Bill, funny stories, humor, love, marriage, movies, nostalgia, videos, YouTube

From the horrifying womb of Teen Steam, a new private joke is born!

Regular readers may have noticed that yesterday, just before I wrote about Bill’s needless alarm over Friday’s phone call, I reposted my review of Alyssa Milano’s embarrassing 1988 era exercise video, Teen Steam. I reposted that review because I originally wrote it for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com, and had reposted it on my dying music blog, Dungeon of the Past. Some of my most faithful readers are folks I “met” (in person in a few cases) on that site. I like to preserve my old Epinions reviews whenever I can. As I’m getting close to the $100 in ad revenue I need to cash out on AdSense, I’m thinking about discontinuing my music blog. If I end up doing that, it might mean some of the most popular and personally amusing posts will get rehomed on this blog. I do like writing about music, but I don’t have the desire to update that blog often enough to keep it going. Plus, I simply don’t like writing on Blogger anymore.

Reposting the video again, for those who don’t want to read my old Epinions review.

As I was reposting that review, I watched bits of Alyssa’s godawful Teen Steam video again. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Indeed, I initially wrote that review in 2009, and while I probably looked at the video again when I reposted it on Dungeon of the Past, I had forgotten how absolutely and shamelessly rotten it is. It’s an exercise video directed at teenaged or prepubescent girls, put out at a time when Alyssa Milano was starring on Who’s the Boss with Judith Light and Tony Danza. Besides being in movies and starring on TV shows, Alyssa Milano also had a burgeoning pop music career in Japan. Obviously, she was striking while the iron was hot, as when she was a teenager, Alyssa Milano was absolutely beautiful. Or, at least I think so… and I say that as an objective, heterosexual female who doesn’t have aspirations of having sexual relations with other females.

I took a fresh look at the Amazon reviews for Teen Steam, and I quickly noticed some of the comments were not coming from the video’s intended audience. I distinctly remember back in 2009, when I originally wrote the Epinions review, there were a lot of men commenting about how watching Alyssa’s workout caused them to be sexually aroused. They might have also enjoyed watching Alyssa’s two hired actress friends, who used the premise of being upset with their parents as a reason to let off “teen steam”. For them, it was “teen steamy” indeed.

Back in the 80s, things were different than they are now. In those days, kids were pretty much allowed to run wild, especially compared to today. There was a lot less concern about child welfare back then, although laws were starting to be made about what children could, or could not, do… and some parents had enough common sense to know what they shouldn’t be doing and actually prevent them from doing those things. I’m sure in the 80s, Alyssa Milano’s workout tape seemed very innocent and cute. I think society, as a whole, was blissfully less aware of the bad stuff in the world.

As Bill and I were listening to music and drinking beer last night, I read aloud one of the Amazon reviews that was posted about this video:

Does anyone else find it creepy that the top of the “What similar items do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item?” is a movie called Jailbait? I guess if you’re not creeped out by the other reviews, that shouldn’t add much.

Bill had just taken a big sip of beer right before I read that actual Amazon review to him. He thought I was joking and almost spewed beer out of his mouth as he choked back laughter. Then he said, “I should be careful drinking beer when you’re making a joke.”

Except I wasn’t joking. That was a literal review on Amazon. We both started cracking up over that. But seriously… below is another honest to God Amazon review of this video:

This is the beautiful girl, turning into a woman right before you’re [sic] very eyes, through each stretch and musical number! Guys who buy this may have to buy another later, so don’t use that still frame button and slow motion button so much!

And another…

The music is terrible. The Fashion is horrible. The dancing is awful. The workouts are laughable. But it’s badness is the genius of its greatness. A must for any Alyssa Milano fan because you won’t be able to take your eyes off of her.

And another…

What can I say about this rare, late 80’s gem? I had to have this, I just had to. I remember “who’s the Boss” as an interesting if silly family show, if a little strange because it had a single parent who was a somewhat befuddled dad, most single parent families, by far, have a mom and no dad, but I guess they wanted to be different. Lets [sic] start with the star of this show, Alyssa Milano. She is as close to perfect as the good lord makes girls her age, her face is flawless and her well toned body is unparalleled. She is also barely 16. I am not 16. I have not been 16 for a long, long, long time. Shame on me. But wait…I didn’t produce this, I didn’t set up the exercises or tell this young nubile to do stretching exercises in a sports bra and nothing else on top. It wasn’t my idea, why should I be ashamed? I just am. Alyssa Milano is a fascinating individual, like an onion one peels and peels and still there is more. She had a colossal career in Japan, lots of Americans did, but not Like Ms. Milano. She had 4 or 5 albums, albums which must be heard to be believed, I confess to downloading some of the songs, shame on me again. If you can listen to one of her songs all the way through, you are stronger then I am. She sings the theme, the lyrics stick in ones [sic] mind like a chicken bone in a dogs throat, “My parents want an angel, my teachers want a brain, my friends all want to party and it’s driving my insane” Oh the horror, the horror. It is painfully obvious that no teenage girl penned these lyrics but some older male, as was much of her stuff in those days. She wears outfits selected for her to please someone else, she poses for hundreds of photo’s [sic], (check out her fan sites) some of which would make Nabrikov [sic] blush, whatever she did it was top quality, done with true heart and spirit and always a little creepy. Who was the audience for this? Young girls? maybe, but many other demographic groups would enjoy her stretching and bending, and squatting and lunging and squatting some more, and leg lifts…….shame on me. She poses in a nighty for a grown women, she is barely 13, time and time again Alyssa Milano puts the “pro” in “age inappropriate”, but is she to blame? or credit? I just don’t have an answer. What I will say is she takes her exercise very seriously, as do the camera men who constantly leer over her teenage body, and her friends too, what to say? The dance number is done very well, the credit list goes on to name many professionals who worked really hard on this, yet like any of her stuff it is horribly dated, her hair and music scream 1988 and no other year, sadly that was a long time ago, and it shows. I, and many other’s [sic] will always think of Alyssa Milano as our adorable if annoying little sister, or the neighbor girl who we see walking down the street, who we should not be looking at….then we take our camcorder and…..shame on me.

Side note. Alyssa was probably 15, not barely 13, when she made this video. She and I were born the same year, and she was a December baby. This was released in 1988, meaning that her 16th birthday would have been in December 1988. But yeah, I did notice how incredibly and naturally beautiful she was back then. She’s still beautiful today, too, and I have read that, yes, of course she cringes today when she remembers making this video. It apparently sold well, though, and she and her parents probably made some bank with her version of an exercise video. They were all the rage back in the 80s, thanks to Jane Fonda.

“Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her!” One of the many inside jokes between Bill and me…

What does Teen Steam have to do with National Lampoon’s European Vacation? Bill and I share a lot of private, inside jokes. One of our most enduring private jokes involves the scene in European Vacation when Rusty Griswold is watching a newlywed couple making out at breakfast. While Clark and Ellen Griswold are talking to their daughter, Audrey, Rusty suddenly blurts out, “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her!”

Clark responds, “He’s not gonna pork her, Russ.”

“I think he is, Dad”, Rusty says, raising his eyebrows and smiling admiringly.

Sometimes, when Bill says something that strikes me as funny, I’ll say, a la Rusty Griswold, “I think he is, Dad.”

And I think our exchange regarding the scandalous, yet cheesy, 80s era teen video, Teen Steam, is going to end up being another one of our private, inside jokes. I’ve mentioned before that we’re about to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and it really does my heart good to know that we still have a lot to talk and laugh about privately. It makes me feel good that we’re still such good friends, and we not only love each other, but we also really like each other. We laugh over the craziest, dumbest, and most obscure things. I think that Teen Steam Amazon review is going to go down in history as one of our many private guffaws. I’m delighted that we still have them… because God knows, if we don’t laugh, we’re probably going to cry over the state of the world today…

Standard
Bill, funny stories, Germany, modern problems, politics, technology

“Will you RELAX?!” knotty gets a rare phone call, causing unfounded alarm…

Last night, as I was disassembling my latest completed puzzle project and preparing to start the next one, my Apple Watch started ringing. I wasn’t expecting a phone call. Indeed, almost no one calls me, ever. But I answered the call anyway, since it looked like it came from a Washington, DC number.

Just finished last night! Hilarious musician Paul Thorn’s second limited edition puzzle is based on a beauty queen drag show his dad held at their Mississippi church in the early 80s. Paul was the winner.

A rather awkward sounding man asked for me by name. I told him he was speaking to me. It turned out he was from Democrats Abroad, an organization that encourages Americans who live overseas to vote blue. He wanted to make sure I had an absentee ballot coming. I assured him I did. He started reading off information I had obviously input when I connected with this organization some months ago. I probably did it because I was so eager to get a ballot. There have been years when we’ve received them too late.

Bill came into the room and immediately looked very suspicious. He kept mouthing “SCAM” at me while wringing his hands. I was annoyed with him, and quietly asked him to relax. He continued to stand there, frowning and shaking his head, urging me not to talk to this man from Democrats Abroad who had a barely detectable German accent, but otherwise spoke perfect English.

I verified my information with the guy, who was rattling off where we had previously lived in the United States and my phone number. I was pretty confident that this dude was who he said he was, especially since the call had come from a DC phone number. He verified that I had requested my ballot and lamented that the mail might be too slow. I didn’t mention to him that I would be using the APO system to receive and send the ballots, rather than German mail. Then the guy said maybe Texas would let us vote by email. Honestly, I don’t remember if we can do that, but I’ll do that if it’s allowed.

Bill still looked suspicious, and it was really distracting me, and making it hard to follow the conversation with the caller, so I suddenly snapped at him “Will you relax?!”

The guy I was talking to was obviously startled, and said “Are you talking to me?”

I laughed and said, “No, I’m sorry; I was talking to my husband.”

He sighed with relief and said, “That’s good. I do get nervous when I make these calls.”

“I’m really sorry.” I said. “I do appreciate your call.” I can’t blame him for getting nervous, either. I think I would hate to have to call strangers and talk to them about voting. It’s a step or two higher than telemarketing or fundraising for colleges.

The guy said he was calling us from the Harz mountains, which are near Thuringia. I then surmised he must be a German local calling on behalf of Democrats Abroad, somehow using a DC phone number. Perhaps he’s just employed by them, or maybe he’s a dual citizen, as our half American dentist was for years before he finally went with full on German citizenship. I guess he was tired of paying taxes to two countries. Can’t blame him for that. Or, maybe it’s a German who works for Democrats Abroad, because Germans don’t want to see Donald Trump or his minions getting back into power– even though some of Trump’s (reluctant) relatives live in Rheinland-Pfalz, not so far from where we live.

We finished our call on a courteous note, and the caller gave me one last encouragement to vote in November, which I can hardly wait to do. I was amused that he wished me and my “relaxing husband” a pleasant evening. Then, after we ended our call, I looked at Bill and said, “I appreciate your concern, but you know, I can handle my own business.”

Bill agreed, then explained that he thought the caller was a scammer because he thought the man had sounded nervous, and he had encountered such a caller in Texas who had turned out to be a scammer. I love that Bill is protective sometimes, but this was not a situation that called for it. At the same time, I feel kind of amused, yet sorry, for that poor guy who thought I was yelling at him to relax. He probably won’t forget that call he made to me. He must have had an immediate reaction to hearing me snarl at Bill.

As for me, I’m struck once again at how little use I have for the phone anymore. I used to use it daily. Now, it’s a surprise when I get a phone call, and when I do get one, most of the time I get it through my watch, and it gets broadcasted to everyone in the room. Same thing goes for my car, which I used to drive regularly… now it sits in the garage for weeks. Now that I think about it, Caller ID is now kind of obsolete, since so many people use computers to call others. Ditto to the phone book. Who uses those anymore, unless they’re total luddites? I feel like I’m in the Jetsons Age. I was about to write that I “hung up” the phone, but now I realize that I didn’t even do that. Who hangs up the phone anymore?

Ah well. Yes, I plan to vote absentee, and as soon as possible. My fingers are itching to cast a vote against the vile and deplorable Greg Abbott, whom I hope gets wheeled out of Austin as soon as humanly possible. So that Democrats Abroad dude doesn’t have to worry at all. I WILL be voting, and praying for a blue wave to wash out the extremists who are taking over the country with their anti-women views. Maybe it’s a pipe dream to hope for a Democratic governor in Texas, but I can dream, can’t I?

Standard
Armenia, emergencies, first world problems, funny stories, Germany, Trump, YouTube

When the lights go out in Germany…

Whenever Bill goes away, I’m always soon reminded of how much I miss him when he’s not home. Especially when there’s a heatwave, and I’m sick with a virus.

It got super hot again yesterday and the temperatures were north of 99 degrees. That is historically a rare thing in Germany, but is sadly becoming a more common occurrence, thanks to global climate change. I read in the weather report that we might get a thunderstorm last night. I was actually hoping for that, because I was sweating so much, in spite of the air conditioner and fan we have in our bedroom. Unfortunately, we have portable ACs, and they usually require hot air stoppers.

Thanks to our previous landlady’s total conniption about us trying to be comfortable in her house during previous brutal summers, I haven’t really wanted to install the hot air stoppers in this house. Also, under normal circumstances, we can drop the shutters all the way down and snake the hoses that go with the air conditioners on the floor, and out of the balcony doors. In ex landlady’s house, we didn’t have balconies, so that wouldn’t have worked. The hoses would not have stayed in place. Our current landlord is very cool about us acting like this is our house, within reason, of course. But I’m still kind of traumatized by the behaviors of our former landlady, whom we ended up successfully suing for our deposit.

Even with the shutters down, though, because we don’t have the hot air stoppers, there is nothing to stop hot air from coming in. It usually doesn’t matter too much, since it’s usually not that hot here. At night, if we close the bedroom door, the room gets nice and cool, and Arran isn’t able to sneak downstairs and pee on my rug. But yesterday and the day before were exceptionally hot and sticky days. It was pretty uncomfortable, especially since I’m also not 100% well.

So anyway, there I was sitting in bed when the thunderstorm finally started, at about 8:30pm. I was watching an 80s era made for TV movie on YouTube. Suddenly, at about 8:45, there was a tremendous bang, and there went the power. The room was plunged into darkness, and there was no more air… and I was just sweating like crazy. I put my hair up and even rinsed off in the shower, because it was just so gross. Fortunately, I had just topped up the cell coverage on my iPad, which I don’t usually do unless we’re going on a trip. I did it the other day, because our Internet coverage in this house is pretty unreliable at times, and it’s good to have a cell connection in case it crashes.

The storm dumped some much needed rain and cooled things down a bit, not that I could immediately tell. I was coughing, sneezing, wiping my nose, and getting crankier by the minute. Fortunately, the fire brigade was on the spot, and they responded to the outage very quickly. The lights were back about an hour later. I love that about Germany, because power outages are pretty rare here, and when they do occur, they tend to be very brief.

My two years in Armenia in the 90s, where power outages were very common, have caused me to be a lot less tolerant of them in the “more developed world”. I can remember loving outages when I was a kid. They seemed “cool”. As an adult, I don’t think they’re any fun at all. I guess enduring a six week straight stint, without any power at all, will do that to a person. It turned out my Armenian neighbor hadn’t known I was living there, and cut my power so it would go to his apartment. It seemed that a lot of male Armenians in the 90s were all amateur electricians! Once he realized he had a neighbor, my former neighbor fixed my line for me, and I went back to having power for 2 to 4 hours per day. Not long after that, another neighbor harassed me, and I ended up moving out of that building.

Funny story about that. The harasser lived a level down from me, and one night, as I was coming back from a night out, he was in the hall, messing with the hall light. I tried to pass him, and he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. He held my arm in a vise-like grip and kept telling me in Armenian not to scream, but I was petrified, because one of my colleagues was recently sexually assaulted and beaten up in her village, and it landed her in the hospital. Then she had to be medevacked to the States. I had visions of her black eyes, broken nose, fractured teeth, and beaten face in my head, as this guy held my arm and menacingly warned me not to scream. I was so scared that I couldn’t think how to respond in his language, but he could obviously tell I didn’t want to talk to him or be near him. For all I know, he was trying to tell me about the lights, but he had my arm, was telling me not to scream, and wouldn’t let go of me. So draw your own conclusions about what I was thinking at the time.

I informed the powers that be at the Peace Corps office, and they sent one of their drivers to come over to speak to my neighbor. The driver was the husband of the Country Director’s secretary, and he was a big, imposing, Mafia-esque looking guy. He basically told the guy to leave me alone, or there would be big trouble. I was told that my neighbor was pretty terrified, as the Peace Corps driver was quite intimidating, and made it clear that he would beat the ever loving shit out of the guy if he ever bothered me again (or, at least it was strongly implied). I never had any more trouble with him, but I never felt safe in that apartment again. And then my landlady decided to sell it, so I had to move anyway.

Not long after my neighbor imposed six week power outage, Armenia decided to restart Metzamor, a nuclear power plant they had shut down in the late 80s after Chernobyl and a massive earthquake destroyed a good portion of the country and killed tens of thousands of people. When I was living in Armenia, some experts, including a few from the United States, examined the facility and decided it was safe.

The Peace Corps gave all us Volunteers little bottles of iodine pills, in case there was an explosion. They were supposed to protect our thyroid glands. I don’t know… seems to me that if there was a nuclear accident, our thyroid glands would be one of the last things we’d be concerned about. Fortunately, Metzamor was still functional, and during the summer of my second year, we finally got electricity 24/7. That was quite an amazing thing to experience, especially as a privileged American. As far as I know, that’s how things still are in most areas. I’m sure today’s Volunteers will never know the pain groups A1, A2, and A3 endured, back in the early days of Peace Corps/Armenia. 😉

So… as you might be able to understand, I really don’t like power outages, especially when I’m home alone. And that seems to be when they happen the most frequently. Fortunately, I had my two dogs with me to protect me. Even Noyzi, who doesn’t tend to hang around with me in the evenings, stayed in the room with me, even until after the lights came on and I went to sleep. He eventually got up and went into his own room, which required me to open the door for him. Then Arran got me up at 1:30 am for a pee break, and then again at 4:00 am, because he wanted his breakfast. I tried to go to sleep again after that, but was too busy coughing. I’ll probably need another nap today, like I did yesterday.

I’m glad last night’s power outage was short lived, although I did hear that there was a fire caused by the lightening. Again, Germany has excellent firefighters, so the blaze was quickly contained. The weather seems a bit cooler today, so maybe the dogs will finally get their walk. I’ve skipped it twice this week, because of the heat and my sickness. I do feel somewhat better today, except for the coughing and mucous. You know how it is. It seems like it’s always the worst right when I wake up and have to clear all of the crap that settled in my lungs overnight. Again, I don’t know if this is COVID-19. The one test I took said it wasn’t. This virus isn’t like last month’s, though, which also evidently wasn’t COVID. I haven’t had a super runny nose, which is a blessing, since that always causes a wound under my nostrils. I also haven’t had a fever or body aches or any weird symptoms. It really is just like a regular cold, minus the runny nose phase.

Bill is also supposed to come home tonight, after he finishes working today. He’ll probably get home in the evening, and we’ll be grumpy together, as the heat hangs around a bit longer. I told him I want to get out of here… definitely for a vacation somewhere cooler. Maybe we can do something in September, after the Germans have had their holidays in August, but before COVID-19 ramps up again!

On another note, I did manage to catch some of Ivana Trump’s funeral. Or, what was shown outside the church, anyway. I’m not surprised she had a golden casket, or that her rapist ex husband was there.

Standard
funny stories, healthcare, law

“Officer, my fetus has personhood, so you can’t ticket me for driving alone in the HOV lane!”

I got quite a chuckle last night when I read the story of Brandy Bottone, a quick thinking pregnant woman who was ticketed near Dallas, Texas for driving alone in the HOV lane. On June 29th, Bottone was busted by a sheriff’s deputy at a HOV checkpoint on the Central Expressway. The current rules state that there must be at least two people in a vehicle to use that lane. The cop asked Bottone if it was just her in the car, or if she had someone else with her. Bottone, who is 32 years old and due August 3, reportedly said, “Oh, there’s two of us.” When the cop asked where the other person was, Bottone, who was then 34 weeks pregnant, said “Baby girl is right there.” as she pointed to her enlarged middle.

The deputy who cited her said that it had to be “two bodies outside the body”. While the penal code in Texas recognizes a fetus as a separate person, the Texas Transportation Code doesn’t. I’d actually love to see if that distinction is expressly written in the Texas Transportation Code. Did the people who made the rules think about pregnant women, put upon by Texas’s onerous pro-life laws, consider that a pregnant person might try to find a loophole in the regulations pertaining to HOV lanes? If they did, I would be surprised.

Bottone explains that she got in the HOV lane because she needed to pick up her six year old son, and couldn’t be late. Bottone said that she explained that this was a “living child according to everything that’s going on with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. ‘So I don’t know why you’re not seeing that.'” Bottone was issued a $215 citation, which she plans to challenge in court this month. I say, good for her!

The cop who stopped Botone wasn’t interested in her argument and waved her on to another officer, who issued the ticket. Bottone said that the cop told her the ticket would probably be dropped if she fought it, but Bottone was angry that she was cited in the first place. She also says that she’s not “pro choice”, but she does think that women should have a choice in what they do with their bodies. It sounds to me like Bottone actually is pro-choice; she just doesn’t want an abortion for herself. That would describe most people who are “pro-choice”.

According to the Washington Post, an appellate lawyer in Texas named Chad Ruback had this to say about Bottone’s argument:

I find her argument creative, but I don’t believe based on the current iteration of Texas Transportation Code that her argument would likely succeed in front of an appellate court,” he said. “That being said, it’s entirely possible she could find a trial court judge who would award her for her creativity.”

Ruback added, “This is a very unique situation in American jurisprudence.”

Ruback also said that it sounded more to him like Brandy Bottone just wanted to get out of paying her ticket. This isn’t about someone making a point about personhood or the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She just used the current political turmoil for her own purposes. It’s likely that the law will be changed, too, since she pointed out the loophole.

Naturally, I had to look at the comments. One guy wrote this:

Good Lord. The law is about getting other vehicles off the road to reduce traffic! To keep it simple they allow children . Can a fetus sit in their own seat???? She needs to pay her ticket!

A woman responded with this comment: Good lord. The fetus can’t live outside the womb and relies totally on the mother and yet she can’t make her own decisions about her body. That’s the real crime.

Another wrote this: …yet if you were driving a car that killed that fetus due to negligence on your part it would be reckless manslaughter. So yeah the fetus either counts or doesn’t. Can’t have it both ways.

Still another wrote this: …according to Texas state law a fetus is a sentient being provided with all the same “rights” as a born person. So, with that logic in mind the ticket is erroneous. And with the current SCOTUS position that a fetus is a living being deserving of rights she can now absolutely appeal the ticket with the argument that the fetus is a second passenger.

Bwahahaha… yeah. I noticed he got tons of rightfully indignant comments from those who think Texas’s intrusive laws are bullshit. But this was MY response, and I think it also has merit:

That fetus sits on her internal organs, making her need to pee like a racehorse. She doesn’t have time for traffic jams. I say, let her off… and let all the other pregnant ladies use the HOV lane.  

One guy commended me for my “logic”, to which I added this: I say the fact that the fetus DOESN’T have its own seat should absolutely work in her favor!

The same guy who exclaimed indignantly that Bottone should pay kept commenting more of the same. He said:

A passenger has to be in a SEAT of the vehicle. Two people are not allowed to be in the same buckled seat!

I like how he added the word “buckled”, as if that matters. I mean, seatbelt use is required in Texas, and in fact they will enforce the law, possibly to the point of even arresting your ass if you disobey it. But I’ll bet money this commenter is all for forced birthing, and if that’s the case, then maybe he should think about the value of giving pregnant women this one perk. Because they are about to become people with different civil rights simply due to the fact that they’re hosting developing persons in their bodies.

It seems to me that conservative lawmakers want to have things both ways. Pretty soon, the people are going to challenge them in ways they never dreamed of, as they try to call developing fetuses persons with rights, as they don’t grant them rights when it’s expensive or inconvenient. Brandy Bottone may not prevail in her court case, but I have a feeling that she won’t be the only one to use this defense in similar situations. A Pandora’s Box has been cracked open, and pretty soon things will get very weird, if something isn’t done to protect a woman’s right to choose.

I do wish Brandy luck, both with her traffic ticket, and her soon to be blessed event. And good for her for being a quick thinking person who came up with a clever response to a stupid, overly intrusive law.

Standard
dogs, funny stories, lessons learned, love, technology

Something to live for… awkward conversations about life and death…

Yesterday was a pretty busy day. I wrote three fresh blog posts. Two were about Josh Duggar, and one was a review of Naomi Judd’s book, River of Time, which was about her struggles with depression and anxiety. Interspersed within all the writing, there was also the news about the people who died in Uvalde, Texas… nineteen children and two teachers. I read last night that Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, who was killed during the school shooting massacre, died of a heart attack just a couple of days after losing his wife of 24 years. This morning, I read a ridiculous tin foil hat comment from someone who thought Garcia’s sudden heart attack was part of a conspiracy, since the police department in Uvalde were apparently unprepared to deal with a school shooting.

People are still arguing about COVID, abortion rights, gun rights, school safety, and all of the other political hot button issues that will probably never be settled in my lifetime. All I can do is shake my head. The world is really fucked… and yet, sometimes there are little flickers of beauty, humor, and wonder that make me think it’s worth trying to stick around for however much time I have left.

Last night, Bill came home with kind of a sheepish look on his face. He said, “Well, today got started on a rather ‘awkward’ note.”

I looked up at him, noticing that he looked a little mischievous. “Do tell.” I encouraged.

He said, “I was in the bathroom, taking a shit, and when I came out, I was confronted by my boss, who said he needed to talk to me. So we sat down and my boss said, ‘Bill, I have to ask you… are you alright?'”

And I said, “He was asking you this because he heard you taking a shit? Or he smelled the remnants of it?”

“No…” Bill said, laughing. “The shitting part becomes important later in the story.”

“My imagination is going wild.” I said.

Bill continued, “So my boss says, ‘The guys in the IT department noticed a questionable search string coming from your computer. It got flagged. And I have to ask you, are you okay? Are you considering suicide?'”

Bill said, “No! Of course not!” Taking a deep breath, Bill explained to his boss, “I Googled ‘when someone you know commits suicide’, because recently, two acquaintances committed suicide. One was a guy I knew in high school, years ago. He was a good friend in those days, but we weren’t close recently. We were just Facebook friends. And one day last month, he posted ‘Guys, it’s been a slice,’ on Facebook, and that was it. Next thing I knew, people were announcing that he’d killed himself.”

Bill went on, “The other was the woman who previously lived in the house my wife and I rented near Stuttgart, before we moved to Wiesbaden. She had worked for our company, and one day I noticed that her name wasn’t on the company roster anymore. And because she had kind of been ‘cyberstalking’ my wife, the fact that she wasn’t on the roster caught my attention.”

Bill paused, then continued, “I told my wife, so she Googled her name, and discovered that she’d died. It was a shock, since she was so young. So she did more investigation, and found out that the woman had committed suicide. We were both really surprised by the news. She seemed to have everything going for her. These two recent suicides were just really surreal, and suicide was on my mind only for that reason. So I did a quick Google search, but even as I did it, I realized that it might get me in trouble.”

Then Bill concluded, saying “I have everything to live for. I just took a wonderful trip, and I’m planning another for my wife’s birthday next month. And my daughter is about to have my grandson, any day now. So no, I’m not thinking of killing myself. But thanks for asking.”

Bill said his boss sighed with deep relief and said, “Okay… I feel much better now. Don’t worry. This is not going to be on your permanent record, or anything.”

Then Bill said that one of his work buddies had been looking for him before that conversation took place. The boss had asked where Bill was, and of course, at the time, he was taking a shit. His work buddy had said, “Oh, Bill is probably ‘hanging out’ somewhere…”, which seems like kind of an unfortunate choice of words, under the circumstances.

We talked about it a little more, marveling at how people are always watching what we’re doing, although they don’t always take action before it’s too late. I’m sure the IT guys at Bill’s company don’t monitor every search string, but when someone Googles something weird while on the clock, it gets flagged. Obviously they take any mention of suicide seriously, which is comforting, I guess. Why would someone in Bill’s line of work be searching for articles about suicide? It would make sense for me, since I have a background in public health and social work. But it doesn’t make sense for a guy who does what Bill does for a living. If anything, this serves as a reminder to watch one’s Googling while on the job.

As we were laughing about that, Bill noticed a message from his daughter. He clicked on it, and we were introduced to Bill’s new grandson, who was born a couple of days ago… At the time the message was sent, he was just 13 hours old. He’s tiny and adorable, and he serves as another good reminder that life goes on, even when there’s crazy and terrible shit going on everywhere. Bill’s daughter looked so beautiful, too, as she held her little son. I managed to snap a photo of Bill looking at the video, so happy to be “Papa” to another soul. Yes, I would say he’s got plenty to live for…

Priceless boys…

As I write this, a gorgeous song by Janet Jackson is playing. Her song, “Together Again”, is special to us, because we kind of see it as a message from Heaven. In December 2012, our beloved “bagel”, MacGregor, died of spinal cancer. MacGregor was a very special dog, and Bill adored him. He was especially devastated when we lost him. Then a month later, we adopted our beloved Arran, who immediately bonded with Bill. Arran even did something MacGregor always did to show affection to Bill… you can see him on his hind legs in the photo below. MacGregor used to do the very same thing, putting his paws on us while standing on his hind legs. And as Arran was doing that for the first of many times, “Together Again” was playing. It meant something to us… like MacGregor was sending us a message through Arran. And now, as I write about life and death, here it is again… and it’s followed by “Psalm 23” by Eden’s Bridge, which I would love played at my funeral someday.

I’m not a huge Janet Jackson fan, but I love this song. It’s very special.
That organ… it just moves me.
January 13, 2013, the day we brought Arran home in North Carolina, and he made Bill his favorite person… Janet Jackson’s song was playing.
And last week… they are still extremely bonded. Arran would be DEVASTATED if Bill died.

We have been very fortunate to live a very good life together. Even when things seem absolutely bonkers in the world, we still have some happy news to share. I don’t know what life is going to be like for the newest grandchild, but I know he’s already much beloved by many people. And he has the most wonderful “Papa”, too. So no one should worry about Bill… “Papa” isn’t going to do anything drastic anytime soon. But thanks for asking!

Standard