Monday, May 31, 2010

I go out this afternoon & five tenants are hanging around on the steps out front & one of them is drunk. I know they're all harmless, they've been here for years, but if I was visiting this building for the first time they would really creep me out. Three of them are always the same guys. Occasionally, some of the elderly women sit out there for awhile. Up the street, tenants at another building put lawn chairs out on the grass, they talk on cellphones, watch their kids play, & it looks neighborly. Here, they stand around staring at everyone who walks by, one of them sits on a disgusting pillow. The landlord knows it makes the building look suspicious but there's nothing he can do about it. Sometimes I'll chat for a couple of minutes, but they have nothing to say. There's nothing to look at, I'm never bored enough to look at nothing. When I felt better, I'd either sit on Gina's backyard deck & listen to the songbirds or bring a folding chair & a newspaper to the park around the corner & peek at the attractive young mothers or watch youth league soccer match.

Memorial Day

At heart a serious & somber holiday. But I associate it first with the modest community parades in Roselle Park & Rahway. I parked my lawn chair for the Rahway parades about halfway through its route downtown, at the end of a long straightaway, where it turned a corner & tended to bunch up, the amateur marching band music bounced off the buildings & was amplified, & I often heard all the bands in the parade at the same time; at least two high school bands, a fife & drum corps, & a silly Shriner's group playing psuedo-oriental tunes. Composer Charles Ives heard this also, as a kid in Danbury, Connecticut. He invented unusual techniques over 100 years ago to capture the cacophony. For many decades this was considered radical, even unplayable music, although now we know it isn't so "avant garde," but actually a wonderful recreation of a funny effect we all recognize. "Country Band March" has become a band concert staple because it sounds "right" whether its performed perfectly or not, which wouldn't bother Ives as long as its played in earnest, in the spirit of the thing.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Breath of a May Night

a motor vibrating deep within me
desire is paving roads
my phone number is trapped
in a woman’s purse

my heart recollects its many molts
it says Tonight I’m your slave
I’ll do anything you want
I say Sure but don’t call me your baby

a moth fires up some grass
as it circles the porch light
stumbling lost around the moon

I have this poem dated 1991 but I was busy with college work that year & it feels like a year later. I was making fewer poems, enjoying them more, was coming to a much more expansive view of the poet's role in the community. I was itching to do some informal, creative short prose, like a newspaper column, an opportunity that came later that year. I'd tried teaching poetry in schools, done alright under the independent tutelage of a personal friend, but when I signed up with the official state program, which was being run by theater people, not poets, I was taken away from her & handed to a much older mentor with whom I had zilch affinity - & said so, was thrown too soon into an impossible solo assignment that I screwed up but never found out how, & quit because I felt I was being trained & used poorly. The owner of Pearl Arts had noted my interest fixing up the dismal book dept, although it didn't pull together into real art book area for a few more years. Pearl was accommodating to my WFMU radio schedule & days I took off for teaching, & I liked the hours & coworkers. Strange time. Even met a few women through newspaper personals, but as a writer, radio DJ, underpaid retail employee, I was too peculiar for suburban singles. I strongly sensed a girlfriend was on the way, all I had to do was be patient & wait for her to appear.

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Middlesex County NJ

Scenic roadway along the Garden State Parkway.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yesterday Gina drove me to an appt with my primary physician, then we hit Home Depot. She picked up some plants for DJ Glen's' Asbury Park balcony & got hooked on a nifty little folding camp chair that'll probably be good for the beach. I got another cheap canvas chair for my apt.

The good news from my primary doc was that the standard blood work was all fine, cholesterol, sugar, etc. She prescribed something she says will help my appetite. We shall see. But while we were in the waiting room, Dr. Oz on tv was showing all the cocktails he wouldn't drink because they had too many calories, & I said to Gina, maybe I should treat myself to a margarita once in awhile. The primary doc is not pleased that she doesn't know my urologist, she wrote a note to him on a script for me to deliver to please forward copies of consultation reports, & I tucked it in my pocket thinking, yeah right, like the bigshot specialist's gonna do that. This is the second note she's written. I told her I don't like to complain about another doctor but that he's always a week behind on reading my tests even though I call up & tell his staff to please show him the newest one, & his assistant calls me & tells me I'm "sensitive" to antibiotics that seem to be working & now I'm on one that clearly doesn't work. The primary doc said she doesn't know what he means by sensitive unless she sees the test results, which she would like to see. Of course, the urologist office wasn't answering the phone; only the general practitioners are working the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. What I like about this primary doctor is that she clearly wants to get a handle on my overall situation. Had she been been my primary last fall, as she wanted to be when she attended me in the hospital, my general care would've gone in a different direction, because she would've referred to a different local urologist & probably yanked some strings at the HMO if necessary to make it happen. But she wasn't approved by my HMO at time. This was my third visit & both she & her receptionist remembered my name on my second visit, when she fit me in the same day I called.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roselle Lanes, The Cove, Morris Nanton

Roselle Lanes is no more, building gutted for renovation. Surprising enough it survived so long. Small local bowling center, walking distance from where I grew up. I didn't care for bowling but my brother Jim did, & he didn't like to bowl alone, so he'd ask me to tag along for the three games plus shoes Saturday specials, & I'd roll a lot of gutter balls while he tried to break magic 200. I've always liked the unpretentious atmosphere of bowling centers, with the pitchers of beer or coke, & the greasy snack bar finger foods - odd because you don't want greasy fingers when you handle a bowling ball. Roselle Lanes also had pool tables & some arcade games. It had a cocktail lounge called The Cove that attracted an integrated clientele on weekends when a fine jazz pianist named Morris Nanton performed there. The Cove later became a popular, grimy punk rock venue that I'd go to on occasion in the '90s when I knew someone in a band. There were some ancient regulars left over from the old days who hadn't seemed to notice the walls had been painted black, the clientele comprised of young people with many piercings & tattoos, & the music ear-splitting. As local rock clubs went it wasn't so bad, & you could always duck out & play pool or video games or even bowl. I may have gone to Midnight Bowling there a few times when they turn down the lights & turn up the metal music on the sound system. I enjoyed Midnight Bowling.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lego Nighthawks


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Association: Birthday

There are a number of LPs, not a long list, of pop, jazz, funk & soundtrack records I've considered very underrated. One was the Fifth Dimension / Jimmy Webb collaboration Magic Garden. That always had fans & came to be generally regarded as a great pop record. Another LP, while not quite on the high plane of Magic Garden, is Birthday by The Association, a group not thought of as cool or hip in any way. Everyone knows the hits "Time for Living" & the awesome "Everything That Touches You" from Birthday. I gave it 4 of 5 stars at Amazon because a couple of songs don't cut it for me, one them titled "Rose Petals, Incense, & a Kitten," yuck, there's no excuse for that.
Classic California Pop. Perhaps the group's best produced & most coherent - if not strongest - LP, with few serious songwriting lapses as each of members jockey'd for center stage. The cover art & Bones Howe's production reached out to a potential potheads-with-headphones audience, to no avail. Like a similarly virtuoso vocal group, Free Design, there's some strange goings on beneath even the wimpiest surfaces. Unless you're a fan-atic collector of the Association, skip this & pick up "Just The Right Sound; The Association Anthology," a pricey but worthwhile two-CD set that incorporates the better half of "Birthday". It's like doing doob at Disneyland.
Any review posted at Amazon not completely uncritical of a record or book receives few "Helpful" votes. I'm only trying to help casual fans of the group get all the good singles & some album tracks. As an album, Birthday is so dependent on it's stereo separation - the multi-tracked voices coming from left, right & places in between - that I fail to understand why anyone would want a "Deluxe Mono Edition" just because there were decent mono mixes. There was dissension between group & producer Howe, who wanted hit singles, & between group members. Several wanted to push in a more "experimental" direction, & there are unusual songs on all the earlier Association albums. In 1968, perfectly fine pop groups desperately wanted to be hip. But the group apparently couldn't hear how extraordinarily complex & beautiful its studio vocal harmonies had become. There was nothing like them on radio, not even from The Beach Boys, who had wandered too far from their strengths & foundered on the shoals of experiment with the unfinished Smile project. "Come On In" opens the album, "Barefoot Gentleman" begins the vinyl side 2.

The Association recorded many good songs after Birthday, but didn't factor much on the charts, & with no crystal ball they couldn't have foreseen years of popularity & profit in the adult-oriented radio market that emerged in the '70s & played artists from CSN&Y to The Spinners to Barbra Streisand to Fleetwood Mac, & gave The Beach Boys a couple more hits.

(For me, a truly underrated album is one that is or should be generally available - usually a major label, doesn't have an intense cult following, & could be appreciated by variety of listeners. There are very few of these left to be rediscovered in pop & rock, & most are fairly critiqued at All Music.)

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

taxi to library

Cab from psych clinic to main library, definitely my favorite driver, second time I was in his taxi. African-American guy, beret, good soul-funk oldies radio station. When he picked me up at home a few weeks ago for ride to train station, we had such a friendly, animated chat about sports that he missed a turn. Today, there was a song on his radio that was to my ears, although it wasn't familiar, a perfect example of late-Seventies soul-funk, a period I really like. I asked him if he recognized it. He didn't, but agreed it sounded Seventies, & he also liked music from then, said rhythms were more sophisticated & lyrics generally more thoughtful. On the ten minute or so ride we had a rather wide-ranging discussion of music, & he was distracted & overshot the library, less than half a block. He told me his name, I forgot, I'm bad with names. Intelligent man.

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My brother underwent a serious heart procedure that my sister found out about after the fact. No call ahead of time. It upset her. No way he would've notified me.

This is pretty typical behavior with us, though, & you don't have to be mental health professional to feel the underlying anger. Because it is not a matter of forgetting to contact one's own siblings with important news. It's a deliberate act, or at least began deliberately & became habitual over the years. My brother doesn't like us. His wife doesn't like us. It's one thing I have in common with my sister; he doesn't like either of us. The only invite I ever received to one of his family events was for an open house after my nephew graduated college, & I think my nephew put me on that invite list. I had no involvement with him when he was growing up. Maybe his parents thought I was a pothead, & that cohabiting with a woman was a form of sexual deviancy, & I'd be a terrible influence. I had no influence on my sister's kids one way or another, except that I was always open to listening to them, & I saw them quite often when they were adolescents.

I reached a point where I thought it was better to withhold information than to share it. It embarrassed me to share it, & I didn't like that. My situation was what it was, is what it is, & it can't be dismissed, made light of or joked about. Right now, only one person has a first-hand view of what's going on here. She's been in the apartment a couple of times, been to two doctor offices, & sees the number of meds I have to take because she drives me to CVS to pick them up. She knows that an obstinate series of bladder infections have postponed tests & a necessary major surgery, after which I have to immediately move on to other serious problems. She knows where I go in Newark. She doesn't see me as strong but rather as patient, & losing patience. I can't fight a freakin' infection that probably lingers because my resistance is low. The antibiotics aren't getting any help from me. The doctor isn't kidding when he says he might have to hospitalize me on an antibiotic drip. & he's always a week behind my actual condition, basing his prescriptions not on the most recent test, but the one before it. He should be reacting on the day a test result comes in, which would be today for the one from last Thursday. The antibiotic I'm on now isn't working. I can tell it's not working. & it makes me more gaseous than I usually am, which suppresses my appetite even more.

I just called his office. His assistant looked at last week's test & said, "You still have the infection." I said, "The doctor knows that from the previous week's test. But he needs to see last Thursday's test results & adjust my meds if necessary based on that one."

I could barely manage routine matters & now I have to manage the complexities of health care for some frightening conditions. I'm in two demographics that are terrible with health care, so when I reach out for help I think I'm showing good judgment.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am not given to overstatement or hyperbole in my writing. It is filled with hedges & qualifiers; somewhat, sometimes, mainly, usually, possibly, probably. There are few absolutes like the greatest, the worst, the best. Some of it comes from my cautious personality, some from my experience as a reader & poet. I like understated poets, Wordsworth over Coleridge, Keats over Shelley, if we compare the Romantics. Occasionally I write what are obviously tall tales, I'm not trying to fool anyone. But I think most of you know this. I know I write truthfully about depression; other depressed people & some who are not understand me.


Newark schoolyard slayings lone survivor graduates from college

DOVER, Del. — Natasha Aeriel graduated from college Saturday.

That is a small miracle made possible by the bigger miracle that she pretty much walks and talks and thinks and writes much like she did before she was shot.

"I am blessed and highly favored and very appreciative," she said after the ceremony, as she held a bouquet of a dozen pink roses and a Fabulous Girl gift bag.

She is the lone survivor of the triple shootings at Mount Vernon School three summers ago. Her brother, Terrance Aeriel, was killed. So were her best friends, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey.
On the same day the first conviction was returned for the murders, Mark DiIonno reported this story. Mount Vernon school is near the South Orange border & within walking distance of Seton Hall University. The neighborhood, Ivy Hill, is adjacent to a section called Vailsburg, both are separated from the rest of Newark by the Garden State Parkway. They're neighborhoods of mixed two-family houses & apartment building, some single family, mostly working class & working poor African-American, with Hispanics mixed in.

There's a common misconception that everyone who lives in Newark wants, or ought to want, to move out of Newark. But many people, like anyone, want to live where they are most culturally comfortable. Some people in the poorer sections of Newark aspire to moving up to Ivy Hill. It has its crime & gang activity. But Ivy Hill is an area where four street-smart young people believed they could safely hang out in a schoolyard on a summer evening. Every young person in Newark is street smart - if the first rule of street -smart is knowing what streets & places to avoid. The Mount Vernon schoolyard wasn't one of those places.

The murders were shocking not only for how they were carried out execution-style, on innocent victims, but also for where they occurred. There are shootings around Ivy Hill, mostly on the fringes, mostly related to drugs or drinking or domestic arguments as reported in the Star-Ledger. The average resident probably felt pretty safe most of the time, like they could go out & walk a dog after supper. That sense of safety was undermined.

For years I resided in two small cities - Linden & Rahway, & then here in a distinct section of a large city, all within walking distance of a retail district & a train station. It's made me a law & order person. Cities, no matter how much intractable poverty & gang activity they have, need some reliably safe neighborhoods - safe havens. Because upward mobility for many people initially means moving across town into a safer neighborhood, a better apartment. Maybe even, as in my area, buying a house.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Atlantic City NJ

World Famous Dude Ranch
On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Candy Girl

Two easy listening versions of my favorite Four Seasons song, the cha-cha-ish 1963 hit "Candy Girl."

The Hollyridge Strings sold a lot of albums in the Sixties, mostly collections of songs - "songbooks" - by one band or artist. Nearly all out of print now, but selections from the Beach Boys Songbook CD reissue are played before Brian Wilson concerts. Of the Four Seasons Songbook, it is peculiar to hear "Walk Like A Man" & "Big Girls Don't Cry" & other songs featuring Frankie Valli's shrill falsetto done in lush string orchestra arrangements.

Closer to the original, but not by much, is the version by The Bob Crewe Orchestra. Bob Crewe was the fifth Season, as their producer, songwriting collaborator, & one of the architects of their sound, which makes his album of Four Seasons songs a real curiosity. Crewe's big instrumental hit was "Music to Watch Girls By."

Thanks to the devoted collectors who rip these rare LPs from vinyl.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Zolpidem Tartrate

Yet another antibiotic. The doctor keeps saying I'm "sensitive" to the others. But he's running out of options & threatening to put me in the hospital on an antibiotic drip & I'm pretty sure he means it. That hospital is in Newark! He can't do anything until the bladder infection is cleared up. Every antibiotic seems to work at first. But when I reach the bottom of the bottle & go for another test, it's coming back.

I think my resistance is too low. & the Foley catheter as an irritant is a problem. I probably should not be moving around so much.

At least I have Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien) back in stock. Last night was typical. I listened to the ballgames, then read. About 12:30 am I took 1/2 a Tylenol PM. I fluffed up the down comforter on the futon, propped up the pillows. I cut a small 10 mg generic Ambien in half, melted a half in my mouth like candy & washed it down. I got under the blanket & read. After 10 or 15 minutes I noticed that I was holding the book but my mind, perhaps suggested by what I was reading (a Janet Evanovich "Stephanie Plum" novel), had wandered completely away from the book. I put the book down, turned out the light, rolled on my side, & shortly fell asleep. I woke up to pre-dawn light. I knew it would be difficult to get back to sleep. I got up, turned on the a.c. fan for white noise, & took the other half of the Ambien tablet. I fell asleep again & woke up about 8 am.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First Spring Poem


It is May
I have missed
half of this spring

You bring it to me now
with a sleepless night

At two I am reading
troubadour poetry

At three I hear
a bird singing
sad yet hopeful riffs

At four I am consumed
with hunger
so I light the kitchen
searching for a snack
but it is you
I am seeking

At five birds again
seagulls flying over
on their way to the park
but it is you
who sails above my bed

As the trees throw off their shadows
flowers appear beneath them

Now I see this spring
you have brought to me

© Bob Rixon

Why not an old love poem? I'm not sure if this was ever in print, but I liked reading it to audiences & always got a good response. Many poets think "love" poems have to be deep. I think all they need to do is sing. I was in a May rebound affair following a hard breakup. The woman to whom this poem is addressed had a boyfriend studying in France & she was certain he had a girlfriend (they got back together). The best part of the affair lasted only about a month & hurt as it ended. But I jumped at the opportunity to put shock, sadness, & anger aside for awhile, & allowed myself the moment & the poems it inspired.

This poem is grouped chronologically with four more poems, Doo Wop Song, First Night, Lovers, & The Balancing Beam. But they are not grouped together at The Balancing Beam website. This is because the breakup poems were written before the love poems, about a different woman, & I didn't want to create a false narrative. So I removed any possibility of a "story" & let the poems speak for themselves.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I hid my depression until I was 45 years old. I was in relationship for 18 years, from my mid-twenties, & the woman I lived with pretty much dedicated herself to helping me hide it. Her mother had done much the same for her father. Only a very few close friends who got inside that protective shield could have had any idea how debilitating it was. Because there was little else, really, that could explain how I was, my behavior, the strange combination of achievement & failure, of public persona & a reclusiveness that was almost anti-social.

If you observed me at social occasions of more than six or seven people, you'd notice that I wandered around a lot, rarely talked in groups, & if I sat in one place I hardly spoke at all unless spoken to. It's often been remarked of me how quiet I am. But if you're speaking just with me, you might think me too talkative.

Of course, I hid the depression from my family - siblings. Hid it just as I hid the poems & prose & the radio show that helped me cope with it.

The first mental health professional I spoke with, in 1996 at a Catholic agency, knew I had at least one alcoholic parent before I had even mentioned it. She asked me. I had all the characteristics of an ACOA, even being both super-responsible & super-irresponsible.* My three siblings have some of them. She referred me to a therapist in Scotch Plains NJ - my private insurance at the time covered it, & he was helpful. I don't know how but I felt better. Then he decided to move to Israel, anyway my insurance was running out. I sought therapy because I'd taken a big risk changing jobs, really disliked the new one, had decided to tough it out, but then was laid off in Clinton's budget cuts. After I switched jobs, a relationship I was in & had enjoyed unraveled (the 18 year one had ended few years earlier). It came undone for a number of reasons, including my periods of depression, but the woman could not accept the effect the new job had on me, in hours, in responsibilities, & that it was completely unconnected to the arts. In my former job, the retail store pay was depressingly inadequate but I generally liked the work. My girlfriend was subsidizing me with her reliable car, & stocking my fridge. In the new job, the work itself was depressing, & instead of being surrounded by colorful art supply store characters, I was in a bureaucratic beehive. & then suddenly had no job or girlfriend.

* I had a long run at WFMU not because I was an exceptional DJ - all WFMU DJs are exceptional, most more than me - but because I was so reliable, a trustworthy pilot. At Pearl Arts I became one of the few floor employees who was almost entirely unsupervised. I was well aware of my limitations, & functioned well by staying within them. Smart bosses understand & appreciate this & reward you with flexibility rather than heavier responsibilities, & in return they get loyality & creativity. But I was lousy wage earner, unemployed for long periods, didn't make a good impression in job interviews, ridden with anxieties, & convinced I couldn't succeed at anything, even menial work. Whatever I succeeded at doing was despite myself, maybe just too good to fully fail. So I minimized even what I did well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Four by Mancini

"Dreamsville" is one of Henry Mancini's most sophisticated songs. It first appeared on the Peter Gunn soundtrack album. Here's a version by organist Shirley Scott from her album Latin Shadows, arranged by Gary McFarland, who also plays vibes. Most of Shirley's albums are far funkier. Then a dreamy rendition by Bobby Hackett, whose way with a ballad was admired by Miles Davis.

From an otherwise uninteresting LP of Mancini tunes by The Living Strings, here are two good arrangements of lesser known Mancini themes, from the movies "Experiment In Terror" & "Hatari."


Sunday, May 16, 2010

I haven't been enjoying this spring so I've been trying to ignore it. But it got in my face yesterday, walking a few blocks to feed Gina's cats. It was everything one hopes for from a May day. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, cloudless sky, breezy. No wonder people fall in love in May.


Paterson NJ

Pastore Furrier

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

A relevant novel

Sleeping Beauty by Ross Macdonald. (1973)
Synopsis: She walked into the West L.A. night with a bottle of sleeping pills in her hand. The problem for Lew Archer was that she had taken the pills from him and was in the mood to use them. Her family was behind a huge oil spill that lapped like blood against the California coast, while a 30-year-old family secret refused to stay buried beneath all that money and power. Now the girl was missing, two men were dead, and there was oil everywhere.
I coincidentally had just finished re-reading this fine novel inspired by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, when the Gulf oil platform exploded. It opens with private investigator Lew Archer returning from a brief vacation in Mexico, jet flying low over an out-of-control offshore spill as it banks & descends into Los Angeles. Archer, like most fictional Californian detectives after Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, has an appreciative, descriptive eye for scenery. Before Archer goes home, he drives to the coast for a closer look at the disaster, & the ineffective attempts to stop the spreading oil & cap the well. The spill provides the background for the increasingly complex tale, & at the conclusion the well is still gushing.oil on to the beaches.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

baby shower & bachelor buttons

My sister is throwing a baby shower for niece tomorrow. I can guarantee it will be great baby shower, mostly outdoor. This is the sort of function at which my Virgo sister excels, plus she's waited a long time to be a grandmother, & she'll be great at that, too. The food will good & none of it will be truly strange or exotic. Special emphasis on cake & dessert. Things will happen pretty much on schedule. My sister likes to enjoy what she organizes & hosts; even, say, a Thanksgiving dinner. That is, she doesn't want to run to the kitchen every five minutes. So she's very detail-organized before the event. She didn't learn this growing up, not in our house. I think part of it is from her years of experience working in a law office that handled all kinds of work & clients. But the other part, I decided at some point long ago, is conceptual. She imagined it all.

Some years ago, when I was in between girlfriends, I was at a nursery with my sister, & she bought some Bachelor Buttons & planted them in her garden for me. I decided then that if I ever got married, I would have the ceremony & small reception at her house, if she would allow it. I was pretty certain not only that she would, but that she would insist on doing most of the planning.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

bus stop

Waiting for my bus across the street from Elizabeth Library & the Courthouse, backpack filled with novels. Car pulls up smack in the middle of the bus stop, guy gets out, locks car, walks into a crappy jewelry store, one of a dozen crappy jewelry stores downtown. Cars often stop there, but a driver or passenger quickly runs in & out of the pizzeria or Chinese takeout. This car is parked in a such a way that no bus can pull up to the curb. I'm thinking, this car deserves a ticket. Just then, a cop car turns the corner, parks directly behind the offending car. After a few minutes a cop gets out & slips the ticket under the windshield. I say to him, "You just made my day."

A few minutes later the driver comes out of the store, looks at ticket & says. "Oh shit!" Then he takes the ticket off the windshield & goes back into the store. I say to a man waiting for a bus, "That's stupid. Another cop might come & give him another ticket." & he treated the ticket like a license to stay parked there.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hollywood Brass

Arranged & conducted by Jerry Fielding. A first-rate film composer, Fielding challenged himself to do something a little different in the Sixties instrumental cover genre, banishing woodwinds & strings. "It's Not Unusual" isn't so unusual. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is unusual, & he does pretty good with a song that tripped many an arranger into unlistenable smirking silliness. I think Jerry likes The Stones classic. Dig the xylophone & cow bell. The L.A. studio musicians, especially the French Hornists, sound like they enjoyed this session.



Energywise, I did alright yesterday. Helped that the bus & train home from Newark timed almost perfectly. The doctor experience wasn't so pleasant, the outlook not too good even under best possibilities. But I wasn't draggin' much by the time I got home. Suffice to say I didn't do much for the rest of the day.

Last night I listened to great Mets comeback win on the radio, & that went to the postgame show, then Steve Somers show, & I started a new book, & it got pretty late. So I took what amounted to a little more than 1/2 Temazepam capsule & tried to get comfortable. & after awhile I felt comfortable. I definitely slept because I had a dream. But I woke up several times, & at about 7 am couldn't get back to sleep. So it was maybe 5 hours of on & off. If I want a few more hours, I usually take 1/2 an Ambien. But I wasn't gonna take any more Temazepam. So I just stayed in bed & listened to radio. Temazepam is more than a sleep med. It's not really a sleep med at all. Now I realize it's a mild sedative in the smaller dose the doctor prescribed. But it's been replaced by later generations of meds in the Prozac/Paxil family that affect serotonin uptake & are meant to be taken for long periods of time & are supposed to be mood lifters.

My psychiatrist isn't very concerned with Ambien dependence, because it's a comparatively safe med overall & he probably prefers his depressive & anxious patients just get some sleep. If you take too much Ambien, there are cases of people driving their cars in their sleep. Ambien withdrawal is return of insomnia. He also has to deal with addicts & alcoholics.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Typical Family Dollar store variety of purchases today. Bag of Rudolph's onion rings; can of strawberries in light syrup (I blend them in smoothies); candles; CD-RW 5 pack; cheap, portable AM-FM radio with speaker. Want radio for ballgames, iffy, WOR 50,000 watt signal usually overwhelms the Mets WFAN & the whole lower end of the dial on cheap radios here. I barely grab it on my old Sears. But the $5 is no great investment.



heck with this Temazepam crap. See the time down there? 6:57. My alarm is set 7:30. Is that a freakin' good night's sleep? I listen to the Mets game last night. It ends. I'm tired. Little after 11. Not really sleepy but tired. So I open this Temazepam bottle - it used to be called Restoril & other names & was invented a long time ago. "One capsule at bedtime for insomnia. " But I don't know how strong it is. So I break the capsule into a old med bottle cap, scoop up about 1/2 the powder, take it, wash it down, pour the rest into the empty little bottle, get into bed, & read. Ambien kicks in after about 15 minutes. You know it's happening because the book looks weird, the letters might even float. At that stage you have about 15 minutes to take advantage of it. You put down the book, turn off the lights, & you usually fall asleep. When you don't fall asleep you get hungry. With this new stuff, 15 minutes, nothin. 30 minutes, maybe I feel a bit relaxed. Maybe. I get up & take more of the powder.

I lay back, think about stuff, my mind wanders. The fire detector in my hall starts to beep every few minutes. It's hard-wired. Does it have a battery backup? I can't reach it anyway. I roll on my side & pull a pillow over my head. I think about stuff.

I sort of sleep. But it's like I'm not quite sleeping. It more like time is passing easier. I open my eyes. I go take the rest of the powder. Big mistake maybe not taking it all at once. The fire thingie beeps. I feel comfortable at least. It is sedative for sure. I think about stuff. Time passes. I open my eyes. What time is it? Dark. I listen to traffic. Early, very early. More the next day than previous night by the sound of it. I look at clock. 4:30. Worse than I thought. Three hours to go. I get up, move the PC mouse so the monitor comes on & I get more light, very carefully open another capsule, take about 1/2 of it, go back to bed. The fire detector beeps. Call Louie, I tell myself, that has to stop, he has the key to the ladder closet & knows what to do.

I lay back, think about stuff, time passes. I admit I don't feel so anxious over NOT getting a good night's sleep. Is that what this drug does? No wonder wiki says it was an abuse drug decades ago. I never heard if it. I open my eyes. It's light out. I hear traffic, car doors opening & shutting & engines starting. I know this time on my street. It's between 6 & 7. The construction & day shift punch clock people are going to work. That's it for my night.

I get out of bed. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get a half a day before I hit the wall. Have to go to Newark. 9:30 train. The doctor will have no good news. They'll change my catheter. This used to be a simple matter. Not pleasant, but simple. Some nurses & assistants are real good at it, fast, confident. My urethra is sore now. This doctor's assistants, though they must be very experienced, are not so great at it. & I'm no longer a hopeful, cooperative patient. I'm angry & disappointed & frightened. I'll take some ibuprofen before I leave. I wish I could go to the ER nurse at Trinitas with the Brit accent who called me "love." She was a great urban hospital ER nurse. I watched her for a few hours. I hope they pay her really well. I wish someone was driving me. Gina. But she has her own work to do. She's there if I really need her. Even better, my sister, who knows how scared I get. She'll be shocked to see me now, after a few years of not being around each other. & I feel badly because she's doing happy things right now & I'm waving & going, "Hey!"

Ambien is better, Much better. Take 1/2, you're really asleep for about two hours. If you were sleepy, you wake up, then go back to sleep. Otherwise, you take the other 1/2. A guaranteed four hours of good sleep. I don't like time release. I can't horde that. I can't renew my Ambien until the 23rd. I almost always have extra Ambien in the bathroom cabinet. But I missed a regular appt with the shrink over winter, more than one in fact, bad weather, & went through the overstock plus the one time refill. What I didn't know then but know now is that he does renew prescriptions by phone with pharmacies. But I didn't have his personal office number, just the one of his assistant who schedules appts.

Temazepam is related to Librium. A doctor once gave me a single librium, told me to go home & go to sleep. I took half of it & had a great sleep. This class of drug is said to increase light sleep over deep sleep, but last night was a rather extreme example of that. It was like never quite going to sleep. The only difference was that I wasn't tossing, turning, & getting aggravated. I guess that's something.

Monday, May 10, 2010

43 degrees, bad night. I'm calling my primary doctor today & begging for some sleep aid other than Ambien. Lunesta, Sonata, Whatever. I had planned on sleeping a bit late, as I have appt at 1 to do some paperwork with private non-profit agency that makes possible my rental assistance through the city. This agency has some kick-ass social workers who know the system. They're old-school - proactive, advocates for people struggling to get by, they guide you by the nose if necessary through the various mazes, they know how easy it is to falter & get lost or, sometimes, get pushed aside. They rescued me twice. & on other occasions made phone calls for me that smoothed the way to some other services, including legal representation. As an alumnus of their day rehab program, I could go up the street to one of their buildings & have free lunch any day. I;d just be at the end of line, which would only mean they might run out of whipped topping for the Jello or something popular. & I used to go there for art classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays.

I have another appt in Newark tomorrow morning & I'm dreading the appt & the trip there via taxi, train, bus.
4:30 PM
Spent a lot of money on taxis. The doctor was concerned enough to talk on phone, but rather than prescribe over phone she wanted me to come in & bring all my current meds. So I took taxi there, $16, about 2 miles, almost all straight road, twice as much as two miles inside city limits. I waited awhile while she saw a few other patients. Then I was honest with her & she was good listener. I said I needed sleep aids, used non-time release generic Ambien fairly steadily but in small doses, I didn't gobble them, I knew what to expect. But over the past few weeks I was using them for naps. I said a half a tab is a great nap, about 90 minutes, wake up refreshed, not groggy. But I wasn't often getting a good night's sleep & I wanted one once in awhile, I'm stressed out, even more so when I'm stuck with morning appt. I said really disliked going to Newark, both the trips there & the appts were stressful. She looked over my other meds, nothing unusual there. Took my blood pressure, & prescribed a small number of another med that's good for sleep & eases anxiety, said use them sparingly, & we'll look at the situation again at our regular appt in a few weeks. I thanked. her.

Then I had to go to nearbyt ATM, call taxi, go back to Elizabeth for brief meeting at social services agency. Walked around the corner from there to CVS, filled the prescription, called taxi again because I was too tired to walk home, it was windy & cool. When I got home there was a call from Newark urologist office changing their med, which they'll phone in. I managed to talk the woman into making appt tomorrow 1/2 hour later, it was best I could do, & called Gina, asked if she could take me back to CVS later.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

If I hide my problems, nobody can help me with them. But I don't want to be a "problem" for others. So I feel more comfortable dealing with people who are trained & paid to help me with my problems, But one of my problems is that I need help & encouragement to find those people. That's why therapists are always dwelling on "support networks."

I had a terrible time moving here. Someone loaned me a station wagon, & two others help move smaller stuff. But there was one guy, Joe, I wished I could have called who probably could have arranged the whole thing with a couple of phone calls, calling in some favors here in Elizabeth, for the price of a few pizzas.

One problem I have now is I'm running out of Ambien before the refill date. I take generic Ambien in 1/2 doses, cut the tab in half, sometimes smaller, it's safer than gobbling Tylenol PMs. I've never developed a great tolerance to it - it nearly always works in the small amount, & decline the time release variety. Once I get to sleep, if I wake up after couple of hours I can go back to sleep. But I get terrible rebound insomnia when I don't use it on night I need it.

Lake Hopatcong NJ

Shore Hills Beach, Lake Hopatcong

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The nature of the sickness

The nature of the sickness is that you hurt yourself.

You push away people who love you because that hurts yourself.
You believe you aren't worthy of help because that hurts yourself.
You don't tell anyone you're hurting yourself. You put up a front. You withdraw.
You anxious & fearful of what you know & what you don't know.
It's the nature of the sickness.

It's not easy to help someone to stop hurting them-self. It's not always difficult, either. It takes time & patience. Lots of patience. Sometimes patience is love. Helping with small things, wondering why they can't just do those things. It takes a number of people just to help one person.

When you don't do the small things they become big things & you're hurting yourself.

Always remember that it's the nature of the sickness. It can be be about silence & secrecy & hiding & disguises.

During my monthly or bimonthly ten minute sessions with a shrink, he asks if I think about suicide. But he never asks how I'm hurting myself.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Tomorrow, I don't know

I need to have the standard blood test series you have to have taken before breakfast - after at least a 7 hour fast. Doctor suggested a lab in Roselle & said it takes walk-ins. I get up this morning, decide I'll go have the tests, take shower, but figure I ought to call lab to make sure I can walk- in before I invest in a taxi. I could not get through to a real person at the lab. I called the 800 number, got all the options, press one, press two, none that would tell me what I needed to know. I tried one, then another. Finally I got a real person at the corporate office in Teaneck, got the local number, & she transfered the call, too. But the lab in Roselle didn't have a real person, just an answering machine. All this took about 15 minutes. There was an option for making an appt, I was frustrated so took that, with the recorded voice asking what day you want, recognizing the date, suggesting a time, giving you the option to say no & asking for another time, very strange. Then I made a smoothie, drank half of it, went back to bed, finished a novel, slept, drank the rest of the smoothie, listened to WFAN sports radio, slept some more, turned on Mets game. I haven't been outside in two days. I might take garbage out tonight. Tomorrow, I don't know.
Took out garbage, surprised myself by walking to 7-11. Catheter chaffing & uncomfortable. Sometimes aspirin or ibuprofen numbs it a bit if I find a comfortable position laying down. Changed back into sweats soon as I got back. eating a kind of ravioli soup I blend up.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

I weigh 98 pounds

I weigh 98 pounds & have lost most of my teeth.

My apt, always dusty & cluttered, is coming apart. I sleep a lot.

It's been that kind of winter becoming a lost spring. Losing a spring is bad.

I've neglected my health. Particularly over the past five years. But that's not the issue.

When I was forced to present myself to the hospital last fall, I thought, things will happen now, change now. I put myself in the local medical system & figured I'd just have to take whatever happened. But in the process my prostate problem would be dealt with in whatever way it had to. I'd already found out I would lose all my teeth. I've had periodontal disease for year, used to be treated then I had to stop. But I'd seen a local dentist several times over previous few years, I knew the process for dentures, how long it would take once I began it. I wanted to find a different dentist & had located one I thought would be o.k.

It was bad that I had a primary physician only in name, had never gone to what I knew was a large LLC over by Trinitas. You had to wait month just for an initial appt. But I thought that would be taken care of as went through the prostate treatment. I'd looked over the HMO list, found some possible alternatives, when I knew my urolologist I'd call the HMO & switch the primary. Unfortunately, the attending physician at Trinitas wasn't on the list. I signed up with her when my HMO was changed in March.

While I was in hospital, I realized I could lean more on Gina, my friend from a few blocks away. She came to hospital nearly every day, it was close by. She brought magazines. juice, extra minutes for my phone. The night I was released - absurdly at about 8 pm because nobody at hospital was making a decision, she came with her boyfriend, Glen, & drove me on a couple of errands & home. I wasn't feeling bad with the Foley catheter - comfortable., actually, for the first time in months. The time in hoispital had stabilized me at least. Some of my appetite, for food & life, had returned - although I have to eat soft food. I do a lot of baby food type blending. & since I was referred directly to a local urologist group, I didn't need an immediate primary doctor referral, so I still had the option of finding a new primary with a smaller practice. The urologist might even recommend one. Unfortunately, the dentures would have to wait.

Then came the shock of finding out the urologist did not accept my HMO. He was the specialist who'd seen me in the hospital, & who the primary doctor I saw last Friday said she would have made a referral to. His office is an $8 taxi ride, & that only because the local taxi uses a zone fare & it's just past the city line. I walked home from there once, it's a couple blocks from the branch library.

My HMO listed only one eligible urologist for Trinitas, an ancient doctor with an office across town over a beauty shop. There was one in Millburn, a bunch in Newark. No matter how i thought it through, I could not work out a reliable way of getting to that doctor in Millburn. I looked at buses, checked with the local paratransit, triangulated the location with Gina's frame shop up that way. Only the doctors at University Hospital in Newark were reliably accessible. They looked like good doctors. I was aware that even a nearby doctor might do surgery at University, Beth Israel, or St. Barnabas, but I'd work that out when the time came. What I needed was a doctor whose office I could reach. Still, it seemed crazy that I'd have to go to inner city Newark when there were urologists all around here, in Elizabeth, Roselle, Union. Most of them affiliated with Trinitas.

I went with a University doctor. Had to. So the process began. But then it stalled. I got a series of bladder infections. I blamed the doctor's staff for not catching on to the first one, because I believed they had sat on a test result for at least a week, hadn't read it, & this is a busy doctor who probably needs to be constantly pestered & reminded by his staff. It should have been read & flagged. The problem, I concluded, wasn't that they were incompetent, but because the office was located at & was part of a giant teaching hospital in the middle of Newark. It feels impersonal because it is impersonal. The magazines in the waiting room tell you nobody gives it a thought. The whole freakin' city is impersonal. Unless you get off the bus at the wrong stop. Then it might become very personal. The local urologist was part of a group with several offices, & the staff there seemed much more focused & efficient, & probably were better paid.

I was losing energy, appetite, & hope. The best way to deal with my anxiety & fear is move things along. I felt like something had gone terribly wrong with the process. My time, my comfort, seemed worth little. Was it my imagination? My first visit to the new primary physician confirmed that it wasn't. She faxed a new referral to the urologist, along with a personal note that she wanted to be kept informed of my treatment there. Then, to be emphatic, she gave me the original of the note & told me to give it to the office staff the next time I was there. I did, yesterday, when I went to Newark for a 5 minute visit to deposit a urine sample. They hadn't even seen the fax, & looked at the note like it was the strangest request they'd ever received & of no use whatsoever. A request from a concerned primary physician - who knows I'm sickly & underweight, & see a psychiatrist for depression - that she wants to be brought into the loop. "She's serious about this," I said to the receptionist. "She was my attending physician at Trinitas." All the way to Newark yesterday, I kept seeing her sitting at the little table in the examining room in her office, looking up at me, & asking, "Why are you going all the way to Newark for this? I can refer you to Dr. M____, his office is near here." & my saying, "I saw Dr. M____, he didn't take my insurance. & neither did you. I would've seen you when I got out of the hospital. I signed you up when my HMO changed last month."

I'll add that this primary physician knows which bus stops at her corner, the exact number, & where it goes in downtown Elizabeth. I recall thinking in the hospital, "Maybe she just wants my business in order to grow her practice, but it counts for something that she wants at all, & wants it enough to know how to get there if you don't have a car."

"Why are you going all the way to Newark.....?"

I'm fortunate to have a full service hospital in this city. Most cities in Jersey have one. Newark has five, I think one is closing. Plainfield lost its hospital. I don't know what you do if you live somewhere distant from a hospital without convenient access to public or private transportation. I guess you're screwed.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I'm making the quickest trip in & out of Newark I can.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I'm a screwup

Just am, always was.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Meet da Mets

Saturday: When Halladay throws a complete game shutout, doesn't matter how many runs the Phillies score & it's a good day for Pelfrey to have a bad day.

Sunday: But last night's game, an ESPN profit special, was a shocker. Hittable 47 year old Jamie Moyer on mound for Phils, Mets scored 3 runs in 1st then 2 more in top 4th of to give their ace Santana some space. Then in bottom of 4th Santana went to pieces so fast & so unexpectedly that Manager Jerry Manuel was frozen into inaction by the horror of it. The turning point was Santana loading bases then, with two outs, walking 9th man pitcher Moyer to force in a run. Score: Mets 5, Phils 4. But every Mets fan knew what was coming next. We couldn't say it aloud. Yep, Victorino hit a grand slam. Bases empty. Then Polanco singled to right before Utley hit another homer. Santana finally leaves, Takahashi gives up another run. Score: Phils 11, Mets 5. 9 run inning for Phils.

So OK, the Mets thought this game would be a gimme & they'd take 2 of 3 down there. Tough break, Santana falling apart. But five innings to go, decent bullpen, humid night, balls flying out in bandbox Citizen Field. Would the Yanks throw in the towel on national TV? The Red Sox? This is after all the new Ike Davis Mets. The Mets with youth & hope & energy. It's still Moyer out there, & a shaky Philly bullpen behind him. Ike Davis must be thinking, "I can take this guy Moyer out." & Ángel Pagán's muttering, "Maybe I make something happen." What's that? Ike's got the night off to sit on bench & spit sunflower seeds? I see Gary Matthews Jr. in Ángel's center field. Wait a minum. Isn't this a big prove it game against the rotweilers of the City of Brotherly Love? The crowd that boos Santa Claus. Oh, Jerry's little book has the old numbers on Moyer & Tatis & Jr., & Jerry swears by the numbers. Five innings to chip away at that six run lead. Heck, you already got five runs. Lose 11-9, or even 11-7 but wasting the Philly bullpen by putting a lot of guys on base, you can walk outta here with heads held high & make the short flight to Cincinnati, where Ike & Angel can have their rest. & today, in the Post & Daily News, & on WFAN, they'd be using words like "gutsy" & "stubborn" & "pride " & maybe even "wild card." Five more innings, all zeros for both Mets & Phils. The Mets didn't get another hit.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

If You Don't Want My Love

Here's the song as introduced by Gabor Szabo with composer Bobby Womack on rhythm guitar:

& as adapted later by Bobby for the soundtrack of the movie "Across 110th Street."


Barnegat Light NJ

Inspired artist at "Old Barney"

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Do I Look "Illegal" Day

I changed my Facebook name to Roberto Nicanor for Do I Look "Illegal" Day.

I'm fairly conservative on immigration, legal & illegal. I do support some kind of "amnesty" along the lines of the bipartisan "carrot & stick" legislation supported by George W. Bush &, at the time, John McCain.

However, I want my local police in this majority Hispanic city to encourage an open & positive relationship with residents - including the illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding. I don't want my local police to feel they are pressured to enforce immigration law, & to have the impossible task of discerning resident status when the vast majority of Hispanics (& others) are native born or here legally. I want illegal immigrants from any country to feel they can speak freely to local police, & for local police to signal that resident status can be a matter of minor concern when investigating local crime.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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