I speak to a police officer

I would not want to be a police officer. At least not the kind who has to speak to annoying people calling to complain about their neighbors. No, not that kind, behind a desk, trying to decipher who is telling the truth, who is lying.

I'm looking good while patrolling the mean streets of Los Angeles. Kind of like Batman without the outfit and really cool car.

I’d rather go after perps in high-speed chases in the streets of L.A. And tap them in the rear bumper with my turbo-charged Hemi-powered Dodge and send their car spinning out of control. Then, I’d jump out and just shoot them. Well, not really. I’d play it by the book. But if they pointed a gun at me, I’d demonstrate the hours I spent on the range making holes in paper targets.

Back to reality.

I spoke to a police officer the other day. I told him the short version of the conflict I had with my neighbor. I’m sure it went down in the report as a “neighbor argument.”

Accurate, I’m afraid, but not quite what I would classify it as. Just as the police categorize incidents, I do as well. But try to explain how the type of communication someone uses, and the statements they yell out, differ from what most people might say in an argument. It’s not easy and I gave up trying to.

I’m talking about statements that make you say, “where did that come from?” Or, “that doesn’t make sense.” Or, “Am I talking to a rational person?” 

The verbal equivalent of a furry bat winging its way past your head in broad daylight. Was that really a bat?

How do you describe a non sequitur that might denote someone not playing by the rules most “normal” people play by? Then again, I wear a bag on my head.

“No, officer, he did not yell a profanity at my wife.” The point is he yelled at my wife for no reason. And after allegedly having a gun out in broad daylight a week earlier. So, I went to find out why he felt it necessary to call out to her.

Despite the officer being nice, I can’t say there’s much for the police to do now. It’s my psychological drama to live out. I’m committed to not provoking or speaking to the neighbor. Still, the memory of it hangs over me like smoke in a German restaurant in the middle of winter where no one will crack a window to clear the air, and four Germans at a table in the corner keep looking this way and laughing.

It’s uncomfortable and I can’t wait to leave the restaurant.

Are people in Los Angeles getting angrier? (A non-political post for Margie)

One of my neighbors “displayed” his gun to another neighbor’s gardener the other day. I was on a conference call and missed the fun that ensued when my two neighbors got into a heated argument about it (my wife’s description, as she caught the last two minutes). It’s a good thing I missed it because I would have called the police. When a gun comes out, that’s process step 1 for me.

If cannons, not guns, were legal, we'd have a fewer killings and more people going to chiropractors instead of prison

Today I saw the good neighbor, who is a friend and the one who didn’t brandish a gun in the light of day, and he filled me in.

Turns out his large tree overhangs Dirty Harry’s property. And as an act of kindness, his gardener went to the front door of Mr. Harry to ask permission to move something on the property to access the tree and to make sure his cars weren’t damaged from falling debris. But no one answered the door.

When the gardener tried again, he was confronted by Mr. Harry who had a shotgun or machine gun – some kind of big gun. Then the argument started about it not being a polite gesture to greet a gardener with a weapon of death instead of a rake or hoe.

Now I know most of my neighbors probably own guns. This is Los Angeles where it’s almost mandatory, though I’ve managed to resist the impulse, thinking that I’d probably use it on myself in those dark moments of blood clots and hemoptysis. But here’s a neighbor who feels like we’re living on the open range and he’s protecting his property from cattle rustlers.

What do I do? Or don’t do?

This is the kind of photograph that lures people to California. It's all Hollywood magic. The bird is fake and the beach is a painted backdrop.

Move? I don’t know, but it was the first thought that crossed my mind.

It does make me wonder if my unscientific theory that people are growing angrier is true.

I don’t have any facts to back this up.

It’s the feeling I get when I see how people treat each other in public, how they drive, how certain neighbors could give a flying fudge bar if they return a “hello” while I’m walking in the neighborhood – to the point I feel like flipping them the bird when I see them – a pre-emptive strike – which would illicit a response from them or a comment like, “you’re the worst neighbor ever and I wish you’d f’ing move.” Hello to you, too, neighbor, glad you finally acknowledged my presence. 

I experience this hostility in the way men treat my wife when I’m not with her (another post coming soon).

I wonder if this city is suffering from traumatic or post-traumatic stress syndrome. We’re going through our days carrying so much stress and tension that we’re ready to snap at anyone, and are too burned out to be courteous.

It’s a just a hunch, but I feel it in my bones.

Unemployment is high in California; illegal drugs are popular; foreclosures with For Sale signs in the front yard and near-foreclosures with brown lawns, broken picket fences and half-finished additions lace neighborhoods. Do these daily images impact our sub-conscious?

Worry. Overrated and un-fun. (Creative Commons: Photo by Steve Snodgrass)

And then there is the constant worry we’re not working hard enough at our jobs and could be laid off at anytime to save the company money. And we’re working longer hours to make up for the whole “do more with less” mentality of companies during the recession. And there are the bills.

If we lose our jobs, where would we be? Brandishing a gun at a hard-working gardener? Walking into a beauty salon in Seal Beach to kill eight innocent people in an unspeakable, tragic act of violence?

I don’t know anymore. The older I get, the less I know.

Maybe I should have taken the advice of the first bumper sticker I saw when I moved to L.A.: Welcome to California, now go home. 

Autumn stumps me

I’m not sure why autumn doesn’t like me. It’s been a trend for many years for it to kick my ass up and down and back again.

This is not Los Angeles in Autumn, which is palm trees and cement. (SXC license)

All three of my embolizations have been in the fall, including one in Germany thanks to hemoptysis over the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve mentioned this before, but I never get tired of telling it just because I survived to live another day.

Even without bleeding in the fall, it’s the season when I’ve experienced the most hospitalizations. I don’t really understand it and my feeble brain has never been able to decode it. I go into the hospital during autumn and usually stay out until I catch the Flu in March.

This year, I’m doing my best to load up on broccoli, wasabi, vitamin C, which I got out of the habit of using in high doses, and vitamin D. I would start taking curcumin root, but with the Lovenox shots, I read it might increase the chance of bleeding, though I may risk it.

I feel like an ex-con who doesn’t want to go back to prison. The thought of it makes me ill.

I should start a pool with donations going to the CF Foundation and have my friends bet on the day I go in. Just by writing this, I have tempted the CF gods to punish me.

My insider advice to any pool players: take tomorrow, Friday. The CF gods are a vindictive and angry bunch.

How I spent (and didn’t spend) my summer vacation

I didn’t spend summer in the hospital. [Fox applauds, then passes out.]

I feel like I won the lottery by not going in, though the pattern for me has long been one without summer hospital stays. With falling leaves, colds and other viruses on the way, you can bet that I’ll soon be returning to hell.

Ebony and Ivory, living in perfect harmony on the beach

I didn’t spend June, July or August coughing up blood, though summer hasn’t officially ended.

And if you’re a betting man or woman, I’d bet on the blood thanks to the blood thinning shots I’m stabbing into my McGriddle-fattened six-pack twice a day. And I’ve just tempted fate by mentioning it on the blog, which means I’ll probably be in the hospital coughing up blood within the next two or three days.

I did spend June working on what the Donald would call a “super-big, important, super-large” project at work. It was a success and once again I proved it’s better to be lucky than good, and assembling a talented team always makes one look better than they truly are. Go Team Unknown.

We did spend the summer with a new puppy – a goofy, mischievous, shower-squeegee stealing, whining, scared of her own shadow, mystery of a black lab that I wanted to give away, but was outvoted by my wife and daughter, who are both attached to the black shadow-thief. (That’s all I can write about the dog, otherwise my friend @onlyz tunes out at this point and starts to read the back of the vegan muffin package.)

I didn’t spend this summer blogging or watching TV, but I did spend it reading. I read over 8,000 pages and enjoyed every minute, staying up late and making the most of when time takes its mandated-by-law break.

Malibu coastline on a nice summer day.

I did spend the hot months milking every bit of fun I could. I filled every weekend with an activity and dragged my wife and daughter to all kinds of places. From the American Idol concert, to the beach, the circus, a dog agility trial and canyon roads we’d never driven. We didn’t take a summer trip this year thanks to the blood-thinner shots, but we still had a great time and spoiled ourselves by eating dinner at restaurants more often.

The end of a great concert at Theatricum in Topanga. Check out a play here if you're in Los Angeles.

Monday, Labor Day, we ended the “holiday to holiday” summer with the annual benefit concert at Theatricum in Topanga. What an amazing afternoon filled with talented singers singing Burt Bacharach songs. A great way to finish my favorite season of the year watching some of Los Angeles’s most talented musicians, like Inara George and Sara Melson, play music for two hours.

So, I’m happy with the job I did having fun this summer. I cannot guarantee I’ll see another one. I hope I do, but it’s not written in stone that I will.

Now it’s time to focus on autumn and the Denver Broncos winning and me staying out of hell and not catching colds or the flu or coughing up blood. I’m optimistic, but know sometimes there is nothing I can do but ride out ill-timed surprises.

Here’s to a healthy fall and winter to all.

What not to do when someone tries to break into your car at 2:30 in the morning

[As if readers of this blog needed more proof of my stupidity, here’s more evidence. Clearly, I could place “what not to do” on most of my posts, but this is more glaring than the rest.]

I was having a bad dream, which is not to be confused with the parts of my life involving cystic fibrosis. This one happened while I was sleeping and woke me up at 2:30 a.m. I’d also been fighting a virus all week and my body temperature was screwed up, which made me feel more discombobulated at that hour (building the excuse for my idiot behavior right now).

What's a leek?

As I am the most paranoid guy in the world, I looked out the window of the front door on my way to the bathroom, as I always do, and noticed a white SUV in front of our house. Double take, it’s really there and the door is open.

Unfortunately, I’d been too lazy to replace the bulbs in the fixtures near our garage because I would need to find the step-stool, and because the light fixtures are a pain in the arse to unscrew and there are spiders in them and I didn’t have bulbs and hadn’t gone to Home Depot to buy any because even though I’ve passed the store 50 times in the last two weeks, I was too lazy pull into their parking lot, get out of my car, lock my car, walk into the store, find the bulbs, pay for them, get in my car, drive home and find the step-stool.

So, the driveway was darker than it should have been thanks to me, creating the perfect environment for thieving scumbags to go to work. Oh, and I didn’t have my eyeglasses on either.

So, I moved to the bathroom window to get a different view and I saw someone standing next to my wife’s car with an object in their hand – a tire iron? I don’t know what it was. All I know is after all the years of people stealing shit off of my car at night, I was pissed. A spark ignited in my brain, or what there is of one, and any chance of rational thought fled it as I walked with pace to the front door.

I didn’t disable the house alarm when I opened the door because I wanted the high-pitched squeal of the 30-second countdown to start in case one of them came running at me and I had to shut the door in a hurry. I can’t hear the sound anyway thanks to years of IV tobramycin, but I figured they would hear it loud and clear in the dead quiet of night.

Geek does Rhyme with leek

I opened the door and in what my daughter would call my “big voice,” I yelled “Hey you guys, get away from that stuff.”

I had to confirm this is what I said with my wife at least a dozen times because I couldn’t remember and I thought I must have yelled something like “get away from that car, low-life scum, before I come out there and rip your bowels out of your throat” or something cool like that.

But no, I didn’t say that. I said “you guys.” Not “you scum sucking criminals’ or “demon-spawn from hell car thieves.” No, instead I said, “you guys.”

Oh, and by the way, while I was using my big voice, my wife disabled the alarm because I’m always activating it by accident, which she thought I did again, unaware I was having a conversation with criminals.

At about the time I opened it door and yelled, it occurred to me at the very second the words left my mouth that I was yelling at exactly the kind of people in Los Angeles who worship and carry guns. The kind who probably don’t like being told what to do in a loud voice.

And there I was standing in my t-shirt and J. Crew boxer shorts covered in a charming “carrots and leeks” pattern (picture included) in the glowing light of the porch.

Could there be a more perfect and easy-to-shoot idiot in the history of targets?

I’m a lucky idiot because the perps ran to their SUV like the vermin they are and pulled a U-Turn in front of our house as my wife and stood in the doorway watching like dopes – defiant dopes – providing yet another possible double-homicide, target-shooting opportunity for the crooks, and headlines for tomorrow’s newspaper, with our daughter growing up parent-less.

And though I was calm during the incident, after I shut the door I was wound about my stupidity and it took me two hours of replaying my missteps before I could go to sleep.

Now the hindsight part of the story.

Though everything turned out okay, I’ve been flogging myself daily for not calling the police as the criminals did whatever they were going to do, which is a mystery still stuck in my mind and a question I can’t answer for friends who hear the story. What did I really see in the street-light dim of night?

I would have loved for the police to catch these guys. I love stories like that. But I blew it. I blew it. I let my anger overcome my rational thoughts and even endangered my family by opening the door, a key defense (the sound you hear right now is the whip hitting my back).

Though I may have saved the $500 deductible for my car insurance, it cost me almost a grand to have an electrician, locksmith and our alarm company come to the house on Friday. We now have new motion detector lights around the house, stronger locks in the doors, and a soon to be upgraded alarm with a panic button for my wife when I’m not home – and a different tone control panel I can hear when I am home.

Oh, and I did drive to Home Depot to buy five bucks worth of light bulbs. And I did take out the step-stool and climb up to unscrew the tops of the light fixtures to reach in past the spiders and cobwebs to unscrew the bulbs and replace them, which had they been replaced may have stopped all of this from happening by causing the criminals to go to a different house with a different idiot lording over it.

The silver lining: when I’ve away, I’ll feel a better with my wife daughter at home with improved security. But I’m not done yet. Soon to be installed: a fence or wall. A good fence may make for good neighbors, Mr. Frost, but an electrical one with barbed wire makes for a big FU to criminals when they’re flat on their backs unconscious waiting for the police to scrape their electrocuted, bloody bodies from the sidewalk.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This is a lesson is what not to do when criminals pick your house to rob. Call the police. They like to catch bad guys. Unless you own complete body Kevlar®, of course, which means you can walk right up to them and beat them with your flail, which would feel pretty satisfying.

Stay safe.

Some weekends are different than others

Last weekend started with the American Idol concert and ended with a 1 a.m. Sunday night visit to the emergency vet. That’s the beginning to the end without a middle. Oh, and there were police and fire trucks, too. Not an average weekend.

The American Idol concert was my daughter’s first large-scale concert. It wasn’t The Who or Springsteen or anyone great, but it wasn’t bad for karaoke.  It did convince me that America doesn’t vote for the best singers. And the show manipulates the results and finds ways to push favored singers to the end.

Oh, and Pia was robbed. How did she get voted off so early? She sounded better, looked better, and was more poised than second-place Lauren Alaina, who danced like a Disney Animatronic bear.

Being in a large crowd at the Nokia Theater also reinforced my theory that people are getting angrier these days. Two knuckleheads sitting on the isle seats next to us got bent every time someone had to leave to get food or use the restroom. Then, they didn’t want to move to let my wife and daughter back to our seats. It’s an American Idol concert you twits, not a play where if you miss one word the meaning is lost. You’re at the end of the aisle, what did you expect when you bought the seats?

I’m not good in crowds anymore.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with me spending a lot of time reading the Game of Thrones books, dinner with friends, watching Team USA lose (heartbreaking), and a faux ABBA concert Sunday night. Nothing like Swedish pop to put a smile on your face and at the same time create the contradictory feeling of queasiness that you’re about to bring up your tri-tip sandwich to the opening bars of “Dancing Queen.”

But then there was late Sunday night.

At around 10:30 p.m., I noticed four police cars outside, which made me think that shredding my jury notices for the last 20 years wasn’t such a great idea. But they didn’t come for me – yet – instead they were after one of my neighbors.

So, of course I had to watch a bunch of police officers standing around – it takes 7 to arrest one person – throwing their gum wrappers on my lawn. Then, two fire trucks showed up and the fire department ambulance. That led to my neighbor being taken away screaming, handcuffed and strapped down to the gurney.

All of that took almost two hours.

Stick an electrode on her head and activists would be breaking her out of my house.

Then I went outside with the dogs and noticed our yellow lab had a lumpy head, gross, and a swollen muzzle. A dime of blood blossomed on her head. Executive decision: Trip to the emergency vet where they gave her a steroid and Benadryl cocktail for the mystery insect bite and me a $200 enema for owning the mutt who stuck her head in the wrong plant.

My dog also received the make-over bonus of a 4-inch square shaved on her head for the oh so 70’s look of a laboratory research animal. My daughter broke into tears when she saw her in the morning, having slept through the fun during the night.

So, that was the weekend. Thanks to Game of Thrones, it’s taken me three days to finish this post. I can’t wait to finish the last book and get back to my life and blogging.

Happy summer.

The simple bumper sticker that stuck in my craw

A bumper sticker from a week ago is still irritating me. I saw it on a Prius in the McDonald’s drive thru while ordering my breakfast of real champions, a McGriddle, which I’ll defend to my grave is the best breakfast sandwich in the world after eating over a 1,000 of them in recent years.

I'm eating one of these right now

Back to the bumper sticker, which read: “All you have is now.”

Harmless, you say. What’s the big deal? Exactly, I agree.

But then I started mulling it over in line, getting bothered by it, which may have been because I still hadn’t received my tasty goodness. Or, could it have been the bombardment of McDonald’s signs working me over to eat myself to an inner tube of jelly around my midsection?

Beef and bacon covered ice-cream sundaes, coffee desserts, quadruple burgers covered in chocolate, 50 oz. sugary smoothies, 10-pound bags of french fries covered in candy sprinkles and cheddar cheese.

The reason the bumper sticker bothered me was because the “all I have is now” attitude got me in a lot of trouble years ago. And because I have a daughter now, which made want to change the bumper sticker to the following: “All you have is now, but your children have tomorrow, Jackass.”

Clearly, when I see anything talking to me, it calls me Jackass, which is appropriate after a 1,000 McGriddles.

Here’s the rub.

We have a lot of conversations at our dinner table about the future of the planet: Oil production is peaking, global ice is melting, a very large pool of plastic is floating north of Hawaii, our natural food supply contains harmful chemicals, we’re getting bigger and have more ailments, and Earth can’t support its predicted population growth.

All of this adds up to a potentially bleak future, which is a post for the future, if I had one, which apparently I don’t according to the Prius driver.

So, when I see a bumper sticker “All you have is now” on a Prius, which is ironic as that car is better for the environment than most, I feel that’s the attitude that got us stuck in this mess in the first place and that if more people made harder choices and put the future higher on their priority list we’d be in a better place.

By the way, I’m doing my part by not taking as many showers and wearing the same clothes for a week, which saves water and keeps more detergent from flowing into the water supply or ocean. My wife clearly has mixed feeling about my strategy.

Back to the bumper sticker. Maybe I misread it. Maybe it meant “all you have is now to make a difference and that’s why I’m driving a Prius and not an oversized SUV, Jackass who eats McGriddles every day.”

It didn’t say that. But for my own sanity, I’m going to pretend it did and let it go.

There, done. It’s off my mind. I feel better now. Go about your day. There’s nothing to see here. Insane man back to enjoying the weekend. You do the same.