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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fringeville #154: Russian Hacks, Barbed Wire and Tornadoes

I have decided to run for a 2-year seat on the Plains Township Board of Commissioners. For a number of reasons, the 2-year seat works best for me.

Almost as soon as I started circulating my petition, Fringeville had an uptick in hits from Russia.

Let me be clear: I have never been to Russia. I have never eaten chicken wings in or ordered chicken wings from Russia. I don’t even like Russian dressing.

I do like the occasional white Russian, as long it kicks like a mule and has about a thousand calories.

As to this guy, recently seen leaving my house, yes he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Russian leader, Mr. Putin. But this is my old college fraternity brother, Vlad …ummm… O’Hooligan. He’s from Moscow, in Lackawanna County.

Rumors he was wrestling a bear cub in my backyard while shirtless are utterly untrue. On rumors he was wrestling the cub’s mother, I have no comment.

* * *

I have had an enormously distracting problem since June of 2016. Barbed wire pee. Sounds as bad as it feels. Yes, it was looked at. The opinion of my urologist at the time was that I had passed a stone, based on tests and my symptoms. He cheerfully told me I have another stone that is “non-obstructive.” He assured me the stone will let me know with a hammer blow of pain if it decides to pack up and move from its comfy spot in my kidney to a nice home with a view in my ureter.

“What then?” I asked.

“We pulverize the sumbitch with sound waves.”

I considered strapping speakers to my abdomen and blasting AC/DC or Metallica and just pulverizing the sumbitch myself, but I didn’t know how my other organs would fare. Heavy metal isn’t good for the liver.

The stone hasn’t moved, but the barbed wire torture hasn’t gone away. And yes, that’s been checked again after an episode I’d rather not go into. No blood or infection in the pee. Just, apparently, barbed wire.

Since last summer, I’ve dreaded every trip to the bathroom. And the other side effect of all this is that I make a LOT more trips to the bathroom. A warning: If you’re in Wallyworld and you hear cussing coming from the men’s room, it’s probably me kids. I’m harmless. All bark, no bite, just lots of wincing and cussing.

For your protection, they barricade the  Wallyworld bathroom until I am done so little ones don't hear me cussing.

I am convinced this is tied directly to the prostate cancer I’d hoped to be cured of. I say this because I have been watching my PSA number rise from a post-surgery zero (undetectable and possibly cured) to this past week’s result of 0.23 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter of blood).

While there a number of conflicting studies on what measured PSA number post-surgery signals a recurrence, a number of studies point at 0.20 as the threshold. And the longer you go before you trip that threshold (if ever) the better it is for your long-term prognosis.

I won’t bore anyone with all the details, but I can say simply this: 0.23 in less than 3 years is not good.

I expect some feedback from my team at Penn Medicine. They may want to wait another 3 months to see if I stay above the threshold. However, I fully expect them to recommend I pursue treatment options to delay any metastasis. It is likely I may have bad little bastard PSA-churning cancer cells living in the prostate bed (where that organ used to reside) or, less likely, somewhere else in my body.

It struck me immediately after the latest result that I now have treatable prostate cancer. If I live long enough (meaning I don’t choke to death on a chicken wing, die driving through tornadoes1 or meet my maker some other way) it will eventually spread. Once it does, the clock to the eternal heavenly wing fest begins ticking. Prostate cancer can be very slow to metastasize, so it really is likely I’ll ride off into the sunset for some other reason. Unless I’m an unlucky bastard (Hint: I’m Irish. Do the math.)

In the meantime, every time I manage to put cancer out of my mind a bit, it’s time to f****** pee again.

1 See the next bit for driving through tornadoes

* * *


My wife’s Neon blew a radiator hose. I actually got the right one from the parts store, and my son and I replaced it. We finished just as the rain turned steady yesterday.

I suggested taking it “around the block” which on my street means a trip through Laflin and down Route 315 to Plains again. As the Neon chugged up the hill in Laflin, the temperature needle started to rise.

“Dad, I think it’s hailing. Isn’t there a tornado warning?”

“It’s expired. It’s only hailing a little.”

A couple two-tree2 minutes later we were on 315 moving at five miles an hour with hail, torrential rain, wind, an engine running hot and defrosters kicking out cold air, totally fogging the windshield.

“You’re off the road!” my son shouted. He rolled down his window to see where the shoulder was and his ear was pelted so hard with a rain/hail mix that he rolled the window back up.

We eventually found a place to pull over until the storm passed. We got off the highway, and pulled over again because the engine was almost screaming hot.

We got back to the house, fixed (we think) the issue with the car, and went for an uneventful test drive.

A bit later, we learned there was, in fact, a tornado a few miles from where we were. It turns out the watch was extended 45 minutes, and we were off gallivanting in it.

God forbid what if we had driven into it?

Well, no more barbed wire peeing, so there's that.

But since it is the Irishman’s lot to suffer, we were unscathed and my barbed wire saga will continue.

2 Two-tree is advanced Pittstonese for 2-3, for those of you not from NEPA

* * *

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fringeville #153: Wings and Things (for the umpteenth time)

Lucille wants your wings, Jimbo

I used a Buffalo Wild Wings gift card for wings last night. The gift card has been sitting in my wallet around two years. I am terrible using gift cards. I love getting them, but once I get them they vanish down my long-term memory rabbit hole. The only gifts cards I use fairly frequently (for me) are Amazon cards because I reload my account and buy stuff online a couple of times a year.

Wait. I’ve meandered. We were discussing wings.

I got a large order of flats only, with 4 different sauces and two orders of carrots & celery plus bleu cheese. It was just the wife and I, so the idea was to eat a late dinner while watching The Walking Dead. We live about 12 minutes from the restaurant, so when I started the online order at 7:50pm I was fully confident I’d be back with the wings by 9pm for the weekly dose of zombies.

At 8:10, we were still researching the sauces (when I say we, I don’t mean me.) This was how it went for 25 minutes:

Me: “How about the Caribbean Jerk?”

Wife: “…let me read the reviews. I want to know what’s in it. Where did it go? I just had it on my phone."


Wife: “…it was right hear. Let me back up a page.”


Wife: “…here’s a review. Let me read that.”


There were 4 sauces, gang. By the time I left the house, it was 8:15.  I assumed I would just barely make it back in time.

To my great surprise, the order was ready when I walked into the restaurant at 8:28. I was in front of the TV by 8:50.

The wings? Not gourmet but okay, and the sauces were as such:

Caribbean Jerk: Fine by me, too hot for the wife (sorta like me).

Mild: Mild. Ordinary. No big deal

Garlic Parmesan: Tasty enough, and the garlic wasn’t overpowering, which made the wife happy. I like garlic in doses high enough that it seeps out of every pore in my body. But it gets a thumbs up.

BBQ Honey mustard: Tangy and sweet. A pleasant surprise.

Would I go there again? Yes, especially if I need wings in a hurry. On a 1-5 wing scale (1 being inedible and 5 being wing nirvana) they get a solid 2 wings. I will eat any wings, but I start enjoying them at ‘2’ so they made the cut. I’m not big on chain restaurants for wings, so that’s actually decent by my standards.

Acceptable wings served up fast

As to the Walking Dead: If Rick's folks don’t start killing some Saviors by the wing-bucket pretty damned soon, I’m going to get bored.

* * *

It’s petition season. I will either start circulating a petition today, or I won’t run at all. (See the very next item on today’s entry.)

* * *

Well, it’s been a nice 6 weeks recharging my batteries but the math doesn’t work, kids. Time to bump back up to 2 ¼ jobs.

* * *

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fringeville #152: Zombies are back. DND

Let’s keep this simple, and no one gets hurt: The Walking Dead returns tonight. Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t knock on the door. This is my one remaining guilty pleasure.

(Editor’s note: It is the only remaining guilty pleasure he will admit to. Big difference. Wings? Not a guilty pleasure. Not a smidgeon of guilt at all.)

* * *

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fringeville #151: A Wild One Left That Us All Agaga

...another MVP Performance

I only follow one sports team through thick-and-thin, and that’s the Penn State Nittany Lions. Generally, when their season ends so does mine for all things football except perhaps a few quarters of the Super Bowl. Perhaps because this year was such a successful one for my Lions, I was in a pretty good damned mood and decided to watch the Super Bowl. The whole damned thing. Maybe the best decision I’ve made lately.

When it came down to New England versus Atlanta, I knew it was going to be a good game. There are a handful of pro teams I enjoy watching, and I like the Patriots most of all. Some of that is my brother Bill’s fault. He lives in New England and he loves the Patriots. (He says he hates professional football, but when the Patriots are in the big one he rekindles that lost love every time). My brother’s devotion to the Patriots rubbed off on me. If they’re in the Super Bowl, I watch the whole darned thing.

My only concern was that whenever the Patriots get to the Super Bowl, I’ve got a 2-in-3 chance of getting the flu. Sure enough, by noon Saturday I was in bed. I stayed there until Sunday morning when I forced myself in to work and then went home to await the game.

The last time I had the flu, the Patriots lost a Super Bowl and I was at my brother’s house in New Hampshire wheezing through their defeat. I talked to my brother before the game yesterday, and mentioned that I had the flu again.

“Didn’t you have the flu when you came up here for the game?”


“Did they win or lose?”

“They lost.”

Silence. He wasn’t happy.

Now I couldn’t do a damned thing about the flu, but there had to be some way to minimize my flu’s impact on their chances of victory. I got a lucky turn when my wife asked, “Do you want wings or my chili for the game?”

It is no secret that I have a thing about chicken wings. A Super Bowl without wings is some kind of sacrilege, especially for me. My shtick is chicken wings. Google my name and chicken wings and you will find me. The last time I had the flu, I also had wings. The Patriots lost. Like I said, I couldn’t do a thing about the flu, but I could change up the menu.

I went with chili. (This really wasn’t that hard a call. My wife’s chili is killer).

When the Patriots were down 28-3, I started on the chili. Three bowls and a side of nachos later, they’d overcome the biggest deficit in Super Bowl history for a 34-28 win. You’re welcome, Mr. Belichick. Whatever I can do to help the team.

* * *

A brief note on the halftime show: I don’t know much about Lady Gaga. I was familiar with her only by her stint on American Horror Story. There were all kinds of rumors floating around that she was going to make some type of political statement through her performance. Instead, she gave us perhaps the best Super Bowl show ever. I’m sure she is getting an earful from some folks who think she blew her chance to send a message on the Election. Instead she used her 13 minutes to set one hell of a bar for future performers. America needed a night of entertainment with as little preaching as possible. For the most part, that’s what we got. And whenever I sensed a commercial leaning toward political preaching, I refilled the chili bowl. Like I said: whatever I could do to help the team.

* * *

...the man has one expression: unwavering intensity.

A last note on Coach Belichick: Less than a day after the victory, he noted that the Patriots are already 5 weeks behind on the 2017 season compared to most of the other teams. That drew some snarky criticism in the Twitterverse, but I got it right away. Sports are like politics in that once you win, you have to put it behind you because another game or another season is coming. That victory in February doesn’t mean spit when the next season starts. That attitude may be why many hate Belichick. But it’s why his teams win. They play the full sixty minutes. If they didn’t, the questionable play calls for Atlanta in the second half wouldn’t have mattered. But New England kept hanging around, and hanging around, and when the breaks came they capitalized.

* * *

Lastly, 65 years ago today, Princess Elizabeth took the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. She has been the longest-serving monarch in British History. And she’s still a pretty nice girl.

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