Today or maybe tomorrow if I have the energy, I have to try to explain to UMass that if Blue Cross says I don’t owe money, I don’t owe the money. That is the theory and supposedly, that’s the legal way it works. If I know this is the law, I’m pretty sure so does UMass.
They are not allowed to “charge the balance” to us. When you are on Medicare, all that “leftover money” is a write-off. I know it makes hospitals unhappy, but that is how it works.
This will be an amazing trick of ingenuity and I’m not sure I have the strength of character to do it today.
The definition made me laugh. This is the perfect description of our trip to Ireland. After the plane landed in Shannon and we managed to negotiate our way to the B&B where we were staying, it was coddiwomple for the next three weeks.
We never knew where we were, where we were heading and mostly, we didn’t really care. We found places we loved, avoided any place that had more traffic than we cared to drive it, and had a wonderful time. We missed most of the “favorite” tourist stops — too much traffic. We don’t go on vacation to sit in traffic jams, so if we bumped into one, we took the next uncrowded turn in the road. But we found stone circles and old graveyards and ancient round towers and at least one nearly unknown author who signed his book and let us play with his pet chickens.
We stayed in some wonderful B&Bs and a fantastic one in Dublin that was really a small hotel where they also had a great dining room. We shopped in stores no one had heard of, got great prices on clothing that I still believe will never wear out. Garry’s tweed jackets don’t look any older than they did when we bought them almost 30 years ago.
Maybe it’s because neither of us have any sense of direction, but maybe this is really the way to vacation. Just go. Find a place. Look it up in one of the dozens of books describing every piece of land in the country. You mean … you don’t travel with a working library of the country you are in?
That was always the first thing I did when we were going someplace new. I bought every book I could find that had the historical details of the place. No book has everything, of course, so I bought all of them. A small traveling library was always with us.
Along the way, we stayed in B&B’s that were known for having private libraries so we could read up on everything as we went. We took a million pictures, ate lamb and salmon and drank a substantial amount of Irish coffee (it’s never too early …) and Jameson. We sang in pubs and told stories.
If we should ever travel again to another continent, I would do it again, just like that. No fixed destination, no formal reservation except for the plane or to meet others.
This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.
I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.
I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal, Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.
All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.
McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.
I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.” I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.
One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.
I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.” I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,” it didn’t involve people like us.
What did that mean? People like us?
I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.
While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.
It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words. Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.
All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.
We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.
“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.
I remember it was a warm spring day. I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework, my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.
My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills. I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me. I looked around.
Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!
The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me? I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.
What was the big deal, I wondered.
All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area. I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.
I began to pick up the words.
“He’s a pinko.”
“His parents are pinkos. I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”
The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain. Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.
What now? Were they jealous of my composition? What the heck?
The biggest kid came right up to my face. He had bad breath and smelled worse. I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r, so you’re a pinko too, huh?”
Pimple face leered at me, obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.
His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”
My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang. Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.
That evening, I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words. When I’d finished, they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.
Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.
I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.
And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.
I’ve been reading about an urban problem that I thought was solved with the invention of the indoor toilet. Apparently, Paris is so plagued by men peeing in the streets, that they have taken action to mitigate the worst effects of this phenomenon.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, people emptied bedpans out their windows onto the streets below. Then indoor plumbing made this practice obsolete. So walking on the street became less dangerous and unpredictable, But it seems that even today, men don’t accept the concept of exclusively indoor, bathroom urinating. They still want to relieve themselves wherever and whenever they want. Including on public streets.
This public peeing creates two separate problems, affecting two of the senses. First, there’s the problem of odors permeating public streets, often in upscale and tourist neighborhoods. Then there’s the visual assault of people having to watch men peeing in public.
The City Council of Paris has addressed the problem. Their solution was to install urinals around Paris to discourage pedestrians from relieving themselves randomly on the streets of the city.
Enter the ‘Uritrottoir’, or sidewalk urinal. It’s bright red, is free-standing and open on all sides. It’s filled with straw and uses the nitrogen and other chemicals in the urine to produce organic compounds. This supposedly eliminates odors. That may at least solve the smell problem.
But Parisians are complaining that the open design of the urinals does not prevent passersby, including tourists on Seine cruises, from having to watch men relieving themselves. Sensitive Parisians also dislike the bold design and color of the urinals. They are considered an eyesore, particularly in historic and quaint areas.
Apparently, public urination has always been a problem, around the world. Some cities in Germany have come up with more creative ways to discourage public peeing. In Munich, there’s a walkway between the soccer stadium and the subway which suffers from a disproportionate amount of drunken peeing. So the city is looking to install a long strip of un-planted flower beds that would go over a giant tank. It would have bark chips in it to reduce odor so men could pee in it at will.
I like Hamburg’s solution better. Some locals in Hamburg have been coating the walls of buildings in ‘splash creating, urine retardant’ paint. This paint is used in ship hulls. What it does is coat the urinater in his own pee.
I don’t understand the psychology of men who do this. Women don’t have the option and they manage to hold it in until they find a bathroom. What is wrong with men? Do they feel entitled? Do they have no modesty or shame? Are parents remiss when they toilet train their sons? WTF!
I’m also appalled that this is a universal problem in 2018. I guess we are not as evolved as I hoped.
I didn’t need another reason to be grateful that I left the city and moved to the country. I guess the universe wanted me to feel particularly good about abandoning urban life.
I have to watch my dogs pee in the backyard, but that’s not an affront to civilization.
I realized this omitted my dogs, the local milk cows, and the chickens. That left birds. I have seen many wild creatures, but I haven’t gotten their pictures. I can tell you about the tortoises and coyote, chipmunk, bobcat, and fisher cat. Squirrels, deer, rabbits, gophers and I know we have begun to have bears, too.
But when we get right down to it, what I have photographically, are birds.
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