Complaints, I have few. I have almost none. Although, I probably ate too much today, the food being free and all.

Yes, I did take advantage of one of the several offers for a free meal from veterans. I just came back from the local Golden Corral. There was a large line as always for the chain’s traditional feed bag for Veterans Day, but these folks are pros and they run people in with military precision.

The food was good. It was plentiful. Above all it was free. So the fact that I might have chomped into a chicken foot … I am not sure it was a chicken foot. It was part of some Mongolian chicken. I didn’t say anything. And I am not taking the offending piece of whatever to an attorney. I didn’t break anything. Plus, I didn’t even know the family they sat me with even though they were nice. Thus, I was able to very ably sneak the fowl food from my mouth to the plate. But heavens to Besty, Come in Betsy, that’s a big 10-4 on that 10-10 aqui!!! I had catfish, hushpuppies, shrimp, a small chunk o’ watermelon. And not to mention, though I will, a small bowl of banana pudding.

One of my brothers was in town today for a short visit. His main purpose in driving three hours was to qualify at the gun range. He retired after 36 years as a police officer. Now he must periodically shoot to keep his special retired peace officers gun permit. He passed even though it was the first time that he had tried qualifying using his fairly new Glock semi-auto 9-mm. He packed a Smith & Wesson Model 19, which is a .357 magnum revolver, for most of his years as a cop. Old school. I would have liked to try out his new Glock, but I don’t know whether the range master would let me and I didn’t ask. I am just curious how my shooting would go some several years after developing a type of palsy. Of course, if you stand at the 1-foot line a mover and shaker like me should have the ability to hit within the target area. Or get a shotgun.

But just as good, shoot, better than shooting, my brother bought lunch at Mazzio’s. I had a salad and a small pizza as he did. It was good food, free, good to see my bro too.

So on this day we honor our veterans I ate. My brother is also a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. My brother and I had originally intended to visit another brother, who is also a Navy veteran. But he was supposedly working somewhere in Louisiana. That means he sits there and watches his crew paint and tell them what to do. It keeps him occupied.

On this day, what I am calling Fat Monday, I am full. Happy Veterans Days to all those veterans out there I missed.

Just how stupid are those folks who want to shut down the gub-mint?

Imagine how it would feel having a somewhat comfortable job only to have the threat of it shutting down two or three times a year?

That is the way it has blown during this and the last fiscal year for government employees. And we aren’t just talking about so-called “bureaucrats” whom you condemn because either you have had a bad experience with a government employee or your favorite political talking head has said you should hate the government.

Unless you are completely shut away from the government, there is some arm that is there to do something for you whether you realize it or not. Who comes and gets you when you ignore warning signs in the national parks and find yourself hopelessly lost and trapped by a hostile sleuth of bears? Who takes care of your 90-year-old veteran father who you can no longer care for, nor can you afford to put him in a home? If you get an increase in your social security or veterans benefit checks, do those hikes appear magically? No, and a hint, these increases don’t come as a brainchild of Congress (although Congress and brainchild do seem oxymoronic.) Whose job is it to ensure that aircraft run about orderly in the airways and don’t continually come crashing out the sky? Who administers and rules the U.S. military in such a way that we are not always beset by a coup d’etat?

Those are just a few instances of civilians who work for the U.S. government. And there are many more, although those conservatives who teeter on the edge of anarchy paint any government as bad, bad, bad. Thankfully, that is a relatively small number of people who side on the likes of Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Congress passed the Affordable Health Care Act, the so-called “Obamacare.” Now the GOP in Congress wants to ensure it isn’t funded. The country is, roughly, split over liking or disliking Obamacare. There are polls showing though that it is gaining popularity in states where it has already been implemented. And the idiot-children who want to shut down the federal government if they don’t get their way and withhold funding for the health care act? The American public is nor so inclined. Several polls reported by the conservative-friendly Fox News say the public does not want the government shutdown, even if it means de-funding Obamacare. The Republican party itself in Congress doesn’t like Obamacare, of course, but congressional members too are split over withholding money for the government to operate in exchange for no money for Obamacare.

Many astute Republican politicians can see the writing on the wall. A shutdown of the federal government would be what my Daddy used to say was a “Mellofahess!” It lost the GOP Congress the last time a shutdown took place. And the same looks as if it might happen should the Republicans be so stupid.

The big question is: Are the Republicans as stupid as during the Clinton era? I hope not, for my sake and for that of the country.

Get me outta here! Home from the hospital

It is good to be back home after nearly a week in the Houston VA hospital.

Here, where I call home for the time being, I don’t have someone coming in every couple hours checking my blood sugar. I don’t have someone coming in three or four times a day checking my vitals. I don’t have alarms going off on my CPAP machine or from an adjacent room. I can take my medicine on my routine and not that of a nurse. Although I can’t adjust my bed to make it and me sit in an upward position, I do have a bed that is not the world’s most uncomfortable. Likewise, I don’t have an attending physician followed by a flock of some half-dozen residents taking their time feeling and handling things of mine that I would rather they not handle. Oh, and even though the VA had some really nice people who bring your meals,  I now can get a meal myself that tastes good or at least is not tasteless.

I also know that diseases such as strep and staph infections can be found just about anywhere out there in the world and they can be a pain in places worse than the butt. But hospitals these days are breeding grounds for infectious diseases. It would come as no surprise to me that this infection, which I hope is now on the down side, came from that very hospital. It seems I have to go there for something every month or perhaps twice a month.

One of my doctors said what is the best circumstance was to get the treatment I need and get out of the hospital as soon as possible. He was referring to the additional infections to which I could become exposed. I said it sounded like good advice.

So here I am. It may not be the best circumstance overall but it is the best one I can think of at the moment.

 

 

A hospital stay is no excuse, but …

No blame can be cast toward WordPress (so far) relating to my absence here in the past week.

I was in the Houston VA hospital for a form of staph/strep skin disease. The hospitalization had more to do with the concern for my Type II diabetes than the particular or potential seriousness of the illness. It, the skin concern in an area which shall remain unidentified, was also painful. I won’t digress why.

Nevertheless, I am not yet near 100 percent so I shall concentrate on getting well. After all, I have a trip to the Colorado Rockies coming 10 days away. Hopefully I can figure out what to do about the inconsistencies of this blogging platform.

Memorial Day U.S.A.: Another day in the home of the brave and the free and the …

There was no work today and so I managed to sleep until almost 10 a.m. It is amazing that I can sleep better in the morning than most anytime. I first woke just before 9 and said, “No, I need to sleep until at least 10.”

I began thinking about a bear. Maybe it has to do with that Discovery Channel series “North America.” It is a very cool show if you haven’t seen it. I believe they said it took three years to shoot. There is just fantastic footage of all kinds of creature in myriad situations in their everyday life. Things like trying to seduce a spideress. You lose you die. That’s kind of opposite the situation sometimes with women. You win, you die. Ba-rump! Sorry all of my former girlfriends who read this. Which probably total to “0,” If there are some, I am sure I will hear from her or them, or perhaps I will hear her racking a slide.

Last night I saw this report on this “green machine,” an actual vending machine that will buy your old cell phone and pay you cold cash. Well, I can’t guarantee the temperature. So I decided to take my lone ex-girlfriend cell phone to the Eco-ATM at Parkdale Mall. I didn’t know what to expect after seeing a report similar to this one on TV.

It seemed as if the people who were trying to sell their phone in the kiosk were having trouble, as did the next folks. Those next folks just jumped right on up, in front of me in line. The first group who was on the kiosk acknowledged that those other people jumped in line in front of me. I didn’t say anything until this little smart-ass girl was too busy talking on the phone and to her friend, while operating the nosy kiosk to get her job done. It was too much for her and when I asked her if she was finished after talking on her other cell phone she acts all innocent.

“He mad,” said the probable teen to her friend.  Sorry about the quote and any racial overtones it might bring, but that was the way she talked.

I told her that, “No, I’m not mad. In fact, I feel rather sorry for you with your self-esteem issues.”

“Say what?” with her breaking into laughter with her enriched friend.

Yes, I can be cruel sometimes. I will admit to that. She tells herself she didn’t break in line. Plus I told her what type of emotional issue that was bothering her. But, she was/is a total nitwit.

Finally, she got through and took back from the machine, the iPhone4 she was going to sell because the machine only offered her $99. I chuckled. Karma’s a bitch, I wanted to say to her. Glad the little witch didn’t slap me.

I didn’t get lucky with the Eco-scammer either. My phone was turned down because it didn’t have “no,” as the previous customer would say “power.”

Oh well.

Then as I came home, I turned at the underpass over I-10. The lanes go like this: One goes “U-ie,” under the underpass. The inside lane goes left under. The outside lane goes either left or straight. I always take the left-straight because I have to turn at the first right, just past the convenience store. But since I had the accident in the G-car in which I was at a similar intersection — a 90-year-old lady turned left from the outside lane into the left and hit my car which was going straight — I always give a little leeway and time before turning. The reason is because sometimes a driver, whose head might be too deeply inserted up his or her ass, might just decide to go straight from the inside lane instead the outside lane.

The latter happened today. Fortunately. I waited and only turned a little bit. The car on the inside lane decided to go straight. Thus, I “laid” quite harshly onto my horn. I hadn’t used my horn much lately. I was glad to see it worked. Afterwards, the nitwit in the other car laid down on his or her horn while speeding away for the Interstate. What a f**king stupid a**hole!

But I also reflected upon the meaning of this Memorial Day. All of those who lost their lives upon the field of battle or even training or other types of accidents have kept this country safe so the majority of our great nation can thrive. And all the jerk-offs that I experienced today? Well, I suppose some gave their all so we can have those ignorant asses who make the rest of us feel as if we have some sense.

Rest in peace all of those who died in our nation’s service.

 

 

From the VA Hospital: Maybe there’s no free lunch. But breakfast?

Today was a long day at the DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. I had a five-hour wait to see the doctor. There was nothing that could have been done with that for various personal circumstances.

My 45-minute or so visit with the neurologist went probably better than any visit in a great while. The doctor has agreed to take me off the side-effect-ridden Cymbalta and put me back on another drug I once took for the same conditions. What was even better was I got the neurologist to put me in a consultation with a neurosurgeon because of my back pain. This would be after undergoing another MRI on my back and an EMG. Now I had an EMG earlier this year or later last year. I can’t remember. That was to determine problems with my hands and fingers, which was then diagnosed as carpal tunnel. I was given two gigantic black braces for each hand, both bearing the U.S. Flag. When I don them both, I look like someone gearing up for bomb disposal, such as in the movie, “The Hurt Locker.” The braces aren’t very practical for my work as I disarm or detonate very few, if any, bombs in my daily comings and goings.

However long it takes after all the tests I will consult with the neurosurgeon as to whether I need back surgery and, if so, whether I will ask for it. I see that as a long way down the line. I have decided that I need to try and access a better physical shape and improve my health. Along with that, I also should start thinking long and hard about how to medically retire from my paying job and determine how to live on however meager the pittance might be. Time to be a vagabond, perhaps?

As ridiculously long as the day has left me, I did come away with one of those head-spinning acts of humanity.

I got some bacon and eggs, a sausage, and a biscuit along with a cup of coffee this morning at the Patriot Cafe. The cafe is the dining hall inside the huge DeBakey hospital. They have about four cashiers who have customers paying on either side of them. I went to one of those tellers and only a single customer was on the other side.

I hardly noticed the other customer on the other side except to note that she looked as if she was a VA employee and that she had a small item, a coffee perhaps. I thought I heard the cashier ask the young woman if she was paying for mine too. I was somewhat stunned but figured what I heard must have been in error. The other customer paid and walked off.

The cashier turned to me as I held my plastic in my hand. “She paid for yours,” she said. I was then truly dumb-founded. I quickly turned around and saw the generous woman as she was walking out the door. “Thank you very much,” I told her, though not very loudly as I was still wondering took place.

“Did you know her?” the cashier asked me, about the woman. “No,” I told her.

Thus ended a long day that left me wearisome and tired. The mysterious VA worker’s generosity might have been misplaced or mistaken. Or maybe she saw the tiredness in my eyes. Or maybe she was just messing with my head. Be it far from me to look good fortune in the mouth. Or anywhere else. Including in my local VA hospital

A visit to the clinic with an art showing on the side

“Lo and behold!” That is what I said this afternoon while awaiting my meds from the pharmacy at our local Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic. No epiphanies usually jump up and slap the heart-worm medicine out of the dog that is my soul. I have been accused of being a sick puppy. If that is so, I would figure the illness which would be dogging me (sorry) might run toward some psychiatric affliction.

I don’t know what the hell I am talking about, in reality. I am not a dog. I don’t have heart-worm. And I don’t have canine psychosis. I have enough on the health end of the spectrum to keep me too busy to sit around making up imaginary dog diseases. Poor sick puppy.

Back to hold and below or whatever. Parked out under the clinic portico was about the coolest car I have seen since my friend Blake drove his father’s Rolls Royce through the bumpy and manure-littered cow pasture road leading to the farmhouse I rented in the East Texas countryside. And that was a while ago.

Watch out! Art on wheels!

Watch out! Art on wheels!

I don’t know what one would call it. Well, “Honda Accord” for a start. But the toil and trouble put into this plastered and painted auto made it some kind of keen collage of rolling steel. From the “Hot-rod Era” to the 50s sex-kittens such as Monroe, for this “Hollywood Daddy-O” (Sorry, I haven’t mastered my iPhone camera and plus it was a day in which my essential tremors were shakin’ harder than Ol’ Pop down at the corner malt shop.) Even local sights from our fair city’s American Graffiti past were represented, as below.

Rolling history of Southeast Texas.

Rolling history of Southeast Texas.

I have to mention here that the photos (from top to bottom) of the Calder Avenue Pig Stand in Beaumont (Texas), now closed, and the sights from Vidor and Beaumont’s, may be copyrighted. I am sharing these pictures here under the Fair Use Doctrine. Look it up if you so desire. You really should read it if you are going to post pictures online. Oh, sorry for the headlight or whatever that is at the Pig Stand. That’s the photo though.

Studying the exhibition, I linked up with the artist. He turned out to be a 64-year-old Air Force veteran although he looked somewhat younger, even with whitish shoulder-length hair and beard to match. I believe his name was Dave. Sorry, I could just say I have problem remembering names. But I was so taken with his work that the car art overtook any profundity the artist might have exclaimed. It wasn’t a boring conversation, I really enjoyed the talk. But art is where you find it.

I happened to have found it at the VA. And it was free and close up and cool.

 

 

 

 

 

Are today’s veterans being “dissed” on campus?

An article on the online version of Stars and Stripes brought back some memories recently. The staff-written story on the “independent” Department of Defense-run newspaper told of veterans incurring anti-military attitudes on college campuses. Such a piece sparks an interest in me because I have long followed veterans issues and the fact that I am a veteran who is a college graduate in part due to the GI Bill.

First though, a little about the quotation marks surrounding the word “independent.” Stars and Stripes first published in 1861 when a Union regiment found an abandoned newspaper office in Missouri and gave today’s paper its name.

Stripes became well-known during the first and second world wars among soldiers overseas, featuring journalists who are now considered among the greatest talents of the 20th century. Among them, the great sports writer Grantland Rice and noted drama critic Alexander Woollcott from the WWI era. The World War II staff included Andy Rooney and cartoonist Bill Mauldin of “Willie and Joe” fame.

For all the restrictions on journalists through wars during the last 90 years Stars and Stripes has published, I have to say it is a very good newspaper. The civilian writers certainly have unique office politics as well.

A reporter I knew who covered military issues for a metro-sized Texas paper went to work for Stripes. She called it the “world’s largest PR firm,” or words to that effect. Nonetheless, she could for the most part experience and write about what any other battlefield journalist could. Combat news coverage has never been perfect even though the best practitioners of journalism have given it hell over time.

Okay, perhaps a little more than you might want to know about Stars and Stripes, but I am just trying to give the story a little context. This isn’t The New York Times, but Stripes also isn’t MSNBC or Fox News. The writer in the linked story gives only limited anecdotal evidence that today’s veterans are being “dissed” on campus and that professors are overtly antagonistic toward ex-military. That isn’t to say that such feelings do not get displayed on college campuses today, especially given the divided religious and political viewpoints in our society which are egged on by talking-heads in media.

Given, 1980 — when I matriculated — on an East Texas college campus with a large portion of its student body hailing from Houston and Dallas suburbs is different from 2013 at a school such as UC-Berkeley. But one factor we had in common is age. We were young then. These vets, who may have experiences that have made the grow up way too fast, nevertheless are for the most part also young men and women.

Now I believed what many told me about former military folks who attended college. That was, they were more serious about studies and generally more responsible. That is true. I worked full time as a firefighter during most of that time as well. As I have said before, the monthly GI Bill payment was mostly gravy. But looking back, I mistook a quasi-cosmopolitan attitude from my service and world travels for wisdom. And though I started school at 25, I quickly felt at ease with the majority of those 18-to-21-year-olds who made up most of the student body.

I remembering engaging with certain professors with whom I disagreed. I found for the most part that they dug it. I actually ended up more liberal when I left the military than when I enlisted. Thus, the “left-leaning” professors, which absolutely were in a minority where I went to college, were all right by me. I also enjoyed being engaged and made to think as well as learning so very much that I didn’t know, not that it has always stuck!

Members of the military are treated better nowadays by the public than anytime I can remember. Though the extent of hostility toward military personnel during the Vietnam War has been questioned, those in uniform during that entire Vietnam Era could easily encounter prejudice. Such hostility wasn’t just from long-haired “peaceniks” either. I once talked to several Vietnam vets who avoided service organizations such as the VFW or American Legion toward the end of the war because the majority World War II membership saw that day’s serviceman as a “loser.”

Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr., said in the Stars and Stripes article that veterans attending college should be open to others and walk away from scholars whose minds you will not change. I certainly agree with the first part of that. But I think the vets need to engage those they do not agree with as well, whether professor or student. It contributes to a richer learning atmosphere which is just as much a major portion of college as books and lectures. All of this also doesn’t have to happen in a classroom. Who knows how many theories I discussed around a keg or in the bar.

I can’t help but have kind of mixed feelings on the case made by the news article. Yes, there are a great number of people against the war in Afghanistan and our adventure into Iraq. But the outward show of support military people get today makes it difficult to believe, minus greater evidence, that campus animosity toward veterans is as rampant as the story suggests.

Beaumont, other VA clinics, in need of volunteer drivers. Why doesn’t anyone answer the call?

At the moment I am sitting here in Beaumont rather than awaiting my appointment at the Houston VA hospital. I cancelled the appointment I had with the Sleep Clinic yesterday. I haven’t had a follow-up since I was first diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2000. Everything is okay in the sleep department. I just need a follow-up so I have had to reschedule — to a June appointment. My reason for rescheduling is a lack of transportation.

I have a pick-up truck and a work car, the latter is for “Official Use Only” if you get my drift, the truck is a 1998 Toyota Tacoma. It gets me around town but it also needs some work. I am just not sure about taking it on a 80-mile trip,  most of which is interstate highway and Houston traffic. I took a Greyhound last time. The trip wasn’t bad at all. I took a Metro light rail train and switched to a bus, all in all 30 minutes to the hospital. The same on the way back. I left about 8 a.m. that day and got back around 6 p.m. And, I didn’t have to drive in that ridiculous Houston rush hour traffic. The cost was $36 round trip. When I looked last week, the price was up to about $45. Still, not a lot but higher than I could cough up at the time. I even put an ad on craigslist.org and got no reply.

So why didn’t I take the van that takes patients from the VA clinic in Beaumont to the Houston VA hospital? Well, the lady who is firmly in charge of the program at the clinic, a volunteer, told me the month of December was all booked up. What are the rest of us supposed to do? Cancel, I guess.

The reason, I was later told, is that the volunteer driver program through the service organization Disabled American Veterans, is down to only one driver. There is another van sitting in the parking lot of the Beaumont VA clinic but it doesn’t go bye-bye because there is no volunteer driver to make it go bye-bye. It has been that way for awhile. That makes me wonder why? There is a flyer posted on the Houston VA Web site with the following information:

 Voluntary Service Van Drivers


Help pick-up outpatients receiving treatments or therapy and other outpatient appointments. To fill this role, you must have a current, valid Texas driver’s license, must be 18 years or older, have automobile insurance and pass a physical exam. Hours vary.
We are looking for volunteer drivers for the following locations:


Beaumont, TX               Willis, TX
Woodville, TX                Conroe, TX
Lake Jackson, TX           Texas City, TX
Galveston, TX                Bay City, TX
Brazoria County, TX       Cleveland, TX
Waller County, TX

If you would like to become a volunteer van driver please contact the volunteer office at 713-794-7135.

I am at a loss as to why, that in a metropolitan area of almost 390,000 people, one volunteer cannot be found to drive the other van. It doesn’t look all that demanding although most drivers I have seen in the past were a little older veterans. Whether it is more demanding on them, I can’t say. I don’t know whether the VA really finds that veterans getting to their appointments in Houston is a priority. Surely this Web page isn’t the only site where this call for volunteers can be found? If I didn’t have the physical problems I have, I would volunteer. Or so I think.

In the end, I don’t suppose I would find out the answer to what the problem is unless I ask. Even then, I am not so sure I would get the full explanation. Whether there are ulterior motives at the Beaumont Clinic, the Houston VA hospital or both, I can’t say. I just hope the problem gets solved in time for my next appointment.

 

Lufkin VA back open and bed bug-less, delivered here in a wave of HST nostalgia

Some good news for veterans who use the Lufkin (Texas) VA clinic just appeared on my mojo wire. Actually, it came by e-mail which sometimes seems to bring mojo of one sort of another. Hunter S. Thompson actually used the term “mojo wire” in his classic “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.” My estimation of who knows Hunter S. and who is reading this blog is not imaginable. So Thompson, whose style of work as a writer was called “gonzo journalism,” was probably the first gonzo journalist. All of those young writers — Me? Guilty — whose instinct was to fight the “system” emulated Thompson. In the end, only Hunter S. was Hunter S. His ashes shot from a cannon on a 153-foot tower shaped in a double-thumbed fist holding a peyote button, and all. Forgive me, I was cast adrift on a wave of nostalgia.

Perhaps it isn’t appropriate to make a blog post about a VA clinic reopening with references to a drug-addled maniac. But Hunter was an Air Force veteran, where he began his writing career as a sports reporter. I think that means something or other here.

My point is that a news release from the Department of Veterans Affairs came to me this afternoon announcing the Charles Wilson – of “Charlie Wilson’s War” or “Good Time Charlie Wilson” fame – VA Clinic in Lufkin is reopening after a good debugging.

 ” … a veteran came in to the clinic seeking medical assistance for a rash, the press release said. Clinic staff found bed bugs on his clothing and wheelchair. While the patient refused help and left, the staff immediately took action.”

The clinic reopened today after exterminators “extensively fumigated the building” and found no more bed bugs.

This dispatch raises several questions. One is, why did the patient refuse help? Was it because they planned to fumigate him? A Wikipedia article on bed bugs said the insects were a big problem on U.S. military bases during World War II.

Initially, the problem was solved by fumigation, using Zyklon Discoids that released hydrogen cyanide gas, a rather dangerous procedure. Eventually, DDT was found as a “safe” alternative, said the Wikipedia article.

I am not insinuating that the VA would use the WWII method on the bed bug-ridden vet who sought treatment and touched off warning bells. Some vets just don’t have the patience one needs at times to travel the road to VA assistance. “It’s socialized medicine,” said a VA employee awhile back. And so it is. But it is all many of us veterans have.

A VA microbiologist/control specialist noted that bed bugs have become a problem again due to increased travel and reduced usage in pesticides, said the press release. DDT? Remember running behind the mosquito trucks in the smoke as a kid?

Bed bugs were pretty commonplace when I was a kid and gradually they were gone and now they are back and they are pissed!

Oh well, if you are a veteran and have been bitten by bed bugs or think you have, here is a good article from a reputable source (The Mayo Clinic.) Make mine with mayo on the side … I’m sorry I don’t know what gets into me. And after reading the Mayo article, if you need help, then get it!