Sunday, February 28, 2010

Down, Down, Down

The Old Man's been in Hospice care for several weeks; at the time, the docs gave him 3 to 6 months.

We got a call this morning: they've put him on oxygen; his heart keeps trying to stop; the pneumonia he's been beset with for more than a year isn't getting any better--and the Hospice folks aren't taking him to the hospital.

I've long since accepted that he's going to die; Alzheimer's just does it agonizingly slowly.

I wish his daughter--my step-sister [let's call her "Screech"]--wasn't having such a hard time with it. Her coping mechanism has been denial and shrill accusation: he doesn't have Alzheimer's. He's not going to die. He didn't have a stroke. You've gotten him locked up like that so you could take all his money. You've got him in that place to kill him. At first, she was venting at the top of her lungs over the phone, screaming at my mother, who has Power of Attorney and has been managing all this shit the best she can.

Mom hung up on her ass. Screech called back--"Did you just hang up on me?!?!!!11!1!!?"
Mom said, "Yes." And hung up on her ass again.

So now Screech is doing her screeching by proxy, I think through an aunt.

Funeral's going to be interesting. I've been assigned the task of keeping Screech away from Mom. Not really sure how I'm supposed to do that. Do I loom with amiable menace like a bouncer? Stand hip-shot like a gunslinger, one hand on my trusty Peacemaker? Show off my mad bo-staff skillz like Napoleon Dynamite?

Shit. I don't want to go to the funeral. I don't want to deal with Screech's childish rantings or the other asinine family politics--the cousins who pretend I don't exist at the yearly reunions; I don't want to see my insane step-brother (yeah, I've got some stories about him...the entire neighborhood does).

[ETA: The funeral went quietly, nobody misbehaved.]

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Neighborhood Douchebag.

In September of 2008, some County dick came into my yard and gave me 2 weeks to get rid of my '83 Citation. On the 29th of that month, she was towed away for scrapping and I had $100 in my pocket.

I still want my car back, even though I've since gotten another Citation--and an X-11, at that-- in better condition.

Now the neighborhood douchebag who sicced the County dick out here in '08 has tried again. While I was at work yesterday, some kind of police officer (city? County?) stopped by, having received a complaint about a vehicle sitting in the yard: my '92 Tracker. I don't drive it as often as I used to, now that I've got the X-11. But when the X is having a bad day, I can hop in the Tracker and start it right up. I was going to sell the thing, and I still might at some point, but I've kept it registered and insured for just such eventualities.

Apparently the douchebag's eyes couldn't see that there's a license plate on the Tracker, and couldn't see me driving it a few weeks ago, or a few weeks before that. Amazingly, this same douchebag's need to interfere in other people's lives wasn't triggered by the Tracker being up on ramps for 3 months last year with a broken clutch cable. Why the rush, now?

The police guy poked around, asked a few questions of my mother, and left without putting up a sticker or anything, and that's as it should be--the Tracker's not "sitting." It's PARKED.

I'm thinking of making up some posters--"Neighbors Shouldn't Be Douchebags" or "It's REGISTERED, you MORON!" and sticking them on the Tracker, then driving up and down the street a few times. Maybe park it in an actiony-looking pose in the front yard, like it's climbing rocks?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Didn't Snow, Didn't Snow, Didn't Snow.

So much for the 100% chance. It drizzled all night as expected, but almost all the snow happened north of the border up in southern Alabama.


Song of the Day: Cereal Killer (Green Jelly)--update

Just added the video for the song to the original post.

Song still has me rolling!

This car guy's got something in his eye...

I'm subscribed to a Citation/X-11 email list; one of the guys posted a link to Tyler's Toy.

Tyler Shipman is an 18 year old car guy from Frazee, Minnesota. He's dying of cancer, apparently in its final stages now. I hope I'm wrong about that, but he's on 24-hour hospice care.

He joined a Fiero group in late October of '09, looking for help in building up his own car in the time he had left.

The Pennock Fiero group turned out and brought the young man's dream to fruition in November.

As one car guy to another, I hope for the best for Tyler--and my hat is off to the people who did all the heavy lifting--two dozen volunteers, donated parts, shop space, all in a single weekend!

At the rollout that weekend, Tyler took the wheel.

Man, that's beautiful.

Tyler died 2/14/2010.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pic of the Day: Everybody Panic! Pensacola Snow!

From the National Weather Service:

Tonight: Rain and sleet, mainly after midnight. Steady temperature around 38. North wind between 5 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Friday: Rain, snow, and sleet, becoming all snow after 10am. High near 37. Wind chill values between 25 and 30. North wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow and sleet accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 29. Wind chill values between 20 and 25. North wind between 10 and 15 mph.

Since I don't know whether Blogger will render the screenshot in a readable size (it's about 200kb), I've upped the pic to the Flickr account.

People are freaking out, buying up bottled water, filling up their gas tanks, all the same stuff they do for last-minute hurricane prep.

Me, I'm sipping hot cocoa and getting my cameras ready for tomorrow's Big Blizzard. I mean, two whole inches is a lot, right?

The last time it snowed, this is all I got:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Song of the Day: Death Metal Rooster

Wow. This cat's got some pipes!

That's probably the coolest thing I've seen this year.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bullies...and the Old Man

Still thinking about the Old Man, and my own troubles.

I was afraid of him for most of my childhood...disliked or hated him for that into my 20's...angry with myself into my 30's for not standing up to him, all because of those whippings that seemed all out of proportion to whatever I'd done, the threats of taking an ax handle to me...I wasn't a great kid, no, but I wasn't that bad or all that different from any other kid my age. Maybe it was his own upbringing; for the few years I was around his father (he died in the late '70s), most of the memories I have of Grafton were of a stern stranger. I don't remember him as a loving grandfather figure or much of anything else. And I don't know whether he whipped the tar out of his own kids.

I see other people, their closeness to family, and I wonder what it feels like. In my forties, the old fear is gone, the anger still there: I never stood up to him, or to anybody else. The closest I ever came to fighting back against bullies amounted to peeing on one. Would have been more satifying to knock him down and beat him unconscious, to make sure that was the last time he bullied anyone.

There was a teacher who was worse than that, in some ways. I was in her marketing class. One day, on the way across campus to her "portable" classroom, I found a pair of aluminum push-pins in the dirt. I like shiny things and metal, so of course I grabbed them. I had them on my desk during class (no book bag? Can't remember--but I had enough sense to not sit down with those things in a pocket).

One of the bullies got assigned to pick up trash in the room: the teacher's notion of punishment for talking. He walked up and down the rows, smirking, collecting paper or whatever and putting it in the trash can he was toting. When he got to my desk, he swept my pins into the can. I told him to put them back--and the teacher got involved.

She looked at the pins and told me I'd stolen them from her bulletin board. Wouldn't listen to my side of things. Go sit down.

As I walked away, I muttered, "you f*cking bitch."

This got me sent to the dean's office, got my mother called in for a conference with the three of them...and got me suspended for a few days. No one bothered to ask me my side. All they cared about was the disruption, not right or wrong. To this day, I stand by what I did--but I wish I'd been better at it, my own defense attorney, able to use words as weapons, with the conviction of being in the right--the pins weren't stolen, and she was a farking bitch.

Funny thing is that she was supposed to be psychic. It was years later that I thought that I could have used that--"You're psychic, right? Why don't you use your mystical powers to find the truth?"

Nah. I never had the backbone to stand up to any of them, the Old Man, his son, the bullies at school, the teachers who didn't care anymore about teaching and just wanted to get through another day of dealing with us teenaged terrorists. Then there were various management types, both in civilian and military employ, where pushing back would bring worse than schoolboy suspension...well, a boss can only fire you. Military people can throw your ass in jail whether they're wrong or not.

So many authoritarians and incompetents. Teachers fail upward and become administrators. Sergeants collect more rockers on their sleeves. Crappy team leaders become managers become district managers. Brown belts become black belts--and there's always someone who thinks his new rank should be used as a bludgeon. The new administrator wants to clean up the school, get rid of things he found offensive and could do nothing about. The new sergeant tries to shape up his platoon by becoming a shouting drill instructor. The new district manager has to be consulted for every decision, demanding that payroll be kept unrealistically low--but those sales have to go up, whether there are enough people to do the job or not. The new blackbelt looks upon simple mistakes as infractions to be punished.

They're all the same. But the stepfather, the stepbrother...where do they fit into this? An administrator or manager can be shuffled sideways, a sergeant reassigned, a black belt put through a "guantlet" where he must face the other high-ranks, to be shown how little he knows.

What the hell do you do with family?

What the hell do you do three decades later, when you're not that scared little kid--just an adult looking at new things to be afraid of--your own failing health and that of your surviving parent, looking for a new job.

What the hell do you do when that giant with a belt is just an old man?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Song of the Day: Cult of Personality (Living Colour)

Damn, what a band. That's Vernon "Badass" Reid on guitar, Corey "Badass" Glover singing, Muzz "Badass" Skillings on bass, and Will "Badass" Calhoun on drums, all out-rockin' the hair-farming white kids of the late-'80s radio wasteland. They out-rocked the shoe-gazing white kids of the mid-'90s. They brought this one song to the mainstream, a blend of funk, jazz, and metal that still compels me to crank that sucker up and air-guitar through both solos.

Vernon Reid's main guitar riff hook is one of my favorites--and his soloing style leaves me looking at my fingers and guitar, wondering what it must be like to be a musician.

Corey Glover's vocals...the man's got one of the best voices, third in my top 5 singers I wish I could sing like (Chris "Soundgarden" Cornell and Lane "Alice in Chains" Staley are firmly in first and second, respectively).

Skillings and Calhoun form a plenty solid, tight, and inescapable rhythm section.

They're not as pretty as mid-'70s Rush.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Old Man goes into Hospice care.

Feb. 14 marks two years since my stepfather was put into an Alzheimer's "home", if that's what it's called.

A few days ago, he stopped responding to medication, stopped talking, and is refusing to eat. He's been placed in Hospice care, given 3 to 6 months to live--or what passes for living, considering the Alzheimer's.

It goes back to January of 2006; one morning he just didn't get out of the easy chair he slept in. My mother went in to check on him and found him in the chair, glassy-eyed, barely breathing. He'd had what the docs later called a "mini-stroke." He got hospitalized quickly enough that there didn't seem to be any massive harm from the stroke...but it was enough to cause "Capgras' Delusion". It had him convinced that my mother was an imposter, that there were THREE of her, but she wasn't the right one--she was her own sister.

From there, things got worse. We had to take down photos and mirrors because those people in there were coming out after him. He was convinced that neighborhood kids and adults alike were having sex in our cars. My mother was in bed with every man in the neighborhood, and her "sister" was covering for her. He woke me up one night (scared the shit out of me!) wanting me to come and chase the people out of his bedroom.

For a few months, he worked as a security guard at (I think) a strip mall...but he couldn't really tell time anymore and couldn't even fill in his time sheets or reports.

He would freak out, have siezures, get combative, and wander around the house. It got to a point where we had to have him "Baker Acted" (involuntarily committed) on Valentine's Day 2008--ironically, the same thing he dragged his own feet on when his own son was terrorizing the household and neighborhood with his psychotic paranoid episodes.

He tried charming and sweet-talking his way out of it--the same thing he would do to get his son out of trouble, and the same thing his son would do to get himself un-committed after a few days--but (fortunately) freaked out when a doctor was present. That was enough to get him placed in the home.

I don't envy anyone their life in that place. It's in an older 4-story brick building a few blocks from the Pensacola Public Library. The Alzheimer's ward is on the top floor. It's a frightening place to be, surrounded by what I can only call "broken people."

I scribbled this during Thanksgiving lunch in 2008:

Strange croaks, raspy whispers, breathy mumbles
A syllable repeated like a sentence
They struggle with their wheelchairs
Not sure why they cannot move

One fights the table-top attached to his seat
Trying to reach the latches, hoping for escape
Another snaps at an unseen assailant,
Imperious old woman sitting alone

One walks in circles, his mental rudder locked, no one at the bridge.
A "Rat Pack" poster, photo of James Dean and his car
Elvis, Marilyn, Audrey Hepburn
All watching over the broken ones

The TV babbles, for once more sensible than its audience,
Who don't know their own families
Who see friends from long ago

One wonders what their worlds are like
Trapped in minds growing ever smaller
Or trapped in one that no longer works

He looks old. Insubstantial. He thinks this is a restaurant,
That I flew in from Tallahassee, my sister from Georgia
He accuses my mother of affairs, worries about the waitress

That's about as finished as that's going to get.

The whole scenario has only deteriorated relations between my mother's side of things and the Old Man's own kids. We've never really been close, but who wants to be around screeching a-holes who keep demonizing my mother? "She's only interested in his money!" "He doesn't really have Alzheimer's--she's keeping him locked up!" "He said we could have that car."

Me, I've seen the woman who'se been married to him since the mid-70's starting to look OLD because of the strain on her these last four years. I've seen her crying. I've seen her health slipping and forgetfulness setting in, anxiety, panic, sleeplessness, loss of appetite.

Some mastermind.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

X-11 marks 6 (mostly) trouble-free months in a row

Apparently I'm a passable Car Guy. Giving the computer stuff the boot was a good idea.

Yeah, I want to keep the little beast as close to original as possible, but I want to be able to DRIVE it, too. In the 6 months since the last breakdown (where I replaced the fuel pump and had to redo the engine end of the exhaust system...all because of a pair of deteriorated fuel hoses), the only real problems have been in getting the distributor dialed in, getting the mechanical and vacuum advance to work properly.

There aren't many mechanical issues, now; the power steering pump needs to be replaced and the rack & pinion needs rebuilding (if you've got an X-11, good luck finding the correct rack anywhere! Whatever you do, don't give your original one away as a core!). I'm planning on getting a stock rack and using it to refurbish the X-11 item. Core charge is a dollar.

It still needs motor mounts, a new windshield-wiper motor, and an A/C blower motor. And all that body work.

I had a flattering moment yesterday; on the way out of a store parking lot, I stopped to let a guy walk from the gas pumps to the store. He waved at me and said, "No, man, I wanna see your car!"

I made it out of the lot without grinding any gears: a few times I've 'missed' a gear, letting the clutch out before I got the shifter settled. Takes all the piss out of you, thinking you're smooth, car's looking good, and *GRAKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK*