8 days of work, football, videos, crappy food, and IV antibiotics

I’m home after one of the least eventful hospital stays in a long time. Other than having to ask for a different nurse after the first one tanked a port-needle change, my prison days rolled by with minimal pain and little to talk to the doctors about, other than why my lung function has dropped and is not improving.

I know most people have one time, short stays in the hospital, but after dozens of visits, I can't take the food anymore.

I know most people have one-time, short stays in the hospital, but after dozens of visits, I can’t take the food anymore.

That is the worrisome part. Or, the part I don’t want to talk about right now.

I pounded out a decent amount of work while in captivity. Sometimes even I wonder why I do it, but I’m just programmed that way.

And perhaps that was the most stressful part of the jail time – work.

Our 8-person group is coming under fire from new management for reasons unknown. It’s a little like elementary school when the entire class loses their recess because of the actions of a few. I just saved anyone reading this the details, but it created a lot of stress for me not just in the way work stress does. Instead it made me realize I can’t put up with some of this bullshit anymore as my life comes to an end. It’s not worth it and my time is too valuable.

I will say this: If it weren’t for my wife and daughter, I might give up. Yes, I know I’m the luckiest man in the world, but even with that in mind, getting painted into a corner in life, or feeling trapped, can make one feel hopeless.

It’s always the total load, trying to work, make money, avoid jail time, keep my lung function up, and float on top of the cloud of trivial bullshit some people live in.

Some days it feels overwhelming and I wish I were pushing a basket around downtown Los Angeles with my black lab and IV machine in tow, which may be happening soon the way work is going these days.

So, with a heavy mind, I spent a lot of time escaping into videoland at night, watching movies or runs of TV episodes, like House of Games (awesome), and Justified (pretty good; I wish I was either the actor that plays Raylan Givens, or Givens himself. There is something to be said for being cool in life).

So, life goes on as I complete the IVs at home, Inipenem every six hours with a 3-hour drip, and Tobra once a day for 60 minutes.

I’ll have plenty of time to think about my next move before others make it for me.

Advertisements

Rat Hunter 1, Rat 0 (graphic photo, turn back before it’s too late)

If you have a passion for wild rats, then this isn’t the post for you. However, if you like it when wild rats invade the home and get their necks snapped, well, I guess this is the place to be.

The other night my wife and I thought Cali came in through the dog door and hit the dryer. There was a loud metallic bang. But then Cali, hearing the same noise, came out of the bedroom.

Rat trap.

Friends visiting this holiday season will see this guy's head mounted on my wall. "Is that a rat head?" they'll ask. "Damn straight, it is. Hunted it for a week. Wait until you taste the stew."

Friends visiting this holiday season will see this guy’s head mounted on my wall. “Is that a rat head?” they’ll ask.
“Damn straight, it is. Hunted it for a week.”

Needless to say, my wife, claiming she got two votes, elected me to take a look at the trap behind the dryer. At first I didn’t see anything. But after sliding the dryer out a bit, jackpot: one gray rat with his neck in the trap. Gross.

(But not as gross as the episodes of The Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately – zombie killing is a messy business and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many heads smashed or shot in my entire life, which is pretty exciting compared to a life without flesh-eating zombies roaming the streets, though some of my meth-addicted neighbors could be mistaken for the undead.)

Thus, with all of this killing in mind, I thank the rat for dying cleanly.

So, no more sleeping with a 7-iron in one hand, a flashlight in the other, and my failed rat-hunting black lab at my feet. The rat is finally dead.

And, so far, no evidence of any others in the house.

Lesson learned: each night, before going to sleep, put the damn wood cover in the opening of the dog door.

Unwanted house guests – Ben and Willard

Friday morning, with our daughter at school and yellow lab still at the animal hospital, my wife and I started noticing little 3/4-inch, rolled-up mud-like pieces around the house and on the furniture. Now though my wife is much smarter than I am (I only use 2% of my brain on my best days), I was the first to identify what we were seeing.

But it took a process of elimination and overcoming denial to get there.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Theory #1: Cali, our crazy black lab, dragged them in. She likes to eat poop. She must have spit them out, or kept them up in her cheeks or something.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: We rolled Cali over on her back, checked her paws and fur, and looked in her mouth. Nothing there but a confused dog wondering why were inspecting every inch of her.

Theory #2: They fell off of my wife’s running shoes. It has been raining here for days. She must have stepped in mud and it somehow found its way onto the floor and furniture during the night.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: My wife inspected her shoes. No mud. Tread pattern different.

At this point, I knew what they were. Thousands of years of hunter/gatherer evolution led me to the answer. But now, unlike my cavemen brothers who only had fire, I had a greater tool – the Internet.

So, while my wife tested theories 3 – 50 – asteroid dust – check for a hole in the roof – to Google Images I went. And sure enough I had a perfect match on my first try. Now I just had to tell my wife. Being the communications expert that I am, I let her know in the kindest, gentlest way possible.

“Rat poop.” [See how I softened “shit” to “poop.” Genius, I say.”]

“What?” she said.

“Rat poop. They’re rat poop. And those little wet spots: rat pee.”

“You’re kidding me?”

I wish I were kidding her, like I dreamed up the grossest prank I could to get in her good graces and mom jeans, which she doesn’t actually wear, but they sound funny. But I wasn’t joking. Sometime during the night, while our fierce black lab was sleeping on the floor of our small house, rats entered through the dog door and had a party.

[Please check out Craigslist, Los Angeles today and take home a free 1 year-old black lab with zero rat-hunting skills.]

The exterminator was there by noon, and he set traps inside our house, and promised to return next week with a Rat Death-House: rats go in, but they don’t come out. Two cat paws up for that.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

My favorite exterminator quote: “They usually don’t enter houses with dogs.”

[Craigslist, Los Angeles posting: Free black lab to rat-free home.]

My wife and daughter hung out all day in the bedroom/office. And my daughter wore her boots at all times, lest some human-hunting rat with a taste for a 10-year-old took a run at her.

Then I had another brilliant idea last night, hunter that I am. I slept in the leather chair in the middle of the war zone, Ping 7-iron at my side and black lab on dog bed at my feet.

If you’re a husband, then I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate this next statement: No one can put a pin in your ego and deflate it quite like a wife can. Especially when we try to do heroic things, like sleep in the middle of rat-infested battleground to protect females sleeping like little princesses in the bedroom next door.

Me: “So, I made it through the night. No rats. All clear.”

Wife: “But you left all the lights on.”

Me: “Yeah. So. What difference does that make? They come out with the lights on. When it’s silent, quiet. They have to go to the bathroom at some point.”

Wife: “They can go where they are. They’re rats.”

Me: “They’d come out to go.”

Wife: “How would you have noticed them?”

Me: “Cali barks, I wake up.”

Wife: “Oh, like you woke up when I came out to feed her this morning and she ran all over the place, whining and barking? I turned off the alarm too, which is pretty loud. But there you were sleeping like a baby, with one slipper hanging off your foot” [acts out what I looked like sleeping on the chair].

Me: “You came out to feed her this morning? Really?”

Hmm, yes, I am a heavy sleeper. And, yes, I didn’t notice any of these events, which made me think how lucky I was that I didn’t wake up thinking my dog was snuggling with me during the night only to discover she was back in the bedroom with my wife and daughter.

Ah, heroic plans dashed, crushed, smashed by the love of my life.

The woolly mammoth I brought back to the cave was undersized and couldn’t feed the clan. And I got a beating for it.

It’s not the thought that counts when you’re a hunter. It’s showing off a blood-covered Ping golf club and a dozen rat carcasses to your wife when she wakes up that matters. It’s scrambled prehistoric vulture eggs with chunks of fresh rat meat that matters. Yep, it’s feeding the clan.

However, later today, when I said to my wife, “I suck at rat-hunting,” she replied, “Were there any rat-poops this morning?”

“No.”

“Then you did your job.”

Ego restored. Just like that. Magic.

Yes, yes, I did my job. I could be a caveman after all.

Speaking to my daughter’s future self

I hope there is a God so one day I can thank her for my daughter.

Kicking back at the beach with a yellow Labrador pillow.

How I got so lucky, I will never know. But I did. And it’s best not to question why.

I’ll also thank the Universe for my wife, too, because I won the marriage lotto. And, as a jackpot bonus, she contributed all the best genes and qualities to my daughter, especially the love, goodness, and kindness – because our 5th grader didn’t get any of those from me.

I’m the guy with the low opinion of humanity who thinks the world is going to collapse under the weight of billions of people with resources to support millions. No matter how much ketchup you use, you can’t eat an iPhone or iPad, or fish from a poisoned ocean.

But there in the middle of the madness is my daughter, bright, shiny, ready to join the ride I’ll be getting off of soon. And it’s everything we can do to keep her from harm, especially the self-inflicted kind. It’s almost as if the important talks we have with her now anticipate that she will become someone else, someone different from her 10-year-old self.  We speak to her future self, which feels a bit sci-fi like, and hope what we tell her sticks, and she remembers it when needed years from now.

We have conversations about alcohol and drugs: One day a friend will offer you drugs, someone you never expected (disbelief from daughter). What will you do?  If your friend drinks too much at a party and wants to drive you home, will you remember to call us? We’ll pick you up. No judgment. 

When she is a teenager, will she still love us? That’s a question my wife and I ask ourselves a lot. I’m not as concerned. I’m just not. I can only do so much.

But now that my daughter is almost 11, I’m feeling sentimental and a little bit . . . scared?

I read too many news stories about harm coming to women. I used to worry about our cabinet doors being secure and the bumper around the coffee table being in place, or wearing her helmet while biking. The stuff I worry about now feels more real, harder to see, like it’s waiting outside, lurking – a jungle filled with scummy people, losers, and criminals. We can prepare her, coach her, but in that moment when she in on her own one day, what can we do?

Our neighbor’s adult daughter has a drug problem and history with the police. We use her as the poster child of what not to do with your life. But I still wonder what happened to her. What signs did the parents miss? What mistakes did they make? How did she go from bright, bubbly toddler to living in her car and homeless? How did that happen? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen to our daughter?

So, what does the future hold for our daughter? Will we prepare her properly to succeed in the world? I’m in no hurry to find out.

Protecting my family is one of my greatest challenges

My wife and had a little tiff at dinner tonight.

The source of our discussion and tension happened while I was at the reclaimed lumberyard this afternoon (and getting my hair cut, but the lumberyard part of my errands sounds more manly). While I was gone, several losers came to the door. I’ve talked to my wife about what to do, or not do, when someone we don’t know comes to the door – don’t open the door. This is L.A., not Mayberry.

If you come to my door to sell me something, scam me, or harm my family, this is what you have to look forward to. (A handsome model with a shotgun – scary.) © auremar – Fotolia.com

So, here is a shortened version of the conversation:

Wonderful wife: We never have people come to the door anymore but we had a few today. 

Evil me: Really, who?

Wonderful wife: Two kids. I opened the door . . .

Evil me: You opened the door?

Wonderful wife: Yeah, I thought it might be UPS with my sunglasses?

Evil me: Why didn’t you look in the monitor first to see?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. The dogs were there.

Charming 10-year-old daughter who always takes her mother’s side: Yeah, Daddy, the dogs were there. She only opened the door a crack.

Wonderful wife: I made a mistake. Sorry, I’m not perfect. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Evil me: Why did you open the door? You could have talked to them through the glass.

Wonderful wife: I don’t want to talk about it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Now if my wife were writing this, she would have added, “in an angry tone,” next to all of my lines. And she’d be correct about that. I was pissed because I tell both my wife and daughter never to open the door when I’m not home. I don’t even open the door anymore. I talk to the assholes who invade our privacy through the glass or window. The police told us most of the time it’s either a scam or someone casing the house. There is no reason to open the door for anyone you don’t recognize. It’s why I’ve considered gating in the house.

Most of the people who come to the door are creepy, with crazy-ass stories they’ve perfected while smoking meth day after day in the back of the Scooby van. Their stories require instant decoding to understand and sort the bullshit from the truth.

They’re the “door-to-door” equivalent of spam emails asking for money.

(Hello, good Sir, I’m Herbert Harold Henningsworth the fourth, and I’m here at your door today to give you share of 1 million dollars in Spanish bullion discovered off the coast of Florida. But I had the bad fortune to park my van, which holds the gold, illegally, and your local constables towed it away. I need $500 and a share shall be yours when I retrieve my transportation from the impound lot. Cash is preferred, please.)

My favorite scam is when teenagers arrive at my door and say, “I live over on [insert street name of your choice]. I’m Ron and Mary Wilson’s son. Ronny Jr., Hi, and I’m working to earn enough points to go to China to help orphan children learn to read and assemble iPads. I’m hoping you can help me, a good local kid, save the world. Cash is fine.”

Oh, the Wilson’s son, because I know everyone in a 10-mile radius around my neighborhood. Yeah, Ron and Mary. What the heck?

These little scum artists try to knock you off guard because your brain is trying to make out if this is a real neighborhood kid, which means you don’t want to tell him to F off, lest his real parents show up later with baseball bats and pitchforks and a little payback for Ronny’s Jr.’s humiliation and trauma, all caused by you.

I know I’m overly protective. But there are only two people I value above all else in this life, and protecting the two of them isn’t always easy, especially when they are nice and loving and caring females. I, being the complete opposite in sex and temperament, try to keep the lions and hyenas away from them.

But some days, it ain’t easy. Nope, it sure isn’t. But every day I try to figure out new ways to do it better.

Thoughts always on my mind

I could, at anytime, contract a bacterial infection that kicks my ass and destroys my quality of life, or kills me. What would it take? Touching the wrong surface? A careless hospital worker? A rogue germ on the escalator at the mall? It’s hard dodging an invisible enemy year after year.

I need all my clothing made out of these. Adios, bacterial invaders. Too bad I can’t reach inside my lungs and swab out the invaders with one of these.

I may have cancer now and not know it, or get it at anytime in the future. I’m in the death zone and potentially a doctor’s appointment away from it. My mother has cancer, my grandmother died from it. Should I take this as a hint from the universe?

At any moment, a stream of crimson fluid might blast from my lungs. I think about this throughout the day – each day – when I bend over, when I go to sleep at night. when I walk up a hill, when I accidentally eat food that thins the blood. (This salad dressing has garlic?) I think about it every time I cough. Every time. 

Why do I sweat the small stuff, especially considering the other thoughts that live in my head? I should be doing more with the life I have left and not worrying so much.

I worry about my wife and daughter, especially my daughter. My wife works out of the house, so I know she is okay most of the time. But my daughter is getting older and independence is calling. At 10 she thinks she knows it all, and when I gave her the “stranger lecture” before the festival last weekend, she grumbled and told me she already knew it. Every time I read about a missing child or teen or young female adult, I get sad for the loss, and worry.

How many admin tasks will my boss send me today? Menial, administrative work tasks feel like walking up to a chalkboard, opening my mouth wide, and running my teeth across the surface. The thought of it alone gives me shivers. End of Day (EOD), Close of Business (COB), End of Week (EOW) work emails = the classic comedy scene where Lucy works in the chocolate factory.

I need to read and write more. How did I spend three nights in a row watching the first three Alien movies? Final score: Aliens 3; creativity 0.

I suck. I am a failure. I have not lived up to my potential. If I had, my wife would not have to work for one of the world’s worst bosses and be stressed all the time. I should not have sold my Apple stock years ago. I should be running my own business and in control of my own destiny.

How many days has it been since I’ve taken a shower?

That’s the stuff I think about.

Conundrum

It starts with waking up to read my work email in the morning. I don’t look forward to it. There is something about it now that makes me wonder how valuable a lot of what I do really is. I don’t think it was always this way. And I don’t think it has to do with my having less enthusiasm for work email. It’s the email that’s changed. Economy, people worrying about their jobs, tracking everything, measuring and justifying one’s existence, busy work. I don’t know. I just know the quality and quantity of it is painful at times. A distraction from work that matters.

My life will be coming to an end in an unknown amount of minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. If I could find out exactly what day I will die, it would allow me to allocate my resources. 3 months, 6 months? Hmm, perhaps I’m done wasting my time with pointless work. Hello, Las Vegas. Hello, speeding tickets. 5 years to 10 years left? Well then, work is good. Keep on trucking. Benefits, a paycheck – all good. No reason to risk anything.

I’m lucky to have a wife and daughter, two dogs, a job, a house, a car, health insurance. Knock on wood. Life’s checklist is good. I’m lucky. Good too. But what do I do with the rest of my time? It feels like I should be doing more and that I know better than to waste time and worry about trivial stuff. It could all end tomorrow. But one has to survive. Artists and musicians glamorize this situation, as if I should be driving a VW van while lip-syncing to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I suck at making the most of life. I must have slept through that class in school.

Ah, Ms. Perry, What was Russell thinking?
Photo by Eva Rinaldi – Creative Commons

My garage is full of crap. It’s a warehouse for items I may need once in the next 5 years. It feels like a ball and chain. Stuff weighs a lot. I don’t have the courage to throw it all away. Who knows when I’ll need that spare insulation or scrap of plywood.

I surf the Internet too much. It’s a distraction, has ruined my concentration, and keeps me from doing anything that takes effort, such as writing a blog post. It is escape. I’ve mastered it.

I dislike Yahoo! and its headline stories about nothing. Yahoo! – it’s your brain on cotton candy. “Levi Johnson Poses with Baby Daughter.” At what point is that story worthy of a major headline? Have you ever noticed how many stories are about celebrities’ new hair styles?

Yapoo!

I’m tired of Apple mania. I dig the new Samsung Galaxy commercial poking fun at waiting in line for an iPhone. It’s pitch perfect. I own Apple everything, but now I’m wondering if I joined a cult and they’ll be asking me to drink iKool-Aid soon.

I fear failure, but have nothing to lose, or everything. I’m not sure.

I have ideas. Always have. But I was born without the gene to make shit happen.

This is my conundrum.