Coffee heat rising

Old Age: Fightin’ Back!

Yay! This morning WonderOrthodontist decided not to perform the next step in replacing the busted tooth, because he felt it needed some more healing time. Six weeks!!

This was not something I was looking forward to: I’ve had about enough pokes in the gums to last me for the rest of my life. So despite having to trudge over to his place through the rain, I was delighted to dart in, socialize with his charming staff members, admire his cuteness briefly (this is yet another highly educated specimen of gorgeousness!), and dart out.

However…  Driving across town reminded me — again — that Old Age is creepin’ up. That would be old age in the form of freaking senility.

I have to admit that I am beginning to feel some concern about issues that seem to be associated (possibly) with age.

Ever since I tripped in the dark over that busted slab of sidewalk, I’ve felt weirdly unsure on my feet. Especially in the bathtub…but also just about anyplace in the house. I find myself picking my way across the floor, particularly near steps, for fear I’m going to trip or misstep again. That is not my style.

But given that I walloped myself magnificently and that it took weeks and weeks to recover, it makes sense. It’s reasonable, right?

Fine. However, we have another issue that is much more worrisome: an apparent growing degree of confusion.

This is not forgetfulness, though like anyone over about 50, I forget where my keys are if I don’t put them away where they belong. As issues go, that one is neither very serious nor does it seem to be getting worse.

The problem has to do with not recognizing or remembering exactly where I am, even though I’m on a path that’s so beaten it’s practically polished.

I have been driving in this city since 1966. That is fifty-four years. I navigate by dead reckoning because a map of the roads and neighborhoods is imprinted on my consciousness like the migration routes in a mallard’s brain. Yea verily, I know the city so well I can get from point A to point B without even looking where I’m going. No, I don’t have to read the road signs anymore.


The other day I went out to the credit union, which lurks on the ASU West campus at 45th Avenue and Thunderbird. You understand, I worked at that place for ten years. I drove out there five or six days a week, every week, at least once and often twice in a given day. Frequently I drove out and back after dark, to teach night classes.

ASU’s westside campus is bounded on the east side by 43rd Avenue and on the west side by 51st Avenue. Both of these are faceless, bland, Southern-California-style runways that pass through faceless, bland tracts falling to decay and past faceless, bland strip malls that invite you to do nothing more than to pass them by.

So I’m cruising up 43rd, and on the way am looking for a Fry’s Supermarket that stands on an east-west thoroughfare called Peoria — another faceless, blandly ugly road. When I can’t find the thing, I figure it’s on the next road over, west of the campus, not east of it.

I know that is wrong, because I know what’s on 51st, and it ain’t a Fry’s. But nevertheless I come to believe that is the case. But here’s the thing: I think I’m on 35th Avenue and that the next road on the other side of the campus is 43rd. Which it decidedly is not.

When I realize I’m not northbound on 35th but instead am already on 43rd, I become seriously confused…as in I don’t know quite where I am. Not until my car comes up beside the campus do I recognize where I am, but I still can’t understand why 43rd is in the wrong place.

It’s not, of course…35th is the road I use to drive from the campus up to the Costco on the I-17 — it’s another couple miles to the east of the campus.

Even after I finish the errand in the credit union and climb back into the car, I’m still almost convinced that 43rd is on the west side of the campus. To wit: I’ve come unstuck in space!

That was creepy.

And now we have today. I head off to the orthodontist’s. His office is situated on a road I have used to drive home from the ASU Main campus and back and forth to various shopping and business venues for many, many years. I’ve been to his office several times over the past three months or so.

The usual route would be across Glendale (which gets renamed “Lincoln” as it passes eastward) to 36th Street, down through a ritzy neighborhood to Stanford, eastward again past the swankiest private school in the state, and then south on 40th to the doc’s office building. However, Glendale/Lincoln has been all dug up for yet another public-works boondoggle and is projected to be so for months. It is one of the most heavily traveled surface streets in the city, and so has been bumper-to-bumper all the way from 24th Street to Tatum, on the edge of Scottsdale.


Hordes of avoiders are driving all the way down to Camelback Road to move east and west across the north-central part of the city. Thus, Camelback Road:


So the plan is to drop down 7th Street (where I have to buy some gasoline) to a major feeder street called Missouri, cruise across that to 24th, and from there go north and then navigate east across Stanford to 40th Street.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

See…the problem is… Stanford doesn’t go through to 24th Street.

You have to pick it up on 32nd, where it debouches into the fast-moving traffic flying between Camelback and Lincoln.

I know this. I know it as well as I know where the water glasses in my kitchen cupboards are.

Nevertheless, I make my way across Missouri to 24th and then northward…growing ever more puzzled that I can’t find the turn onto Stanford.

Not until I get almost all the way up to Lincoln do I realize that I’m on the wrong road to turn east on Stanford!

Got that? I’m as lost and as confused as a flatland tourister from Cleveland!

This is alarming because I’ve used that Stanford cut-through for years to get across the city to and from Scottsdale, to get to my hair stylist, to dodge traffic while coming back from Tempe, and to evade the eternal mess on Camelback Road.

Holy sh!t.

It begins to look a whole lot more alarming than “losing” your car keys or your glasses. It begins to look a whole lot like real senility.

I should not be confused in any way about something I’m so familiar with. Something’s wrong there.

{sigh} Reflecting on this predicament this afternoon, I wondered if I might be doing something to cause this — other than simply aging. If so, what might that “something” be?

Well, there are several possibilities, to tell the truth. For one, I hardly ever go out any more — that’s why the mileage on my car is so low. I hate driving in Phoenix’s wackshit traffic, and so avoid it as much as possible. That’s why I quit the Scottsdale Business Association: that drive to the Pavilions, way to Hell and gone across two freeways in the rush hour, was more than I cared to contemplate.

So we have some candidate causes here:

  1. Lassitude. I’ve stopped doing almost everything. I’m not even keeping up the garden.
  2. Lack of social contact. The church is the only place I see people anymore.
  3. Illness and injury. Neither of these can be helping the situation.
  4. Drinking. Possibly two or three glasses of beer, wine, or whiskey are 2 or 3 too many.
  5. Lack of interest in much. I don’t give a shit anymore.
  6. Desire to stay off the roads; increasing dislike of driving.
  7. Age.
  8. Possibly signs of senile dementia.

Could be any of these. Could be all of ’em, eh?

So the question is… Is there anything that can be done about this stuff?

Obviously, there’s nothing I can do about getting older. Nor, if I’m losing my marbles, can I do anything about that.

Maybe I can slow the process down a bit, though.

  1. Get off the duff! Get back to gardening (at least), get back to hiking in the mountain preserves. Pick up a goddamn pen and start writing again. Take the dog to different places to walk. Re-explore the Valley.
  2. Revive old friendships and relationships. Try to inveigle my way back into SBA or, failing that, rejoin the Chamber, whose avatars persist in nagging me to come back. Join one of the many groups at the church.
  3. Drink water, not wine or beer, with dinner.
  4. Get over it about the damn traffic! Stick the dog in the car and take her to other parks and hiking trails. Or just drive up the rim and hike in the sticks.
  5. Do some shopping. I haven’t seen the inside of My Sister’s Closet of Nordstrom’s Rack in two or three years.
  6. And…keep a record of these happenings, to see if they continue even if I manage to change the elements above.

Frankly, I don’t feel much hope that throwing myself around to bring a little more life back into my life is going to make much difference. Doubt if it’ll do much harm, though. And if I do have a record of this weird stuff, at least I’ll know whether it’s real. Or not.


Flyin’ Low…

Wow! Last few days have fallen into the “Whirlwind” category. Yesterday — yeah, flyin’ low — I got through not one but two interminable scholarly emanations for our client journal, each about 30 pages long.

This has become do-able thanks to the machinations of The Kid, my ineffable and amazingly entrepreneurial young business partner. She has devised A System, and it works. First, she assigns Incoming Flak to her assistant, a.k.a. The Underling. This young woman actually enjoys performing tedious chores — sort of like some of us enjoy ironing in front of the television. And she’s pretty darned good at it.

The journal in question has not come unstuck from the 20th century. Instead of using Word’s “Styles” function to format MSS for the designer, the new editors still indulge in, God help us, manual mark-up! We have tried to persuade these folks to quit that, but to no avail.

Manual mark-up on a computer entails entering what we call “fake HTML” tags before and after every. single. god. damned. design. element. in. the. document. <i>Every</i> italic. <b>Every</b> boldface. <ext>Every indented block quotation</ext>. <pext>Every quoted passage of poetry</pext>. <t>Every Title</t>… and on and on and interminably, idiotically ON. It is an utter, total waste of time, given that a file set up correctly in InDesign will import a Word file formatted with “Styles” and convert the styles automatically to fit the designer’s layout.

We have suggested using “Styles” and even have gone so far as to create a Wyrd template for the purpose, to no avail. The last time we did that, for a variety of reasons the strategy proved to be more hassle than it was worth, and so we gave up.

So, where you are is where you’re at. Starting at that point, The Kid has created an assembly line.

  1. Copy arrives in our precincts (this also is stupidly complicated for different reasons, but I’ve gone beyond complaining here…)
  2. The Kid reviews documents for our purposes. Once approved,
  3. Copy moves to The Underling.
  4. Underling enters all the mark-up tags and checks formatting of references (another mind-numbing and annoying chore).
  5. Copy moves back to The Kid.
  6. Kid reads copy and does first edits, checking references section with some care.
  7. Copy moves to The Old Bat.
  8. Old Bat reads and edits copy behind The Kid, applying the benefit of an eye jaded by 40 years of academic bullshit.
  9. Old Bat generates “clean” and “edited” version; posts to DropBox.
  10. Kid gives copy a final read.

Great stuff, ain’t it? Foisting the tedious mark-up chore onto Underling eliminates a large part of the annoyance factor entailed in editing this content. When you’re not thinking about that ditz, it becomes relatively easy to edit language, style, and fact-checks. So much so that yesterday I read least twice as much content as I could normally plow through with that journal’s offerings.

In more altruistic precincts, on Sunday we — the choir — went over to the home of a member who’s knocking at Death’s Door, brought there by a case of pancreatic cancer. He has planned his funeral service, including his choice of music, and wanted us to sing it for him so he could hear how it sounds. So that was kind of a {gulp!} moment…

But in fact it was really cool and none of us started to cry whilst singing. Despite having reached the wraith-like stage, he was still able to walk around, sit in his favorite easy chair, and hold court with some élan. Would that we could all go out with so much class.

Friend on the choir came over afterward — we dined, consumed a fair amount of wine, and plotted the destruction of the Ruling Class. 😉 Actually, what we plotted was a scheme for the two of us to acquire voice lessons from the choir’s astonishingly talented new organist, who has a gorgeous singing voice, knows how to coach singers, and is classically trained every which way from (heh!) Sunday. Haven’t heard back from said organist since I e-mailed an inquiry, but it being a three-day weekend she probably hasn’t checked the job-related email.

In the interim, I managed to write a few words in the noveloid in progress. And tried to talk to our marvelous Web Guru about a multi-site WordPress template for Plain & Simple Press, which would allow me to publish several works at once, a passage or a chapter at a time. Then YOU, my fine readers, could sample them online and could buy the finished products as PDFs, paperbacks, or e-books. Whether I will bother to put these things on Amazon or not remains to be seen — Amazon embargoes the content if you market a book for less than $2.99, and since the only effective way to “sell” a book on Amazon is to give it away, I figure I might as well give it away for free to my readers than give it away for 99 cents minus Amazon’s share. WTF? I’m retired…I don’t care if any of these things makes me rich or not.

More likely not. 😀

Connie the Trucker calls to report that her dog, a Weimeraner that lives in the truck with her, has developed the same vehicle neurosis that almost killed Charley the Golden Retriever. Unlike my skeptical son, though, she decided to try a Thundershirt, and lo! It works. The dog is much calmed when wrapped tightly in a kind of canine straitjacket. Thereby, we may add, rescuing Connie from having to quit her job.

The blood pressure drug is working: it not only pushes the BP into the 110s or, at worst, the low 120s, it stabilizes the numbers so they don’t jerk up into volcanic spikes every time I lose my temper. Which is often. And — unheard-of miracle!! — it seems to have NO side effects.

And speaking of losing my temper, I have yet to re-wire the robo-call blocker. This will entail a call to customer service, since I cannot remember how to do it — it’s much more complicated than simply attaching it in line, because I have so many devices running out of the same cable connection.

And lookee here! The Kid has sent another pre-edited, pre-formatted article for me to finish off. And so, away…

Writing God a Thank You

My friend Darin Garcia, whose company K&J Windows installed the new doors and windows I craved after the late, great garage invasion, has come up with a charming new website that I think has got to be unique, or very close to it: Write God a Thank You.

The idea is that members of the social website will be able to express thanks for the positive things in their lives and share it with their friends. From, these messages of gratitude can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+, or, if one prefers, users may create private gratitude lists and prayer journals.

Even if you’re not religious, this idea has some interesting aspects. As it develops, quite a few studies have shown that mindfully reflecting on one’s blessings, rather than dwelling on the troubles and annoyances of life, creates an amazing range of benefits. A pair of researchers at UC Davis reported that people who kept a gratitude journal exercised more, experienced fewer ailments, felt better about their lives, were more optimistic, and made better progress toward personal goals than those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. They also found that people who gave thanks daily “were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.”

As readers who’ve been around for a year will recall, even a skeptical old pessimist can take a few minutes a day to focus on the positive aspects of life. Whatever those might be.

Try it. You might like it.

At the End of the Day…


Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Choir of Ely Cathedral
“Lord of All Hopefulness”
Tune: Irish folk melody “Slane”