Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fringeville #181: …Moon! Moon!

…when I was a very small child, my mother would come into my bedroom to check on me and the bed would often be empty. She would find me lying on the windowsill, pointing at the sky and saying, “…Moon! Moon!”

She would put me back to bed, but some mornings she would come to wake me and find me fast asleep on that windowsill. I don’t remember this, but I was told the story many times. I’ve no idea why I am thinking about it today, but I would love to meet that little boy again who marveled, as did his ancestors, at that great, comforting globe in the night sky.


…most mornings I wake up and read the usual slew of depressing news. Then there’s mornings like this when instead I see that an act of kindness and love makes global news.

We need more of this.


There have been many, many pieces of music which have moved me. But my love for music had to start somewhere, and there had to be something that moved me to start thinking about doing some music myself. I’ve been pondering this a while. There were two watershed moments.

The first came in the 3rd Grade, when we were taken to see The Sound of Music at a theater. I was stunned. It is still a favorite of mine. If it is on TV, I stop what I am doing and plop my butt in a chair to watch.

The day after we saw the movie, I marched into the music teacher's office and sang the song I've featured below from memory. It brought tears to her eyes. I can't remember her name, but I remember the look on her face.

...then, when I was in grade school in New Jersey, came the seismic event. I was in a van with my mother and Hey Jude started playing on the radio, WABC, New York. Up until then, I played whatever music was around the house, which wasn't much and certainly wasn't The Beatles.

My mother reached for the dial and I slapped her hand away, pleading to let me hear the rest.

Life ain't been the same since.


Be good to each other.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fringeville #180: A Smidge of Randomness…then A Double Shot

…A tiny lil’ bit of randomness…(I may be fibbing)


My cochlear implant processors are both on the verge of biting the dust. They turn on and off by themselves and change programs on a whim.

The implants themselves are fine. It’s the external hardware that is on death’s door. The hardware is proprietary, expensive and out of warranty. I have to schlepp along praying that one or heaven forbid both processors don’t go belly-up.

I wrangled with the insurance company for replacements, but no go. They function (with frequent intermittent issues), and they are reparable, so the insurance company won’t budge (yes, appeals were filed).

The insurance company was terrific regarding my prostate cancer recurrence. Last year’s summer of radiation was covered and I get the dreaded cancer-fighting manboob pill at no cost.

What I have noticed more than ever as I age, however, is the phrase: “Waiting for insurance approval.”

They are increasingly picky about what gets a thumbs-up, and those decisions can take a while.

Insurance didn’t approve a sleep study recently because there’s no evidence I have sleep apnea. One f*cking phone call to my wife would clear that up. I am repeatedly threatened by my honey with suffocation by pillow after subjecting her to particularly rambunctious snoring and funky breathing sessions. I waited weeks for their decision. Denied.

(I am going on record here to plead with D.A. Salavantis to take mercy on my wife if I drive her to commit snoricide. One night with me and any jury would let her walk.)

While waiting for the sleep study decision, my insurance promptly approved a stress echocardiogram after “something” showed up on an ECG in the doctor’s office during my last regular visit. The same visit that led to the order for a sleep study. The one I need before my wife murders me for driving her insane.

During the test, more than one person present asked if I’d been checked for sleep apnea. I referred them to my wife. More troubling to me was the repeated questions about pain in my chest. I told them it was, on a scale of 1-to-10, a 1. Before the test, I mentioned I had reflux and took prescription meds for it. The reflux pain recently got worse, and my dosage was increased. I didn't have reflux pain before the test. I had reflux pain the entire time I was on the treadmill, and it gradually faded afterwards. I think I knew at that point reflux wasn’t my problem.

Three hours after the stress test my doctor called personally and said he was referring me to a cardiologist for a cardiac catheterization.  I was told to expect a call from the cardiologist’s office. Which never came.  After a week and multiple attempts to reach a live human being at either doctor’s office, I finally got through to my regular doctor’s secretary. I told her I was still waiting to hear from the cardiologist’s office.

“You’re kidding! I’ll call them and get back to you back personally!” she exclaimed.

She did, and she always has. Once I can finally reach this wonderful young lady she solves problems quickly. I love her. I just hate their phone system.

Here’s what she told me when she called: “The cardiologist was waiting for (*drum roll please*) insurance approval. They just got it today and will call you shortly.”

Long and short, I’m getting a cardiac catheterization on Friday. I won’t meet the cardiologist until afterwards, which means I have little to research ahead of time other than the procedure itself. I won’t know what the hell is going on until after the procedure. Is it nothing, or reflux after all? Is it a valve? A blockage (perhaps that 12th chicken wing from that order last year I thought I got shorted on)?

There’s really no point researching further because I have no specifics, other than I had a pair of abnormal tests.

Waiting for insurance approval.

How many people die waiting for that?  I might have a chicken wing lodged in a coronary artery! This could be a smidge serious.

Or not, because an abnormal stress echo isn’t a perfect prognosticator for chicken-wing-stuffed-arteries. My minimal layman’s research tells me there is a fair likelihood nothing will be found. There is a chance they may find a significant blockage, pop in a stent and keep me overnight. There is about a 1% chance they’ll put me in the hands of a surgeon. This is based on general research, nothing I’ve been told. Because I don’t know a damned thing yet, other than my results are “abnormal.” You probably can’t tell I hate being in the dark.

I feel like crap, and I haven’t been particularly lucky the past few years, so my money is on the stent.

When archaeologists find my bones 10,000 years from now, they will uncover a slew of medical hardware: cochlear and eye implants, mesh, staples, pins and god knows what else. Maybe even a dime I swallowed when I was four. (We went to visit someone in the Maryland countryside the day after I swallowed it, and they had an outhouse. This was 1961/62 and it wasn’t the first one I’d seen or used at that tender age. I extracted a promise from our hosts that they would look for my dime and mail it to me. I waited for days for a stinky envelope to arrive with my life’s fortune within. It never came. Maybe because it is still with me. Maybe in a ventricle or plugging a major vessel. Maybe.)

Anyway, the experts will call me Ridgewood Man, the missing link between homo sapiens and homo bionicum.
One final note on the subject: Waiting for insurance approval.

It has occurred to me that no matter how you cut it, our health care is destined to be rationed, either by the government or by the insurance companies. In either case, it’s not our best interests they’re looking out for, kids. It’s all about the beans they count. The older you get, the fewer beans you have coming your way. Ditto for many other scenarios. Someone other than your doctor will make the call on whether or not beans get thrown your way. Against rationing healthcare? Too late. That ship has sailed.

(Footnote: to this day I despise dimes and never put money in my mouth. Except the occasional crisp dollar bill when I’m short of floss.)


I flew to Chicago in April. Coming home, I went to wait at the gate for the flight back to the Wyoming Valley. Something unusual happened. There were three women waiting for the flight, and we all were seated at a table charging our various electronics. And we had a blast. There was lively conversation, popcorn shared liberally, and a splendid time was had by all.

If you have been to huge airports like O’Hare, you must have noticed that thousands of people are packed in close proximity at their gates, and no one talks. People keep to themselves. Yes, there is moment or two of polite conversation here and there, but it is extremely superficial stuff.

By O’Hare standards, we were having a frat party.

I pointed this out to my new friends. A continent of quiet, miserable people surrounded us, the strange, happy band of traveling Valley people.

I don’t fly often, but I am willing to bet this will never happen to me again.


I have aged significantly in the last year. My face is weathered and wrinkling. It’s hard to move around. Sleep is fitful. I am cantankerous, cussing at everyone running the stop sign down the street. Almost nothing brings me joy save for the family and my grandkids. And the occasional double shot. This time out, it’s Linda Ronstadt. Parkinson’s disease has robbed her of her singing voice, but she has an impressive body of work. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

...and on a lighter note (but still celebrating that incredible voice):


Be good to each other.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fringeville #179: Summer’s Midpoint

The randomness continues…


I have been writing snippets of things for probably two months now, intending to post them and never having the time. I am finally posting some of this backlog. It is in no particular order.

Enjoy. Or gag. Your call.


I am at that point in my life where I want to see things more clearly. I try to strip things down to their core to see what makes them tick. To see if they are the right or wrong things to do. To see if I have the courage to speak against that which I believe to be wrong.

Being politically unaffiliated helps me. When looking at an issue, I take the politics out of things and simply ask myself, “…is this the right thing to do?” 

Sometimes the answers are unsettling.


I figured out what I am. A mystery, wrapped in an enigma, deep fried in peanut oil, slathered with chicken wing sauce and coated with ranch dressing.

Or I am composed entirely of bacon.

Either is a possibility.


I started writing a song earlier in the summer. I know, big whoop, but I haven’t written a song in decades. I had to stop right around the time I started to get half-decent at it because my hearing loss was too severe. I sold my 4-track and turned the page.

When I got my cochlear implants, I began to enjoy music again. It wasn't and still isn't the same as my natural hearing, but sometimes it is very, very close. Every piece of music I listen to is a voyage of discovery. This is true even with songs I knew prior to being engulfed by deafness.

Before my implants, I read somewhere that I would never be able to enjoy music my brain didn’t already know. This was true at first. But a funny thing has happened since 2009, when I got my first implant. I can enjoy new music (which for me is anything I haven’t heard before). It takes a little work at first, but every time I listen to a new song I “hear” more of it. I have artists on my iPhone that I never dreamed I’d have because I never thought I’d enjoy new musical frontiers: Carlene Carter, Jill Hennessy, Joan Osborne and many more. I also have old favorites, including a whole mess of Linda Ronstadt (who I’ve always loved). Yes, there is a trend here. I spend a lot of time with the women on my iPhone.

I’ve also done a very tiny bit of performing, generally one song a year when The Last Surviving Buffalo Band does their summer reunion show.

I can also enjoy live concerts again.

Carlene Carter was the first artist I heard live after my cochlear implants. She was opening for John Mellencamp in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I had never heard her work before, and I was powerfully affected. Carter is a hard-working artist. As soon as she finished her set, she hoofed it to the lobby to sell and sign her CD’s. I did something I never do at a concert: I bought her CD and asked her to autograph it. I also told her she was the first artist I’d heard since regaining my hearing. I could tell she was moved. She asked me what I wanted her to write on the CD. I told her: “Anything you want.” So that’s exactly what she wrote, and it was a hoot for both of us.

Where was I? Oh, yes...

I was listening to music again and dabbling with my guitar, but I didn’t have the courage to attempt to write.

That changed in May of this year, when I read the story of Claudia Patricia Gómez González. She was shot dead in Rio Bravo, Texas by a Border Patrol agent after she and a group of others entered the United States illegally. The Border Patrol’s account of the shooting morphed from a tale of a group of assailants armed with ‘blunt objects’ attacking the agent to a group rushing the agent. In the later account the blunt objects were not mentioned. In any case, a shot rang out and a young woman was killed.

Claudia Patricia Gómez González was a forensic accountant (a dangerous bunch, those bean counters). She died near Laredo, and her story has been largely in the rear view with the emergence of the news of families being broken apart after entering America illegally.

Her death haunted me, and in my brain a long-locked door began to crack open. I began to write music for the first time in damned near forever.

I finished that song recently. It is not performed very well, because performing is still extremely challenging for me. It takes a lot of work just to make sure I am singing in the same key I’m playing on the guitar, and I am extremely rusty on guitar. I am also an old fart, and that doesn’t help either. I get winded tying my shoes, let alone singing and playing a guitar.

I put the song up on YouTube, and asked my best friend and professional musician, Mark Williams, to listen to it. If the song wasn’t good, he’d tell me. That’s the way it’s always been with us. If it sucks, we say so. (The ones that sucked were overwhelmingly mine.)

He said what I'd written gave him chills.

The song is called “This is not America.” You can find it by clicking here.

I may upset some people with it. Others may embrace it. That doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the message.

I do worry no one will hear that message.

I’m just a 60-year old guy schlepping along from day-to-day, trying just to tread water like many other Americans. I realize that even if I have managed to write something powerful, it will probably fall through the cracks. I don't have a massive social media following to push it along. But if one person …just one person …hears it and is moved to address injustice, I’ve done my job.

In the end, it’s not what just what you do now, it’s what you leave behind.


The universe may be conspiring against me again.

It’s too early to be sure, but I have been in a bit of a decline the last several months. I am still a full-functioning idiot, but I am slowing down drastically. My wife convinced me to go through my symptoms with my doctor during my recent regular visit. This led to a test a few days later. My doctor called me three hours after the test was performed to tell me he was referring me to a specialist.

In my experience, we usually have to chase down doctors for test results. A quick call from the doc after testing is a bit ominous. It has been several days and no call from the specialist’s office. My calls to either my doc or the specialist hits their answering services.

I hate answering services, especially in the hot-damned middle of the frigging day when I have very few opportunities to call.

I am in a holding pattern until I either get that call or I decide to just pop in unannounced at one or more doctor’s office. I probably fell through the cracks. (Wrong phone number given to the specialist, a sticky note with my info fell into a half-eaten box of Lo Mein, cosmic rays killed a hard drive…whatever. I'm used to it. It's always something.)

Bottom line: It may be nothing. Maybe I’m just in lousy shape. Hey, this is me we’re talking about, what could possibly go wrong?

All I know for sure is that if something happens to me, there will be layoffs at Perdue Farms, specifically in the chicken wing processing plant. There may also be a lot of one-winged chickens at Perdue, because they won’t need both wings at once when I'm out of the picture.

The impact of my demise on Frank’s RedHot Sauce production is unknown. Ditto whether there will be layoffs or possible closings of any Ken’s dressings plants. The celery market will be fine. That’s green stuff. I limit my intake of that because it fills me and reduces my wing intake.


I wish I could draw. I don't need the skills of an expert artist, just enough "stuff" to draw rudimentary cartoons. I imagine them all the time, and simply can't execute.

Today I envisioned a young hen strolling down a path lined with chicken coops. Lipsticked beak. A purse. A necklace.

Three roosters, cigarettes dangling from their beaks, are leering as she passes, and each shouts a comment:

"Hey, those legs go all the way up?"

"Flap those wings, baby!"

"What you got under those feathers, Henny!"

The caption underneath: Fresh Young Chickens

This probably even isn't original. I must have seen this somewhere. The Far Side. Herman

Even if it is original, I suspect it's for the best that I can't even draw a straight line.


Some months back, Ben Bradlee Jr. did a phone interview with me for a book he is writing on Luzerne County and the 2016 Election. I’m not sure what he expected to hear when we talked, but there was a brief pause when I told him I’d left politics and was unaffiliated.

One thing I will say is that Bradlee is a reporter who does his homework before an interview. He knew I chaired two GOP districts in the county. He asked hard questions about one of them. I’ve no idea if anything I said will make it into his book. If it does, I may lose some friends. So be it. I simply spoke the truth as I saw it on that particular day.

I understand why he called. Luzerne county was pivotal. I was one of six district GOP chairs in Luzerne County. I was a loyal Republican and worked hard for my party and its candidates. Depending on who you are, I share either a smidge more of the credit or blame for the 2016 Election than the average voter.

Yet I have abandoned all party politics.


Both major parties seem hell-bent on pitting one half of America against the other. Frankly, we’ve had enough of that, and I am fairly certain it is only going to get worse.

I will vote in the General Elections. I can’t vote in Pennsylvania’s closed Primaries. At this point in my life, I do not see myself registering under a party banner again. I’d rather focus on people. All people.

A related side note: I have also found that the farther I drift from politics, the closer I get to God. I think that tells me I’m moving in the right direction.


I have lost many people over six decades, but the losses that hurt the most are the people I’ve lost who are still here.


Recently the following songs played on my iPhone as I drove to work: Norwegian Wood by The Beatles, Now That You’re Gone, by my dear friend Mark Williams, and Oh Mother by Jill Hennessey. All I will say is WOW. This is why I can’t ever lose my hearing again. I can’t live without music. Especially the great stuff.


I don’t know when my next post will come. It might be tomorrow, it might be in months. Until I do post again, be good to each other. (And if anything should happen to me, short sell Perdue, Frank's and Ken's.)