Coffee heat rising

The Ineffable Impossibility of Covid-19 Vaccination…

Speaking of prepping, as we were yesterday, this morning I tried (again!) to make an appointment through the Arizona Department of Health Service’s web portal for covid vaccination. Here’s what happened:

I went all the way through DHS’s appointment calendar TO THE END OF JUNE — and even tried a few dates in July — and for every single search got a “no events open” reply. Either the system doesn’t work, or they are 100% booked through the beginning of July. And, presumably, beyond.

Each search requires 11 clicks-and-waits. Over and over and over. So to search through to the end of June requires 1,837 clicks-and-waits, only to be told “NO” about 30 days a month, for all hours of the days and nights.

If something comes up that you have to leave your computer and attend to something else, to return to the search you have to jump through the ENTIRE SERIES OF SIGN-UP HOOPS AGAIN. The system doesn’t remember anything more than a few slots of data, so you have to plod through that whole rigamarole again to restart your search, filling in dozens of slots and replying to irrelevant and intrusive questions.

How hard do you suppose it would be for DHS to post a calendar showing when the next available dates are? If such a thing exists, it’s not evident on their website.

By the end of June, the plague probably will be over. So presumably if you live that long, you won’t need a vaccination — that’s some comfort. I guess.

How hard, really, would it have been to simply fund dry ice containers for pharmacies in each ZIP code? Having been through pharmacy school, surely the employees at these sites would be clever enough to understand how to keep the vaccine frozen, and why. Yes, it would be expensive. But it couldn’t cost much more than funding a laughable, almost unnavigable website and paying legions of healthcare workers to staff centralized sites that are open 24/7.

Loafing for Levity…

Well, I suppose if you have a good work ethic, there’s nothing funny about loafing. But for Funny, loafing has become an avocation. If someone would pay for loafing, I surely could earn a six-figure salary at it.

It’s 1:30 in the afternoon. Yes. I have accomplished one (1) useful task today: set a new pair of shoes delivered by Amazon out in the sun to kill off any lurking viruses. After a couple hours, I’ll try them on. But upon inspecting them, I feel pretty sure they’ll fit. They’re pretty cute, which translates into “come what may, I’m makin’ these things fit.”

Well, I exaggerate the superbness of today’s loafing activities. In fact, I did bestir myself to haul a basket of trash to the alley. Whew!!! And turned the hose faucets on long enough to soak a few backyard plants. Wow!

And right now we’re waiting for a chunk of frozen spinach to warm up on the grill to the point where I can toss on a slab of steak and a corn on the cob, so that with any luck all of those will get done at once.

Lookit this gem of news…  Good grief!

SDXB almost bought a house right near that corner — Tatum and Grovers. It’s a tract of mid-middle-class homes. The place he looked at was very nice — perfect for his needs, actually, and not far from where his daughter was living at the time. As luck had it, he just happened to stumble across the house here in the ’Hood that he ultimately bought.

A-a-n-d… In the drama department, this morning the Fire Department pulled up to my neighbors’ house again! Second time in what? Three days? One of the folks across the street must be having some cardiac issues. I wonder where their son is…he’s usually in the offing. When he visits, he likes to come barging into their driveway and lean on his car’s horn. 😀

As I was out there rubbernecking, Josie the present owner of SDXB’s former house waltzed past, towed along by her Dog du Jour. She and the adult live-in daughter favor small chihuahua-mix mutts. I’ve not seen this one before. It was definitely giving her a run for her money, dragging her up the road like a race-horse harnessed to a buggy.

Ohhhhhh gawd…

So here i yam figuring to get going and get something done. Screw it…pouring another cup of coffee.

What. A. Place!!!!

First chore of the day: haul the trash out to the alley garbage can. This entails unlocking and relocking not one but two padlocked gates.

As I’m wrestling with the first of the locks, a LARGE bright ORANGE helicopter roars over, flyin’ mighty low. It sails over Conduit of Blight and settles in for a landing, either at the freeway or between the freeway and Blight. No melody of sirens from the streets.

Hm. Orange???????

Medevac helicopters here are either white or, sometimes, black. The big combat helicopters flying out of the Air National Guard base are black. And they always fly in formation, not just as one solitary unit…. Hm. Haven’t seen it take off again…but I’m pretty sure it did land over there somewhere. Sooo….wtf now?????

Honestly. There is just never a f*ckin’ dull moment around this place!

Anyway: trash, alley…cat’s-claw vines growing up and over the back wall, thereby providing a privacy barrier that can’t be beat:  The goddamn rats are killing those vines!!! Where they’ve built their runway along the base of the back wall, apparently they’ve sheared off the upright stems of the vine jungle. Result: the lower third part of that wall of vines is DEAD. And before long, all the rest of it will be dead, too.

Gotta get rid of those rats.

The only way I can see to do it is going to be to board the dog for a month or two and lay poison bait out in back. The trapping project is all very gratifying, sure enough: but all too obviously not getting rid of the whole population. The other option is to have Gerardo pull out all that shrubbery, which will create a Mess from Hell.

In the first place, Gerardo has a large trailer for hauling debris to the landfill…for which he has to pay $50 per visit, not including the cost of diesel to run his truck halfway to Black Canyon City. Those vines will fill that thing at least three and maybe four times over. As you can imagine, he will not be thrilled by the prospect of any such job.

In the second place, those vines have been growing on that wall since LONG before I moved in here…a good 15 years ago. They are OLD GROWTH vines, no question of it. That means they’ve been sinking their little cat-claws into the antique block on that wall, which means they will have eroded and dug into it…meaning that the wall will have to be repaired and probably painted. Not to mention the fact that without those vines, every bum who stumbles up the alley can peer over the wall into my backyard — say goodbye to skinny-dipping in the pool! Plus of course they can easily see the man-sized doggy door carved into the house’s back wall, a gigantic invite that reads BURGLARS ENTER HERE!

The only reliable way I can see to get rid of the rats is to lay out poison bait.

That will mean Ruby will have to be boarded somewhere else for three or four weeks. And even then…??????  All she’ll have to do is find ONE piece of bait or bite into ONE dead rat, and she will be joining our little pals in Rat Heaven. The risk of putting poison bait around the yard is, I think, just too great, unless I get rid of the dog permanently.

Which I most certainly do NOT want to do.

Problem with the traps is that they catch more birds than they do rats. That means I have to be here all the time the traps are set, so as to free each trapped bird before it breaks a wing flapping around hysterically. Which is, in a word, impractical.

In other pestiferous regions…  In just came an IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!!!!!! from the church. One of the full-time staff members has tested positive for the Killer Disease. That means the entire church staff and any clergy and any volunteers who have been in the office over the past two weeks have been exposed to it.

So they’re having to shut down all the church operations!

Sooooooo…how smug, self-satisfied and glad AM i that i crabbily refused to go back in for front-office telephone duty when they reopened the church office? Lemme tellya how smug self-satisfied and glad I yam! Whew!!!

I declined to go back because of my extreme susceptibility to respiratory infections, which has been a lifelong Thing for me. What for you may be a minor cold is for me something that will take weeks or even months to throw off, during which time I can be very sick, indeed. I sure don’t wanna do that with this covid thing!

This morning we’re told Arizona has FOUR THOUSAND new cases of the coronavirus.

The church has a loyal full-time staff of four people who are not clerics who go in 8 hours a day, 5 days a week…meaning all of them have certainly been exposed, since there’s a big old centrally located kitchen/office equipment area (with a fridge and a stove and a microwave) and of course men’s and women’s rooms. And it also means that any of the Frontline volunteers (that was my group…) who have been going in to help out are also exposed.

Not that we’re not all exposed anyway: all it takes, presumably, is a trip to the grocery store.

Still…given how gawdawful sick an ordinary cold or (especially!) flu can make me, I sure don’t want to catch this current disease. If avoiding it means annoying my friends and associates…well, I guess they’ll just have to be annoyed.

Staying Healthy in Third-World America

This fine warning comes to us regarding fresh peaches purchased in Aldi stores.

We don’t yet have Aldi here in lovely Arizona, though the chain is planning four discount emporia in our garden state. Doesn’t matter though: the principle applies across the board: We’re not in Kansas anymore…

It’s unclear from this opaque article whether we’re talking about fresh whole peaches sold in bags, or sliced refrigerated or frozen peaches. However, it looks like probably they’re talking about fresh whole peaches. So, here’s a message from 1955, courtesy of US citizens living in lovely Saudi Arabia, where ALL fresh produce was assumed to be contaminated with this, that, or the ’tother fecal bacteria. It applies now as it did then, back before the US was a Third-World country:

Before bringing any fresh produce into the house, fill a kitchen sink (or, if you have it, MUCH better: a garage or workroom sink) with soapy water. Dawn is really good: a generous squirt of Dawn in a sinkful of cold water.  But any dish detergent or laundry detergent will do the job.

Gently submerge the produce in the soapy water. Let the produce sit there while you go on about your business for a few minutes; videlicet:

a) In another sink, wash your hands in soap and water

b) Bring in the rest of the groceries.

c) As needed, wash other (non-produce) groceries in the kitchen sink, using soap and water.

d) Drain the kitchen sink, rinse off groceries, and place them to drain dry or wipe them dry with towels. Toss towels in washer.

e) Put these groceries away.

f) Return to the sink where the produce is soaking. Wash each piece with soap and water (that is: your produce is sitting in detergent water — say, Dawn or Ivory + water — and now you take a bar of good strong soap and wash each piece with the soap under running water.

g) Rinse well, and set these aside to drain dry

h) After 15 or 20 minutes or so, to the extent the produce is still damp, wipe it dry with clean toweling.

i) Then, and only then, put it away in the refrigerator or in whatever cool place where you store it.

Got it? Wash produce in detergent, bar soap, and water; wash your hands in soap and water; rinse produce well; drain produce dry; refrigerate produce. Pray for the best.

Ideally, items that have tough skins — such as citrus and melons — should be doused briefly with dilute Clorox and rinsed well before storing.

If it is revealed to us moderns that we’re talkin’ about refrigerated or frozen processed peaches: cook the damn things before eating them. 

This was what we had to do with when my family and I lived in Saudi Arabia, where the produce we bought in the local commissary was likely to have been grown in fields fertilized with human waste. Very little that was brought into camp from nearby Middle Eastern countries was safe to eat, at least not by “Western” standards. By the 1950s, most produce and meat you bought stateside, in ordinary U.S. grocery stores and supermarkets, was safe enough to eat that consumers did not typically obsess about sanitizing every bite. But once you were outside the industrialized world…well…you took your life in by your hands if you chose to get careless about any detail of sanitation.

Who would think that half a century later, we here in the Good Ole USofA would find ourselves living in a Third-World Country?

Adventures in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Okay, so day has dawned. Accordingly, I leave the house at 8:30 to make the 20-minute drive down to the dentist’s office. Because I know which roads the City has kindly ripped up, blockaded, flooded, exploded, and whatnot, I fly in the door right on time, to the minute: 9 a.m.

A-n-n-n-n-d-d-d-d-d….

Yeah. No dentist.

Whyyy, one might ask?

“Wrong day.”

Waddaya mean, wrong day?

“It’s Monday. Not Friday. Today is Friday.”

Evidently I wrote it down on the wrong day on the calendar. Come to think of it, though, it’s a minor miracle that she’s there, because she’s waiting for her out-of-town relatives to show up and meet her there, whiling away the time fiddling with some new computer software. But she’s getting worried, because she thinks they should’ve gotten there by then.

I say the traffic is its usual bitch-ish self: they’re probably tangled up in whatever mess the city has kindly created along any of the several routes whereby they could have found their way to Dr. D’s office. She says yeah, that’s what she’s thinkin’…but she’s still worried. I ask her if she needs me to do anything for her — pick up some office supplies (there’s an office supply store just down the street), donuts, or any such. She says naaahhh….the truth is, all she really has to do is wait for the relatives to surface.

I’ve already made my way down to her precincts by avoiding Main Drag East, whose blacktop the City has bladed off all the way from Gangbanger’s Way down the entire length of the central city to someplace south of the Doc’s office, mile on mile on catastrophic mile. To accomplish this evasion, I’ve driven way out of my way over to Throughway Drag, a long, dreary strip of asphalt that will take you from way, way south of the river through downtown, through mid-town, through North Central and then the blight that is Sunnyslop, up and up and up till you reach the 101 freeway and from there dumps you into tract-littered desert, a deeply dreary journey, indeed.

Needing a flu shot, I decide to navigate back up Throughway Drag, because it takes you past a Walgreen’s and a Safeway, both of which dispense the flu vaccine. I don’t really need anything else in either store, but both of them are more or less on the way. Sounds propitious, hm?

Hit the Safeway, a right turn off Throughway, easy to access. Not very crowded. Prance to the back of the store, where the pharmacy resides, and find just one (only 1!!) customer ahead of me at the pharmacist’s counter.

She is a very elderly woman, all wrapped up for wintertime (it’s 105 out there now as I write this) and leaning on a walker as she tries to fill out a form the pharmacist has inflicted on her.

No kidding: this thing is PAGES long. And no mere 8.5 x 11 pages: page on page on page of 8.5 x 13-inch paper, covered with lines for her to fill out.

The poor soul is sifting through the goddamn thing, line by line by interminable line, trying to figure out what they want her to fill in and trying — with little success — to dredge the required data out of her memory.

She struggles and she struggles and she struggles and…

I stand and I stand and I stand and I stand…and….

Finally I think OH FUCK IT! It’ll take less time to drive across the intersection to the Walgreen’s, park in their lot, hike to the back of the store,, and get the damn shot there. So I leave her doing battle with Safeway’s paperwork and head across the street.

Yeah.

There it only takes about 10 minutes to get the attention of one of the two clerks. I say I just want a flu shot. She says no problem, and proceeds to give me the Covid Third-Degree. I go no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no… to another eight or ten minutes of questions that could easily have been condensed into three or four questions. Fork over my Medigap card and my Medicare ID.

She asks me for my “Blue and Red Card.”

Huh??????

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what on earth you’re talking about.”

She says, “You know. Your Blue and Red Card. Your Medicare card.”

“You mean this one?” I give her the photocopy that I’ve been carrying around ever since my original Medicare card was stolen.

She looks more closely at it. “Ohhhh, yeah! That’s it.”

No kidding, kemo sabe?

Now as we proceed, it develops that she cannot figure out how to enter the data to charge up a flu shot on Medigap/Medicare. She asks her coworker how to do it. Coworker, visibly annoyed (because she’s visibly very busy) drops what she’s doing to instruct.

In the process, our heroine remarks that she was off work for eight weeks and so has forgotten how to work the computer.

Uhm. You forgot how the computer works in eight weeks? 

Definitely not the brightest rhinestone on the pharmacist’s lab coat.

It takes her another eight or ten minutes to figure out this two-minute process, during which another elderly woman hoves up to the drive-through window in her Cadillac, whence she asks for something that was supposed to be ready. She is given a nice runaround.

I think If I’d stayed behind the Safeway crone I’d be on my way home by now. Matter’o’fact, I’d probably be in the house by now.

The paperwork filled out and the stabber in hand, I ask if they could please send a notice over to the Mayo to let them know (as the doc there requested) that I received this inoculation.

Now…get this: She says “Where’s that?”

No kidding. Another sentence or two, and it becomes startlingly clear that this little lady has NEVER HEARD OF THE MAYO CLINIC. Not only does she have no clue where it is, she doesn’t know what it is.

I think…I’ll bet you were in one of my 300-level “professional” writing courses, weren’t you? Probably one of the classmates who never heard of the Civil War or never imagined it happened during the 19th century. Whenever that was…

Holy shit. Next time I’ll drive out to the Mayo to get a shot.

What a Day!

So first off, it’s out the door at 5 a.m., running late to walk the dog. Dog-Walkers’ Rush Hour kicks in around 5:30, meaning I have to drag the corgi away from mutt after mutt after mutt, each of which she enrages by LUNGING at them. Get back to the house right at 6.

Feed the birds, sit down and feed me. Manage to finish breakfast just before Jim the Pool Dude shows up. He’s interminably chatty — nice guy but yaks a lot. He probably thinks something similar in my direction. 😀 Anyway, he decides to toss some gunk into the drink which hazes it up — because all the palm tree trash Gerardo’s guys dropped in there has dorked up the chemicals.

Now, late in the afternoon,the  pump hasn’t run enough hours to dehaze it, and I do not feel like fiddling with it…so it’ll have to wait until I feel a lot more lively or until Jim comes around again next week.

As I’m slamming around trying to get ready and fly out the house to drive halfway to Yuma for ANOTHER damned appointment at the dermatologist’s, I spot a phone message from Gerardo. He and his guys will come by today. I call back and say I’ll leave the gate unlocked.

A-a-a-n-n-d-d-d of course as I’m streaking out the door, I forget to unlock the gate. Realize that about the time I get a quarter of the way to Yuma. Arrive at the derm’s; PA freezes some more emergent actinic keratoses. She says it looks like the back surgery wound is healed enough that I could go swimming.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the pool weren’t quite so chemically milky? Oh well.

The magic elixiir for pereipheral neuropathy?

Streak back across the city. Planned to stop at Sprouts on the way home to pick up the woo-woo (IMHO) patent medicine that beloved Mayo Doc thinks might be helpful, but figure I’d better get back here to unlock the gate, just in case there’s some chance Gerardo has yet to show up. Unlock gate. As I’m walking through the garage, I brush against the decrepit clothes rack that I use to hang laundry out of the washer or dryer, and the damn thing falls apart! It collapses all over the floor, bearing a load of laundry with it.

Did I mention that the weather has cooled a bit? Only 112°. Don’t ask what the temp is inside the garage.

Jump back in the car and shoot over to Sprouts, where I discover alpha lipoic acid pills are made of gold! It’s upwards of $9 for a ten-day supply at the rate WonderDoc has in mind (three of the horsepills a day!). And that’s cheap compared to what Amazon is charging!

Grab a bottle, fly home, pick up the clothes off the floor and put them away, repair the clothes rack. Throw the clothes I’m wearing into the washer, throw in the three cloth masks I wore while gadding around, & turn it on; scrub feet, legs & arms in the shower. Defrost a lamb chop, start cooking lunch/dinner. Drop one of the pills. Realize I feel extremely tired and wish only to bolt down food and go back to bed. As said food is cooking on the grill, Gerardo and his sidekicks show up. Naturally.

He’s feeling chatty. (What IS it with chatty guys today????)

I want to eat.

Shovel the men out the door, Gerardo with a hefty check in hand.

Ship off a client’s paper — edits and clean copy — with a bill. Hit her up for an amount I think is about a hundred & fifty bucks too little. Realize last time I worked for her I charged her 6 cents a word, because her stuff tends to be exceptionally difficult. But it’s been so long that when she sent this assignment, I just automatically quoted her my regular 4-cent-a-word rate. Cheated myself.

This evening we get an announcement from the power company begging us to conserve electricity: no pool pump, no laundry machines, ratchet up the AC thermostat to 80. Fire up around Lake Roosevelt is threatening transmission lines. That and day after day after day of 115-degree temps are, we’re told, “straining the grid.”

No doubt!

Magic Dragon to the Rescue

So it’s been about a month since I decided, at a young doctor’s urging, to climb back on the wagon…and since then have managed to cling to the haystack. She speculated that the disturbing tingling in the hands and feet is a peripheral neuropathy occasioned either by a vitamin B12 deficiency or by alcohol abuse.

I personally do not think one or two glasses of wine, once a day, taken with a large meal consisting of meat, two vegetables, or a vegetable & a salad represents alcohol abuse. On the other hand, neither do I feel my world will end if I substitute iced tea or iced coffee for the swiggles. The doc’s definition of “too much,” it develops, is driven by shifting standards of acceptably safe amounts of alcohol consumption — revised downward. These official pronouncements tell us that women should drink no more than 4 ounces of wine a day.  This is less than the standard presented as Received Truth when I was a young pup.

Well. Four ounces is one rather small glass — hardly more than a taste. It’s not worth opening the bottle and dirtying up a wine glass to pour less wine than will accompany a full meal. I’ve probably been drinking about 6 ounces a day. Apparently that is dire, DIRE, we tell you!

Okay, to the great joy, no doubt, of my Christian Scientist ancestors’ lurking ghosts, I heave myself onto the wagon and fasten the seat belt. Meanwhile, the young doc and her boss also suggested that I drop a vitamin B12 supplement every day, the B12 level being one aspect that turned up wanting in the vast complicated set of blood measurements they did. (Does it not strike you as odd that if you have a nutritional deficiency, only one of a wide array of factors would be lacking?). This stuff isn’t going to harm me. Whether it will help remained to be seen.

And, we might add, still remains to be seen!

Neither of these two changes seemed to have much effect, over the course of three or four weeks. Well: I feel a little more energetic — one symptom of B12 deficiency is fatigue. Was I fatigued in the long-ago time? Not exactly: I incline to call it lazy. But whatEVER. Yesterday I scrubbed 1868 square feet of tile without noticeable “fatigue.” 😀

As for the tingling feet and hands? Like an electric current flowing through them. All. The. Time.

Oh well.

I’d been applying a topical anesthetic in the form of lidocaine. Its effect, to the degree that it has one, was brief, at best. But then…oh, yes, THEN: a vague memory flitted across the fogged brain: that nightstand drawer held several vials of CBD cream and ointment given to me over the years by various friends & relatives. Hmmm….  What if?  D’you suppose…?

Dig these out and smear them on the paws, one at a time over a couple of days. Only one of them has much effect, but it does make a noticeable improvement. Hot dang.

This elixir goes away quickly, because it’s just a sample size. But…it is to be noted that Sprouts, which has a store within walking distance of the Funny Farm, sells CBD nostrums! So yesterday, girding myself with face mask and disinfectant, I trotted into that fine emporium, where I found the cannabis nostrums under lock and key. Tracked down the woman who runs the cosmetics and patent meds department, and found to my surprise that she was pretty knowledgeable on the subject of cannabis-laced skin balms.

Picked one that she recommended, hauled it into the house, and lo! It actually does work pretty well! Doesn’t make the electrical effect go completely away, not by any means, but it does dull it enough to make it tolerable.

Meanwhile, we have the perennial blood pressure neurosis.

Since I’m going to have to trek back out to the Mayo toward the end of this month to do battle with the docs over my various lifestyle manifestations, I figured I’d better resume making a record of average BP measurements, since every time I so much as drive into a hospital or doctor’s office parking lot, my blood pressure heads for high orbit. I feel I need to have a record to show how the figures run in a less crazy-making environment.

At 2:30 in the morning on August 3, when I was awakened by the sensation of my pulse pounding, the blood pressure was 161/93. Holy shit! By 3:30 it had gone up to 167/107, freaking terrifying. This, however, was not the first time I’d experienced a night-time episode of astronomical blood pressure. Last time, it had dropped into the elevated but not terrifying range by the time I got to the ER, and within 45 minutes or an hour had gone back down to what was then “normal” for me. Also by now had learned that a “blood pressure crisis” — hurry on down to your nearest ER — is upwards of 180/120. So this time I refrained from panicking and just tested it about every half-hour or so, and yes: watched it fall to 143/90. Still way too high, but not immediately in stroke territory.

As this night watch proceeded, it occurred to me that because of the neuropathy I was swimming in ibuprofen. I’d been taking 200 mg four times a day — the last spiked with Benadryl in the (vain) hope of sleeping past 2 a.m. That’s 800 milligrams a day of the stuff. Holy ess aitch ai!

Turns out ibuprofen can jack up your blood pressure. And…it’s dangerous to ingest it along with cinnamon, a little experiment I’d decided to try by way of addressing the alleged prediabetes that also showed up in the blood tests.

So I decide to go cold turkey with that stuff.

It was dulling the tingling a little…but not enough to matter. In fact, the CBD gunk makes one helluva lot greater improvement.

Okay. So…

Now I’m tippling nary a drop of wine (or anything else, either).

And not gulping down piles of ibuprofen.

Two days into the ibuprofen fast: BP is 120/78

Awww c’mon! Gimme a break. I write it down but regard it as a fluke.

Another two days later, it drops to 105/72.

Right. Sure. I figure the BP machine must be busted. Make a note to take it up to the Walgreen’s to get it checked.

Next day: 118/78. Hmmm..that at least is in the more or less normal range. But I’ll believe it if I see it again. More than once.

And today: 118/72.

Dayum! It must’ve been the wine, not the old age and not the various neuroses that was pushing the blood pressure into the alarming range.

Well. We shall see if this proves true. I’ll believe it when I see it…at least eight or ten times.

As for the tingling extremities? The electrical current is about gone in the feet.

What next, dear Lord?