I Miss My Things

I miss my things.

Missing: My Things

Missing: My Things

It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days since the moving company arrived at my house and ushered all of my most prized personal possessions into their big truck. When they were done, I received a copy of the packing list and they drove off, promising to reunite me and my things within a week.

It didn’t happen.

I’ve called my relocation specialist several times and received vague promises of a delivery soon. “I’ll call you back in a few days to firm it up,” he assures me. But no call comes.

It’s amazing how empty a house is with only two beds, a dining room set, and two folding tables. It echoes.

In Fight Club, Tyler Durden claims “The things you own end up owning you,” and I wish I could be more zen-like and unattached about not having my things, but that would be a lie. I miss my things. My desk, mostly, and my comfortable desk chair. The asthma medication I ran out of several days ago that I can’t refill because there’s a three-month supply on the truck. A cookie sheet. My spice collection. Extra vacuum cleaner bags. The whiteboard for my refrigerator. Even though it seems like a random collection of stuff, it’s the stuff that makes a house a home and grounds me. I need it.

Okay. I don’t need it. I want it.

The things I need are already here. The love of my family. My dogs. Good health. A creative mind. A sense of peace and rightness in my world. The truck didn’t take any of that, I did.

Having a desk to put it on doesn’t seem that big a deal after all.

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Forget Florida, Vacation in New Hampshire

Living in New Hampshire is boring. Our weather leans heavily to cold, ice, snow, and mud interspersed with brief bouts of sunshine and black flies. We rarely get hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. When we do, we’re usually too busy doing something else to realize it until we pick up a newspaper or watch the Weather Channel. Our climate is ill-suited to man-killing gators or lions. We post warnings about moose (deadly if hit with a car) and bears. The bears don’t scare us, we just want out-of-staters to know we’re hard-core. Probably the most fearsome creature in New Hampshire is the skunk.

 

Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Our relative lack of natural disasters and scary predators leads many of our citizens, myself included, to regard the other 49 states as a veritable smorgasbord of danger and potential death. Still, many of our snowbirds make an annual trek to Florida, and most of them make it back alive. Even so, I believe that Florida is the most dangerous of the fifty states, ill-suited to a restful vacation.

 

Reason #1 – Sinkholes

 

Sure, there are sinkholes in other places, but Florida’s devour people in bed and make houses disappear. No way I can get a decent night’s sleep waiting for the earth to open up and swallow me whole.

 

sinkholetype-near-map

 

Reason #2 – Pythons

 

It’s estimated that the Florida Everglades is home to over 150,000 Burmese pythons. Florida’s recent Python Hunt captured 68 of them. Burmese pythons are among the largest snake species, growing to 7 feet or more and weighing up to 200 pounds. They hang out in trees, until they become too large to be airborne, and then they slither along the ground, strangling and swallowing whole small mammals and birds. In Florida, if the sinkhole doesn’t swallow you, a python might.

 

Python

Python (Photo credit: Aoife Cahill)

 

Reason #3 – Hurricanes

 

Florida’s hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30. In the twentieth century,  158 hurricanes hit the US. Florida had the most landfalls at 57.  In 2004, Florida played host to four hurricanes. If the nature of tornadoes is to find and destroy trailer parks, the nature of hurricanes is to find Florida.

 

The MODIS sensor aboard NASA's Terra satellite...

The MODIS sensor aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Hurricane Charley on August 13 at 12:35 p.m. EDT. At the time this image was taken Charley was rapidly gaining strength and would reach category 4 status just 90 minutes later. Maximum sustained winds at 2:00 p.m. were at 145 mph and Charley was moving towards the north-northeast at 20 mph. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Reason #4 – Disney World.

 

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt...

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Disney World is ground zero for a viral or bacterial apocalypse. Hordes of people eating junk food and suffering sleep deprivation, jammed together for hours in rides, lines, and around Goofy are the perfect fuel for a terrorist attack. Once released into the depressed immune systems of Disney-goers, a short incubation period should help spread the disease as vacationers crowd into airports, roadside diners, trains, and cruise ships. I have seen this apocalypse (in my dreams) and curse Disney World in advance for the demise of civilization.  Watch out for the coughing guy in a wheelchair, he’s patient zero.

 

Reason #5- Super-sized mosquitoes

 

The Midwest has locusts, the Northeast has black flies, but Florida is gearing up for an invasion of giant mosquitoes. Hungry mosquitoes, the size of a quarter, will make Florida an even more uncomfortable place, with or without insect repellant. Think of the sheer expanse of flesh available to Florida’s mosquitoes. Flesh exposed on beaches, golf courses, and in convertibles, easily accessible due to  tank tops, shorts, flip-flops, and bathing suits. It’s not wild speculation to think that Florida’s mosquitoes will get bigger each year, until, like in a SyFy movie, they’re big enough to swoop down and carry people into the air. Visiting Florida is only adding fuel to the fire.

 

If you’re looking for a lovely, non-lethal vacation, instead of Florida, consider New Hampshire. As the Granite State, we stand firm on our policy against sinkholes. In honor of our Live Free or Die motto, we are armed and willing to exterminate any pythons or poisonous  snakes that would ruin your quiet enjoyment. Though our weather might be overcast, cold, and windy, we don’t evacuate and, if we did, there’s plenty of ways to get out of town. New Hampshire’s own amusement park, Canobie Lake, isn’t a target for world destruction, mainly because only people from New Hampshire and Massachusetts go there. And don’t listen to what people say. Massachusetts might annoy us, but we’re not ready to get rid of them yet.

 

As far as bugs go, we’re pretty proud of our black flies. They might not be super-sized, but they’re like New Hampshire, they pack a big punch in a little package. Come and see us. Chances are, you’ll survive your vacation with nothing worse than a few bug bites and some windburn.

 

Live Free Or Die

Live Free Or Die (Photo credit: jcbwalsh)

 

 

 

Dealers Gotta Protect Their Turf

English: Vicodin tablets Italiano: Pillole di ...

English: Vicodin tablets Italiano: Pillole di Vicodin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In New Hampshire, more people die of prescription drug overdoses than car accidents. CDC statistics report that prescription drugs are involved in 75% of all drug-related deaths in the United States. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control estimated 14,800 deaths related to opioids (opioids or opiates defined as morphine, heroin, oxycodone, codeine, methadone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone.)  Note that with the exception of heroin, all drugs of abuse are available from your friendly healthcare provider.

Whether drug sales are illegal enterprises selling vials on the corner or a transaction that takes place in an exam room, it’s all about numbers and turf. Getting people hooked and keeping them coming back are the keys to a thriving business. For people with insurance, getting narcotics (opiates) from their local doctor or Emergency Room is easier and less expensive than going to the corner drug dealer, particularly since drug dealers don’t settle for a co-pay. Just as dealers rename their products to generate interest,  Big Pharma continues to feed the appetite of addicts with new medications and new formulations of old medications.

Narcotic painkillers have been combined with over the counter meds because of  the belief that the two medications together provide better pain relief than either of the medications taken alone. Unfortunately when people take two Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) every 4 hours for pain round the clock (12 pills daily), they run the risk of liver damage because of the amount of acetaminophen bundled in the pill.  The makers of Tylenol (brand name acetaminophen) are so concerned about acetaminophen overdoses that they have decreased the recommended maximum daily dose from 8 pills daily (4000 mg)  to 6 pills daily (3000 mg). This change forces the makers of Vicodin to lower their recommended maximum dose to stay within the new guidelines and will result in Vicodin users having their daily dose decreased.  Sad that in the face of increasing numbers of overdose deaths due to prescription narcotics and the increasing number of prescription drug addicts,  the push to change labeling is due to the potential for a Tylenol overdose resulting in liver damage, rather than concern about overdose or addiction.

Of course the makers of Vicodin don’t want to see their business cut in half. They want to keep on selling the same number or more pills every year. Faced with the very real possibility that providers will decide to switch patients on Vicodin to a drug without any pesky daily maximums, the makers attempted the business affirming move of  trying to get approval for a pure hydrocodone pill. Luckily the FDA panel on pain relief voted against it.

The panelists agreed the higher dose of hydrocodone would be an effective pain reliever, but they felt uneasy providing another formulation of a drug in a class that is already widely abused. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), hydrocodone is on the top of the list of most abused drugs in the United States. Sounds like a no-brainer.

Hopefully the FDA will agree with the panel and prevent a new dangerous drug from flooding America’s streets, school yards, and homes. In the war on drugs, our government has gone after the dealers of meth, pot, heroin, and crack. Somehow the legal dealers, Big Pharma, are allowed to thrive while they destroy lives.

opioid prescriptionsDo some people need narcotic painkillers to control their pain? Of course.  In the face of increasing narcotic use, do we need to add more potential drugs of abuse to the marketplace? I think not.  Big Pharma seems to be doing pretty well with what they have.

chart courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Beauty Contests and Cancer

Miss America contestant plans double mastectomy after competition

The above headline hit me hard. To see a beautiful woman, fearful of cancer, planning a double mastectomy AFTER the competition only reinforced my healthy distrust of beauty contests. The take away message seemed that having a double mastectomy would ruin your chances of winning a beauty contest.  Of course they couldn’t discriminate against someone with breast cancer genes, but perhaps there was some obscure rule about reconstructed breasts via “natural” breasts or a prohibition against prosthetic breasts.  I didn’t know for sure,  but in my quick view of her world, this young lady didn’t dare get a mastectomy until after she had been judged with her breasts intact. My prejudice against these contests demanded that I find the facts.

I surfed the Miss America site to get some insight into what was, and wasn’t considered beautiful by pageant officials. At first glance, their requirements looked fairly innocuous:

To compete you must

  • Be between the ages of 17 and 24.
  • Be a United States citizen.
  • Meet residency requirements for competing in a certain town or state.
  • Meet character criteria as set forth by the Miss America Organization.
  • Be in reasonably good health to meet the job requirements.
  • Be able to meet the time commitment and job responsibilities as set forth by the local program in which you compete. (source)

So perhaps putting off the mastectomy was driven more by the need to be “in reasonably good health to meet job requirements” than needing breasts to compete. Certainly surgery, a hospitalization, and recovery would impact the contestant’s availability.  My suspicion that there was more to the pageant requirements was driven by the lack of a weight and height requirement in the rules.  Since the armed forces and other positions, such as smoke jumpers, must meet  height and weight requirements, I thought  Miss American might.  I dug a little further, went to the New Hampshire web page, and found more requirements for contestants:

(Q) A contestant must be and always have been a female.

(R) Contestants must not now be and never have been married.

(S) Contestants are not now pregnant, and have never been pregnant. She is not the adoptive parent of any child.

(T) Contestants must be of good moral character and never been involved at any time in any act of moral turpitude.

(U) Other than minor or petty offenses, contestants must never have been convicted of any criminal offense and there are no criminal charges presently pending against the contestant.

(V) Contestants must never have performed any act or engaged in any activity or employment that is or could reasonably be characterized as dishonest, immoral, or indecent.

(W) Contestants must be in good health, and can, to best of their knowledge, participate fully and without limitation in any Program activities. Contestants must not use or consume any illegal controlled dangerous substances or abuse the use of alcohol or other dangerous substances.  (source)

Whoa! We’ve all heard of contestants being stripped of their titles due to moral turpitude clauses, legal violations, and drug and alcohol abuse.  I can understand those, but to ask contestants to certify that they “are not now pregnant and have never been pregnant”?  Obviously the pageant is against abortion, adoption, and single parenthood (because they’ve nixed marriage, too).  Is this to impart an air of virginity and chastity to the contestants or to preclude unsightly stretch marks?  Why not disqualify them if they’ve had a sexually transmitted disease as it is as much an indicator of sexual activity as pregnancy.

Still, no clause stating a contestant can’t have plastic surgery. Miss Universe/Miss USA rules come right out and say they don’t prohibit plastic surgery because of the difficulty in enforcing the rule.  Though I suppose they could require contestants to sign a blanket medical release and go trolling through their medical records and health insurance bills looking for surgery. You know, if it’s that important to the pageant.

And then I started thinking of how important the pageant must be to women willing to sign off on the requirements because if  the Miss America pageant was  a job interview, the questions on marital status and pregnancy would be against the law. To the women who enter these, putting aside marriage, children, and college parties to be a contestant is likely considered a reasonable trade off. I don’t understand their desire to participate in a beauty pageant, but it’s a decision I don’t get to make. It’s theirs, as is either having or delaying cancer risk reduction surgery to pursue a dream.

When all is said and done, I wish Miss America contestant Allyn Rose  the best of luck in the pageant and in her decisions regarding her genetic risk of cancer. I’ll never be a fan of pageants, but as long as women enter and people watch, they’ll go on.

Colonel Russell Frasz, 89th Airlift Wing vice ...

Colonel Russell Frasz, 89th Airlift Wing vice commander, poses with the 51 Miss America 2004 contestants and Miss America 2003 on the Andrews flight line as part of their tour of Andrews AFB, Md. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve Reached Big Patty’s Sex Toy Emporium

English: This is an example of the angst cause...

English: This is an example of the angst caused by the use of a telephone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I love to vote, but I hate election time. Being a resident of New Hampshire, the “first in the nation primary,” brings with it a lot of extra, unwanted attention. Most of it in the form of phone calls and junk mail. Starting at 8 am most days, the phone starts ringing with surveys, research calls, and robocalls telling me why I should vote for a candidate because their opponent is an awful, evil person.

 

It makes you want to give up your phone.

 

You’re not even protected by the Do Not Call registry.  One political research marketer said he’d love to put me on their do not call list, but couldn’t because it would violate federal law. Now, the Do Not Call registry states “Because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted,” but really? It’s a violation of federal law to take me out of your databank?

 

Thanks FTC and FCC.

 

In frustration, I finally decided to have fun with the phone calls and callers. I started off simply. Whenever the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the caller ID, I’d pick up the phone and yell “Go!”  Then I’d say absolutely nothing. A few times an apologetic voice would try to identify themselves, but most people would hang up.

 

When that got boring, I decided to answer with, “Who you betting on?” I tried to make my voice a raspy snarl. Again, mostly hang ups, but one brave soul started to do her pitch until I interrupted her to say, “This is a bookmaking line, dummy. You’re costing me money.”  Click.

 

When that got old I switched to the psychic hot line. Mainly because I thought it would be fun, and maybe I’d make a few extra bucks. “You’ve reached the Psychic Hotline,” I’d intone. “Please press 1 for Visa, 2 for Mastercard, and 3 for American Express.” Again, a few attempts at conversation, but mostly hang ups. I also noticed the calls were slowing down. Could the political telemarketers  have some sort of secret communication system I wasn’t aware of? I decided to bring out the big guns.

 

“Big Patty’s Sex Toy Emporium,” I’d answer the phone in a cheerful, peppy voice,  “because bigger is better. How may I direct your call?” This met with silence and the occasional giggle. I think it was because the image of Big Patty, I’m thinking a redheaded six footer who ropes calves in her spare time and has a sexy rodeo outfit, stopped people dead in their tracks. I experimented with different tag lines. “No hole to0 large,” seemed unnecessarily sexual. “We guarantee our toys have never been used,” seemed too obvious.  Before I could perfect my pitch, the phone calls dried up.

 

From a high of approximately 15 nuisance calls a day, my phone now is quiet. Today, for instance, no political calls at all. I am grateful for the silence, but a little sad in that I didn’t get a chance to fine tune Big Patty into a robocall stopping machine.

 

I guess she’ll stay silent until 2016. Until then, if you want to reach me, I’ll be at Big Patty’s Sex Toy Emporium.

 

 

 

He and the Boys Aren’t Playing (Instruments) All Night

Small Paul at Canobie Lake Screemfest. KISS on the short side.

You have to love Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire. In October, a month not known to be kind to New England amusement parks, Canobie Lake keeps the grounds filled by having two events:  Screemfest and Oktoberfest. This year I returned, once again lured by the presence of Mini Kiss, a KISS tribute band, at the Oktoberfest tent. (Well, also lured by the haunted houses and rides, but Mini Kiss is a consideration.)

Mini Kiss is always a great time. They cover Kiss songs as well as some other notables such as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns and Roses. I’m not sure if it’s the quantity of beer being served or the novelty of having these mini men singing, but the audience joins in on every song. While singing along with the song “Beth,” I pondered the reality of the events in contrast to the sanitized, love ballad version.

At the time Beth was recorded in 1976, cell phones didn’t bulge in every pocket. Beth was relegated to (probably) standing in her kitchen on her landline phone hoping someone would answer the payphone at the recording studio. Since there was no caller ID, there wasn’t a foolproof method to duck the calls of curious, demanding girlfriends or wives. Some poor sap, a roadie no doubt, would have to physically pick the phone up and figure out who was on the other end of the line. Then he’d have to holler into the recording studio to call Beth’s boyfriend to the phone. I can only imagine the reaction of the band to Beth’s calls looking for an estimated time of arrival on her beau.

And, as if his staying out late and not giving her a heads up didn’t rankle enough, listen to his excuses in the lyrics:

“Beth, I hear you callin’
But I can’t come home right now
Me and the boys are playin’
And we just can’t find the sound
Just a few more hours
And I’ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin’
Oh, Beth what can I do?”

You can almost hear his band mates crack imaginary whips and call out rude comments  as Beth’s man frantically tries to shush them.

And what’s with Beth?  He asked “what can I do?”  He didn’t mention he was handcuffed to his instrument or being held at gunpoint.  It’s his choice to stay with his friends “a few more hours.” Instead of listening silently through her tears, Beth could have said,  “Come home in the next fifteen minutes or I’ll throw your stuff out on the street.” It’s domestic warfare, baby, sometimes you have to make threats. But not Beth, the date-able doormat.

When she calls again hours later,  her boyfriend can’t even come up with a new excuse.  Now, maybe he isn’t very smart or maybe he’s impaired by drugs and alcohol, but at least try.  If I was Beth, I’d be happy to hear your absence was because one of your band mates overdosed on drugs or two of them had a fist fight over writing credits and now you’re waiting for the cops to show up. When it comes to relationship lies, I believe go big or go home. But no, instead he tells her:

“Just a few more hours
And I’ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin’
Oh, Beth what can I do?”

I’m calculating it’s around midnight at this point. If you’ve ever taken one of these calls in a relationship, you know he has no intention of coming home until he’s ready to pass out.  The best thing Beth could do for herself now is to take a sleeping pill and go to bed. Be fresh for the big fight when he staggers in at daybreak. But no, she continues to burn up the phone lines.

By 3 AM, the band has had enough. No one else’s girlfriend is calling. No one else is ruining boy’s night out. Time for the truth.  Now  he tells her:

“Beth, I know you’re lonely
And I hope you’ll be alright
‘Cause me and the boys will be playin’
All night”

Because at this point he realizes that Beth isn’t going to get dressed and come down to the recording studio and she isn’t going to stop calling. Telling her he won’t be home tonight might not stop the phone calls, but it will put an end to the whip cracking sounds from the band.  Anyway, after he hangs up a helpful roadie will leave it off the hook and Beth can listen to a busy signal for the rest of the night if she desires.

The next morning, boyfriend crawls home, hungover and tired, expecting a nice breakfast from Beth before he drags himself to sleep. She probably makes it for him because back in 1976 that’s the price you paid to be with the band.

I don’t miss 1976 that much. Now songs empower us to get our Louisville Sluggers and let our men know exactly what we think.  I’d love to hear Kiss sing a song about how quickly the studio empties out after that.