I Wouldn’t Join Any Group That Would Have Me

Why the Groucho Marx title? I’m thinking about social media groups this morning.

A friend recently encouraged me join a Facebook group called AtomPunk, where members post graphics and photos from the Atomic 50s. I like that sort of thing so I signed up, and my news feed was immediately flooded with Leave it to Beaver and Jetsons stills … the sort of crap 20-year-olds think of as AtomPunk, I guess, but far from what I thought I was getting into. No one seemed to be curating the group. I wasn’t there long.

Other groups I’ve briefly joined have been over-curated. A Neo-Noir film group endlessly debates what can and cannot be posted there. Another, Lurid Men’s Magazines, can’t decide how many clothes distressed women on the covers must wear, or whether to allow depictions of Nazis (I seem to remember Nazi villains on virtually every lurid men’s magazine cover from the 50s through the 60s). I left both groups within days.

The Pulp Covers group on Facebook has been good. Everyone seems to agree on what pulp fiction and magazine covers are, and members stay on topic without anyone having to intervene. By the way, the last book cover in the Reading Now section on my right sidebar alternates between pulp and parody (and is not a book I’m actually reading, like the others).

I love Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin historical novels. I’ve read the entire series four times and plan to embark on a fifth voyage soon. I was a member of Facebook’s Aubrey-Maturin Appreciation Society for a couple of years, but new readers destroyed it. When I joined, it was populated by people who had read the series and wanted to discuss details. And then the “no spoilers, please” yahoos showed up and now it’s all people shushing one another. I left reluctantly and with a bad taste in my mouth. What kind of person won’t read a book or watch a movie if someone drops too many hints about the plot? Picky eater types, that’s who. Contemptible worms.

Real life update: I’m still recuperating at home, doing leg extension and bending exercises on the bed, icing my knee down, walking from one end of the house to the other, and so forth. Boring but necessary. First real PT session is tomorrow morning.

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Home from the Wars

If you visit this little blog, you probably know I had my right knee replaced Tuesday morning. They had me up and walking in the hallway of Tucson Orthopedic Institute later that afternoon. But not much. They pushed me harder Wednesday, when Donna took this photo:

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Yesterday they sent me home. So far this morning I’ve done some leg and knee exercises, taken a most welcome shower, and have now decided to update this little blog.

I’ve never taken a selfie of my nether parts before. Anthony Weiner, eat your heart out!

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Fresh dressings over the sutures, feeling almost normal … until I try to bend the knee, that is, but that’s what the exercises are for. The first of several outpatient PT sessions is Monday morning.

Another selfie. I’ve been soaking the skin graft on my nose every day, swabbing it with vaseline, and taping it over. Well, it’s looking like normal skin again, no longer an open wound, so I decided to cover it with a regular bandage today. I go in to have it checked Tuesday morning and they’ll probably yell at me, but I think it’s healing nicely now and could probably even do without the bandage. The goatee? This morning I started thinking about shaving it off, which normally means it’ll be gone in 24 hours. At the outside.

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Donna’s a saint. She kept me company and sat at my side in the hospital; now I’m home she’s helping with all the little things I can’t yet do for myself. Talk about the uber-solicitous one, though, that would be Mr. B. He lived with an elderly woman his whole life and lost his home when she died, which is when we took him in. From what we heard, his lady went downhill fast at the end. She may have used a walker during that period, because from the moment Mr. B saw me shuffling up to the front door with one yesterday, he’s been at my side. I do believe he thinks I’m going to up and die on him too and I wish I could hug him but can’t risk getting dog hair in the wound.

The Tucson Orthopedic Institute now has its own building on the Tucson Medical Center campus. That was not the case in February, 2013, when they replaced my left knee. Then, I spend two days recovering in a shared room, rather drab and dingy. This time I was one floor up from the operating room, nicely ensconced in a single room with a view of the Santa Catalinas out the window. I don’t think there’ll be an infection scare this time around … my  care and treatment was first-class in every respect. And this was on Medicare (supplemented by Tricare, which military veterans get). I cannot imagine what people are going to do if they take Medicare away. Suffer and die that the rich can have three Lamborghinis apiece?

Anyway. It is So. Good. to be home again. I plan to hit the PT hard and get back to normal as quickly as possible, and I’ll try to keep the blog up to date. You kids be careful with your knees, and always wear sunblock, you hear?

Update (two hours later):

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Independence Day, 2018

The United States of America has always felt like home to me. It is my home … how else would I feel? I’m comfortable here. I’d fit in almost anywhere within it. I know it well: as a military child, and later a military member myself, I’ve lived and worked in every region of the country but New England. On top of that, I spent eight years in Europe and Asia, gaining first-hand experience with other cultures and countries, experience that makes me appreciate my own culture and country all the more.

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Forming up for the neighborhood 4th of July parade

When I say I’m a patriotic American, that’s what I mean. I think that’s what most of us mean. We’re happy in our home country, where we feel welcome, know the rules, and everything is familiar.

Well, sure. I’m white. My feelings might be more complex if I were a minority. There are places in this country where minorities are not welcome, where they’re judged by their appearance before they even open their mouths. The number of those places seem to be growing, but maybe that’s just pre-Civil Rights Era intolerance and racism finding its voice again, encouraged by the party currently in power.

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Donna with the pups and some of our neighbors

And yet if you ask American-born minorities, they’ll tell you they’re patriotic Americans too. Naturalized citizens? They outdo us all in patriotism. That says a lot about what’s still good about America. My country, right or wrong. There’s a lot that’s right with it. There’s a lot that’s wrong with it. True patriots, I like to believe, are those who are willing to pitch in and make it better.

So happy Independence day to my fellow Americans, and may we continue striving to make it a better place. We can start by turning out to vote this November, and maybe do something about the party currently in power. Maybe take the country back. We can if we all vote, and that would be patriotism in action.

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Maxie, me, & Mr. B

The photos I’ve inserted are from this morning’s 4th of July parade on our street in northeast Tucson. Our neighbors have been putting it on every year since the subdivision went up in the 1980s, and we’re proud to be part of it. Maxie’s an old hand at these parades, but it was a first for Mr. B, and after some initial trepidation he got into it. Even the dogs are patriots!

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Sunday Funday

UntitledStill covering my nose with pads and tape every morning, and no clear end in sight. The dermatologist now says the skin graft is taking, but all I see, when I expose it to change the dressing, is an unsightly mess. The tape, once an annoyance, is now a blessing, because I couldn’t go out in public without it. Guys my age, seeing my taped-over schnozz, have started coming up to me at the air museum to show me their skin cancer scars. One of them said when they put a skin graft on his nose, he had to keep it covered for three months. Added to this, leg stretching exercises and mental preparation for knee replacement surgery nine days from now.

All of which is distracting. I can’t get through serious movies or dramas on streaming TV. Instead I’m watching Frasier and Veronica Mars reruns. Books? Airport thrillers and mysteries. Way too much Twitter. After the knee surgery I’ll have a project and timetable to focus on — physical therapy, at-home exercises, walking and bicycling — all with the goal of being back to normal by October, when we plan to drive cross-country for a family reunion.

Though we may fly instead. Now that I’m losing weight, perhaps flying coach won’t be such torture. We’ll see.

Mr. B had a fright this morning. We were out for our daily walk, and as we turned up the street next to ours his head snapped up and he stopped, intently staring down the road. I looked for coyotes in the brush and cactus between the houses but didn’t see any, so tried to keep walking. Mr. B. dug in, refusing to budge. As soon as I gave his leash some slack he turned around and started pulling me back the way we’d come. Okay, I said, you’re the boss. He kept turning his head to stare back down the street as we retraced our steps.

As we turned into our cul-de-sac, I took one last glance down Danger Road and suddenly realized what Mr. B had seen: our neighborhood Griswold, who lives three houses down that street, had put up an inflatable Uncle Sam for the 4th of July. I’m so used to this guy’s garish holiday yard displays I no longer notice them, but it’s all new to Mr. B, and seriously, who wouldn’t be brought up short at the sight of a hideously grinning 12-foot-tall red, white, and blue scarecrow that hadn’t been there yesterday?

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Mr. B, totally not afraid of the drive-thru lane.

I do love that dog. But you probably knew that.

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You Can’t Read That!

Db415-JV0AAVYlVYou Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

YCRT! News

Did you watch the HBO adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”? I thought it was strident and dreadful.

“Gateway Pundit, a popular, controversial site on the right that posts breaking news, says Facebook has been flagging its articles and referring people to alternative sources like the Associated Press.” Well, yeah — because Gateway Pundit’s shit is propaganda, not news. For an intelligent look at how Facebook and Twitter are addressing the problem of political advertising posing as news, click here.

Guess I’ll have to check out Feral House, since they say many of their titles are banned.

Texas principal censors high school student paper, bans all editorials, fires award-winning journalism teacher — all to stop critical news reporting by the kids.

I can’t quite figure out what Ross Douthat is getting at in his op-ed “Free Speech Will Not Save Us,” but I think he wants readers to side with those poor beleaguered National Football League team owners whose only wish is for uppity black players to stop kneeling.

“Part of the skepticism toward traditional majors reflects a correct feeling that at some schools, some fields of study and course offerings are preserved largely because the faculty have a selfish investment in the status quo.” NYT op-ed about majoring in the liberal arts — most likely written by an English major.

Parents often challenge books their children are assigned or encouraged to read at school, and YCRT! frequently links to stories about such challenges. But here’s a new (and worrisome) thing: local law enforcement agencies stepping into the debate with censorship demands. Wando High School in South Carolina gave students a choice of four books on a summer reading list. Two of those books, “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas (reviewed in a recent YCRT!), address police brutality. Surprise — the po-po don’t like it.

A Wisconsin high school told its valedictorian to remove references to discrimination and school shootings from her commencement address, “out of fear that they would provoke disagreement and judgment, and that others might feel attacked.” The student refused to speak, and a local newspaper later published her address in full. You know what? The kids really are all right.

Did you know Dr. Frederic Werthram, 1950s anti-comic book crusader and author of the infamous “The Seduction of the Innocent,” warned that Batman was homosexual and children who read Batman comics were more likely to “become gay”? Well, he did, and Batman’s suspected homosexuality so harmed the brand that DC Comics was forced to introduce a new character: Batwoman, to give Batman a heterosexual romantic interest (in an interesting twist, today’s Batwoman character is generally perceived to be lesbian).

The American Library Association has renamed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. It is now the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. And the deplorables are up in arms.

Project Blitz: the latest attempt by religious extremists to use the coercive powers of government to secure a privileged position in society for their version of Christianity.

YCRT! Banned Book Review

handmaids taleThe Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood
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I first posted this banned book review a year ago. With this week’s news — the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy and the likelihood an even more conservative court will reverse Roe v. Wade, it seems a good time to repost my review of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” — Paul Woodford

With the recent rightward shift in American government and the elevation of authoritarian Christians to positions of power in the president’s cabinet and personal staff, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” is on many minds today. People are re-reading it; new readers are experiencing it for the first time; hundreds of thousands are watching Hulu’s TV adaptation. When Atwood makes public appearances, the first question she’s asked is “How close are we?”

Who can say? Atwood herself is reluctant to tackle that question. Still, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is convincing and believable. The society it describes doesn’t feel far-fetched. We know there are theocratic, woman-suppressing societies very much like it; we know there are some among us who would welcome it here.

As for the novel itself, it is highly readable. The unnamed narrator (her real name, that is, not her Handmaid name, which is Offred) is human and insightful. She can be caustic and occasionally funny. Along with clear-eyed descriptions of her present life in the commander’s household, she offers up memories of her former life: a college student, a free woman, later a wife and mother trying to stay under the radar as the theocrats take power and begin to clamp down. You want to infiltrate the alternate universe of the book and help her escape the clutches of Gilead.

How real was Winston Smith, in Orwell’s “1984”? How real were the characters in Huxley’s “Brave New World”? They were paper cutouts, there to populate hypothetical futures. Offred is real, contemporary, relatable. That the society she lives in is every bit as creepy and nightmarish as those of Orwell and Huxley is a bonus … Atwood can write a dystopian novel with the best of them, along with believable, relatable characters (as she demonstrates again in her recent MaddAddam trilogy).

My memory plays tricks. I thought I’d read “The Handmaid’s Tale” in college, but that was more than 15 years before it was published. Re-reading it now, I realize I’d finished only part of it before: the second half of the novel was new to me. Why did I read it again (or for the first time in full, take your pick)? For the same reasons as everyone else. It’s “truthy,” as Stephen Colbert would say; it offers a glimpse of what many on the religious right envision when they talk of making America great again. At the same time, it’s a novel of resistance: it inspires opposition to the forces that would restrict personal choice and freedom; essential reading for those who’ll fight to keep the hard-earned gains of recent decades.

And this: I read and review banned books for a periodic blog column titled “You Can’t Read That!” “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been challenged again and again, from its publication in 1985 to the present day, by those would ban it from public and school libraries, by those who do not want it taught to students in high school and even college. It consistently places on the American Library Association’s top 100 list of banned books, and with the renewed interest in the book (and now the Hulu TV adaptation) fresh challenges are popping up across the nation. If ever there was a timely choice for a review in my banned book column, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is it.

Challenges to “The Handmaid’s Tale” come primarily from parents who don’t want their children reading or discussing it in high school English classes. As with other controversial books on school reading lists, some parents simply want teachers to offer children alternative reading assignments; others want it taken off reading lists and removed from libraries so that no students can read it.

The ALA summarizes the most common objections cited in challenges to “The Handmaid’s Tale”: the inclusion of profane words; passages about sex; statements defamatory to minorities, god, women and the disabled; the book’s offensiveness to Christians; violence; hopelessness; moral corruption.

From the Parents Against Bad Books in Schools web site, here’s a description of one such challenge:

At a Fairfax County Public School Town Hall meeting on May 2, 2002 to discuss book selection a former FCPS teacher spoke about The Handmaid’s Tale. She spoke about the obscenities, masturbation, graphic violence, homosexuality, the use of drugs and alcohol, and abnormal sex in the book. She asked FCPS the following question: What are students in Fairfax County being inspired to do and to value by studying books like The Handmaid’s Tale?

From the ALA, here’s a description of another, more recent challenge:

The book was challenged for being “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt,” according to the ALA’s annual roundup for Banned Books Week in 2013 and 2014, but was not ultimately removed from Page High School’s International Baccalaureate class. In Guilford, parents complained to members of the Board of Education that Atwood’s novel and Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle both “denigrate Christianity” and “tear down traditional values,” and circulated a petition to try to convince the district to change the curriculum.

I think the second challenge gets to the real issue, which is often unspoken. Parents who challenge the book, who want it banned, will count the number of dirty words and say it pushes a message of sex and violence; they’re less willing to admit to discomfort with the novel’s message. “The Handmaid’s Tale” describes a theocratic society in less than flattering terms, from the point of view of those it oppresses (women, in this case), with plenty of pokes at the hypocrisy of theocrats. The message is feminist, therefore liberal, therefore to be opposed. That is, I believe, what most of these challenges come down to, and is what they mean when they say the book is “offensive to Christians.”

Another Stephen Colbert quote comes to mind: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” People who challenge books that put their own conservative and religious fantasies to the test of real life fear the power of the written word. They fear novelists who, like Margaret Atwood, are articulate and insightful. They fear the power of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The challenges cited above, and others mentioned in the links below, were all overruled. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is still widely taught and studied across the USA and Canada. Still, only a fraction of challenges and attempts to ban the book are a matter of public record:

A recent survey by the National Coalition Against Censorship with the National Council of Teachers of English found that only seven percent of challenges get reported in the local press [and] three studies conducted in recent years — by the Oregon State Library, the Missouri School of Journalism and the Texas ACLU … found that [only] three to 18 percent of challenges are reported.

We see only hints of the opposition to “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Offred saw only hints of what America was becoming … until she was swallowed up by Gilead. There won’t be any copies of this novel in the re-education camps, so you’d better read it now.

Links and references:

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Trade War on Two Wheels

It really shouldn’t be news that Harley-Davidson is moving some motorcycle production to its overseas facilities in Australia, Brazil, Thailand, and India. The company has manufactured parts and bikes in those countries for years, and it announced plans to increase production in Thailand months ago. Now, though, Harley’s going to move even more production overseas. Why? Trump’s trade war, which is looking more and more like a war on American jobs.

I’m not a huge fan of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, but last night he offered an excellent explanation of what’s going on with Harley-Davidson and Trump, expressed in terms any American can understand. MSNBC won’t let me embed the segment, so here’s the link (you can also click on the image below). I promise you it’ll be seven minutes well spent.

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Watching O’Donnell last night, I learned he’s a biker too (that’s him in his glory days). My respect for the man went up a few notches. It turns out both of us started riding in the 60s and 70s, a motorcycling era when even British bikes were better than Harleys. We were both around for the Japanese invasion, with their eerily-perfect machines. O’Donnell makes the point that competition from those brilliant Japanese motorcycles was the reason Harley-Davidson wrested control of the company back from AMF in 1981 and made a big investment in improving the quality of its products. O’Donnell rode British bikes back in the day, but in the 1980s, when Harleys got better, he came home. As did I. As did a lot of us.

ovid's ride 1970O’Donnell didn’t say so, but I’ll bet he grew up wanting a Harley. Who didn’t, back in the 1950s? My father taught me to ride on one when I was 14 or 15, but later, as a young married man, there was no way I could afford one of my own.

I remember riding a friend’s chopped Sportster (the orange beauty in the photo) during a 1971 trip up California’s north coast. At the time I owned a Honda 350, one of those sewing machine-like Japanese motorcycles. Getting on my friend’s Harley and chugging out onto the twisty Pacific Coast Highway was like stepping out of a Toyota Corona and up into the cab of a Peterbilt … a thoroughly intimidating experience.

My friend had built, by hand, a far better machine than the stock 1960s Sportster it had once been, but even so it was still a Harley of its day, leaks and all, and he worked on it constantly. Riding it was downright frightening: it was a scary, primitive throwback … yet none of that lessened my desire to own one some day.

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1986 FXR

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1999 FLT


That day came in 1986, when I bought a brand new FXR Super Glide. It was night & day better than the Harleys that came before, almost (but not quite) Japanese. I loved it, rode the hell out of it, and sold it only reluctantly when the Air Force sent us to Japan. A few years passed, during which I rode a 1988 Honda Goldwing (like the earlier Hondas, virtually perfect), and then in 1999 I bought my second Harley, a new FLT Electra Glide. Like the ’86, it too was excellent but not perfect, and today I’m back on Japanese iron, a 2001 Goldwing (though one made in the USA, back when Honda built them at its plant in Marysville, Ohio). Would I buy another Harley some day? I’ve long wanted one of Harley’s police models, with the taller suspended saddle, and if one ever comes my way at a price I can afford, absolutely!

On his show, O’Donnell showed a photo of him on his first Harley. Like me, he bought it in the 1980s when the quality of their bikes had improved … which it would not have but for competition from the Japanese. He went on to say he’d switched from German to American cars a decade ago. As with motorcycles, international competition from Germany and Japan drove American automakers to improve the quality of their products, and American cars can now hold their own on the world stage. It was the same with Donna and me: we drove VWs, Toyotas, and Datsuns right up to the 1990s when we switched to Fords and Chevys. We’ve never looked back, nor have we had any reason to.

Trump’s view on trade and competition is as primitive (and scary) as the Harley chopper my friend let me ride in 1971. His trade war isn’t going to benefit anyone, least of all American workers … workers like the men and women who built my Japanese motorcycle in Ohio back in 2001, the ones who build Mercedes-Benzes and Toyotas in the US today, and now, the workers who build American motorcycles in Wisconsin.

If you’re curious, here are two links to earlier Paul’s Thing posts:

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Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog XIII

I included an image of Pima Air & Space Museum’s Curtiss F6C-4 Hawk in a recent Air-Minded entry. At the time it was still in restoration, and the photo wasn’t mine. The Hawk is now on display, just inside the main entrance, and I’m able to share some of my own photos:

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The Curtiss F6C Hawk was an interwar carrier- and land-based single-seat fighter. The first Hawks entered Navy service in 1925 and were powered by liquid-cooled V-12 engines, also made by Curtiss. The F6C-4, introduced in 1927, answered the Navy’s desire to shift to air-cooled radial engines for ease of maintenance. Ours is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340. The Navy retired the type in 1930, but the Marines continued to operate it until 1932.

With the addition of the Hawk, PASM now has three pre-WWII warbirds on exhibit. I’m counting the Fleet Model 2 trainer as a warbird, because though it began its career in 1929 as a civilian trainer, a decade later new Army pilots were learning to fly in it. Fleet trainers used a variety of engines; ours is powered by a Kinner K-5 radial. I love the “looped” radius rod on the left landing gear, which strikes me as a simple engineering solution to the problem of strut flex on landing (trainers, as you might guess, are subjected to repeated hard landings, and I’m sure those struts and rods got a workout).

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PASM’s third interwar aircraft is a bomber, a Douglas B-18B Bolo. The Bolo, a medium bomber based on Douglas’ DC-2 airliner, was operated by the Army from 1937 through the end of WWII. Prior to our entry into the war, the Army considered it a front-line bomber. Bolos were widely deployed overseas and many were destroyed during the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. During the war Bolos were quickly supplanted as bombers by more modern and capable aircraft, and served out the conflict as submarine hunters, transports, and trainers. Ours is a sub-hunter with a specialized radar in the nose.

Douglas B-18B Bolo Douglas B-18B Bolo


Does PASM have any pre-WWII civilian aircraft on display? I’m probably wrong, but I can think of only one, a Sikorsky S-43 Baby Clipper. The Army, Navy, and Marines operated versions of this aircraft in the mid-1930s and beyond, but ours, while wearing the markings of a USMC JRS-1 destroyed by fire in 1942, was actually a civilian aircraft, carrying passengers between the Hawaiian Islands and later, per museum lore, crashed while hauling freight in Alaska.

Sikorski S-43 1-5-14_15: Sikorsky S-43


I can’t speculate on whether PASM plans to acquire more pre-WWII aircraft, military or civilian. If it does, they’re likely to be replicas, not originals (although museum-quality replicas are exact reproductions of the originals). PASM’s collection of civil and military aircraft from the 1940s through the 1990s is strong, but there are holes here and there, and I know they’re working to plug those.

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Whinge-Bag Friday

IMG_5954Progress report (or lack thereof): the skin graft isn’t taking. I feared that might be the case, and now the dermatologist has confirmed it. He cut off the top layer, which was scabbed over, yesterday morning. He said we might have to try another. After he left the room I asked the nurse practitioner what would happen if we didn’t. She said I’ll eventually grow new skin and it’ll heal. I said that’s good enough for me. I don’t want to endure another skin graft, because if the first one failed there’s no reason to think a second attempt will work out any differently.

So this is the face I’ll show the world, likely for the rest of the summer. My morning routine will include removing yesterday’s dressing, soaking and cleaning the wound on my nose as best I can, swabbing it with vaseline, and putting on a new dressing. I’ll have to see the nurse practitioner weekly (as I have for the past month).

A good part of July will be down time anyway, because I’m having my second knee replaced on the 10th. The museum knows I won’t be in for three or four weeks afterward. My nose might as well heal while my knee does. My goal is to be recovered, nose and knee, by the end of August. I’m laying in a stock of books on the Kindle. And who knows, I might get some writing done.

35628366_10156419504167346_7928081256967831552_nNot that I’m going into hiding, just planning on taking it easy while I care for my nose and do physical therapy with the new knee. I went in Monday for my volunteer shift at the air museum. With a white nose poking out beneath dark sunglasses and a big floppy sun hat, I must have looked like the Invisible Man … but everyone was cool with it, or at least they didn’t point and laugh.

Three more museum Mondays remain before knee surgery, and I plan to do them all. Tomorrow there’s a book club meeting, and in the evening company’s coming over. I won’t be out and about for a couple of weeks after the knee surgery, but the nose? Pffft. People are just going to have to get used to seeing me like this. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. It is what it is.

Well, that’s enough whinging for now. Let’s talk ticks.

Mr. B gets ticks constantly. Maxie never does. A mystery? Not really. Mr. B pees on bushes, brushing up against them in the process. Maxie squats over the ground. I’m pretty sure that explains it. The nurse practitioner at the dermatologist’s office, who used to be a vet tech, told me to try a topical ointment called Frontline. You rub it between your dog’s shoulder blades once a month. The local feed store wanted $52 for three month’s worth so I ordered it from Amazon, which sells it for $35. Chewy.com, where we get our dog food, sells it for $60, but it’s a six-month supply, so really only $30. Hoping it helps … but we’ll continue to check Mr. B over daily, as we have been doing. And Maxie too, just in case.

I mentioned friends coming over tomorrow night. It’s our cooking club, coming out of a long coma. We’re going to prepare and devour entrées from Reuben’s Restaurant, a famous (no longer in business) California institution: shrimp scampi and sautéed artichoke hearts. Apparently these were enormously popular menu items back in the day, with websites and forums devoted to reconstructing the recipes. We’re also making a watermelon salad, rice pilaf, and having strawberry shortcake for desert.

Mr. B is by my desk in his office bed (as opposed to his bedroom or family room bed), chasing something in his dreams. Muffled little barks, twitching paws. Donna’s out shopping for tomorrow’s dinner. Polly’s at work. A quiet day. Enjoy your quiet days … you never know how many you have left.

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