Wednesday, August 24, 2016

8423 N. St. Louis, Skokie, Illinois

I don't think I've ever told this to anyone, pretty much because I just realized it, but I never had my own place to sleep growing up, ever! That's probably why I tended to sleep around for a long time until I got married. Ever since my earliest memories started, I always had to share a space with someone. First it was because we lived in a one bedroom apartment on Chicago's West side, where I was the middle child of 3 boys and my parents slept on a Murphy bed in the living room. By the way, I managed to light that one bedroom on fire, but that's a whole other story. We were poor by anyone's standards, but then, when I was 9, in 1955, my father accepted a gift from his mother, who lived in the lap of luxury, who vacationed in CA every winter, after my mother SCREAMING about it everyday, forever! We were Skokie bound, where I learned a new word from my mother in referring to houses. "Matchboxes". Everyone else's house looked like a matchbox except ours that truly was a matchbox! But, it had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a full basement with plumbing for a 3rd bathroom! For us it was heaven.

If you do the math, there were 3 bedrooms and my parents for some reason wanted one of them, the master bedroom, leaving 2 others for 3 boys. My kid brother got one, because he hadn't started school yet. My older brother got one out of respect for position, being the eldest and he needed his own, leaving me to sleep where I could. My younger brother's room had a sliding door closet, meaning a double, so I was allowed to keep my clothes there, while my older brother's room had only a single. My parents put a cot downstairs in the unfinished basement for me. Can you imagine the message that a young boys gets from this? Nobody has room for me! At some point when my grandfather passed away, my Bubbe came to live with us and my older brother was asked to move in with my younger brother and I was required to sleep with this 80 plus year old woman that didn't speak a word of English, just Yiddish. I listened to moans and groans and snoring of this woman, that really had no identity to me, other than occasionally she'd suck my entire cheek into her mouth while smiling, so I figured I was okay. To me the living situation was torture! Finally, when Bubbe couldn't stand my mother anymore and visa versa, Bubbe moved in with an aunt, but did I get the room? Nope, it was back to the damp basement, but at least privacy. My older brother got the room because truly it was always his! That's not even the reason that I moved out of that place at 18, but I got a job and never really looked back. 

Why did this thought come to mind after so many years? My son is in Chicago on business and asked me for the address of where I grew up and he's going to send me a picture. A picture would be nice, but it's already emblazened into my memory, not necessarily in a good way...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I've Got to get Smarter or Find a Wife...

                   Eight inch frying pan on top of my dumpster.

Today's topic is fried food. I'm never going to cook it or eat it again. Here's my story...

In my humble opinion, the tastiest way to eat pork chops or chicken breasts is to bread it and fry it. It's really a lot of work but with a reward and many detriments, such as clogged arteries. Having had multiple heart surgeries, I should know better but once in a great while I splurge. About once a year, I cave and buy thin pork chops while keeping my eyes closed. 

On Tuesday of this week, I defrosted a package of hamburger meat and made a huge meatloaf. The recipe was handed down to me from a reliable source, the Internet! I cooked it, I ate it and I awakened about 2 AM feeling strange and puked. After, I laid in bed wondering what could have caused this stomach upset when suddenly I leaped out of bed at about 3 AM and started checking the expiration dates on my Costco bulk purchases within my freezer, only to see that some of the stuff was about to have a one year birthday. Having just heaved my guts, was enough motivation to toss everything!

Ribs, chicken breasts, hamburger meat, and chicken legs all in the trash! That left me with one lonely package of thinly sliced pork chops that I had recently purchased at the grocery store.

Wednesday after returning from the gym, I did my usual recuperation of about an hour in my recliner watching the news. Hunger rose it's ugly had and notified me it was time to eat. Doing a mental inventory of what I had in the house, it came down to peanut butter and jelly or fried pork chops. The pork chops won, hands down! I changed out of my gym clothes and into my frying clothes and began the tedious task of cooking, ugh!

I cracked 2 eggs and added a little milk and began the process of preparing my food. I chose a 8 inch frying pan that was beginning to lose it's Teflon coating and decided that instead of washing it after, I'd just throw it away.

I'm a fan of double dipping, applying the egg wash and bread crumbs twice. Today with only 4 pork chops, I did a triple dip. I poured expensive virgin olive oil into my pan and heated it to the desired temperature and cooked 2 while applying breading to the second 2, being extra careful not to splash the hot boiling grease, even moving the handle to the 90 degree position, so there would be zero chance of accidentally hitting it. I lined a plate with paper towels and carefully removed the first 2 chops from the oil and I don't even know how it happened, but I hit the handle and as if in slow motion, I watched the oil form a spout and a huge stream of it came flying out of the pan, towards me. Thank God for something called reflexes because I jumped back and didn't feel any pain and thought that evidently the oil missed me, until I looked and saw the my green shirt and gold shorts were ruined with oil, even my underwear, it turned out. Yet it didn't burn me in the least. I looked up and you know who I thanked! (I'm becoming quite a fan of his.)

I finished cooking the second 2 chops while I changed into something a little less greasy, sprayed WD-40 onto the oil spots and let it soak for 30 minutes, then pour liquid dish washing soap onto the whole mess and let it sit for another 30 minutes, then washed the soiled clothes in HOT water in the machine. Guess what? It worked! Stains completely gone. 

By the time I was through with the entire process, I wasn't the least bit hungry but nibbled through the smallest one and waited for the laundry to finish... And that's why fried food is soooo bad for you!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Southwestern Eye Center Debacle (disaster)...

This has been a miserable day! Several things lately haven't been going the way I'd prefer them, but that's just life. My job as an active member of society is to live my life in accordance with the experience that I have gathered over the years. Some call it being judgmental, but isn't that how you learned to cross a busy street? Using judgment?

My new insurance company, Health Choice, although trying, hasn't been doing the job they represented to me, thus far. I inquired about getting a cataract removed and they referred me to The first optical company where the young girl was just plain rude to me when trying to schedule an appointment. I decided that rather than defame her, I'd just hang up and use a different optical company, enter Southwestern Eye Center. The young lady at the insurance company set up an appointment for me but at a location that was pretty far away. Upon entering their Scottsdale location, about 12 miles away, I was asked to fill out a ton of paperwork. You know the routine. After a time, I was called in and examined by a young, perhaps 20 years old, girl that was short and quite plump, but that has nothing to do with my story. In advance, I was asked to bring a list of the medications I was taking and I did. One of the meds is a soda pill that I take 3 times a week to make life for my distressed kidneys a little better. She notes the meds I supplied her with, into the computer, then asks me if I use any other caffeine besides soda. I ask how she knew I occasionally drank soda and she replies that I listed it under my meds! I laugh and explain that the soda is a pill and I certainly wouldn't list soda under medications. More importantly, I realized she wasn't smart enough to be doing this job. (Judgmental) I skipped it, as it was now time to look through their apparatus. She would tell me not to blink, but would then push the gizmo against my eye lashes which causes a spontaneous blink. It's a human reflex, try it. Each time she'd touch my eye lashes with the machine, although I really tried, I found myself doing a reflex blink and she got mad, displaying her frustration and anger. Although I didn't say anything except it was a reflex that I have no control over, she showed her anger. I realized she had no business trying to do this job with her limited intelligence and wondered who hired her knowing this. I finally completed this part of my examine and was sent to see Dr. Palmer, then the receptionist who sent me to their Tatum and Bell Rd. location for a visit with the actual surgeon. This is the first that I'm hearing that they have a location much closer to me. 

I attend my next appointment with Dr. Siemi and find her to be an intelligent young woman, but possibly too young. Not being a great judge of age, this doctor could easily be perhaps 23 or 24! NOT experienced enough to be operating on my precious eyes. So I bluntly ask her, her age and she replies that it is an inappropriate question! I explain my concerns and she says, "Let's just say I'm past my mid thirties!" Although I still have my doubts, I accept it for true. (These are the only eyes I have.) I am then sent to wait in yet another room where I am ignored for about 25 minutes to wait for someone named Eon, the scheduler to come for me. After my frustrating wait, a pleasant young lady comes for me and I'm pretty sure she's not Eon. We discuss when. She explains that I cannot take a cab out of there on surgery day alone and I'm stuck for a ride to and from, as my son, who I called from her office in planning on going out of town the week of the 8/25, so I tentatively schedule it for 9/22 to fit into his travel plans. All of this took place on Monday the 15th of August and later that day I went to the gym for my usual workout and was explaining my problem to a buddy when he volunteered to to pick me up and wait for me, then drive me home! I was delighted! Tuesday morning, early, I called their office and was put on hold for 20 minutes when I got frustrated and hung up and called back, this time pressing 0 for operator and she immediately connected me with the missing in action, Eon! I immediately noticed that from his voice and way of speaking that he was from the gay side of town, not that there is anything wrong with that. In addition, I observed that he had no personality and was like speaking with a robot, but I don't need personality from a scheduler. I explained my dilemma and he advised me that Dr. Little Girl still had the 25th open, but I would need to go to the Scottsdale office and see Dr. Palmer for a lens fitting on Thursdays, 8/18, today.I'd already met Dr. Palmer and was quite impressed with his professionalism and agreed to that appointment, today.

Last night, thinking about how uncomfortable I am driving after having my eyes dilated, I texted my son to see if he was free to come with me, just in case. He called me back and told me he'd have to rearrange a few things but would certainly come to my aid. Perfect! We are both quite punctual and everything went perfectly with his arriving about 10:25 AM and we laughed all of the way to the Scottsdale location. As we entered, there were about 5 girls behind the counter, all laughing and having a good time. They seemed shocked to have company and one asked if she could help me. I said, yes I'm here for my dance lesson! They all laughed and I told the young lady that offered to help I was there to see Dr. Palmer for my 11 AM appointment. Her face kind of dropped as she reluctantly told me it was his day off! Then she told me I was probably confused and that Dr. Siemi is at the Bell Rd. office when I stopped her and explained in detail exactly how I know I'm not confused and that I need to speak to the manager immediately!!! The manager another youthful girl came out of hiding, listened to what the first girl had told her and left, not wanting to speak with me. I insisted that she get her. She came out and didn't say a word. I pretty politely explained that I don't really need Dr. Palmer, I can see whatever doctor is working today. She explained that Dr. Siemi will not accept anyone's work except Dr. Palmer. That message is, that the other doctors aren't any good, right? 

I realized I had chosen the absolute wrong company to do business with and politely (only because my son was there) asked how much cataract surgery costs. She said she couldn't tell me that. Then I ventured a low ball guess and said, $5000, $10,000? That's how much your company just lost today... Brad and I left and he didn't even yell at me! We were almost to Portillo's for lunch when my phone rang and it was this youthful office manager calling and begging me to reconsider. Telling me of the great doctor that's been with the company for 25 years. I told her after about 15 minutes that I'd consider returning to their company but don't count on it. Portillo's was mobbed at noon! Back to step one...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Zelda Zass

Several years ago, I was browsing along on Facebook when suddenly I caught the name of my little next door neighbor in a discussion. Although I referred to him as little, it was because I was 9 and he was 7, just a little kid, right? I learned that he had passed away many years ago and I joined the discussion to express my condolences. At some point I started a private conversation with a lady and quickly looked up her profile online. She was cute and we got to know one another. Our online relationship quickly moved to telephones and then to Facetime, where we spent many content hours just passing stories of past times. She told me she wanted to get out of the Chicago area for retirement and was considering several places. I've always been gung ho Arizona since I moved here many years ago. 

I described the small town atmosphere when I first arrived in 1974 and how we only had one freeway in town, the I-17. The most amazing sunsets of anywhere in the world, the pleasant attitude of the people, seeing a horse and rider just walking down the street. In general, life the way it was meant to be. I described our cleaner environment. I describe how you could actually blow your nose and have it come out clear like water! 

Months moved along and in October of 2015 Zelda finally moved here. We continued our communications, either seeing each other or speaking on Facetime at least 5 or 6 times a week. Last week we went to Portillo's to enjoy their Italian beef sandwiches and the other patrons with their Chicago accents when suddenly Zelda blurted out, "Hey, you lied to me!" Shocked I replied, "What?" You told me that when I'd blow my nose it would come out clear! She was just outraged. I looked at her and replied, "Yours doesn't?" She said, "NO," rather emphatically. I said, "Have you had it checked?"

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Passing the Baton...



A few years ago I got a call from my son Brad, asking if I'd like to join he and Max, my grandson, at the Salt Cellar in Tempe for dinner. Sure, I replied, what's the occasion? Nothing special, he just wanted to expose Max to oysters, Brad's favorite. Of course I wanted to go, anytime with my son and grandson is a good time. He picked me up and we took the 20 minute ride to the Salt Cellar.

When we walked in the front door after descending the stairs, it instantly became dark, a night time setting and we approached the hostess desk. That's when it happened! The young girl looked past me and at my son and said, "How many?" My mouth fell open when the realization came to me that I was no longer the head of the household, a job that I'd held for many years and thought I did well! I was suddenly an old man just along for the ride. As she lead us to our table and seated us, I didn't say a word, but was reveling in my conclusion in somewhat of a shock. 

We made small talk, discussing the fact that you either loved of hated oysters. Personally, I was a hater! Brad is a lover and thus far, Max didn't know. As we waited to ordered it happened again! The waiter approached, looked directly at my son and asked, "Ready to order?"

Well, it was now confirmed. I had unknowingly passed the baton to my son. Max made a horrible face when he tasted oysters, I ordered the Shrimp Scampi and duplicated Max's face when offered an oyster. Brad had a steak and lots of oysters!

There was a happy ending to this story because when the waiter came with the check, he handed it to Brad!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fiasco number 28,293...

Fiasco number 28,293 brought to you by United healthcare.

Life is either getting stranger or I'm getting too old to keep up. Here is the latest of many fiascoes that just occurred. I declared today, "self improvement day" and made a dental appointment for a cleaning and then I thought of the little bump in my left ear lobe that has been bothering me for about 60 years. I was in the 5th grade when a classmate told me at lunch hour that he had a bump in his ear lobe and I searched mine and found I had the same thing. It's never bothered me enough to do anything about it, but today being SELF IMPROVEMENT DAY, why not? 

I called United Healthcare and the first doctor they gave me was a guy that I lived with his ex-wife for about a year. Probably not a good idea to see him under these circumstances, I could lose an ear, huh? The next 2 were disconnected, so I asked the nice young lady to do my footwork and try some more for me. She starts telling me that I need a referral from my primary care physician and I explain that I've never needed this in the past and she didn't have an answer. By the way, she sounded about 18 years old. I decided this was a wild goose chase and begged off and hung up. While driving to run some errands, I got a call from a doctor's office. I asked which doctor's office she was calling from and she didn't know, explaining there were 15 doctors that she worked for. I had to blow her off, as I was driving and she wanted my insurance ID number. An hour later I returned her call, but she said she couldn't speak with me to schedule anything without a referral. What the.....? Now I call my Primary Care Physician who will from this point forward be referred to as PCP. A voice answered that frankly I could not identify as to gender. I told "it" I needed a referral from Dr. Taxin. "It" asked, had I seen Dr. Taxin before and I replied, yes. Then, did you see him for the reason you want a referral? I knew if I answered no, he would tell me that I needed to make an appointment with him, for the issue. I replied, I think so. (not good enough). "It" answered, if you don't know for sure, you'll have to make an appointment as there is no record of him seeing me for a bump in my ear. (Damn, they kept records) However Dr. Taxin doesn't have any appointments available for a long time, but I can see Dr. Meres on Monday. Do I want the appointment? I said, "Are you kidding me? I have to make an appointment with a total stranger, to get a referral to see a dermatologist that I've never even heard of and no one will even tell me his name? Do I want the appointment or not? I told "it" that I needed to consult with my social director and I'll get back with you!

I do need to ask one question. Who is paying for 2 appointments, because it's not me. I have Medicare thankfully, so all of you and I are paying for this ridiculous system!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Along came Karen...

As I laid in bed last night trying to fall asleep, a thought entered my mind that immediately made me bust out laughing! Kind of unusual for a man sleeping alone. I'll try to pass that thought on to you. Do not try this at home!

The year was 1958 and I was 12 years old. My parents, not loaded with money, decided that in order for me to accomplish my Bar Mitzvah at age 13, they'd better send me to Hebrew school to at least learn the letters of the Hebrew language prior to that event, although it turned out not to be necessary. But it did expand my life to more than baseball, football and basketball, which were the grand total of my interests. I remember being older than all of the other kids in my beginners class which made it pretty uncomfortable for me, but minding my own business helped a lot. After class, we went out to a playground to wait for our respective rides home, either parents or a van that drove me, as my mother didn't drive. Standing around waiting for my van to pick us up, I noticed a girl chatting with her friends and there was an immediate magnetism. My first attraction! I didn't know what it was, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her and didn't know why. Eventually I walked over and said, hello. Her name was Karen Feldman and I soon learned that her father was the president of the temples men's club and remember a short stout man off in the distance that she pointed to. Aha, royalty! I realized that I really liked Karen and waited for her after class daily. She was 10 and I was 12, but she was very mature for her age. We exchanged telephone numbers and I made dates with her to meet her at the school on days when we didn't have class, like Saturday afternoons and Sundays. We'd go to Sam and Hy's and split an order of fries and a chocolate phosphate and listen to the waitress that knew both of our families tease us. We were an item!

One Saturday afternoon we made a date to go to the movies in downtown Evanston and took the bus there. Karen brought her birth certificate along to prove her age of 10 years, so she could get into the movie for the child's price of 25 cents to save me money. Being 12, mine was 50 Cents. After, when I was taking her home, she gave me a kiss on my cheek and I literally floated all of the way home. After putting up with that long story, you are now entitled to the part that literally broke me up last night, when the thought passed through my aged mind. It was a late Saturday afternoon and it was summer. Karen and I were hanging out on the teeter-tauter, but we were weren't using it the way it was designed to be used. We were laying on two of them, next to one another with our respective feet on the handles and laying backwards on them just chatting away. One of the things that's cool to do when you're 12 is to hock up a loogie from deep in your throat and spit it as far as you can. So I did precisely that, but I didn't allow for the strong wind that was blowing rather aggressively towards us. This baby was a real winner, I mean huge! I let her fly while lying back on the inclined board, when suddenly panic struck! I let go of that loogie and realized it was coming right back down at me and likely to hit me right across my face! It did!!! I crashed to the ground, rubbing my face in the nearby grass with Karen asking me, what's wrong? Oh, nothing I said, just got something in my eye! 

I don't think I ever saw Karen again. It became fall and school began and I dropped out of Hebrew School to begin my Bar Mitzvah lessons.

And that's how I finally learned to be cool!