Buzzcuts, beauty and BS

“Bill, I’ve got a woman on the phone and I really can’t figure out what she wants. Will you talk to her?”
“Sure, Kristen. Just give me 3 minutes to get back to my office and transfer it over. Got a name?”
“Harley.” Kristen smiled and walked back to her section of the office.
“I’m intrigued.” I called after her.
“Knew you would be” she replied. She had seen the entire shelf of miniature Harley Davidson models in my office.
I made my way back to my office to take the call.

She was a very sweet woman and I knew I liked her from the onset of the call. It soon became evident that Harley’s call was better suited for the Sales Department but I gladly gave her my time. Her need was simple, she needed information on a Handicapped Accessible vehicle for her adult daughter who was afflicted with Cerebral Palsy. She had heard from one of her friends that worked with us that we were a good finance company. The problem is that we don’t sell vehicles, we only finance the dealers who do.
She not only needed financing, she needed to find a vehicle as well.

I really couldn’t do anything for her but a little voice in my head was whispering to me that I needed to try. I took her information and told her that I would call her back. She was thankful for my time.

I dedicated myself to spending as much available time at work to helping Harley and her family. I searched the websites of my dealer base for anything that remotely met her needs. Coming up empty, I searched outside my network. Everything I found was highly specialized conversion vans and they were over 30,000 dollars. Harley’s single mom budget was less than 10,000. The hydraulics alone on these vehicles were more than that.
The next option was full size vans, the ones that Municipal services used. There were an abundance of those, all higher mileage but meticulously maintained until they were retired. I found a reputable dealer and made the call.

Having negotiated a near wholesale price on a older, but very clean van I asked the dealer to stand by, that I would call him back as soon as I could. I called Harley and explained to her what I had come up with. It was not her first choice but recognized that it was all she could afford. I asked if she wanted to proceed. She did. I explained that she needed to file a credit report and an application. Once she did I would take it from there.

Everything checked out. Now the wheeling and dealing had begun. I had to coordinate with one of our registered dealers to buy the vehicle and then sell it to Harley. I jumped through hoops to get this done. But I did it.

Having never met Harley face to face, when the day came for her to pick up her vehicle I insisted that I be there. My manager and I drove to our retail store and waited for her to show up. Before long, a beat-up sedan pulled in. Harley stepped out and I immediately knew that she was named right. A short, strong woman built like a beautiful motorcycle. Big, beaming, ahem…headlights, a strong chassy and built for speed. She was beautiful. I watched her as she went to her trunk and took out a wheelchair, opened the rear door and lifted her adult disabled daughter out of the car unassisted. When she was done, and Breauna was secure in her chair, she stretched and winced. Her back was clearly killing her. She then turned and asked,
“Which one of you is Bill?”
I stepped forward and introduced myself. She threw her arms around me and thanked me for my efforts. Her smile could launch ships.

My manager and I made small talk with her for a bit. She then went in to sign the paperwork. Once she was done I showed her how to use the hydraulics for the lift. It became clear that it would be a process to get her daughter in and out with all of the steps involved in strapping her in but it was what she asked for.

After a few pics for the scrapbook, they drove off.

The next day, Harley called me in the office and asked me for my cell phone. I gave it to her. She called me that night. I learned her entire back story. Harley had been diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years earlier. Her headlights were not stock, they were surgical. She bounced back from that to suffer a back injury in a motorcycle accident. She still managed to carry her daughter unassisted for years. She wanted me to know everything about her and I gladly listened. We became FB friends that night and stayed in touch.

Last night Harley posted a picture on FB. Her head is shaved. Her trademark smile as broad as ever. She boldly announced to the world that she has cancer in three areas of her body and she asked for prayers.

I will gladly pray for her. She is always in my thoughts. She is an example of those times when a job can be a real vessel of positive change, to make a difference in someone’s life. But thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, I want real answers as to how this poor woman, despite her outward strength is forced to endure such physical and emotional trauma. It’s total bullshit to me.

God bless you, Harley. I’m still here for you. As you have been for me. You look beautiful in your buzzcut, because your beauty is beyond physical. It shines right from your gorgeous soul.


the strut

I’d lost my strut. My Foghorn Leghorn Strut. I had it for decades.

The origin of the Foghorn Strut goes all the way back to my supermarket days. A young and confident gym rat with a buzzcut, I was known for my strength and attitude. I could be seen carrying 2 50lb bags of dog food on each shoulder, pushing absurdly long rows of carriages and lifting the heaviest of boxes.

One day a new cashier, who I happened to be digging on, asked me if I knew how I looked when I walked. I told her no. She said that I was like a Rooster. Chest puffed out, shoulders back with a “don’t fuck with me look.” I laughed. After all, Foghorn Leghorn was my favorite cartoon character (alright a close tie with Bugs Bunny). The strut became a thing.

The strut was always part of me. I went through life tall and proud. I might as well have had an actual chip on my shoulder with a sign I dare you to knock this off. It worked for me. More than one person said to me something along the lines of “when I first saw you I thought you were a jerk but you’re a nice guy.”

Thank you. I think.

Exercise was always a part of my life. Even before my transplant, when I was actually pretty sick, I was playing basketball with my teenagers and their friends, running trails and hiking, riding bikes and lifting weights. After my transplant, I jumped right back into all of it and made a recovery that amazed my doctors.

Then I got sick again. This time, exercise was not feasible. Excessive swelling, rampant blood pressure, massive weight gain and fatigue made merely functioning difficult.

Then I started dialysis and I resigned myself to being sick and weak. Goodbye Foghorn, I hope to see you again someday.

This week I reintroduced myself to Foggy. As I sat, post dialysis, tired and fatigued it occurred to me that there is nothing that says I can’t at least try to recover some of my former self. I decided to start working out again.

This week I have been walking on the treadmill, swinging my kettlebells, doing pushups and calisthenics and using my exercise bands for arm and shoulder exercises.

I feel great. My stamina is woeful, my strength is a joke. But each day is better than the last. Sure, my days of doing 50 pushups in one set, benching 405 and squatting 500 are over. I will likely never see those results again. But I can do something.

No one is going to look at me and say “Hey, that guy looks like he is on dialysis.”

Hopefully, someone will once again say “he walks like a Rooster.”

Welcome back, Foggy. I’ve missed you.

if you could turn back time

Today we turn back time, or turn forward, you get my point. Daylight Savings Time, a wonderful notion given us by Benjamin Franklin to make life and winter a bit more burdensome and confusing twice a year. You can quote me if you want to on Turn Back Time, even Cher it if you want. Sorry, that was bad. But so is she. Ah, I ramble.

Time travel has always fascinated me. If I owned a DeLorean I would use it from Time to Time (Bazinga). As I changed the clocks this morning, the notion again bounced around my tiny cerebellum. I was reminded of a very serious line from one of my favorite movies, Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.

In the movie, a man, played by a young Christopher Walken, suffers a terrible car accident. Confined to a coma for years, when he comes out he finds that he has the ability to predict the future by merely holding the hand of a person. In particular, he could predict terrible events and ultimately alter the course of history through his gift.

His Doctor, a Holocaust survivor, recognizes the awesome power of his gift and asks him the pivotal question, one that has intrigued me since the day I saw the movie.
“Knowing what you know, do you think that if you could go back in time and alter history, would you?”

On September 28, 1919, Private Henry Tandey, a British soldier serving near the French Village of Marcoing encounters a wounded German Lance Corporal. His rifle aimed at the wounded soldier, Tandey chose to spare the young man’s life. He could not bring himself to shoot a wounded man. That German Soldier was named Adolf Hitler and he went on to become the third most murderous tyrant in recorded history. Had that soldier fired, Nazi Germany would have never existed. Do you think that Henry Tandey would want a re-do after that?

Hitler is but one example. There are so many.

So I ask you, on this lazy Sunday morning, if you could turn back time and reverse a major Historical event that forever impacted World History, or even a small one in your personal life, would you?

Keep in mind the Butterfly Effect as you ponder this. And that, in order to truly alter our/your world as we know it you may be required to murder someone. Could you do it?

Food for thought. I’m curious about your answers.

A sidearm of reality

Most weekdays at about 4:30 I can expect a call from my buddy and Masonic brother Jeff. He likes to call me on his ride home as he is stuck in traffic. It’s his time, no wife and small children demanding his attention and he chooses to call me. It is a special friendship, and due to his complete dedication to his family he doesn’t have many. This is not lost on me. The respect I have for him is immeasurable and his friendship will never be taken advantage of. It should also be noted that he is one of the few people that can say whatever he wants to me without fear of offending.

Yesterday, true to form I got his call. I was happy to hear from him.

We talked about the usual stuff, his family, his job, the state of our Masonic Lodge. He never fails to prod me about my health, knowing that I usually sugar coat it he pushes me until I tell him the truth. I’m not sure why I try. Yesterday, the conversation took an unusual twist.

“So, you mentioned that you bought a new 9mm last month. Tell me about that” he said.
“Not much to tell, bud. I found a good deal and I bought it”, I replied.
“Do you carry it?”
“Of course.”

The silence on the other end was deafening. Finally, he spoke.

“I was going to save this for a face to face, but I need to get this out”, he said.
“Get what out?”, I asked him.
“Why? There, I said it.”
“Because I can, I suppose. My father always carried. I believe in the Second Amendment. I like to be prepared to defend myself or be a good Samaritan. I feel very comfortable with it strapped to my waist. And before you say it, I’m not looking for trouble.”
“Listen”, he said. “I’m all for it, the whole Second Amendment thing. The protection of life and property, I get it. But you’re…”
“I’m what?”
“You’re different.”
“How am I different?”
“People in your situation are prone to Depression. I read up on your condition and there is a very high suicide rate in CKD patients and dialysis patients in particular. I’m worried that you might use the 9mm and take my buddy away.”

I thought for a moment. I couldn’t argue with his facts or begrudge him his motives. He is a great friend.

“Jeff, you know me as well if not better than anyone, but when have you ever seen me exhibit signs of depression?”
“Truthfully, I haven’t. But I can’t believe that you haven’t with all of the shit that you’ve been through. And I know you lie to me a lot when I ask you how you are.”

He had me there. Guilty as charged. My entire family accuses me of the same thing. And they all think that I must be depressed. But I’m not a Theater-trained actor, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m a terrible liar. Yet they, and now Jeff don’t believe that I’m fine.

I explained to Jeff that I’m fine. He apologized for speculating as to my mental health. I assured him that it was fine, that his reasons were admirable, and thanked him for his concern.

After we hung up, I thought a little deeper on it.

I have lied to a lot of people about my health, not to worry them or out of a desire to just be treated normal, not as the “sick guy.” But I never lie to myself. I am not depressed.

My Doctor’s, my family, the nurses at my clinic constantly ask how my mental state is. It’s no big secret that patients like me get angry. Angry with life, with God. One guy committed suicide last month. He left a suicide note that simply read “I cant take the pain anymore.” It’s a real thing.

But not me. I am the anomaly. I am the happy patient. The jokester. The guy that plans for his next good day instead of living for treatment days. I really feel ok most of the time and most importantly I still find JOY in life.

I have a wonderful family. I get along famously with my ex-wife. My relationship with my children is tremendous. My oldest daughter tells me she loves me almost every day by phone or text. My oldest boy trusts and confides in me all the time. When he had food poisoning on Monday, he called me at 6:30 AM because I was the first person he thought to call. My youngest boy both admires and respects me and looks forward to opportunities to just sit and talk. My youngest daughter, she adores me. She tells anyone that will listen that I am her best friend. My mother, she welcomed me into her home at the lowest point in my life and has made me her first priority. All of these things equal one big conclusion.

These people are my reason for living.

If I was to die of natural causes, something I work hard at trying to avoid, they would be sad. If I committed suicide they would be devastated. Bottom line, I recognize the lure of suicide but I could never willingly cause pain to the ones I love. It’s selfish. And that is not me.

So where does the gun fit into all of this? Does anyone think that I didn’t think about the suicide thing when I decided to purchase it? I thought long and hard and I decided that it wasn’t an issue. Because I’m secure enough to know that I’m not at risk. I am a perpetually positive person with things that I want to do and places I want to go. There are weddings I want to go to and future grandchildren I look forward to bouncing on my knee.

The gun is just what it is. Protection. A sense of security. A manifestation of a Constitutional right. And maybe, just maybe, it is a reality check. Knowing that I can end it any time can keep me on the right path and in some morbid way, remind me to look at what I have to live for.

We all need something like that in our lives.

What’s your Superpower?

Up next on the “Never gonna happen but it’s fun to think about” list is…
“What would be your Superpower?”

It is only fitting that Superman would ask this question but bear in mind that of all of my Super abilities are really of no great help to me in achieving satisfaction (would lingerie-penetrating X ray vision count towards my happiness?…you decide).

There are several things that I wish I could control, a lot involve a re-do or reboot of sorts but I have learned that to do certain phases of my life over I would not have certain things that I cherish, my family for example. And for all of my misdeeds they have had the positive effect of making me into the person I am today. I kinda like who I am now so I will table the redo.

This is by no means number one on my list. Of course healing the sick and feeding the poor are certainly noble pursuits that I wish I was capable of, let’s call them a given. But the thing that has become a true passion of mine is the preservation and love of wildlife.

I wish that I could cause violent, explosive diarrhea while driving on anyone who shoots big game. How small is your dick that you need to slaughter a noble and beautiful elephant, giraffe or Tiger?

I wish for anyone who abuses animals to be locked in a room with a Televangelist and a Lawyer as they debate politics for a week with no food and water. After that, I want them shot.

I want to be the “animal whisperer”. I’m the guy at the party sitting on the floor with the dog. I wish that every dog would love me. I wish that no animal feared me. I wish that I could bear hug a Bear, roll around with a Lion, scratch the whiskers of a purring Bengal Tiger, cuddle a racoon and slide down an iceberg with an Emperor Penguin. All with no fear for my personal safety. I want to tell them that they will be ok, and be able to assure such a thing.

I know it’s silly, but my love of animals domesticated and otherwise is a passion and my heart breaks daily at what they are subjected to.

What’s yours? I can’t wait for your feedback…

a dangerous addiction

I wanted you
I craved you
sleep escaped me
you consumed me
you were all I cared about
little else mattered
as long as I had you

you made me mad
you made me crazy
you made my heart race
then you started to affect my health

I drive by your house
my car wants to pull in
I manage to keep moving
the associations are killing me
I did so many things with you
I couldn’t make the break

Now I have beat you
I no longer need you
too much has happened
we’re broken up for good

you were like the love
of a crazy woman
a topic I know all too well
but you come from a bottle

your name is alcohol
and I’m leaving you