received a letter today informing me that my healthcare costs are going to more than double in 2010. Since I am independently wealthy and without a care in the world I wasn’t fazed at all by this.In fact I felt so bad about not being able to empathize with people I tasered my own scrotum.

There, that should make for the kind of search term I don’t want associated with the blog. But at the moment I am too frustrated to care.

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s The House Is Rockin’  just came on iTunes. If my life were a movie it would be an appropriate song to play now. It’d be one of those time line bits where you’d see me running frantically to try and overcome a challenge. By the time it ended I’d be out of breath but a huge smile would grace my lips and the screen would fade to black.

Except my life isn’t a movie, or a sitcom or a play. The crap that was flung on me isn’t a prop, it is real and it stinks. Blast.

Found out last night that my fraternity brother’s wife died. I don’t know all of the details other than she was 40, it wasn’t suicide or car accident. It was some sort of health issue that snuck up on them, or so it was described to me.

She is the third contemporary of mine to die since May. Two mothers and a man, all aged 40. All died because of some sort of health issue.

Queen, I am Going Slightly Mad  is now playing. Again, an appropriate song. I am going mad. It finally happened, I took that last step, you know the one that Bugs Bunny refers to as a “Lulu.” Damn, life might be easier if this was a Looney Tunes cartoon.

The funeral starts in about ten minutes. I was very seriously thinking about going, but chose not to. Haven’t seen the husband in several years and have exchanged just an email or two during that time. I was torn about the decision not to go, but I have a ton of stuff to handle. He won’t miss me, I’ll send a card.

Don’t mean to sound callous, but we all have to take care of our stuff. Right now I am doing the best that I can to take care of mine. Of course being told that the privilege of seeing the doctor and providing for my family’s well being is going to become more difficult has influenced this.

Damn, damn and damn again. On to a different topic.

******

I just read that Costco and Coke are having a disagreement. I bet Costco wins this fight.

ATLANTA – Costco customers may have to look elsewhere for Coca-Cola products now that the retailer has stopped carrying them because the pair are fighting over prices.

The public squabble between one of the nation’s largest wholesale club operators and the world’s largest soft drink maker is likely to fizzle quickly. But it reveals real tensions as retailers and product makers square off on prices.

As shoppers continue to grapple with the recession, retailers want to win their favor by giving them low prices. But that has been creating tension between product makers like Coca-Cola Co., who are working hard to maintain profit margins while meeting retailer demands.

In other news there is a new report about the influence Twitter has on the world. Courtney Love is being sued for libel for something she tweeted. But it is not limited to celebrities, this issue that is.

Consider the case of Amanda Bonnen and her former landlord. Bonnen, an Illinois resident, is accused of using Twitter to tell another user: “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.”

Horizon Group Management LLC, the company that owned the apartment in question, sued Bonnen for libel over the alleged tweet. Horizon is seeking $50,000 in damages.

Legal experts say such Internet-related cases are being watched closely because they confront new and unaddressed areas of American law.

For example, how should a libel case be handled when it comes to social media? How can society balance accountability with free speech? And if information — from private thoughts to public data — is so readily available, how do we define what constitutes privacy?

There are other examples of ordinary citizens who are in legal trouble in the article. It is a reminder that there are risks in using social media. Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like can all have an impact upon your life in ways that we might not immediately foresee.

These are more than cautionary tales. They are real life examples of things that need to consider when you are playing online. It is not completely clear where the lines will be drawn, but eventually the courts will come up with something. In the interim remember that the boundaries are fluid.

Ain’t life grand.

I Broke My Nose, maybe

I think that I might have broken my nose last week. Took a look at the symptoms that the good folks at The Mayo Clinic  list on their site and found myself nodding my head to a few of them:

  • Pain or tenderness, especially when touching your nose.
  • Bruising around your nose or eyes.
  • Crooked or misshapen nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose

Hmmm…, my nose is a bit tender and I have a nice shiner over my left eye. The old shnozz is a bit crooked, but I have broken it more than a couple of times so it hasn’t been straight in years, if ever. And let’s not forget the breathing thing.

It is a bit off, but I am not sure if it is really any worse than it has been for years. Ask those that have had the pleasure of being around me while I am sleeping and they’ll tell you that I snore. Ask my roommate from that famous summer of ’85 and he’ll you that it was my snoring that led to a major fight.

Every night he’d wake me up and complain that I was snoring. Each time he did it I would apologize, but it wasn’t something that I had control over. After several weeks of this I told him that he needed to get some ear plugs. I couldn’t help it and as it happened my roommate Chuckles the clown was an exceptionally light sleeper.

He got angry and started screaming at me. I got angry and threw his bed out of the window, the second story window that is. Haven’t seen him in years now, rumor has it that he is a writer for some crime show in Hollywood whose name is similar to KFI.

So the truth is that I am not really sure that my breathing is any worse than normal. It could be, but it might not be. It is more than 20 years since I broke it the first time so I can’t remember anymore what it was like to breathe with an unbroken nose.

I broke it the first time during a wrestling match with the president of my fraternity. Took an elbow to it, heard the crack and noticed that my mouth and chin had some red substance all over them. So I did what all dumb boys do, I stuffed some kleenex in it and rejoined the battle.

It didn’t really hurt all that much. I had so much adrenaline flowing through me that I didn’t really notice. A short time later I checked myself out in the bathroom and discovered that it didn’t look right anymore. So I took a quick trip to the ER and confirmed that it was indeed broken.

Later decided to get it fixed, had it done and then managed to break it again. Decided that it was pointless to have surgery a second time so I just ignored it. On a side note, the 19 year-old Jack discovered that girls were very sympathetic towards a boy who had broken his nose. Not that I tried to milk that situation at all, I would never do that.

Anyhoo, last Tuesday night I was playing ball with the boys and a youngster came flying through the middle of the lane and smote me upon my nose and eye. I say youngster because he is a few weeks short of turning 19. Talked a lot of trash this boy, called me dad and then he smote me. Don’t ask why I am using smote, just feel like it.

Well, you should have seen the look on his face after he hit me. It was an accident, but as I understand it flames were shooting out of my nostrils. He apologized immediately. I was silent. I was pissed with him, but I knew that he didn’t mean it and didn’t feel like swearing at him. Not to mention that I knew my silence would be more intimidating than anything I could express verbally.

I played for another hour or so and went home. On the drive back I noticed that my nose felt sore, but didn’t think much of it. The next day I noticed the shiner and rolled my eyes at the guy staring back at me. WTF happened to Mr. Invulnerable.

I don’t get hurt like this. I might get some nicks and scrapes, a bruise even, but this…C’mon, this is the second black eye in the past three months. But because I am a little boy at heart I consoled myself with this thought, “I can still take a shot to the head.”

Kind of silly, but it is me. I haven’t any intention of getting in a fight or any sort of physical altercation. I don’t need the hassle, but if it happened it is good to know that I can still take it. And of course I have to add the caveat that I always intend to do more than give as good as I get.

I am Jack, hear me roar, or is that snore…..

A Few Yom Kippur Mumblings

It is several hours now since I broke my fast and I’d like to say that I feel spiritually cleansed, But the reality is that I have an icepick shoved halfway up my right nostril and there is a broken broom handle protruding from a place it doesn’t belong.

I suppose that is rather graphic, but it accurately describes the affect of having intentionally ignored the joy of my caffiene addiction. I had tried to plan for this, really I had, er did. I cut down on the coffee and refused to drink any on Sunday. It wasn’t easy, lately that cup of Joe has brought the sort of smile to my face that intimate contact would.

Really, I have had some amazing cups and I have thoroughly enjoyed them, but I digress.

Anyhoo, for those of you who have never experienced a day like this let me share a little bit about it. People who fast have dragon breath and short tempers. It is not really surprising. If you don’t feed the animals we get cranky.

And the lack of food/water creates a lovely condition called Halitosis that would be perfect for warfare. In fact one of the men I spoke with today should report immediately to the Pentagon or CDC and offer his services. His breath burned my beard right off of my face and rendered six senior citizens unconscious.

I did my usual bit of leining Torah. The Dark haired Beauty cheered me on again. That sweet little girl made me smile. When I started doing this a thousand years ago I had no idea that one day my children would be there to see me.

There being there is not the reason why I do it, but it is real bonus. I especially appeciate the commentary from “Little Jack” who told me that I was so loud I woke up the guy who was sleeping. Speaking of which should I ever decide to get smicha and become a pulpit rabbi I won’t let my congregants sleep.

No sir, fall asleep while I am talking and you become the poster boy, literally. I’ll hand out sharpies and watch people decorate you. Ok, I wouldn’t really do that. But I might make you wear a funny hat or wave a chicken over your head. Who knows.

And how was your Yom Kippur?

Sounds Of My Youth

(Originally posted here)

Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time dreaming. My thoughts flitter around this and that and here and there. In my mind I visualize myself in various places with various people.

Some of it is fantasy and some of is memory. I suppose that you could attribute this to being someone who enjoys creativity and storytelling.

The world is a very interesting place. I never run out of things to do, places to go or people to see. In many ways I am a boy in a man’s body. I love doing new things but I also like thinking about my past. I have many fine memories and I rather enjoy visiting them from time to time.

Certain smells and sounds remind me of the past. Some of them are bittersweet memories of people and places that are no longer part of my life, at least not in the way that they used to be.

For example for the first 28 years of my life my maternal grandparents lived in an apartment complex in West Hollywood.

I remember the drive from my parent’s house in the Valley through Laurel Canyon to Hollywood. If I close my eyes for a moment I can hear the sound of a Dodge Dart or a Chevy Impala Station Wagon. My father is driving. I am sitting right behind him watching his every move. My mother is stationed to the left of him, a younger sister between them and two more to the right of me.

If you watch me drive you can see some of the same gestures my father makes. Watch me get onto the freeway. My foot presses down on the accelerator and I crane my head to the far left, searching for oncoming traffic. I mutter to myself about the traffic around me, some of it is intelligible and some less so. Those are the words that I really strain to hear because my father is cursing the guy who doesn’t understand that you don’t get on the freeway doing 25 MPH or maybe it is the guy in the lime green Ford Pinto who hasn’t enough sense to signal before he switches lanes.

We aren’t on the freeway for all that long before we exit.You get off at Laurel Canyon and make a right. Go straight for a couple of miles and suddenly you are in the middle of the canyon surrounded by the Hollywood Hills. If you know where to look you can see the ruins of Harry Houdini’s home.

The houses are distinctly different from those in my neighborhood. There is a different feel to the area. I am too young to put my finger on it, but I am aware of it early on. The drive through the canyon is pleasant. Maybe it is part of why I enjoy fiction so much because it really feels like a transformation of worlds to me.

I rarely noticed the time in the canyon. One minute I was in the car and the next was spent finding a parking space in front of the building. Their apartment was on the third floor and overlooked the pool. I spent many pleasant hours eating lunch on their balcony and watching people swim.

But one of the things that sticks with me more than anything else was the sound that their front door made whenever it was opened or closed. I can’t really describe it so I won’t bother with an attempt other than to say that in my mind it is a very soothing sound.

I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the way it looked inside. When you opened the front door you stepped into the living room. To your right was a hallway that led to the two bedrooms and a bathroom.

In front of you was the dining room and off to the left lay the kitchen. The kitchen that didn’t have a dishwasher. Just off to the left of the front door was the door to the balcony. An end table was nearby. They stored decks of cards in it that my sisters and I would use to build houses or play games with.

We spent untold hours there. At a Passover seder I proposed marriage to my cousin. She was an older woman but I was a very mature six or maybe she was a very immature seven. One of these days I’ll have to ask her.

It is funny to me how these memories stick with me. Not funny in a humorous way, but funny in the way that just intrigues me. Sounds, sounds, sounds. So many routine noises that have so much meaning. In the years that have passed I find so many reminders. Certain staircases have a specific echo that makes me remember the days in which my father had the biggest hands of anyone I knew.

Dinners at my parent’s house where my mother suddenly realizes that she has forgotten to serve a dish remind me of an untold number of meals at which my grandmother did the same. Her expression and comments mirroring her mother’s.

It is times like this that I miss my grandmother’s little brother, my uncle. My dear uncle who would wait until the middle of the meal at grandma’s house to ask her what she had forgotten. There was always this mischievous gleam in his eye that I recognized. I might have been a kid, but I was a big brother and that meant that I knew a little something about teasing a sister.

He died unexpectedly in 1985. More sounds at my grandparents. Only this time there is silence. My grandmother is clearly upset but she is hiding her feelings. I am old enough to understand that she is trying to avoid upsetting my sisters. It doesn’t occur to me that maybe she is trying to protect me too.

It is not something that occurs to me because just a few months prior to this I was in Israel. Ten weeks abroad without my parents and I feel like an adult and so I help to maintain the silence there. It is almost unnatural, this silence. There are too many of us and it is just not that quiet.

Later that evening the silence is broken. It is the sound of someone crying. It is my grandmother. She is in the bathroom and she is trying to be quiet, but there is an echo in there. There is an echo that made the children laugh because if you didn’t use the fan it was very obvious what was going on in there. And lord knows that potty humor is high comedy for the five to ten year-old crowd.

Sounds, more sounds and more memories. The complex is built around a large oval swimming pool, an intentional or perhaps unintentional amphitheatre. Voices carry and bits and pieces of conversations float up to the third floor.

Some are stories of fleeing the Nazis or the Cossacks, some are tales of how smart the grandchildren are. Today whenever I hear someone bragging about their grandchildren I remember the conversations from around the pool. Sometimes the sound of someone diving into a pool remind me of the pool at my grandparent’s complex.

This October it will be nine years since they left Hollywood for the greener pastures of Camarillo. I have tried to develop new memories there but it is not the same. I still find myself listening for those old familiar sounds. The screendoor doesn’t squeak and since they no longer live in an apartment there are no footsteps to listen to in a dark staircase.

My grandfather no longer watches for our arrival from the balcony. He stopped smoking cigars when I was about 22 so there are no ashtrays to help stimulate olfactory memories.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandparents dearly and I really have found some special memories in their new home. But it is not the same. They have been there for almost a decade and I still refer to it as the new place.

Sounds, sounds, sounds. I listen for them sometimes consciously and sometimes otherwise but they just aren’t there anymore.

Sailing in Uncharted Waters

Sometimes I feel a bit like Max from Where The Wild Things Are. If you are a purist you may not be as appreciative of the trailer as I am, but for the purposes of this post it is excellent. It does a good job of helping to graphically illustrate some of my thoughts and feelings.

There is a feeling that sometimes comes upon me. It is a sense of being chased. I can’t quite make out who or what it is, but I know that if I turn around and wait for it there is a good chance that it just might be there. I have mixed emotions about it. Sometimes it is a sense of dread and foreboding and I want to take off running.

Not unlike the way you see Max running through the woods, so I can see myself. I can smell the forest and hear the crunch of leaves and twigs beneath my feet. There are moments where I think that if I start running like that I won’t ever tire and I won’t ever stop. The sun will rise and the sun will set and Jack will still be running. Sunlight, moonlight or twilight- it just won’t matter because I’ll keep going.

But then again that feeling of dread and uncertainty makes me angry. It frustrates me and for lack of a better description, I find myself preparing for battle. I don’t seek out confrontation, nor do I hide from it. And the idea of picking the time and place for battle suits me. That graphic imagination pictures me locating a place to take a stand and then doing all that it takes to hold my position for as long as I can.

It is easy to envision. I can hear the birds chirping and the sounds of animals moving through the woods. Suddenly it is silent and the air becomes still. At that moment I brace myself for the roar of the creatures that will come pouring out from the trees. The sound of birds singing will be replaced with the cacophony of swords crashing into each other and the grunting of those who swing them.

See what it is like to live with a graphic imagination.

And then again I can picture myself sailing through uncharted waters. Some days the sea will be calm and I’ll gaze in wonder at a moonlit sky populated by more stars than you imagine. Other times all my skill will be devoted to surviving the raging storm. Waves will come crashing down upon me and it will be all I can do to keep from capsizing or being swept over board.

I suppose that it is fair to say that I do feel a bit like I am sailing through uncharted waters. There are things going on that are unsettling and it is harder to try to maintain balance and perspective. That is not to suggest that the challenges that I face are unique, unusual or particularly different from others.

They are not and I have never tried to paint them as being otherwise. But as I have said many times it is always easier to fix someone another person’s problems. Since they belong to me they are my responsibility and consequently a bit trickier.

So here I sit peering through the fog and haze trying to determine what the best path ahead is. Someone told me that we missed our window of opportunity and I have to ask myself is that really true or is there another path that we have missed. It reminds me a bit of chess and Algebra.

Many years ago I used to play chess several times a week with a friend. Oftentimes he would lose because he would forget that not every chess piece was limited to moving front and back, or side to side. Some of them could move diagonally. In essence it meant that you always had to pay attention the full board because if you allowed yourself to ignore a section you could quickly find yourself in trouble.

The relationship to Algebra comes to mind because of an experience I had in high school. I didn’t always understand how the teacher taught us to solve certain equations. But I was often able to come up with an alternative that provided the correct answer. That didn’t always serve me well because my teacher liked to tell me that there were scenarios in which my solution wouldn’t work but that his always would because it was more universal in nature.

I always suspected that he just didn’t like my figuring out how to do it without him. I’d ask him but he apparently died at a relatively young age of heart disease.

Anyway, the real point here is this. I don’t give up on things easily. I think that there are many different paths that can be taken to meet our objectives and that sometimes it just takes a bit of doing to see how to reach that place. Sometimes you don’t recognize the importance of it until your air has been removed and you find yourself choking. I am not choking, but I am gasping a bit.

So now to quote my son all I need to do is figure out a solution and save the day. I kind of like that term, save the day. And given a little bit of time I think that I just might figure out how to make it happen. Life is like that chess board. I don’t have to attack everything head on, sometimes coming from an angle is really all it takes.