Monday, November 26, 2012

Calling All Born-Again Christians

First let me point out that I respect your view point and worldview, as I respect everyone's view point and worldview, even though I don't agree with it. But hey, I'm a live and let live guy anyway.

But there's something I've been thinking about lately, and perhaps you can tell me your rationale for this particular quirk of behavior that Christians all seem to share: as a rule, born-again Christians do not drink alcohol. For some reason they think that drinking is a sin. Now I don't understand this, because one of the most famous of the ways that Jesus was said to have shown His divinity was that He turned water into wine. Now, this was at a wedding. They were celebrating a joyous event with wine, and at some point they ran out. They HAD water; they weren't in any danger of dying of dehydration. Wine was not something they had to drink; wine was something they wanted to drink. And Jesus was said to have used His unlimited powers as God's only begotten son to give the attendees at the wedding (and presumably Himself) more wine! If nothing else, this shows both the societal attitudes of the day towards wine, and Jesus' own attitude towards it.

Why, then, has the drinking of alcoholic beverages become such a taboo among the Christian community? It seems like the attitudes against alcohol are ours, no one else's. If you don't want to drink, because you don't think that alcohol is something you want to put into your body, fine. I personally don't drink. One might say I don't do it particularly well. So I don't do it at all. But that is my choice. Do Christians not drink alcoholic beverages because they think somehow it's against Bible teaching? If so I'd love your rationale. You'd be educating me.

Please don't get me wrong: I'm not judging anyone or anything. If you've given your life over to your Savior, great. Mazel Tov. Who am I to say you did anything wrong or stupid? I misspent the better part of my life, and I'm glad I did. But to each his own. I just want to know: why do you guys not drink?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A la Recherche du Temps Perdu

(Looking for Lost Time, the title of a Marcel Proust work)

Most of what I remember from the stroke that I had recently was my single-minded notion that hard work would fix me. I would tell anyone who was interested that I had "laser focus" at the task at hand — that being, rehabbing and getting better. It was really hard work but it was very much worth it, as I could measure my progress every single day. I could always do something that I couldn't do the previous day, which seemed to make the effort worth it. It was satisfying and fulfilling, which I guess is why I remember it most vividly.

But I was listening to Tootsie recounting her remembrances, especially the first couple of days, when things looked so bleak. I was reading Very Josie's blog where she described me as quote "in pain on his right side and can't move his left very much." That's not exaggeration; the first couple of days especially, things were that bad. Seeing me in the ICU, with tubes going in and tubes going out, difficult to understand, my left side in spasm, and loopy on morphine, could not have been easy, especially for my wife, my mother, and my best friend.

More to the point it made me remember just how scared I really was. I mean, for all I knew, this was going to be life from now on. I couldn't dare to imagine a life of normalcy or anything close to it at the time. I was pissing into one tube and being fed through another, hoping that they weren't just switching bottles. And when the morphine allowed me a moment of clarity so that I could assemble my thoughts in a coherent way, all I could think of was how stupid I was to allow myself to be in such poor health that I stroked out at 44. Because it was all my fault. I ignored my skyrocketing blood pressure, I was taking double handfuls of Advil to dull the pain because I refused to go to the dentist, and I thought that giving up sugared soda was all I needed to do to stem the tide of the various garbage that I threw into my body.

I put myself into the situation, and I wouldn't let myself forget. And sometimes that was a little too much to take.

I was really, REALLY scared. And the fact that I had no one to blame but myself meant that I couldn't turn that fright into anger at anyone or anything.

Of course, small signs of progress would eventually come. I remember the day they stopped monitoring my heart. The day that they removed my Foley catheter. When they removed the IV. I never thought I'd be happy to be taken off the morphine drip, but there it is. I still couldn't move worth shit, but I had a guess that was coming. The very worst days were behind me now.

I guess this is what women go through when they have a baby: one hears tales that they "forget" the pain of childbirth so that they can consider a second child with a clear head. I reckon I forgot just how scared I was, how scared my family was, how scared my friends were. But now, in the fullness of time, I remember. Oh dear God do I remember. And now, I wish I could forget.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Missed It by That Much

11 mm.

That's just under half an inch. And apparently that was the difference between me making a full recovery and me blinking my way through life.

I went to see my neurologist today, a very capable, humorous, and accessible man named Dr. Silver. I felt very comfortable in his presence. He examined me, by giving me an abbreviated version of the NIH stroke scale, which I told him I knew all about. He asked me how I knew so much about the diagnostic process, and in response I told him, "I know a thing or two about a thing or two," which is one of my favorite lines. He was warm and funny, and quite thorough. I'm glad he's my neurologist.

One of the things he did was show me the CAT scans associated with my stroke. He pointed out where the bleed took place, which was more like in the exact middle of my brain at the very top of the brainstem, instead of towards more of the back of the neck, where I thought it was. The bleed was 11 mm in size. But that's not the 11 mm that I was talking about earlier.

You see, if the bleed was just a little bit bigger, say 22 mm instead of 11 mm, it would've encroached upon an area of my brain that is associated with "locked-in" syndrome. 11 mm — .43 of an inch – separated my more or less full recovery and disaster.

I have to say, that rattled me pretty good. He told me quite matter-of-factly that if the bleed was 11 mm posterior to where it was, I wouldn't be in the office today. I'd be were I would always be, in a hospital bed, there to stay for the rest of my life.

Locked in syndrome, by the way, is when you're completely paralyzed, completely unresponsive in every way, with the only thing you can do of your own free will is blink. There is a famous book and movie about it, both titled "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," where somebody with locked in syndrome dictated an entire book to his caregiver who, letter by letter, would go through the alphabet and the guy would blink when the right letter was gotten to. That redefines "painstaking."

I knew I was lucky, even though I put a lot of hard work in to facilitate my recovery, that I had a chance to do so, instead of sustaining permanent damage. But I had no idea how close I came to a nightmare existence of complete musculoskeletal unresponsiveness. I can't even imagine a more or less intact brain inside a body that offered no ability to express itself. I really don't know how long my will to live would have sustained me, and most of my effort would have been taken up with me painstakingly blinking a request to end my life. Instead of glibly trading bon mots with the doctor, I could have been, to use a cynical expression, a potato.

That gave new meaning to the term "perspective."

I also learned some things about the nature of hemorrhagic stroke. Before, I had counted myself lucky that my stroke was the result of the bleed as opposed to that of a blood clot. As it turns out, though, you're better off getting an ischemic stroke than a hemorrhagic one, because doctors can give you medicine that dissolves a blood clot almost instantaneously — but they can't do squat for a bleed. Best they can do is hope that the pressure caused by the bleed closes the blood vessel before any significant damage is done, and then try and work with what is left. Funny little sideline – if they think you have a blood clot when you really have a bleeder and they give you the anti-clot drug, it will just keep the open blood vessel bleeding and you will end up with a good case of death. That's why, even though time is such a factor, they got to give you a CAT scan before they give you the drug.

But the visit wasn't all jarring news. For example, in response to my request, and after he examined me ("you're giving me the NIH stroke scale! How quaint."), He pronounced me fit to drive, and authorized same. Yay! A quick call to AAA to have them inflate a tire that has gone flat, and I'll be back to being a menace on the road. I can't wait.

I had to walk from the front entrance of the hospital to the doctor's office, a distance of approximately 275 miles, after which funny enough I found my gait to be markedly improved. It seemed a lot more natural, without me having to think about it. And navigating my way to the parking lot where the car was involved a lot of curbs, rough surfaces, inclines and declines, and just to round things out, a set of stairs – all of which I navigated completely naturally without any troubles. Hosanna in the highest. Don't get me wrong: my career as an international ballet star is over. But I can get from point A to point B without having to worry about taking a digger into a mud puddle.

I got some encouraging news about my overall recovery. My doctor indicated that the window for me to recover coordination that I have lost is far from closed, and that I had the better part of a year to improve my condition. It's time I have no intention of wasting.

This NIH stroke scale that I keep talking about, by the way, is a standardized series of tests to determine consciousness, cognition, limb control, speech clarity, and sensation. Each individual test is scored with your aggregate score representing roughly how severe your stroke is. The lower the score, the better. Someone who had a major stroke, for example, who was severely aphasic (aphasia is roughly defined as the inability speak properly or to comprehend speech), paralyzed on both sides of the body, and unable to feel stimuli such as a pin prick might score as high as 25 on the stroke scale. Me, I scored an eight, which was pretty damn low.

I bring this up because one of the questions I asked the doctor was, was he surprised at the degree to which I made a more or less full recovery. He told me no; my low stroke scale score was a decent predictor of my ability to get back what I had lost, though he was glad that I put in the work and got the job done.

Well, you now probably know more about strokes than you ever cared to, but I hope it's at least interesting. If you've nodded off by now it might be an indicator that YOU need a stroke scale test. Can you tell me what month it is? Do you know where you are right now? Hello? Hello?

Thanks for paying attention. Go see a doctor if you haven't done so recently.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dust Settles

Well, it's seven weeks, more or less, since Oct 2, when I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.

I made a few videos to tell my strokey story, in four parts. Feel free to watch them.  Links at the bottom of the post.

I should update you on what life is like for me now. I can do anything I used to do, with the partial exception of the fact that I play the guitar like I was 12.  The one remaining vestige of the stroke is a certain lack of coordination in my left hand.  But it's getting better. The more I type, for example, the better I get at it; I suppose I'm not done rehabbing.  Up until recently I created a huge amount of typos, but that's slowly resolving itself.

Below the belt, I can walk just fine without benefit of a cane, even outside; it's time to put the old girl into storage instead of hanging by the hall table.  Sometimes though, when I'm really tired, like when I wake up in the middle of the night to take a squirt, I catch myself doing what I call "the stroke walk," that old-man shuffle that is characteristic of stroke victims. I won't swing my arms like I'm supposed to also, and will find myself holding my arms in a weird position in front of me. But when I pay attention, my gait is more or less perfectly normal. I'm sure that at some point it'll become unconscious behavior again.

Stairs are just fine; I can walk up and down stairs without a rail.  I need to pay attention to the first step to sort of get me started. Down requires more attention than up.

If there's any downside to the stroke, it is this: I  can do anything you can do, but I always need to pay attention.  I guess that's as close to a one-line answer as to how I'm doing as it gets.  That was the true cost of the stroke: a certain mental vigilance with fucking EVERYTHING. It can get exhausting. Good thing I sleep well.

On that subject, I've been forbidden from taking NSAIDs like Advil. I told my doctor that I wanted something for the aches and pains of being me, but that the stuff (oxycodone 5mg, the primary ingredient in Percocet) I had was a bit strong. He perscribed me something a little more gentle, hydrocodone/APAP 5/325, which is Vicodin more or less. So I have something in the house at least for pain.

I have numbness and nerve pain in my thighs, from the stroke, that the Neurontin and the Lyrica can only affect so much. I've pulled the offending teeth out of my mouth, so I have no mouth pain, but my knee hurts almost all the time (that's new) and I seem to be prone to muscle pulls lately. Just the other day I fell asleep while sitting on the couch, slumped over and pulled every muscle in my ribcage. These are just the kind of aches and pains that I could knock down with a couple of Advil, but god forbid my platelets should get too thin or whatever. Vicodin is nice, don't get me wrong, but when you have to take them for real pain, all the time, it gets a little depressing.

Anyway, that's my life as it stands right now. Thanks for paying attention. Here's the links to those videos, which feature my pretty face talking all about my stroke, my hospital stay, the nursing staff who to the last woman saw my genitals, rehab, and the trip home.  I'll do another one, I think, to describe what a stroke looks like, how to detect stroke in others, and what to do (that's easy: dial 911).

Link 1:

Link 2:

Link 3a:

Link 3b:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Strictly on my pins

They took away the's just me and my feet.  I'm excited, man. 22 days ago I was completely paralyzed on the left side...I needed a nurse to help me roll over...I had a catheter in me...I couldn't get out of bed and couldn't conceive of anything being like it was.  I was helpless, angry, frustrated, and scared about my future. All I could think of was, I'm glad my dad is dead, because it would break his heart to see me like this.

Then I was able to wiggle my toes, and the world changed.

I knew that if I could do that, then pathways could be re-opened, with some luck and a lot of hard work. So that's what I did. Worked my ass off. Relearned to use my leg, lifting my leg when I was alone and in bed. Finding that with supreme effort I could bend my knee. Was able to wiggle my thumb sometimes, then all the time. Couldn;'t turn my hand over - then I could.  Fell in the crapper.  THAT was fun.

Transferred to rehab. Spent 3 1/2 hours a day in therapy.  I could walk around a rail, holding on with both hands. Couldn't lift my arm halfway up. Strengthened my shoulder.  Got my range of motion back. Worked on fine muscle control.  Flipped cards.  First time. flipped a straight!  Second time too! Thought it was a miracle until I realized it was a pinochle deck...

Started writing. Shuffling. Two-hand typing (mixed results). So many things.So many things you can do with a strong shoulder.  Couldn't put my shirt on.  Couldn't put my socks on.  Then I could, Fuckin miracle.

And it looks like the next phase is about to begin. Home care, which means I'm gonna be housebound. Then I won't.

Still can't drive. But then I'll be able to.  Watch me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I have a new discharge date.  Instead of the 31st, I'm leaving Friday!  It can't come fast enough!

Why am I leaving early? Because I'm a rehab STUD. I'm walking ouside on uneven ground, taking real stairs, the whole bit. So I am OUTTIE, brothers and sisters.  I'm a friggin ghost come Friday.  Couldn't be happier.

Well, that's it from me.  Isn't that enough?

Monday, October 22, 2012


no cane, no walker, no wheelchair, nothing but me and my sneakers. walked up inclines, up stairs, down stairs, was master of all I surveyed.  Tres cool.

Also, maybe some super secret good news tomorrow - I'll let you know then.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Graduated to a cane

Today I worked with a cane and they're talking about making it my standard "thing," as opposed to a walker.  I'm typing with two hands, even though it slows me down, is painful, and makes me make errors.  But the process is what's important, not the immediate result.It's difficult but it's supposed to be.

My mom finally left. She was here since, like, the 4th.  I won't say "thank god" because she was a big help - but she knew when it was time to go. I'm not "in crisis" - nowhere near it - and her advice was starting to get unrelentingly negative.  I started calling her "Debbie Downer," she hated that but I think it made the point.

Well off to OT soon (arm) so I'll see you all later.

EXTRA-EXTRA -HUGE NEWS: It has happened.  I'm walking with a cane, but only supervised.  Let ring the trumpets! I'll be outta here in 12 days, tap-dancin'!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Better Every Day

Every day, it seems, I'm able to do something I couldn't do before.I work hard during my therapy sessions - when they say "take a break" I respond "I'll rest on my time - what's next?" At this point I can shower and get dressed by myself, pee standing up (really reminds you that you're a man), do all kinds of stuff I couldn't do just the day before...such are the long, slow, tiny markers of success.

Saw Cranky and Jo yesterday; they made my day.  I'll let them tell you about it - I grow weary of typing. We laughed like hyenas, it was quite cool. I ried to pretend I was really, you know, strokey, all mushmouthed and stuff, but couldn't pull it off. Kept smiling too much.

Anyhoo that's all from me. Take care, keep those positive vibes coming. Best to you all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'm OK

all good days, progress every day, I'm tired but what the hell. Passed my swallow test today so I'll be eating real food! Keeping it short cuz, you know, one-handed typing.  Thanks for all your kind words and thoughts - even the religious ones! Josie, my angel, knows how to get a hold of me.  I'll be seeing her and Cranky tomorrow! First time I saw her I could barely speak- now I'm almost normal!  Anyway, thanks again all, keep on keepin on, and I'll talk to you all sooner than you think.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let Me Spell It Out for You

Two of my friends who read my last post each sent me private messages, the gist of which in both cases was, "w..w..wha???"

And here I thought I was being pretty clear.  Yes, I can be coy if I need to be, or want to be, but in this case I was telling you how I felt about things.

To explain further, let me give you a timeline of my life in recent years:

* May 5, 2008: Father dies
* May 6, 2008: Descent into the abyss
* May 6, 2008 - ca. July 1, 2012: In the abyss.  Pretty damned abysmal.
* July 1, 2012: Beginning of ascent from the abyss
* August 20, 2012: Reasonably content for the first time in over four years

When you're depressed, it changes on a pretty fundamental level the way you think about things. A depression that's initiated by the death of a loved one can be especially deep and dark. General feelings of sadness are enhanced by a very present grief that acts like a black hole: it swallows everything, even light, and vomits inky black nothingness back at you. It darkens your relationships, especially your closest ones. It turns you into an apathetic, uncaring, paranoid shitbag of a person who pushes away everyone who loves you.

And it feeds upon itself.  Time doesn't heal it - it deepens it.  And soon you become so familiar with being alone, with dark thoughts racing in your head and robbing you of sleep, that you sort of welcome it, like a well-worn yet comfortable pair of shoes. Because whatever else it is, it's yours, and it's not going to die on you, or stop loving you.

It becomes part of you, for good or bad. And it became part of me for a long time.

But I think I can make it now; the pain is gone.  All of the bad feelings have disappeared (see what I did there?). I feel like I've climbed out of the hole. And all the shit that was upon me, and colored the road ahead, now seems to be behind me.

Am I the same man I was before?  Well, no, not exactly.  The death of a parent, especially one who was well-loved, is a trauma that changes you forever - ask anyone to whom it has happened. But neither am I any longer paralyzed by grief, or longing, or loneliness, or a feeling of being abandoned.

And since this blog stands as such a potent symbol of that time in my life, I feel like it's time to step away for a while.  It's not really a difficult decision; my blog posts were either pathetic shoe-gazing melancholic rambles about how the whole world is sticking it to me, or pathetic, forced attempts at humor that only occasionally succeeded.

So I'm turning away from it for a while; maybe forever, but who knows.  Life is calling me for the first time in a long time, and I can't wait to see what awaits me out there.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.  Look all around: There's nothing but blue sky.

Josie and Lightning (sitting in a tree) know how to get a hold of me if any of you wish to do so.  I'll miss you all. I'll never forget any of you, and I wish nothing but good things for all of you.

In closing, let me quote Gustav Flaubert: Tout s'en va, tout passe, l'eau coule, et le coeur oublie. Everything goes away, everything passes, the water flows, and the heart forgets.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This Might Not Be Goodbye, but It's Definitely So Long

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day
It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day

I think I can make it now, the pain has gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for
It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day

Look all around, there's nothing but blue sky
Look straight ahead, nothing but blue sky

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone're the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mars Curiosity Lands Successfully on Mars

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still Alive

You say you will love me if I have to go
You'll be thinking of me; somehow I will know

Someday, when I'm lonely, wishing you weren't so far away
Then I will remember things we said today.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Stories of Grown Men Shitting Themselves, One of Whom Is Me

You may say I'm a pooper - but I'm not the only one

It happens. It's funny. So I'm going to tell these stories.  Don't like it? Tough, well, you know.

The first story concerns my boon companion Ken. How close are we?  Josie is jealous of him. Well, not really, but I figured I'd toss that out there.

Ken was on a third date, which, in Ken's world, means they've already had nasty sex twice, and they're ready to take the next step, which is farting in front of each other.  Before the date, she came over to his apartment. He was wearing shorts and was crouching down, messing around with a large ceramic potted plant. His shorts, as shorts do when one crouches, got a little v-shaped space right above his ass crack.

Remember, he had decided that he was going to deliberately crack a rat in front of this girl to show his comfort in front of her. So - when he felt one coming on, he called her attention to the oncoming wind, made some fitting remarks, drew a breath and bore down.

Unfortunately what came out was not gas but rather about a liter of steaming pudding, that shot through the v-notch in his shorts, straight up in the air about five feet, and with the help of gravity, came down directly on his head, shoulders, and t-shirt.

They did not go on their date, and the two of them never saw each other after that day.

My story pales in comparison, and is shorter besides, but I like to tell it to demonstrate my incredible smoothness under less than optimal circumstances.

Tootsie and I were heading out to dinner one fine evening.  As we got in her car I made a similar error in judgement and instead of passing some harmless flatus, made a much more substantial contribution to society and found myself swimming, as it were, in my own waste. But rather than shrink in embarrassment and apologize for my having mistaken one state of matter for another, in my most booming baritone I affected an aristocratic British accent and announced with great authority, "Dear - shut off the car.  I've shit myself."

Although I did not have to clean shit out of my hair, I did have to shampoo the passenger seat of Tootsie's car - several times, in fact. So, no harm, but incredibly foul.

What about y'all? I know you have.  Are you brave enough to tell the tale of stinky tail?

Monday, July 23, 2012

No More Gun Posts, Ever

That's because I've created another blog specific to guns and my experiences with them, and the people who love them. It's called Peace, Love, and Ammo, and can be reached at

My inaugural post is the range report for my brand-new (to me) handgun, the CZ-82. What a beauty! Be the first to leave a comment and I'll give you a shout-out here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where the Hell Have I Been?

Out, is where.

I meant what I said about getting out of the house and off this horrible, hateful, benighted couch.  And I'm pleased to report that I'm actually getting that done, even though it's the heat of summer and part of me wants to sit naked in front of a fan until dark.

I'm going out.

I don't have an unlimited supply of cash, so it's not like I go out and spend a bundle on, I don't know, Jimmy Chu shoes and Ping Drivers and Peruvian cocaine. But I go out and do stuff that takes up time, gets me out of the house, and maybe puts a little fresh air into my lungs.

Some days I make what's called "the thrift store loop" - the Goodwill store and the three or four dollar stores near me to look for bargains.  I fantasize about buying a chair, like a recliner, and tossing this couch onto the curb. Then I remember the first rule of buying cloth furniture from Goodwill, which is: DON'T.

Some days I head down to my local gun shop to have a chin-wag with the old boys who think that President Obama is the Antichrist. My sense of obligation dictates that I buy something once a week - like a package of paper targets, or a box of ammo, or something small. Call it rent. And usually the owner of the shop buys us all coffee from the Dunkie's right across the street, so it's all good. Although since I'm the youngest one there by an easy 10 years I usually am tapped to go get it, but that's ok too.

I like to go to the shooting range, but I can't do that all too often, because it's $25 in lane rental fees, and  another 15-20 bucks in ammo. I mean, sure, I could take my .22 and put 100 rounds downrange for six bucks, but the whole idea of a .22 rifle is to be able to shoot out a quarter at 75 yards, and the range's longest lane is 25 - and that's no fun.

And there's food shopping, and errands, and various this-n-that's around town.  All in all I find myself out perhaps three weekdays out of five, sometimes four. And whereas that's good for me on many levels, it does not leave me much time to blog.

So - be of good cheer. I'm alive and well - better in fact than it some little while - and ever with the prospect of getting better. I won't make any grand sweeping statements about how I'm done blogging; in fact I might start right back up again with the same old frequency at the drop of a hat. I'm just going to be blogging a bit less.

Blogging less, and living more.  I have to say, I like the new formula.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Most Important Rules

So I was texting with brother Lightning, at first about the most delicious concoction known to man, Skyline Chili, when he mentioned that he (largely thanks to my drivel) was actually looking for guns at the local sporting goods store. I made a recommendation as to the first firearm he should get, but as he mentioned that he'd never actually fired one before, that some discussion of the basic rules of firearm safety were in order.  So I decided to post them here, just in case anyone else would like to know them who doesn't already.  Forthwith then the most important rules, NEVER EVER EVER to be ignored.

1.  Every gun is loaded.  Every time, all the time.  Therefore:
2.  The very first thing you should do before handling a firearm is to perform a safety check.  That means, drop any magazine, open the breech and physically check for a round in the chamber.  Then and only then can you safely handle it.
3.  Even after having performed a safety check, don't ever point the gun anywhere you don't want it shooting.  ALWAYS be aware of where the barrel is pointed.
4.  Never put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to fire the weapon.
5.  Never aim the weapon at anything you are not prepared to fire on.
6.  Be aware of your state's laws regarding how to transport a firearm.  Most states let you carry it to and from the shop you bought it from and to and from a bona fide firing range. When you transport a firearm, it should be unloaded and locked, and put in the trunk or some other place you cannot get to it. Most firearms come with a trigger lock or some other locking mechanism. Use it. Always. And keep the ammo up front.  And remember, carrying a loaded magazine, even up front, is the same thing as carrying a loaded firearm in many states, which is a felony.
7. Wear eye and ear protection.  If you're at the firing range and the range master asks you if you have "eyes and ears," this is what he means.
8. Know if there is anything beyond what you're shooting at and be aware that shooting a rifle can hurt someone more than a mile away.
9. If you have children in your house, keep the firearm locked and lock the firearm in a cabinet.  It's your decision as to whether or not to teach your children about gun safety but even if you do, keep your firearms locked up. Most states view any mishaps by children with firearms as the direct responsibility of the owner of the gun.  You don't want to deal with the death of a child and being charged with that child's murder.
10. Learn everything about the firearm you're shooting, especially, if it's one you own, how to clean it.  And knowing that info, clean it regularly. Bullets are dirty; they spew gunpowder residue all over the receiver and into the barrel.  Keeping it clean keeps it functional and accurate.

Well that's ten to begin with.  Anyone with any other suggestions, feel free to comment.  And Lightning, remember: Ruger 10/22, it's a great intro to firearms: light, accurate, inexpensive,  easy to shoot, easy to clean, and comes with a lock that renders it completely impossible to shoot.  Consider it well.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Foxwoods, 8 July: Cranky in her Glory, Cash Game Purgatory, Tournament Horror Story

So Friday afternoon I get a call from Auntie Jo, inviting me to Foxwoods Saturday for a day of poker and fellowship.  In keeping with my new attitude of "be less of a miserable solitary bastard," I gladly took her up on the invite. I got there uneventfully and within 5 minutes got a seat right next to Jos and Cranky at table 22. Cranky was seat 8, Jos 9, and I was seat 10, right next to the dealer.

The first dealer dealt me absolutely nothing good, and as is my wont, I told the next dealer I was expecting better things from her.

The second dealer dealt me absolutely nothing good, and as is my wont, I told the next dealer I was expecting better things from her.

See the pattern?  To say I was card-dead doesn't begin to tell the tale. I didn't have anything worthy of making a move. When I was in position and conditions were right to steal, I'd get 7-2, 8-4, just absolute shite. It was a god damned miracle that I only lost about $40 of my buy-in over four hours of cash game play.

One thing that really got under my skin was when we were chatting amongst ourselves.  I mentioned blogging and Josie said something like, "Oh, you're not going to do another post about stupid guns?" At which point seat 6 says, "hey, nothing stupid about guns!" So we got to chatting and he mentioned that he just picked up an M4 rifle, which I thought was the Viet Nam era M4 until he told me it was like the one he shot in Afghanistan (lots and lots of repetition of names because for the military, M just means "model," which is why there are ten M1 rifles, an M1 tank, etc. etc.).  Since it's an automatic weapon I asked him if he had his Class 3 license and he said, "no, I don't ever buy my guns legally.  I don't want the government knowing I have any of these."

That turned me off right away.  I gave Jo an earful of this as we drove home, but there's nothing that pisses me off more than something like that.  The firearms black market is the REASON there are so many anti-gun laws, why those laws make sense. Lookit: the more important the thing, the more critical it is to follow the rules associated with it.  With poker, people have money on the table, in some cases their entire fortunes.  The rules of poker are so rigidly adhered to because there's so much at stake. The same with guns, because despite the rhetoric, guns DO kill people - especially black-market guns.  The black market of firearms is why the bodies pile up in the streets with no one left to mourn them. It is the fucking scourge of the country and if it didn't exist, legal gun owners wouldn't need to be hounded by an anti-gun lobby who all of a sudden would have nothing to do. But guys like this, who feed the fucking black-market, make the anti-gun lobby both powerful and relevant.  And it makes life more difficult for those of us who follow the rules.  I'm grateful that he served the country, don't get me wrong, but as a civilian he's just another fucking scumbag. And he doesn't deserve anyone's respect.

Anyway, back to poker...

As we were just about to wrap up and head to the grill in the poker room for a $9 cheeseburger (which, it must be said, my Angel Josephine paid for with points - thanks J-J-J-Josie!), Cranky earned her nickname for the first time in my experience.

She had J-J, and the board was really low, like 9 high with two diamonds. She might've bet out low, or maybe min-raised, or something, but the villiain, who had Axd, stayed in with his draw.  Alas, the A came on the river, he bet out, she called, and he turned over his pretty weak-ass rivered pair.

And Cranky flipped. Well, relatively speaking.  She didn't smash anything, or start screaming, or do anything that would have gotten her thrown out of the joint, she just got...cranky. But I had never seen her even come close to losing her temper.  For someone who named herself Cranky she's one of the most even-tempered cats on the planet. Just not right then.  She said she was leaving, and by God and sonny Jesus, she got up and left.  We found her near the cashier on the way to the grill, at which time the madness had passed, as it were, and was her normal convivial self.

So we have dinner, and Josie and I head upstairs to play a $110 deep-stack tournament. We part ways with the Crankster and register.  I requested to be at Jo's table and for a miracle they allowed that.

Josie started off running roughshod over the table, including me.  Around the fourth hand I raised it up with 99. It was folded to Jos, who raised it to like 1/3 of our stacks.  As I was contemplating shoving, thinking that she might be trying to run me down, I noticed that there was this warmth in my chest - then I realized that Josie had those Manson lamps of hers staring a hole right through me.  I thought, no way is this girl bluffing with that kind of strength on her face, so I folded, and sure enough, perhaps to be kind, she turned over KK, validating my decision.

However, two hands after that I was moved to another table.  But since I already had my blind in, I hesitated getting up, intending to ask the brush if I should play this hand since I was in it already. Before I could get the words out of my mouth he looks at me like this was my first time in a casino and says, "THAT means you get up and move to a different table."

Really?  Thanks, boss.  What would I do without you and your just delightful sense of humor, which others might find acerbic and shitty but which I find NO END of entertaining?

Anyway, I move, and limp along to the break, a few minutes before which I get moved to yet another table.  Alas, Josie comes up to me having been eliminated.  I don't remember the details; perhaps she can fill in.

Last hand before the next break, my luck changed for the better.  Jo and Cranky were sweating me when I looked down to find QQ.  I shove, being somewhat short, and get a nice triple up.  And after the break, my luck and my karma both held for some time.   I chipped way up and was kind of having my way.

Until, once again, I get an all-time fucking cooler.

As BB I held Q7.  One caller, no raisers, I knuckle the table.  Flop comes QQ2.  I play it cool, so does he, check check.  5 comes on the turn.  I check again, he bets out big, like 11K.  I put him all in; I have him covered but not by much.  I figure either he folds and I win a big pot or he calls and I win a fucking  monster.  To my great delight he calls.

With Q10. He had the other god damned Q and his 10 played. And I was left with maybe four BB's.  A few hands later I shove with 77 and lose.  GG Crafty.  Again.

Could I have gotten away from that hand? I don't think so.  I would never raise a stinker like Q7 with just one caller - the risk wouldn't be worth the reward. The villain had won a pot or two with second pair, and folded a few draws on the river; I had him pegged as a subpar player. I suppose I didn't have to check the flop but if I'd bet, he'd have raised and we'd have just been in one street earlier. You guys tell me: what could I have done to avoid this fate?

Anyway, I find Josie stealing the house's money at the blackjack table and we go home.  She was richer by dint of Dame 21, but I was both poorer and bitterer.

Sometimes I hate this game, I really do. But it was fun chatting with Cranky and Josie, at least, and that's not so awfully bad.  And Rob - you would have LOVED Josie's outfit. I had to whisper in her ear that she needed to adjust herself like three times.  In hindsight, I'm wondering why the fuck I did that.

If You're Going to Prey on People's Xenophobia, at Least Spell "Foreign" Correctly

This is a really good one.  The email came from " (" [email ampersand removal mine], which was a real good tipoff right away. Secondly the to: address was "," which is just some damned weak sauce right there. But of course the email itself is what really sells it.

(Emphasis added by me. Also I took out his username in the web address to avoid this genius vanity googling and finding me)


Security Notice

PayPal  knows that you care how information about you is used and shared, and we appreciate your trust that we will do so carefully and sensibly.
However we recently noticed that your account was accessed from several foregin IP addresess.
Because information about our customers is an important part of our business we treated this matter as a possible fraudulent attempt to obtain your personal (sensitive) information.
This has resulted in the suspension of your account untill your personal information can be verified .
To begin the verification process please access your account immediately by following the secure link below: [CS: hovering over this link shows a destination of  ampoulife_dot_com/userfiles/*guys user name*/ds.php. Realllly sneaky, guy: you almost had me]

       If the verification process is successful your account will be restored in aproximatly 24 hours.

Please Note: If your account information is not updated within the next 72 hours, we will assume this account has been compromised and will be permanently suspended.
We apologize for this inconvenience, but the purpose of this verification is to ensure that your account has not been fraudulently used and to combat fraud.


Awesome, right?  Bet they're just neck-deep in paypal account data. Come on! This is 2012! Is ANYONE still falling for this nonsense?

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Next One

**SPOILER** Firearm Content.  Someone, to whose blog I will not link here, does not like when I blog about firearms.  I won't mention this person's name; don't want to embarrass him or her, but I said to this person, "Josie, I'm not gonna stop writing about them..."

It required a selection process that encompassed months of research, discussion, advice, Internet hoo-haa, forums by wacko 2nd-Amendment types, and comments by my readers. However, after said herculean effort, Team Southpaw has at last made a decision on the firearm that both Tootsie and I are comfortable with as a primary means of defending Shangri-La (also known as The Jakewood). It has been purchased, inspected, approved, and is currently waiting out its purgatorial term of 8 days, the waiting period here in Rhode Island, at my local gun shop.

Before I tell you what I have decided on, allow me to articulate the needs that this particular firearm needed to fulfill.

The winner of this RFP, as it were, needed to be:

1. Above all else, capable of stopping an intruder to the house with one shot.  I interpreted this need to actually be a conglomerate of several sub-needs:
  • It needed to be of sufficient caliber to provide stopping power;
  • It needed to be accurate enough and easy enough to shoot to score a hit the first pull of the trigger; and
  • It needed to be user-friendly enough such that a female without significant experience with firearms could hold it, aim it, and squeeze off a shot without it frightening, intimidating, or injuring her.
2. As ambidextrous as is practical, as Tootsie is a righty and I am, well, a southpaw
3. Reasonably priced
4. Chambered for an inexpensive round (a 3-dollar razor that needs 5-dollar blades is no bargain)
5. Recommended by those who've purchased one
6. Easy to break down, clean, and reassemble
7. (if it fulfills items 1-6) A weapon of some historical significance, because a lot of my interest in firearms is based on the stories one can tell

As time passed and I started focusing my research, I made two preliminary recommendations to Tootsie and sent her some data and a few YouTube videos. To my great satisfaction, and some small surprise, she came back with some thoughtful and intelligent questions, asked for some further data to determine the differences between the two semi-finalists, and really took an interest in the process. Ultimately, she came to the same conclusion that I did; the best gun for the job is...

...The CZ-82, the Czech equivalent of the Soviet Makarov pistol.

Ain't she a beauty? Here's a little history.  If you're this far in, you're probably going to be interested, but if not, just skip ahead a bit.

The Soviet Union (the "Russkies") were, at the end of World War II, still arming its officers and non-combat enlisted men with the Nagant M1895 revolver and a clumsy simplification of the Colt 1911 called the Tokarev TT-33. The revolver was a nice enough piece but practically useless as a weapon.  It was inaccurate, used ammunition that was expensive to manufacture, and had a trigger pull that, at 11 pounds, was just one lead pipe bitch-and-a-half to fire. And they never saw the TT-33 as anything but a stopgap (though ironically the weapon is still in use in several countries).

They knew they had to make a change, but instead of first designing the weapon, they developed a round they wanted to use and built the gun around it.  The round they decided upon was a 9mm x 18mm round with a pretty good powder load.
Knowledgeable readers will note its similarity to the .380ACP round - and they'd be right

The winning design was submitted by Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, and has become the country's standard sidearm for over sixty years, from 1951 all the way to and through the fall of the Soviet Union; in fact it is still in use by the new Russian Federation to this day.

Eventually, around 1980 or so, the Soviets determined that all of the Warsaw Pact countries would develop firearms around the 9x18 round, now named the 9mm Makarov round. The Bulgarians, Poles and East Germans developed what were essentially clones of the Russian Makarov.  But the Czechs, long known as expert machinists and gun manufacturers, developed a weapon that outclassed the Mak and all its clones, with a completely different set of guts, and they named it the CZ-82, based, like so many firearms, on the year of its release.

The CZ-82 was the class of the 9mm Makarov guns; it was easier to field-strip, offered ambidextrous magazine releases and safeties; and featured a barrel that, instead of having rifling etched into it (the spiral that makes the bullet spin as it fires), was polygonal on the outside, then twisted, so that the spin was imparted by the barrel itself.  This made for a completely smooth barrel which meant that it was incredibly easy to clean and to keep clean.

Another difference between the CZ-82 and the Makarov is that the 82 could accommodate a double-stacked magazine, so it can hold 13 rounds instead of the Mak's 8.

For some reason the US Government put the 82 on its Curio and Relic list, making it easier to import into the US.  And, like so much else coming in from the former Eastern bloc, they're dirt cheap.  The first huge batch they brought in sold out right away, and those who didn't act were made to wait.  But eventually they sent another gigantic batch to the US, and at this point anyone who wants one can certainly have one.

The one they sent me was manufactured in 1990 and yes, I know it was refinished before it was exported to the US, but it doesn't look like this thing was ever shot. The finish is near-perfect (gun people use percentages; mine was estimated as a 90%), there isn't a drop of wear on any of the insides, and the barrel literally shines when held up to the light. It's as perfect a specimen as a 22-year-old piece of machinery could ever be. The trigger pull is beautiful - soft without being mushy - in either single- or double-action (in other words, pulling the hammer back and shooting or letting the trigger do both jobs).

And I paid the princely sum of $229 for it, which is less expensive than any but the absolute shittiest of available firearms today (can anyone say Hi-Point?). It came with an extra magazine, a cleaning rod, and a holster that, unlike just about any other holster on the planet, was ambidextrous.  Bet you didn't even know holsters had hand-bias, did you?  Well they do. Think about it: You put a holster on your left hip and the gun sits backwards in it.

Ammo for it is dirty-dirt-dirt cheap: I bought a box of 50 for 11 bucks.  Compare that with the $40 I "shelled" out for the 50 round box for my Nagant revolver! That shit pays for itself pretty much right away.  Josie, if you're still reading this, I'll give you a dollar - don't nobody tell her or I'll be pissed.  The inexpensive ammo makes it easy to practice with it, which is important for Tootsie, who needs to make herself more familiar with this, as she needs to use it as well, in case some shit goes down when I'm not around.

Just as important as anything else, nobody who owns one and gave an opinion on it had a single harsh word to say.  Praise for the gun was universal.

Anyway, there you go.  A quick shout-out to Duggle Bogey, whose glowing review of his Makarov led me down the road to the CZ-82.  Thanks, brother Duggle!

History Friday: Bad Stuff 'Bout the Sox*

The Boston Red Sox, to be sure, have had a chequered past. In fact, their present ain't exactly smooth either, but one post at a time. The point is this: The Sox have enough triumph and tragedy in the long tale that is their history without mistake, myth, and outright lie embellishing things.

Forthwith then two of the more prominent stories about the Red Sox, how close they are to the truth, and where applicable the true story.


Babe Ruth, who was at the time a good Red Sox pitcher, was sold to the New York Yankees after the 1918 World Series for a pittance so that the then-owner of the team, Harry Frazee, could finance a Broadway play called No No Nanette. At the time neither Frazee, nor anyone else for that matter, knew of his prowess with the bat.

STATUS: Almost completely false. 

Where to begin? First of all, yes, Frazee did in fact sell the rights to Ruth. And that's where truth and falsehood diverge. Frazee sold Ruth after the 1919 season, primarily for the pragmatic reason that he was the last good player on a team that was a pale shadow of the championship teams that won four World Series in the previous six years. The 1919 squad was old and mediocre besides.

Compunding matters was the fact that Ruth himself was hardly an ideal teammate. He had gained weight, was insolent to his teammates and his manager, and generally behaved, in the words of his teammate Harry Hooper, like "a big overgrown ape." So Frazee sold his rights to bring some money into the team, get rid of a clubhouse cancer, and hopefully retool.

The Red Sox knew full well, by the way, that he was capable of slugging; in the 1919 season, his last with the Sox, he clubbed 29 home runs, which at the time was the all-time record, while playing every fifth day as a pitcher.

And the "pittance" that the Yankees paid for Ruth? They paid $100,000 for the big lug; by way of comparison, Frazee bought the entire team, including Fenway Park, for $400,000 just two years earlier, in 1917. A hundred grand for one player was a jaw-dropping sum of money, and editorials in both Boston and New York papers sniffed that while Ruth was undeniably a great player, $100,000 was too much to pay for any one player.

Finally, the Ruth transaction had nothing to do with any play; Frazee put up his money for No No Nanette in 1925, six years after he sold Ruth, and by which time he had already sold the Red Sox.

Who can be blamed for these blatant untruths entrenching themselves into the public consciousness? A Boston-based reporter named Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote a book called The Curse of the Bambino, whose poor research and general curmudgeonliness led to the errors. That plus his greatest joy in life seems to be pointing out the miseries of the Red Sox and its players.


Long-time owner Tom Yawkey was a kindly old man, an avuncular owner who loved the Sox and wanted a championship desperately.

STATUS: Entirely false.

Yawkey was for most of his tenure as owner of the Red Sox an absentee owner, who cared more about giving jobs to his drinking buddies and keeping black ballplayers off his team than winning. To that end the missteps he made were as numerous as they were incredibly stupid.

For example, Yawkey brought in shortstop Joe Cronin, who was a decent enough player but well past his prime, and because he got along with Yawkey he became the Sox' player-manager, playing for years beyond when he should have. In 1939 the aging Cronin made 32 errors in the infield yet insisted on keeping himself installed as the Sox' starting shortstop. In fact he convinced Yawkey to sell the rights to an up-and-coming shortstop in the farm system because Cronin selfishly wanted to keep playing.  The name of the young up-and-comer? Pee Wee Reese, who made the Hall of Fame after having won seven pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers and appearing in ten All-Star games.

Yawkey was also one of the most racist men to have ever been associated with Major League Baseball. For years he resisted promoting any of the black players in the Red Sox farm system or for that matter anywhere in baseball.

In 1945, a Boston city councilor named Isadore Muchnick threatened Yawkey with revoking the Sox' license to play on Sundays unless he auditioned some black ballplayers. So shortly after the start of the 1945 season the Sox brought in three black players for a reluctant tryout. Yawkey kept them off the field for two days, citing the recent death of President Franklin Roosevelt; they weren't allowed on the field until April 16th of that year.  When they finally were allowed to take the field, they took part in a very brief tryout. It ended earlier than usual when Yawkey, sitting in the stands, shouted (and please forgive the crudity) "Get those niggers off the field!"

One of those three players was named Jackie Robinson, who was taking part in his very first Major League tryout, and whose rights the Red Sox could have easily obtained.

Robinson was not the only future Hall-of-Famer who was denied a shot with the team because he was black. In 1948 a young black player was playing for the Birmingham (AL) Black Barons, the Negro League analog of the Birmingham Barons, a Red Sox-affiliated farm team. The Black Barons shared a field with the Barons, and because of this arrangement the Red Sox had right of first refusal of all the Black Barons players. This player was so good that it was almost universally agreed that he would catch on with a Big League team, but the Red Sox passed simply because he was black.  The player's name? Willie Mays.

Yes, these times are long since past, but It's not difficult to imagine how the fate of the Red Sox would have changed if Yawkey was perhaps a clearer thinker. Instead of decades of futility, it's not difficult to imagine how much better the Sox would have been if, in addition to Ted Williams in left, they had Mays patrolling center field, Reese at short and Robinson at first. But there was just no way that was going to happen under Yawkey's watch.

To be fair, Yawkey was hardly an island of racism in an otherwise understanding front office. For example, a reporter once asked Red Sox GM (and Yawkey drinking buddy) Pinky Huggins why the team wasn't promoting any of its black minor leaguers; Huggins called the reporter a "nigger lover." It would be another 11 years until the Sox broke the color barrier, the very last team to do so, when it promoted Pumpsie Green in 1959 – and Green, it hardly needs to be said, was no Willie Mays.

That's the influence of Tom Yawkey, the "kindly" and benevolent owner of the Boston Red Sox, who named the street in front of Fenway's front door after him.
*Five points and a shout-out to anyone who can tell me where I got the title for this post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Range Report: Mosin-Nagant 9130 Rifle

Two very different firearms, two very different reports. Since we've last discussed matters such as these, I've had the opportunity to fire both my Mosin-Nagant 9130 rifle and my Nagant M1895 revolver (after a three-state quest for ammunition finally succeeded). Today's post, we'll discuss the rifle.

Some time last week I went up to my pal M's house up in East Overshoe, NH, and we compared and contrasted my 9130 with M's 8mm Mauser Model 98.  Both of these rifles shot a roughly similar round, and each had a good story attached to it, but that's about the end of the similarities.

M's 8mm Mauser

My 9130


M-N 9130: Saw military service in WWII. Killed Nazis. Actual honest-to-no-god Nazis. After war ended, packed with grease and stored for decades in wooden crates.  Exported to US. Inspected and stamped with US data. Purchased by Crafty Southpaw.

Mauser 98: A trophy of war brought back from Viet Nam by M's father, an Army Lt. Colonel. Captured by the Russians after conquest of Germany by the tens of thousands, they stripped Mausers to the component level (stock, barrel, receiver, trigger, bolt, etc etc etc) and sent them to North Viet Nam, where they were used as spare parts and in this case, pieced back together into working rifles.  Every piece of a firearm is stamped with a serial number, and all the numbers on M's Mauser are gloriously mismatched. I think that's a great story, maybe even better than owning a weapon that killed actual Nazis. At least it's a draw.


Between the Mauser and the Mosin, I think the Mauser is the slightly better design. Both weapons are simple, easy to field-strip, and reliable.  Both models are versatile enough to spawn a carbine model and a sniper model. But the Mauser wins on the details: Though I like the 9130's trigger pull, I prefer the Mauser's in-stock magazine, its sights and its safety. Also I have to give kudos to the bayonet: The 9130 is just a stick of metal in a cross shape, and meant to stay on the rifle, whereas the Mauser's bayonet can be detatched and used as a decent combat or survival knife. 

Just better design, plain and simple. Mauser wins this one.


Here finally we have a clear winner: 8mm Mauser rounds (7.92x57, technically) can run upwards of $.75/round, which makes firing a Mauser an expensive proposition if you and your buddies want to engage in any serious shoot-em-uppery. But the Mosin-Nagant uses unique ammo, 7.62x54r (rimmed), that was hoarded and stored with the same zeal as the weapons themselves.  As a result if you want to buy all the ammo you'll ever ever need in one transaction, you can buy 880 rounds packed in two spam cans which in turn are packed in a wooden crate with Cyrillic writing all over it for about $145, which comes to a staggeringly low $.17 per round. The gigantic advantage goes to the 9130.


A good test of accuracy for either weapon would be to shoot at targets from 100 yards at minimum.  We didn't have nearly that kind of space but we made do with what space we had, which was about 45 yards.  At that range of course you'd expect both weapons to be pretty dead-on and they both were.  Eacch weapon made quick work of gallon jugs filled with water from that distance, and this was without even sighting in my 9130, which hadn't been shot for I'm guessing at least 65 years. Another draw, but based on insufficient data.


M-N 9130: Simply put, the 9130 is an absolute beast of a thing, with kickback that would break your collarbone if you held it wrong.  As is after firing less than a dozen rounds I needed to put it down, as my arm was falling off  (and, like an idiot, I forgot my ear protection - ears rung for two days).

Mauser 98: Every inch as imposing a weapon as the Mosin, but was a joy to fire comparatively speaking.  The force transmitted to the shoulder was easily half that of its Russian counterpart. It fires a nearly identical round as the 9130, remember, but it's just an easier weapon to fire. Mauser wins again.


Both rifles are good at what they do, and neither infantry had a particular advantage or disadvantage by using one model or the other. The Mauser is the better rifle by a handful of metrics but a Mauser in good condition, properly imported, refinished, with matching numbers is easily $300-500. Whereas a similarly imported and refinished 9130 can be had for $89, and a really good one with a good looking stock and a nice clean barrel runs you no more than $129. Either way, you could for example use either of these to go hunting without any shame. I like the Mauser better but not enough to justify the added expense of shooting it.  OTOH, these are both curios, antiques.  They'll be shot twice a year, maybe taken hunting a couple times, and rubbed with a cloth diaper for the rest of the year; really, who's going to take this beast to the range every week? 

Get the 9130. It's a $100 rifle that can take down an elk. It should be part of everyone's military surplus collection anyway. Then if you want, get a Mauser as well.  

NEXT WEEK: The M1895 Revolver gets put through its paces.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

History Friday: The Gettysburg Address

I can see your eyes glazing over already.  But bear with me; with a little context, and by taking the time to know the speech - really know it - you'll love it like I do.

It's taught in such a flat way: schoolchildren are taught to remember it for the week they studied it, so they could copy the requisite 40-word sample and be graded on every 'the' and 'but' - and, at least in any classroom I was in, it was never taught as a speech, as a thing that was designed to be spoken rather than read and rote memorized.

In fact when people are asked, "What do you know about the Gettysburg Address," they'll start in with the Four Score and Seven Years Ago bit and maybe make it all the way to "conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," if you're lucky.

But what do you know - really know - about the speech?

Well first of all, President Lincoln was there kind of as a bit player; the star of that particular show was Edward Everett, known as the preeminent orator of his time.  The President was there to close the ceremonies with "a few fitting remarks," after a two-hour speech by Everett.  This actually suited Lincoln just fine; historians suggest that he was suffering the very first symptoms of smallpox during the train ride to Gettysburg and during the speech. The idea of the day was to dedicate a Union cemetery at the site of the battle of Gettysburg, which remains to this day, by the way, the single deadliest American battle, with 57,225 dead (counting USA and CSA casualties both as American, of course). The central message of the speech, though, was political in nature; that the living need to stay dedicated to the cause of the war effort.  The Chicago Tribune, a paper with leanings against the Republican party, panned it, in fact calling it uninspiring and accusing the President of being a bumpkin - they called the speech "...the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."

But this speech was so much more than flat words on a flat piece of paper.  The speech was given by the President, who by his very nature has to be a strong speaker. Towards the middle of the speech, the remarks stop being a dry recitation of fact, and the oration, according to those who bore witness and wrote about it, increased in passion as the speech went on and ended in a stirring crescendo of thundering emotion.

For such a short speech, consider just how many phrases found their way into the national lexicon. I bet you have heard most or all of these snippets, even if you didn't know where they came from:

  • Four score and seven years ago
  • It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this
  • ...we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground
  • Far above our poor power to add or detract
  • (referring to soldiers who laid down their lives for the war) ...who gave the last full measure of devotion
  • The world will little note nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here
  • It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced
  • ...that this nation, under god, shall have a new birth of freedom
  • ...government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth
And when spoken, those words, those words that perhaps you know already, leap off the page and into the heart of anyone on either side of the aisle who would call himself "Patriot."

Here it is in its entirety, with a few of my comments in end-notes:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated,1 can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract2

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here3. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced4. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


1 "That nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated" is a reference to the first paragraph, where he speaks of our "new nation" and how it was conceived and dedicated. His use of "that" to refer back to his previous words is a little archaic now, which unfortunately hinders free and easy comprehension.

2 This paragraph to me is breathtaking in its emotional impact. It conveys the futility of the living consecrating land for the dead, while acknowledging that notwithstanding its futility, it's still the right thing to do ("it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this"). And once again it conveys this thundering emotion with an economy of words that is astounding.

3 Well, he was wrong here, wasn't he.

4 This is the political part of the speech; he's telling the people that they need to keep the faith, convincing them that this war is just, and that the material and human costs of the war are worth it.


Despite the harsh words from the Chicago Tribune, the speech was universally acknowledged, even at the time, as being rousing, moving, and important beyond its immediate purpose of dedicating a cemetery. US Senator Charles Sumner said of the speech that "...the world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."

I'm not one for re-enactments but I found this clip and you should watch it, because I think it reinforces the fact that the Gettysburg Address was not an essay; it was a speech, a living breathing thing that was delivered with passion and emotion.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I've never told you about my oldest friend, and that's a pity.

My mom and her mom were part of the same running crew, so we knew each other, and were apparently fond of each other, when we were both in diapers. The day I was born she was celebrating her 2nd birthday, giving us both the same birthday of September 19th.

We were kids together, and if my yenta mother's stories are any guide, we were close as kids.  I remember enjoying spending time with her, that's for sure.

When we were still young my mom's friend divorced her husband, Eden's dad, and moved to Arizona.  For eight years or so Eden existed in my life only as pleasant fragments of memory.

When I was a sophomore in high school Eden came back to live with her dad; she had a few family issues out west, and she also brought with her a tumor as big as a volleyball that she needed to have removed and wanted to do it at a Boston hospital. And so she spent her senior year back in Boston, and we reconnected and picked up exactly where we left off when I was 7.

She liked movies; we went to the movies a lot.  And she dragged me to some all-time stinkaroos.  Anyone remember Xanadu?  Or the reunion of Travolta and Newton-John in Two of a Kind? Or how about that sterling Sly Stallone/Dolly Parton matchup called Rhinestone? Yeah, it was exactly as bad as it sounds.  However it was she who similarly dragged me to The Princess Bride, which remains one of my favorite movies.

We had coffee and smoked cigarettes at Denny's; we shared secrets; we helped each other through adolescence. When her boyfriend broke her heart, she called me. When my drama queen girlfriend was tearing my heart out, I called her.

We were tight.

She is the most incredibly optimistic person I've ever met in my life.  And with the shitty things that have happened to her, she would have been completely justified in turning into a cynical douchebag, hating the world and all the miserable bastards who crawl upon it. But instead she chose a positive path and that positivity just oozes out of every inch of her.  For years it was she I turned to when all around was dark and I needed a little uplifting.

I held the chupa at her wedding; gave the bride's toast, in fact. I killed, if anyone's wondering. Had 'em rolling in the aisles. This all despite the fact that just about a week earlier, I had broken my wrists and gave said toast with casts on both my arms.

But, you know how it is; life gets in the way sometimes. She went to college a million miles away, when transatlantic phone rates were ridiculously expensive, then went back to Arizona and started a family.  I got married, got a job, and was doing my own thing.  We'd talk a few times a year, wish each other happy birthday on the same day, and that was about it.

Drift, drift, drift, and before you know it, she was over the horizon.

But I just talked to her - out of the blue she reached out to me on the Eff Bee and I called her. And with no god as my judge it was like we last spoke yesterday.  We spoke for the better part of an hour and at the end of that I realized just how much I've missed her. I also noted with a little shock and a little embarrassment that her oldest child is going off to college and I haven't met any of them. And that has to change.

So I think, if I can get this through Tootsie, I'm going to go see her the next time there's a blogger meet-up in Vegas, and kill two birds with one stone.  Because I do want to meet all you happy assholes in person, I really do; you occupy a bigger piece of me than you might think. And I need to see Eden again, to cajole her into maybe smoking a little reefer for old times' sake, to find some shitty diner and drink bad coffee for six hours - and maybe once again be a little bit bigger part of her life than I am now.

I want my friend back, and this is something I think I'm going to have to do. So keep me in the loop for the next time, because now I've got plans to make.

Because I miss my friend, and that can't continue.

Eden and her brother Jason, whom I also knew when, and with whom I've had a lot of laughs

Sunday, June 24, 2012

While Everyone's Having Fun in Vegas, We Who Stay Behind Have to Talk About Something

First of all, my level of frustration at Blogger is almost as high as my level of frustration at Paypal (got scammed, no recourse, I look to be out 600 squeeds). I had a History Friday post, a long one, about half done, only to find that it somehow ate about 800 words, leaving me with maybe the middle 30% of what I wrote. So thanks to Blogger you guys missed a post about baseball forfeits. Eh, maybe later. So we're gonna do one of those "cleaning out the craniattic" posts and I'm telling you right now, it's gonna suck.

So let's see, let's see, what shall we discuss...well, that scumbag Sandusky was convicted of being icky to kids.  Too bad this isn't colonial Maine.  Know what they did there?  They gave you a shovel at dawn and gave you until dusk to dig a hole.  However big you dug it, that was your home for the duration of your sentence. Better hope you contrived some way to stay dry. And certainly Sandusky deserves no better.

I hope you don't take this the wrong way but I think there are degrees of what today is called child molestation.  A guy like Sandusky, a creepy old dude who preyed on children, is a flat-out child molester. He deserves all the "extra attention" he's gonna get in the hoosegow.  But lookit: my first sexual relationship was in high school, when I tagged a very annoying Greek girl who nonetheless gave it up like a champ with regularity. When we met, I was 15 and she was 17.  But you know what?  She turned 18 and for a few more months I was still 15.  According to the legislative nuances of statutory rape, she committed a felony every time she took her mustachioed mouth and did what she did best - and I ain't talking about whistling. Was anyone being taken advantage of?  Only when she asked me to get a wet paper towel and help with the cleaning up. And despite being deeply, DEEPLY annoying, she didn't deserve any time in the clink for making a man of Sue Jacobs' boy. But these days, a DA with an axe to grind could've made both our lives pretty miserable.

In other news...

There's this chick flick out there, it's called 500 Days of Summer.  Didn't watch it because I have zero tolerance for that kind of cinematic excretion. However, Tootsie, who is a sucker for this kind of nonsense, was watching it semi-recently. And as I was passing through upstairs I saw that there was this one sequence where Our Hero, Joseph Gordon Leavitt, walks to work after bedding his dream girl for the first time, to the lilting strains of Hall and Oates' You Make My Dreams Come True. I bring this up because I think the scene pretty well encapsulates what a man thinks and feels when he's found himself in a relationship with the great love of his life. Also I think it's directed quite well; a number of long takes, which I always respect, and everyone on the street is kind of color-coordinated, which is a plus.  It's a two minute segment - give it a watch:

Depending on your browser I think you might have to click the youtube link and then come back.  It's OK.  I'll wait.

In other other news...some quick hits:

I find myself jealous of everyone who's currently out in Vegas whooping it up and having a grand old time. I wish I were there, or at least I did until I called Josie to wish her godspeed and a safe trip (only to find that she'd already got there!) and she told me it was over 100 degrees.  No friggin thanks.  Here's the important equation: fat man + unbearable heat = Jew Jerky.

My brother and his family are about two hours away, they're coming over for some laughs and bologna sandwiches.  My niece Piper will be there, who just LOVES her Uncle Gary and Auntie Tootsie. She's by far the most beautiful thing that the Jacobs family has ever created; I'm still astounded at how that could have happened.  Like her parents she's whip-smart; unlike them she's a joy to be around, ha ha ha. Looking forward to some conflict-free family time. Here's her first picture and some background to her rocky debut.  The first comment is me; is anyone surprised?

When I see Piper I always feel a tinge of emotion at my Dad's loss, because he knew she was coming but never quite got to meet her.  Ross wrote about his passing far more eloquently than I ever could. It still brings a lump to my throat.

I don't want to end this post on a downer so I'll drop in a quick joke: Guy walks into a podiatrist's office.  Says "Doc, you gotta help me, I think I'm a moth."  Doc says "But..but...I'm a podiatrist; why did you come to me?" Guy says, "well, your light was on."

Wokka wokka, and by the way, wokka.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wherein I Expose My Vagina

Any of you remember that scene in The Sopranos when they're all at Uncle Junior's party to celebrate his hung jury, and he stands up to sing Core 'Ngrato ("Ungrateful Heart") and all the old Moustache Petes start to cry?

I almost hate to admit it, but that's me.  Maybe it's because I've been a musician for more years than I count (not a good one, mind, but I've certainly put the time in), but music does indeed move me more than most.  And a song of subtlety, of great beauty, of message, can easily move me to tears, and stay with me for a long, long time.

I'm going to cite three examples here, and the odd thing is that two of them are re-workings of other people's work. I say it's odd because I have a decided prejudice against people who make their lives as performers of other people's art. Singing another's song doesn't necessarily make you an artist, unless you really step up to the plate with a re-imagining or just blow me away with talent and subtlety. But - there it is, two out of three, who knew?

Anyway, as I tell you which songs they are, I'm going to ask that you give them a listen, especially if you've never heard them before. I can't expect a similar emotional response, or even any emotional response whatsoever, but at very least you'll know what triggers one in me.

The three songs, in no particular order, are these:

First up is Eva Cassidy's Fields of Gold. This is a complete rework of a limpwristed throwaway tune by Sting. Cassidy, her life tragically cut down by cancer before she became famous, imparted the song with the emotional weight it deserves - the lyrics describing a couple growing old and looking back on their lives - and gives the song a feel that is 180 degrees different from Sting's.  Stories abound all over the Internet of people bursting into tears the first time they've heard it: in fact  I played it once for a coworker in my office, and when I looked up from some busywork I was doing I saw she was weeping.  Not just tears, but actually weeping, at the power of her performance.

The second song is Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. This one gets me just from the sheer beauty of the song.  It holds no particular deep message but it's just goddamned brilliant. A perfect execution of a song pretty damned good to begin with. Of the three songs here, this is the one that you'l likely know.

Finally the last song on the list, yet not nearly last in any other way, is the Pogues' Fairytale of New York. I'm not sure any words I have are fit here, so I'll just clam up and ask that you give it a listen:

So - there you go.  I'll admit it: I'm a pussy when it comes to music that stirs me.  Tough shit.  Don't like it? Stop reading me. Wanna fight about it?  Well, I don't, didn't I just say that I was a pussy?

Hope you like these songs.  Let me know what you think of them.

Leonard Cohen is a God Damned Genius

I went down to the place
Where I knew she lay waiting
Under the marble and the snow
I said, Mother I'm frightened
The thunder and the lightning
I'll never come through this alone
She said, I'll be with you
My shawl wrapped around you
My hand on your head when you go
And the night came on
It was very calm
I wanted the night to go on and on
But she said, Go back to the World.

Now the crickets are singing
The vesper bells ringing
The cat's curled asleep in his chair
I'll go down to Bill's Bar
I can make it that far
And I'll see if my friends are still there
Yes, and here's to the few
Who forgive what you do
And the fewer who don't even care
And the night comes on
It's very calm
I want to cross over, I want to go home
But she says, Go back, go back to the World

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tick tock - Times Two Billion

Been thinking about the passage of time lately. Almost completely unmarked this past December was the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And it occurs to me that when I was a younger man there were still old-timers who would wander into my Radio Shack and fill my head with tales of their service in World War I. One guy I remember served on a ship in the United States Navy, he having lied about his age to join. As a 16-year-old he was a Morse code operator in the radio room, of a Navy destroyer. He took great pleasure in telling me that the name of the room he worked in was the radio shack.

They're all gone now. I'm pretty sure there isn't a single surviving human being who served in World War I. Even someone like the guy I was talking about, whose name I can't remember, about which more later, who joined up at 16 would have to be 109 today. And now the same thing is happening with veterans of World War II. Lying about his age to join the service in 1945, for example, would make a man 82, if my math skills haven't completely deserted me. And that's the best case scenario for World War II survivors. A freshfaced 18-year-old who joined up when Pearl Harbor got bombed would be almost 90 today. They're definitely still around but there are fewer and fewer of them every day.

On a more local level I'm 43, and I'm already feeling the effects of time in a number of very quantifiable ways. Don't get me wrong; I've never been what you'd call a prime physical specimen. But there are several things that have very noticeably changed about me. For example I used to pride myself on having the eyesight of a fighter pilot, able to read signs from further away than anyone else able to tell a blue Jay from a pigeon at 200 feet. But in the last two years, one of two things has taken place: either the publishing industry has conspired to shrink the typefaces of every publication that I stick my nose into, or my eyesight has transitioned from superlative to normal to downright bad. I can't read before bed unless I have my reading glasses with me and I move my bedside lamp to directly over the book I'm reading. With every day that goes by I can feel my eyesight worsen. My father, rest his soul, always had horrible up close eyesight. We would tease him about it all the time – would always say that would get him arm extensions for Christmas so he could read. I would ask him from time to time what he saw up close because my eyesight was so good I just didn't understand what it meant to have bad eyesight. He'd point to a line of text and say that all that he could see is one blurry line. I'm not there yet but I'm getting there.

I've also inherited the family's bad gums. There's going to come a time, sooner than I want it to come, when I'm going to have to have perfectly healthy teeth yanked from my body because they've got nothing to anchor themselves into. Let me tell you something: it's no fun contemplating having to get a bridge at 43. But such, I believe, is my fate. And there's going to be nothing good about that day, except for the great big bottle of happy pills that I'll be getting. And even then I'll need them for the pain so what's the good of that?

And there are dozens of smaller things, too, that remind me of the ticking clock: I cannot get into or out of a chair without making a noise; the pain from any minor mishap such as barking a shin on the furniture lasts longer and longer every day; a pulled muscle is now a four-day affair.

Thankfully one thing I don't expect they'll ever have to worry about is thinning hair or receding hairline. I say thankfully not out of any vanity especially, but the fact is that I'm such a gigantic carton of ugly that to be balding on top of everything else would be a crushing blow. It said that you inherit your head of hair from your mother's side, but both my brothers and I all have our father's thick, wavy hair. Although as far back as I can remember dad had a small, silver dollar sized bald spot right at the crown of his head, he was blessed with a fantastic head of hair. Even at 75 he had a decent amount of hair left. Sure the bald spot got a little bit bigger, but if I have the head of hair he had at 75 when I'm 75, I'll be ecstatic.

But everything I've been talking about lately is just cosmetic. There's a much more serious side to the progression of time, especially given my family dynamic.

My father had his first heart attack in 1981. He was 47, and although he was a pack a day smoker, he also weighed 60 pounds less than I weigh now, and in much better shape besides - he worked outside, with his hands.

I can't imagine that my first heart attack is that far off and I have the feeling it's going to be a lot stronger than his first, which was pretty mild in comparison to his later ones. Either way some serious mojo is on its way, and it's not going to be pretty when it comes.

And even if it's not...

Here's the rundown on my family.  On my Dad's side, my grandparents died at 60 and 72. Dad passed at 75 (which was a miracle of medicine; his number should have gotten punched March 31, 2000, at which time he'd have been two days short of his 67th birthday). On my Mom's side, her parents died at 72 and 78 (and he was koo-koo pants b'dee-b'dee b'dee that's all folks crazy for a couple years before that). Mom just turned 69.

In other words, at 43, I'm so far past the centerline of my life that contemplating the time I have left is god damned depressing.  I figure I've got no more than 30 left, and realistically it's more like 20, especially if you count just healthy years.

20 years.

I know how fast that goes.  Hell, I remember 23.  I was an adult 20 years ago, a thinking man who knew (or fancied he knew) his place in the world and was engaged to be married to the future Tootsie Southpaw.

And every day the aches and pains bite just a little deeper, the nooks and crannies get more filled with hair, and I look more and more like Morty the CPA.

It's a real bitch.  Time doesn't march on; it lunges forward in great ungainly leaps, leaving wrinkles and grey hair in its wake.

Eh, whatever.  The sooner done, the sooner to rest, I guess.  Might as well play out the string with a smile on my face, even if it's of the phony, painted-on variety; it does no good to pout anyway. And yes, by the way, I know that two billion tick tocks is only about 62 years; I'm trying to make a point here, Larry Literal.