A couple of hours after we expected Angelica to call, and a couple of minutes after my wife said, “I think we should forget about her,” the phone rang. Angelica said, “I am really sick. Everybody I work with is sick. I don’t want to make you sick. Can we postpone?”

We are supposed to meet her next Sunday. Stay tuned for the next episode of the “Perils of Angelica and her pickup truck.”

Angelica is supposed to call us this morning and make arrangements for us to meet her and her pickup truck today. One of the frequent flaws of my “more than fatal” schemes is they lead to immense complications. Bad for me; perhaps entertaining for you; stay tuned.

We visited the barely extended family yesterday for a post-Thanksgiving ham dinner. One of Random Granddaughter’s “adoptive” aunts (and the aunt’s sister) also attended.

Though surrounded by boring adults engaged in boring adult conservation, RG behaved fairly well. We all had a good time in the midst of family and adopted family.

There were a couple of instances of child abuse in the state where I live. Sometimes the children abuse the parents; sometimes the parents abuse the children.

 Sometimes, we don’t really know why children turn out horrible. Were they raised much worse than we know, or did they fall in with bad companions, or were they just “bad seeds?”

Although I am not intimately familiar with the small farming community of Carnation, I have driven through the town on several occasions, and I have been in the house of a friend there [a very good person in no way connected to this story, I hasten to add].

From a local news story:

Police say that Michele Anderson and [Joseph] McEnroe armed themselves with handguns just before 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, entered the home of her parents, Wayne Anderson, 60, and Judith, 61, and fatally shot them in the head.

When Michele Anderson’s brother, Scott, his wife Erica, and the couple’s two children, Olivia, 5, and Nathan, 3, arrived at the rural home, they were shot and killed as well.

According to court documents, Michele Anderson told police she was tired “of everybody stepping on her,” and she had decided if her family did not start showing her respect by Dec. 24, she would kill them all. Anderson also was angry that her parents were pressuring her to pay rent for the trailer she shared with McEnroe on the elder Andersons’ wooded Carnation property, she told police

On the individual horrible level, there is the Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped some of his children. However, he now claims to be an addict. Apparently, that is his excuse for his behavior.

I am sure there is a support group somewhere for Torturers and Rapists of Children, Anonymous. (TRC Anon).

The plot thickens. After leaving cranky email messages and cranky voice mail messages, I called one last time and talked to a real person (whose accent does not sound Hispanic at all). Apparently she had finally called my wife (which I had urged her to do about forty times).

So I don’t know.

Her accent doesn’t sound Hispanic at all. It sounds Generation X.

Maybe she has a great truck for sale. Maybe she is a terrorist and we will never be seen alive again.

Supposedly she is going to meet with my wife on Monday. (She gets Sunday and Monday off from her frantic retail job.)

Never a dull moment.

I was planning to  pay her the full asking price if my mechanic gives it a clean bill of health.

Now, I think I will take at least $50 off for irritating me. Also, if she is unmarried, I may put up a warning sign outside her apartment, warning potential dates off.

Pass Me Your Medicare Card

November 29, 2008

When I was a kid, my best friends Frankie, Scotty, Kenyon and I would go to the high School football field a few blocks from our homes in the small town of Brea in Orange County, California to play a pickup football game.In our huddle of two, Scotty would say to me, “Hike to me on the count of three, run about five yards and turn to the right.” I would clumsily hike it over Scotty’s head and try to block Frankie. After cursing me for my terrible hike, Scotty would run back and pick up the rolling ball one step ahead of the pursuing Frankie . In the meantime, I would run a few steps forward; Kenyon would bump me to interfere with the pass. As Frankie grabbed him in the backfield, Scotty would desperately hurl the ball in the air in my direction. Kenyon and I would both fight for the wobbly ball and after we both batted the ball around clumsily, we would  we would all fall to the ground without catching the ball.
None of us made the junior high football team. None of us made the senior high football team. I did not make the college football team. I did not become a NFL player; I suspect none of my friends did either.
Not only did I lack the Terminator brawn, speed, and coordination required to be a professional football player, I also lacked the cyborg brain power to understand the complexity of NFL plays. It’s no wonder that scores of NFL football players in their spare time are taking MBA-level business classes at Harvard Business School, Wharton, and similar distinguished university business schools. Anyone who can understand a NFL playbook is probably more than competent to run the typical American investment bank.

As my wife has already stopped working for a paycheck at the age of 62, and as I will retire at the end of January, we are enrolling in Medicare, and making choices for Medicare A (hospital insurance), Medicare B (medical insurance), and deciding whether we want to sign up for Part D, the Medicare prescription drug program. We’re not sure whether there is an advantage to signing up for Part C, the Medicare Advantage plan. There may be a benefit to signing up for my retirement health plan, instead of going to a Medigap program. My wife is considering a Catastrophic Coverage program, but could for more money become a dependant on my retirement program. The above information covers perhaps page 1 of the 30-page handbook we received to help us figure out our choices.

Last night, after a pleasant and healthfully spare Thanksgiving dinner for two of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, peas grown in our garden, and for dessert, pumpkin pie made from a squash grown in our garden (which this year overran the zucchini from outer space in a one sided triumph of Mothra over Godzilla) , we gave thanks to each other for reaching 43 years of marriage without killing each other. (Monday was the official anniversary day).

Although we have been studying Medicare materials in bewilderment for weeks, after dinner we began reviewing everything one more time to prepare ourselves for a counseling session scheduled for Friday morning (this morning).By the time we went to bed, we were indeed close to killing each other once more.

When we met with Jack, the volunteer for the state who taught the seminar we had already attended and conducted our individual counseling session, we learned that he is neither an NFL player nor a marriage counselor, though he told us the prescriptions that keep him alive cost over $10,000 a year, only a small portion of which is covered by his Medicare drug prescription coverage.

In any case his training as a volunteer seemed equivalent to going through a NFL training camp; his experience as an elderly person who has survived serious illnesses seems equivalent to being a quarterback who has survived blitzes and sacks by NFL linebackers.

As we went through the meeting and listened to his counsel, we concluded that the choices we were making after hours of reading, listening, and study seemed reasonable and affordable (once we get used to our retirement menu of organic carrots and potatoes from the ground, organic apples from our tree, and cat food we sneak from Sylvie’s dish while Random Granddaughter is distracting her) and that the decisions most in dispute seemed headed for peaceful resolution after no more than three or four hundred more phone calls.


I left one last message on Angelica’s voice mail. Since we never seem to get close enough to her to give her any money, I can not figure out how her elusive behavior can be a scam. My conclusion is that she is a flake and that David’s advice (from whichever alter is offering the advice) to kick her to the curb is sensible.

She has until Sunday morning to call us. I fear for the future of Chile and I am sighing at starting over from scratch on Craig’s List.




We are trying to buy a pickup truck over the Internet. Over the years I have bought quite a few things over the Internet. I have used Usenet, also known as Newsgroups, I have used eBay. Most recently, I have started to use Craig’s List. In the past, when purchasing materials goods, I sometimes have had very good luck by placing Item wanted ads instead of searching Items for sale ads, though this method has not brought me invariable success and satisfaction. Still, at times it’s worth a try.

Most of our lives we have gotten along with one vehicle. We have never owned a new vehicle. I am not talented with understanding how cars work, much less fixing them. We did eventually reach the point where we were able to buy fairly recent economy cars from rental car companies. That worked fairly well, though there were some problems.

When we decided to buy acreage on an island, my wife decided we needed a pickup truck. We bought a used pickup truck from a man who had fixed and maintained it himself.  We were rather rushed; I found the process and the seller irritating. However, it worked out reasonably well, though we had to have some of the work he had done on the truck himself done over again by professionals.

My car is running OK, but it is burning oil and is clearly close to worn out. My wife’s truck is running OK, but it is leaking oil and is close to worn out. As soon as we buy a newer and healthier used truck, we are going to sell our close-to-worn-out vehicles. We will tell the purchasers that the truth about the vehicles. The truth is that they will need some fairly extensive work fairly soon and how long they will last is uncertain. The proper purchasers will be people who are skilled at working on their own cars and want to buy them cheaply.

I placed a detailed “pick-up truck wanted” ad on Craig’s List, explaining what we wanted in detail. Some of the features were extended cab (so we can carry groceries and other supplies, and transport Random Granddaughter in her car seat in a back seat), full-length bed, automatic transmission (my wife can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, but she does not like to). Four-wheel drive is optional. It is useful once in a while, but temperamental and expensive to get fixed. We don’t need “gee-gaws” such as cruise control or an elaborate stereo. My wife is small in stature, so we need a small truck that she feels comfortable driving: a truck in which she can see out the windshield while reaching the pedals, etc. Many pick-up trucks are too large for my wife to drive comfortably.

When we settle on a likely truck for purchase, I will have it inspected by an excellent garage we know. My daughter and her partner have used this business for years; they are demanding customers; they are still happy with X auto repair. X auto repair has reviews on the Internet; the reviews are uniformly positive and happy. My wife and I used them a few times before we moved away. We had no reason to complain. They are skillful, honest, and trustworthy.

I received replies from several sellers with possibly suitable used trucks for sale. At first, the best truck was fancier, was more expensive, and had more gee-gaws than we needed. The owner obviously has a lot of money and a number of vehicles, but he seems honest and straightforward enough. While we were talking to him, we heard from Angelica.

Angelica’s truck seems to fit our needs very well. Angelica seems honest and straightforward. I have yet to talk on the phone to Angelica, much less meet her. She doesn’t always answer her email promptly. This is what I have learned about her so far.

Angelica lives on the mainland, not far from our island. Angelica is from Chile, as her mother, who was the real owner of the truck. She sounds like a Chilean “truck-driving momma.”

 Angelica attended and graduated from the University of Michigan and then moved to Washington where she got a job working in some sort of retail business. The truck belonged to her mother, who lived with Angelica while she was attending the university. Angelica and her mother drove from Michigan to Washington. Angelica is even shorter than my wife. Her truck, like my wife’s truck, is a Ford Ranger, a small “economy” pickup truck. My wife’s truck is a 1992 model and has about 150,000 miles on it. Angelica’s truck is a 1970 and has 70,000 miles on it.

Angelica at one time had a small, economy car but it was destroyed in a wreck. Her mother gave her truck to Angelica, and then returned to Chile. However, Angelica feels more comfortable driving a small car (though she can drive the truck); she wants to sell the truck and buy a car. However, she works long hours at her retail job and is in the midst of Christmas rush, so it has been hard so far for us to get together to even talk on the phone, much less meet and look at the truck, much less get the truck inspected. Evidently, after her job, Angelica is exhausted and goes home and collapses.

I have tried to call Angelica. She never answers her phone. I have asked her to call us. So far she has not done so. Sometimes it takes several days for her to answer an email.

Angelica’s story may all be perfectly true and reasonable. Also, it is possible that Angelica is not telling us something or is hiding something from us. Our experience so far is a little bit like trying to date someone over the internet. I am tempted to say to Angelica,

“For God’s sake, woman. You contacted me first! Now you are being all coy when I ask you to stay in touch. You sent me your phone number, and asked me to call you. Now you never answer your phone or return phone messages. You said, my truck has low mileage and is in very good shape; that is why I am asking the price I do. I said, I will pay the price you ask after my mechanic checks the truck out. I passed an opportunity to buy another very good truck to get your truck. I would like some evidence you are serious about this.

To put it bluntly, Internet dating sucks. I suppose if I press her on following up on her interest, I will be served with a restraining order and told not to harass her any more. I will counter with a breach of promise of promise suit, filed by a transgender attorney.

I tend to put childhood into three categories: horrible, awful, and not that bad, but still not that great.

Horrible ranges from group efforts, such as wars and concentration camps, to individual efforts.

For example, I will mention, Ishmael Beah. As summarized by National Public Radio:

[He] has written a memoir about his years as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. Orphaned by the civil war there, he was carrying an AK-47 by the age of 12. Pumped up by drugs, he was forced to kill or be killed.

When he was 15, UNICEF took Beah to a rehabilitation center. He was eventually adopted by an American woman and brought to the United States, where he attended high school and graduated from Oberlin College.

His book is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

Not only was he kidnapped and forced to fight in a war, but his suffering did not stop there. He was accused of falsifying his story by an Australian newspaper, and then sent to Oberlin College for his college education, a fate only David can appreciate properly.

Greater Depression

November 24, 2008

My parents and their siblings grew up in a period known as The Great Depression. They were deeply depressed by this experience (as well as by having nutcases for parents). A depression is like drinking Scotch whiskey straight from the bottle. Having nutcase parents is like having Scotch on the rocks.A depression leaves a deep hangover.

Since then, America has vowed to drink nothing stronger than a recession. A recession is like a light beer. Occasionally we have a deep recession. A deep recession is like a “craft beer.” It has a special flavor, as described on a web page about craft beers:

If a beer reminds you of the smell of a skunk that is a result of a photochemical reaction and indicates that the beer has been exposed to light for too long. You may or may not appreciate this character.

If a beer smells or tastes like wine, wet cardboard, or paper (okay I know you don’t usually go around and chew paper, but just imagine) then that’s an indication of old, stale beer. It shouldn’t have been sold to you in the first place. Storing beer at warm temperatures accelerates the staling process.

If you experience a sour, bacterial or moldy flavor in your favorite draught beer at your local bar or tavern – tell the bartender. It means that the beer tap hoses have not been cleaned properly. Draught beer lines need to be properly cleaned every two weeks in order to maintain the delivery of fresh beer to your glass.

For the last few months I have been reading and hearing statements such as:

Are we in a recession?

Are we in a regular recession or a deep recession?

I have been saying, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and do’s like a duck, we are knee deep in duck do. In other words, somebody has been in the liquor cabinet and needs to go to the Depressions Anonymous meeting.

I’ve taken to calling it the Greater Depression.

Yesterday the December 3 issue of The New Republic arrived in my mail box. On a black cover in white letters appeared: “Depression Sets In.”

The old President and the New President and the old Congress and the New Congress are all popping anti-depressants as if they are down in the dumps. They are going to have a bad reaction. I am glad that the rest of the country is catching up with me on this.


As part of my daily dose of Cherry Vile, I have been reading three charming books:
Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination by Ben Kiernan and
Denial of Death and Escape from Evil, both by Earnest Becker.

Kiernan’s book describes how we kill each other with great skill and enthusiasm while proclaiming we will never let it happen again. He lists some common features in human culture that seem to set the stage for genocide. Just for the record, they’re still setting the stage and putting on the play.

Becker’s two books suggest that our fear of death makes us easy pretty to follow “heroic” leaders who lead us on great causes. These causes often lead to mass murder.

Becker pulls together and tries to integrate thoughts from a variety of philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists in a way that impresses me.

 I suspect he brewed and drank Cherry Vile by the gallon.

Unfortunately, after doing the prep, he perhaps forgot to go in for the actual procedure.

He died of colon cancer around the age of 50, just as he was really hitting his stride as a depressing thinker, leaving a non-profit foundation with his name on it in Seattle, to carry on his work. (Brewing cherry vile, I guess is what they carry on).

 I haven’t joined yet, but I probably will one of these days.)