VEINLESS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Trickery (OR in this case, just tricky!)

Another day, another trip to the hospital. At least it’s something I WANT to do this time, but I will be gone most of the day. Sorry about that!

I was supposed to be at the hospital yesterday, but they got my tests mixed up, so it got canceled. The same tests, this time properly ordered, will be rescheduled next week.

It all has to do with veins and dye infusions.

I don’t have any veins.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I have lots of them, but they are all tiny and thready. Getting blood out of me is tricky (trickery?). I have often suggested I bring my own knife and slice off a piece of finger like I do at home. Just give me a vegetable to cut and I’ll produce gallons of blood.

Brivo CT325

Whenever I do that (which used to be often), there was blood absolutely EVERYWHERE. For some reason, the hospital never agrees. As I said: getting blood out is just a bit of trickery (and some nurses really have a magic touch for finding a viable vein) — a medical magic trick.

Getting a substance (any substance) into me is a nightmare. I have defeated two hospitals who could not find a usable vein and wound up infusing into my throat. Which, while not terribly painful, is really ICKY in every meaning of the word. And it looks ugly, too.

In both cases, it was that or die so I couldn’t argue the point … but this is a test. The reason they need veins is so they can put dye in me to make the test results sharper.

They should get Topaz’ new AI Sharpen filter. It’s amazingly effective and then, they could skip the dye and still have sharp results.

Regardless, I’m not going through the “hunt the body for a viable vein” experience again. Been there, done it, didn’t like it. We’re not doing hands, feet, or throat, sorry. If that’s the choice, whatever is wrong with me will just have to stay wrong.

I still have to be at the hospital in a couple of hours because I’m getting cortisone shots in my hips. Yay oh yay!

For the past few weeks, there’s almost no part of me that doesn’t hurt and last night I woke up crying because I hurt so much I didn’t know what to do. So of course, called the doctor as soon as he was open and said: “I cannot go on like this.”

More drugs are not an answer I would have to take a LOT more drugs and I’m already thoroughly drugged. I have to find a way to make my life less painful. I want to be able to walk. Even if it’s not a hike, just walk more or less normally for short stretches. Not such a big thing one might think.

So cortisone shots it is. For now.

I know the shots are not a cure. What’s wrong with me (entire spine riddled with arthritis) is painful, but not lethal. It won’t kill me. It might make me wish it would and it will linger on, getting worse as the years roll by. Not a pretty thought.

I remember being 30 years younger, living on Beacon Hill in Boston and hauling 40 pounds of groceries up the long hill to our apartment. Realizing my legs were like iron. I was muscled. Between hauling heavy bags up long hills, horseback riding, and walking everywhere in Boston because if you moved the car you might never find another legal parking space, I was in great shape.

The shoulder is an offshoot of horseback accidents. When you are riding, one of the things you learn is if you fall, hang on to the reins. If you don’t, your horse is going home. It’s a long, long walk in your riding boots back to the stable. It’s entirely possible you don’t even know the way back since as often as not if you are riding alone, the horse was your GPS.

In the course of falling off a few horses and grabbing reins on the way down, my shoulder got pulled out of the socket a few times. The surgery to fix that is normally not a big deal.

I should have taken care of it 50 years ago, but I didn’t.

I also have a left knee without an anterior Crucis ligament due to a bad fall — as well as the shoulder which could have easily been repaired when I was 25, but can’t be fixed now.

I waited too long. Like I did with my hands. Nine years ago they could have fixed the arthritic spurs but today, they can’t. It has advanced too far and I’m too old.

I yearn for those days when I had muscles in places I didn’t know you could have muscles.

I don’t have long-term answers. Cortisone shots a few times a year with some luck will help keep me moving. Nothing will repair the damage. There’s no surgery anyone is willing to do that will fix it. It has degenerated too far and the previous surgery caused as much damage as it supposedly fixed.

Right now, though, I’m glad enough that there’s even a respite — even if it’s just for a few weeks.

Long term? I am still working on that one.

DUMBEST BAD GUY IN THE WEST – Marilyn Armstrong

Open Range (2003) stars Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Abraham Benrubi and a lot of other people, but notably Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter) as the stupidest villain in the old west.

Mind you, Open Range isn’t a bad western, as these things go. It’s pretty standard, with a rather better cast than most westerns. All the good clichés are included and the movie builds up to a massive shootout between Duvall and Costner against Gambon and his thugs.

Open Range Poster

Here’s the plot. It contains spoilers, but I feel safe in saying the movie has no surprises, so really, there’s nothing to spoil.

Old West, 1882. “Boss” Spearman (Duvall) is an open range cattleman, who, with hired hands, Charley (Costner), and Mose (Benrubi) (et al), is driving a herd cross-country. Charley, a former soldier who fought in the Civil War, feels guilty over his past as a killer. 

Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville for supplies, a town controlled by a ruthless land baron, Denton Baxter. Mose is beaten and jailed by the marshal (owned body and soul by Baxter). The only friendly resident owns the livery stable.

Boss and Charley worry when Mose doesn’t return. The get him out of jail but are warned to not free-graze on Baxter’s land. Mose’s injuries are severe, so Boss and Charley take him to Doc Barlow where they meet Sue Barlow, the doctor’s sister.

Killing and skullduggery follow. Charley and Boss vow to avenge the various murders and injustice. Charley declares his feeling for Sue and she gives him a locket for luck. 

Boss and Charley are pitted against Baxter and his men. A gun battle erupts in the street, with Boss and Charley heavily outnumbered … until the townspeople begin to fight.

It’s a shootout of Biblical proportions. Epic. Costner is the troubled hero, which is just as well because he directed and co-produced the movie. Gambon, a murderous Irish immigrant with a killer brogue, is a brutal tyrant with no compunctions about slaughtering anyone. Everyone. He owns the sheriff, he owns the town. He has a lot of cows, but it’s not enough. It will never be enough.

He is the consummate villain of the old west, an out-of-control, power-mad cattle baron. You just know there’s going to be a lot of killing.

Skipping over the early individual killings to get to the big battle, it’s now the final quarter of the gun battle. It’s a high body count. I’ve lost count and I swear some of the actors died more than once, but maybe it’s just me.

The first seriously stupid bad guy moment comes when Baxter’s ace hired gun stands in front of Costner — who is loaded for bear and hates the son-of-a-bitch — and taunts him. So Costner shoots him through the head. One shot, dead center of his forehead.

I look at Garry and say “Well, what did he think was going to happen?” The fight was on.

A few minutes later, corpses litter the landscape. Heads are exploding right, left, and center. The townsfolk are unhappy about being under the thumb of Baxter, the power-mad cattle baron, but they’re too wimpy and cowardly to do anything about him.

Until asshole Baxter stands up in front of the whole town (they’ve come out to watch the shootout because they don’t have anything else to do) and tells them that as soon as he gets through killing the good guys, he’s going to start killing them.

“All your children will be orphans” he rants.

Say what?

Guess what happens next? Right you are! The townspeople, realizing they have nothing to lose, pick up their guns and start killing Baxter’s men. What a shock.

Costner marries the pretty sister of the doctor. Duvall offloads the cattle. Costner and Duvall take over the saloon and everyone lives happily ever after.

I assume they bury the corpses.

This one gets my vote for the dumbest bad guy in the west. But maybe you know something I don’t know …


AND NOW, HERE’S OUR MODERN VERSION …

If POTUS is the power-mad cattle baron … and “Baxter” is Miller (the gun-crazy killing machine) while the rest of the “crew” are the usual morons with big guns and few brains — are we the cattle?

You could follow the plot almost exactly, just change cities. Just wait for it, wait for it. Dumpf will make one of those speeches … you know, how “he knows everything and only HE CAN FIX IT” — Alex Baldwin could play the role.

Then Costner could shoot him between the eyes. Great ending. Kevin could be president. Why not? Hasn’t he done it before? Pretty sure he did or maybe I’m thinking of Michael Douglas … hard to remember sometimes. And there’s always Morgan Freeman.

Has anyone asked Kevin? His career hasn’t been doing all that well. This might be a terrific piece, proving comedy is hard but worth it. We could have a good, long hysterical laugh. I know I sure would. I’m laughing already.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

Every now and then, I get lucky and the bird I want to take pictures of stays put long enough for me to actually take the pictures.

This was the case with this glorious Red-bellied Woodpecker. I guess he was more hungry than he was shy of people. Or maybe he felt he deserved to be memorialized.

Grabbing a seed

Peek-a-boo!

Showing his good side

So in the midst of our political madness, allow me to introduce our beautiful Woodpecker.

With his pal, the Tufted Titmouse

Speaking of woodpeckers, the other day I got a note from someone complaining that a woodpecker was trying to eat her house. Woodpeckers don’t eat wood for fun. They are digging for insects. So if there are woodpeckers banging on your house, you need to get the bug people in because I have to warn you — woodpeckers are VERY fond of termites.

Watch the skies!

If a woodpecker is pecking your home, you’ve got lots of bigger problems than woodpeckers. You’ve got termites.

I’LL FLY AWAY … By Marilyn Armstrong

When I was a lot younger — in my teens — America didn’t look all that wonderful to me. It was before abortion became legal. Vietnam was in high gear and my first husband and I were close to bankrupt from having my spine repaired.

When I went into the hospital, we had $20,000 in the bank which in the U.S. in 1965, was enough to buy a house and maybe a car, too. In fact, our first house cost $19,200 and our car cost under $1000.

The first house

When I staggered out of the hospital (I was there for five months), we had $10 in the bank and owed the hospital a couple of thousand dollars more. I asked my husband if we didn’t pay them back, would they find me and break my back again?

Our first house in Boston

We cashed in everything we had, sold anything that had any value. Mind you, we had insurance. Just not enough insurance. Two years later, Owen was born with two club feet. It cost us about $500 every week to treat his feet. By the time he was walking almost normally, we were thousands of dollars in debt and never recovered.

There we were, deep in the Vietnam war. We had a lot of friends over there, too. We were lucky. Most of our friends came home.

We were young. Passionate. Sure we could fix it, whatever “it” was. We also wondered if we could move to Australia, Canada or somewhere we could earn a living, but in the end, we stayed in the U.S. It was home. We never imagined it would be as bad as it is now, but it wasn’t all that great back then, either.

When Jeff and I split up late in 1979, I moved to Israel with Owen and it became my “other: home. I became a citizen but in the end, I came back to the U.S. Because I knew where “home” was and it wasn’t there.

House in summer

I have been back since the end of the 1980s. Things got better, worse, then better, worse, better — and now, simply awful. Until Netanyahu was re-elected in Israel yesterday, I had this underlying belief that at least I had another home to which I could flee — if fleeing was what we had to do.

It turns out that any place we might go to has its own issues, most of which are as bad (and surprisingly similar) as ours. They may lack our disgusting, lying president, but they are battling over immigration, health care, taxes, the climate. Their politicians are also liars. More polite than ours. Not less sleazy but they have better manners.

Meanwhile, climate change will affect the entire world. All the pointless arguments in the world are not going to change that reality.

Is there anywhere for us to go? Is there a safe place with sane leaders who would want us? I think not.

First of all, we are old and not rich. Most countries, if they are looking for immigrants, are looking for young, well-educated people who will contribute to their economy or older people who have money. Israel would take us because I’m a citizen, but their problems are serious; I don’t see them improving soon.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

Effectively, there is nowhere for us to go.

I think in years to come there will be only two kinds of people in this world: those who hate immigrants and immigrants.

Everyone else will be hiding in a cave.