Tag Archives: autobahns

A Trip to the Home World, Tithing on the Speed Limit, a Tooth Joins the Ranks of the Undead and a Giant No Hitter

Yesterday we made a trip back to my family’s home world, also known as Huntington West Virginia. As far as home worlds go it is probably on no one’s top ten lists, probably ranking about as high as Qo’noS, the Klingon home world in terms of places that you would go to on holiday.  However it is my family’s ancestral home for the past 200 plus years since coming from Scotland, Ireland and France.  Now I was not born in West Virginia, though my parents were born there as were three of my four grandparents.  I was actually the first of my generation born outside of the state as my dad was still in the beginning stages of his Navy career and was stationed at Naval Air Station Alameda California and I was born at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in California.  Even so Huntington was a place that served as a touchstone for our lives as my dad was transferred from one place to another on the west coast.  We would return almost every summer, usually travelling by train in the days before Amtrack.  Back then three of four grandparents as well as one set of great grandparents we still alive along with a butt-load of aunts, uncles and cousins.  In 4th grade we lived there while my dad found us suitable housing in Long Beach California after being transferred from Washington State. That was the year of three schools and four teachers for me, but I digress.

It was during that year that my great grandfather died and my grandfather was diagnosed with a golf ball sized yet benign brain tumor.  It was also the adjustment form the kinder and gentler west coast schools to a much stricter standard in Huntington.  I was also as we had come in from Long Beach I was nicknamed “City Slicker” and had to fight for my life.  A couple of school yard brawls later which I cannot say that I won but in which I gave good account of myself I was accepted so far as a “City Slicker” could be.  The thing was though that I had lived in a town of only about 8,000 inhabitants for 4 years prior to moving to Long beach for just over a month.  The kids in Huntington were far more “City Slicker” than little old me.  I had poor penmanship because in Kindergarten my teacher took the pencil out of my left hand and stuck it in my right hand.  This was of no comfort when my teacher whacked my hand with a steel ruler since my penmanship was so bad.  What good this did I have no idea except to maybe set me back two more years.  I don’t think I ever left the dining room table due to the amount of homework that she assigned.  During my time in Huntington we lived across from the old Fairfield Stadium where the Marshall University football team played.  I saw the team work out in the spring practices of 1970, the same team killed in the plane crash on 14 November of that year.  We returned to Long Beach that summer where when I started 5th grade I was known as “Kentucky Fried.”  Despite that I was happy to get back out west.  After my Clinical Pastoral Care Education Residency in Dallas I got my first full time hospital chaplain job at Cabell-Huntington Hospital which I held as a full time contractor until I was mobilized for the Bosnia mission in 1996.  During this time and while I was deployed Judy got to know my relatives better than me.  I went into the Navy in West Virginia and due to this we remain West Virginia residents for Tax and Voting purposes.  We came back to get our driver’s licenses renewed and see our dear friend Patty.

The visit this time has been pretty miserable for me as last night the tooth which was recently excavated for the second time as discovered to be cracked beyond repair decided to come back from the dead.  I didn’t get to sleep until about 0230 and woke up again at 0415 before getting back to sleep at 0600. The alarm rank at 0700 and after getting Judy up, we talked and I went back to bed where I slept until 1230.  It took 2 Ultram, 1 800 mg Motrin and a couple of beers with lunch to get the pain under control.  Tonight I will probably do the same and go to bed early.  In the morning I will have to call the Dental Department at the hospital to see what they want me to do.  We don’t travel back until Wednesday and I don’t know if I can take much more of this.  It seems to me that my tooth has taken a page from Dracula and joined the ranks of the undead.  This really sucks like a Hoover.

The trip here was long, we had the usual snarl on I-64  from Newport News until past Williamsburg, and thankfully the HRBT was not congested.  We picked up more slow traffic between Staunton and Lexington.  Now I am bothered by people who drive slower than the posted speed limit in the fast lane.  I trained on the Los Angeles Freeways and the German Autobahn.  My view is that the speed limit is a suggestion for the less skilled drivers and those who have trained on high speed roads should be exempt from it.  Now I am not a total scofflaw. I do not drive unsafely, weave in and out of traffic or fail to signal.  Likewise I know about how fast I can go without drawing the attention of the State Police.  Since radar detectors are illegal in Virginia one has to become very adept at this cat and mouse game and I am amazed at the number of people who get pulled over because they don’t understand the simple art of nuance.  In most states you can safely drive about 10 percent over the speed limit on the Interstate without getting ticketed.  This is a little different on the major travel holidays in Virginia where there is about a 5 mph tolerance.  I do this routinely and refer to it as “tithing” on the speed limit.  Of course there are times that I need to give more than my tithe and go a bit faster.  Our GPS “Lilith” has a conscious about such things and would alarm when I did this forcing me to silence her.

There was also cause for rejoicing as the first half of the baseball season came to an end.  The Norfolk Tides are tied for fist in the International League South, the San Francisco Giants have surprised everyone by playing great ball with solid pitching and now are in second place in the National League West and currently have the 3rd best record in the league behind the Evil Dodgers and one percentage point behind the East leading Phillies.  To really make things great Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.  It was almost a perfect game save for a booted ground ball and error by Giants Third Baseman Juan Uribe with 1 out in the bottom of the 8th and Center Fielder Aaron Rowland saved the no-hitter with a leaping catch at the wall for the second out in the top of the ninth.  Both of these show that even when a pitcher pitches a no-hitter it is a team effort.  I had seen the next to last Giant no-hitter in person with my dad and brother back on August 24th 1975 when Ed Halicki shut down the New York Mets at Candlestick.  Not a bad way for the Giants to go into the All-Star break.

Anyway it is time to self medicate for the night and try to get some sleep.  Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve

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Filed under Baseball, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, star trek, travel

The Journey to Mudville

Friends: I wrote this in several parts over the day on my trip. I do thank all those who have expressed sympathy as well as voiced prayers on our behalf. Thank you. Peace, Steve+

There are those times in life where one wonders what the hell is going on.  I sat in my seat between two other gentlemen on the fully booked Southwest Airline flight to Chicago. This was the first stop on my journey home to Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton, California.  The legend is that the poem Casey at the Bat is set in Stockton, and for a couple of years the Stockton Ports were reflagged as the Mudville Nine.  So in a sense I can claim Mudville as part of my baseball lineage.

The journey had begun inauspiciously enough when my cell phone’s alarm clock went off at 0430 to the tune of John Foggarty’s Centerfield.  That’s military time for 4:30 AM, or too frickin’ early… even by my standards.  Now true this is only 15-30 minutes earlier than I normally arise, but I have never been a morning person.  If I had been able to get to sleep at a decent hour this might not have been too bad.  However, I had spent a full day trying to get my shit together on Sunday and did not get to bed until after midnight.  Thankfully my sleep meds worked and I did get to sleep.  When the alarm went off I got my sorry ass up and set the snooze for ten minutes more. Molly the dog glared at me.  Evidently this was too early for her as well.  I finally got up and out of bed, showered and went downstairs to call a cab.  Of course the cab company couldn’t promise a cab before 0600 and since my flight was scheduled for 0645 I knew that this was definitely a no go.  Molly the dog decided that it was now time to come downstairs and demand to be let out so she could do her business.  This being done she collected her payment of a Milk Bone and went back to bed.  After having paid off Molly I loaded my suitcase and backpack into my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V and started off to the airport.  After Iraq I now consider airports as the gateway to hell.

Radio tuned to ESPN Sports Radio 1310 AM I received the news that my San Francisco Giants had beaten the Evil Dodgers at Chavez Ravine 7-5 in 13 innings, taking two of three from the now Mannyless Dodgers. While the Norfolk Tides had taken 2 of three from the hapless Buffalo Bisons which in the Mets organization had once been the Tides. The Mets as usual have decided to treat their AAA farm team badly and people in Buffalo after years of competitive seasons as a Cleveland Indians affiliate are opening complaining.  With the good news I stopped by my local 7-11 for a 24 ounce coffee with 4 French Vanilla creamers and 3 packets of Splenda and zipped off to I-264.  It was then that things started to get interesting and not in a good way.  I managed to find every stoplight and get behind every timid driver who couldn’t drive anywhere near the speed limit.  I’ve driven the Autobahns of Germany and cut my teeth in L.A. and a lot of people in Hampton Roads can’t drive nails, much less cars. I put my CR-V into warp factor eight, set the cloaking device and dodged in and out of traffic and took the secret wormhole into the airport to avoid even more stoplights.  It is patently a good thing that I know such things as I would shortly discover that I would need every second.

I pulled into the parking garage and saw that there were 26 spaces available on the second deck. I drove onto the deck and discovered that there were not 26 spaces but a big fat zero spaces available. Muttering a few things about the questionable parentage of the idiot who couldn’t count the difference between 26 and zero I drove my CR-V up to the 3rd deck.  The sign here said 16 spaces available…good I thought, certainly they couldn’t screw up two floors.  Damned if I wasn’t screwed again.  Here again the parking space counter of the previously mentioned questionable parentage had miscounted.  Instead of 16 spaces there were…you guessed it, zero, nada, nicht eine, yea even nary a single space available. Now calling to mind the probable oedipal practices of the individual of questionable parentage I moved up to the 4th deck.  Here I found success; albeit at the end of a row far from the terminal, but I had my spot…at least I didn’t have to keep going up.  I looked at my watch and knew I had to run. I did the O.J. (racing through the airport, not killing my wife) and I got down to the ticketing area where I was greeted by the sight of at least 250 people in the Southwest line.   I now only had 50 minutes to my flight departed.  Normally with Southwest this is easy. They are efficient and the line, if they have one at all it tends to move fast.  Today was like something out of the hell known as the Orlando International Airport.  Some group of 100 or so people had bumped everyone else aside. Likewise one of the big TSA baggage X-rays was down, turning this into a nightmare is grumbling people stewed wondering if they would make their flights.  I uttered some more #*@#%! words under my breath and then asked the Deity Herself to give me a break. Thankfully the Deity and the good people at Southwest ensured that line moved fast.  We received some help when the group who had gooned up the line was finished.  Then the agent called for my 0645 flight.  At this point all of now very late passengers stormed the ticket booth like revolutionaries storming the Bastille. Thankfully I had good position based on my position in the line. Expert that I am I weaved through the lesser experienced travelers. I slid into a self serve kiosk that no one else had spotted like Ricky Henderson would slide into second. As I got my boarding pass a pushy woman tried to bump me out of line. I didn’t like it; she was trying to crowd me out of line when I was there first.  Thankfully she was too dense to know that she needed to check her bags despite having a boarding pass in her hand.  The Southwest agent told her to get in a different line and I got my bag checked.  That task completed I did the O.J. and flew up the steps to the TSA checkpoint.  Jumping over a bank of chairs I managed to pass about 50 people only to discover that the nefarious group of 100 was already at the TSA checkpoint.  Once again the pushy lady tried to elbow her way through the line.  Since she obviously was a narcissist with no sense of propriety I cut her off. She looked at me like I was stupid, forgetting that we had had this little discussion just a few minutes before.  I said “ma’am, most of us are on your flight and are ahead of you.” Her jaw dropped and a TSA agent told her to get back echoing my words.   She looked at me and said “Will they hold the flight for me?”  To upset her, having faith in the Deity and Southwest, I lied and said, “Probably not.” Of course I didn’t believe this with so many of us in the same predicament. Yet I kind of enjoyed the look on her face as she moved back to her rightful place at the end of the line. Not the nicest thing to do, but some things need to be done.  I’m sure it was a sin.  As I asked one priest in confession: “Is it still a sin if they deserve it?” He told me: “Yes, but there may be some mitigating circumstances, but that is still a sin.”  Well there’s some more extra innings in Purgatory for me. Thankfully I am an expert traveler now, so when I got to the screening station I flew through it. Looking at my watch I knew that I had to be screwed. I had heard the final boarding call in the TSA line and it was past time for departure.  I raced down the concourse I saw that the Deity had already spoken to the kind folks at Southwest and had them hold the aircraft for all of us…the pushy lady included, proving that the Deity even cares for pushy narcissists. I guess that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.  Somehow I got through this episode without having a PTSD meltdown despite not having either a Xanax or beer to calm down.  Lot’s of deep breathing I guess helped this time.  Had I not made the flight I might have cracked, but the Deity Herself looked after me.

We arrived at Chicago Midway a little bit late, but in plenty of time to make my connecting fight to Sacramento, the alleged capitol of the State of California.  I say alleged because though there is much in the way of a state government in it there is painfully little evidence of effectiveness, despite having the Governator. Getting to Sacramento I picked up my luggage, which thankfully despite the lateness of my check-in got through.  If I had done the same on either Divided Airlines or U.S. Scare I’m sure that the luggage would not have made it on my flight, but would have ended up God knows where.  While waiting for my bag I had an e-mail from my mom about a run in that she had with a lady from hospice.  She was pretty spun up and my brother confirmed this.  I got my rental car, a 2009 Black Nissan Altima and headed down I-5 to Mudville.

When I got to Mudville I stopped by Raley’s to pick up the flowers that I told my mother would be arriving through a special arrangement with the florist.  Since I figured I should play this up for all that it was worth I decided to call and let her know that I had gotten her message.  She immediately launched into what was wrong with the world as I sat in my car in her driveway. I assured her that my brother and I would take care of things and that everything would be okay.  I knocked on the door with my phone in hand still talking to mom.  She told me someone was at the door and I said I would call back. She looked out the blinds which cover a window by the door, and then closed them, and then in disbelief opened them again. She was floored and stared in disbelief as I stood at the door, flowers in hand. I took her to the nursing home to see dad.  Somehow my nephew’s and niece managed to keep the secret the last two weeks. The surprise was total. He was glad to see me and immediately asked where Judy was.  He was disappointed that she was in Virginia. Unfortunately he looks in a lot worse shape than he was last year.  After the visit which included talks with the nursing staff and billing office I took my mom to Chile’s.

Now the hard part really starts.  Have to go up and see my dad.  I’ll be getting mom to the funeral home as well as make arrangements with their church for the memorial service at a date to be determined.  Following this I will be helping my brother with selling my parents old grave plots back to the cemetery in Napa where they lived a few years back. Then I will work on insurance issues between the insurance company and the nursing home.  The insurance company is being stupid right now.  The first 6 months they paid and now despite no change they are claiming that the nursing home is entering the wrong billing codes and say that they have the case “under investigation.”  However, since they have set precedent they should keep paying.  If they don’t start soon my brother and I will have to sue their sorry asses for putting my mom through hell.  If dad was with it he would be pissed.

So now that I am in Mudville I have work to do.  Take care and keep us all in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, healthcare, PTSD, travel