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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fringeville #102, April 12 2014

It's yours, free, if you just take it and leave!

What do I know about PSA? That's a teacher's union, right Doc?

Sometimes it's the phone calls you make, sometimes it's the phone calls you take. This time it was both.

Let's start with the call I made.

The woman who answered the phone at the doctor's office had a very, very pleasant voice. Cheerful, in fact. The perfect voice for answering incoming calls.

"How can I help you?"

"I'm calling for my biopsy results."

"Your name?"

"James O'Meara."

"Your date of birth?"

I gave it to her.

"Do you mind holding? I'll see if they came in."

I waited, and as I did so my mind wandered back to the things I had left to do that day and over the coming weeks. For the day, I was on my lunch and had a pile of work to get back to after the phone call. For the immediate future, there was a political campaign ahead. I had filed my petitions to run for Republican State Committee earlier in the week (the day before my biopsy, in fact). I was anxious to see what ballot position I would draw later in the month for the Primary Election.

Then my mind focused on the following day, one I was looking forward to. It was one of my days to pick up my grandson at daycare and drive him to school. We would have a half hour in the car together, and I would use every moment to the fullest. I would recite the name of every street we passed and we would play our "lunch game." The game works like this:

"What did you eat for lunch, James?" I ask. (My grandson is the third in a line of James O'Meara's ...I started a dynasty.)

No answer.

"Did you have elephant soup?"


"Alligator toes?"


"Snail soup?"


"Zebra gizzards?"


On and on we go until he has a grin the size of Oklahoma.

These half-hour trips are precious to me. On this particular Thursday afternoon, March 13 2014, I was also thinking about the route to take on Friday when I drove my grandson to school. He likes me to change things up, and always asks to go "a different way." It was becoming a challenge because there are only so many ways to go from one end of Pittston to the other.

"Mr. O'Meara?"

Oh, but her tone had changed. Softer, almost a whisper.

"What number can doctor call to reach you?"

That was it. Bang. Zoom. My life had just changed, and I knew it.

I gave her my mobile number and sat at my dining room table, waiting for his call.

"Well," I sighed to myself, "You finally get yourself in a race you might win and then you go and get cancer."

* * *

The first indication something was amiss started the previous autumn. I was working two part-time jobs. One of those jobs was for a national retail chain, where I was a home improvement sales consultant. That's a fancy way of saying I sold hardware, lawn and garden goods, and a host of other items. I applied for the job strictly for the challenge. I was a middle-aged deaf man with bilateral cochlear implants which restored my hearing. I wanted to see if I could walk up to total strangers, engage them, and learn to sell. I wasn't a great sales consultant as far as numbers go, but in the time I was there I began building a core of customers who would come looking for me when they needed something. It didn't pay well, but I had a blast. It was a job requiring me to be on my feet all the time. I liked that aspect of it, once I got used to it, because it kept my butt from growing so large it needed its own zip code.

I started the job in August of 2012, and for the first year things were fine. Then, as the seasons changed and the colors of autumn emerged in 2013, something odd began to happen as I worked. One minute I'd be fine, and the next I'd get an urgent call from Mother Nature that the dam in my bladder was going to burst. I would zip off to the men's room, answer her call, then zip back to the sales floor. At first this happened maybe once a shift. As time went on it happened more often. Usually it wasn't a big deal because frankly we weren't all that busy. But occasionally a scenario like this would play out:

"Hello, and thanks for coming in to visit us today. I'm Jimbo. I see you're thinking about a lawnmower,sir."


"Can you tell me a little about your yard?"

The customer would start talking about the size, terrain, etc. and suddenly an urgent message would be sent from my bladder to my brain: "Jimbo, wrap this up. The tank's full."

But of course, I couldn't wrap it up. I was just getting started.

"How does this electric start thingymabob work?"

I would start answering the question, and the others that followed, and a new message would arrive from below my belt line: "Jimbo. It's me. Your bladder. Maybe you missed my last call. Remember the movie 'A River Runs Through It?'  Well, in about 30 seconds that's gonna be your pants."


"Let me go see if we have these in stock in our warehouse!" I would blurt out, then hurry off.

Of course, we had a ton of mowers in stock, but once I was in the warehouse I could make a dash to the men's room, tap the kidneys, and go back to my sale.

Occasionally, though, it was difficult to peel away. When I said I wanted to check stock, my customer would stop me and ask even more questions. Usually it was just one or two, but occasionally someone put me through the retail version of the Spanish Inquisition. I would stand there, cross-legged and spit out the answers. On a couple of occasions I came within seconds of saying: "Buddy it's yours, free, if you just take it and leave right this second."

Sure, I'd have been fired. But I'd get to pee, and at those particular moments in time all that mattered to me in the entire Universe was peeing.

I suppose I should have been alarmed, but I simply put it down to getting older. I felt great otherwise. My bladder was just a little excitable.

When my other part-time job became full-time with benefits in December of 2013, I left my retail job. I also made a mental note to see my primary physician sometime after the holidays. I hadn't been to the doctor in more than two years, largely because for much of that time I'd had no health care benefits. When I finally got limited healthcare benefits in January 2013 from my retail employer, my schedules were insane and I put off scheduling an appointment. The full-time job as "the office guy" for a local shoe store offered a lot of flexibility. I could finally make an appointment and get a good once-over. I had routine blood work done in early February 2014 and on the 13th of that month I finally found myself in my doctor's office waiting to be scolded over my cholesterol levels and for putting on a few pounds.

"Well," he said, "You're due for a colonoscopy but there's something else we need to look at first. Your PSA rose from about 1.8 to over 6. I'm going to refer you to a urologist."

And with that, my happy race to heck in a handbag began.

* * *

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fringeville #101, April 11 2014

A quick note to my readers (both of  you) that I'm going to begin writing about a journey I recently began. I know where I want it to take me. I know where I hope it takes me. But there are no guarantees, just likelihoods. And I'm not sure if I have the courage to write about it, but nevertheless I'm going to try.

The first installment will post shortly. The working title is: I'll give it to you free if you just take it and leave.

It's not what you expect. Trust me on that.


* * *

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fringeville #100, February 1 2014


An old fogie from Plains went ridin' out one dark and windy day
An LCTA bus was city bound and it whisked him on his way
When all at once a mighty herd of senior citizens he saw
A-boarding his bus on Public Square,

Spectral pop-pops and grandmaws

Their walkers made of brass and their shopping bags tinted teal
Their bus passes were afire and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they inched on down the aisle
For he saw the Riders comin' slow and heard their mournful cry

Yippie yi aaaay
Yippie yi ohhhh,
Ghost Riders LCTA

Their faces gaunt, their eyes was blurred,

Their shirts was soaked with sweat
They're ridin' hard to go to the mall,

but they ain't got there yet
'Cause they've got to ride forever these phantoms will never die
On buses belching black smoke, as they ride on hear their cry

Yippie yi aaaay
Yippie yi ohhhh,
Ghost Riders LCTA

As the riders sat around him, he heard one call his name
"If you want to save your soul you best get off this bus today
Get off right now or straight to a grand jury you will ride
Or worse you'll be a phantom too, and sit forever at my side!"

Yippie yi aaaay
Yippie yi ohhhh,
Ghost Riders LCTA

* * *

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fringeville #99, January 19 2014

Sticker Shock
Holy Sh*t...

My wife has been working late shifts for months. I've been doing a lot of the shopping. She's on a new shift, and gets out in the early evening. That means she's back to a normal sleep schedule, so we can actually go to the store together.

Last evening we went to Wally World in Pittston Township. As we went up and down the aisles, this was the mantra escaping my beloved's lips:

"Holy Sh*T! Look at the price on this!"

"Holy Sh*t! The cheese we buy has gone through the roof!"

"Holy Sh*t!" Look at the bacon prices! It'd be cheaper to buy the pig!" 

The only genuine bargain we found was Eight O'Clock Columbian coffee K-Cups, the elixir of the gods-too-lazy-to-grind-beans-at-six-AM.

The really bad news is that price-wise it's even worse in other stores.

So where do we shop?

Ranked by preference (meaning we actually enjoy the overall experience), we do the bulk of our shopping at Schiel's in Parsons. The service is excellent (I hate lines).
None of our other stores match Schiels on getting you through the line quickly. The prices and quality are good, and it is also closest to where I work.

Next on the preference totem pole is Weis Market on River Street in Plains. Like Schiels, good prices and quality. Schiels gets the edge because it is usually next to impossible to get out of Weiss quickly. There are just a handful of checkouts and they're not all manned.

Price Chopper would get more business from us if they were closer, but they refuse to move the store. Their selection and quality is great, it's just their location relative to our abode.

Wegmans is heaven for selection and quality ...I could live out my life in their olive bar ...but the prices are too steep and the crowds are unnerving.

Wally World is reserved for odds and ends and things we just can't get cheaper. It is always the worst possible experience. There are 60 bajillion checkouts, and maybe three or four manned at any given time. Kind of like going to the bank these days. Lotsa people, lots of lines, zero service. And Wally World either has chimpanzees stocking their eggs or they use the egg display for bazooka practice. But Wally World is generally the cheapest and they tend to save us trips out for other things totally unrelated to grocery purchases.

Now if I rank these stores by where we actually spent the most, the batting order is: Schiels (46%), Wally World (26%), Weiss (23%), Price Chopper (4%) and finally Wegmans (1%). I've got to say, that was a surprise to me, because we don't make that many trips to Wally World. But when we do, we spend. When the cheapest place, where we spend more than 1-in-4 food dollars, elicits sticker shock from my wife, this can't be good news for the overall state of the economy.

It's the inflation that isn't happening and it is the inevitable and predictable result of printing money out of thin air while vastly increasing national debt. Mix in the myriad and rising taxes at all levels of government, the falling actual wages, and we've got what some call the deliberate destruction of the American middle class.

I think it is far, far simpler: We have a vast and growing government that is utterly incompetent, hopelessly corrupt, and completely out of touch with the people they serve. A government which believes, perhaps correctly, that we serve them because we certainly vote that way.

Whatever the cause, here is the cry we're all going to hear going forward from the shoppers of America: "Holy Sh*t! Look at the price of the toilet paper. Time to stop mulching and use the leaves!"

* * *

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fringeville #98, January 17 2014

Yes, the Almighty has a sense of humor...

Recently, God pranked me.


He even let me know something was coming. Of course, being the Almighty and all, there was no way I'd guess what He had in store.

It happened at Mass earlier this month. I was on Eucharistic Minister duty, but it turns out I was also on His prank list because I'd missed some Masses. (One because I apparently don't know how to read a schedule, others because I'm pigheaded about some things and that's all I'll say about that.)

As I dressed in my white robe for duty, I had a sense of foreboding. Something was  going to happen, I was sure of it. 

But what?

Would I drop a host (done that before).

Would I knock something off the altar and watch in horror as it clanged, banged and bounced across the marble floor (done that twice).

Would I trip and fall flat on my face, sending Communion Hosts skittering all across the floor (not yet, but it is inevitable).

I said to one of the other Eucharistic Ministers: "...I'm due for some small catastrophe. Whatever happens, just yell out, '...yeah, I remember MY first beer.'"

But Mass went without a hitch. Flawless in fact. When I was finally back in my pew to await the recessional, I let out a deep breath. The music started. We left our pew and lined up behind Monsignor, bowed, then turned around to start the march to the back of the church.

Which is, of course, when God pranked me in front of the entire congregation.

I was about to take a step when one of my comrades tugged my elbow and pointed down.

We wear rope belts around our waists and moments before, when bowing, mine had fallen off and was tangled up in my feet.

So there I was, with everyone watching, trying to gracefully bend down and pull up my belt while hopping pathetically down the aisle. I caught the eye of a woman in a pew and stammered: "...yeah, looks like that diet is working for me."

I swear I could hear the Almighty laughing. He's good. The ultimate prankster. I mean, how else do you explain armadillos, porcupines, or Dennis Rodman?

At least He didn't let me trip I did receive a small measure of mercy.

But I'm going to be on edge for a while. I don't think he's done with me...

* * *

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fringeville #97, January 14 2014

Labor Farce

The vanishing American Worker
As bad as the trend has been since 2009, what is even more unsettling to me is how many people in that horrible number in the lower right-hand corner are working two, three or more jobs to prop up the rest of the country.

You can, if you wish, spend all kinds of time tossing blame back and forth between this President or that. If it makes you feel better.  If you think it will matter one damned bit.It won't.

Whatever the hell it is we think we're doing, it ain't working kids. I said more than once in 2010 that we were in a depression. I still believe that. Maybe it's a little baby depression, not a "great" one, but if we continue shrinking the labor force and enabling long-term dependence we are going to be toast. In fact the bread's in the toaster now, and we're fiddling with the dial: light, medium, dark, or burnt to an inedible crisp.

* * *

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fringeville #96, January 12 2014

The sad state of the typical domestic American male

I'm trying to figure out exactly when it happens: The moment when a man transforms from that perfect creature adored by his woman into a certifiable dumbass.

Is it right after the honeymoon? Probably not. Five years later? Ten?

I don't know, but it creeps up suddenly. One night you go to bed king of the castle and the next day you awaken as the village ...make that domicile ...dumbass.

In my life, here are just a few of the things I did on a limited formal education:

  • Worked as a newspaper correspondent
  • Ran my own business
  • Taught myself programming
  • Taught myself AS400 management
  • Wrote and performed music, even recording a session on local radio.
  • Wrote a novella and a number of short stories.
  • Taught myself basic bookkeeping.
  • Ran for office.
  • Managed a Congressional campaign.

The list goes on. And it's all for naught because most days it is pretty much driven home that I'm a dumbass.


It may sound like I'm whining here, but I'm not. This is what happens to all American males at some mysterious point after they tie the knot. Their significant other, who loves them to death, realizes that she's somehow gone and married a dumbass.

I am not unique.

I've done considerable research, and I've found some of the greatest minds in history were, in fact, dumbasses. I've uncovered some diary entries by famous and brilliant men.

Let's review:


Tuesday: I found myself contemplating the nature of the Universe. I have found there to be five elements: Earth, Water, Air ..I must set aside my quill a moment. I have, it seems, left my robe upon the floor and have most stupidly not cleaned river mud from my sandals and have tracked it through the library.

Wednesday: I continue my analysis of the Universe. These are the elements necessary for existence: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and I once again take my leave. I put the crockery away for Herpyllis this morning, and did not stack them properly. Big ones on the bottom, smaller ones atop those. I just jammed them all in there higgity piggity. Well, one fell and smashed, a gift from her mother, and I will be sleeping on the veranda again.

Thursday: I must write quickly. I've not sorted laundry correctly. The elements are Earth, Water, Air, Fire and the Aether. Oh! She calls! Perhaps there is a sixth element, Nagathium.

* * *


Sunday:  I continue to work on what I feel must be a perfect speech for my trip to Gettysburg. This morning I called my dearest Mary to the study. "My love," I asked, "What sounds sweetest to your ears? '87 years ago' or 'Four score and 7 years ago?' To which she said, "What would sound sweetest to me, dear husband, is the sound of your remembering once ...just friggin' once put the lid down on the toilet."

* * *


Monday: I am so close! E=MC ...MC ...drat! Mileva beckons. She found the cigar hole I burned into the sofa.

Tuesday: E=MC. Maybe that's all there is. Just E=MC. I thought I was on the verge of a breakthrough, but Mileva lectured me once again on how to put away her hatboxes. Round ones on the left side of the closet ..or is it the right? I can never remember. She's right. I'm a nincompoop. Anyway, round on one side of the closet, square ones on the other  Not all muddled together. "Squared away," she calls it. Squared. Squared. Hmmm...

* * *

So boys, just accept it. We're dumbasses. But we're in good company. Gotta run ...I put the dishes away wrong again. I've mixed coffee mugs with glasses. Dumbass...

* * *