STEPS / Main Page / Index / previous / next
March, 2001: 2 3 4 6 7 9 11 12 15 16 19 21 22 25 29 30 31


(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Phil behind tree at McKinney Falls State Park, Texas.

3/2/01-Fri.-(The following three paragraphs are from my recent entries in Live-Journal, a neat on-line diary site that allows a ready exchange of entries and comments between diarists and interested friends, and others, who wish to share. From time to time, I may copy and paste, to include submissions from there.)

Got through one more week of pushing too much paper for too little money. Pepper is sleeping curled up on her pad next to the window. Fran's out rehearsing for a Richard Wagner opera. I'm about to take the dog for a walk. Classical music on the radio. I'm canine-tired myself. Austin's enjoying one more cool wave before the muggy spring turns to the blacksmith anvil-and-sledgehammer smash of summer heat. Waiting for the world to end. "Waiting for Godot." Waiting for dreams of sleep to replace dreams of being awake. "Film Score Focus," our Friday nightly ritual at 10, is always fun. I feel an ironic moment coming on...

Later-Pepper and I are back from our walk and Fran from her rehearsal. We're all almost falling-down tired. The last few days seem to have aged us about a year; but chances are we'll be feeling much better after 40,000 winks. I looked through my Live-Journal friend's recent entries. Wow! That woman is prolifically plugged in! On "Film Score Focus" they're playing the theme music to the TV series, "Lonesome Dove," one of my favorites. I'm 57. The doctor says I need to lower cholesterol. But I am a little down about the dietary restrictions. I'd give a ten spot for a piece of hot, juicy fried chicken. Tonight I seem to be getting an allergic reaction to all the juniper pollen or mold spores currently in the air here in Central Texas after recent wind and rains. Feels like gallons of sniffling and flowing are on the way. Wrote another entry for Phil's Place, my on-line poetic stuff site. Really enjoying the late 18th-early 19th century setting seafaring adventure novels of Patrick O'Brian. Soon must head for bed, but may check out some other Live-Journalists first. Bye for now.

3/3/01-Sat.-Yesterday I started taking antihistamines like crazy, in hope of stemming the swelling tide of sinus flow from an allergy attack from hell. By today, still consuming them by the ladle and fistful, I am in a different state (still Texas, but...). It's not as bad as Thorazine but physically feels like a wall of wet, chilled cotton surrounds me, while, mentally, everything is slowed down, synapses, thoughts, time itself, and one feels as if the astral form is about to shoot out into the disembodied ether at any moment. This altered consciousness has its perils. I was once "saved" after discovering the Lord under the influence of cold medicines. Years later, I became a disciple of an Eastern guru after a weekend of pill popping to hold back another nasal tsunami. I wound up in India for awhile where, sure enough, more "meds" allowed me to walk with a true Master, at one with the highest of the high (perhaps from too much cold medicine) in a setting of biblical majesty. Today, I am leery of such spiritual tangents, having gone off into the fog on a few before. I'll probably just hang out with Fran and Pepper tonight, have plenty of citrus fruit, watch a little TV, browse some online journals, drinks lots of fluids, listen to some of the best music to stand the test of time, and turn in early.

3/4/01-Sun.-It has been said that Austin, TX, is the allergen capital of the country. Don't know; but the spores and pollen particles have certainly gotten me down in the last 2-3 days. They are likely to be seeming to win the battle for awhile yet. I have all the typical symptoms, the sneezing, coughing, sniffling, feverish feeling, lack of sleep, generic aches, etc. Nothing seems to help. So, am trying to just keep myself occupied while this slowly runs its course. Got a neat e-mail today from an American in London working as an actress. She has her own interesting journal and had enjoyed as well some of mine. Her feedback was a bright part in an otherwise rather dismal day as I deal with the current flood. But, of course, to have a bad cold or the equivalent is minor compared with much of the suffering that is ongoing. It's better to laugh one's troubles away, as they say. My brother, Ralph, then recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, with only a few months left, adopted as his motto song the at that time recently released "Don't Worry, Be Happy." He kept his sense of humor until he had settled into a final coma. His courage and upbeat attitude were an example for us all.

This afternoon my allergic reaction developed into a full-blown asthma attack, with wheezing, constricted bronchial tubes, etc. I had this problem as a young child and again when going through basic training at Fort Polk, LA. Then, for several decades, I seemed to be free of it, until the fall and winter a year ago. At that time, it came back with a vengeance, again apparently as a response to allergens, to the extent that I almost had to be hospitalized and did not get over the exacerbation for a couple months. During that time, though, I read up on asthma and discovered something about it I'd never heard before: a cup or two of coffee can be all it takes to get over a mild asthma attack. So, if you are susceptible yourself or are with someone who has asthma and are away from medications at the moment, perhaps out camping or on a weekend when a new prescription is hard to come by, etc., you might try what I did this afternoon, a thick, rich cup of hot coffee. It did not put me back in "the pink;" but it certainly helped; and my wheezing soon stopped.

3/6/01-Tues.-247 or less workdays remain at the state employ. Today was one out of a sub region of hell, though I did at least get more cases out than I average getting in each shift.

Last night was the fourth in a row of getting little sleep due to a severe cold or allergies with asthma exacerbation. Fran suggested I stay home and get some rest. But, as usual, I dare not take any time off from my best of all possible jobs. The work keeps coming in, whether I am there or not. If I get too far behind, I won't be caught up and have the stats. turned around enough by June to take off then for our family reunion.

Nonetheless, dealing with the common and uncommon stresses and frustrations of the work, despite minimal sleep and ongoing cold symptoms, had taken its toll by the end of the shift today.

Meanwhile, Fran is busy most nights this week with the Richard Wagner opera. She does not expect to get home this evening before midnight, likely even later. The same tomorrow night. This after working all day as a teacher. We are earning our pay!

Another of my colleagues stopped me in the hall yesterday and confessed she's on probation and may be fired by June. She's been an exemplary employee there for almost as long as I've been at this best of all possible agencies. After our esteemed management had increased the workload once again, at the advanced level of the work we do, we were given a one-time only option, if we were meeting our stats., to take a voluntary demotion rather than continuing at the same pay but with the significantly greater duties. I considered it a typical rip-off but could see the handwriting on the wall. If we did not take the demotion but also could not handle the ever increasing workload, they would not hesitate to get rid of us. So, I took it. They have continued to increase our duties anyway, even at the demotion level, with no greater compensation. But many of those who did not accept that demotion "out" have been succumbing right and left since then, overwhelmed by the volume of new casework plus additional training duties. Many have resigned rather than being fired. A few have in fact been terminated. Some have had major health problems, no doubt partly due to the chronic stress under which we are forced to serve out our indenture, hating the jobs but motivated now simply by the carrot of eventual retirement benefits.

This weekend, we shall try to catch up on sleep and may also do the preparatory work on our taxes necessary before giving the records to our accountant.

I learned this week on the radio that the U.S. population is expected to rise to 400 million and that of the globe to 9 billion by mid-century. Meanwhile, global warming seems to be proceeding apace. It seems inevitable that a variety of unintended and somewhat unexpected consequences of population growth and temperature increases will be occurring, few to the benefit of higher forms of life on earth. One example: the West Nile Virus, first noticed having entered the U.S. a year or so ago, deadly to most all bird and mammal species, and causing at least great weakness and sometimes paralysis in humans, has now spread greatly in the Northeast part of continental U.S., affecting so far over sixty species of birds plus many mammals, including horses and cattle. It is now anticipated to have spread across the country in just another three to five years.

3/7/01-Wed.-246 or less workdays remain. How many sub levels of hell must there be? I seem to be exploring them, one by one, each separate shift through my final 300 days "in office." The morning's productivity began well, with a division-wide breakdown of our computer system.

Tonight I very much enjoyed another "The West Wing" episode. I nearly fell asleep, but appreciated it nonetheless. My somnolence was not the program's fault.

On the radio in the car during my nightly commute at a snail's crawl, I listened to another in a succession of very interesting "Fresh Air" interviews with host Terry Gross. Today's airing, at least the part I heard, featured a journalist, Sebastian Junger. His article, "Lion in Winter," comes out in the current issue of National Geographic's Adventure magazine. The title refers to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of guerrilla warfare for control of Afghanistan. The fighting still goes on, even though the Soviets lost and were driven out, much as the U.S. lost in Vietnam in a similarly complex third world vs. superpower military confrontation.

But what struck me most in Junger's comments was his discussion of the fear he had experienced when in the midst of an artillery rocket attack. The rockets were falling and exploding all around him. At first he and the others with him, those who had escorted him in, were semi-protected by deep trenches. But then it became necessary to leave hurriedly, when it was apparent they were also about to receive a ground attack, essentially an overwhelming infantry-style charge on their position. It would have compromised his situation (not to mention his life expectancy) to be caught there. He and his group got away that time but lost one horse as the rockets rained down, smashing and blasting with great, thunderous force . He started imagining what would happen if he were hit by one of those explosions. The answer was that he would simply cease to exist, without even knowing that he had died or how it had happened. For some reason, this existential perspective was more frightening to him than anything else, just the notion that he would in an instant be nothing, that what had been feeling and thinking as himself a moment before would be absolutely gone, having no concept of what had occurred. It was just a moment of focus on our ultimate insignificance. They had plenty of warning. Their spotters could see the rockets taking off ten seconds before they would hit. As each set of ten seconds was counted down, he would get to a point when he would realize that whether he were alive or dead depended on his capacity to still be totally terrified three seconds into the future.

3/9/01-Fri.-244 (or less) workdays remain. A combination of health and job issues, plus inadequate sleep for over a week now, have me feeling worse than at any time since a period of flu and asthma kept me down a couple months last year. Besides the "usual" illness from allergy-related symptoms, an irritant of some kind in my left nostril never seems to get better and has persisted for at least a month now. It is clearly not just a "buger," as I'd suggested in amusement with an earlier entry. I am, overall, feeling rather miserable lately. I very much need a most restful time for awhile. However, with Fran's schedule of late-night performing, likely not even getting back from the opera till about 1:00 A.M. this evening and tomorrow night, taxes work that must be done, the ever-present coughing, sniffling, and other respiratory difficulties, and being still under the gun at work, it appears real relaxation is to be deferred for some time further.

On Friday I have a new appointment with my doctor. His main concern was my cholesterol level. But I'll have a few new topics for discussion. Evidently the visit is none too soon. Of course, I realize that, with extreme fatigue, hypochondria may not be far away! It is just hard at the moment to have the right perspective. The last time I had constipation (an affliction I fortunately have only very occasionally!), I began talking seriously with Fran about what to do with our assets after I had died. Happily, with eventual relief of the condition came release from morbidity!

3/11/01-Sun.-Up before 7 A.M. Doing better physically today. Yea! Still problems, but...

Fran and I this morning finished up the preliminaries of our tax return preparation, with copies made at Office Depot and then final organizing, before Fran will drop the thick package off at our accountant's early this week. Whew! Glad to have that out of the way for one more year.

We also took Pepper for a walk in suburban deer country, but saw no special wildlife this time.

We finished our weekly grocery shopping and went to breakfast at Trudy's, for great Tex-Mex fare. While there it began to rain. We'd left the windows open some, for Pepper; so our seats got a little wet.

Back home, we did a bit of this and that, and then all took naps. In the early afternoon, Fran headed off for the next-to-last of the current opera performances. Pepper and I went over to a shopping center. Left her in the car again while I got a haircut. Then had a snack and coffee at Luby's Cafeteria, before another little walk for her.

There was a quite stunningly beautiful young woman of apparently mixed races (Black, American Indian, Caucasian?) sitting at the closely adjoining table. She was wearing a sheer, translucent, close-fitting dress which, in that light at least, left almost nothing to my vivid imagination. It was hard to keep my eyes averted. The problem was more acute as she had with her an animated girl who was facing me and seemed quite fluent. Though only about three years old, she was carrying on a very grown-up, creative, and eloquent conversation, her amusing comments contrasting with her mother's subdued tones. It would have been simply impolite not to notice and appreciate such a prodigy!

I am reminded of an incident at a department store when I'd been distressed to discover that the lovely clerk at the counter where I'd just gone for help with an item had on a strapless formal dress that did not quite cover her breasts. As I was a little taller than she and felt I needed to pretend not to notice, I found myself looking down at her, seeing everything, and yet having to discuss my purchase needs in a casual manner, as though nothing unusual were going on, though, in fact, Phil's phallus was rearing his lovely head.

In the late 70s, I was hired as a part-time psychometrist, to administer and score standardized test instruments, when I was at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. One of my fellow graduate students, a married woman in her twenties, smart, pretty, and working on her Ph.D., often hung out in the testing lab to do some of her research, as she needed access to the same psychometric library and resources that I used. Sometimes several hours would go by without interruption, while at others many students would be scheduled to be given tests there at the same time. Most often, the lab was empty except for the two of us, about half of the time while she was there. She also often wore a translucent shift. In her case, though, things were even more dicey, as we would frequently be involved in conversation, her garb was more loose fitting than that of my "companion" today, she clearly did not wear a bra, her anatomy was most apparent if she were leaning forward a little, and, most of the time around her, I was horny as hell!

I was trying then to be a careful follower of the strict, moral principles of the Lifestream Way spiritual and meditation path. And I was most aware that she was a married lady. But my inclinations were extremely lustful! She was much too intelligent not to have had an inkling of the effect her assets and attire had on me. I can only assume that in some way she got off on turning me on, despite her marriage vows. I wonder what would have happened had I expressed my admiration for more than just her mind, or admitted that, dressed as she was, I found it hard to keep my hands off her. Had I simply given in to desire, passionately embraced and kissed her, and, if one thing led to another, taken her there in the semi-privacy of our testing lab, who would have been the seducer and who the seduced?

This past week I've been rereading an Association for Humanistic Psychology essay, "Meditation Practice and Research," by Roger Walsh, from their publication, "The Journal of Humanistic Psychology," Winter, 1983, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 18-50. The author was a psychiatrist, scholar, and practitioner of the art of meditation. Inspired anew by his insights, I have been recently spending more time myself sitting quietly, striving for that combination of equanimity, concentration, and awareness that, over time, with practice continued, may be a powerful means of self-transformation. In my own sessions, I avoid as much as possible now the dogma or baggage of any particular religion or path.

3/12/01-Mon.-Intending to simplify my pre-retirement countdown, I'm switching now to months and won't mention the balance in each entry! As of now, 12 months remain at my best of all possible jobs. Today was typically frustrating for the first of the new workweek, with multiple calls and about every third one involving some major complication of the casework load. Still, less than 52 such Mondays remain.

Thanks to ongoing stuffed head (thinking of having it fitted for a museum case), I had a fairly lousy night, though a major thunderstorm's fire- and waterworks display was neat. The latter must have disrupted family life for some nearby opossums. After waking and stretching today, Pepper got a real thrill on venturing into the back yard, while it was still dark out, and promptly treed a young marsupial. It stayed around long enough for Fran, by the dawn's early light, to take several mug shots. Then it found its way out of our property while she and Pepper were off for a ride and then visit to Zilker Botanical Gardens.

Fran is at her final Die Walkure performance tonight and likely won't get back till the wee hours of morning. We gave her dress rehearsal comp. tickets to a couple of professionals who work in or near my building. They were so appreciative that the gentleman, whom I'd not met before but who turns out to be the head chef for a major corporation in our fair land, has invited us to be his guests for lunch. We'll be sampling his vittles tomorrow.

Back later. Maybe I can find the last thing Rip Van Winkle drank before that enviably long nap.

3/15/01-Thurs.-Fran and I had a really nice meal as guests of one of Austin's finest corporate chefs on Tuesday, with specially prepared "turkey-melt" sandwiches, sautéed vegetables, a fruit and vegetable salad medley, spicy fries, drinks, and delicious desserts. Mmm, good!

My latest bout of upper and middle respiratory difficulties continues. I've been sleeping in a separate room from Fran and Pepper for a couple weeks now, to keep from waking her up all night with my coughing, etc. What a nuisance!

A friend of Pete's, a former English major and still seeing himself as fairly literate, has put out a short list, via e-mail, of the best novels in English of all time. Here is his selection:

  1. Ulysses, by James Joyce (also likes this author's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man);
  2. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner (also likes this author's As I Lay Dying);
  3. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison;
  4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov;
  5. Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

3/16/01-Fri.-Talked with my mom by phone the other night. She was pretty upset over the suicide death recently of a friend of hers, only a few months older than I. She had hanged herself and was discovered by her college-age daughter. I suppose the object is simply oblivion, by whatever means; but it seems a brutal way to go. She apparently had been struggling financially already, to cover her own and her daughter's expenses while the latter was at university, when she discovered she had an advanced cancer. Mom speculates that she was so determined not to let her own medical expenses interfere with her daughter finishing an undergraduate degree (one year to go), and feeling that only significant medical treatment could prevent her experiencing major pain and deterioration, likely for the rest of her life, that she felt to kill herself was the best course. There may have been more to it than that. For one thing, she had perhaps never really adjusted to a divorce a couple years earlier, which, in fact, was a major reason for the money problems too. Yet I cannot help wondering whether she'd still be alive, and able to have a more meaningful last several months with her daughter and others who cared about her, much as my brother, Ralph, did with his close family and friends, if our country had a more humane and civilized kind of healthcare system than we do.

I had my cholesterol follow-up appointment today. It was actually just a short lecture or pep-talk from my PCP (primary care physician), Robert. My weight was down five or six pounds since I'd been in for my early January appointment. My blood pressure was also rather good, at 122/62. I am sure, what with the dietary and extra exercise efforts I've been making, that my cholesterol level was closer to ideal as well. But, given the priorities of "managed care," my PCP wasn't concerned enough to even do a new blood check, much less start me on cholesterol-lowering medication. He just pointed out that several times in the last decade I'd had aspects of my lipid profile in the "yellow" cautionary range and that ongoing lifestyle changes were in order, to assure I "don't go through a red light," which I suppose is a euphemism for having a heart attack, itself euphemistic for nearly or actually dying from vital organ failure.

We discussed it. He made out a little chart for me. He said that, given my body habitus, level of health generally, and family history, the only other risk factor I have is being male. (He forgot to mention my asthma.)

Noting how he'd drawn the chart, I observed that we had a far greater cause for concern, that we were both lefties. For left-handed men and women, combined, as compared with the population as a whole, life expectancy is supposed to average seven years shorter, everything else being equal. Robert seemed shocked, closed his eyes, and said "Don't tell me that!"

Later I was talking, at work, with Larry about the odds of living to various ages. He expressed another concern, based on his own family history and the great sadness of watching his formerly brilliant father, though only in his early seventies, go steadily downhill with Alzheimer's disease. (I think Mary has this same angst, after seeing her previously very intelligent mother suffering from the same problem.)There are so many ways to die, some of which do not yet involve actually leaving the land of the living! As Larry said, what is the gain of a healthy heart if it has outlived your brain's usefulness?

This morning, on the way to work after seeing the doctor, I chose a mildly ironic detour, celebrating my cholesterol follow-up chat with Robert by stopping at Trudy's for a relaxed and sinfully good breakfast of coffee, chips with hot sauce, and a migas plate, Trudy's specialty Tex-Mex gourmet offering of spicy eggs with cooked-in veggies and cheese, plus tortillas, refried beans, and hashbrowns. Hot and served up with bountiful helpings of salsa so searing it brings tears to the eyes, this is a feast close to ambrosia!

3/19/01-Mon.-John Philips, the Mamas and Papas composer of such great works as "San Francisco", that Scott McKenzie made famous, has just died, after years of problems with his liver. In the mid-sixties, I found myself briefly marching with Vietnam demonstrators, in Berkeley and San Francisco. At a rally in the former, like Forrest Gump, not quite realizing what he was caught up in, I clambered onto Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus, named "Further", but got off again after awhile, once I realized it was touring the country and not likely to take me to my local stop. Years later, in the seventies, I had a similarly strange connection with Scott McKenzie, in Virginia Beach. We shared some meals and chats and had several meditation friends in common. One of these was the woman he would wed there. She had a great line, psychic or not. When she accidentally ran into his shopping cart with hers at the supermarket, she got a funny look on her face and said "We're going to get married." A few months later they did.

3/21/01-Wed.-Slept a little badly through the night. A reasonably productive workday, though. Home by 5:30 P.M. A busy evening. We went over to the supermarket for 1. makings for a fruit salad for a luncheon at my work tomorrow (Fran graciously making it!); 2. new supplies, with several coupons, for the coffee service I manage on the job; 3. misc. groceries just for us.

Then, I chased Pepper around the house with wadded up tablet paper in her mouth, a game of keep-away, called "paper chase," which she loves.

Later, I shall watch "The West Wing" while giving Fran a mini-massage.

We should not leave today's entry without acknowledging a really significant anniversary: 316 years ago today, Johann S. Bach was born. He's pretty old. If I were that old, maybe I'd be famous! Well, maybe not.

I may also get some meditation in.

Still later this evening, I'll do all the little things, including shaving, that are necessarily done the night before, so I can rush off to work in the morning in time to beat some of the worst of the traffic.

Finally, we'll watch part of a movie I rented over the weekend, Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan."

3/22/01-Thurs.-Spring is usually seen as a time of new beginnings. I am reminded, though, of the supreme irony I felt about the season as I frequently went over to see Ralph, in early 1990, knowing it was his final time and that this, largely bed- and wheelchair-bound period was his end of things, the last down-turn in his fortunes. Then too the stock markets were "heading south," his hard earned investments disappearing into paper loss sinkholes. Now, once again, though as yet for us without the mortal implications, it seems we are undergoing a coincidence of down-turns, a surfeit of loss. To name a few on the national or global scale: 1. preparations are underway for the crash to earth tomorrow of the Russian Mir Space Station, after 15 years of success and scientific achievement in orbit; 2. a more metaphorical but no less substantial crash to more earthly levels is going on in the world's stock markets (as recently detailed by MSN), despite their having attained lofty heights over the past 18 or so years (with even the relatively conservative and stodgy Dow Jones Industrial Average down about 18% from the zenith set over a year ago, and the NASDAQ down about 62% in the last twelve months or so); 3. relations between the U.S. and both Russia and China have begun a major cooling, though as yet they have not descended to the deep freeze levels of the Cold War---but stay tuned; 4. the interests of the average working stiff, as compared with those of large corporations and wealthy supporters of George W. Bush, have been thrown in the cooler; 5. environmental concerns are being shoved aside in favor of the agendas of big business' lobbyists and contributors to the Republican Party; 6. the carrot is being replaced with the club in our dealings with many of our allies (Europe, Japan, etc.), and with the jack boot when it comes to interactions with other "lesser" countries and peoples, whether the matter involves Africa, Iraq, Korea, the Palestinians, the Balkans, etc.; 7. the U.S. economy, and with it that of the world as a whole, is in a period of slowing or decline. Overall, it seems a time of lowering expectations and of actual entropy, the fulfillment of the maxim that what goes up must come down, the realization of the law that things fall apart, that at least as prevalent in the universe as organization is a tendency toward dissolution, diminishment, and degradation.

But this may not be as harsh and negative a time as appears. A pulling back is required periodically in the world's financial dealings and markets to help assure they cleanse themselves of waste, becoming more efficient for the next leg up of future prospects. Indeed, when the stocks are as down as now may be a very good period in which to begin to buy. Generally, each time the DJIA has been down at least 10 percent from its year ago level, it has, within a year or two, rebounded substantially. Its level on 3/22/00 was 10,835. It closed today at just 9389, a drop of over 13% from its year ago level. Of course, in the Great Depression, many investors tempted to get back into the fray lost over ninety percent, as the markets then resumed their descent, eventually to almost unheard of levels of devaluation.

3/25/01-Sun..-We got up, both yesterday and today, a little before 7 A.M. and went for walks not long after. Today we also did our weekly grocery shopping before returning home. I mowed the front yard. A pleasantly cool front came through on Sat., bringing a short thunderstorm and strong winds. By today, though, the weather is magnificent, sunny and with high temperatures in the 50s. Fran has an Austin Symphony rehearsal tonight for a concert next weekend of, among other pieces, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which opened the movie "2001- A Space Odyssey." She says it is a lot of fun to play, as, indeed, I can imagine! She says that she'll get a comp. ticket for me for the performance next Sat. night.

My 1988 Toyota Tercel, which had about 30,000 miles on it when I bought it for $3300 in 1990, after my VW beetle had finally gone kaput when I'd had it for sixteen years, has just turned 120,000 miles on its odometer. It still runs quite well, though parts of the system under the hood are held together with twisties and bungee cord.

3/29/01-Thurs.-Another colleague of mine, though admitting he cannot afford to be no longer working, this week resigned his position of many years at the same agency where I work. He went out with a small personal gesture of pique. Since, under the current regime, he was another in danger of being fired, he elected not to have any traditional send-off. Instead, he called one of our employees' more popular radio stations on Tuesday, his last shift, and asked them to play a song for him, dedicating it to all the rest of us who still must remain there. The DJ was only too happy to comply and, from various cubicles through the building, you could then hear Johnny Paycheck's tenor voice uplifted in sonorous melody, singing the 1977 country hit, "Take This Job and Shove It!" A right proper parting. I was impressed.

3/30/01-Fri.-In the last week, our yard, dog, and house have become infested with fleas, a big nuisance. After several efforts, which, unfortunately, have not been even close to completely successful in eradicating the pests, I was tonight checking out web sites on the subject. This page, Ridding Your Home of Fleas, was the best I found. The problem has become so severe that we were both up with a frantic Pepper, about 1 A.M. last night, dealing with fleas in the dog's ears as well as all over her belly and nether regions, this despite already for years having her on Program flea pills, which, in her case now, seem to be essentially ineffective. We've also been battling with house sprays, Sevin dust, special shampoos, an obnoxious ointment that is applied to Pepper's back, Fran picking the beasts off Pepper by the dozen (and pinching them to death with her nails), and sprinklings of salt on tile floors and carpet. This last is supposed to keep the eggs from hatching. We do not know if it works but will try most anything at this point, that is neither too expensive nor likely to be terribly hazardous to our own or Pepper's health.

I was quite disappointed that "Gladiator" did not win for best film score in the Academy Awards this past Sunday. In my opinion it is far superior to the score for the movie that did get that award. I'll not even bother naming the film that was the undeserved "winner." I can take some comfort at least that my favorite did achieve best picture status and so will be seen, and heard, more than the usurper. To me, while "Gladiator" was not a stunningly great movie, it was ahead of the candidate pack.

This past few days were marred for me by a new intrusion of Pete's hostility into our lives. He called one evening to try to wrest an apology from me for having implied he was a "drunkard," which I never said, after he had used some of our e-mail addresses, without permission, to send, with his own e-mails, a bunch of angry, curse-filled verbiage, that he regards as art, to a number of people, including some fundamentalist Christian teenagers and Fran's folks. That he has never sincerely apologized to us or Fran's parents but has the gall to maintain an ongoing temper tantrum about my briefly having objected to his behavior, weeks ago, just after the incident, is particularly irritating. Pete seemed cute, as the "baby of the family," through much of my adult life. I realized this week, at long last, that he is not cute anymore. As Queen Victoria might have said, "We are not amused!"

3/31/01-Sat.-We went to the Austin Symphony Orchestra concert tonight. Fran was playing. I used one of her comp. tickets. As usual the Bass Concert Hall acoustics were great, even on the highest heavenly balcony, to which comp. ticket holders are ushered. The music tonight was superb, and included, most spectacularly, guest artist Leon Fleisher, playing piano for Brahms' "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83," and Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30."

During the intermission, Fran was talking with some of her fellow musicians. Somehow the topic became feral pigs. It seems that some huge porkers, between 400-500 pounds each of wild boars and sows, have been on their own in rural areas near Austin. One of the musicians' friends had an encounter with one recently. It broke into her backyard and was rooting around, tearing up the turf and gardens. Some "sowboys" (my term - cute, huh!?) were called in who set a huge trap and, during the night, one of these huge creatures was caught. She said it was so aggressive they had to shoot it on the spot. But the upside was that it was quickly butchered, dressed, and turned into an abundant supply of fresh and frozen hams and pork chops for the lady.

They talked too of a wild flock of aggressive, territorial emus, that has even been terrorizing people around a small community west of our fair city. They're not sure if this is a true story; but it was told as one. By coincidence, at lunch today, Fran and I were discussing encounters with animals to which we'd least be inclined and, among several others, she mentioned wild sows, noted for their violent tendencies, while I referred to large birds like ostriches and emus, which, with one powerful slash, could open a man's belly, if they took such a notion.

Fran's been reading an article in the latest "Scientific American." It includes a description that seems to fit Pete and his recent behavior to a tee, detailing the characteristics of folks with narcissistic personality disorders. Such individuals have an inflated, tenuous, and thus very defensive, sense of self-worth and can become highly vehement in their reactions when their unrealistic impressions of themselves are challenged.

Once back home and in the relaxed setting of our master bedroom, Fran and I tested tonight whether the above mentioned Strauss music, which was earlier used to open the Stanley Kubrick movie, "2001 - A Space Odyssey," still has the power to excite. It proved quite stimulating. (I think the work also does not have any of the medical side-effects of Viagra.)

STEPS / Main Page / Index / previous / next