Thursday, December 30, 2010

I have just 45 minutes to write and post a blog!!!!

I think, instead, I'll just read other people's blogs for a change.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Beauty of Plastic Window Covering

"What you take picture of?!," demanded a short but feisty shopkeeper as she advanced on me from behind a wall of colorful scarves...

Karen and I had gone down to the Charleston Market the day after Christmas.

BAGMAN:  "Why would anyone go shopping the day after Christmas?"
BUTLER:  "Because everything is on sale."

BAGMAN:  "Being on sale don't mean you need it!"

I'll let Bagman and Butler argue the value of post-Christmas shopping by themselves.  For me it's a good outing for both of us because Karen likes the crafts and sales and I like the variety of things to photograph.  

In the summertime, it looks like this...

Shopping during my daughter's visit two years ago.
(IMPORTANT:  Note open air windows on either side)

The day after Christmas, it looked like this:

Not so many people when it is freezing cold!
(IMPORTANT: Although you can hardly see them,
the windows are all covered with thick clear plastic)

"You taking picture of me?!!" demands the shopkeeper as she backs me into a corner while I try desparately to pull up the desplay screen on the Nikon to show her that I wasn't paying attention to her at all.  And wondering why she didn't want her picture taken in the first place.   

Karen had long since stopped watching me after I had zoned out into my usual photographic weirdness.  But I had noticed the distortions the plastic made of the world outside -- it was like a reality version of Photoshop.   

"Why you take picture of me?!" continued the shopkeeper while other shopkeepers began to pay attention.  Finally, I got the picture on the camera's small screen and held them out toward her like a shield.  

"No take pictures of you!"  I yelled back, unconsciously adopting her accent which was either Spanish or Cambodian.  

"See,"  I said.  "Beautiful, no?  Impressionistic?"

She stared at me as if I had lost my mind.  But she seemed to be molified that I had not taken a picture of her.  Finally she smiled and asked, "You want buy scarf for lovely wife?"

I briefly considered taking a close up picture of her wide smile but decided to skip it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Cherry Jam Victory Dance: A play in one Act

Better than winning the lottery, a month ago my name was selected at random by Nan U at "Have Genes Will Travel" to be the lucky recipient of a jar of her homemade jam! Whooeee! Bagman, Butler and I did the moonwalk victory dance for hours.

BUTLER: "Please be factual, Mark. You and Bagman danced. I was reading the latest edition of Emily Post's Etiquette until I was forced to leave the room because of the noise."

And last week a package from France arrived!!!

I decided to put it under the tree where we could all open it and taste it on Christmas morning.

The paper ripping frenzy begins!  At two years old...

Conner discovers Christmas for the first time.

Noah just sits on his mother's lap and enjoys everyone laughing.

And finally we get to the box...

Karen: "Where did this box from France come from?"

Mark:  "France?"
Karen:  "Well, duh! I mean who sent it?"

Mark: "It's the jam I told you about that I won in Nan U's random drawing!"

Karen: "How did it get here?

Mark: "The mailman?"

Karen: "You gave out your home address over the Internet?!"

Mark: "I also gave out our home address to, and I don't know them as well as I know Nan."

BAGMAN (stage-whispering in my ear): "Shhh, Mark! You've done it now!"

Karen: "So how well do you know this woman? Who did you say she is again?"

BAGMAN: "Better start tap-dancing, Mark."

Mark: "I'm not going to start tap dancing. I've got no reason to tap dance."

Karen: "Tap dance? You don't even waltz. So who is she again?"

Mark: "She's a wonderful photographer and a genetic scientist. She shoots pictures of a pink rabbit, drops rocks on toys, dips stuffed animals in frozen nitrogen, and is one of the bloggers that I follow."

Karen: "Pink rabbits? Sounds weird.  What does she look like?"

Mark: "I don't know what she looks like. I just like her blog."

BUTLER: "May I remind you, Mark, that you have seen a picture of her on her blog. Just tell the truth and it will set you free."

BAGMAN: "Nan's hot!"

Mark: "I'm not saying that!"

Karen: "Not saying what? And who are you talking to?"

Mark: "I'm telling Bagman to shut up."

Karen: "Oh yes, your little imaginary friends."

BAGMAN: "I'm insulted!!!!"

BUTLER: "Calm down, Bagman. We are imaginary, after all. In a Jungian kind of way."

BAGMAN: "Speak for yourself, Butthead! I'm as Freudian as they come."

Conner: "I got more horses!!"

Mark: "I don't really know what to say, Honey. Nan's got a picture on her blog spot but it is small."

Karen waits quietly to see if I am going to hang myself or answer the question correctly. I smile. Fortunately, I've been happily married long enough to be quite good at the traditional husband-wife Jeopardy game. I even know how to answer the dreaded question: "Does this dress make me look fat?"

Mark: "Honey, if she was Marilyn Monroe, she couldn't hold a candle to you.  I'm just happy that we have this Christmas together as a family."

Brian: "Wasn't Marilyn Monroe famous back in the silent movies?"

Mark: "I'm not that old! Can we taste the jelly now?"

BUTLER: "It's jam, not jelly."

Karen, smiling at being chosen over Marilyn Monroe, hands me the box and I give the camera to Brian so he can take a photo of me smiling that I can post on Blogspot.

I struggle to open it until Karen goes to get a knife to "percer" it for "ouvire" which I figure means piercing it to open it.  We can also use the knife to dip out the jelly - jam -

Before Karen can hurry back from the kitche, I use my fingers! Mmmmm..

Karen tastes it.  Brian shoots but the flash doesn't flash.  Karen likes it!

I look up with a photographer's sudden obsessive worry, wondering why the flash didn't flash -- and Brian proves it does. 

Brian:  "You'll love this one, Dad, because you weren't posing!"  
We pass the jelly to Melody..

BUTLER:  "Jam, Jam, Jam!!  Not Jelly!"

I look on, nervously, while Melody tastes it.  She likes it too!  .

We all liked it! After the rest of the presents were opened, we put it on bread that Melody had made. It was a great Christmas and we were all appreciative that Nan's culinary expertise was part of it.

Later, when I was back in the studio with Bagman and Butler, preparing this blog, Bagman said, "I still think she's hot."

BUTLER: "You think everyone's hot, you Freudian deviant!"

BAGMAN: "And you just think everyone's so creative and interesting, you Jungian monk."

Merry Christmas, boys, I said, smiling contentedly, licking last drops of delicious jam from my fingers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout - How we celebrate Christmas

This week’s Friday Shoot-Out (New Year’s Eve) theme is a perfect topic for the Bagman and Butler clan! Because this year we are finally doing it right! We are taking all of our typical rituals and enhancing them with total and all encompassing CHAOS!!   And grandchildren.  And more chaos.
BUTLER: “Remember the shootout is not just about your family, Mark…it is about your town, you community.”

BAGMAN: “Boring!”

Okay, a quick note on community – which since I work in the government sector, can be handled in one word – “Political Correctness.”

BUTLER: “That’s two words.”

Let’s move on. I really don’t want to get on my soapbox about how stupid it is to avoid offending anybody by saying “Christmas” or “Chanukah” or “Kwanzaa” or “Eid al-Adha” or “Los Posados” -- and insist with true political paranoid correctness in saying “Happy Holidays.” Blah!

BAGMAN: “I thought you were going to move on…”

Sorry. Got sidetracked. And so, on to Christmas with Bagman, Butler, Karen, Brian, Melody, Conner, Noah, Daisy, Annabelle, Bill, and Snowball…

First of all, we usually put up the tree during the Thanksgiving Holiday. Many years ago, we decided to stop killing innocent trees and bought an artificial tree.

BAGMAN: “Liar! You just got lazy and didn’t want to go tree hunting, and get sap on your hands and have to vacuum up pine needles!”

Not that it is much easier to assemble the artificial tree! This is always my job. I straighten the artificial limb that have become twisted in the box, set them up on the pole and then hang the lights. This year, as some of you know, I avoided the completion of this job by falling off the stepladder and breaking my arm.

This is the point where initial decorating stopped for a while

But Melody risked the heights and  finished the lights.

This years tree with the bone breaking couch in the foreground

We have been doing so many new things with the kids that we never got around to adding all the deocrations and baubles from last year,

Last year's tree

We also usually decorate the entire house with tons of decorations that we have accumulated over years. Gifts, heirlooms, memories, little towns that light up, outdoor lights that twinkle from all our bushes.   We bring them from the crowded shed to the porch and unpack them from there. 

From the year I got my black belt
That year I just would have broken the couch in two!

Karen and I always hang these together in the front of the tree

Brian tries to convince us NOT to hang this one

And this year, his wish came true.  Because we have been doing busy things and baking cookies and playing with kids and we got the decoration boxes to the porch...

But not any further.

This is how we will celebrate Christmas this year

But we will have a ball.  There are tons of presents for Noah and Conner.  Some from yard sales since Karen has an eagle eye of cheap treasures and has been collecting and hiding toys all year.  Of course, it is less than 24 hours before Christmas and we haven't wrapped anything yet!

And the other problem will be figuring out where to put the new toys since --

...the old toys have already taken over the house.

I guess that what I always heard is true...Grandparents exist to spoil grandchildren!
The other thing we have traditionally done on Christmas Eve is gone to a Midnight Service…and fortunately the church we attend (a bit infrequently) is progressively customer-friendly enough to have an early Midnight Service around 6:00 p.m. so we can be awake for it. Then we drive around looking at Christmas lights. Usually we go to the James Island Park’s Festival of Lights – which is an incredible light display that I have never photographed because I always seem to be driving the car through the two mile light maze. And since the Friday Shootout is today and today is Christmas Eve, if we actually do go this year and if I can convince someone else to drive so I can shoot it, it will have to be an additional post later.

I’m not counting on it.   From our progress so far, we'll still be wrapping presents.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Depression - now there's a title that is sure to drive away readers.

I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humor.  I even looked for it in Conner's big truck that has a compartment where he likes to hide things -- like his little brother's pacifier. 

BAGMAN:  "That second sense about Conner's truck was kind of cute...maybe you are getting your sense of humor back?"

But I don't have any follow-up.  

BUTLER:  "Don't fret, Mark, old chap.  You have plenty of experience with these little depressions.  You always snap out of them in a few days."

I know, I know.  

BAGMAN:  "And don't forget.  It's almost Christmas."

BUTLER:  "That's right.  Mark doesn't do very well with Christmas for some reason.  And although his arm is getting better, the constant ache is probably wearing on him emotionally.

Blah blah blah.   Are you guys finished talking about me yet?  Can I go lie down now?  

BUTLER:  "Lying down is counter-productive when you are feeling blah, you know."

I know.  I know. 

BUTLER:  "And you also know that when you are feeling sorry for yourself the best thing you can do is to..."

...Is to do something for somebody else!  Yes, I know that too.  I didn't start this blog the morning so I could listen to you two charactors trying to do therapy on me!  You can't tell me anything I don't already know since I made you up in the first place."
BAGMAN:  "That's just mean!  I'm hurt."
See, I'm even snapping at my own alter-egos.    But I'll get back soon.   After a nap, counter-prodductive or not, I'll go back to searching for my sense of humor. 

BAGMAN:  "You might try using a metal-detector."

Very funny.  Good try.  But I haven't quite finished milking the pity-pot yet. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Great Achievements in Humerus Healing

I am dreading the challenges of physical therapy, although my bone doctor seems to think I only need to go once to learn exercises and that I am the kind of person who will do the exercises without some therapist with a whip.   But I have made great progress, according to Dr. Gilmore.  On the other hand he introduces himself as "Bubba" which made me look over my shoulder to check the license hanging on the wall.

But I have my own set of achievements by which I am measuring progress -- not a long list, but a meaningful one:

  1. A week ago -- dressing myself for work although I confess my shirt was not neatly tucked in on the left side and I wore some old worn loafers because I still haven't attempted tying laces.
  2. Three days ago -- sleeping the entire night in bed without having to get up at 2 a.m. and settle on the recliner. 
  3. Two days ago -- Buttoning my shirt with two hands.  This meant I finally got to work on time since buttoning my shirt with one hand took forever, including breaks for hand cramps. 
  4. Finally -- the big one!!!  This morning I managed to get my left hand close enough to my right armpit to apply deoderant!!!   I think everyone has been very happy with that one!
Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Disconnected Series of Events

  1. Series is probably not the right word because it connotes some form of order.
  2. It is 3:30 a.m. or at least it was a little while ago.
  3. Brian starts a new job tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. - or rather this morning at 8:00 a.m.
  4. Unless I save this post for another day since my haiku just posted automatically a little while ago.
  5. Melody is sleeping on the couch.
  6. I can't find the sling for my broken arm.  I think it is in the livingroom where Melody is sleeping on the couch.
  7. Brian is sort of sleeping on the blue recliner in the livingroom because he is a dutiful husband.
  8. I just heard the jingle of a collar and discovered Daisy had managed to shut herself up in Barclay's room. 
  9. Barclay is lord-knows-where, probably in the ER at MUSC.  Doctors don't sleep anyway and we haven't seen him for three days.
  10. Karen told me that Grandson Conner is sleeping on the couch with Melody. 
  11. I accept Karen's information without checking so I won't wake anyone. 
  12. Melody and Conner are both sick.
  13. It is freezing cold outside.  I know this because I had to give Daisy an emergency walk although she had already done a little doggy doo doo in Barclay's room.
  14. I know it is freezing because I walked Daisy barefoot in frosty grass because I couldn't find my shoes.
  15. It wasn't a very good haiku anyway.
  16. Karen is going to take a sick day from work tomorrow although she is not actually sick.   Otherwise, Brian would probably stay home to take care of Conner and Melody and calling in sick on your first day of work is usually frowned upon.
  17. A man is coming tomorrow to take down the Direct TV satellite dish and put up a Dish Network satellite dish so we can save $27 a month.
  18. I have an appointment in the morning with the orthapedic doctor to check on the progress of my arm.
  19. I don't have a clue where Noah is sleeping except that it is not in (A) the room where Karen is sleeping, (B) the computer room where I am typing, (C) Barclay's room where the dog pooped, or (D) outside in the frosty grass.
  20. My shoes are probably where my sling is.  I have other shoes but they all have laces which are hard to tie with  broken arm.
  21. I have a retirement meeting at the County office building tomorrow because the County needs budget cuts and is instituting incentives to get people to retire early.  I haven't completely decided but think I will retire in March.  Maybe.
  22. Brian snores very loudly.
  23. My broken arm is getting better.  Or maybe I'm better at knowing how not to move it the wrong way.
  24. It will start getting light outside in about two and a half hours.
  25. In the middle of the night I finished framing a picture of Brian, Conner, and Noah all in the same Coca Cola suit lying on the same bedspread.

  26. Brian (22 years ago)
    Conner (1 1/2 years ago)
    Noah (last month)
  27. Coca Cola reminds me that Pepsi Cola stock is very profitable this week because they are expanding into new overseas markets.
  28. I had planned to retire and take photographs and trade stocks but I will probably be helping raise grandchildren instead.
  29. The house is a jumbled pile of toys, dirty clothes, excess furniture, dirty dishes, pizza boxes, half eaten Subway sandwiches, cold medicine bottles, a lost sling, a pair of shoes, and dog poop.
  30. Bagman loves chaos.
  31. Butler hates chaos.
  32. The Christmas tree now has lights but still no ornaments. 
  33. I thought of another haiku but have since forgotten it.
  34. I'm beginning to get very sleepy.
  35. The house which was full of sneezing, coughing, crying, and snoring for most of the night is now totally silent. 
  36. I have a craving for peanut butter but if I sneak downstairs the dogs will wake up and bark.
  37. Stock futures in Europe point toward a down day on Wall Street which opens in five and a half hours.
  38. I haven't taken a single photograph since I broke my arm. 
  39. Somebody is walking around downstairs.  I'm pretty sure it isn't me.
  40. Writing disconnected events is like counting sheep.  I think I will post this and put my head down on the keyboard and take a nap.
  41. I wonder if I snore loudly too.  Probably.


Etched over winter moon
crackling branches of the old elm.
bones break and bones heal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BAGMAN and BUTLER DEBATE #1: “Sneezing”

Due to the fact that I am still unable to type very well, I have decided to turn over today’s blog to Bagman and Butler. Since they seldom agree on anything, I have called them in today for a formal debate. Roberts Rules of Order will be enforced. The topic of the debate will be “Sneezing.” A random coin flip has determined that Butler will go first.

BUTLER: “I don’t want to go first. Besides, what kind of a topic is “sneezing.” Not only is it non-controversial, but it is simply a natural physical function of the human body designed to clear the airway of unwanted particles. What more is there to say? I’m not sure that this is a worthwhile project concocted by you because you can’t type.”

BAGMAN: Robert Schmobert! I don’t recognize no stinking rules of order!! Can’t type! You are a weenie! And besides, “sneezing” is a dumb topic for a debate. I agree with my worthless opponent. It just happens…you can’t do anything about it except let’er rip! AAAAAAaachooooo!”

BUTLER: Well, I must assert that I do not completely agree that there is nothing you can do about it. It is quite possible to stifle even the most insistent sneeze if you really have to. The process is….”

BAGMAN: “What idiot would ever want to stifle a sneeze!!! “

Excuse me, Bagman, but you interrupted Butler. Robert’s Rules of Order. Butler had the floor.

BAGMAN: “Robert can stick his Rules of Order up his nose.”

BUTLER: “May I continue? Thank you. To stifle a sneeze all you have to do is wait until the urge to sneeze becomes extremely strong and just before you can’t hold it back, exhale as thoroughly as you can through your mouth so there is no air in your lungs at all and hold your breath.”

BAGMAN: “How can you hold your breath if you have just let it all go?”

BUTLER: “Okay, then just try not to inhale.”

BAGMAN: “You’ll turn white and faint!”

BUTLER: “I didn’t say it was comfortable. But I guarantee the urge to sneeze will pass before you actually faint. As soon as it passes, resume breathing until the next urge comes, then repeat the process. The urge to sneeze will go away after three or four repetitions.”

BAGMAN: “I’d rather sneeze – loud and long! Sneezing is incredibly pleasurable! In fact…”

BUTLER: “Pleasurable!!! What!! It’s awful, not to mention messy!”

BAGMAN: “You just interrupted me! Robert’s Rules of Order!”

BUTLER: “How dare you challenge me on Rules of Order that you just wanted to insert in Robert’s nasal passages?!”

BAGMAN: “As I was saying…(pause)…the irritation prior to the actual sneeze is a bit bothersome, but the actual moment of sneezing is an unbelievably pleasurable release! It’s like a nasal orgasm! And like real orgasms, it’s just a shame it doesn’t last longer.”

BUTLER: “You take the metaphor too far, Sir.”

BAGMAN: “No I don’t. Look at the face of someone at the moment of sneezing! Mouth open, eyes rolled back…it’s a veritable O-Face.”

BUTLER: “What’s an O-Face?”

BAGMAN: “Imbecile! Watch the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

BUTLER: “Besides, when you are sneezing, people shouldn’t see your face because you are supposed to cover your mouth with your hand.”

BAGMAN: Hah! I got you now!! Back when the H1N1 Flu epidemic was around the Department of Health instructed people to keep their hands clean and to sneeze into the crook of their arm!”

BUTLER: “That was for coughing, Sir! They never included sneezing because when sneezing there are times when…how do I say this nicely…

BAGMAN: “Snot would come out and get on your clothes?”

BUTLER: “You, sir, are an uncouth speaker who vilifies the English language! You are also a loud sneezer who should not be allowed to sneeze in proper company. That is why you should practice my exhale proc speaker who vilifies the English language! You are also a loud sneezer who should not be allowed to sneeze in proper company. That is why you should practice my exhale procedure. “

BAGMAN: “And you are a sickeningly dainty sneezer !

I’m sorry to interrupt but we are coming to the end of our first Bagman and Butler debate. Each candidate will have 30 seconds to sum up their positions.

BAGMAN: “aaa… AAA …. AAAA … CHOOOO!!!!! “

BUTLER: “aa … AA … AAA … tsss.”

BAGMAN: “I just hope you don’t make love like you sneeze.”

I’m sorry but our time is up.

BUTLER: “I told you this was a stupid topic for a debate. Nothing to disagree about. We should debate the President’s Financial Stimulus package.”

BAGMAN: “Or the legalization of public nudity.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Shootout - RED

Once again, Friday has rolled around and I realize I have not blogged all week and probably will not have much of a Friday shootout, although I’ll throw a couple of red photographs in, just to stay in the loop. Last week I was able to blog even with a broken arm because I took some sick time – didn’t want to go to work half stoned on pain meds! But this week, I’m still moving slow but have been at work and…

BAGMAN: Are you totally incapable of writing a blog without apologizing?!!!

Okay – Red photographs – mostly from archives since I haven’t had a chance to take new ones.

BAGMAN: “See what I mean? You REALLY are a big wuss!”

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Several of the folks I follow periodially post haiku which prods the poet within me that has been on retreat for a few years...but I had to add one, at least:

Spiny gum tree balls

wait under elm leaves at night.

Why am I barefoot?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Thankful

I am thankful for:

Nana, Conner and Noah

Son, Brian and daughter-in-law Melody

Laundry baskets

The fact that we are all now living together
even if things are a little cramped

My daughter, Jean

Barclay's dedication to making the world a better place

The fact that Bagman has made me crazy my entire life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now from the purely medical point of view

Butler and I have decided that there has been too much humor over my humerus and we feel that at least one blog needs to be medically accurate for the scientists who might read this. Therefore, we have acquired the actual X-Rays and Analysis from the Emergency Room.

Below is the unedited version my broken arm written in actual Medicalese:

"There is a comminuted fracture involving the proximal humerus with an
avulsed fragment originating from the greater tuberosity with the
transverse portion of the fracture extending through the humeral neck.
There is slight impaction at the fracture involving the humeral neck.
The orientation of the humeral head and glenoid appears to be anatomic
on the images submitted. Mild and distal humerus are intact."

For those of you who have never learned Medicalese, this basically means that, despite the fact I was no longer at work but had commuted home and was in the proximity of humor when I tranversed the living room and struck the couch just below my very funny neck. The impact did involve my funny neck (unstated but implied here is that my throat, located in my funny neck, was forced to make loud cries of pain). I'm not sure why they chose to comment on my funny head and glenitals - maybe they enjoy adding sexual comments. At least they think my head and glenitals are anatomic. Or maybe it means that they are not radioactive. Finally, they note that my sense of humor is intact but only at a distance and is rather mild. Strange that they never mention the actual broken bone.

However, they did provide a photograph which Butler and I are able to decipher.

First, please note the yellow arrows. It appears that when I imbedded myself in the couch, several bedbugs took up residence in my body. After pointing this out to the doctor who had missed it entirely, he referred me to a pestcontrolologist for further treatment.

Secondly, the yellow circle at the bottom of the X-Ray indicates why I am having trouble fastening my pants.

The odd parallel lines and triangle circled in red confused both Butler and myself but after extensive Internet Research we discovered that this was an increasingly common physical adaptation to regular use of seatbelts.

However, it is strange that Butler and I have not mentioned the actual broken bone either. Looking more closely, however, you can see the actual image of the couch imprinted on the bone - red arrow pointing to broken bone. Karen calls it a sofa but I prefer couch because it includes the word "ouch."

Medical doctors, of course, use the Latin term, "Brokenus Bonus" so they can bill insurance companies for it.

Any questions?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. It was only a broken arm. Millions of people deal with far worse permanently.

BAGMAN: "But you do self-pity so well!"

BUTLER: "Hush, Baggie. He's not in the mood. He swore at the dogs this morning. If he wants to pretend he's in a better mood, let him do it."

So since it was time, I say, glaring at Bagman and backing him off, to stop feeling sorry for myself, I decided to attempt a fairly normal morning after two and a half days of semi-vertical reclining in a lounge chair in a sling. Besides, having not changed my t-shirt for that time no-one would come near me any more -- a mixed blessing, that.

Karen had offered to help me change and shower that morning but I had probably snapped at her too. But I wanted to try it on my own so after she left, I went to the bathroom to begin a game of Bathroom Twister.

First, I took a deep breath and unvelcro'ed the front of the sling and let it drop, letting my arm hang straight down. Barclay a.k.a. Dr. Stewart, my hero and soon to take his medical boards at MUSC, had explained the humerus and how it heals and it was alright to have it un-set but I should not put stress on it. I can do anything with the rest of my body as long as the left arm hangs limply down.

Dropping the pants was easy...well, at least after I figured out how to unfasten them with one hand. Note to self: may want to find easier pants to put on afterwards.

T-shirt was puzzling until I reached back with right hand (I'm left-handed by the way), pulled the collar over my head and hopped on one foot -- don't ask, I don't know why -- swore at myself for not removing my glasses first because the caught in the fabric, then jiggled my right hand until it came free and hung with my glasses somewhere in the fabric, attached to my limp left armpit -- probably by dried sweat. Yuck.

Assess for pain. So far so good. Into the shower. Ahhhh. Warm water. Heaven. And now for the soap, which my stupid non-dominant right hand promptly drops. But I'm on top of it. I've learned that in order to keep my right arm from swinging out, I can't lean over to pick up things and have already perfected the art of genuflecting in such vertical grace it would win approval from the Queen of England. Although it might not win her approval to see it done, naked, water pouring down, in a small, slippery shower stall.

Having retrieved the soap, I quick start using it before I drop it again. I keep the left arm fairly vertical while I attack the its pit with the first soap it has seen in days. All the uncleanliness flows down the drain: dna-laced detritus, fibers from the sling, morsels of food, a page from the Sunday comics...

I had worried about how I would wash my left arm, but the real problem turned out to be my right arm. Washing my right armpit with my right hand -- well, just imagine Chimpanzees.

No more challenges. Those parts I could not reach with a towel were delegated to evaporation.

Until time to shave. I wasn't worried about the razor in my right hand. A nick or two here and what. But the problem was getting the lather out of the aerosol can. I usually just push the button on top and squirt some shaving cream onto my other hand and...

...other hand. Now there is the problem. If my left hand is hanging down...should it be the squirter or the squirtee? After a moment, I decided to simply eliminate the middle man and squirt the shaving cream directly on my face. Where is the camera when you really need it?

Having completed being the butt of my own fraternity prank and cleaned off an ocean of shaving cream, I tackled getting dressed again.

Pullover shirt, no problem -- I remembered to remove my glasses first.'s where the serious hopping around on one foot occurred. And the realization that I broke my humerus the day after Thanksgiving which meant my pants were too tight to begin with.

BUTLER: "Please tell me you aren't going to blame the tightness of your pants on Thanksgiving!"

Okay, okay...but my pants are all on the tight side these days...Okay!! Get off my case!!

BUTLER: "Ah, yes. You are in a much better mood, I can tell."

So jeans were soon eliminated simply because there was no way my right hand, by itself, could maneuver those little brass buttons through those little eyeholes under stress.

So I began trying on dress slacks because they have hooks instead of buttons and...well...blush...because many years ago I gave up style for the comfort of elastic waistbands.

But elastic is elastic and whether I used by broken arm to hold one side or push the other side, I could feel twinges. Plus, they have hooks but they also have buttons too...didn't the tailors have confidence in their ability to keep pants on? Why do the waistbands have one button inside, then a hook, then another button outside? I had already given up on the buttons and was just straining to get one hook hooked. I had even pried it out so it would catch better. At least once, I decided in desperation that I would never be able to dress myself again.

But finally, sucking, squeezing, puffing, grunting, clawing, hopping, swearing, pulling while ALWAYS KEEPING MY LEFT ARM LIMP AND VERTICAL...I completed it. A pair of slip on Crocs, reattachment of the sling, and I was ready for the world, despite the fact that my pants totally clashed with my shirt.

No matter. I was exhausted anyhow. I went back to the livingroom, lay back on the lounge chair, and went to sleep.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Every Christmas it's my job to prove Joyce Kilmer wrong and "make a tree." I make it in the livingroom after clearing a space by moving the antique white couch which is a old family heirloom although I no longer remember whose family and am too embarrassed to ask Karen who already thinks I don't care about important things. And maybe it isn't an heirloom at all.

After moving the "Couch which might be an heirloom", I straighten wire branches from the tree box and attach them to the "trunk." The topmost branches need a stepladder so I'm up on it when suddenly the phone rings...

But that's not why I fell.

It's Karen's phone and from her end of the conversation I can tell that the time frame for the kids and grandkids moving in with us has suddenly been moved up to tomorrow (which is now today, or maybe yesterday since typing with one hand is very very slow). Everything must be moved. My office is relocating to the smaller guest room. I hate moving and will do almost anything to avoid it.

BUTLER: "You did this on purpose???!!!!!"

No, but I was a little distracted. Climbing down the stepladder, I stepped off the last step only to discover .007 seconds later that it was really the next to last step!

.008 seconds later, the adrenalin kicked in. Adrenalin is the emotional airbag of immanent disaster. It slows time and provides opportunity for the mind and body to discuss things:

BODY TO MIND: "This is wide-body 64. We have an unexpected gravity problem and request emergency landing clearance."

MIND TO BODY: "Wide-body 64, you are cleared to fall. Implement risk mitigation checklist immediately."

BODY: "Roger. (1) Relax and don't fight it. (2) Do not extend arms and risk breaking wrists. (3) Tuck head to keep neck flexible. (4) Roll if possible. (5) Try to spread impact over as much of body as possible."

MIND: "Excellent. You must have learned this when you practiced Judo."

BODY: "I fall down very well. It's a real skill."

BUTLER: "But not one to put on your resume."

MIND TO BODY: "Please clear channels of idle chatter, you now have less than .15 seconds to impact."

BODY TO INTERCOM: "We have been cleared to crash. Please turn off all electronic equipment and store your tray tables in their full and upright positions. And don’t worry, we’re very good at falling on flat surfaces.”

MIND TO BODY: “Good luck with impact. And don’t forget about the new location of the “Couch that might be an heirloom.”

ALL: “Couch that might be…Oh no! AAAAAAAAAAaaaaa!



At this point in the ultra-slow motion fall, I have bounced off the couch and am beginning a .10 second 1 foot final plunge to the actual floor. I have already identified the thwock sound as the sound of something breaking. I was terrified because I assumed that I had broken the arm or one of the legs on the couch which might be an heirloom. I’d hate to think I broke an irreplaceable heirloom!

Then I finally rolled onto the floor and my nervous system began to send reports to my brain. The extreme relief I felt to know I had not broken the couch was only matched by the explosion of pain from my left shoulder.

And by the arrival of Karen standing over my writhing form holding the baby.

KAREN: “Mark!!!!!”

MARK: “I’m okay! I’m okay!”

KAREN: “Mark!!!!!!”

MARK: “I’m okay! I’m okay!”

This repetitive dialogue continues for ten minutes or so with Noah starting to add his cries. And occasionally I vary my lines by saying, “I’m okay! AAAAAaaaa! I’m okay!” which does not help my credibility.

Another time, rolling in clockwise spasms, I exclaimed, “I’m okey! The couch is okay! I’m okay!” which only made Karen wonder if I had hit my head.

Then, the triage discussion shifted as I began rolling in counter-clockwise spasms.

KAREN: “You are NOT okay!!! You are NOT okay!!

MARK: “Karen!!!!”

KAREN: “You are NOT okay!!! You are NOT okay!!”

MARK: “Karen!!!!”

And finally, due to our mutually sophisticated conflict resolution skill, we came to agreement.

KAREN: “You are not okay and we are going to the emergency room.”

MARK: “Ooooooo uuugh Ouch. Aaaaauuuh &%#$@!”

The rest of the story is not so interesting. X-rays. Gratitude for pain meds. Broken humorus near the shoulder. But a “clean break in place” which is doctor talk for “no surgery.”

And now I’m tired of typing with one hand.

But I’m okay.

Saturday, November 27, 2010



Friday, November 26, 2010


Subtitle: Why I hate sales.

Sub-subtitle:  The Christmas Spirit American Style

I have never liked shopping very much.  The worst day, of course -- or what many people consider the best -- is the day after Thanksgiving.  "Black Friday" it is called.  Retailers fight each other to start their biggest financial quarter of the year with big Sales.  They open their doors at 4 a.m. or earlier.  Some have midnight sales.  The first 200 or 100 people in the doors can get incredible bargains.  

Two years ago a sales clerk in New York City was trampled to death by bargain hunters. 

My wife and have almost always gone to some of these.   One year we almost had a good time.  I usually go to make sure that Karen isn't injured -- or maybe to make sure someone in front of her isn't injured.  Every year, I swear that I will never go to another Black Friday sale.

So what was I doing at 2:00 a.m. crawling out by myselfIt's a long story that started out with me volunteering because she had to travel to see her brother (I'm such a nice guy) and ended up with her not traveling, but having Noah here so Brian and Melody could go and the choice between changing diapers and going to Black Friday, well... (maybe I'm not such a nice guy).

I'm suppose to get a (OOPS!  Can't say it in case the kids read this.  Although I never got the "Thing" anyway...(Whether I'm a nice guy or not, I'm not violent enough).  But I'm suppose to get this thing.  How bad could it be.   But to make sure, I get to the store by 2:10 a.m. and the doors don't open until 4:00! 

Pulling into the parking lot, I realize that Karen, once again, has read all the sales papers and chosen the absolutely best deal on the planet.  Because everyone on the planet is already there.

So here is my one and only photo for this week's shoot.  There are already over 150 people there!  I realize that despite being almost two hours early, I'm probably late!   I shoot one shot from the window of the car and jump out to join the line, hoping that most of these people want to buy one of the other items on special sale. 

People have been camping out.  They have little tables and are working on laptops.  They have food.  I want to bring the coffee I brought but do the math -- two cups of coffee, zero Porta-Pottys -- and leave the coffee.

The line continues to grow.  Around me I hear people talking about the great sale on the...uh..."Thing".
My heart begins to sink.   But I make friends with people around me.  I hear way too much information about the marriage of a loud-talking woman several groups behind me.

Time drags in the middle of the night, sitting on a cement sidewalk.

Then the doors finally open.  

If you watch this stampede, near the end, you will hear a female sales clerk calling out, "Can we get somebody down here!!"   This was because a fist fight was breaking out over one of the last "Things" available.  

They are all welcome to them.  I turned around at the end of the video and left the store.  I was also suppose to get a wool hat for Karen at a savings of $5.00.   I'll pay full price somewhere else. 

I'm never doing this again.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Favorite Shop

Okay -- It's terrible form to post a Friday Photo Shootout with no photos.  But I have good reasons:

  1. I really dislike shopping. 
  2. We had the grandchildren and today was Thanksgiving.
  3. I have to go to bed because Karen has planned out a strategic attack on Black Friday -- the United States' Day After Thanksgiving Super Sales Early Bird Capitalist Spendfest when stores open at 3:00 a.m. and have incredible deals for the first so many customers so you have to line up at the doors at 2:00 a.m. and in the dark feeling like an idiot.  And we are planning to fight the crowds at Target for a high def flat screen television to buy the kids for Christmas.  We will save lots of money but I'd rather pay to sleep.  And the crowds are really mobs, hoards of huns invading.  Two Thanksgivings ago in some Walmart, thankfully far from here, someone was actually trambled to death!  But I may at least spend the hour between 2 and 3 am shooting some underexposed blurry shots which I can post on Saturday, after I wake up.
  4. So this is not really my Friday Shootout -- it may (or may not) appear tomorrow.  But it probably won't be much because...
  5. Did I mention that I really dislike shopping?
But I do forgive Nan for coming up with such a difficult topic for me.  I realize I am in the minority.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Boggers Found Alive in Facebook

CYBERSPACE -- An eruption of cheers greeted rescuers last night when they returned from Facebook with three bloggers who had been lost under an avalanche of Friend Requests for over 48 hours. 

Mark Cowell, Bagman, and Butler were carried out looking haggard and weak but waving and giving "thumbs up" signs to the crowds of reporters that had converged on the scene. 

Asked by reporters about his harrowing ordeal, Cowell reported that it had been a close call.

"It's been over two years since I had a Facebook account,"  said Cowell, "and I was no longer prepared to have so many friends.  I only went in because I wanted a better way of communicating with a couple of family members and suddenly friends that I could hardly remember were dropping on us until we couldn't see two feet ahead of us."

"It was great!  It was awesome!! I want to do it again," said Bagman, who had to be restrained from running back into the danger zone.

Butler, the third companion on the ill-fated exploration, seemed unphased, although his bow tie was slightly askew.  He noted that biggest problem was they had had to answer all the requests and write polite notes even if they didn't know everyone.   "It is poor etiquette not to reply to everyone."

Cowell thanked rescuers for pulling them out and confirmed that he had learned his lesson although he planned to leave his Facebook account in place. 

The three bloggers were then taken to an undisclosed site where the humanitarian group, Save Our Faces, planned to spend a week deprogramming them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogger Feared Buried Under Friends

CYBERSPACE -- First responders on the scene reported they were hopeful that a trio of extreme bloggers would be found alive after being buried by an avalanche of Facebook Friends over the weekend.  Mark Cowell and two companions known only as Bagman and Butler apparently ventured into Facebook and were trapped by the Friend Requests that are common in this part of the world.

People who knew Cowell said that they were surprised that he and his companions were caught off guard so easily.   "These weren't amateurs," said a reliable source close to Cowell who chose to remain anonymous.  "They were experienced bloggers and had even explored Facebook in the past.  They should have been prepared for this." 

Facebook, a popular social networking site, is well known for uncontolled, over-friendliness conditions. 

Norton Spamalotti, head of  "Save Our Faces," an international volunteer group dedicated to helping de-program Facebook Addicts, said that people are often buried by Friend Requests because they no longer remember most of the people requesting friendship but confirm them anyway because they feel guilty about denying someone they assume they should remember. 

"We think that's what happened here," reported Spamalotti.  "The last people who talked with Cowell and his companions before their disappearance said that Cowell had primarily decided to set up another Facebook account to keep in touch with his children since younger people sometimes have no other way of communicating."

"He forgot that there is a huge, unstable crust of baby boomers that often collapse in friendliness.  These Friend Request Avalanches also build quickly because Facebook automatically suggests new friends."

Facebook was unavailable for comment.

Latest reports from rescuers noted that Cowell's Facebook page was very sparse and that he had not filled in all the personal information fields.  "This is a good sign that we may still find him and his companions intact.  Odds of recovering people drop dramatically once their page becomes really active."

The primary task will be to find and extract the victims, returning them to Blogspot before any permanent damage has been done.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dang - continued

Not only did I miss posting the Friday shootout but I only got to see a couple of other people's shots before real life continued getting in the way.  Good stuff...but I do miss blogging.

But to keep my hand in, here are a couple of shots I took on vacation although one of them I could have taken anywhere. 

BAGMAN:  "Does this mean I won't be able to talk about temptations?"

Yep.  Too late now.

BUTLER:  "And a good thing too!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I'm going to miss the Friday Shootout. 

BAGMAN:  "And it was my favorite theme too!!!!!"

But real life is calling.  Do you want me to list my excuses.

BUTLER:  "Why bother.  You usually whine about your excuses even when you go ahead and post anyhow.  If you have time to list your excuses, you could post."

Butler's right.  I don't really have time to list my excuses.

BAGMAN: "And temptation is my favorite thing!!!!!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yana Mama's Yummy Yummy

We now take a moment from our usual Bagman and Butler antics for a blatantly commercial pitch.

BAGMAN and BUTLER:  "No!  You can't shut us up that easily!"

Sorry, guys. Thirty second commercial break for Yana's!  Karen and I stopped by there by accident on our way home from vacation.  I didn't get a picture of her but you can recognize Yana Mama (as she calls herself) as soon as you walk in.  She is the fabulous, multi-blinged, (never trust a skinny cook) bleach blond that is moving from table to table and directing the meyhem in the small, packed eatery. 

For the rest of this blog, I'll write in my deep, clear, fast-talking announcer's voice:

Are you hungry for the best peach fritters, made with real peaches covered with pure grease and shovel-loads of  powdered sugar.  Or banana fritters?  Are you within 1000 miles of Swansboro, South Carolina.  Then just pop on over to Yana Mama's restaurant.  Serving the best unhealthy and unfranchised food for over 30 years!

If you are tired of being lean and athletic and neglecting your taste buds, you too can look like this gentleman who was cholesterol free and 25 years old before he discovered the joys of shrimp burgers and strawberry fritters.

Watch as the friendly staff at Yana Mama's flip hamburgers without losing any of the five essential greases.  If you experience nausea for more than 6 hours contact your doctor immediately. 

Did I mention the apple fritters?