Saturday, October 8, 2011

Take two and be happy with it. At least you’re alive, kind of.

I know this is a boring part and I keep going over and over it in my mind. Trying to understand what has gone wrong with me. I have multiple health issues that have gone on for decades and have not only limited potential in many ways but have bent the life I intended to live into what it is now.
Here is a partial list, my medical history. 
This may be the longest and is certainly the root of all of my problems. With the exception of ADHD or whatever the alphabet soup for the way my brain works might be called by one specialist or another.
Current studies show that the knack of being able to delay gratification is learned early in life and may a talent one is born with. They say testing children as young as 4 years old can predict their scholastic and other kinds of success. Just like allot of people I have the ability to delay gratification in some areas and not at all in others. 
Conversely, responding to hunger up until the 1920s was a valuable survival skill. I tend to believe that, what is by some considered an eating disorder ‘compulsive eating’ is in fact a trait that in earlier times was a good thing. This is why attempts to circumvent this natural tendency is almost always met with defeat. 95% of obese people, after weight loss, return to their pervious weight, and then some. This is just one of an array of factors opposing change in the eating habits of people such as myself who are obese and morbidly obese. 
When I was 5 our family moved to Bakersfield because like me, my dad, was a bit of a lone wolf. Unlike the legendary lone wolf the lone human can be friendly, joyful, a good neighbor and friend. Dad had a problem working for other people, he did it well enough but it got under his skin. With 1 or 2 brief exceptions I never knew my dad to have friends. Guys to hang out with. Dad was a reader of crime novels.
Our family went into the fast-food business back before it was called fast-food (also before eating away from home was common). Dad worked at our A&W 16 hours a day on most days. Since this was also before inside dining, even with the charms of actual car hops (not on skates) the winter was slow. They eventually took to closing the place for a month or so in winter. 
Here, just like in our old house in Bellflower I was the only kid my age in the neighborhood. This is where the pattern of isolated living started for me. Two things happened to me during this time. (roughly age 5-10) I spent many days, weeks, in and around the drive-in where there were also not other kids. A lonely kid with his own deep fryer, griddle, and soft ice cream machine soon became a fat little kid. Being the fat kid in school is fairly common now, back then their were only a few of us. Being teased and ostracized became a pattern. 
I don’t have any memory of what it was like not to be husky, heavy, heavyset, big, overweight, fat. Mom took me to a diet Dr. that seemed to need to have the lights off when he gave me a rectal exam. I ate handfuls of pills and weird food from the food list (the first of many) that the Dr. gave Mom. The program changed a few times before they gave up. 
I was Mom’s favorite, or so my sisters told me. They were right, that’s why it took me so many years to figure out another piece to the puzzle of why I’ve never had a serious relationship. Her love for me was so complete that when her own obsession with weight became the basis for how I was thought of, the result was that I was great and wonderful and smart but not someone that could be loved. Not by anyone worth loving back at least. 
Both of my sisters have suffered because of this unfortunate way of thinking. My older sister got addicted to diet pills (speed) starting at 13. She had an athletic build and did well as far as keeping weight off. She was attractive and worked as a waitress for most of her working life. Her early introduction to chemically induced sensation and the other residue of mother’s quirks must have had a part in the miserable state she spent her last 20 years or so. A junkie, being crippled with osteoporosis allowed her to drop methadone in favor of daily morphine the last couple of years. Little sister eventually had gastric bypass and is one of it’s success stories, she also has a streak of anger and bitterness about our folks that makes me sad.
This is where obesity started for me. When I was a teenager I went to a special weight watcher’s group for teens. I got down from 220 to 198 when I was 16. The stress was too much after a few months. I tried dieting and other weight reduction schemes off and on for a couple of years but nothing serious in the last 25. I have started going to the gym a few times and liked it but something would interrupt the pattern and I would stop. That was mostly just to feel better not for weight loss specifically. 
Sleep apnea:
I have had to adjust to changing body size from time to time. Periodic back pains, devising new methods of wiping from time to time and things like that. I somehow overcame those things. My best calculation is that I must have started having sleep apnea around 1982 or so. Mostly because I have always lived alone it was not discovered or diagnosed until 2003. In the 20 years it went undiagnosed it had a profound effect on the course of my life. I was a big pothead in the 80s I also worked in a liquor store from 1977-82. I was so wasted much of the time the distortion of my perceptions cause by the lack of oxygen during sleep and the lack of restful sleep went unnoticed. The job allowed me a luxury that most people never have. I could always sleep until I woke up, I never woke to an alarm, further masking the effects of sleep apnea. When I decided it was time for a career, choosing massage and making my own schedule allowed this practice to continue. 
The lack of sleep also hindered any attempts at dieting or delay of gratification back then. It also slowed my metabolism to such a degree 12 hour cold capsules and similar things lasted twice as long.
This started in 1984 when I was the in-house massage therapist at a big hair salon complex called Hair West. My friend C.L. and I had the habit of drinking mass quantities of beer, then Tequila & Whiskey, then Vodka because it was the cheapest. I came to understand that gout, the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, is caused by excess uric acid in the blood caused by eating too much food with purines in them. It was known for centuries as the rich man’s disease because only the wealthiest people could afford to eat the highest purine containing food like brains and liver in large amounts. Since wealthy people with gout also drank wine and liquor that was also supposed to be a causative factor. The actual research shows no direct correlation. However Dr.s persist in telling gout sufferers not to drink. This was a big clue in my later understanding of the ineffectiveness of modern medicine in treating my various ills. 
Gout is the most painful fucking thing that you can’t even imagine it. Most common is to get an attack of gout in the last joint of the big toe. I’ve had them in all joints at one time or another. Only in the big toe once or twice. This of course leads the Dr to question if it was gout attack when I report it back to him later. Did I mention that it is a unique kind of pain unlike any other? 
The area swells and develops a bright pink-red color, also unique. Like a tooth ache the pain never stops. Sharp knife like and burning often an 11 on that 1-10 scale of pain they ask you about. You can elevate the limb and try to remain calm but a strong anti-inflammatory medication called indocin is the only thing that can break the cycle. It sometimes takes it a few days to work. 
Thankfully it is true that memory of physical pain is not vivid. However enduring that much pain over and over again for days at a time does change you. 
Most of my research was before the internet and done at the public library. The bottom line was that while they know the physical processes involved in an attack  understanding of why attacks occur is less than complete. It does seem to be true that eating foods high in purines like steak can trigger an attack. I’ve had it happen that was a few times. I love liverwurst and indulge from time to time but have never had an attack from it even though it is much higher in purines. The big trigger seems to be certain kinds of stress. The kind with lots of anxiety at the same time. 
One year I stumbled on an unlikely way to break the cycle of an attack. My buddies and me spend 3 or 4 days in the mountains every year. One year the combination of stresses I’ll talk about later on and the rich food we eat on our trips triggered an attack. Even with the pain I didn’t want to be stuck at the campsite and made my way down to the creek. It was the kind of mountain creek that runs through a channel in one giant rock. A wade in the icy mountain water was cooling to my swollen instep. I stepped on a slick moss covered rock, before I could react I fell hard into the shallow water just feet from a big water fall. I rolled out as quickly as I rolled in and had a tremendous adrenaline rush. Within a few minutes the gout attack was gone. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline it’s self or the break from the mental stress because of the adrenaline and shock but it was interesting.
I rarely smoke marijuana these days. No big story I just got tired of it. However if I have a big attack of gout I used the event at the creek to develop a cocktail that breaks the cycle, usually days sooner. I crowd the doses of indocin from 8 hours to 6. The initial side effect of indocin is a feeling of nausea and euphoria. They say not to but I also take Ibuprofen another anti-inflammatory at the same time. As soon as I feel the nauseous euphoria getting strong I smoke a most of a joint of the good stuff. This suppresses the nausea and lets the euphoria flow freely. Now since it’s probably not safe to trigger an adrenaline response when I an like this I found and alternative. In this state pornography is not usually required but an orgasm in this state is quite tremendous and can break the cycle. I might be able to focus enough for coitus but a blow job would be awesome way to do this. Not that I’ve had the chance to try it. There again I refer to the upcoming post on isolation. 
Once a day since 1984 I have taken a pill to help my body expel excess uric acid.
High blood pressure
I stared taking a pill for hi BP in the 80s. In 1996 my mother died following a massive stroke so I take them without fail everyday.

High cholesterol
In 1998 I think it was first given a statin drug called Zocor. During the 00s I have suffered from a dramatic increase in mental confusion, memory loss, depression etc. It took me until 2010 to figure out that the symptoms of these other medical issues had been accelerated/exacerbated by what the statin drugs do. Now a year later some clarity is returning. From what I've found it takes the same amount of time to heal form the damage caused by the statins. University study. Link between statins and Alzheimer's. Other problems.  
I first saw a psychologist about this in 1994. I was on the county medical program and they sponsored 5 sessions. It was very informative and helpful. I believe it started a few years before when I was still doing massage full time. I was given this new drug called Zoloft. It took a few days for it to kick in, for the next 2 weeks everything felt good. After a couple of years I had to stop taking it cold turkey. The thing of no highs or lows got to being intolerable. Depression is a ongoing and recurring theme to this day. 
It was only a matter of time I suppose. I had a quack Dr I was seeing before my Dad died in 1998 who warned me about the risk of diabetes. I was in the process of changing my eating habits when Dad passed away. I was so distraught and despondent over his death that I lost all of those plans. 
In 2000 I was not doing too bad in some ways I was even using whatever Yahoo was calling their dating site to line up dates. I took this one girl for a swim in the pool of some friends who were on vacation. I did it in a hot tub I had years before but never in a pool until then. My friends who own the pool are too reserved to actually do that themselves and are shocked to this day. Later in the more intimate setting of my bedroom things didn’t go so well. I was ready, she was ready, Mr penis remained un excited. I learned later that this too has a warning sign. 
The last couple of weeks of 2000 I spent in bed with what I thought was the flu. I went to my quack Dr. I told him I thought I had the flu so he gave me antibiotics. After those were gone and I was even worse he gave me more. This was the guy who diagnosed me as pre-diabetic. Near death my sister Stacey dropped by for a visit while passing through town. She immediately took me back to my Dr. Seeing that I could barely walk he told her to take me to emergency. 
The county was in the midst of a major flu epidemic and the place was packed. After several hours in the waiting room I was unable to walk and faded in and out of consciousness. Stacey demanded that I be seen. I only have glimpses of memory of what happened then. When my blood sugar was finally tested the normal stick test was useless and they had to send my blood to the lab. They say the blood sugar over 400 and you are in a coma. Over 600 and you are most likely dead. Mine was over 1600. It took 72 hours to find me a bed in ICU. They started an IV of insulin and a catheter. I don’t remember them starting the IV. I do remember them installing the catheter. Yoiks! It took a while for my blood sugar to go down enough to put me into a regular room. I was in the hospital for 7 days total. And just like they told me it took 7 weeks to recover. 
I was on insulin for 6 months or so and my weight went to 360. Insulin will do that. I took the diabetes classes the 7 day Adventists give. After I went on the oral medication a special diet was not necessary to keep me at the right blood sugar so all that good learnin’ went to waste. Mostly. 

ADD or is it ADHD
This one has been with me all along but wasn't diagnosed until 2007. Although I do have a vague recollection of being tested and taking medicine as a kid. I'm not sure what it was for. Understanding this has lead to many a realization of why I had done and though many things. Taking Adderall has been the treatment until August of 2011. Not taking Adderall is also enlightening. 

This brings us up to date with the basic medical issues I deal with. After being diagnosed with diabetes the last decade has been one nightmare after another dealing with side effects and complications. Details in following posts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lost a friend last week.

Crickett the puppy chewing Mom's shoe.
I know she was just 10 pounds or so of, not to smart dachshund, but it was like she was one of my people.

My first dog was called Happy. Happy was a mix of Cocker Spaniel and miniature Collie. 
When I was a 12 or 13 my family started a tradition. Our neighbors at the time, the Newtons, had a dachshund named Cheer. Cheer had a litter of pups.  We all loved Happy as far as I knew, but when we lost her we had the chance to get Dachshunds. Mom insisted we get 2. My mother having been brought up on a farm had strict rules about livestock. 1.) Animals don’t go indoors. It isn’t civilized. 2.) Animals don’t have faces. They have a head, and that’s as specific as it gets. 3.) You don’t generally name farm animals. The milk cow maybe but not ones you might have to kill or eat. She didn’t like the idea too much but Mom couldn’t see a way around naming pets.
The reason Mom liked Dachshund was because they didn’t shed much, when they did shed the loose hairs were short and fine. No balls of stray dog hair collecting dust like with Happy. She had heard also that they didn’t have much of a doggie oder. This was true-ish. (We did find later that much like humans as they get older they do start to develop an unpleasant oder.) The thing about Dachshunds having a pleasant demeanor was . . . well true . . . except when it wasn’t.
Sugar was a sweet dog, all red. The other dog was red with a black racing stripe down her back. Her ears, eyes and tail were fringed in black. She had a tiny row of hairs in a kind of peak going down her muzzle. Also black. We called her Fancy. Pretty standard family dog names. They weighed in at 22 & 20 pounds.
After Sugar and Fancy the family went through some re-configuration, eventually Mom & Dad moved back into the family home. The 2nd set of Dachshunds were Thor & Apollo. Thor was red with black trim kind of like Fancy. Apollo all red but got darker as she aged. They were a bit smaller at 18 & 16 pounds.
Apollo & Thor as pups

Both of the first pairs of Dachshunds have many stories attached. The one I retell the most is about Thor & Apollo. Not only were they named after norse gods but were both males. We had only had females before and found out that not only human males tend to have an automatic competitiveness with other males. Thor was the more high strung of the two but in general l kind of way. Apollo a mellow kind of dog in general, would growl and the hair on his back would raise just walking past Thor. It wasn’t too bad the first couple of years. As they got older vicious sounding fights would break out. We even had to take them to the vet for puncture wounds a couple of times. Apollo didn’t get mean like some Doxies do, but after a while you just couldn’t talk to him, it was like he was distracted all the time with being pissed off that Thor existed.
Dachshunds are notorious for back troubles. After one of their fights Thor started being in pain all the time and had trouble walking. The vet said he had damaged the first couple of vertebrae and his spinal cord was pinched in between. Another part of Mom’s rules about animals was about not going nuts and paying big vet bills. The surgery would have cost $$$. 50/50 chance of survival. If he did survive 50/50 chance he would be out of pain.
After having Thor euthanized it took a couple of days for Apollo to figure out the he was not coming back. Suddenly Apollo was the sweetest most friendly dog you’d ever met. He had us all to himself. To the victor goes the spoils. Apollo lived another 4 or 5 years. The last 2 years no one could stand to be near him because of a skin condition that caused him to ooze slimy malodorous secretions that would get on your hands. I had moved back in with the folks and had a room off in the far corner of the house with a patio entrance. I let the dogs come and go as they wished but finally had to make Apollo sleep outside. I did feel bad about it and made a point of wrapping him in a towel and giving him hugs and pets.
Mom gradating for the nursing program 1973

My mother was a piece of work to put it lightly. She had gone back to school at age 40 to become an RN. When I was in high school I would come home to the dining room full of nursing students cramming 4 years of college into the 2 year program BC had at the time. Her nursing jobs were not the glamorous ones like you see on TV. Since her previous career had been in business and bookkeeping  she got jobs in administration like running a whole floor at a big convalescent hospital. When she turned 56 she had to stop working. She had an aggressive form of osteoporosis. As her bones degenerated she got shorter. Her spinal cord got pinched and squeezed and she lived with terrible pain everyday her last 10 years. The years of quiet living, pain medication and age made her kinder and kind of sweet.
It was decided that a puppy or two would be nice company for mom. The search was on for 2 female doxies. The first puppy was all black but the breeder didn’t know what they were doing and gave us a sickly one who died within a few days. A family in the south part of town had a litter. They came home with Crickett the runt of the litter a cute little girl dog with a bright personality. Her colors similar to Fancy and Thor. As the runt she had a crimp in the end of her tail. It took 3 months to find a suitable companion. An all red (orange I call it) pup  came to live with us. It took some trial and error in naming this one. Finally Muffin was decided on. Crickett and Muffin sounded like sorority girls to me. 12 and 14 pounders this time.
Previous dogs had been allowed in the house for up to 30 minutes a day. Times having changed and mom getting softer these two were allowed inside for whole afternoons. And were also TV watching companions. Attempts to house break these 2 went no better than it did with the others. Retractable gates limited their access to parts of the house. We were not totally incompetent pet owners. We found out that Dachshunds are also known for stubbornness and are often not house breakable. Those 2 small life forms supplied my mother with considerable comfort and joy. Even Apollo who had gotten to be a grouchy old man would play with them sometimes.
Dad and his girls Muffin & Crickett

In 1996 when we’d had the pups about six months mother had a massive stroke and died. I spent time with dad as much as I could. He got a lady friend to spend some time with, but the girls were always there for him. Apollo was quite old and ailing when I had him euthanized. In 1997 Dad developed cancer. He died on my sister’s birthday in 1998. I have been all alone since then.

I sold the parent’s house 2 years later. It didn’t sell for half of what it would have in 2005. Having no real reason to stay I was tempted to travel and live some kind of vagabond life. Maybe a condo or something like that. I decided I needed a place with a yard for the dogs. I had enough for the down payment on a HUD repo. The small house under the big tree where I live now. It’s kind of a joke to make life decision based on the needs of pets. So much in our lives is disposable, I just couldn’t see them that way. Someone would have wanted not house trained dogs, right?

As it turned out in 2001 I had a medical crisis that put me in the hospital for a week and changed the parameters of my life. Other medical problems and side effects of the medications arose and I was taken further out of circulation for most of the last decade. At times I was barely functional. I got by re-selling newspapers. As luck would have it having a garage and a yard were very useful in sorting storing and assembling newspapers. Most of this time my only companions were two small dogs named Muffin and Crickett.

Muffin, the orange one, is easy going. Content to have a minimum amount of attention. Treats have become a growing interest over the years. Starting at 13 pounds she is over 18 now. She takes after me. How sweet.
Crickett was very lively at first as a pup. She loved the biting game. She was always snapping and biting in a playful way. I’m not sure what it was, maybe being the runt, but I saw it in her eyes one day when she was just 2 or 3 months old. “Oh crap these people are F-ing huge. They could crush me in an instant” From that time on she was the high-strung nervous one. Always more interested in attention than treats. Out in the yard she was the one first to bark and keep barking all day to make her point.
The first couple of years we lived here I made them live outside. There is a foliage covered hill at the back of the lot. They both would spend whole days chasing down mice, rats and other varmints. A few years ago I started letting them stay inside in winter. The back door (with doggie door) leads to a laundry room where I put their bed. Retractable fence keeps them from smelling up the place when I’m not around to watch them.
Muffin, Me & Crik webcam shot for Christmas 08?

About a year ago the smell of dog pee was getting everywhere. I had to start keeping tighter control on their movements. Crickett would start screaming any time I would reach to pet her. Then some times not. I couldn’t figure it out. They are both still very sweet dogs but on the side of being cranky old ladies. Crickett was getting thinner than I have ever seen her. My new business hasn’t taken off yet and I can’t even afford for me to see a people Dr. Even if I could afford it I don’t think a vet could have done much. I started feeding her canned food. She perked up for a while. I knew the end was coming. I would find her just standing in a corner sometimes whining because she couldn’t figure out to turn around or back up. She no longer tried to hide and would pee where she stood. Two mornings this past week I woke up to her crying in the back yard. Her paw trapped by a piece of wire or something she should have been able to get out of or known to avoid.
Old Crickett on her last day
She wasn’t crying and didn’t seem in pain the rest of the time except sometimes when I’d pet certain parts. I just couldn’t stand to face her deterioration. I knew it was only a matter of days, afraid to find her dead and bloated in the back yard I found a way to have her euthanized on the cheap with the help of the Humane Society at the SPCA.

I had done all of my crying and saying good by at home. The folks at spca are kind and understanding but didn’t ask and placed us a little room to say good bye some more. I’m a liberated man and all. Not afraid to show emotion. I didn’t want to lose it in front of this office full of people as much as they seemed to think I should. Mom never cried. Women who cried easy got no respect from her either.  I don’t think about mom very often but I was that day.

She lived to be 16, good run for a small dog. I will miss her so much. I refused to look back. The image of Apollo looking at me as I walked away is burned into my memory. One is enough.

It’s been a couple of days, Muffin seems alright. Follows me around just like always. Wants treats like always. Since she was not the pee’er I let her sleep by me watching TV and at the foot of my bed. She used to greet me with flirtatious barking and growling. When she does that again I’ll know she’s okay.
Kind of worrisome that she drags her back legs sometimes. She’s 16 too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the gun - the alarm - the cops - the retired marine

The story I retell most about my days at the liquor store has nothing to do with partying. For effect, in the last post, I made it seem like I was ‘wasted’ all the time at the store. In truth that kind of fun mostly happened after work. It was really a job with lots of free time. My ADHD and OCD had me busy with different hobbies or watching the 9” B&W TV most of the time. Too much cleaning would have ruined the patina of character the place had.

Under the cash register was a gray metal box with a handle about the size of a portable typewriter. (If you were born after 1975 picture 1 foot by 1 foot and 6 inches high). This was our silent alarm. It also had an antenna that was less than a foot long and on it’s side was a kind of dead man switch. A little piece of wire on a spring was held in place by a piece of clear plastic about the size of a dime. Tied to the piece of plastic was a thread that was tied to the next display case over. The way it was supposed to work was that if you got robbed you could nervously drop anything between the cases and the alarm would trip. 
One quiet afternoon after I had been there about 3 years or so I was watching the troop of kids that came through for candy on their way from school to home. If I looked way for a minute candy would go missing. This day, in the midst of all these kids, an exasperated policeman came to the counter.  “Are you being robbed?” “Why no officer, why do you ask?”. It seems I thoughtlessly tripped the alarm while dusting the display case or something. When the police started getting a message on the radio that we were being robbed they had no idea what was going on. As it turned out the silent alarm was lent to the store after a robbery years before. It had been so long since that system had been used that no one on duty that day at the police headquarters knew what to make of the message coming over their radio. All of that kind of thing is managed by private companies now. That way false alarms are filtered out so as to not bother the police unnecessarily. 
They took away our alarm and the false sense of security security such things usually provide. Except in our case the false sense of security security was even more false. 
We weren’t totally defenseless there was a pistol under the counter too. Not a big one. The squarinsh kind with the bullets in a clip in the handle. I’m not a fan of guns. I had shot them before as a kid. My uncle was the president of a trap shooting club and range. Trap is done with shot guns but there were pistols used on the range too. The thing is that, statistically in the U.S. the majority of gun shot wounds are inflicted by a friend or family member. I am also very much a pacifist. Except for this one time.
It was Christmas day and the store owners kept the place open. We were one of the only places open on Christmas so it was busy and many people wanted things we had no reason to stock. One time they did get a case of canned cranberry. I think it took 3 years to sell all the cans. At around 5 it got real slow. By 7 the customers were just dribbling in. 
A guy came in who was obviously on PCP. If you have had to deal with these people you know any exchange is difficult. The usual tactic with drunk or stoned people is to remain as serious as possible without showing hot or cold emotions. Either will give an excuse for them to respond in kind. Also by acting as if they are sober too they are quietly pressured to conform and pretend to be sober. It works most of the time. This guy was having none of it and could only see what was on his addled mind. He had been in once earlier and I had asked him to leave. This time I just wanted to sell him whatever and for him to leave. He was really pissing me off. I had two 5ths of Cuervo Gold on the counter and when I turned to get another he grabbed the bottles and was trotting for the door. 
I grabbed the gun and was going to shoot over his head. The place had high ceilings. It would have been fine; but the gun jammed. Still pissed I called the cops. After 45 minutes and no customers I closed the store and wanted to go home. I continued to wait for the police. Finally they called me back and asked if it was okay if they came in to see me the next day. Fine.
After I got to work the next afternoon an officer came in to take my report. It seems they were busy the night before with a shooting at the low rent apartment complex up the street. From my description the officer told me it was likely that my thief was also the dead guy and that he wouldn’t be back to bother me. I had to assume that someone else reacted similarly to his attitude. In that case it wasn’t a warning shot and the gun didn’t jam.
That night I was making the most of the event by going on and on about what had happened to anyone who would listen. A man rode up on a motorcycle he and his lady friend came in to store. He was not real tall but in good shape and had a calm clear eyed gaze that made me trust him. I was talking about how the gun wouldn’t fire and handed it to him. (I know, not smart) In about half a second he had the thing in pieces on the counter. “Here’s your trouble” It seems guns are little precision machines you have to clean and lubricate from time to time. It belonged to the store, so if I did ever think about it, I assumed the owner did all that. The man who knew so much about guns was a retired Marine captain. 
There were many strange happening at the liquor store during my time there. If I can remember more details I’ll make them into more stories.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

First jobs

Growing up at my parent’s A&W drive-in I started early working the grill, the fryer, the cool wall mounted gizmo that sliced whole onions into dices in one pull of the lever, the Root Beer machine & especially the soft-serv ice cream machine. It wasn’t a job really but I helped and learned fast food and how to over eat. My folks got out of the food business when I was 11.

It wasn’t till I was 17 that I got an actual part time job stocking the shelves of a convalescent hospital’s kitchen. The young manager was fresh out of college and as cute as she could be. I could have sworn I was getting some place with her, but one day she started talking about her boyfriend the baseball player. Besides being pretty she was very all american so this made sense. What was her name?  . . . I can’t think of it now but what I do recall is that her name was equally ‘All Amaerican’. The job got kind of boring after that. When summer came I went to work in the laundry to cover for the people taking vacation. I got fired on my 18th birthday for being too slow. Telling my supervisor it was my birthday after she gave me the news was a sweet dose of instant karma back at her.

Then it was on to The “Sandwich Express”. Sandwich shops were a new thing in our town in 1975. This one was owned by on of my buddy’s step mom and her brother. It was in what had originally been a Dairy Queen. Some places are just not meant to be food places. in the years since then, several food places have failed in that location. 
Again part time, I showed up early on Saturday mornings to build what were actually quality sandwiches that we sealed onto foam plates with stretch wrap. For example the Turkey sandwich the boss roasted whole turkeys every night. We used a good quality sour dough bread the dbl wide kind with real mayo tomato slices and whole lettuce leaves. After a few months I asked why we peeled the heads off of each of the heads of lettuce. “Why don’t you just bonk the lettuce?” At the A&W we went through allot of lettuce. At the prep sink in back we would rinse then hit the heavy cut end of each head on the counter. This broke the heart away from the leaves all at once. After another rinse the whole thing was ready to use. The colorfulness and usefulness of this hint made me the the hit of the place for several days. 

The boss Stan was a real character. Among his traits was a very slow and deliberate way of speaking. My best friend at the time was Steve who also worked there. We had endless fun at Stan’s expense; imitating his voice and catch phrases. “You wanna cut me some Raaare Rooaast beeef?” “You wanna bonk me some lettuce?” Steve liked to chronicle the absurdity of our work place by drawing a comic strip of some of the more famous moments. 

Stan (and his sister Soni) would have their mother down at the shop every day. They were raised in a different kind of business where the whole family went to work together for 40 years. Just because Granny had no idea where she was at any time was no reason to leave her home. She was actually quite dear all things considered but had other issues relating to age. Certain of us who’s turn it was to keep an eye on Granny made sure to place her near the floor drains and down wind, if you get my drift.

After prep I loaded the sandwiches into ice chests and loaded the chests into one of the delivery cars. I had a route of beauty shops, card rooms and other places. At each place I brought in a selection of sandwiches, containers of gourmet versions of the standard mac and potato salads and juices in a picnic basket. After the route I had the duty of giving the restroom it’s weekly cleaning. Again, thank god for floor drains.
At college I studied Theatre and got paid to stage manage and run lights when groups came in to use the theatre. 
After college was my time at the ambulance company. See earlier posts.The post about my time as a massage therapist starts with that.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but interacting with the old timers and other ill people while doing my medical transportation driver job at the ambulance company, took a toll on me. This should have been the first indication of my special gift of empathy. 
The next 5 years I was the guy behind the counter at a small neighborhood liquor store. Arrow Liquors. The owner claimed to keep a close watch on the stock but I never heard a word about the sometimes significant amounts of liquor I drank. There were times I would grab a six-pack on my way out after closing to take to a friend’s place. Most times they would pay. If they were under age I would bring it with me after work. 

I have to say that I loved marijuana. Still do. These days it’s only fun for me once a month or so or when I have an attack of gout. At that time the novelty hadn’t worn off a bit and for several years I had from a few hits to a few joints every day. This and all the liquor made for many many adventures with friends I’ll post later. A few took place in the store. 

When it was 115 outside nothing was better than piling into the cold box with a few friends and downing some of those 8 oz. Millers they sold back then.

I had many regulars. With a few of them the routine was to retreat behind the cold box to smoke pot before they completed their purchases. I remember one time I was so ‘wasted’ during the Saturday night rush that I had to keep one hand on the counter so I wouldn’t fall down. No surprisingly my till never came out just right at the end of those days. Still I never heard if from the owners. I was a pet I suppose.
During that time I had a couple of part time day jobs. I’ve always preferred to live simply, but $97 a week from the store was a bit too simple. 
My dad had a friend and customer who built swimming pools. He also had a pool cleaning service too. 
Tom was a really big man. Over 6’6” tall and a bit of a gut but you could tell by looking that he’d been a big league football player. I want to say the Detroit Lions, maybe it was Green Bay. Anyway, Tom didn’t know the concept of an ‘inside voice’. He was always very loud and except for women customers he always addressed people with “You god damned piece of shit” or “Asshole Mother Fucker” either before or after your name. 

This wasn’t a problem in the big picture because everyone got the same treatment. You could tell that he only acted that way because no one had ever called him on it. He was at heart an easy going good ol boy. Even when he did have something to be mad about there was always a lilt of humor behind his words. His wife Rachel had a kind of Elvira thing going on. She didn’t put up with his abuse, she kept him in line. Tom had a heart condition that prevented him from drinking the way he liked to but even Rachel couldn’t stop him from smoking big cigars in the company trucks. This was before fine cigars were easily available. The ones he smoked were pretty nasty but did come in these cool aluminum tubes lined with a paper thing sheet of wood. They littered the floor of the trucks and came in handy for all kinds of things.

As basically a customer service job it was the kind where most of the complaints were from the pool owners with the least to complain about. Then as an often hung over young guy I did screw up a few times too. Like the time I was dropped off at a pool that had been covered for the winter and told to get it ready for summer. I had never done this before and didn’t know about draining the water off of the top of the pool cover before removing it. It took me over an hour to get the 150 gallons of leaves and water pulled down to the deep end inside the plastic. I was a moment away from literally pulling it off when at the last second all the leaves dirt and rain water that didn’t get in all winter did get in. I remember being told in no uncertain terms that I was a good for nothing mother fucker idiot asshole. I was further queried as to what the fuck I was thinking and how and why the fuck I was so stupid. As you would have done I had no explanation to offer. 
Next was my next step into working with people. 
I got a day job driving the vans and the short bus for the local YMCA. This may deserve it’s own post as it involved dating 2 women and was during the time of the Bakersfield witch hunt. It was quite a change from the storm of verbal abuse to working with latch key kids. 

After I had been there 5 years the little store suffered a steady decline in customers.  No, not because of me. Mostly it was the way the city kept changing the traffic flow. Making it 2 left turns for lots of folks to get to the parking lot. Besides the old couple that owned the place were ready to retire so the store closed. 
That's when I started looking for a new career and started to investigate Massage schools.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Massage Therapist Me pt.2

After getting through training and establishing myself in a location; then there was the part about actually doing the work.
Today you have 2 basic approaches to massage:
One is the medical/clinical model; very technically oriented similar in procedure and protocols to what a physical therapist does. A few less years of training than a PT, usually, but not always. Almost always less pay and it works best if an MD does the billing.
Two is the luxury/spa model. Not so much about rehabilitation as just relaxation and being papered. (Whenever I hear (or type) the word Pamper I think of Procter & Gamble Pampers™)
In 1984 the spa thing had taken root a little in Bakersfield. That's why Hairwest had me there.
Hairwest's owner John told me the story more than once about how at the Elizabeth Arden spa clients were never spoken to by their first names. Massages, pedicures and the more servile tasks were always done by black women. What? why did he keep telling me that? He knew I wasn't going to change. 

I have an analytical mind, kinda, as analytical as my adhd allows. However it was and remains to this day the more ethereal qualities of massage that intrigue me. I studied anatomy and physiology to know where I was when working on body parts. To understand what the goals are. The science based ways of getting there, not so much.
The additional classes I took were almost always about what we called "energy work". Along with Swedish Massage I was taught Shiatsu at the Santa Barbara School of Massage. Shiatsu is a type of acupressure. Acupressure and acupuncture work on the eastern model of Chi. The life force energy. The same life force energy utilized in Martial arts, Yoga and Tai Chi. In other words, energy work.
Energy work is also part of a number of western techniques (modalities). Reflexology (feet) Therapeutic Touch etc. Reiki and Ortho Bionomy, two of my favorites, were developed from both east and west.
Even after studying and getting to know these new ways to use the life force energy, my mainstay is the energy you can feel in my hands guided by intuition. All the new information and skills were added to my tool belt. For example most of the time I find Ortho-Bionomy by it's self is best with geriatric clients. It's just so gentle and is all about the freedom to release instead of work out areas of tension or stress. I took a dozen extra classes from 1983 to 1993 but still I prefer the plain old Swedish massage best. 
I think more than any other tool, what I used the most was what got the whole thing started. Making a genuine connection.
This connection, I have to explain. 
I started my spiritual quest about the time I got our of high school. Unsatisfied with what I had been told in Sunday School and I suppose I was an early adopter of the kind of cynicism based on the hypocrisy of most religions, so popular in media today. My working hypothesis was and still is that:
 “the parts of any belief system that have truth in them can be observed or experienced by anyone. no information or special process should be necessary to at least perceive what ever it is.” also “the meat, as it were, of whatever is meta physical is beyond words or forms” additionally “the idea that whatever is beyond our physical world is even aware of us any more clearly than we are of  ____ or that _____ is interested in us at all is conjecture.” finally “ i admit to a bias in my seeking towards what is light, life, growth and from those kind of sources”  
Like as not, during massage sessions I imagined myself in the roll of a farmer who considered himself a steward of his land and crops. I turned the soil to provide oxygen and encourage the natural regeneration of health and life to the soil.  While not wanting to tie my quest with a particular dogma I did make one concession to efficiency; Most of the time the massage was a kind of meditation I did. I called it “Let go and let god” Sometimes My mind would wander a thousand miles away to topics no way connected to the client. My hands and arms did their work untroubled by my analysis or the observations of my ego or libido. I could only do this well after a couple of years of practice. Always with clients whose physique I was already familiar with. I would stop and focus on any new developments in the regular client’s body as needed. 
This was actually what I always had in my advertising: 
Harmony and Balance of Mind * Body * Spirit. 
I never got a client from this part of my advertising approach. I did use others that worked quite well. Almost every client I got was because of where I worked or the yellow pages. I still thought it was important to be up front about where I was coming from. 
I did a fair amount of work in the clinical setting. Dr’s office, hospitals etc. Like I said before, I never thought is was my niche but I dutifully went where the business was and did my work in the expected professional manner. 
The ego based, elitism based part of the spa experience still offends me deeply.  The concept that every person just by the fact that they were born a human deserves the nurturing of the other humans is at the base of why I did (still do sometimes) this work. I tended not to work in places with a high degree of the status symbol bs. Some places like Hairwest did the spa thing on a casual basis. As with clinical I dutifully went where the business was and did my work in a manner of mutual respect.
My dream was always to work in a place that was mostly spa-ish but where the emphasis was on the whole person and virtually no attention to the fee they paid. 
I did that in my mind every time. The fees varied, free is absurd, the client has to value the service in a tangible way or it’s pointless. I got tips often ($100 once) but never expected them or encouraged them. If I did it implied that I didn’t do my best every time. (tried to do my best, I too am human an tend to vary).
I did always make it a point to offer single parents (our nation’s real heros as far as I am concerned) and elders on a fixed income. If you were old, bux-up and collected SSI, no discount.   
I got close to working in that situation a few times. See pt.3

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Massage Therapist Me pt.1

The story I always tell is that my interest in massage started in 1977, the year I spent driving non-emergency "Medi-van" for Hall Ambulance.
This was before they had hydraulic lifts to get wheelchairs up and into the van. So whenever it was possible and the wheelchair using patient was fine with it I would seat them in the regular passenger seat next to me. We were supplied with a sturdy little step stool to make climbing up into the seat easy. Even with the extra step some of the patients were unable to do it but still liked sitting up front. Part of the job was knowing a number of techniques for lifting people. I was happy to pick them up and settle them into the front seat. It was better for everyone, safer and allot easier for me than walking backwards up the steep ramp with the chair tilted back wheelbarrow style.

The people (patients) for the most part were elderly and what used to be called 'shut-ins'. For some the trip to a doctor or clinic was an ordeal because of their condition. Most of the others really appreciated getting out, seeing people and breathing different air. What I kept noticing over time was the effect all of this had on the people that I picked up and placed in the front seat. It was a kind of joy at having their isolation broken in a thoughtful and tangible way. More than just a car ride to the Dr.

Between 1978 and 82 when I started going to the Santa Barbara School of Massage this impression of the good done by simply touching a person with awareness and compassion kept coming back to me. Also the place I had been working was going out of business so it was time to move on. Just like the flood of people going to massage school now somewhere in the back of my mind I had the image of me as the official massage guy on movie sets or someplace glorious.

Massage people starting out as massage therapists today have lots of competition to deal with, for me except for a couple of sleezy ads in the yellow pages I was it, as far as massage in Bakersfield. Later I discovered a woman doing massage in a Chiropractor's office and another in a different hair salon. Even later I heard about an old woman who'd been massaging in this area for 40 yrs. I however was the only real massage you could find right out of the telephone book. It's true I had little competition just as true is that most people only knew massage as half of "Massage Parlor" and the connotations of that.

My first job was a commission arrangement at a place notorious in the 70s and into the 80s called "Hair West". It was giant in hair salon terms.  21 "beauty operators" 7 "nail ladies" 2 tanning beds a gift shop and an aerobics studio. Oh and me. It had been a neighborhood grocery at Oak & Chester lane in the shopping center there. As it turned out the first shopping center in the county with off street parking. Among the arcane regulations massage people were subject to at the time was a requirement for shower facilities and handicapped* parking.  (*a very new thing at the time) Since the parking lot hadn't had a reason to be striped in it's first 34 years in operation it was never striped for parking. Until I showed up.

My massage work room was 6 feet by 9 feet. In the corner a 3' by 3' section was taken up by the shower plus a small sink/vanity thing. Leaving just enough room along that wall for a chair the clients could use for changing. Not one person ever asked about using the shower. I kept the laundry hamper in there. The shop owner's dad had made the massage table for estheticians to use. It had only 1" of foam.
It was kind of roughing it but some things were good. Laundry service did all the sheets and the 1" of foam meant that I didn't have to press as hard to work out the knots in people's muscles.
Culture shock was another thing. South Park and a return to shallow values has ruined the meaning of the word hippie. I was in the tradition of the early hippies or even the beatniks. My new co workers were from a different planet, I think it was called 90210. This was also just before the outbreak of AIDS so very flamboyant and gay was was common in hair salons and in society as a whole. In some ways gay folk enjoyed more rights or at least social acceptance than they do now. It didn't take too long before I grew accustomed to them and they forced me to wear a more 'in stlye' hair cut.

It took a couple of weeks but I got my first ice breaker. Then my first perv. It kind of shook me up. I had to exude confidence in my own professionalism and genuine concern for my clients well being. Once my specific roll was reflected in my manner I got few offers to go beyond my scope of practice. After a while I had a number of regulars and even had spending money.

It was such a joy to go to a job doing what you love, people are always early to their appointments, polite, eager to see you and then give you cash before they leave.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Walk #8 post hiatus post

When I started this I said I didn't know how long or how often I'd walk. After 7 months the same caveats are in place. This may be a one-off or not.
I know after 30 minutes of walking it took 3 or 4 times that amount of time to write the blog, edit the photos and post the whole mess here. It's not that I didn't have the time really, but it was a bit of an investment in terms of effort and sit on my ass at the keyboard time. Part of the point to this is get out more.

That's a dodge, the reasons for the long break has to do with a crisis of health and destiny. I think I started talking about what happened before and the side effects of Statins on my nervous system. As bad as that was, it only really exacerbated existing problems that have hunted me the last 30 years or so. I'm sure that will all be covered in time. The last 7 months have been an attempt to discard my old life and replace it with one that meets my needs. Some results are what I expected many disappointments are still in need of resolution. The progress made is what brought me back here.

Today's walk was once again at Panorama park. Only during the day. The newspaper distributorship that had me going to work at midnight every night since June 20 2004 ended October 17 2010. I miss having an income and chatting with the old man that was a fixture of the loading dock. Nothing else really. I thought I might miss something about Wasco, but no.

Just a few days into spring and the park is coming back to life. The lavender is starting to bloom and fragrance the air. Lots of ground squirrels rushing here and there. The space feels so open after a long winter at home. Just like before I walk 15 minutes then turn around, it's about a third of the way back when I notice my body noticing the expenditure of effort. I almost stopped at one of the benches but decided to push on. I'll be standing for over an hour with no brakes. It's been awhile since I've done that.

Tomorrow night is the date of my first real Hypnosis show. I had enough people one of the 4 nights at the Replay lounge to do the show. Unfortunately not enough of the volunteers were good hypnotic subjects. Only one guy went under in a big way. He as it turned out was disabled and it wouldn't have been safe to do much with him. Two of his pals were just great about it and we did a pretend hypnosis show. Not as good as the real thing but we all had lots of laughs. In the end that's what counts.
Before that was a test show a few friends show up for (bless them). Similar results. On Feb 4 I followed George the Giant at CIA HQ. Only 10 people that time. One great hypnotic volunteer. Still not a full show.

When I appeared on ch. 58 Feb 7th I learned a number of things.

  • Cambi Brown the reporter who interviewed me is just as cute as a bug. 
  • They need a grown up to run that morning show. 
  • When doing a morning show Pre-hypnotize the volunteers. It just takes too much time to do on the air.
  • Mostly I learned that Wednesday nights are not a night when people go out for light entertainment at night clubs. 
  • The other even more valuable thing I learned was from a colleague who watched the video of me trying to hypnotize Aaron Perlman the weather man. A technical point but very useful.
  • Also people do watch that show. The lady who booked me for tomorrow night called because she saw me on TV. 

I am so looking forward to this. The critical part of changing my life is about doing things I love. Putting on a show and making people laugh is one of my most loved things. I'm hoping the place is packed and they have me back again. Even if it's just a handful of bikers and few of the venue's regulars it will be fun.