Monday, February 28, 2022

Blessing #3

Today is my birthday. My 64th birthday. And I guarantee you it will be the worst one ever. And I've had a few sad lonely birthdays in my time. But this is the first where I'm grieving for my wife Debbie, who passed away 9 weeks ago. 

But I'm not looking for a pity party. And I wouldn't blame you for scrolling by or even suspending your visits to this blog as I can see how the subject matter can be tiresome. But writers write. And this turns out to be the best therapy at the moment. 

So to counter the expected sadness, which is mine, not yours, I'd like to tell the story of my best birthday ever.

Some would suspect it was my 60th. Or I should say our 60th. As Deb and I decided to rent out the private upstairs patio at Rush Street in Culver and threw a little bash for ourselves. Even though the electricity was blown out that night we, about 75 of us, managed to have a rocking good time. Warmed by candles, someone with an iPhone + portable speaker, and the irreplaceable company of friends and family.

But the birthday I want to talk about happened a year later, my 61st, which also started with a calamity. 

Knowing I would be exceeding my daily caloric intake, with ribs, brisket and draft beer from Maple Block restaurant, I decided to hit the weights in my garage/gym. Unfortunately the weights hit back and I dropped a 25lbs. dumbbell on my finger, splitting it wide open and unleashing a gusher of blood like a newfound Texas oil well.

Deb, without even taking a look at it, said we should go to the ER.

I brushed off her advice and applied an ice pack and pressure, hoping the blood would stop staining the kitchen sink. It didn't. I decided to wash the wound with cold water. That's when I dared to look at the Grand Canyon in my finger. I could literally see bone. Or tendon. How was I supposed to know?

All I knew was Debbie was right. Again. I hated that. As well as the million other times that happened. She wasn't just my smart wife. She was my much-smarter-than-me wife. 

We jumped in the car and made a beeline to the Cedar Sinai Acute Care Center, just a half mile from the house. And because I was in immediate danger of going into shock or losing the finger, we jumped to the top of the triage list.

Once in the treatment room, Deb and I sat for the next 9 hours. My finger was poked and prodded by a team of nurses, physician's assistants, even their resident hand specialist, who knew with one look that it had to be stitched up, with the warning, "It's going to be extremely painful, but it's a good thing your wife brought you here." 

That was its own form of pain.

Deb looked at me and said, "what made you think you could just ignore this and put a bandaid on it?"

"At Syracuse, I got an A in Biology." 

She lightly punched me in my upper arm and smiled. It was a stupid joke. But she never failed to smile/laugh at it. Even when I would repeat it a thousand times when I would accompany her to all the doctor visits. 

I lived for that. The unspoken language of understanding. Of companionship. And shared love.

And that's what made that birthday, just a short three years ago, the absolute best. 

I spent the whole day in excruciating pain.

I spent the whole day making making her laugh.

I spent the whole day, my birthday, with my Debbie.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

More joy, please

Upon the advice of my friend, former colleague and one-time boss Rob Feakins, I ordered the book pictured above. Rob has had his own travails, which I will not divulge, but he said the book was instrumental in shifting his perspective.

After 7 years of ex-Precedent Shitgibbon, 2 years of my wife's cancer, and now going on three months of military-grade grieving, I needed a shift in perspective. So I told the good underpaid people at Amazon to send me a copy.

This, in addition to the stack of grief books that continues to grow despite my daughter's admonitions.

"What's in the package?" says Abby.

"Probably another grief book," replies Rachel.

They were right. And wrong in a way.

Perhaps it's just my nature, but I like to know what I'm going through, what my body is experiencing and how to navigate this unchartered territory of losing a spouse, Particularly one who I loved with every molecule in my body.

Unfortunately, many of the grief books tend to compound the problem, not relieve it. So I took a little literary detour for a visit into Spriritualstan. 

Now if you've been a reader of this blog for any time , you know I'm the hardcore, science-believing rationalist. I don't have much need for sage burning, crystals, bible verses or any other hocus pocus that draws its strength from the Placebo Effect.

Nevertheless, I thought I'd give the book a shot. Especially since Joy has been in such short supply. Maybe it's still stuck on a cargo boat anchored off Long Beach.

And yet surprisingly, the book has been very enlightening. Not in a "where's my yoga mat and special praying conch kind of way." It's more about philosophy and the paths to enjoy more of of it. 

One of the more interesting passages came from Desmond Tutu, a clergyman, who explains the secular notion of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a concept that is well known through the African continent. It can best be summed up in the familiar, "It takes a village to raise a child." But it goes beyond that. As Tutu explains to the Dalai Lama...

In western countries, one might greet a friend or even a stranger with, "Hi, How are you?"

In Africa, we phrase it differently, as in, "Hi, how are we?"

It's a small difference, but it's one with distinction. It connotes a certain unselfishness and the recognition that  WE are all in this together. That would come in handy these days.

The Dalai Lama, listened intently as Tutu dove deeper and deeper on Ubuntu. Then, he went on to note the incredible similarity to the Buddhist concept of universal interconnectedness. 

Two men of two different faiths, from two different continents, from two different worlds, one magnificent understanding of humanity.

Can Ubuntu work here in the United States where it's about "rugged individualism" and "every man for himself"? Maybe we just need to recognize when we see it. When my next door neighbor, with whom I have exchanged several disagreements that have almost came to fisticuffs, heard of my wife's passing, he immediately sent over the biggest vase of beautiful flowers. 

A week later he showed up at my door, asked me how I was, and begged me to come inside so he could give me hug.

Next time I see him, I will go out of my way to say, "how are we?"

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Blessing #2


For those who don't know, but might have seen it, Jews often express condolences with the phrase, "May their memory be a blessing." I suppose there's meaning in that. I look back at my mom and dad, often dream about them, and take solace that I still have those memories to treasure.

Not sure how it will work with the passing of my wife. 

Every time I see a picture it results in a half a box of used Kleenex and wet wash towel over my shoulder. I've cried so much in the past two months, that I started getting cramps in my diaphragm. And an ache in my lower right jaw, from really hard, screaming into a pillow cases. Widowhood is not for the faint of heart.

In any case, I've decided to put those memories of my beautiful Debbie into writing, so that they will be a blessing for my daughters, should they ever mate and have children. 

Today, we look back at a wedding. Not ours, because that's a little too close to the heart and raw right now. Suffice it to say, our wedding was the Best Day in my life and the best day at Riviera Golf Course for anyone who has not ever swung a golf club. And it should be noted I had a full head of hair.

The wedding I write about today took place a few months before ours, I believe in the Summer of '91. 

It was an incredibly warm night, scented by the huge eucalyptus trees that surround the Cheviot Hills County Club, just 2.7 miles from our house. A childhood friend of Deb's, Laura was marrying Bruce. I had only met the couple a few times but genuinely liked them. Laura had a larger-than-life personality and an infectious laugh. Sadly, breast cancer took her way too soon. Way too soon. My condolences to Bruce.

It was a night wedding. 

And as usual Deb was not going to miss a minute of the action. When it came to festivities, parties, get togethers, Deb had MFOMO, Minnesota Fear Of Missing Out. It explained why we always showed up early and often left late. I was always the fan of the Irish ghosting goodbye, but my wife and her 10,000 Lakes DNA would have none of that.

Our 7PM arrival was met by an immediate announcement that the rabbi was finishing up a personal service and would be running a little late.

Not a problem, since there were ample tall glasses of champagne, real champagne, and unpronouncable finger food that was waved in my face by bored waiters and waitresses.

At 7:30, another announcement, the rabbi would be further delayed. And by this time much of the wedding small talk and intros to other guests, many of whom were strangers, was running a little thin.

At 8PM, another announcement. "Due to the rabbi's tardiness, the Country Club would be opening up the many well situated open bars." 

By 8:30 I had forgotten there was a wedding scheduled to happen and had allowed myself to be over- served, along with other childhood friends of Laura and Bruce, including my buddies Colin and Mike.

At 10 o'clock somebody spotted the rabbi in the parking lot, wearing his white Tallis, carrying a book and his beautiful Tallis bag. We all had to make a mad dash to the service stage. It was a little crazier for me because I, persuaded by my friend Jack Daniels, had decided to strip down to my undies and take a swim in the country club pool. Thankfully I was in post-triathlon shape at the time.

I quickly toweled off, jumped back into my monkey suit and found my seat next to Debbie.

"You're all wet,"  she said.

And before I could explain why, Mike or Colin, seated behind us, blurted, "Rich went for a nighttime dip in the pool." 

Deb was astounded. But didn't get mad, she rarely got mad. She rolled her eyes. And then started laughing. 

In fact, when the reception got going at about 10:45, Deb spared no one looking for a good laugh and told and told and retold, everyone how her boyfriend had gone for a swim while we waited for the rabbi.

Pretty sure, at that point, I decided I no longer wanted to be her boyfriend, but her fiancé.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Money, Money, Money

I don't know if you noticed but there were quite a few commercials for cryptocurrency during last week's Super Bowl. I lost count because even the ads for crypto were quite cryptic, including the Le Bron James telling younger LBJ to "call his own shots." 

Whatever that means?

And it wasn't until a second viewing that I realized that the Larry David commercial was also for crypto. 

Perhaps the mysterious storytelling was intentional. As it would make no sense to buy a Super Bowl spots and speak about the advantages or USP of crypto, since I, and I assume 98% of the Super Bowl watching crowd have any idea what crypto is. 

I will readily admit that in addition to be easily amused, I am easily confused.

Put this new digital money aside for a second, and maybe somebody can explain to me how "real" money works. I know the paper money is issued based on the gold standard (again, confusing) and that the government has machines that just keep printing it up. 

But it too makes little sense. 

As does a lifetime of chasing it, so that my wife and I could retire comfortably. That dream was dashed by cancer. 

Fuck Cancer. And Fuck these billionaires who build their Johnny Junior Spaceships instead of putting their substantial resources towards fighting disease and world hunger and climate change.

Sorry for the uncharacteristic Kubler-Ross burst of anger. My 64th birthday is next Monday and I am dreading it like nobody's business.

I'm also dreading the long wait until football season returns at the beginning of August. I suppose there's college basketball, which is no longer entertaining now that my Syracuse Orange, once a perennial powerhouse, have been reduced to a perennial on-the-bubble NIT walkover team. 

Or there's baseball. All 162 games of it. 

Which frankly bores the crap out of me until the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, I'll take that time to study up on crypto.

Idea: A Masterclass explaining digital money taught by Larry David, Matt Damon and LeBron James. 

I'd sign up for that one. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Daily Fire

There was a dust-up last week in Adlandia over the topic of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. A former colleague of mine, at multiple ad agencies, began an online recruiting campaign that tweaked a few noses. 

My big oversized one included.

You see, he decided to attack the philosophy of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, and painted those words as if they were contrarian to the American Way of Life. Interestingly enough, the principles of #DEI were the very same principles cited in the GOP Post-Mortem after losing the 2012 presidential election. Again.

"We need a bigger tent and invite people of color, the LGBTQ community and young people into the party if we want any chance of returning to the White House," said the professional political GOP pollsters.

Instead, they ignored their own advice and lined up behind this nation's worst Pied Piper for White Supremacy. A mistake this country will pay for, for years to come.

But Right Wing Republicans are not very good at learning from their mistakes. And my former colleague decided to don the Brown Shirt and spout some ugly, ugly tropes about "wokeness", "cancel culture", and "identity politics." 

He further piled on with some pointed remarks about CRT, communism and other GOP crappy talking points that feel like we haven't progressed a day since 1954.

In a remarkable display of restraint, I refused to chime in. Not because I didn't want to, I did. But I wanted the freedom to do it in a longer, more fleshed out forum, where by the way, I can moderate the comments.

This former agency bigwig is now nothing short of a pariah in the ad world. For that, he only has himself to blame. I, on the other hand, consider myself an ally and proponent of DEI. 

For several reasons: I have two grown daughters in the production/agency/entertainment field. I want them to succeed beyond their dreams. And earn just as much as their male counterparts. What father of two daughters wouldn't?

Also, as a very old, I'm sorry, seasoned veteran, I still have a certain expertise for creating ideas that will stand up and do the hard work of advertising. So I'm proud to take a bite out of ageism.

And finally, having familiarized myself with the racist rhetoric and rising antisemitism in this country, I'm convinced this nation needs several booster shots of CRT -- even though it is not taught in any middle, junior or high school in the country.

Last week, I caught wind of a scandal rocking Rockland County, where I grew up. Apparently the Nyack High School basketball team was visiting nearby Pearl River, where they were met by a barrage of racist and hateful remarks. By students. And perhaps, parents.

The same type of book-burning parents I see screaming at school board meetings...

"We don't want CRT being brought into our schools. They'll just be indoctrinating our kids to see people by skin color. And CRT will teach our children hate."

The part that wasn't said: "We can do that at home."


Pointed addendum: Ben Shapiro is an intellectual lightweight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

"Books on grieving? Try aisles 8-11."

I know I've mentioned this before, but I've been doing a lot more reading lately. Now, after Deb's passing, I am reading even more. I have a stack of grieving books that is a foot higher than the one pictured above.

This, according to Joan Didion, a brilliant author who lost a husband and a daughter and documented her own grief as well as the mechanics of grief, is completely normal. In her research she tells of the natural inclination to research the topic as if one could find a magic recipe for "just being done with it."

There isn't.

But that doesn't stop the grieving books from flying off the shelves. I even came across a Dr. who had put together a mobile app. for mourners to download. 

"Got a corpse? There's an app for that."

In one stunning coincidence, Ms. Didion found herself visiting her ailing daughter at the ICU at UCLA Hospital. I cried when she described her visits there. Of course I cry when I see a bottle of Formula 409 and remember Deb's admonition not to use that on the butcher block counter. 

Joan takes us through a corner by corner description of her meandering through Westwood, "Left on Veteran Avenue, Right on Kinross, left on Gayley, right on Le Conte, and a left turn onto Westwood blvd, where the shiny new hospital is located." The same route I traveled.

She also tells tale about how the ICU nurses observe the same type of behavior from visitors: questions about stuff they think they know about but don't, questions about when the doctors will be making their rounds, and the near universal habit of all visitors to sit still and stare at the big screen monitor that tracks oxygenation, pulse rate, blood pressure, body temperature and more, hoping beyond hope that the numbers will improve. 

"Tell me about the bilirubin numbers again, nurse."

You don't see TV's on in the ICU, you see sad relatives staring at these monitors hoping for a miracle. 

There's even more commonality in the books. Many of the authors use the same language, 'moving forward', 'love doesn't die', 'your spouse, child or parent will always be part of you', ad infinitum.  

Even the fables are the same. 

There's the tale of the Sad Beduoin, who goes on a hunting trip and finds his dead son in the desert. He wraps the boy in a cloak and tells his wife she must go around the village and find a cooking pan, a special cooking pan that has never been used to cook a meal of sorrow. The wife goes door to door, or tent to tent in this case, only to find that every family has been touched by deep, deep sorrow. She comes back with no pan. The father unveils the cloak and whispers, "now it is our turn."

The same story is told in Buddhism, where a grieving mother visits the Buddha, who says he can bring her child back to life if she can find mustard seeds from a family that has never experienced sorrow. She can't and of course discovers this is a path we all must walk down. 

Deep, inconsolable grief is the price we pay for deep, intertwined love.

BTW, that too is one of those Hallmark insights, that mourners hear over and over again. 

Perhaps it's time for someone to write a new book on grief that doesn't cover the same old territory? A different take that can shed some new light on this, the most unavoidable of human truths.

It won't be me, I went through half a box of Kleenex to knock out these 400 words or so. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Dipped in Honey


Somehow I missed this very important date. The good news is it has nothing to do with my current bereavement or family stories that tend to produce a puddle of tears near my keyboard. 

I apologize in advance, but those type of melancholy posts will probably become a staple here, as they have a certain palliative effect on me. And the commitment to ink and the telling of Debbie stories will be documentation, for my kids and for our grandkids. You know, should they ever decide to read dad's writings.

My daughters are 24 and 25 years old, is it too early to hoch them for little ones? I would love grandkids. And even sons-in-law.

But back to my original point. February 8th marks my one year anniversary at Honey, part of the PayPal family. 

Because we're all still working from home there was no celebration, as I'm sure my team members would've rolled out the red carpet, Drizzlied in some fine champagne, and commandeered and fully catered the best conference in the office to mark the auspicious occasion.

It was quite an eventful year of steady employment which I must say came as a shock to the system after successfully mining the freelance world for more than 16 years, most of them highly lucrative.

There were many ups and downs over the past 12 months, as I focused my years of branding and legacy media experience to the world of email and performance marketing, which I also did for Dollar Shave Club. 

The ups came in the form of colleague compliments who said, "Our emails now have a fun, new tone that's refreshing." Some of the work our team did even landed here:

It should come to nobody's surprise that I was completely unaware of

The downs came on the rare occasions when my humor stepped over some lines. And I got a flogging from my boss, who it should be noted...nope... not gonna reach for that low hanging fruit.

In any case, it should be noted the people at Honey are great. 

And have been great to me and my family during this difficult time. They sent cards, letters, digital mood boards, and even preboxed Chicken Noodle Soup. I happen to be a very discerning chicken noodle soup eater and this stuff was fantastic.

The company also deserves credit for taking a stand against ageism and actually hiring a 63 year old copywriter who still knows his way around the Queen's English and can put it to good use to sell some stuff.

Thank you, Honey.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Blessing #1

I often tell the story about how Debbie and I came from a different tribe of Jews. When I introduced her to my parents, I told my mother and father that they were not like us. 

Eyebrows were raised. 

"Yeah, " I said, "They're from Minnesota. They're nice Jews. "

That cultural difference was a function of geography. 

In Minnesota, you only have to fight off the snow, the mosquitos and the humidity. In NYC, where I was born, as well as my father and his father, you had to fight off EVERYTHING: crowds, thieves, density, never-ending noise, rude waiters, cockroaches bigger than your fist and now, apparently, supersized pizza rats.

This geographical and environmental difference explains the wildly divergent usage of Yiddish. 

My paternal grandparents, both descendants of Litvaks, a small corner of Belarus wedged next to/or in between Poland, both spoke Yiddish well. I was too young to understand any of it. When visiting their tiny apartment in the Bronx, I was always in search of an open window to escape the blue cloud of 2nd hand Kent cigarette smoke.

The only phrase that stuck with me was, "Gey coxen hoist."  Translation -- "Go shit in your hat!"

Further translation - - my father, a scrappy street kid from Jerome Ave. and easily-given to anger, used that Yiddish bon mot quite a bit. Often yelling it out the car window.

Deb's lineage is rooted in the same Eastern European area, shtetl country, where Kossacks and vodka-swilling villagers often harassed and stole from the local Jews who were busy working, reading, learning and creating colorful Yiddish phrases.

Bob and Marilyn Weinblatt, Deb's parents, also spoke Yiddish. But again, it was of a different nature. It was kinder and more nurturing. It got passed down and took on new life in our household. 

When our daughters were young and climbing over the furniture and still revved up on found candy, Deb would often coax them to the couch and say, "Ley keppie, go shuffy." Translation: Lay your head on me and go to sleep."

And it worked, because up until Deb's very last days, the girls would visit and cuddle up on their mother on the couch. 

(Confession: I have a difficult time looking at this picture, which only reminds me of a happier life we had long ago.)

When displeased with something I said or did, which could be always, Deb would never yell or get angry or call me names, but often accused me of being or becoming a farbissiner. 

Translation -- "He's so sour he gets no pleasure from anything."

And then my favorite yiddish phrase that got tossed around our house, particularly before going to school or on a family trip, "Did everyone go pishy/caca?"  A phrase that needs no translation, as it has now entered the English lexicon. 

In the Before Times, when Deb and I would still go out to restaurants or visit friends, I would often ask her, "Did you go pishy/caca?" She'd smile, laugh, roll her eyes and push me out the door.

That memory is a blessing.

Happy Bittersweet Valentine's Day, Deb. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Nathan for me, Nathan for You

I'm not big on the latest in pop culture. I know none of today's current musicians. Or pop stars. Almost 90% of the names of actors in movies and TV shows are strangers to me and wouldn't recognize them if I ran into them at Chipotle or Trader Joes. 

Which would be something in itself as I never shop at Trader Joes. Their aisles are too small. And they don't carry many of the brands to which I've grown so attached. 

Cheezelettes? No, I want Cheez-Its.

A longwinded way of saying that until recently I had never heard of Nathan Fielder. My daughters introduced me to the one time Comedy Central star (Circa 2015) who now shows up on Hulu.I didn't even know we had Hulu on our TV. 

Nor do I understand half the machinations it takes to arrive there.

TV is too fucking complicated these days.

But I digress. Since watching the first episode of Nathan For You with my laugh-starved (as of late) daughters, it has become a post Jeopardy mainstay. 

For those not in the know. Nathan Fielder is Canadian. And he graduated from one of Canada's top business schools. And, according to the opening, he got very good grades. So now, he and his run-and-gun video crew show up at small businesses that are suffering and convince them to execute on of Nathan's Canadian-Hare brain ideas.

The word absurd comes to mind. But absurd is given new meaning when you see the lengths Nathan will go to in order to bring about success.

The picture above comes from one of my favorite episodes involving his appearance and Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel. It's too far-fetched, including the ridiculously large suit seen above, to explain in detail.

One of my other favorites was when Nathan tracked down a dive bar that was not drawing customers due to the city's No Smoking ordinances. In order to skirt those laws, Nathan discovered that smoking WOULD be allowed if it was part of a theatrical production. And so, with minimal equipment and a little creativity, Nathan staged a show within the tiny bar, entitled "Smoking Allowed."

I won't give away the ending, suffice it to say you should watch the show.

You know, if you have Hulu.

And you can figure out the input arrangement and cursor movement on your remote control.

And you can remember your password.

I hate the complexity of streaming television. Maybe Nathan can work on that?

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Legitimate Political Discourse, my ass.

Today I am grieving on multiple fronts. 

Because today I also mourn for our country.

This is somewhat to be expected, but since I am actively grieving (see Monday's post) it's only natural that sadness, depression and hopelessness, will find its way into my blog posts. 

Who knows, it may actually improve my writing? Doubtful.

Oh, you didn't think I'd stop posting about the pathetic putrid behavior of what used to be the Republican Party, the GOP, Grand Old unPatriots.) Last week while censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinziger, two outrageously conservative politicians I actually respect, the RNC characterized the Insurrection of January 6th as "Legitimate Political Discourse."

This, despite the fact that more than a dozen high level Oath Keepers and other assorted Neo Nazi militias, have been charged with Seditious Conspiracy.

Singling out Cheney and Kinzinger is more than ironic coming from the folks on the Right Side of the aisle who blow hard and embarrass themselves with talk of "Cancel Culture." Often followed by a string of diatribes and threats to anyone who dare criticize 'Murica and point out the true meaning of freedom and liberty and the Constitution.

Perhaps the real purpose was to distract from the multiplicity of crimes committed by their orange-topped  Fuhrer, including:

* his plans to seize the Voting Machines (if that phrase doesn't scare you it should)

* strong arm VP Pence to committing a Constitutional crime

* falsify certificates for "alternate electors"

* delay the certification of all the electoral votes by inciting an Insurrection

* threaten state officials to "find" him 11,870 votes

* finance multiple fraudulent vote recounts (producing no evidence of massive fraud)

* actively denigrate our democracy by taking a sledgehammer to our political system

The damage this feckless Cockwomble  has incurred is incalculable. 

Suffice it to say, his last breath of oxygen will be the first time the country gets to exhale.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Who farted?

As noted yesterday, my life has turned to shit.


And literally. 

Shortly after my wife's Celebration of Life ceremony, the relatives started going back home. At one point we had  close to a dozen guests staying at our "Culver City Hilton." That's a lot of showering, dishwashing and 'pishy/caca', as Deb liked to say.

My daughters, who agreed to stay behind and keep me company during this dark and clouded time said they started noticing a foul smell. A sewage smell. These are not all that unusual given our proximity to Ballona Creek and the city's intricate and aged sewage system. 

After enough nagging, I decided to bring in a plumber. Actually, the second plumber. The first one could find nothing wrong, snaked out my toilet and took me for 150 bucks. Don't ever call Dr. Plumber to the Rescue in Culver City should some orange rinds clog your garbage disposal or some pre-digested Orange Chicken and Hot Peppers Hoover Dam your toilet. 

The second, more professional, plumber threw on some overalls, grabbed his high powered halogen flashlight, slid into the crawl space between the lower sub flooring and the raised foundation. He emerged 35 minutes later. 

And the news was shitty.

The sewer mainline under the house, made of 1947's finest heavy duty cast iron, had rust and rot and cracks. And had in his words, "outlived its usefulness." 

I was looking at a major 7-day job and a full three man crew. Not to mention a 5-digit repair bill. A perfect capper on 5 &1/2 years of personal hell.

At this point most of the work has been completed. And I still don't understand how Martin and Jorge, can do what they do and work all subterranean-like. Not just because of the claustrophobia but also the fecalphobia.

These guys, as my older daughter noted, "do God's work."

It no longer smells like we live in Smell Segundo. And with the exception of one bathroom sink, all the clean new lines are functioning at 100% and flushing the eflluent down to the Hyperion Water Treatment plant before it is returned to the deepest, darkest remote crevices of the Mariana Trench, hopefully.

Now, as my younger daughter aptly noted, if there's any emittance of a foul smell it came from me. 

Or more likely, our dog Lucy.


Monday, February 7, 2022

Worst. Headline. Ever.

I wrote this line 25 years ago.

Now I wish I hadn't. Because I was wrong. So wrong.

As many of you know, my one-in-8-billion-people wife Debbie passed away in December, just before Christmas. That was the last time I posted on this blog. 

It has been a tortuous, hellish 7 weeks since then. 

And still is.

A time of screaming, raging, crying, confusion, introspection, more crying, and round the clock grieving. I'm told the grieving will never stop, it will just become a painful part of my body. Much like Debbie's failing liver was in hers. 

I have that on good authority, witness the pile of death books I've grinded through...

I don't know how I will live without Deb, I only know that I have no other choice.

If for no other reason than to be with, guide, laugh and love my two daughters, Rachel and Abby. (I apologize for the bad syntax, my writing brain has not been running on all cylinders lately, understandably.)

I've buried a childhood friend, aunts, uncles, both my parents, but I can tell you, and countless therapists, including the ones that populate my calendar, will tell you, they pale in comparison to burying a spouse. Especially one who has been with me for 33 years, more than half my life.

I know I should insert an age-related 44 years old reference here, but why? 

My number one fan, despite all my pathetic, oft-repeated jokes, is gone. I miss her smile, her laughter, her eyerolls, her understanding, her hugs, her kisses, her wisdom, and her unexplainable ability to put up with me, a self-admitted misfit. I miss everything about my wife!

And it HURTS worse than anything has ever hurt in my life.

And that is why I am returning to RoundSeventeen. While hopefully a source of amusement and delight to my 8 loyal readers, this blog is, and has always been, a source of therapy for me. I write because I can't not write. It is in my DNA as is my wife Debbie.

25 years I ago, I glibly wrote "you can talk to your wife anytime" and now I can't. It is the thing I want  most in this world.

But you can. Or it can be your husband. Or your significant other. Or whoever is close to you. 

Take it from someone who now knows, do not take anyone or anything or anyday for granted.