Close Encounter Of The Worst Kind

March 2, 2017

imgresFrom out of the blue, I had a near brush with death last week.  Okay, okay . . . maybe not a “brush”, more like a scare.  And truthfully, not really about death; closer to a bit of a deep concern about a bad disease.  I’ll explain:

I had my first follow-up visit with the surgeon who performed my hip replacement surgery.  I was sitting in the smallish waiting area waiting (what else?) to be called into one of those little examining rooms where I could do some more waiting. Another man was in the waiting area with me.  At some point, he left to go to the bathroom, I presume.  It was at this point when events took a turn from which I’m only just now recovering.

My surgeon, Dr. M, came out of one of the examining rooms on his way to another when he saw me.  He came over, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry but your blood tests indicated that you have blankety-blankosis.”  I looked at him both stunned and quizzically (I’m able to do this) and said, “What!”  At this, he leaned in towards me and in the most comforting way (something that was sorely missing during surgery) assured me, “Don’t worry–with the right medications, we should be able get this blankety-blankosis under control.  It’s not quite life-threatening.”

Since I’m really quick on my feet, this time I said to Dr. M, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  He looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you Mr. Wilton?”  Well, let me tell you, I’ve never been happier not to be Mr. Wilton than I was at that moment. I’m sure there  are times when it’s just great to be Mr. Wilton but this certainly wasn’t one of them.  As this conversation was unfolding, poor Mr. W reappeared, and overhearing what was going on, confessed that he, in fact, was Mr. Wilton. Dr. M made some vague apologies to me while simultaneously going over the good news/bad news with Mr. Wilton.  From that conversation I pieced together that Mr. Wilton’s pre-op blood tests had revealed this problem which is why he had come in to see Dr. M. (And collaterally, take some number of months or years off of my life. Hopefully, it’ll be the ones at the end, when I expect I won’t know what’s going on anyway.)

After this awkward and unsettling episode I ultimately wound up being seen by Dr. M who again apologized.  I made a joke that since he had gotten me confused with Mr. Wilton, how could I be sure that he had operated on the correct hip. It turns out, Dr. M doesn’t have much of a sense of humor . . . at least, not about that kind of stuff.  In any event, my exam went well and I don’t have to see him for an entire year.

Which means that I have now concluded my hip-trilogy. Don’t get too excited ’cause  you’re not quite out of the woods yet.  There remains the issues with my knee.  But that’s for another time.


“It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times”

February 16, 2017

I’ve always had an affinity for adages, axioms, maxims, sayings or whatever you want to call those expressions which are able to synthesize complex concepts into a simple statement.  My attraction may have sprung from hearing so many of them from my father when I was growing up.  As a kid, I thought these truisms were something he had made up.  It was only as an adult I came to know that sayings like, “All that glitters is not gold” or “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” had origins that predated Sam. But sprinkled among his aphorisms were some that I’m almost certain were coined by him:  “Rich or poor . . . it’s better to have money.” How succinct! How Sam!

For a number of years, you could hardly have had a conversation with me where I didn’t drag out the chestnut, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I have a feeling that my love of that phrase was the result of years of therapy. Had I been spoon fed that concept early on, with the money I saved, I probably could now own a small island in the Caribbean. But what’s past is past. (“There’s no use crying over spilt milk.”)  In any event it doesn’t come up in my conversations much anymore (a healthy sign) although I do occasionally try to slip in a variation: “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a Neil”. (This, along with my explanation of a toss-up situation as, “nine of one, three-quarters of a dozen of another” have yet to make it into our lexicon.)

"A Lost Ball in the Tall Weeds"

“A Lost Ball in the High Weeds”

I have to confess, I feel a bit shallow and uncomfortable writing about anything that doesn’t reference what’s going on in our country and the monstrosity that is the Trump administration. Which, as I’ve mentioned before, has been the impetus for my watching an unhealthy amount of MSNBC and CNN.  But if there’s a silver lining (I mean a very pale silver) it’s that I’ve been exposed to a couple of terrific new adages that I’ve added to the folder I have on my desktop.

One that I heard recently came from Mike Lupica, a sportswriter turned sometime political pundit, talking about the chances of Mr. Trump changing in any significant way from the vulgar, amoral, mean-spirited and empty person he has shown himself to be into someone else. Mr. Lupica thought that it wasn’t possible and put a fine point on it by quoting his grandfather’s saying, “If you’re born round, you don’t die square.”  Says it all, I think.

As maddening as the main character in this psycho-drama of our politics is, my largest frustration is with Congress, particularly Republican members of the House of Representatives who have proven that a worm has considerably more spine than they do. For most of these men and women, their job in the House is the best gig they’re ever going to have. Their self-interest is paramount and patriotism doesn’t count a whit. They are blind to anything or any information that might interfere with their holding on to their jobs. As my father put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”  Or maybe that was Upton Sinclair.  Whatever . . .I know it was one of them.

HIP, HIP hooray…

February 2, 2017


I’m just getting around to being a semblance of myself after having hip replacement surgery last week.  Any number of people (well . . . maybe just one) mentioned to me that having the surgery would be, if nothing else, a fun topic to write about. It isn’t.

Without being too much of whiner, let me say that this has been much more painful and debilitating than anything I expected. And contrary to what you may think—it’s dangerous.  If you followed the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, then you might know that Carrie’s father, Eddie Fisher, died in 2010 from complications from his hip replacement surgery.  So let’s not be so casual about the risk to which I’ve been subjected.  With that in mind, I’ve added the law firm of Celino and Barnes to the speed-dial on my phone.  (While we’re on the subject— for the record, I’m not accepting anything less than 35 times what “insurance offers”.)

I was in the hospital for two nights and although some of my memory is cloudy as to details (because of anesthesia and pain killers), there are some low-lights that have stayed with me.  After a period of trying to stay covered up while a phalanx of nurses inspected and treated me, it soon became evident that I had as much chance of holding back the tides as trying to keep by hospital gown in place.  So at some point, I said to one of the nurses that it was obvious that I should have checked my Modesty at the nurses’ station along with my other valuables. To which she replied, “yes, but not your dignity”.  At the time, I thought that had such a lovely ring and was a really bright thing to say.  But as I’ve become more clear-headed I’m convinced that I have no idea what that means.

One of the other calamities of my stay was centered around my visits to the bathroom.  Let me just say that, because of all the tethering to various tubes meant to prevent blood clots, going to the john was not as easy as falling off a log; closer to going to the Pacific Northwest, cutting a tree down and then bringing it to a local saw mill or whatever, to logify it.  In other words, a big deal. A very big deal.

The nursing staff had tremendous interest in both my motives and the results of my bathroom visits.  I was constantly asked if I was going to the bathroom for #1 or #2.  A couple of things:  I wasn’t raised nor were my kids brought up calling those functions by a digit. As a result, although I’m usually good with numbers, I often get confused as to which is which.  The good news, of course, is that I have a one in two chance of being right.  But the larger point I’d like to make is these are medical professionals in a prestigious urban hospital asking me about bodily functions in code.  I have to think somewhere in nursing school they learned some medical lingo to describe what I’m doing in the john. And after all, the staff and my naked body had become used to one another; so why the need for euphemisms?

But that’s all behind me now and I’m in the process of convalescing at home. Ordinarily, I’d be bored #1 or #2less but watching the TV coverage of the disaster that is Donald Trump has kept me super occupied. And agitated. Thankfully, my physical therapist has just given me clearance to walk in some of the daily demonstrations that have been going on all over town.  Rehab with a purpose.  Sadly, I may be doing that for some time.

Bait And Switch

January 5, 2017

Over the past number of years, I’ve made more than a few passing references to the problems I’ve been having with my right knee. But as I’ve been taking my time coming around to accepting that I would kneed a knee replacement, my body pulled a fast one on me.  While I was perseverating about my kneemoania, I started having pains in my groin and without boring you (more than I am) with the details, I’m heading for a hip replacement in a few weeks. Which means that shortly, I’ll be taking my first step towards bionicy.

This hip thingy has been very painful at times and has dampened my usual ebullient mood.  And it has turned some of the most mundane of tasks into heroic efforts.  None more than putting on my socks.  Each day when I awake, there are two things that immediately cross my mind. The first is  . . . Shit!, that was no nightmare. Trump is, in fact, the President. That’s followed by my thinking about the pain that I know I’m going to inflict on myself while trying to lasso my toes with the sock that goes on my left foot when I get dressed.

All I need now is the overalls

All I need now are the overalls

It has also turned me into that guy you see limping around your neighborhood; you know, the guy who you feel bad for because it seems like it’s going to take him forever to get where he needs to go. Ever vain, I’ve tried to fashion my new gait to be closer to Walter Brennan’s in The Real McCoys than to Chester’s (Dennis Weaver ) in Gunsmoke.  (See: Note below) I always felt the way Chester limped made him look somewhat mentally challenged, as well.

Despite my limitations, I’ve still been playing tennis.  I wear a heavy wrap on my groin, put on the knee brace I have that looks like it was used to get Jews to convert during the Spanish Inquisition and hobble around the court.  Doubles only.  And I have to say, if there’s been one bright spot in this hipocracy, it is that I’m enjoying playing doubles a lot more than I used to. Before the downfall, I pretty much played singles exclusively. I rarely played doubles and truthfully, I felt superior to those that did. Mr Brooks was so right when he said, “We mock the things we are to be.”

You’re probably wondering (maybe) why I’ve kept you in the dark this long about my latest malady .  For starters, I didn’t want to be that person you know who is constantly whining. I have few enough friends as it is.  But, in truth, the reason I’ve been freer in writing about my knee than my hip is that I see knee replacement as something needed by athletes; whereas, I associate hip replacement surgery as a result of aging.  I know that sounds shallow and stupid but remember who the writer is.  But going forward, I’m promising (my hippocratic oath) to be more egalitarian in my discussions about new body parts. By the way . . . did I mention the problem I’m having with my shoulder?

Note:  In doing research for the blog, I found there are critics who object to using able-bodied actors portraying characters with disabilities.  And Walter Brennan might be the most egregious example of this insensitivity. Apart from his role in the Real  McCoys, Mr. Brennan also employed a limp in a number of movies in which he appeared.  Most people believed, in fact, that he actually had a handicap.

America At A Crosswords

December 27, 2016

Like a lot of you, I’m scared shitless about what’s in store for our country and our politics as we move toward a new administration. I’ve tried to tune out the most disturbing details; how else to get through the day? And, I’ve also decided to avoid writing about what’s going on. After all, not everyone feels the same as I (or you) do—and the ironicman blog is not meant to be a soapbox for my political expression. As I’ve said before, we try here to be light-hearted with a just a touch of

As I’ve made this ostrich-like effort to bury my head in the sand to keep from hearing about the catastrophe taking place, I’ve been drawn to some tried and true pastimes to soothe my psyche and distract me. Which is why I find that I’m doing a lot of crossword puzzles lately. And drinking more.

Doing crossword puzzles, has long been a salvation for me.  (Doing them while drinking is even better.) Getting lost in the puzzle is as close as I get to meditation; if I’m anxious or worried, it’s the perfect escape—for the time I’m working on it, there’s nothing except me and the page I’m looking at. So, as you might expect, I’m now doing crosswords more than ever.  I do the one in the NY Times daily and of course, the one on Sunday.

I’ve done crossword puzzles, off and on, for a long time now and truthfully, I’m fairly adept. As an adjunct to doing the crossword, I follow a blog published by a master wordsmith, Rex Parker, who is one of those savants who does the puzzle in a matter of minutes.  Not infrequently, I check with Rex (after I’m done) if I haven’t been able to finish or to check myself.  Also, to see how the puzzle was rated (easy, medium or challenging) and to follow his commentary on the fill.imgres

That follow-up with Rex is all part and parcel of the ‘Nero Neil fiddling while Rome burns’ distraction that I need. The entire process takes me to a totally insulated place; probably not unlike those sensory deprivation tanks that block out the world.

About a week ago, I had just finished a weekday puzzle which included the clue for 5 Down, “Younger brother of Ivanka“. (Answer: Eric).  As I said, I often check with Rex to see his critique of the puzzle and on this day I did exactly that. I knew nothing of his politics, so you can’t possibly imagine my surprise and ecstasy when I read this commentary on that puzzle:

The NYT has to stop this gratuitous use of the near-future President’s family, and the ALT-right in general, in its puzzles. OBAMA (and MALIA) appeared a lot because his letter pattern is so grid-friendly. 60% vowels, terminal A—both useful features. And you can clue OBAMA only one way. Nowhere else to go. ERIC, however, has a near-infinity of other clues … and yet you go to this smug fascist halfwit … twice in one week!? I’m in no way saying the puzzle has a rightward tilt (that’s absurd, just as absurd as the opposite claim). I’m saying the incoming administration is repugnant on every level and casual references to them (and their Nazi, sorry, ALT-right supporters) in crossword puzzles normalizes them. It’s the most normalizing thing ever, actually. The banal neutrality of a crossword clue. Fuck all that. All of it. Also, I happen to know that in this case, the ERIC clue was an editorial decision, and one that did Not sit well with at least one of the constructors. I’d be furious too if someone rubbed that shit on my puzzle. Even if you’re trying to draw some vague connection to Mussolini’s right-hand man there at 45D: ___ Balbo, right-hand man to Mussolini (ITALO) … no.

Gotta love the reference to Mussolini’s right-hand man!

A Good Old-Fashioned Blog Post (Sigh…)

December 15, 2016


There was an article in The Times a few weeks ago that raised my hopes about getting older.  It seems that studies show that dementia rates are dropping.  And this, even as the population ages. But in a surprise, the study found that people who were overweight had a lower risk of dementia than those who weren’t. There was no clear explanation for this.

Obviously, I wanted to figure out what this meant for me.  Well, for starters I made what seems like a logical leap to the premise that the converse may also be true; that by my being thin (for the record, I prefer the term, “lanky”) I’m essentially sending an open invitation to Dementia to come and take me out for dinner.  To confirm this theory, I need no more evidence than to note that almost all of my friends are heavier than I am and most of them haven’t shown signs of losing their marbles. Clearly, I need to do something.

So once again, I’ve embarked on a regimen to gain some weight.  In a hurry.  To that end, I am now eating enormous quantities of KOZYSHACK™ chocolate pudding. Which is fabulous. I can’t put into words how much I love this stuff.  And on top of that, it has no artificial preservatives, is kosher and . . .  and yes, it’s gluten-free!  This just could be the perfect food.  I figure if I really apply myself, I’ll be able to put on enough weight in only about a month or so to move myself into that category of folks who are more dementia resistant. This is exactly the kind of preventative medical care that the Affordable Care Act should be emphasizing.

Of course, I try to take these scientific studies with a grain of salt.  After all, researchers often find that their initial findings were in error. In fact, just the other day, I was reading the Science Times and there was a report of another scientific study that suggested that, contrary to what we’ve been told for decades, whole milk may be more healthful and less fattening than low-fat milk. Jeez . . . as I think about it, if the experts can be so wrong about that, it’s not hard to imagine that in four or five years a new study could come along that finds a strong correlation between Dementia and chocolate pudding.

But luckily, KOZYSHACK™ also makes a fabulous rice pudding. Which again has no artificial preservatives and is kosher and gluten-free.  Sure, it’s made with low-fat milk but that’s a small price to pay to make sure I don’t spend most of my time looking for my keys.

Make America Grate Again

November 30, 2016
Not this what they mean by

Not sure…is this what they mean by               “conflict of interest”?

A Trump voter from West Virginia:  “I don’t think he can ever fulfill all the promises he made even in four or eight years, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.  He wants to make America great again.”

It’s been three weeks that I’ve been living in a nightmare that there’s no waking up from. In fact, the nightmare is getting worse.  And it’s not just my nightmare.

Almost everyone I talk to is having the same bad dream. It’s all everyone I know talks about. The upside . . . if there is an upside, is that there are a lot of people talking to each other who would otherwise be strangers. One feels no reserve in joining a conversation upon hearing a phrase like, “I can’t believe it!” or, “Isn’t Canada awfully cold?” It’s kind of like sneezing–everyone feels that they can chime in with a “bless you” whether you’re in a store, the subway or on the street. Anywhere. For that moment, it’s like living in a small town where everyone knows one another. Kindred spirits so to speak. But nowadays, instead of “achoo” I’m sneezing, “Fuck Trump!”.  And guess what— I  still get lots of  “Bless you’s”.

In some ways, this situation reminds me of the divide, the grating that occurred in the country during the Vietnam War Era. But this feels different. As rancorous as that period was, it was mostly about a chasm in the country over policy.  I never felt the Republic was in jeopardy; this Trump mess has me and many others feeling like the country is at the edge of an abyss with a hollow, rootless, avaricious demagogue ready to push it over the edge.

Unfortunately, with Democrats being out of power in Congress, the brake (remember “checks and balances”–that quaint notion) on this guy rests with the Republicans. Don’t count on it.  If you want evidence that these people are not patriotic (in fact, they’re whatever the opposite of patriotic is) just look to Mitch McConnell and his cohorts’ vow (made on the day of Obama’s first election) to do whatever they could to make sure that Obama’s presidency failed so voters would be disillusioned and that they, the Republicans, could increase their numbers in the House and Senate in the mid-term elections.  In other words, formulate a plan to screw the country just for the sake of the Republican party.  This is who we have to count on to do the right thing.

You should know . . . we here at the blog factory would rather not be writing about politics.  We’d much prefer the light, frothy, frivolous and sometimes ironic stories which have been our hallmark.  But this is a very grave period we’re living through so it might seem almost careless to write about something like an obituary I saw today of a man, Mark Taimanov, who had been a Russian chess champion and a virtuoso pianist who died at age 90. The part of his story I would have liked to write about was that he fathered twins (a boy and a girl) at age 78 with his fourth wife.  I would have quoted the end of the obit because it had a fact that I would have been too tired to figure  out:  “The twins were 57 years younger than his first child and 27 years younger than his granddaughter, although they were aunt and uncle.” Makes perfect sense, no?

I would have continued that part of his story reminds me of one of the few records in my house when I was growing up.  It was a novelty song by Jimmy Durante called, “I’m my own grandpa”.   The lyrics include a convoluted family tree full of marriages and divorces that culminates with Durante figuring out that he’s his own . . . well, you get it.

Anyway, that’s the stuff I wish I was writing about.

The Electoral Community College

November 15, 2016

Like many of you I was devastated by the election results last week. I mean really devastated.  I am just now uncurling from the fetal position I’ve been in.  I’m regrouping and trying to make the best of a horrible circumstance. Trying to make lemonade from lemons, water from watermelons and peanut butter from peanuts.  It’s not easy but I may have found one positive element to extract from this disaster.

I’ve decided to swear off all of the political shows I had been watching in a not so healthy way. I am now living in a politics-free zone. No more MSNBC, no CNN, no nothin’. This frees up an enormous amount of time which I can now devote to . . . to . . . ah yes, that’s the dilemma I now face.  Certainly, I’m going to start reading again; and probably writing more blog posts. My gain, your loss. The perfect illustration of one man’s ceiling being another man’s floor.imgres

This election has reinforced in me the notion that America is indeed, a wonderful country.  One in which, as we like to tell our children, anyone can become President regardless of their background or to whom they are born.  (Except if you’re a Jew or a woman—or worse yet, a Jewish woman).  And now, I find that America is even greater than I had thought. Because it seems that you can also become President despite being a sexist, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, draft-dodging, amoral ignoramus incapable of putting two sentences together. Apparently, there are no restrictions whatsoever in America for entry to the White House. Evidence for sure that we are a land of freedom and opportunity. Is it any wonder we’re a beacon to oppressed people across the world? Unfortunately, they now have a less than zero chance of making it to our shores

So many interesting facts have come out about this election.  One that has completely absorbed me is that according to exit polls something like 25% of the people who voted for Trump thought he was unsuited to be President. 25%! Unfit for the freakin’ job. Remarkable! Did they think he was running for dog catcher!?? Which leads me to an exit poll I conducted of myself.  I overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that 100% of those people were morons and unfit to vote.

I wrote to a few friends that one of the saddest ironies about what has happened is that we will now have a president who doesn’t pay taxes. And proud of it.  Almost all thought that was one of the lesser calamities that has befallen us.  I agree . . . but in terms of irony and a definitive example of the kind of person who will become the leader of the free world, it speaks more than volumes. It speaks entire libraries.

Now that all the votes have been counted, we find this interesting anomaly: Hillary won the popular vote, more people voted for Democratic Senators than Republicans and the total vote count for House members was overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats.  Yet, we now have a wholly Republican government. In another country, this would be called a coup—in ours, we call it the electoral college and gerrymandering.

A long time ago,there was a season of Dallas in which they killed off Bobby Ewing only to have him reappear the next year.  The explanation given to us viewers (yes, I admit I was one) was that the entire Season 9 had been Pam Ewing’s dream—that it hadn’t actually happened.  Well, each day since last Tuesday, I wake up hoping that I’ve been living in Sean Hannity’s dream and that the 2016 election hasn’t really taken place. But unfortunately, this isn’t a network drama I’ve been watching.  It’s reality TV at its very worse. God help us.


From The Gipper To The Groper

November 10, 2016















God help us.

“Five From New York, It’s . . .!”

October 25, 2016

Life is so full of coincidences and symmetries. For example, just last week MetLife announced that it was abandoning its association with Snoopy and the Peanuts family.  Just like that. For decades Snoopy et al have been the soft side of life insurance.  Now, no more beagle, Charlie Brown or Lucy.

She'll Be Missed

She’ll Be Missed

But in a twist that makes me almost believe there are surreal forces at work, Lucy has been replaced.  You see, my daughter, Onnaoj and her husband, Hsoj, had a baby girl last week–named, Lucy.  Yes, the world is full of mysteries.

This, for me, is grandchild number five and as my friend, Retep#2 likes to remind me, I now have enough for a basketball team. Of course, my team doesn’t have a lot of experience . . . the oldest is only six. And the truth is, they’re rather short.  For example, my starting center, Julian, is only 4′ 0″; and it’s downhill from there.

As I’ve written before, all this grandfatherness has all happened rather suddenly. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve fiscally prepared for it very well.  You see, when the first was born I started giving what I consider a very sizable cash gift on each birthday.  I continued this with each grandkid.  I had never considered that there would be this many birthdays.  Now, I’m starting to think I may have to reconsider this entire ret . . . retirem . . .retirement thing.

But there are saving graces and advantages (beyond the obvious pleasures) to having all these grandkids. As you may know, I’ve had an ongoing commitment to try to maintain as much of my mental acuity as I can. Doing crosswords, walking on cobblestones, supplements–the works.  But I don’t think any of these do as much for me as trying to keep track of five new birthdays. Can you imagine??  Of course, I use all kinds of memory aids and mnemonic devices but this just more of the kind of brain cell activity I relish.

And then . . . and then, just when I think I’ve stimulated all of those cells that have just been lying around doing nothing for years, I realize I get to try and keep track of a whole new bunch of middle names.  Let’s see . . . there’s Damian—-or is it Damien; there’s Shepherd— or is it Shephard. And all those others. Wow, how great is this!

My Starting Point Guard

My Starting Point Guard