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A Continuing Web Diary


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Thursday August 11, 2005 - Gimmie a Break!

It's not a good idea to use a web diary as a griping podium, but I'm getting tired. I'm about to turn the radio off.

I turned it off back when Newt Gingrich and the Young Republicans made their move in the mid-term election of '97-98. I left it off a long time to avoid the self-congratulatory flatulence that went on for months following the election, and the witch hunt that ensued over Hilary's medical insurance proposal.

When I somehow got through the Clinton cigar mess and the daily TV images of Monica Lewinski and all that skin she threw at Bill, I was surprised. How did I do it without turning anything off?

My own skin has thickened further since those days. So far I've managed to duck the impulse that comes close to overtaking me on a daily basis over the Bush deficit and reaction to 9-11, and all the whimpering warmongers whining about how the Far East responds to arrogant U.S. economic, cultural and religious aggression around the world. Yeah, we're a bull in a china closet with the sensitivity of a turnip; but I guess everybody knows that -- and it isn't the point of this tirade.

Clichés be damned, this is too much. I can't stand it any longer. God knows I've tried. The knowledge bred into me by my father that English is nothing more than an evolving language reflective of current usage really doesn't help, either. I embrace new words and new meanings, but blatant misuse is intolerable.

I'm talking about the merger of "regime" and "regimen". That a gaggle of learned commentators and other dignitaries on NPR routinely use "regime" when they mean "regimen" doesn't help. It still sounds juvenile and illiterate. Take this, for instance:

"The current Iranian regime is trying to maintain a regime of open dialog with the West in order to develop a program of peaceful nuclear power, despite the West's strict regime of non-proliferation."

Yes, in the same sentence. I hear it on a daily basis -- sometimes three, four, five times in the space of an hour on Diane Rehm and other shows. And it's been going on for months now. Maybe it's just one more of all of those negative effects that George W. Bush's intellect (or lack thereof) has had on the intelligence of our society. But I know it isn't all his fault; in fact, he's more of a consequence than a cause. We're being reduced to the lowest common denominator, and that's all there is to it. In this new age of hostility it's time to drop the facade and reunite with our close cousin, the turnip.

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

reg · i · men (rej · uh muhn, -men', rezh · -) n.
1.   A regulated course, as of diet, exercise, or manner of living, to preserve or restore health or to attain some result.
2.   Government or rule.
[1350-1400; ME < L: rule, government, guidance = reg (ere) to rule + -i- - I - + -men, n. suffix of result]

re · gime or <ré · gime>(ruh zhEEm · , rAY-; sometimes -jEEm · ) n.
1.   A mode or system of rule or government.
2.   A ruling or prevailing system.
3.   A government in power.
4.   The period during which a particular government or ruling system is in power.
5.   REGIMEN (def. 1).
[1770-80; < F regime < L régimen REGIMEN]

Yeah, yeah; OK; but I said it doesn't help any.

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Thursday July 28, 2005 - Staying Grounded in the Heat

As we swelter through what is destined to be remembered as the heat wave of 2005, I note the difficulty our house refrigeration encounters keeping up in this mid-twentieth century house. The insulation is not as good as it should be nowadays. But we are far better off than some, with twenty deaths in the city over the last five days attributable directly to temperature. In the last couple of weeks temperatures have routinely ranged between 111 and 116° F., reminding us of another infamous heat wave we'll never forget -- was it 1987 or 1988? I don't remember. Temperatures that year got up to 123° F., a full seven degrees higher than now. How we made it through that wave I'll never know. A family member visiting from the east coast at the time flatly stated, "I'll never be back again," and she hasn't (this hasn't been the only such declaration we've been issued from summer visitors).

With the ceiling fan spinning on high I sit at my work this mid-afternoon trying to keep my concentration grounded despite the mental fog indicative of heat-related drowsiness. In its wanderings, my mind takes a circuitous route through a number of disconnected recollections and other useless mental phenomena originating with the discomfort of the afternoon and ending with an early email message I received back in 1986 when email was a novelty rather than a curse. I herewith offer it to you without further comment:

Sent:  09/30/86 12:00 Rcvd: 09/30/86 12:04     Number 10
To:  CP-6 Programmers     /     From:  John Joseph
Subject:  Humor from Canada

Sent:  09/30/86 07:14 Rcvd: 09/30/86 07:16     Number 25
To:  John Joseph     /     From:  Blaise Pascal
Subject:  Though you might like this . . .


This Story was related by Pat Routledge, of Winnipeg about an unusual telephone service call he handled while living in England.

It is common practice in England to signal a telephone subscriber by signaling with 90 volts across one side of the two-wire circuit and ground (earth in England). When the subscriber answers the phone, it switches to the two-wire circuit for the conversation. This method allows two parties on the same line to be signaled without disturbing each other.

This particular subscriber, an elderly lady with several pets, called to say that her telephone failed to ring when her friends called and that on the few occasions when it did manage to ring her dog always barked first.

Torn between curiosity to see this psychic dog and a realization that standard service techniques might not suffice in this case, Pat proceeded to the scene. Climbing a nearby telephone pole and hooking in his test set, he dialed the subscriber's house. The phone didn't ring. He tried again. The dog barked loudly, followed by a ringing telephone. Climbing down from the pole, Pat found:

  1. The dog was tied to the telephone system's ground post via an iron chain and collar.
  2. The dog was receiving 90 volts of signaling current.
  3. After several jolts, the dog was urinating on the ground and barking.
  4. The wet ground now conducted and the phone rang.

Which [, to electrical buffs,] goes to prove that some grounding problems can be passed on.

John Stewart or whoever

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Wednesday July 27, 2005 - Under Siege

Well, it was a bit cooler last night, and we didn't even need a storm to do the job. Nice sleeping for a change.

Most days so far this summer we've been sweltering under temperatures ranging from 110 to 116°. F., not exactly an optimum environment for humans. You'd think that natural desert wildlife would tolerate the heat better than we do, but indications are that they don't. In these temperatures we have everyone and everything trying to get inside.

Most noticeable this time of year are the roaches. We have cockroaches of every ilk in the Valley Of The Sun from the native field roach to the giant three-inch Japanese roach that is reputed to have come to us in wooden sailing vessels of the eighteenth century -- the only earthly occupant more widely traveled than man. I call them sewer roaches; if you've ever had the displeasure of looking into a manhole in Phoenix you know what I'm talking about. They like tight and inhospitable spaces and manage to squeeze past doorsills, negotiate roof ventilators, and swim through standing water (such as that in a toilet bowl) to get inside.

But this time of year we also get spiders, ants, flies, all manner of flying insects, and that harmless little 3/32" black beetle that can be found in every imaginable place around the house as well as a few places that aren't -- such as between the pages of a book that has been pinched on a bookshelf for months.

And they're getting bolder in the heat. The spiders, including Black Widows, recently attempted a coup in our shed until we got nasty with the insect spray. Then there are the scorpions, our closer than desirable friends of late -- appearing first on the porch, and then joining us in our bedroom. More spray.

And now yesterday I thought I saw a mouse skitter by the arcadia door and out of site into the kitchen -- twice in about half an hour. I put out a trap, and this morning -- voila!  A ratón cogidos, our first in 25 years. Back in the day it wasn't a big deal; but nowadays -- in an age where raw milk and freshly killed chicken taste "funny", I hate it when they struggle in the trap, emanating a series of squeaks in a peacock-like voice even though their little skull has been mashed completely flat by the spring wire. Very upsetting. This one died standing on his hind legs, stretching upward, balancing the trap on edge.

I unceremoniously dumped him into the trash can and put it out. Sorry, mousie; I'm not prejudiced; I just can't co-exist with a mouse in my house.

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Tuesday June 14, 2005 - The Teeth Cleaning

"I have an appointment to get my teeth cleaned."

"OK, fill out these forms and we'll call you when the dentist is ready," the receptionist responds.

I sit down, fill in my name, and pour over the questions on the form -- questions like, "Have you ever been pregnant?" and "List all doctor appointments you've had in the last 20 years." There is a generous one-inch wide blank on the single-spaced page for this answer. Fifteen minutes later I'm still checking boxes on the second page.

Recalcitrant Plebney?No

Ultimately, there are six signatures required on two pages. This, according to the information provided, is because of the HIPA law. It's called the HIPA law because it feeds the insatiable paperwork hippopotamus.

I return my work to the receptionist.

"Thank you," she smiles; "the doctor will see you shortly."

"I'm only here to get my teeth cleaned," I respond.

I return to my seat. There is a middle-aged woman sitting facing me, reading a book. She's wearing a gigantic ankle-boot similar to the one that recently held my wife captive for nine weeks. But like most people I've seen, she's not using crutches; she's allowed to walk with it.

Comparing notes, I ask her about it.

"I had surgery, she says."

That seems to be it, so I let her re-absorb herself in her book. The question, however, turns out to be my first mistake.

After a few minutes she gets up and disappears for a moment, then returns and sits down, a changed bee.

"You here to get your teeth cleaned? They lied to me . . . I hate it when they lie to you. They said they were going to clean my teeth, but they didn't. The receptionist looked me right in the eye and lied. The dentist spent three minutes cleaning my teeth, and when I got home there were great chunks of . . . [let's call it 'matter' for purposes of this narrative] . . . still in my teeth. They always lie to me."

I want to ask if she thought to brush her teeth the day she came in for the cleaning, but I just give a sympathetic nod and go on with my web search. It isn't enough.

"They lie to you all the time. I called and chewed 'em out, and they refunded my money; and now I'm back to have it done right. But they lie all the time."

"What is this fixation on lying?" I want to ask her, but I don't. "That was nice they gave you your money back," I say instead.

She responds, and I blot it out by focusing on the number of times she uses the word "lie". At 17 she stops and goes back to her book.

My Google search abandoned, I cower in my seat, fearful that she'll start up again; but mercifully, her name is called before mine and I am left to regain my composure before being called into the torture room.

The hygienist calls to her cohort, and together they lay about 300 pounds of led armor on my chest and torso, a sure sign they don't trust the x-ray machine nearly as much as I am being asked to.

"Open," she commands.

She thrusts a gagwing into the left side of my mouth. I handle it well -- until my gums come down on the razor-sharp edges designed into the plastic covering; from there on, it's a bit tenuous. The lifeless looking x-ray machine offers no comment while spewing its lethal dose of radiation directly into my head, but I know it's being delivered when I hear the innocuous series of whirs and clicks emanating from behind me.


Another gagwing is placed on the left side. Again, I dutifully close on command and feel the blades cutting my upper and lower jaws to the bone. And again I hear the whirs and clicks.


I open my mouth. The repulsive thing is involuntarily ejected so fast it almost drops in my lap.

"I'm not sure I can take another one," I volunteer.

"Only one left," she responds in a musical voice.

The music seems oddly out of place concerning the gravity of the situation, but I reluctantly open my mouth again. She thrusts the final insult directly into the center of my mouth, forcing the specially designed blade directly into my tongue. I gag and recoil involuntarily. She gets a surprised look on her face.

"Must that thing be put down on top my tongue?" I ask in indignation. "I know why they're called 'bitewings', but I don't see why they can't redesign them and call them 'smoothwings' or something like that."

"I'm afraid so," she replies, ignoring my suggestion.

Resigned, I open my mouth, leaving my tongue where it can easily be punctured again by the hateful bitewing. This time she uses the thing to push my tongue firmly into the back of my throat. Oh, well; at least that's better; I am at least able to close my mouth with only the usual gum cutting. Whir, click, click. My mouth opens as I gag violently. My hand comes up to catch it on the fly, and I hand it to her.

"We're done! There, that wasn't bad, was it?"

I don't volunteer anything. The dentist has arrived, and I can't wait to find out what kind of torture will be offered up next.

You ready?

I open my mouth to respond, and he inserts both of his fists before I can utter the first word.

"hnI'n hner hno hnet hny hneenh hneanehd," I wail.

"1-27, 1-28, 1-32, 1-36," he counts, moving his pick from tooth to tooth and surface to surface.

"We'll get to that," the hygienist responds, "hike!"

"2-29, 2-31, 2-38, 2-42, 2-43. . .," he continues to count.

What the. . .? I strain to see my surroundings through the blinding light burning into my retinas. I'm expecting to find myself in the middle of a football scrimmage; but no, it's still the dentist's chair.


"9-54, 9-59, 9-67, 9-71. . .," he drones on.

What's going on? No dentist ever performed this kind of ritual before.


I don't know what she's saying, but that's what it sounds like to me.

"45-74, 45-77, 45-78, 45-82; 49-13, 49-23; OK, your teeth are fine," he pronounces, stating the obvious.

He disappears.

"Now can I get my teeth cleaned?" I ask dryly.

"Oh, you'll have to make an appointment for that," she says.

I get up. On my way to the front counter I turn the whole thing over in my head. Although I made the appointment to have my teeth cleaned, they never said they were going to do it. I pick up my paperwork and make a new appointment to have my teeth cleaned. That's my last mistake.

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Tuesday May 31, 2005 - The Coastal Highway

With a heavy need to get away after ten weeks of convalescing from my soul mate's ankle injury, we headed off toward the west coast this past Friday night to disappear among the infinite rainbow throngs of Los Angeles. By Monday night the trip had become a mixed bag, with aging visions and new experiences falling before us in unexpected cadence; but get away, we did. The result can be found at The Ugly American: 05/27/2005.

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Wednesday May 18, 2005 - Into Thin Air. . .

I don't believe in haunted houses. But if there were such a thing our house would be it -- in spades. We're always hearing things. People walking across the floor. Major clunks and chunks, grinding and scraping sounds; and there's a lot of frequent clatter out back -- particularly after bedtime -- but when we check on it we never find anything. Our house backs up to a cliff. I've walked around it inside and out, looked underneath, checked the roof; but nothing. I mean nothing, and nobody.

Don't misunderstand me; we do have our share of visitors here -- an average of about one a week at the front door. But I only get to speak to a handful. They're the usual -- people trying to sell you services mostly, and a few others like the meter reader that didn't know he could get to the meter without going through the locked gate. And then we've had a few handbills left at the door by people who have no reason to knock.

But most of our visitors come to the door and then leave without knocking, just like the sounds we hear. I work near a window that's exposed to the street, and I have never seen any of "them" coming before they hit the porch. You see them go past the arcadia door to the main entrance, then back past the arcadia door. I get up and look out immediately, and they're nowhere on the street. It's happened too many times to count in the 18 months we've been here.

What do these people have in common? They never knock, they don't leave anything at the door -- or anywhere else -- and you never catch them coming or going.

One exception to this latter rule was a guy that drove up in a large white Lincoln Continental, pulled up to the curb and got out, came clear up on the porch past the arcadia door to the main entrance, turned around without knocking, walked back past the arcadia door and all the way to his car, got in and drove off. No knock; no handbill; no note; no nuttin'. No kidding!

The mailman, you ask? Nope; our box is at the street, and I see her come and go every day, like clockwork.

Then there were the two guys selling bottled water. I never saw them pull up -- they were just suddenly there. One of them came striding up the steps and across the porch. I normally get about three seconds of sound before they pass the arcadia door. I leaped up like I'd been shot, because I was sitting there in my skivvies and didn't want to be seen. As usual, he passed without looking in, headed straight for the main door. I ran around through the computer room and bedroom to reach the door without being seen, grabbing a robe on the way through. This guy was a real odd duck; he knocked -- once, but knocked. Then he turned around and was clean off the porch before I got my robe on. I opened the door and yelled after him, noticing for the first time the two bottles of water in each hand. He asked over his shoulder if I wanted some water, and I said no. Just as well; he wasn't waiting for my answer anyway. As he strode by his pickup parked at the curb the driver got out with two more bottles in each hand and they both headed across the street in opposite directions.

Now at that point I couldn't fight the urge any longer, so I blinked. Blinked! And they were gone -- guys, water, pickup, and all.

I swear I'm not exaggerating. The most recent "visitation" was a lady and a small child. Once again, I saw nothing on the street; but I got my three-second notice when the kid hit the porch on the run. I looked up in time to see him run by the arcadia door, followed by his mother about four seconds later. As usual I leaped up and ran to the door. No knock. I peeked out the adjacent window and saw them just leaving the porch. I opened the door anyway, and they were nowhere to be seen. I ran and looked up and down the street, but nothing. Oblivion. Blankness.

And now today -- the sounds of heavy clanking and dragging of chains being pulled over a concrete diaphragm. It had to be right here in the house; if not, then on the porch. But no; I never found anything or anyone inside or out.

I don't believe in haunted houses, but I wonder. . .?

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Sunday May 15, 2005 - . . .And One Backward

Too sore to continue with the cane, my soul mate traded it for a single crutch yesterday, and is successfully negotiating the obstacles of life in a three-legged shuffle.

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Friday May 13, 2005 - The Real Friday the Thirteenth

Today is the two-month anniversary of my soul mate's accident and the day she returns to the doctor for permission to throw away her crutches. She wants to attempt cartwheels out of the office, but settles for keeping the crutches until she reaches a more private setting. We buy her a smaller ankle brace and a cane, and after a little walking, a knee sleeve support. She's euphoric, but by the end of the day, very sore from the small amount of walking she's accomplished today. All in all, it is a good day -- two steps forward and one back.

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Wednesday May 4, 2005 - Steven Levitt's "Freakonomics"

Diane Rehm interviews Steven Levitt, esteemed economist at the University of Chicago, this morning on NPR. Among other interesting things he has to tell us is that after abortion was legalized (Roe v. Wade, 1973) crime statistics dipped, and over the years this phenomenon has been recognized in the following cause-and-effect sequence:

1.  Abortion legalized
2. Result: Fewer unwanted children
3. Fewer children mistreated in growing up
4. With fewer children mistreated, fewer turned to crime
5. Result: Less crime

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Monday May 2, 2005 - Freedom!

Having found a suitable mini-substitute at the local drugstore for her humongous ankle boot, my soul mate declared her freedom yesterday and announced her intention to drive herself to work today. Against my better judgment we stepped out for a driving test, and she appeared to handle the vehicle flawlessly. Still, I am quite worried about this development because all it would take to re-break her ankle is coming down too hard on the brakes in a panic stop brought on by some irresponsible yahoo behind another wheel.

There seems to be nothing I can do to talk her out of it, and so this morning it is her intention to carry the extra boot to the car, change to the mini for driving, change back to the humongous boot once she has arrived, go in and work a full day on crutches, return to the car to change her boot and drive home, then change back to the Humongous before entering the house. To this end, she performs the first part of the ritual and departs.

I stand in the window, blow her a kiss, and watch her back out of the driveway. As she disappears down the street I linger at the window. Suddenly I realize I haven't even dressed yet, and then it hits me: I have absolutely nothing to do today1. Freedom!

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Wednesday April 13, 2005 - What, Again?

I'm already close to being on a first name basis with our refrigeration serviceman. As if by magic, our refrigeration unit on this day decides to do its part toward helping me in that direction. This time it is the Startup Assist, its capacitor spilling its guts all over the new run relay. Citing the exorbitant parts markup I manage to negotiate a $25 discount, but still write a check sizeable enough for a healthy boat payment.

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Tuesday April 12, 2005 - Friday the Thirteenth

With my soul mate's stamina for employment increasing daily, I continue to ferry her both ways since she cannot drive with one leg three inches longer than the other in that wicked boot.

Her future indeed seems brighter with every passing day; yet the fickle finger of Friday the Thirteenth follows us like a Freak. Today, the house refrigeration goes out about mid-day.

I think it is the compressor, but it turns out to be only the run capacitor. Diagnosis consists of removing the dust cover to see which component has exploded inside. The run relay is on its last leg, as well -- soaked in a thick layer of run capacitor oil. We replace both to the tune of $292, more than a third the cost of a new compressor. Replacement consists of removing two screws and unplugging two wire connectors for the capacitor, three for the relay -- then reversing the process for the new components. Time consumed: About ten minutes. In addition to diagnostic and repair labor, parts are marked up over 100%, according to information I find later on the web.

So, Friday the Thirteenth came on Tuesday this month. Ah, well; I guess I've been in the wrong business most of my life.

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Monday April 11, 2005 - Not Quite

All things normalize, eventually. Her mobility issues resolved, within the limitations brought about by a pair of crutches, my soul mate returned to work today -- for better or for worse.

It was good to be back, she pronounced; but happy-face or not she definitely veered toward worse late in the day.

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Tuesday March 30, 2005 - Day Seventeen

Happy Birthday, my sweetheart; I love you.

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Tuesday March 29, 2005 - Day Sixteen

Today we took a drive up the 'Canyon to get out of town for a few minutes. My soul mate was elated to get out in the sunshine. Tonight she cooked a real supper while standing on crutches, against my protestations -- but it was sure better than the TV dinners I've been preparing.

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Monday March 28, 2005 - Day Fifteen

Despite a very difficult time adapting to crutches my soul mate has developed even more animosity toward her wheelchair and walker. She has come to the premature decision to return to work after four weeks, or two weeks from today.

If she is going to accomplish this, there is much work to be done. She sets very deliberately into exercising her ankle as the doctor has prescribed, and striding back and forth through the house on her crutches. By noon the fear of the crutches has vanished and she's using them like a champ.

The Hardware - March, 2005 (Click through to locate fracture lines)

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Friday March 25, 2005 - Day Twelve

Today we return to the doctor to have my soul mate's cast and staples removed and replaced with a walking boot. New x-rays are taken, and for the first time we get a look at her "bionic" ankle. Despite the walking boot she is admonished to place no weight on her ankle for several more weeks. Even so, the immediate relief she feels is beyond description, and she is hard pressed to avoid doing cartwheels from the office back to the car.

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Monday March 21, 2005 - Day Eight

Yesterday we consulted the doctor by telephone and received permission to loosen the cast further. Today my wife updated her employer on her status and was asked to return to her job when she is ready -- after four or five weeks at home. This, despite having worked there only a little over a month before the accident.

We celebrated by moving the baker's rack to the living room to allow wheelchair access to the kitchen, and this morning my soul mate had a hot breakfast sandwich waiting for me when I awoke.

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Saturday March 19, 2005 - Day Six

Today is the second good day in succession, but despite the continued doctor recommended icepacks and medication my soul mate is experiencing an increase in pain and stinging around the incisions. She tolerates it for a time, but eventually we are driven to loosen the cast wrapping and pull the separate sections of cast apart far enough provide her a significant amount of relief.

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Thursday March 17, 2005 - Day Four

It is a brighter day. Although heavily medicated, my soul mate is definitely on the upswing. By the time I arrive she has already had crutch and walker therapy. She will be coming home today, and is she is elated.

At 4:00 pm she is finally released, but refuses to be taken home until a suitable walker is found. To this end we visit a Salvation Army outlet, as well as Goodwill and Deseret Industries. Two different parents have benefited from the purchase of apparently new walkers for practically nothing at such thrift stores in the past; today we must settle for one that is obviously used but appears otherwise to be in good condition -- except for the customary tennis ball feet.

Despite the length of time we have been in the car, my wife insists on stopping at a flooring store to look at linoleum. While it starts as an upbeat exercise, she quickly deteriorates -- and by the time we reach home she is exhausted. Once again I help her into the house and bed her down with a pain pill. Soon she is relaxing into a blissful dreamland, waltzing across a mountainside slope amid a field of wildflowers.

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Wednesday March 16, 2005 - Day Three

Our HMO has come through on the second day, a record. We arrive at our appointment with the surgeon at 10:30 am. Despite elevator access, getting to the second floor, down the hallway and around the corner to the office is a monumental task.

After a short wait we are invited into the examination room. The surgeon is very young, but seems unusually responsive and very reassuring. He explains that surgery is necessary because a cast cannot be fashioned that will hold the small bone ends in place properly the breaks net. A pin and some other hardware will be necessary to hold the fragments together. He will operate at 3:00 this afternoon; we must arrive at 1:00. With the news that the worst will be over soon my beautiful soul mate's attitude begins a shift toward the positive for the first time in days.

By 6:15 pm she is out of recovery and I am in the elevator on my way to the fifth floor of J.C. Lincoln hospital. She is awake when I arrive, and her pain is mitigated to a great degree by morphine. There is a pin on one side of her ankle and a pin plus a plate with seven screws on the other. When I leave at 9:00 she is resting more peacefully than she has rested since the accident happened.

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Monday March 14, 2005 - Day One

Pumped up on pain medication my soul mate slept soundly most of the night, but this morning I awaken her at 9:00 am to get her to our primary care physician as early as possible.

We must obtain a referral to an Orthopedic Surgeon, and we are likely to have to wait at least a week as it is. True to expectations, the office staff provides little in the way of hope for an early appointment under our HMO insurance; however, our doctor promises they will be on it this very hour.

We stop by the emergency room in the afternoon to pick up the x-rays and return home to wait. While I turn my back for a few seconds to get something out of the car, my soul mate attempts to ascend the first step to the house walk, some three inches in height; she looses her balance on the unfamiliar crutches and falls backward, coming to rest on the concrete of the driveway with her back against the car. I pick her up, guide her into the house and back into bed, then lie down and suffer with her the remainder of the day.

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Sunday March 13, 2005 - My Foot!

It was one of those innocuous little decisions. We had picked up Shyre and driven to South Mountain for a short outing. It seemed like such a nice day, just the right temperature; and we decided to take a short walk on one of the lonelier trails there, if such a trail exists. And now here we were making our way down a 45° slope toward the flat of the narrow valley formed by the range of low mountains that separates us from the city.

"This isn't a trail," Shyre comments as we descend.

"Of course it is," I respond; "see how the foliage has given way to the gravel where it is most walked on?"

"But we're stepping over rocks and around cacti; this isn't a trail."

I can't argue her logic, but caught up in the moment I still have not realized the strain they are feeling on the precarious slope, the reason both she and her mother resisted starting the descent. We continue, sometimes leveraging our traction by placing a foot atop a well-anchored rock to avoid slipping in the small amount of loose gravel underfoot.

Paramedics of the Phoenix Fire Department - March, 2005

While the others pause to rest from the strenuous activity, I take the opportunity to survey the dark green landscape of South Mountain Park. It is most unusual. The Mesquite, Palo Verde, Desert Broom, Ocotillo, Prickly Pear, Barrel, Hedgehog and Pin Cushion cacti and brightly blooming Brittlebush are green and extra-vibrant with the heavy moisture they've received this year. But there is also tall green grass and an abundance of poppies and other wildflowers equal to nothing I've seen in 45 years in the Valley of the Sun. It looks more like Iowa than Arizona.

As we resume our descent a peculiar snap interrupts the silence, as my wife sinks to the ground with a groan. Shyre and I turn and look up at her.

"I think I've broken my leg," she announces in the most pitiful tone I have ever heard her utter.

We scramble to reach her. Her foot is lying to the side, a very strange position. She wants to try standing on it, but we hold her down.

"You're not going to do that," our daughter admonishes.

"But if you want, try to move your foot so that it points straight upward," I suggest.

She hesitates a moment, then tightens her muscles. A strange bulge on her ankle rotates from one side to the other, but the foot doesn't move. It turns my stomach knowing I am at fault for her being here. It is obviously badly broken.

Litter Ride Off the Mountain, South Mountain Park - March, 2005

Our daughter's instincts are the best -- she wants to go for immediate help -- but her strong willed mother is dead-set on getting to the foot of the mountain before anyone is called. I am helpless except to negotiate between them, and soon we are scrambling to slide her down the mountain on her hind-side while I hold the ankle off the ground as gently as possible. Fifty feet or so of altitude takes about fifteen minutes, and soon the trail levels off to about a 20° slope. Although we still have some fifty feet or so of horizontal distance to go before reaching semi-flat ground, we convince mother and soul mate that she has gone far enough.

A Broken Ankle - March, 2005 (Click through to locate fracture lines)

Shyre sets off on a run, following the trail the four or so city blocks around the mountainside to the nearest house, a road, and beyond. The cell phone is dead for a time, and she is forced to go several extra blocks to find a house with someone home. Soon you can hear the sirens of paramedics on the roll, and shortly five trucks pull up at the end of the road.

We lead the paramedics up the trail to where my soul mate is waiting. The swelling in her ankle is already very evident. They check her vital signs and do what they can to alleviate the pain while preparing her for the trip out, harnessed to a litter riding atop a single wheel of some twelve inches in diameter and ten inches in width.

In the emergency room the formal diagnosis of broken ankle comes as no surprise, but the double fracture is unexpected. It is a product of the motion of the rock that rolled to the side when she put her full weight on it -- prying open the space between the tibia and the fibula to the breaking point, if I paraphrase the doctor correctly. Surgery will be necessary to repair the damage because a cast will not be able to hold the small bone ends in place. They load her up on morphine, write an additional prescription of heroin-based pain medication, fashion a temporary cast to point the foot in the right direction, and send her home with instructions to contact an Orthopedic Surgeon through her primary care physician on Monday.

In deep despair I haul my soul mate and beloved mother of three daughters and two sons home and bed her down as best I can until morning, the admonition of our daughter burning into my mind, "Take good care of my mom."

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Sunday February 27, 2005 - The Green Red Show

My soul mate selected a subtle desert green and we started painting the dining room this weekend; but no, we didn't finish. And I started weed-whacking the front yard, too; but no, I didn't finish whacking the weeds, either. We painted until about 11:00 Saturday night and went to bed about 2:00 am.

About 3:00 the phone rang. Our youngest had come home late, opened a can and cut her thumb wide open. She couldn't get it to stop bleeding. She didn't have any band-aids or tape, or anything else that could be used to put enough pressure on it to stop the bleeding. We worked with her for a while over the telephone, and then gave up and drove over there -- a good half hour drive -- with some bandage materials. After a few minutes we had the bleeding stopped, but there was blood all over the bathroom and in the kitchen sink. Not to get too graphic here, but it looked like she might have slaughtered a calf. It made me sick at the stomach, but it didn't bother her a bit. I wonder about that girl.

By the time we got home it was 5:00 am. My soul mate made some breakfast and we finally got to bed at around 6:00 am. Now I couldn't sleep because of the weird hours, but managed to finally doze off about 8:00. After that the phone rang every time I got to sleep. About noon my soul mate gave up and got up. I did too -- long enough to shut off the telephone ringers -- and then went back to bed and slept like a baby. My soul mate did some more painting and I slept until about 5:30 pm.

Ounce for ounce, I wouldn't be surprised if there was less paint spread this weekend than blood, but what can you do?

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Tuesday February 15, 2005 - Saga of the Refrigerator

With a miraculous refrigerator resurrection only ten days behind us, we are surprised to awaken on Monday morning to find the infernal machine failing again. A second call in so short a time qualifies us for replacement rather than another repair, and by the end of today we have selected the replacement.

Under our warranty a replacement of lesser value results in loss of equity, while a replacement of higher value requires making up the difference. With no models available within $200 under the original, we go for an upgrade to save our equity. The five-year service warranty is also forfeited in the transaction, so the net effect of all of this is equivalent to having rented the failed machine for two years at a cost of $180/year, rendering Best Buy's warranty significantly less attractive than at first blush.

Now food loss is another matter, and we have plenty -- having just experienced a failure, restocking, and then another failure -- but if the fine print holds, we will be reimbursed for everything we are able to itemize. Wish us luck.

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Sunday January 30, 2005 - When It Rains, It Pours

Well, another week has passed in the war zone of the Devil's Gridiron on this shiny planet called Earth. Last Saturday we take a slowly leaking front tire for repair. The tire is ruined with a sidewall injury, and its eight-month old mate to our surprise is worn to an extreme -- an unwelcome testimonial to our frequent boondock activity. While awaiting alignment we notice a nail, a screw, and an unidentified piece of shrapnel in the two rear tires. As two tires are replaced and two more repaired, we while away the seven hour day in the waiting room - and I forgot to bring my TV-B-GONE.  Doggone.

Then on Sunday the price of gasoline starts upward once again, the radio announcing an average 3 cents per gallon increase in Phoenix; but we notice at least a dime difference everywhere we go.

The Wet continues on Sunday and Monday, with more rain in the Valley of the Sun as we begin to wonder if the cliff behind our house will come down -- with the house above skiing the rubble all the way to Cave Creek Road.

On Tuesday Phoenix announces a bad water alert and we start boiling water for drinking, brushing teeth and cooking.

Near the end of the day our youngest daughter calls from Arizona Heart Institute, where she has been hospitalized after a 9-1-1 call, heart in fibrillation.

On Wednesday, our two-year old refrigerator quits, the compressor in all appearances kaput. We schedule a Friday repair, but by Sunday night it has quit again. Meanwhile, we haul ice for the two large chests that must be maintained until either the refrigerator keeps working or the food is all consumed, or spoiled -- whichever happens last.

Thursday is the day Southwest Gas looses a main in North Phoenix, leaving us centered in an outage area from 19th Avenue to Tatum Blvd and Dunlap Avenue to Rose Garden Lane. It's hard to tell how many houses fall into the affected area, but we would estimate a number above two hundred thousand.

But ah, well -- at least our daughter has been released and is doing well. So, despite no hot water for bathing, no drinking water, no refrigerator, and no way to cook, there's little incentive to get excited -- and those new tires sure look nice.

I wonder if the Iraqi's have it any better?

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L. Fox



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1Mr. Fox is a retired computer professional.

2Kneebephobia is the fear of having one's knees bent backward.

3 This anecdote excerpted from Syn-Aud-Con Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 3, April 1977.



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