My Coronabeard

Beard

I have never been a beard guy. Facial hair yes, as I have worn either a mustache or mustache and goatee for more than half of my adult life. But a beard? It’s never been my style.

I grew one during the winter of my junior or senior year in college, primarily because I wanted to see what it would look like and, because I went to school in Maine, I thought it might keep my face warm during the winter semester.

It did keep the face warm, but I got rid of it after a couple of months for several reasons. The first was because it was much redder than my hair. Not carrot top red, but I didn’t like having my hair one color and my beard another. It wasn’t a good look.

The second reason is that my facial hair had the feel and texture of steel wool. If the color wasn’t bad enough, having a face that felt like it was encased in Brillo added to my lack of enthusiasm.

Lastly, I simply thought I looked my better without it, and as a hormonal college student, I avoided anything that might make me look less attractive to the coeds. So off it came, never to see the light of day again. That was close to forty years ago.

As you may remember from my last post, once I learned I would not be able to get my hair cut for the indefinite future, I vowed not to shave either, so the beard is back.  I figured, why not go for the hippie look? That was something I never had the balls to do as a teen because I was not the rebellious sort. I’m still not, but since I am working from home and we aren’t socializing, I’m curious to see how long both can get, and what that will look like.

The hair has a loooonnnnngggg way to go before I can say I have flowing locks because I had a short cut a few weeks ago. I also wonder how “flowing” the locks will actually become. As a person in his early sixties, my hair is much thinner than it used to be, my hairline has receded a LOT, and a bald spot has emerged on the back of my head. So how long can it actually get? Will it flow and look decent, or will it look like I stuck a wet finger in a live electrical socket? I guess time will tell.

The beard has been growing for a couple of weeks now, and it is no surprise that it is  mostly white. At least it blends better with my hair color now. And thankfully it is past the itching stage. For a couple of days it felt like I had ants crawling on my neck, and it was driving me a little cuckoo.

There’s no doubt the decision to grow the beard was an impulsive one, but there is a definite logic behind it.

While I would never consider myself a control freak, the element of control was the primary factor. Let’s face it. Our lives have been turned upside down and we are living in Bizzarro World. How long this lasts, and how much emotional and financial havoc it will wreak is unknown.  Hopefully, if we’re smart and take this seriously, we won’t succumb to the virus and will get past the worst of it reasonably soon. But since a quick and successful outcome depends in large part on everyone singing off the same sheet of music, which we know isn’t currently happening in The States, the truth is there is very little we can control about this situation.

Perhaps the idea of control has always been a myth, and we were living under the illusion that we have some control over our lives and destiny, but that illusion is clearly shattered for the time being. We are adrift and, like a sailboat on the open seas in the middle of a hurricane, we are hanging on the best we can, trying not to get swept up in the maelstrom. Therefore anything we can control, no matter how minute, is a welcome respite in this out of control environment.

That is why I chose to grow the beard. It’s my choice. I can keep it if I want, get rid of it, trim it, change its shape, and essentially do anything with it that I please. Everything about the beard is 100% within my control. It is the only thing in my life I can say that about right now. Of course, if K can’t stand it I might have to reconsider, but that might be a different story for a different time.

The other reason for growing the beard and hair is that when this is finally over, their respective lengths and degree of unruliness will be a living testimony for how long we had to endure. Now that the United States leads the world in verified COVID 19 infections (and we’re just getting started), I suspect I’ll be growing both for a while. New York City is the epicenter of the virus, and guess what state not only borders New York and NYC, but has many residents that commute to the big apple for work?

You guessed it! Connecticut! The southwest corner of the state, the one across the border from NYC, is getting hammered, and the virus is sweeping from west to east, mostly along the coast but its tentacles are inching north as well. We have over 1,200 confirmed cases so far, and that number doubles every two or three days. I believe I read that our state is in the top five as far as the number of infections per capita, which only fuels the belief that it will be a while before the worst is over.

I just hope I don’t look like a geriatric Grizzly Adams when that day comes.

 

 

 

Adjusting To The New Reality

Yawn

Now that I have accepted and come to terms with our new reality, the visceral fear that emerged when it became clear what we are dealing with has subsided, and I’m adapting. My priorities are in order, what is important is clear, and we are ready for the long haul that awaits.

In some ways, I embrace the simplicity of our new daily existence, but I can already tell that the two things that will be the hardest to adjust to are the isolation and boredom that come with it.

Maybe that is why I am calling and texting more. It’s comforting to hear familiar voices and talk about how we are and what we are doing. but it still doesn’t compensate for the fact that our worlds have shrunk and the physical human interaction we crave will not return for quite some time.  Perhaps it will never be the same.

I was never one who thought they would enjoy working from home all of the time, and that has been proven true. Not that I’m not grateful that I can work from home, but I always thought I would feel disconnected from our team, and I was right. I enjoy what I do, and knew I enjoyed the people I work with, but never appreciated how much until now. I miss them.

Boredom is a different animal. I’m in the house for probably 95% of the day on average. I work from home, and only venture to public places when I absolutely need something, so it is easy to get cabin fever and a little stir crazy. There is little difference now between a week day and weekend, which is really bizarre. The rebel in me wants to throw caution to the wind, give the virus the big middle finger, and live my life as though nothing has changed. It’s a nice fantasy, but I’m not stupid.

Perhaps that is why I go outside every day for at least a little while, and why on sunny days I will get in the car and drive. It’s important to see the world and know how people are adjusting to the new normal. The one thing I learned this weekend is that while you don’t see people outside like you used to, the one place you can still find them is at the golf course.

Boredom is also the reason why after months of inactivity, I hit the exercise equipment on most days. I like to feel my heart pumping, the sweat on my forehead, and the ache of my muscles because it makes me feel alive, and is another way to take care of and fortify my body. The results are nice too. My upper body is a little tighter, I feel more fit and I have lost seven pounds to boot!

But other things have evolved. I’m writing more, which is never a bad thing, as another way of feeling connected. I’m evening toying with the idea of starting novel number two in earnest, but we will see how that goes.

I’m trying to follow world events more to stay informed, but am avoiding most national network news programs because I find it depressing. Learning through print media is less sensational and dramatic, and we could all use less drama in our lives right now.

I have also decided not to shave or cut my hair until this is over. The hair cutting decision was made for me, as all barber and hair salon establishments are considered non-essential and have closed in our state. So I figured, what the hell? Why not stop shaving too. I’m curious to see how long everything will grow, and if I can actually grow a ponytail (although I am sure K will ultimately have something to say about that). It will be interesting to see if I look like Grizzly Adams when everything is said and done. It’s a different way of documenting how long our lives were disrupted by this episode in our collective history.

The only downside to this that my beard is almost entirely white, and it is starting to itch like a mother. The white/grey doesn’t bother me because it has been that way for a while. Having said that, I suspect that we will see everybody’s natural hair color when this is over, not to mention different hair styles.

I’m hoping that I will come up with other quirky things like this to amuse myself and combat the boredom, and would love to know if any of you are doing something similar.

Hey, whatever gets you through the day.

Another Line of Defense?

Red Cross

I just got off the phone with my neurologist, who said that besides the fact we know this virus is susceptible to soap (thus the need for constant hand washing), there is also some indication it may be susceptible to heat that exceeds 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So place a towel around your heads, put your head above a bowl of steaming water and inhale through your nose. The theory is that the heat will kill anything that settled into your nasal tract before it can get to your lungs.

I don’t know what the CDC or WHO has to say about this, but it certainly could not hurt, makes sense, and is drug free. I know this will become a part of my daily routine.

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Kind of War

War

When I last wrote, I somewhat flippantly said it wasn’t as if a nuclear blast was imminent, and mockingly asked if people would resort to wearing garlic necklaces. How things have changed during these last twelve days.

I now have enough food and supplies to last the better part of a month, completing that endeavor by hitting the package store and dispensary yesterday. I have been working from home since Monday, for which I am grateful. I am not living like a hermit, and continue to venture outside to get essential items when necessary. I also meander outside the house on sunny days, following the social distancing protocols to the letter.  Still, the experience is surreal to say the least.

What I have experienced more than anything else these last two weeks, is how my perception and perspective of things have changed. I have habitually looked ahead, and planned for stuff months in advance, primarily because it gives me something to look forward to. Now my focus is literally day to day. Many things that were important seem trivial by comparison, and my priorities are where they should probably have always been. I care about what is happening in the global markets, but am not obsessed by it. It sucks that this pandemic hit while I was trying to sell my house, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. At least I have an empty spot to use as quarantine headquarters if that becomes necessary. Sports has always been my passion, but I don’t care when or if any of the seasons resume. I have been diligent in my proactive MS treatment, but am seriously considering suspending all of it for two to three months.

All I care about is the health of my friends and family, and hope that we are all still here come 2021. Talk about a stark, sobering reality.

I fortunately have never had to experience the horrors of war, but lets not kid ourselves. We are neck deep into one. There isn’t any lead flying, and we don’t have to be afraid of the metal hitting the meat when we step outside, but this war involves projectiles that you can’t see, which is more unnerving when you think about it. I feel for those who suffer from anxiety in general because if I were an anxious person by nature, I would be constantly afraid that a person in my line of sight might be one of them, as if they were part of The Walking Dead, or that there was an invisible cloud of viral death lurking in pockets of air outside.  Rationally, I know that is not the case, and that by keeping the appropriate social distance and washing my hands constantly, I am safe. To say however I’m not anxious at all would be a lie.

I don’t blame our government for not preventing this because that was impossible. What I do blame them for however is not taking it seriously, preparing for it and at least ensuring that what was needed to test and treat once this hit was in place. They have failed miserably in that regard, continue to do so, and still mislead the public by painting rosy pictures about drugs that don’t exist, and that help in the forms of supplies and equipment is on the way. As citizens we are dependent on our Governors to take charge, and many of them are rising to the occasion, but it is tragic we have to resort to this. Working in the healthcare field, I know that front line staff is running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) and we still don’t have enough test kits. It feels like we are living in a the midst of a Stephen King novel. I just hope people remember this come November.

Unfortunately, we are not alone, as this brilliant piece by Bojana illustrates. God help us.

I am trying to appreciate the little things in life, like a glorious sunrise and sunset, sitting on our deck, and enjoying what nature has to offer.  As sometime who has been married for over 30 years, I am spending more quality time with K than I have in a long time, and enjoying every minute of it.  I am actually reaching out to friends and family more than before because I appreciate them more and because it is a way to feel connected as we isolate ourselves socially. It’s a pity it took something this catastrophic to make that happen.

I know that the large majority of us will not get sick, and that the majority who do will survive this. But what a sad and miserable way to go for those who don’t. I believe that we will see the good in people more than the bad as we all work together for the common good, and hope that feeling of brotherhood and community survives this crisis. Everyone needs to sacrifice and follow the social distancing protocols so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, like they are now in Italy and are starting to in New York City. If that occurs were are all truly fucked.

It is time to hunker down, follow the rules, hope that the worst will be over soon, and most importantly, survive.

I beg you all to do the same.

 

 

 

Preparing For The Apocalypse

Virus

No, this isn’t another post about the 2020 elections….

I don’t typically watch or follow the news that much because of the hype and hysteria that accompany most things considered newsworthy, but I made an exception about the Coronavirus, following its spread throughout Asia and Europe before it landed on our shores. Now that is has permeated our borders, I’ve watched its track from west to east, all the while trying not to get upset about this Administration’s lack of preparedness, their spin that minimizes the risk and characterizes it as more fake news and, well, I’m not going to get into that.

In our state, whenever the forecast calls for snow, even if the projected totals are minor, people go nuts and raid the grocery stores, as if a blizzard is coming and we will all be stuck in our homes for an indefinite span. I typically roll my eyes at this kind of freak-out, and have often wondered what would happen if something really  monumental were to occur. Well, these last several days have confirmed what I thought all along. The apocalypse is upon us. How else would you explain that sales of Corona beer have tanked since the outbreak.

Not that I am minimizing the gravity of what is going on, but seriously. It’s not like a nuclear blast is imminent.

I refused to get caught up in the hysteria as I watched confirmed cases of the virus reported in Florida, Maryland, Washington DC and New York. It was a matter of time before something was reported in Connecticut, which finally happened on Friday. Still, I  didn’t take the bait. It wasn’t until yesterday morning when I read that the Governor of New York had declared as state of emergency that I relented.  Assuming that something similar would occur in our state sooner than later, we bit the bullet and decided to stock up as much as  possible in the event there was a run on the grocery stores, or a state of emergency was declared in this state that curtailed our activity.

I hit several drug stores to find that the shelves that typically contained disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers were empty. The same went for rubbing alcohol. Fortunately, I then traveled to our local grocer’s to see if I could at least find the alcohol, which I did, but also discovered a recent shipment of the disinfectant wipes, so I grabbed a half-dozen of those.

My next step was to go to a Stop and Shop the next town over to stock up on non-perishable foodstuffs and as many paper products I could find. Kleenex was plentiful, but toilet paper and paper towels were not. Bleach was missing, not to mention various cleaners and any Purell or Lysol/Clorox wipes. A lot of the shelves that are normally brimming with items like rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal, were picked over.

Then I went to the local meat market to stock up, and even though I got what I wanted, they didn’t have as much I typically see.

So even though I felt a little silly about buying two months worth of product, I think it will turn out to be a smart idea because the situation I described will only get worse as the numbers of reported cases grow.

Our new reality is very strange indeed. As a society, we are used to to seeing a doctor and getting a shot, but there is no vaccine to be had, and won’t be for months. Instant gratification is not an option, so we have to revert to the old fashion way of treating this: isolate and contain. This makes perfect sense, although I have to admit I would be super worried and pissed if I had a parent in a nursing home and was prohibited from seeing them, as is the case in some states.

It’s a brave new world for most of us, so of course the immediate reaction is to overreact. I read this morning that some manufacturers of sanitizers and wipes said no product will be available until May. I also read where the company that distills Tito’s Vodka implored people not to use it for hand-made hand sanitizers because it only has 40% alcohol.  People really are losing their minds over this. What’s next, wearing garlic necklaces?

Yes, this is a serious thing, but it isn’t a death sentence. Less than 2% of the people who contract it succumb from it, and many believe the percentage is much less than that because not everyone has been identified. Elderly folks (defined as over 60 – when did that happen) and anyone with a respiratory condition are the high risk groups, and need to be vigilant. This puts me in the high risk group, which I wasn’t thrilled to learn. My eighty four year old mother-in-law lives with us in the apartment we made downstairs, and she is more vulnerable than me because she has COPD. So we will be careful with and protect her as much as possible, while I try not to be reckless or stupid.

As someone with MS, I’m not overly concerned about my health because the nature of the illness is an overactive auto-immune system that cannibalizes the body. Given the fact that I rarely get a sniffle anymore, I figured that would provide an extra level of protection should I mistakenly come into contact with the virus. But, I am scheduled for an Ocrevus infusion on Friday, and since that is designed to suppress the immune system, I’m wondering if it might be wise to defer it for a bit, and am waiting for a reply from my neurologist. My guess is that he will say to get the infusion, but work from home for a while afterwards just to be safe. I’m good with that.

So here we are, hunkering down with a house full of supplies as if it were the dark of winter with several feet of snow outside, instead of early March with today’s temps sniffing 70. I admit that I’m wondering how wise it is to attend events with large groups of people. I’m supposed to go to a couple of Red Sox games in April, and wonder how much risk I would incurr by travelling on the T (Boston’s subway system) or attending the game.

I think the decision not to go will be made for me because I would not be shocked if health officials ban the public from attending such events. After all, soccer matches in Italy will go on without any fans in the stands for a month. There have already been a handful of college sporting events here in the northeast that went on as scheduled but the public was prohibited from attending. It makes you wonder what will happen to March Madness, or the Tokyo summer olympics.

It also makes you wonder how political candidates really feel about going to campaign events and shaking all those hands. I cetainly wouldn’t be digging it.

It is going to be a wild ride. I just hope that we don’t get to the point where one can’t go anywhere, stores, schools, and restaraunts get shut down, and people’s ability to get everyday products are compromised. I also hope we don’t see price gouging, or, if things were to get really bad, looting.

Guess we’ll find out. Meanwhile, I really need to stop looking what is happening to the stock markets, my investments and 401K. That will make me sick faster than anything else.

 

 

 

My Winter of Discontent

eeyore

Winter has never been my favorite season. I can’t skate to save my life, and other than a short foray into cross-country skiing that died of natural causes due to lack of trails, I’ve never skied. So the normal diversions fans of winter enjoy to break up these long, cold, dark months have never been something I’ve embraced, not that it would matter now with my leg and balance issues. Winter therefore has been a season to be tolerated, not enjoyed.

This year has not been an exception, but what is different is the funk I find myself in. I’ve  been in such a foul mood lately I don’t even like myself.

As an optimistic, glass-half-full kind of guy. I normally meander through the first three months of the year in hibernation mode at an even keel, biding my time until the temperatures heat up and the buds start to bloom. Not this year, however.  Rather than proactively navigating the stormy winter seas, I find myself trying to steer this ship with a broken rudder and an inoperable compass.

I’m sure the natural letdown from the relentless pace we experienced during the construction and moving process has something to do with it, but it isn’t that simple. There are a number of factors at play that have conspired to suppress the optimism that typically begins to surface as we reach the end of February.

I’m sure the fact the house remains unsold plays a large part in this, but it didn’t bother me too much until now. The peak selling period is on the horizon, so you’d think I have a pep in my step and feel good about getting out from under this albatross. But real estate is one thing K and I have had never had good luck with, and I can’t help but wonder if that trend will continue. I didn’t worry too much about it these last three months because I never expected anything to happen.  But it feels real now, and the thought of being stuck with the status quo is driving me nuts.

Then there is the weather. It’s been a weird winter here in southern New England, because there hasn’t been much winter weather to speak of. There has only been one named winter storm when by now we’d usually have at least a half dozen. Our combined winter snowfall hasn’t even reached a foot where I live,  and it hasn’t been super cold either. In fact, I think this is one of the warmer winters we’ve had in recent memory, so you’d think I’d be on cloud nine.

The problem is that while the winter has been an easy one so far, it has also been a very wet and cloudy one. The sun has rarely been out for extended periods of time and the rain has contributed to a dampness that permeates everything. It’s amazing how one’s mood is impacted by sunshine and brightness, and all this winter has taught me is  that I could never live in the pacific northwest.

We’re going to be putting the house on the market again soon, and I can’t escape the feeling that all the winter weather that we have so far avoided will become unleashed as soon as that For Sale sign goes up. That would be the icing on the cake.

Then there is all the craziness going on in our national politics. Nobody has a good word to say about anyone or anything, a sense of lawlessness exists that I’ve never experienced before, and we will be deluged with this shit for another eight months. The democrats can’t get their act together, and are in the process of squandering a golden opportunity to lighten the mood in this country, while the Republicans are openly disparaging anyone who does not share their world view. This election will be the meanest, nastiest, ugliest, dirtiest campaign I’ve ever witnessed. I wish I could sleep through it.

I also feel fat, even though my weight hasn’t changed all that much since Christmas. I’d like to be ten to fifteen pounds lighter because it can only help my mobility, but I’m not motivated in the least to actively diet. I’ve started working out more, so perhaps that will help, but the fact is snacking at night is one of the few pleasures I enjoy, and consuming nothing but low-fat, low-salt goodies just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s a double-edged sword.

Lastly, the one thing that has always sustained me during these bleak months, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training, hasn’t been anything to celebrate. Baseball is embroiled in the kind of scandal it hasn’t seen since the 1919 Black Sox, and my beloved Red Sox are getting swept up in it. The investigation into their role in the cheating scandal was supposed be completed by now, but it seems like it will drag out for another couple of weeks because of a “new development”. We’ve already lost our manager, and who the hell knows what other penalties and disdain are coming. It’s put a taint on the magical season that was 2018, and always will regardless of whether our actions pale in comparison to what Houston did.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, we just traded our best player, a generational talent who is perhaps the second best player in all of baseball, because of financial considerations. This coming from a team and organization that is worth billions of dollars. It’s poured buckets of cold water on a season that hasn’t even started, and has resigned most of us into thinking that the team has no chance of winning anything this year. Swell.

Of course, this could, and probably will, be a blip on the horizon come spring. The house will be sold and the economic binds that currently tie our hands will be removed. The skies will brighten, the weather will improve, and since most New Englanders expect the Red Sox to be not only the worst team in baseball, but a joyless team to watch, they will probably exceed expectations and surprise us all. The 2020 elections? Well, three out of four isn’t bad.

But until this becomes reality, my ship will continue to be tossed wildly on the turbulent seas. It will keep taking on water while I try to find something to extricate myself from this neck-deep malaise. Writing used to be an avenue where I could purge myself of whatever was bothering me, but that isn’t working either. All this whining I’ve spent the last hour committing to paper has done is make me feel worse because I’ve never admired people who whine, bitch and moan. My attitude has been to suck it up because nobody wants to hear your problems, and it could always be worse. I need to follow my own advice.

So my quest is to find a way to take the initiative and begin controlling my environment instead if it controlling me. The question is how.

Maybe it’s time for a brownie.

 

 

.

Brownies

Brownies

I wrote extensively about my foray into the world of medical marijuana in 2018, but after penning five posts from July 2018 to November 2018,  I didn’t want to come across as the High (no pun intended) Priest of Pot, and haven’t talked about it since. That doesn’t mean I’ve fallen off the bandwagon, however.

During my almost two years of being on the state’s program, I’ve tried a number of what I guess you would call delivery systems. The old stand-by has always been the mini-vapes, primarily because they are the most affordable (which is especially important seeing I still haven’t sold my house), and because I can control the dosage.  My one concern about vaping is the fact that I am inhaling shit into my lungs that doesn’t belong there, so I have tried other forms of the product to see if I could replicate the experience and get the same results.

These other forms have ranged from edibles to pills. Pills, which were almost as affordable as the mini-vapes, were a miserable failure because they were too strong and left me feeling paranoid for a long period of time. The edibles (honey) were expensive and tough to dose.  I would put it in a cup of tea, but either used too much (more paranoia) or too little. So I stopped looking for other alternatives until the other day when I saw something new on the menu.

Hello Brownie Bites! Where have you been all my life?

If it wasn’t for the cost, I would ditch the vapes and gobble these treats exclusively. Unfortunately, they are the same price as the vapes, but where the vapes last a month, the number of brownies dispensed last only a week. Having said that, the experience is far superior to anything I have tried.

The great thing about these bite-sized goodies, besides the fact that they taste great and have no aftertaste whatsoever, is that the feeling you get is very consistent and mellow. The vapes by comparison come on strong, then recede to a pleasant plateau before fading away completely. And if you aren’t paying attention, one can take too much and experience the same paranoia as with the pills and honey, except it doesn’t last nearly as long.

Brownies sneak up on you. You get a warm sensation, and shortly therafter the warmth and relaxation spreads throughout the body. All of a sudden it dawns on you that you have a complete head and body buzz. The feeling isn’t overpowering, and your body and soul are completely relaxed. Talk about Nirvana! Anyone who suffers from anxiety would love them.

The other positive is that the sensation lasts three to four hours and there are no peaks and valleys. It’s like talking a slow, smooth elevator up a very tall building before coming back down in the same smooth, deliberate manner.  You don’t feel sloppy, and could interact with people without acting or sounding like you are stoned. It’s also inconspicuous because it’s food. You could pop one in your mouth in front of anyone and nobody would be the wiser.

And while this could be my imagination, I swear I walked better and more confidently the two times I have tried them.

So I have definitely found a winner, one that I will use to supplement the vapes to give my lungs a break. I just wish there was more stuff like this at a more affordable price. Of course, I could economize and reduce the frequency in which I use the stuff, but why bother? Like the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

 

 

 

 

Reliving The Dream

scream

If you remember the movie Groundhog Day, Bill  Murray’s character (Phil, the local TV weatherman) kept waking up on that day, and relives it over and over and over again. During this process he evolves from a selfish, ego-centric asshole to someone who respects people, cares about others, and is actually likeable. He finds himself falling in love with Andie MacDowell’s character, and wants to become someone she can love in return, hence the transformation.

I bring this up because my quest to become published has made me feel the same sense of deja vu Phil experienced. The dream is an endless loop that brings me back to the same place, and never arrives at a conclusion.

I first wrote about getting published  back in May of 2018. I had hopes 2018 would be the year it would happen, but the process really didn’t get started in earnest until early 2019. I had to re-edit the manuscript for what felt like the thousandth time, and once that was completed the manuscript was sent to a bunch of publishing houses. I believed this was the end of the process and was confident that 2019 would be the year. I was wrong.

Early last month I got the word from my agent that the feedback she had been receiving was that as a first-time author, the publishers would not consider looking at a manuscript that exceeded 85,000 words.

The original draft had approximately 150,000 words. When my agent first took a gander at it, she said it had to be 100,000 words or less, otherwise nobody would look at it. So I spent months revising the thing, and after several iterations got it down to a little less than 100,000. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned I had to go through this all over again.

My initial reaction, which I never expressed, was “Are you shitting me?!” I was pissed. Chopping 15,000 words from a manuscript you think is tight is no easy feat. In fact, I thought it impossible. But I hadn’t looked at the manuscript for close to eight months, and it turns out it wasn’t as tight as I thought.

My first effort netted a savings of maybe 5,000 words, but that wasn’t good enough. So the second time I was more ruthless and thought I hit the magic number, but only got it down to 87,000.

If I’m honest, this is a far superior version because there was a lot of fluff in what I thought was the final edition. This one is much tighter and the story doesn’t lose a thing, so perhaps there is a method to this madness. But now I have to read it one final time (hopefully) and see if there are any other pieces of text that don’t really add to the story that can be removed. The resulting outcome will have to be good enough.

This process really sucks, if for no other reason than the fact that I have read this thing from beginning to end at least 100 times and am tired of it. It wasn’t so bad during the first go-around in December, but this will be the third revision in a month. I’m so sick of looking at it I’m tempted to burn the thing and be done with it, but I can’t and won’t. I’ve invested too much time in the process to give up now. Hopefully this does the trick.

The only silver lining to this is that I have an excuse for not starting a second novel, the storyline of which has been in my head of almost a year. If and when that process starts, I’d like to think I’ve learned enough from this experience not to have to write and re-write it as many times. If that’s not the case, maybe I should wait until I retire so I can devote myself to this full-time.

Age or MS?

faucet

I don’t complain about getting older. There’s no point to it, and besides, it beats the alternative. But one annoying and frustrating symptom has become exponentially worse lately, and I’m wondering how much of it has to do with MS.

As men age, it is not uncommon for us to have to urinate more often. From what I understand, the prostate increases in size and presses against the urethra, which prevents us from fully emptying our bladders. So when I found myself going more often at night and during the day, I wasn’t surprised. Besides, there is medication that helps remedy the problem, and when I first started taking these meds it definitely helped. But now these meds are as useful as tits on a bull.

To put it bluntly, I can’t hold my water, am constantly dealing with what I refer to as a leaky faucet, and it is driving me out of my mind. I have to wear pads to absorb the drips (and sometimes more than a drip) and have a urinal in my car in case the need becomes extreme and I’m not anywhere near a bathroom. I’m guessing that I’ve had to pull over and use it a dozen times over the past year.

I had the unpleasant experience of dealing with a kidney stone that had to be surgically removed a couple of years ago. It came as a complete surprise, and I hope to never experience it again. My urologist told me that if I didn’t consume a ton of salt (I don’t) and drink around 100 ounces of water a day (I didn’t), I would never see him again. From then on my water consumption jumped from practically nothing to that magic number. Keep in mind that water does not include coffee or beer.

So I know part of the reason I pee all the time is because my bladder is always full. But there is more to it than that.

First you should know that I typically start work between 5:30 and 6:00, and the first thing I do when I arrive in the office is get a cup of coffee (12 oz). Once that is consumed I start filling my mug with hot water, and consume 100 ounces between seven and noon. During that time I make the trek from my desk to the men’s room every half hour or so. Once the 100 ounces is consumed I don’t drink anything.

So, the other day I made three stops to the men’s room after my last mug of water, including as I was leaving the office for the trip home. Keep in mind it had been over three hours since I drank any liquid of any kind.

When I arrived home, 45 minutes later, I had to rush to the bathroom because the faucet was dripping. Then I went to the basement to work out on a recumbent bike I have, and had to inturrupt my workout after 20 minutes because I had to go again. Then after I returned and finished my routine (less than fifteen minutes later), I found that I had to go again once I got into a standing position. Once upstairs I sat for a while before getting up to set the dinner table, and had to go yet again. To make a long story short, I had to pee seven times in less than three hours, and this was long after I consumed any liquid.

It seems that anytime I go from a sitting to upright position, or do anything that could get things chruning, I have to go. Immediately! It’s as if gravity triggers the need to void whatever is in my bladder, and since my muscle control down there is much worse since the MS, the faucet begins to drip. If I don’t attend to it, it will become a flood. Fortuantely that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s maddening. I literally have to plan my day and where I might be going around the amount of liquid I’ve consumed and whether there is a bathroom I can use. I hate using the pads, but need them all the time. Who wants to feel wet all day long or, even worse, walk arond with a wet spot in a place it doesn’t belong? On the days I have my plasma transfers, I literally can’t drink anything for at least two hours prior to the procedure, because once it starts I can’t get up and aren’t supposed to move my arms. The dilemma is water helps fatten the veins, which makes them easier to find.

Age and MS are probably both at work here. I am obviously not emptying the chamber whenever I go (age), but the frequency and urgency in which the need arises is because I can’t hold anything (MS). It’s as if there is nothing to stop the flow once I stand up, which is maddening for someone who used to be be able to hold it all day long if necessary.

At least I don’t have this issue when it comes to empyting the intestines, which I know can be problematic for folks with MS. I don’t even want to contemplate what that would be like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics

The tick bites the person, sucked deep under the skin.

We often hear this word thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? I looked it up the other day and wasn’t satisfied with the standard definition, so I broke the word down, conducted an out-of-the-box word search and learned that the word politics comes from the Greek word Poly, which means many, and tics, which are arachnids that feed of the blood of mammals and other creatures: in other words, many bloodsuckers. Yep, that sounds about right.

Before you start thinking this is going to be a diatribe on any specific person or political party, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You might see something like that as we draw closer to November 2020, but not today. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am socially liberal but fiscally conservative, which puts me right smack in the middle of the political spectrum, as I presume most people are. I also vote for the candidate, not the party.

Our political system is broken, but judging from what I read about Great Britain and some of the other world news, I suspect we aren’t the only country that can say that. I think term limits are necessary because elections are more like auctions where the nomination goes to the highest bidder in terms of lobbying and endorsement money, and doesn’t come close to separating the wheat from the chaff.

And once a person is elected to office, is their priority to do what is right and best for their constituents?  Hah! No, the number one priority is to get re-elected, and to do that you need cash. Perhaps a candidate begins the process in good faith and with good intentions, but when the rubber hits the road, they become beholden to the special interests that fund their campaigns, got them elected in the first place, and put those needs above the people they are supposed to represent.

Politics, in theory, demands compromise, and putting the common good above everything else. Nobody gets everything they want, but gets what they can live with. Perhaps there was more of that before I came of age, but it certainly isn’t that way now.

Admittedly, the nature of politics is to obtain power to promote your party’s agenda. When political blood is spilled the sharks hone in on their target, particularly around election time hoping to rip them to shreds and kill their re-election chances.

But when did it become such a blood sport, where the only thing that is important is to kill or be killed, to say no to anything to opposition proposes, and not be willing to consider another point of view and to bastardize long-standing protocols and traditions (Mitch McConnell refusing to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016, for instance) in order to promote one’s own political agenda and ideology? When did it get so nasty and demeaning? And when, given some of the nonsense coming out of people like Devin Nunes, did we begin electing sycophants and buffoons?

Have I been asleep at the switch for that long? Sometimes I wonder because I thought Rudy Gulianni was the greatest thing since sliced bread after the nine-eleven attacks. I didn’t know the guy or his history as NYC’s mayor, but he certainly presented well as he galvanized the city and nation with his pluck and attitude in getting his city back on it’s feet. Now I think he’s a whacked-out loose cannon and bat-shit crazy.

What is going on now, and seems to have been escalating ever since Karl Rove was part of Dubya’s inner circle, is discouraging as hell. Nobody accomplishes anything,  gridlock ensues, nobody takes ownership. The other side is blamed, and our national debate devolves into name calling, outright lying, and deflecting attention away from real issues. It’s getting worse instead of better.  Some it of is so blatant that I often wonder if our politicians think the electorate is really that gullible and stupid. It’s insulting to think we are viewed as nothing more than faithful sheep who blindly buy a bill of goods without reservations or questions.

Perhaps it’s because our attention spans have shrunken to that of a gnat. Maybe it’s because in a social media and reality television-driven world, politics is nothing more than a form of entertainment for the masses, replete with heroes and villains, depending on which side of the aisle you reside in. Unfortunately, negativity sells. The issues get buried for the spectacle of the  the show. Maybe it’s because we have morphed into an it’s all about me society, and as long as our 401ks are healthy we don’t give a shit about unimportant things, like climate change.

I’m not bitter, just embarrassed and extremely worried about the sideshow we currently finds ourselves in. The level of hypocrisy is appalling, and so is the apparentl level of apathy in some circles. Or maybe it is a feeling of hopelessness.

I have tried to avoid getting caught up in the circus that is Washington DC by taking the ostrich approach, sticking my head in the sand to drown out the noise until next fall. But the drumbeat of discontent, the closed-mindedness, the unwillingness to consider  different points of view and outright hostility make that difficult.

If nothing else, I expect and truly hope that we have a massive voter turnout in 2020. If that occurs, I believe we can expect fundamental change. One would think that would be the only way the jackals in DC will get the message and (hopefully) act accordingly. But there is no guarantee of that either because when one party gets pimp-slapped the other often doesn’t learn from their misfortune, and resort to payback for all the crap they felt they had to endure under the previous administration and Congressional leadership. All that changes is one end of the political spectrum becomes a lot happier than they are now, and vise versa.

In order for this change to occur, the youth of our country need to vote in much larger numbers, and become more politically engaged. It’s their future after all, and they have a lot more at stake as far as that is concerned compared to someone in their sixties.

It’s going to be an interesting, infuriating, maddening and fascinating eleven months. When it is over, we will remain a fractured country, but hopefully have the infrastructure  in place that can being the long, hard task of healing our divisions rather than making them worse.

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?