Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Aging”

Fiction Saturday – “Boxer”  – Part One 

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Our words and deeds, Good or Evil, are the dishes we put before the Lord.” 

—  Pope Severinus – 640 AD

The light shining in Doc’s kitchen was the only light on in the neighborhood. It would do. It always has before. In a couple of hours things on the street will begin to percolate, but now? Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

“I think your hand is broken, Terry.”

“No, it’s not, Doc. It’s just scraped up a little. I’ve broken it before. I know what that feels like.”

“Uh huh.”

Every knuckle on Terry’s right hand looked like he’d tried to knock down a brick wall.

“I just need you to clean it up, Doc, and tape it to keep the swelling down.” He held out his hand like it was a sledgehammer that needed repair.

 “Uh huh. What was it this time, a bar fight or what?”

“Business. Just business, Doc.”

“I swear, Terry, you get busted up more now than you ever did in The Ring.”

“Yeah, well, I gotta earn a living, right? In The Ring there were rules. Now, not so much. Different rules. I tell you, it gets hard for me sometimes to understand what the rules are.”

The peroxide washed over the scraped and bloody knuckles, stinging like hell. Nobody winced.

“What you need is a tetanus shot. You should go to the clinic for that.”

“They ask too many questions. This’ll do, Doc. This’ll do fine.”

He wiggled his fingers, testing for flexibility, and could he make a fist?

“You know, Terry, that I’m not a real doctor.”

“Yeah, I know. You went to medical school for a year or two. I heard you tell it all to Dutch, my old corner man. I remember.”

“Two years. I had two years of medical school, Terry. That’s all.”

Doc was a tall and sickly looking thin man. Skinny was more like it. His kitchen was his office and, on occasion, his surgery. This morning it was a little of both. He didn’t have a license to practice medicine. That dream died after two years and a weakness for gin. He drained away until all that was left was enough knowledge to pretend. Knowing enough to earn the nickname “Doc” that stung every time he heard it.

The gin introduced him to a different level of the culture and he got himself hired on as a “cut man’ for prize fighters. His job was to stop the bleeding and make things look not so bad when the referee came to their corner to assess the damage.

Doc knows only to blame himself. One night when he can’t hide in a haze he will open a vein and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

“I can patch you up, Terry, but Jesus, I can’t keep putting you back together forever.”

“I don’t need forever, Doc. I just need tonight. Now tape me up and I’ll go.”

“Boxing is real easy, Life is much harder.” —  Floyd Mayweather Jr.

 

Terry Jarosz, 36 years old and at one time a boxer. Middle-Weight Champion for about five minutes, a punching bag the rest of the time. A guy who struggled with the world of rules and laws.

After too many fights the damage to his body didn’t want to heal up fast enough and he couldn’t get any more matches. Permits were denied and that was that.

A guy who played by the rules in The Ring was thrown out of work by the rules from outside The Ring. He had to make a living.

Terry had to work, but it’s hard for an ex-fighter to find any work that doesn’t call on his only skills – hitting and hurting other people. At that he proved to be better than most.

He took work where he could find it. “Lift this.” “Carry that,” and more and more frequently, “Hit him. Break that.”

When he was in The Ring it was nothing personal. It was two men beating each other for the purse, or a part of the purse, after “expenses” were taken out by half a dozen men who called the shots.

Whatever else he was, Terry Jarosz was known as a hard guy who never took a dive when maybe he should have to save himself. He learned too late that in his world being an honest man paid a lot less than the other kind.

People who knew his name assumed, that because he had been a “Champ,” that he was set financially. But people who knew Boxing knew that money had a way of walking out of the door faster than a Ten Count from a crooked Referee. When Terry “retired” he had less than eight hundred dollars to his name. At least he had his name.

That got him some free meals and a few jobs, but after a year or two he became “Terry who?” Fans moved on and real friends, like always, were few and far between.

Now, working as muscle, collecting debts, it always ended up being personal. Sometimes he knew the men that he was leaning on – again for just a cut of the money. He got 5% of whatever he brought in.

It didn’t take long for word to get around that Terry Jarosz would get rough if you tried to snow him. When he first started working as a collector he was easy to fool. A good sob story and he’d end up buying you a drink or slipping you a few bucks. A couple of weeks having to sleep on a sidewalk heating vent fixed that. He learned that in his new world there was no “Loser’s Purse.” He changed. He didn’t listen to the sob stories any more. He didn’t care if your mother was in the hospital. It was either pay up or tell Momma to move over.

“A man’s gotta eat.” That became his motto.

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Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 -And A Side Order Of Comfort Food, Please

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 –

…And A Side Order Of Comfort Food, Please

LOOKING AT THE SKY THIS AFTERNOON I see what looks like a winter sky. I know that winter is not here, officially, until just before Christmas, but my body does not know that.

I saw an old guy recently who was wearing a T-shirt that read, “Getting old ain’t for Sissies.” I have come to truly understand that that is true, in Spades, a solid gold, cold hard fact. Ya gotta be tough.

As the temperature drops the sinews and skeletal structure of my body begin to react in a way that, if I were a car they would have me up on the rack for a tune up and a check of my suspension – and maybe new shocks. But, since I am not a car, I get a bottle of Excedrin. I’m an old model and it is hard to find parts for me anyway.

Right now my spine is trying to dislodge itself and go to Florida. The attached muscles and other human bungee cords are twisting to counterbalance my spine’s attempts to sneak away when I’m not looking. And, Mamacita! It hurts.

Modern pharmaceuticals offer a variety of substances that alleviate pain, but they do so at a cost. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about side effects. All medications have side effects – ALL OF THEM. Some are innocuous, some are enjoyable, most are tolerable. These side effects are there because all medications are also poisonous – ALL OF THEM. The trick with medications is to have you take them in such a dosage that it will achieve the positive, intended goal without killing you first. You can OD on anything.

I knew a fellow who, for various psychological reasons, tried to commit suicide by taking his entire month’s supply of antidepressants at one time. Doing so lifted his spirits and made him forget about offing himself, but those meds had the side effect of completely shutting down his kidneys. Fortunately, the ER doctors were able to save him and his kidneys, and the emergency catheterization they had to perform made him even sorrier that he had taken all those pills.

When my body begins to ache, and get downright punitive with me, I try to avoid taking any pain medications. Most of the OTC things are no more effective than a bag of M&Ms and not as tasty. The ones that do help either upset my tummy or make me feel like I’ve downed 32 cups of espresso. The happy medium, for me anyway, is Excedrin Migraine. I don’t have migraine headaches, thank you, Lord, but it seems to be the most effective with body aches. Go figure.

I came to the realization, decades ago, that these seasonal changes are unavoidable no matter where I lived, and so were the pains that came with them. I have also accepted that there is not a damn thing I can do about the pain, unless I want to take prescription pain medication and put my brain and personality in a box until summer. Some of those heavy-duty pain meds are the equivalent of a lobotomy in a bottle. Why on God’s green earth would I want to do that when my brain is just about the only thing I have that works?

Some years ago I had a nasty case of Shingles and my doctor gave me a prescription for Vicodin. Sweet Jesus! I couldn’t feel the pain, along with my head, my tongue, the Western Hemisphere or the Milky Way. It was like getting hit in the head with a ball-peen hammer. It turned me into a side of beef with shoes. After a couple days with that I opted for the pain. At least that way I knew I was alive.

So, here I sit, typing away, having downed a couple of Excedrin Migraine. It helps, a bit. I think that the best thing I can do for myself, and those around me, is to stay warm, eat some comfort foods, and watch the World Series on TV.

Now, if I can just find a bowl full of chocolate covered endorphins.

Not Today, My Friends

TODAY IS A DAY WHEN I NEED AND RELISH THE ROUTINE. I want it to be a quiet day so that I can think about the past, live in my present, and dream about what I see for the future.

I want my day to begin softly with a coffee or two and not much in the way of conversation. To do this I will have to visit St. Arbucks early, do a little writing, and then leave before the influx of Usual Suspects filter in. If I don’t I know what will happen. There will be anger and high blood pressure all around me. Not today, my friends. Not today.

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That’s My Cue

BE WARNED. I’VE GOT ON MY THINKING CAP.

When that happens the dogs howl, babies cry and milk goes bad on the “Best if used by…” date. And I usually end up with my neck in a wringer.

What triggered my lobes into action was a feeling, a nostalgia, perhaps. I got an email from a local theater group that is holding auditions for their next production. I have no interest in that particular play, but it hit a responsive chord in my heart.

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A Basket Of Brisket

WELL, HERE WE GO – OFF TO TEXAS! Surprisingly our flights were uneventful – which is what you want. Eventful airplane flights make the news and that is never a good thing. Things even went smoothly in our dealings with the TSA aerobic organisms. I think they were having an “On-The Job Slumber Party. They were just waving people through without even looking at them. I bet I could have walked through there toting a Howitzer and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It always makes me feel so safe.

Once we got to our ultimate destination (Corpus Christi) we did what any sensible person would do – we stopped for lunch at Whataburger. It’s a tradition that goes back to the days of the Alamo and Davy Crockett I think. A Family thing, you know.

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Moving On

I CHECKED MY EMAIL THIS MORNING and among the spam and other stuff was a blog posting from a man who was just starting retirement – and he wasn’t happy about it.

“It’s Retirement Day and I finally understand that I mean no more to them than the corner trash can.”

That stopped me in my tracks.

This was a statement from a man who is feeling lost.

From the power of his words I would guess that he was forced to retire, either by circumstances such as health or by a mandatory retirement policy. Either way his world has just been turned upside down. He is being made to enter a new and, it seems, frightening period of his life.

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A Territorial Dispute

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT. I tend to want to do today what I did yesterday and I don’t like anybody to mess with that – and by extension – me. His morning I was faced with such a situation

Just about every day I start my conscious activities down the street at St. Arbucks. I get my coffee, as usual, and then I stumble to my table in the corner, as usual. Sip coffee. Take meds. Plug in phone. Write. That’s it – nothing fancy, but critical nonetheless.

Today everything was moving along swimmingly until I turned the corner and prepared myself to hunker down in the corner.

THERE WERE PEOPLE SITTING AT MY TABLE!

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It’s Just A Game To Me

PICKLE BALL? I’VE HEARD OF IT. I’ve never played it. I have no desire to play it. It sounds strenuous and I don’t do strenuous any more. I’ve seen pictures of people playing Pickle Ball and at first glance it looks like a combination of Tennis – Ping Pong – and Cardiac Arrest.

The only reason I’m looking at it at all is that I know someone who is into Pickle Ball in a big way. He is always heading off to play here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “I’d like a Gherkin, please.”) or to take part in some National Championship tournament.

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The Sounds Of Silence

LAST NIGHT I WAS SITTING AND READING when out of nowhere nothing happened. It startled me. Everything was quiet. For the first time this month I didn’t hear anybody shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood. I got up and stepped outside. Nothing. No fireworks, no dogs, no traffic. I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.

I am so used to the noise of life in the city that the quiet is a bit unnerving. I snapped my fingers just to make sure that I hadn’t suddenly gone deaf.

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It’s Been A Long Time Coming 

Don’t get all excited, but…I have a birthday coming up soon. If I make it to that date I will then be the oldest I have ever been in my entire life. I’m quite proud of that.

Getting old is not for sissies. It takes a lot of work – very time consuming work. Sometime I have to spend most of the day sleeping just to keep at it.

One tidbit of personal information – data, if you will, is that I have outlived every male in the family going back three generations – except for one uncle.

My Uncle Tony didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink. He didn’t run around with wild women. He lived until he was 90. We’re just not sure why.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION. I hate making decisions. No, that’s not quite accurate. I make a thousand decisions every day and I don’t mind it at all. We all make a pile of decisions all the time without even thinking about it.

Every morning we make a decision as soon as we open our eyes.

Decision #1: Shall I get up or roll over and say the heck with it all.

And so it begins.

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School Boy Heart

I’M A FAN OF JIMMY BUFFETT. I’m not a fan to the point of calling myself a “Parrothead” which is similar to avid fans of the Grateful Dead calling themselves “Deadheads.” No, I’m not a “Parrothead.” I don’t hitchhike around the country to attend Buffett concerts and I don’t have any Buffett tattoos. I can’t afford the ticket prices and I’m too old to start siring kids named “Cheeseburger” or “Margaritaville.”

I guess I’m more of a “Parakeet” than a “Parrothead.”

I just like his music and I admire him because as a man of 70 he can still take his show on tour without the need for a fulltime medical staff.

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Throwback Thursday -June 2015 “Bagpipes And Fractions”

Throwback Thursday -June 2015 

Bagpipes And Fractions

Hole1SATURDAY MORNING. THE SUN IS SHINING. The sky is blue and my butt is dragging like a line of tin cans behind the newlywed’s car.

Why? Was I out partying all night? Have I been on a three-day bender and just woke up slumped over my keyboard? Have I just finished my fourth Iron Man Triathlon this week?

No. No. And No in a million years.

No party. No booze. No, because my idea of a Triathlon is Chips, Salsa, and a Burrito. All of that might make me run a bit, but not 26 miles worth.

No, my friends – my rear end is dragging because I am about to hit my biblically allotted three score and ten years and I find the world getting more and more stupid as I get older.

Half the world wants to kill the other Half because they are the other Half and they want thahole3t other Half to be like their Half. They want it both ways. If the other Half won’t be like their Half they figure it is best to kill them so their Half can become the Whole.

Of course, if their Half becomes the Whole it then wouldn’t be long before they would feel it necessary to have another Half to be upset with and they would be off and running again trying to kill “them.’

Got it? Me neither, but it’s a fact – of a sort.

Let’s see.

Two Halves. One Half wants the other Half in a Hole so they can be the Whole until they decide which Half of the remaining Whole needs to be in the Hole with the original other Half.

Using that illogical equation – eventually the Whole would end up in the Hole with all of the other Halves and then they would, no doubt, start Halving again – all in a most Unholy way.

hole2aI think I’ve just given myself a headache.

As for you, the observers, are concerned, it is your chore to determine which Halves are which and which Halves are most likely to end up in a Hole and which will become the Whole – until the next Halving.

Personally, I don’t think either Half is operating with a Whole deck. Each Half has Quarters within it that are pulling them in many different directions. It seems to me that before the main Halves are able to put any other Half into a Hole they face the possibility of being Halved from within themselves.

I see these internal Quarters rendering the Halves less able to dispaHole5tch the other Halves into a Hole. The Quartering of the Halves, and likely Eighths and Sixteenths in time, will lessen the possibilities of any Holing of any Halves. What we will end up with is a collection of highly insane fractions that will have to be content with being nonlethal pains in the butt to everyone in their neighborhood – something similar to living next door to a guy who collects bagpipes.  

Getting to this stasis with bagpipes might take a while and things will be very unpleasant until then, but I don’t see any other way of surviving that is Wholly acceptable.

I say, let the Whole thing commence by all of us sitting down to lunch. I’ll have Half a tuna sandwich and a glass of Whole milk. And an Aspirin.

Happy Birthday, Up To A Point!

TODAY WAS A DAY JUST MADE FOR GROCERY SHOPPING – COLD, RAINY, AND NOTHING FOR DINNER. It was shopping for the staples of life – meat, veggies, and 48 cans of Dr. Pepper. The stuff that augments the DNA and Stardust that makes us – us.

The Curveball of Life stopped me in my tracks as I pushed the shopping cart up and down the aisles. I seriously hit the brakes as I was passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Greeting Cards.

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Fear Not!

I GET A LOT OF EMAIL EVERYDAY. Very little of it is worth the electrons it’s written with. A good portion of it all comes from people trying to sell me something; Sunglasses, Art of questionable quality, Books (lots of books), and classes and seminars. I guess that means that they feel I am in desperate need of education – a point hard to dispute.

I also receive a bunch of things about writing; classes, communities, and handy dandy tools to transform me into the next big whatever.  I already have the tools – a pen, paper, and coffee that have catapulted me to the bottom rung of the ladder of commercial success.

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Sunrise Monday Morning

IT’S 6:45 AM AND I AM IN MY USUAL WRITING POSITION – a corner table at Starbucks – with coffee and a pen. Like most other mornings I start off by checking the online news to see what mischief the world has been up to overnight, and then I look at my mail and lastly, Facebook.

What I see on Facebook is usually enough to launch my day and give me something to write about – but not today. All of my friends and acquaintances are either still asleep or busy monitoring their blood pressure.

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This Is Not What I Had In Mind

THERE ARE MORNINGS WHEN I WISH HAD OVERSLEPT. If I was still unconscious I would blissfully miss things that, if awake, I would later end up regretting. Today I was up early.

As I sat there slumped over my coffee trying to find inspiration I was slowly surrounded by several members of the “Usual Suspects” who haunt the chapel of St. Arbucks. Normally, I could ignore them as they carry on, but this morning they snagged me.

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I Need A Time-Out

AS DAYS GO TODAY STARTED OUT LOOKING TO BE A GOOD ONE. The rains had stopped, the car got a free washing courtesy of “God’s Car Wash”, and I think I saw the sun trying to peek through the clouds.

According to the Weather Bunny on the TV today is supposed to be a dry day. I’m glad because later I’ll have to drag the recycling bin down to the curb for pickup later today.

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A Pain In The Neck

THE LAST PERSON WHO HAD A STIFF NECK like mine was back in 1873 and hanging from a tree in Arizona for being a “Hoss Thief.”

I woke up this morning when a lightning bolt of pain shot through my neck when I rolled over in bed. I did a quick check – no rope, no pair of gnarled hands around my throat, and my head was still attached to the rest of my body.

The Verdict: I slept funny.

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I Need A New Shirt

THE RAVAGES OF TIME HAVE TAKEN THEIR TOLL ON MY WARDROBE. At least on the part I care the most about – my Hawaiian shirts. The rest of my clothes are there solely to avoid public prosecution, frostbite, and scaring animals and the rest of the population. I do have jeans that have holes in them and shoes that have outlasted their laces, but I cannot allow my Hawaiian shirts to paint me with a colorful deterioration.

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