A wee little surgery


I’ve seen so many orthopedists over the years that I’ve lost count. Yesterday, I went to a new one for my left knee which has bothered me since 1986, after a game of beach volleyball. I came away from that game with a Baker Cyst (a fluid-filled sac on the back of my knee) and was in so much pain that I could only walk slowly and with a limp for weeks. The limp went away, but the Baker Cyst often swelled to the point that it was visible. By 2006, my knee hurt so much that I had a surgical meniscus debridement, which didn’t help and during which (I was awake) the surgeon broke my heart by suggesting that I give up hiking. I’ve since been on various NSAIDS, had innumerable steroid injections, two series of orthovisc injections, and a RFA (radiofrequency ablation). I’m now to the point that I don't even take short walks, and even with that, I'm limping by evening each day.

Those of you who recall my three shoulders surgeries, might suspect that I’m a fan of surgery, and indeed I used to be. “Have a problem—cut it out and get on with your life,” I thought. And indeed, that philosophy worked for the first ten or so surgeries that included the removal of anal polyps, oral cysts,  tonsils, and a whopping neuroma on right thigh. Carpel tunnel repair was a breeze, the first surgery on my nasal septum didn't cramp my style, but that changed when it had to be redone at the Oregon Health Science University in Portland as a part of a massive surgery on my sinuses, turbinates, and septum. I had insisted on remaining awake for every surgery but the tonsillectomy. Then the day came when a surgeon took a biopsy of an osteonecrotic cervical vertebra by putting a scope through my throat, and she said there was no way she would do it with me awake. My combination hernia repair and lymph node biopsy was no fun either, and when the doctor refused to give me adequate narcotics, I went down to his office without an appointment and sat there until he did.

Then came those three shoulder surgeries that included such strange sounding elements as subacromial decompression, supraspinatus repair, biceps tenodesis, humeral head resurfacing, and a partial joint replacement. I was in such pain prior to these surgeries that I had to sleep sitting up with ice packs draped over my shoulders, and I was in such pain after them that I had to sleep sitting up with ice packs draped over my shoulders. I wasn’t even allowed to lift a toothbrush for the first six weeks after these surgeries, and nothing over five pounds for the next six weeks.
The recovery time was between six months and a year, yet my shoulders still hurt so much that I worry that I might have to return to sleeping in a chair. 

So, I’ve lost my faith in surgery as a quick fix. In fact, I'll never again go into surgery with overwhelming confidence that I’ll emerge alive. After all, the odds of dying from a clot, a nosocomial infection, a pierced organ (a risk during shoulder surgery), a medication error, or the incompetence of any one of the scores of people who have the opportunity to kill me are significant.(https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-03/medical-errors-are-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-the-us).

The new doc is tall, muscular, and dripping with testosterone. In Peggy’s words, “He’s full of himself.” Indeed, he needed a mop to clean up his arrogance. He walked briskly into the examining room, took my hand, and stood staring into my eyes as if sizing me up, but sizing me up as what—a man? A patient? I was already upset over a fight with Peggy about a missed highway exit, and feeling like a weakling because I’ve needed so many surgeries. This meant that I was hardly in the mood to deal with a doctor who seemed to regard himself as my overall superior about a problem that I’ve had since he was a lad, but since I had waited for months to get in to see him, I had to do my best. It helped that there were things about him  I liked. For instance, he introduced himself by his first name (Brian); apologized for being late; agreed to my requests (more about them later); is highly rated on the doctor-rating sites; and did his fellowship in adult joint reconstruction at the Anderson Orthopedic Research Institute. I considered his profanity unprofessional, but it certainly went with his macho shtick.

After a brief exam, Brian proposed a full knee replacement. I was agreeably surprised because, since I was a new patient, I had expected the same-old-same-old: a steroid shot, a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, a referral to physical therapy, and the words, “We’ll talk again in a couple of months.” 


I made four requests of Brian: that I could remain awake during surgery; that he would give me a steroid shot to help tide me over until August when I’m ready to have the surgery done (which is the earliest he can do it anyway); that he give me whole lot more post-surgical narcotics than I’m already taking (he said he would double the amount for the first six weeks); and that he give me a prescription for a brace. He agreed to these requests, but I didn’t get the brace because the one they had wasn’t as good as the two that I already own (I’m an hardcore hoarder of medical devices).

Brian is my second orthopedist this year. The first was Alex, and Alex advised against surgery because, as he put it, “Your arthritis just isn’t that bad.” Since this contradicted what every other doctor had said (ten years ago, one had even told me that my knee was in such bad shape that it might collapse out from under me), I asked Brian what he saw in Alex’s X-rays that might justify Alex’s opinion. “Nothing,” he said. “Then why would Alex say it?” “Because he’s unwilling to take on difficult cases.” “Me difficult—but why?” Because you’ve been in knee pain for a long time, because you’re in pain from other sources, and because you suffer from depression.” Such factors could put me among the 5% of knee replacement patients who surgery doesn’t help. 


I try to cheer myself by being grateful that I at least have access to surgery, there being millions of people and other animals who have no choice but to suffer until they die, and some of them will die sooner rather than later because their problem makes them unable to support themselves. Yet, I'm tormented by the knowledge that I'll be going  from being unable to do many of the things that I would like to do because I have a bad knee to being unable to do them because I have an artificial knee. That is why I've waited so long to have the replacement, that and the knowledge that in a mere ten or fifteen years, I would have to have the replacement replaced, and that there would be less hope that the revision would work as well. Brian did have good news on that score. He said that the two metal parts of the joint would last me a lifetime, and that the plastic part should last for many years after which it can be replaced in ten minutes. Maybe I did well to put the surgery off for all of these years, but I sure do dread it now. I suppose it makes sense that past surgeries would leave me less fearful of additional surgeries, but the truth is that they make me more fearful. I think of them as like playing Russian Roulette.

Death in Oregon, Asininity in Europe



Jeremy Joseph Christian
Three men had their throats slashed on a commuter train in Portland (100 miles up the road from where I live), last weekend while trying to diffuse a situation in which two teenage girls--one black, the other white and wearing a hijab--were being insulted by Jeremy Christian. Although the train was crowded, only these three spoke up, and two of them were killed.

I'm no fan of Ayn Rand, the atheist writer who has inspired right-wing religious Republicans, but I've read several of her books. One of the questions she raised was: why should a person die for a stranger? Yes, why? What is the rationale for depriving your loved ones of your existence by dying for someone about whose nature you are ignorant? Although we praise those who risk their lives, which of us would even give a kidney for a stranger?

One of the men who died had four children. Was it right for him to deprive his children of a father? Would it be right for me to deprive Peggy of a husband?

Fifty years ago, I saw a man beating another man with a pistol. When I yelled, "Stop!" he turned the pistol on me, and I ran. It's not a decision that I have regretted.

I would guess that, out of every hundred people who die for a stranger, nearly all are young men, suggesting that evolution has arranged things so that the impetus to jump into the fray falls upon those who are the best able to come out alive.
Ayn Rand 1905-1982

A major downside of dying for someone is that it eliminates every other good thing a person might have done in life. The people whom I most respect aren't the ones who die for something, but the ones who live for something. For instance there's my blog buddy (http://catwomanflix.blogspot.com/) who has devoted her life to rescuing cats. Instead of praising Jodi for her sacrifice in spending her time and money on cats, and her heroism in crawling under abandoned houses and setting live traps in bad neighborhoods, most people contemptuously call her "the cat lady." This points to another thing about heroes: to win human approbation, they must help humans. Another misgiving I have about those Portland heroes is that I respect few of the people I know enough to die for them, so I'm hardly keen on dying for a stranger....

Maybe I would die for a child--particularly a child I knew--because I don't have a lot of years left to live anyway (call my thoughts about this a matter of economy, if you will). I would imagine that most people feel "programmed" to protect children without regard to either person's gender. But where the protector is male it's "women and children first." When I reflect upon the behavior of the men on the Titanic, I'm struck by the thought that all of those men who, it would appear, deemed their lives as less valuable than women's nonetheless denied legal, social, and political equality to women....

1 of 1,000s of Jodi's rescues
I heard a black woman on the radio say that the men who died in Portland wouldn't be receiving much praise had they been black. If the children they died protecting had been white, I suppose this same woman would have said they wouldn't have died for black children...

The only difference--within myself--that I can image had the men been black would be that their deaths would have countered my image of black people as criminals based upon the fact that the only black people I see on the local news are athletes and criminals, and even then, the athletes are often on the news because they got in trouble with the law. Because of this image, it's easier for a black person to make a favorable impression on me because I so much want to think well of blacks that I cling to their every act of virtue.

Because I so hate Islam, Peggy asked if I would have been less likely to speak up because one of the girls was wearing a hijab. Although I deplore hijabs (which I see as a sure symbol of gender oppression), the fact that one of the girls was wearing one wasn't the issue. The issue was that they were children who were being abused by a depraved bully. Speculating about what I might have done is an irresistible impossibility because I cannot know. All I can know is that, while I don't want to die for nothing, it doesn't follow that I wouldn't die for anything.

Ever the asshole
In other news... I was so outraged by Donald Trump's boorish behavior in Europe (my opinion of Trump is such that I rather think he would have approved of the behavior of the Portland bully, although he would have been too self-serving to have killed anyone himself), that I wrote to a newspaper in Montenegro. At least I tried to write, first to one newspaper in Montenegro, and then to every newspaper in Montenegro, but not a single email got through. I offer this letter as example of the kind of thing that I often do, and that might even, over the long-term, have more impact than martyrdom. In any event, it makes me feel better to do this kind of thing than to not do it.

"I am a lifelong citizen of the United States, and I live in Eugene, Oregon. I am writing to ask your forgiveness for an incident in which the childish man who represents my nation to the world shoved aside the man who represents your nation to the world. Neither I nor most of the people of my nation voted for Donald Trump, yet his boorish behavior reflects negatively upon us.

"After witnessing the campaign which put Trump into office, combined with the months he has been in office, I have come to understand Donald Trump fairly well—it’s easy to see the bottom of a shallow puddle—but what I don’t understand is why Dusko Markovic didn’t object to Trump shoving him aside as if he were a dead limb on a unwanted shrub. As if that apparent acceptance of his relative unimportance were not bad enough, Markovic added, “It is natural that the president of the United States is in the front row.”

"Sad though it is for the people of my nation to be represented by a brainless narcissist like Donald Trump, is it not also sad for the people of your nation to be represented by a man who fails to speak up when the dignity of his nation has been offended?"

I become an apprentice pipe smoker


My first foray into the world of tobacco came in 1961 with an L&M (the brand advertised on Gunsmoke) when I was twelve and camping alone in the backyard. Then came snuff and chewing tobacco, both of which made me so sick that I wondered how anyone persisted into addiction. In college, a pipe smoking friend persuaded me to try a pipe, but when I couldn’t keep it lit, I gave it up as a bad job. I had no such problem with cigars, which I ordered by the box from Tampa, Florida. For reasons unremembered, I eventually gave up cigars, and have rarely touched tobacco since.
 

Six weeks ago, I returned to pipe smoking in the faint hope that it would help me get off tranquilizers (which I never liked). I spent the first week looking for my Dr. Grabow (a brand of pipe made in North Carolina) and two more before I overcame my aversion to leaving home enough to visit The Briar Shoppe where I bought some cherry-flavored tobacco and other supplies. I immediately lost my new tamper, and spent the next three weeks using a screwdriver. My pipe relaxed me better than Ativan, and I seriously needed to relax because the Remeron was driving me up the wall. It's also true that, by the time I took enough Ativan to make a difference, I had to struggle to remember my name.

Yesterday, I got low on tobacco, so I went back to The Briar Shoppe for another fix. My first salesman was scheduled to work that day (I try to avoid new people when old ones will do, so I had asked him when he worked), but he wasn’t there, and the fellow who was there charged me double for the tobacco. When the store's owner couldn't figure out how to issue a Visa refund, I suggested that she give me a store credit. I did this partly to be agreeable and partly because I figured she might give me more than was owed, which she did.

Peggy and I agree that smoking indoors is obnoxious, but she doesn't want me to smoke in the garage either (I'm bigger and could beat her up, so I don't know why this should matter). When I complained yesterday that I had gotten cold smoking outside (the high was 55-degrees F.), she said I could smoke in the garage, but I thought it would be better to smoke outdoors for a few months and re-evaluate the situation in the fall.


Peggy is also concerned about the health effects of smoking and, in expressing them, she astounded me by saying that pipe smokers inhale. This isn't normally true, but pipe smokers are still more prone to oral and esophageal cancer. It's also true that I take so many drugs that I anticipate juggling between risk and benefit, so I'm less concerned on this score than she is.

As with many things that a person gets interested in, my interest in pipes has caused me to come up with questions that I never thought to ask. For example, as a boy I only knew three pipe smokers, two white and one black. The black man, Cleo Kelly, bought Prince Albert (the Milwaukee's Best of tobacco) from my parents’ country store, but what did the white men smoke?


I knew one of the white smokers from church, and also through his son, Jack, who was my age. The father's name was Edward Tousinau and, as I just learned, he’s still alive, although he would be awfully old by now. Like all of the pipe smokers I’ve known, "Brother" Tousinau seemed removed from the concerns of ordinary men. He would fire-up after services while chatting with the other men in the churchyard and because my church condemned tobacco, it was a bold move. Maybe Brother Tousinau didn’t care because he was already in hot water for another mortal sin—Freemasonry. 


I enjoyed watching Brother Tousinau pull his pipe from his suit-coat pocket and go through the ritual of getting it loaded and lit, and I noticed that others felt the same, not that Brother Tousinau seemed to notice. I concluded that other men respected him because he had the guts to go his own way in a church that shamed weaker men into conformity, but maybe I was projecting. I sometimes visited his son at home and was enthralled by the pipe-rack that set on a table beside his father’s recliner. Because I was a boy who craved ritual and loved intellectualism, Brother Tousinau impressed me greatly.

The other white pipe smoker I knew was a cop named Leroy Smith whose daughter I was sweet on. Unfortunately, my friendship with Kathy fizzled because her best friends were horses and, despite being a country boy, the closest I had ever come to a horse was through movies and TV. The first time I got onto one of her horses I pulled back on the reigns so hard that the horse went into reverse--right through a fence. Must I admit that I was humiliated?

Cleo Kelly was my only black friend's father. Because of his race, I didn't call him mister, but found him too forbidding to take a chance on Cleo. Like other pipesmokers, Cleo was quiet and thoughtful, but I never regarded him as intellectual because I knew he wasn't. I thought he looked down on me, and the only time I even remember him talking to me was when we crossed paths in the woods one day. I was out shooting whatever non-human life that moved, and he was on his way to my parents' store. He said that my long-barrelled .12 gauge would knock me on my ass, and I hated him for it. 

I wanted a quotation to accompany this post and, after much thought, settled on the following. Reading it again just now after the passage of many years, I was mortified to discover that it contains no mention of a pipe, but since it accurately describes my own pipe-smoking reverie at the close of day, I'll include it anyway. It comes at the end of Thoreau's chapter in Walden entitled "Higher Laws."


"John Farmer sat at his door one September evening, after a hard day's work, his mind still running on his labor more or less. Having bathed, he sat down to recreate his intellectual man. It was a rather cool evening, and some of his neighbors were apprehending a frost. He had not attended to the train of his thoughts long when he heard some one playing on a flute, and that sound harmonized with his mood. Still he thought of his work; but the burden of his thought was, that though this kept running in his head, and he found himself planning and contriving it against his will, yet it concerned him very little. It was no more than the scurf of his skin, which was constantly shuffled off. But the notes of the flute came home to his ears out of a different sphere from that he worked in, and suggested work for certain faculties which slumbered in him. They gently did away with the street, and the village, and the state in which he lived. A voice said to him—Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you? Those same stars twinkle over other fields than these.—But how to come out of this condition and actually migrate thither? All that he could think of was to practise some new austerity, to let his mind descend into his body and redeem it, and treat himself with ever increasing respect."

If life doesn't contains more than what we find here, maybe death does. Who is to say?

About the photo: My Dr. Grabow is up-front. The other pipes and the pipe stand are a $21.50 acquisition from Ebay. Why, yes, the wall really is pinkish/lavendar, pink being my favorite color.

Jennycide


Who is Jennie, and why does everyone want to kill her? It is a question that has haunted me for decades.

As to my post before last, I am not (normally) a vicious person. Just don't rob, cheat, murder, rape, or torture, me, my wife, my cats, or anyone else, and we'll get along. If this is too much to ask, what am I to say? That you get a pass to bring misery into the world because you had an abusive childhood or inherited bad genes? Let me ask you, if if you're really and truly THAT fucked up, and you really and truly CAN'T do better, why shouldn't society kill you? You're no better than a rabid dog in that, while your depravity is not your fault, the world shouldn't have to put up with you. The man who, after two DUIs, ran his car through Times Square this week and killed one person and injured a lot more, is it really kinder to give such people chance, after chance, after chance, than it is to euthanize them? Or take the pregnant addicts that Nurse Peggy used to treat, how many children must such losers have taken from them by the government in the name of compassion? I would say one, maybe two, but how many would you say? Five? Ten? Any number? And does your imagined compassion cause you to feel morally superior to me?

Liberals would say that capital punishment and forced sterilization are wrong, regardless, while conservatives would say, kill the assholes, and, on this, I'm more in line with the conservatives, yet I'm not a conservative. I'm not anything. I wish I could be, but nothing fits. I just think there are people whose claim to compassion has expired.

Another week of Trump


Yesterday, our Republican led Congress lowered the cost of health insurance by lowering benefits and by allowing insurers to make insurance obscenely unaffordable to anyone who isn't young and healthy. This is expected to leave 24-million people without any insurance due to age and pre-existing conditions. After passing this law writ in blood, Republican Congressmen took a bus ride to the White House to drink beer with the president, their happiness undiminished by having caused the suffering and death of millions with act that was vigorously opposed by every single healthcare related professional group. America can always find trillions of dollars to kill people in war, but it regards every cent that is spent on such basic needs as education and healthcare as another cent closer to bankruptcy.

Trump expressed anger that he lacks the dictatorial power of Russia's Putin and Turkey's Erdogan. He praised the Phillipines' Duerte as a strong leader based, it would appear (due to the lack of other possibilities) upon Duerte's contempt for Obama (whom he called "the son of a whore") and his use of lynching to resolve his county's drug problem. Finally, he called North Korea's  Kim Jong Un "a pretty smart cookie," and said that he (Trump) would be "honored" to meet him. On the homefront, he continues to blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for all of America's problems.

Trump became so outraged by lawmakers who dare to oppose him that he said, "Our country needs a good government shutdown," implying that will refuse to approve a new budget in October.

Trump vowed to "Make School Lunches Great Again" by replacing former president Obama's healthy food initiative with all the white bread and sugar that America's overweight kids and can stuff down their diabetic gullets. He also overturned Michelle Obama's initiative to provide academic encouragement and validation to girls.

Trump signed yet another executive order (he's ahead of Obama by nearly two to one, although he called Obama a "weak president" for relying on executive orders). Today's executive order will allow tax exempt churches to give both verbal and monetary support to political candidates. There was no word as to whether the the fact that most Christians voted for Trump (he won 81% of the evangelical vote*) was a factor in his decision, and no explanation for why he even bothered to eliminate a requirement that the government ignores anyway. Christians are now asking Trump to sign to sign an executive order allowing them to violate the civil rights of gays, atheists, women who use birth control, and transgender people, all in the name of Jesus.

The Republican Congress repealed internet privacy protections so that big business can make more big money.

Trump started eliminating banking laws that were implemented to prevent big banks from the kinds of reckless behavior that led the country to the brink of financial collapse in 2008.

Trump announced plans to deregister more than 24 national monuments. In my view, no president during my lifetime deserves high praise for protecting the natural environment, however, Trump exceeds the others in his callousness for the environment because while doing nothing to preserve it, he has gone to pains to hasten its destruction in the name of greed.

Finally... More than 53,000 people have signed a petition that was targeted at mental health professionals, stating Trump should be removed from office because he is insane. Yale psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton warned against creeping what he calls "malignant normality" meaning that under a malignantly narcissistic leader like Trump, "alternate facts," conspiracy theories, racism, science denial and delegitimization of the press become the new normal." I consider the truth of this to be obvious. When our president demonstrates persistent and far reaching suspicion regarding his own investigational agencies, has no consistent set of values, praises murderous dictators as examples of effective leadership, never admits a mistake, and clings tenaciously to easily disprovable lies, he has a serious problem that I would to grow ever more serious under the demands of the presidency.



I have tried to keep an open heart to Republicans, and I have tried to believe that there is surely some limit to how far Trump can go without losing their support, but I have found it impossible to do either. It is my sad conclusion that the Republican Party is dominated by two kinds of people. The first are devoid of  environmental concerns, couldn't care less about civil rights, and don't give a fig how many lives they wreck--or even destroy--as long as it puts money in their pockets. If a Congressman doesn't kowtow to them, they'll use their riches to defame and replace him or her, and thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court, no one outside of Congress will even know where the money came from. 

The second kind of Republican is a conman's wet dream. As long as a candidate says he loves guns and Jesus, detests the least hint of liberalism, and shares their abhorrence of abortion, gay rights, and even birth control, then that person will have their vote. These people are SO stupid that they accept the lie that the best way to help themselves out of poverty is to make rich people richer so that  some of the wealth will "trickle down" to them. The majority of these Republicans live in the most ignorant, religious, and impoverished parts of the country (the parts known as the "Bible Belt") which happen to be the very parts of the country that are the most dependent upon government welfare programs. Some of these states are SO dependent upon the federal government that they get more money back from the government than they pay into it, and this makes them every so much as like a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, the conclusion being that they're only stupid, they're malevolent. I know much of this due to having spent 37-years in Mississippi, a state is near or at the bottom in regard to every measurable standard of living unless you count religion in itself as a standard of measurement, in which Mississippi is at the top. Of the ten states that have the lowest standard of living, all but one are in the Bible Belt.*** 

Just as the gun lobby cite deaths from gun violence as proof that the country needs more guns; the citizens of the state with the lowest standard of living and the highest incidence of church attendance, argue that what will correct the former is more of the latter. While these citizens parrot their leaders in extolling private enterprise--while deprecating government--they overlook the fact that, even if those leaders force the government into default, they will continue to enjoy a singular benefit among government employees, namely that they will to draw their own government paychecks even while the rest of us go into the hole They also forget that when those leaders insist that government health insurance sucks, and that the private sector will do an infinitely better job in providing us with health insurance, is is never their own government financed health insurance they're talking about because like that very much indeed.

* http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/ 

** https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/05/04/trump-malignant-narcissistic-disorder-psychiatry-column/101243584/ 

***http://politicsthatwork.com/graphs/standard-of-living

I go on a date, but don't get fresh


Ollie in back, then Brewsky, then Scully
I took myself on a date today (Peggy was busy designing  button trays for competition at the Oregon State Button Society Convention) and showed myself a lovely time by drinking lots of free coffee at Winco's (an employee owned supermarket), buying lots of old books at St. Vinnie's (the thrift store where I get most of my books), and watching a truck burn-up at Jerry's (a locally owned lumber company that makes me pity people who have no better place to shop than Home Depot). 

The only bad thing about my date was that some asshole stole my cap from my shopping cart at St. Vinnie's (I took my cap off because I was hot). I repeatedly looked everywhere for the thief before finally pretending to leave the store on the off-chance that he would see me, think I was gone for good, and put my cap on his contemptible head. I finally gave up on getting my cap back and spent a whopping $2.49 for a replacement that I like better than the one that was stolen. I own upwards of 100 caps (I even had two other caps in the car), so I only bought a replacement in the hope that it would make me feel better about the theft, which it did. I sincerely wanted to kill the thief, and really would have too if I could have found him, and known that I wouldn't get in a lot of trouble. I hate that thief to the depths of my being for his willingness to cause me unhappiness for such a small gain. (I'm not the forgiving type when it comes to criminality, and the hatred I feel today, I'll feel for as long as I live.)

Now I want to tell you why I went to the doctor on Thursday:

1) Worsening back pain that dominates my thoughts and increases the longer I’m on my feet each day.
2) Anxiety that verges on panic.
3) Achy eyes and blurry vision, which my optometrist attributes to my badly dilated eyeballs twitching.

4) A facial tic.
4) Trouble keeping my extremities still. 

5) Hands that tremble to the point of being obvious to others.

I thought it likely that all of these symptoms but the pain might be caused by my latest anti-depressant, so I gave the doc a list of  antidepressants that I've never taken and that sounded good on the internet. He gave me a prescription for Remeron and told me to wait until bedtime to take it, but I was so desperate that I took one as soon as I got home. Although I became dizzy and staggered, the tic, trembling, twitching, and jerkiness were almost gone, and the anxiety was gone.

I'm now feeling so happy and spontaneous that when I took myself to Jerry's on my date, I almost succumbed to the urge to buy a pretty little yellow DeWalt table saw. When I got to St. Vinnie's, I became so enraptured with every third book that it was an enormous challenge to stop at twenty-one, most of them antique novels, although some were books of cat paintings and cat cartoons. (I also love cat photographs, but alas, St. Vinnie's was out.)

Speaking of being madly in love, I'm head-over-heels for my beautiful little tuxedo kitty, Scully, and she's head-over-heels for me. She couldn't wait for me to awaken naturally today (as is her custom), so she cried at my door until I opened it and embraced her for yet another day made precious by the beauty of her body and spirit. When Peggy and I finally got burned-out after forty-plus years of taking care of dogs, I wondered if I could ever love a feline half so well as I had loved a score of canines. I need wonder no longer, and while I adore Brewsky Katoosky and Ollie Somali (Ollie is sitting in my lap as I write this), Scully Scullaria is most definitely her daddy's little girl child who, sad to say, will turn one on May 6. I say "sad to say" because kittens are way more fun than grown cats.

I can no longer imagine life without cats. While I'll never stop missing the love of dogs, my cats are also loving creatures who adore one another and their daddy and mommy. They're also beautiful, self-cleaning, never have to be let outdoors to go potty, and would think I had completely lost my mind if I tried to take them walking in the rain. I can't get enough of cats, and who knows how many I would have if Peggy weren't here to put on the brakes.

Remeron.... I just hope it'll keep working.

What doth the Lord require of thee...


The photo shows a World War II American Marine on the island of Tarawa. He is kneeling before a tank that has been blown off its track, and in his right hand is a canteen from which he has poured water for a kitten.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Eugene Sledge was an Alabama boy who, decades after the war, wrote about his experiences as a Marine on Tarawa and other islands. He told of being penned down for days in shadeless lava in 115-temperatures with decaying corpses all around and nothing to drink but water that had been tainted with diesel; of Marines who had been captured, tortured, and finally killed with their dicks in their mouths; of a Marine using his Ka-Bar to slit the cheeks of a wounded Japanese so he could more easily remove the man's gold teeth. Sledge wrote that, even amid such horrors, there were instances of kindness and justice, such as when the tooth-stealing Marine was stopped at gunpoint and his mortally-wounded victim mercifully shot.

“… what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
 

The Marine in the photo is surely dead, but his nobility lives on to give me life.

A check-in based upon today's letter to my friend, Bernard


An obese Goeth shoots starving Jews
I am 5'10" and my weight fluctuates from 168 to 180, often within weeks. Peggy says I look dumpy at 180, plus I need to keep my weight down because of knee pain, but it's hard to do. Part of the problem is narcotics in that they tend to make a fellow hungry and they also make it harder to pass stools. As for drinking, since I live with chronic pain and not a little depression, it's increasingly hard to stay away from liquor because it at least gives me a little respite from what I would sometimes call intense misery. Yet, as I'm sure you know, a person isn't supposed to drink and take antidepressants (not to mention narcotics, sleeping pills, and nerve pain pills), so I worry a good bit about my health, and I feel guilty knowing that such things that very well cause me to die prematurely, leaving Peggy on her own.

Your book about the Holocaust has arrived--thank you. I can't imagine a man making his career writing about senseless brutality, but it's good from a historical standpoint that he does. While browsing genealogy books at the public library recently, I saw one entitled My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me. The grandfather in question was Amon Goetz (the camp commandant of Schindler's List fame), and the granddaughter was half black, so she might very well have been right about him shooting her. I had given no thought to the impact of notorious Nazis on their descendants, so I found the one-third of the book that I read interesting in that regard, yet I can't recommend it because I didn't like or respect its author.

I don't know how I lost her, but I once had a German blog friend who grew up in post-war Germany, and who described the men of her father's generation as sullen and angry. Indeed, what could they say except that they fought on the side of evil and lost? Given the misery they brought to the world, the depression of their descendants matters little to me. I can understand why those descendants feel as they do, but since millions upon millions of people were murdered by their fathers and grandfathers, I'll reserve my sympathy for others. The older I get and the better I understand suffering, the more compassion I have for the victims and the less for the perpetrators. Psychopaths who hunger for power--men like Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un, and al-Assad--bring nothing but needless pain to the earth, and for what, so they can feel powerful during their few short decades of life? If I could, I would shoot them down for the mad dogs that they are, not that a quick death would be adequate justice. 



I know that in writing as I do, I must also sound heartless, but is it not true that to have sympathy for evil people makes one a party to their crimes? What I have written also comes from my intense dislike of Jennifer Teegue, the author of the book I mentioned. I considered her narcissistic, a woman who could put on a good show of sympathy but who was devoid of any real feelings for anyone but herself. She wondered in the book whether there was an inheritable aspect to being the descendant of someone like Goetz, and I thought that, well, given that I see you and your maternal ascendants as being unable to feel the pain of anyone but yourselves, maybe there is.

As for the genealogy, I've been neglecting other things for it. It seems that the further I go back in time, the less interest I have, what with the number of grandparents doubling with every generation. Once I got to 32-great-great-greats, the names started running together even while, once I got to the almost useless censuses of 1840 and earlier, my ability to learn about their lives decreased. I have learned much, though. For instance, Peggy and I come from a long line of rural people, and while I knew that rural families, at least, used to be big, I had no idea how big. It's not even unusual to find people with ten kids, and, given the high childhood mortality, that's not counting the many who were born and died between censuses. I was also surprised to learn that nearly all of the ancestors I studied lived in but two counties in Mississippi (on my mother's side) and two counties in the Appalachian Mountains of Alabama (on my father's side). I should think that if, on my mother's side, I visited Choctaw or Attala County, Mississippi (or, my father's side, Dekalb or Jackson County, Alabama) every third white person would be my cousin, yet I didn't know this until the last few weeks.

I also noted that most of my ancestors were dead before my age of 68, that nearly all of them listed their occupations as "farming" or, in the case of the women, "keeping house." Few were well-educated, and most were barely literate. Some people on my side--and on Peggy's side--had a few slaves, but not enough to make them rich (some slaveholders owned hundreds of slaves). With this knowledge comes the will to believe that, if my ancestors did it, it surely couldn't have been that bad (which is how the descendants of Nazis think). I know this is silly, but that's the feeling. I also found that I had several relatives who fought on the side of the South during America's Civil War, and I was more appalled by their willingness to fight to preserve slavery as by their actual owning of slaves because I can't imagine the defense of slavery as a justification for the loss of 600,000 lives (the Civil War is still the costliest in America's history.) When I was a boy, Southerners still held "Yankees" in contempt (the South referred to the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression"), but I gather that Southern contempt is now based more on religion and politics than geography.
Alcoa Transport, Sunk Oct 2, 1942
One of the treats of my study has been finding photos of long dead relatives and World War I draft registration cards that listed my ancestor's physical characteristics and contained their often childlike signatures. I also found my father's war records and a photo of one of the two merchant ships that he was on (the SS Alcoa Transport) and were sunk by U-boats. Six men died on that ship, and I so wish my father were here to talk to because I would love to know that if the Alcoa Transport was the ship he told me about on which men died for a cargo of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Unfortunately for me, World War II draft records have yet to be released, as have censuses since 1940, which means that recent history becomes harder to trace than earlier history, at least on the more reputable genealogical sites.

The reason I started studying Peggy's genealogy is that her father is still alive. For her part, Peggy cares much less about such things than I, although she was moved when I found the original custom's record of her family's 1959 return from Spain (where her father was stationed in the Air Force) on a truly beautiful Lockheed plane called a Super Constellation. Yesterday, her father told us that, while over the ocean, he looked out the window to see that one of the props had been feathered, but that he kept this information from Peggy's mother, who was morbidly afraid to fly. That's the kind of information that one could never learn without living relatives.

I'm sure I told you that my DNA study indicated that my ancestors were nearly all British and Irish, and that have no American Indian blood (I had thought I was at least 3/16), but a higher than average amount of Neanderthal blood and a little West African blood. I'm happy about my Neanderthal ancestors, but simply puzzled about the black ones (it sounds like rape to me, but then that could be true of my Neanderthal ancestors as well). It's a hell of world, and then we die.

Separating Genealogical Fact from Fiction



For instance, my father told me that my great grandmother’s brother, John, fought for the Confederacy, was court martialed, and sentenced to be shot. At the last minute, he inadvertently gave a secret Masonic sign, and it saved him. After the war, John became a 32nd degree Mason. Here is the true story in my own words as presented by researcher Dara Sorenson based upon James Nisbet’s book Four Years on the Firing Line:

John Countiss was raised on Sand Mountain, Alabama, and enlisted as a private in the 21st Georgia Infantry during the Civil War. He attained the rank of captain, but in 1863, just before the Battle of Gettysburg, he was court martialed for disobedience, lost his commission, and was expelled from the military. Instead of going home, John fought so bravely at Gettysburg that he regained his commission on the recommendation of every officer present. A year later, he was wounded in the second battle of Winchester when a bullet lodged beneath the skin of his forehead. After being treated, he went back into battle. As I discovered through additional research, Uncle John received a Confederate pension from the state of Alabama.


Great Grandma Lizzie 
Another interesting story that I uncovered concerns my maternal great grandmother, Lizzie, who died three weeks after her son, Russell. Most of the following account was written by a daughter-in-law, but I’ll put it in my own words and add information from other sources: 

On June 21, 1911, Lizzie looked from her sickroom window to see her thirteen-year-old son become enveloped in flames while cleaning clothes with gasoline. She rolled him on the ground, but he died on the scene, and she died thirty-two days later in the Mississippi state mental hospital. The Kosciusko, Mississippi, newspaper reported her demise as follows:

“The death of this estimable lady is painfully sad. It will be remembered that only a few weeks ago, while on the bed of affliction, she lost her youngest son in a most tragic manner and never recovered from the blow. She was taken to the Sanitarium at Jackson and placed under eminent specialists by her husband, but got no relief, and death claimed her Sunday morning."


Grandpa Jason
Eight years later, her son, my grandfather, Jason Black, shipped out from Mobile Bay on the merchant ship, Pascagoula. Researcher after researcher reports that he died at sea the same year, but I can find no evidence for the claim (amateur genealogists are notorious for their non-critical acceptance of information obtained from other genealogists). The nearest I’ve come to proof is Jason’s seaman’s certificate from August 19, 1919, and the fact that seven U.S. Navy ships went down three weeks later in a hurricane off the Florida Keys. 

Much to my surprise, Jason’s grandfather—my maternal great grandfather—owned slaves. I say “much to my surprise” not because I thought my family was better than that, but because I didn’t know they had the money. However, given that both sides of my family lived in the South for generations, I suppose I should have been more surprised if they hadn’t owned slaves. In fact, one of John Brown’s men at Harper’s Ferry was an escaped slave with my surname, although I haven’t gotten far enough in my research to know if a relative owned him.

A Respite from Outrage




I find that I can’t write about Trump without giving up writing, a state that I have never experienced and never expected to experience.

I, who used to cry so easily, cry less and less as I grow old, and when I do, it’s nearly always because I, who have no ear for music, have been touched by one of two instruments—the bagpipe or the electric guitar.

 
I sobbed today as I lay in bed with Peggy listening to Steve McDonald’s version of Loch Lomond. So much sweat poured from me that I had to change the cover. I
’ve been crying for more than an hour and see no end in sight, but even this is better than three months of powerless outrage.