"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bah. Humbug! :-)

There are three absolutely perfect movies for Christmas. This is about one of them.

First, of course, is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946), starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a bank officer who attempts suicide in desperation after losing a large sum of money entrusted to him.  He is saved by Clarence, a guardian angel tasked with convincing George that the world would not really be better off without him.
   Clarence: "We don't have money in Heaven."
   George:  "Well, it comes in mighty handy down here, Bub."

Second is Bob Clark's A Christmas Story (1983), about Ralphie's desperate quest to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, against all obstacles ("You'll shoot your eye out!").

And then, I found this at Walmart, on their $5.00 shelf ...

A Christmas Carol (1984),  a made for TV movie that I saw when it was broadcast in 1984, and which I recalled as being pretty damned good, with George C. Scott just maybe being the finest incarnation of Ebeneezer Scrooge that I ever saw.

That recollection was validated when I watched this DVD. I love it when I get occasional reassurance that my memory is just fine. :-)

Although temporarily upstaged by Edward Woodward as The Ghost of Christmas Present ...
Original photo from thomasorourkeactor.blogspot.com, 
but considerably brightened by me

... this is George C. Scott's movie, and he is at his best. ...
From www.cedmagic.com

Find it, and give it a look.

(Originally published 23 DEC 2013, 2301 CST - Moved to top because those three titles are still fine recommendations.)
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Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Year of the Jackpot (Updated 07 DEC 2014)

At first, Potiphar Breen did not notice the girl who was undressing.

Most good writers will try to hook you with the first paragraph (the first line, if possible), and Robert A. Heinlein (the author of the novella this post is named after) was a master at that.

In the story, Breen is a statistician who has been following a number of peculiar and disturbing trends, and intervenes when the girl (who had absolutely no idea of why she did what she did in public) was about to be arrested. Although that changes, at that moment what he rescued was just another statistic.

Meade Barstow (yes, the statistic has a name) demands: "I want to know why I did what I did!".

He looked at her soberly. "I think we're lemmings, Meade."

He explains what has him so worried, talking about a 54-year cycle of events, an 18 & 1/3, a nine-year one, a 41-month one and several others, all laid out on a chart he is showing her.

Poitiphar: "See anything odd there, Meade?"
Meade: "They sort of bunch up there, at the right end."
 . . .
Potiphar: "Meade, if statistics mean anything, this tired old planet hasn't seen a jackpot like this since Eve went into the apple business. I'm scared."
 . . .
Potiphar: "This is it. The Year of the Jackpot."

Ok, then. It's a story. Anything to it?

When I first read it (in the story collection "The Menace from Earth"), something about it triggered a memory. As a kid, in the late '40s and early '50s, I devoured copies of Mechanix Illustrated (my uncle was a subscriber). Besides the usual do-it-yourself articles on auto repair and furniture building, and the Tom McCahill auto tests they were famous for, they often had articles that seemed to have nothing whatever to do with what you'd think the magazine was about.

One of those articles was on cycles and I remember it mentioning some of those Heinlein named. "Jackpot" was published in 1952 and the article was from around that time. I figured that Heinlein probably came across it.

Much later, at a used book store, I found ...


Back cover

Published in 1947, it covers every one of the cycles Heinlein mentions in his story, and was almost certainly the inspiration for it. I suspect that one of the authors probably wrote that Mechanix Illustrated article I recalled, but I've had no luck in verifying that.

What's the verdict on this book? Being lazy, I'll let someone else sum it up ...

[Cycles: The Science of Prediction] is not a scientific book: the evidence underlying the stated conclusions is not presented in full; data graphed are not identified so that someone else could reproduce them; the techniques employed are nowhere described in detail.

That's from Milton Friedman (reputed as being somewhat knowledgeable in economics and trends :-), who dismissed the book as pseudoscience.

Did Robert Heinlein believe it?

He was a professional writer, with an insatiable curiosity about anything and everything, who may have went "hmmmm" about it, but never used it again (as far as I know). That sounds a lot like someone who figured a good story could come from it, but would not take it to the bank.

So, I seriously doubt that Dewey and Dakin had made a devoted convert.

In one of Heinlein's darkest and most prophetic stories, "Solution Unsatisfactory", his main character (Colonel Clyde C. Manning) was described by the first-person narrator ...

... what I liked about him was that, though he was liberal, he was tough minded, which most liberals aren't. Most liberals know that water runs downhill, but Praise God, it'll never reach the bottom.

Manning was not like that. He could see a logical necessity and act on it, no matter how unpleasant it could be.

I believe that to be a fair description of Robert Heinlein himself.

Straying slightly from topic: Heinlein on film ...
For such a prolific writer, not much of his stuff has made its way to film. Considering the fate of all too many beloved stories and novels, perhaps that's a blessing.

In 1950, Destination Moon was released, for which he was a writer and technical advisor. Sort of like a Life Magazine article brought to life, it wasn't bad but probably contributed to his attitude towards Hollywood ("Take the money and run!").

The IMDB lists three of his short stories ("The Green Hills of Earth", "Misfit", "Ordeal in Space" ) in a short-lived CBS TV series that I'd never heard of, Out There (1951–1952), about which an anonymous writer noted ...

Innovative anthology series was one of the first adult-oriented science fiction series of the early-fifties and probably suffered for it. Teleplays were adapted from the best science fiction stories available from such masters as Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. The series, which did not have a sponsor, was canceled after only twelve episodes.

There's a thing called The Brain Eaters (1958) in which the IMDB lists Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters (uncredited). I'd love to think that Heinlein told them, "Put my name on that thing, and I'll KILL you!". But, as the Writers Guild of America allows the use of pseudonyms to protect both your royalties and your dignity, I suspect they thought they had changed enough details and names to avoid the necessity of even mentioning it to him. Oh, and Leonard Nimoy's in it too.

In 1994, a three-part animated mini-series Red Planet was adapted from his juvenile of the same name.

In that same year, one of my all time favorites of his novels was legitimately adapted into The Puppet Masters by the writing team of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (who had much better luck with the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies). Not even the presence of Donald Sutherland could save this movie.  Those writers had a blog post for a long time, "Building the Bomb" (apparently no longer available), about the writing of their screenplay, in which they demonstrated that what you finally saw on the screen was not at all what they had in mind. Enough said.

1997, a year that will live in infamy, saw Paul Verhoeven's savaging of Starship Troopers. When a movie has Clancy Brown in a major role, and I still cannot stand it, what more needs saying? :(

What I'd like to see ...
"Stranger in a Strange Land" - This has been rumored since before many of you were even born, and I have doubts about living long enough to ever see it happen. When I first read it, I could see John Philip Law as Valentine Michael Smith, most likely because I had seen him as the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella.  But he died in 2008, so I suppose they'll have to make do with someone else.

"Lifeline" - Heinlein's very first published story.  Set entirely indoors, it could work quite well as a stage play.

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - That this one has a link means it's actually in the works. From the IMDB synopsis ...

A man, who suddenly realizes that he has no memory of what he does during the day, hires a husband and wife detective agency to follow him. The truth takes a dark turn as their investigation leads to a series of frightening revelations.

"takes a dark turn" - Boy, does it ever!

While I was less than thrilled with Director Alex Proyas' treatment of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, I do believe the director of The Crow and Dark City just might be the perfect choice for this tale.

Whenever I read the story, I can't help seeing the late comedian Ernie Kovacs as Hoag. But, because of that word "late", I'm tempted to cut Mr. Proyas some slack when it comes to casting.

Scheduled for release sometime in 2013, this is one I'm really looking forward to.

And finally, for inflicting upon you two of the most boring images imaginable, let me apologize by presenting (even though it has absolutely nothing to do with this post) ...
Jolene Blaylock as Vulcan Commander T'pol in Star Trek: Enterprise
(c) by Thomas Raube 04/2004 - Thunderchild2604@freenet.de 
WWW.HyperspaceVision.de

Am I forgiven now? :-)

Originally published 25 JUN 2012. 1640 CDT

Update: 07 DEC 2014 - So, what happened with "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag"?

Above, I had noted "scheduled for release sometime in 2013". You may have noticed that date has come and gone, along with most of 2014 as well.

The link I gave above for the movie still lists it as "In developement", which could mean exactly what it says, or that nobody has updated the page since the April 2012 news that Alex Proyas had picked this as his next project.

Alex Proyas' IMDB page also still lists it. THAT suggests that he hasn't given up on it, but is probably facing the usual hoops to jump through on getting financing and had to move on with other projects (because rent is due and he might like to eat).

That happens all the time in this business. Director Guillermo del Toro ("Hellboy", "Pan's Labyrinth". "Pacific Rim") had worked to bring H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" to the screen, until Universal pulled the plug in January 2013. I understand that he has not given up on the project, and it may eventually happen someday.

THAT could be the case for "Jonathan Hoag". At least,I sure HOPE so.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

NOT dead YET!!!

-- or WHY I haven't posted anything since early July.

Part of it is a few things on my plate I have to deal with.

But, MOST of it is because my ancient computer is having more and more trouble dealing with certain websites.

My computer is an HP Pavilion 061 desktop unit, with a tower and a separate monitor, bought near the end of 2003 when I learned that the entire IT division of SCI (Service Corporation International) would be outsourced to InfoSys (in Bangalore, India) the following March.

It has 256 megabytes of memory, running Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft.

Some websites (facebook and linkedin, for example) hog so much memory that visiting them (I have accounts on both) fall into the "life's too short" category.

Blogger.com's editor (which I have to use when posting here, has become flaky. While editing a post, it automatically (periodically) saves a draft of the post. Normally, each save would overwrite the earlier version, but the "flaky" part results in each save creating a new draft, so when I finally publish the post, I have DOZENS of drafts to have to dispose of. Other functions (such as text centering for captions under images) no longer seem to work. Posting has become a pain under these circumstances.

I need a new computer with a later operating system and as much memory as I can afford to dump into it.

In a few months, I should have a very nice income tax refund, which will allow me to find something better.

The LAST time I went for months without putting anything up, an Air Force buddy in Montana called the store at where I work to find out if I was still ALIVE. Thought maybe I should put THIS up to make a repeat of that unnecessary.

I have NOT become bored with blogging. I just hope that getting a better computer in a few months will put me back into the game. :-)

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Memorial

Found THIS in a tumblr porn blog, of all places  ...


In my earlier engineering career (1964-1984), one of my co-workers had a coffee cup I wanted very much, but I could never find one like it.

I wanted it because of a quote that was on it;  a quote I later learned came from the Peanuts comic strip, by Linus van Pelt (Lucy's kid brother; the one with the security blanket):

   "I love mankind;  it's people I can't stand."

That sentiment seemed to perfectly fit that co-worker, it fit ME at times, and I suspect the subject of that memorial was on the same page with both of us. :-)

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The Cisco Kid ...

... had killed six men in more or less fair scrimmages, had murdered twice as many (mostly Mexicans), and had winged a larger number whom he modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved him."

If those words seem to not fit the image many of you old enough to remember early movies and a television series about a Mexican-American Robin Hood of the old west recall, ...
                       Pancho and The Cisco Kid - from tvacres.com


... it's because the original story that they claimed was the basis was nothing of the kind.

In 1880, eighteen-year-old William Sidney Porter left his native North Carolina and arrived in Austin, Texas, to begin a number of careers,...
       William_Sydney_Porter_as_young_man_in_Austin - from wikipedia


... including running (for a while, until it eventually failed) a magazine he called "The Rolling Stone"...
                        From www.cowboysandindians.com


Here he found a new life, getting from observation and listening (not from experience, for he was never a cowboy) the originals for his Western characters and scenes. He recalled them when he began writing and publishing stories under the name of O. Henry. He cranked out a mighty pile of them between his first in 1899 until his death (from alcoholism) in 1910.

In 1907, he published this ...
############################################

The Caballero's Way
  by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter
  (Published 1907, now in Public Domain)

The Cisco Kid had killed six men in more or less fair scrimmages, had murdered twice as many (mostly Mexicans), and had winged a larger number whom he modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved him.

The Kid was twenty-five, looked twenty; and a careful insurance company would have estimated the probable time of his demise at, say, twenty-six. His habitat was anywhere between the Frio and the Rio Grande. He killed for the love of it — because he was quick-tempered — to avoid arrest — for his own amusement —any reason that came to his mind would suffice. He had escaped capture because he could shoot five-sixths of a second sooner than any sheriff or ranger in the service, and because he rode a speckled roan horse that knew every cowpath in the mesquite and pear thickets from San Antonio to Matamoras.

Tonia Perez, the girl who loved the Cisco Kid, was half Carmen, half Madonna, and the rest — oh, yes, a woman who is half Carmen and half Madonna can always be something more — the rest, let us say, was humming-bird. She lived in a grass-roofed jacal near a little Mexican settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio. With her lived a father or grandfather, a lineal Aztec, somewhat less than a thousand years old, who herded a hundred goats and lived in a continuous drunken dream from drinking mescal. Back of the jacal a tremendous forest of bristling pear, twenty feet high at its worst, crowded almost to its door. It was along the bewildering maze of this spinous thicket that the speckled roan would bring the Kid to see his girl. And once, clinging like a lizard to the ridge-pole, high up under the peaked grass roof, he had heard Tonia, with her Madonna face and Carmen beauty and humming-bird soul, parley with the sheriff's posse, denying knowledge of her man in her soft mélange of Spanish and English.

One day the adjutant-general of the State, who is, ex officio, commander of the ranger forces, wrote some sarcastic lines to Captain Duval of Company X, stationed at Laredo, relative to the serene and undisturbed existence led by murderers and desperadoes in the said captain's territory.

The captain turned the colour of brick dust under his tan, and forwarded the letter, after adding a few comments, per ranger Private Bill Adamson, to ranger Lieutenant Sandridge, camped at a water hole on the Nueces with a squad of five men in preservation of law and order. Lieutenant Sandridge turned a beautiful couleur de rose through his ordinary strawberry complexion, tucked the letter in his hip pocket, and chewed off the end of his gamboge moustache. The next morning he saddled his horse and rode alone to the Mexican settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio, twenty miles away.

Six feet two, blond as a Viking, quiet as a deacon, dangerous as a machine gun, Sandridge moved, among the Jacales, patiently seeking news of the Cisco Kid.

Far more than the law, the Mexicans dreaded the cold and certain vengeance of the lone rider that the ranger sought. It had been one of the Kid's pastimes to shoot Mexicans "to see them kick": if he demanded from them moribund Terpsichorean feats, simply that he might be entertained, what terrible and extreme penalties would be certain to follow should they anger him! One and all they lounged with upturned palms and shrugging shoulders, filling the air with "quién sabes" and denials of the Kid's acquaintance.

But there was a man named Fink who kept a store at the Crossing — a man of many nationalities, tongues, interests, and ways of thinking.

"No use to ask them Mexicans," he said to Sandridge. "They're afraid to tell. This hombre they call the Kid — Goodall is his name, ain't it? — he's been in my store once or twice. I have an idea you might run across him at — but I guess I don't keer to say, myself. I'm two seconds later in pulling a gun than I used to be and the difference is worth thinking about. But this Kid's got a half-Mexican girl at the Crossing that he comes to see. She lives in that jacal a hundred yards down the arroyo at the edge of the pear. Maybe she — no, I don't suppose she would, but that jacal would be a good place to watch, anyway."

Sandridge rode down to the jacal of Perez. The sun was low, and the broad shade of the great pear thicket already covered the grass-thatched hut. The goats were enclosed for the night in a brush corral near by. A few kids walked the top of it, nibbling the chaparral leaves. The old Mexican lay upon a blanket on the grass, already in a stupor from his mescal, and dreaming, perhaps, of the nights when he and Pizarro touched glasses to their New World fortunes — so old his wrinkled face seemed to proclaim him to be. And in the door of the jacal stood Tonia. And Lieutenant Sandridge sat in his saddle staring at her like a gannet agape at a sailorman.

The Cisco Kid was a vain person, as all eminent and successful assassins are, and his bosom would have been ruffled had he known that at a simple exchange of glances two persons, in whose minds lie had been looming large, suddenly abandoned (at least for the time) all thought of him. Never before had Tonia seen such a man as this. He seemed to be made of sunshine and blood-red tissue and clear weather. He seemed to illuminate the shadow of the pear when he smiled, as though the sun were rising again. The men she had known had been small and dark. Even the Kid, in spite of his achievements, was a stripling no larger than herself, with black straight hair and a cold marble face that chilled the noonday.

As for Tonia, though she sends description to the poorhouse, let her make a millionaire of your fancy. Her blue-black hair, smoothly divided in the middle and bound close to her head, and her large eyes full of the Latin melancholy, gave her the Madonna touch. Her motions and air spoke of the concealed fire and the desire to charm that she had inherited from the gitanas of the Basque province. As for the humming-bird part of her, that dwelt in her heart; you could not perceive it unless her bright red skirt and dark blue blouse gave you a symbolic hint of the vagarious bird. The newly lighted sungod asked for a drink of water.

Tonia brought it from the red jar hanging under the brush shelter. Sandridge considered it necessary to dismount so as to lessen the trouble of her ministrations.

I play no spy; nor do I assume to master the thoughts of any human heart; but I assert, by the chronicler's right, that before a quarter of an hour had sped, Sandridge was teaching her how to plait a six-strand rawhide stake-rope, and Tonia had explained to him that were it not for her little English book that the peripatetic padre had given her and the little crippled chivo, that she fed from a bottle, she would be very, very lonely indeed.

Which leads to a suspicion that the Kid's fences needed repairing, and that the adjutant-general's sarcasm had fallen upon unproductive soil.

In his camp by the water hole Lieutenant Sandridge announced and reiterated his intention of either causing the Cisco Kid to nibble the black loam of the Frio country prairies or of haling him before a judge and jury. That sounded business-like. Twice a week he rode over to the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio, and directed Tonia's slim, slightly lemon-tinted fingers among the intricacies of the slowly growing lariata. A six-strand plait is hard to learn and easy to teach.

The ranger knew that he might find the Kid there at any visit. He kept his armament ready, and had a frequent eye for the pear thicket at the rear of the jacal. Thus he might bring down the kite and the humming-bird with one stone.

While the sunny-haired ornithologist was pursuing his studies the Cisco Kid was also attending to his professional duties. He moodily shot up a saloon, in a small cow village on Quintana Creek, killed the town marshal (plugging him neatly in the centre of his tin badge), and then rode away, morose and unsatisfied. No true artist is uplifted by shooting an aged man carrying an old-style .38 bulldog.

On his way the Kid suddenly experienced the yearning that all men feel when wrong-doing loses its keen edge of delight. He yearned for the woman he loved to reassure him that she was his in spite of it. He wanted her to call his bloodthirstiness bravery and his cruelty devotion. He wanted Tonia to bring him water from the red jug under the brush shelter, and tell him how the chivo was thriving on the bottle.

The Kid turned the speckled roan's head up the ten-mile pear flat that stretches along the Arroyo Hondo until it ends at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio. The roan whickered; for he had a sense of locality and direction equal to that of a belt-line street-car horse; and he knew he would soon be nibbling the rich mesquite grass at the end of a forty-foot stake rope while Ulysses rested his head in Circe's straw-roofed hut.

More weird and lonesome than the journey of an Amazonian explorer is the ride of one through a Texas pear flat. With dismal monotony and startling variety the uncanny and multiform shapes of the cacti lift their twisted trunks and fat, bristly hands to encumber the way. The demon plant, appearing to live without soil or rain, seems to taunt the parched traveler with its lush gray greenness. It warps itself a thousand times about what look to be open and inviting paths, only to lure the rider into blind and impassable spine-defended "bottoms of the bag," leaving him to retreat, if he can, with the points of the compass whirling in his head.

To be lost in the pear is to die almost the death of the thief on the cross, pierced by nails and with grotesque shapes of all the fiends hovering about.

But it was not so with the Kid and his mount. Winding, twisting, circling, tracing the most fantastic and bewildering trail ever picked out, the good roan lessened the distance to the Lone Wolf Crossing with every coil and turn that he made.

While they fared the Kid sang. He knew but one tune and he sang it, as he knew but one code and lived it, and but one girl and loved her. He was a single-minded man of conventional ideas. He had a voice like a coyote with bronchitis, but whenever he chose to sing his song he sang it. It was a conventional song of the camps and trail, running at its beginning as near as may be to these words:

Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl
Or I'll tell you what I'll do—

and so on. The roan was inured to it, and did not mind.

But even the poorest singer will, after a certain time, gain his own consent to refrain from contributing to the world's noises. So the Kid, by the time he was within a mile or two of Tonia's jacal, had reluctantly allowed his song to die away — not because his vocal performance had become less charming to his own ears, but because his laryngeal muscles were aweary.

As though he were in a circus ring the speckled roan wheeled and danced through the labyrinth of pear until at length his rider knew by certain landmarks that the Lone Wolf Crossing was close at hand. Then, where the pear was thinner, he caught sight of the grass roof of the jacal and the hackberry tree on the edge of the arroyo. A few yards farther the Kid stopped the roan and gazed intently through the prickly openings. Then he dismounted, dropped the roan's reins, and proceeded on foot, stooping and silent, like an Indian. The roan, knowing his part, stood still, making no sound.

The Kid crept noiselessly to the very edge of the pear thicket and reconnoitered between the leaves of a clump of cactus.

Ten yards from his hiding-place, in the shade of the jacal, sat his Tonia calmly plaiting a raw-hide lariat. So far she might surely escape condemnation; women have been known, from time to time, to engage in more mischievous occupations. But if all must be told, there is to be added that her head reposed against the broad and comfortable chest of a tall red-and-yellow man, and that his arm was about her, guiding her nimble small fingers that required so many lessons at the intricate six-strand plait.

Sandridge glanced quickly at the dark mass of pear when he heard a slight squeaking sound that was not altogether unfamiliar. A gun-scabbard will make that sound when one grasps the handle of a six-shooter suddenly. But the sound was not repeated; and Tonia's fingers needed close attention.

And then, in the shadow of death, they began to talk of their love; and in the still July afternoon every word they uttered reached the ears of the Kid.

"Remember, then," said Tonia, "you must not come again until I send for you. Soon he will be here. A vaquero at the tienda said to-day he saw him on the Guadalupe three days ago. When he is that near he always comes. If he comes and finds you here he will kill you. So, for my sake, you must come no more until I send you the word."

"All right," said the ranger. "And then what?"

"And then," said the girl, "you must bring your men here and kill him. If not, he will kill you."

"He ain't a man to surrender, that's sure," said Sandridge. "It's kill or be killed for the officer that goes up against Mr. Cisco Kid."

"He must die," said the girl. "Otherwise there will not be any peace in the world for thee and me. He has killed many. Let him so die. Bring your men, and give him no chance to escape."

"You used to think right much of him," said Sandridge.

Tonia dropped the lariat, twisted herself around, and curved a lemon-tinted arm over the ranger's shoulder.

"But then," she murmured in liquid Spanish, "I had not beheld thee, thou great, red mountain of a man! And thou art kind and good, as well as strong. Could one choose him, knowing thee? Let him die; for then I will not be filled with fear by day and night lest he hurt thee or me."

"How can I know when he comes?" asked Sandridge.

"When he comes," said Tonia, "he remains two days, sometimes three. Gregorio, the small son of old Luisa, the lavandera, has a swift pony. I will write a letter to thee and send it by him, saying how it will be best to come upon him. By Gregorio will the letter come. And bring many men with thee, and have much care, oh, dear red one, for the rattlesnake is not quicker to strike than is 'El Chivato', as they call him, to send a ball from his pistola."

"The Kid's handy with his gun, sure enough," admitted Sandridge, "but when I come for him I shall come alone. I'll get him by myself or not at all. The Cap wrote one or two things to me that make me want to do the trick without any help. You let me know when Mr. Kid arrives, and I'll do the rest."

"I will send you the message by the boy Gregorio," said the girl. "I knew you were braver than that small slayer of men who never smiles. How could I ever have thought I cared for him?"

It was time for the ranger to ride back to his camp on the water hole. Before he mounted his horse he raised the slight form of Tonia with one arm high from the earth for a parting salute. The drowsy stillness of the torpid summer air still lay thick upon the dreaming afternoon. The smoke from the fire in the jacal, where the frijoles blubbered in the iron pot, rose straight as a plumb-line above the clay-daubed chimney. No sound or movement disturbed the serenity of the dense pear thicket ten yards away.

When the form of Sandridge had disappeared, loping his big dun down the steep banks of the Frio crossing, the Kid crept back to his own horse, mounted him, and rode back along the tortuous trail he had come.

But not far. He stopped and waited in the silent depths of the pear until half an hour had passed. And then Tonia heard the high, untrue notes of his un-musical singing coming nearer and nearer; and she ran to the edge of the pear to meet him.

The Kid seldom smiled; but he smiled and waved his hat when he saw her. He dismounted, and his girl sprang into his arms. The Kid looked at her fondly. His thick black hair clung to his head like a wrinkled mat. The meeting brought a slight ripple of some undercurrent of feeling to his smooth, dark face that was usually as motionless as a clay mask.

"How's my girl?" he asked, holding her close.

"Sick of waiting so long for you, dear one," she answered. "My eyes are dim with always gazing into that devil's pincushion through which you come. And I can see into it such a little way, too. But you are here, beloved one, and I will not scold. Qué mal muchacho! not to come to see your alma more often. Go in and rest, and let me water your horse and stake him with the long rope. There is cool water in the jar for you."

The Kid kissed her affectionately.

"Not if the court knows itself do I let a lady stake my horse for me," Said he. "But if you'll run in, chica, and throw a pot of coffee together while I attend to the caballo, I'll be a good deal obliged."

Besides his marksmanship the Kid had another attribute for which he admired himself greatly. He was muy caballero, as the Mexicans express it, where the ladies were concerned. For them he had always gentle words and consideration. He could not have spoken a harsh word to a woman. He might ruthlessly slay their husbands and brothers, but he could not have laid the weight of a finger in anger upon a woman. Wherefore many of that interesting division of humanity who had come under the spell of his politeness declared their disbelief in the stories circulated about Mr. Kid. One shouldn't believe everything one heard, they said.

When confronted by their indignant men folk with proof of the caballero's deeds of infamy, they said maybe he had been driven to it, and that he knew how to treat a lady, anyhow.

Considering this extremely courteous idiosyncrasy of the Kid and the pride that lie took in it, one can perceive that the solution of the problem that was presented to him by what he saw and heard from his hiding-place in the pear that afternoon (at least as to one of the actors) must have been obscured by difficulties. And yet one could not think of the Kid overlooking little matters of that kind.

At the end of the short twilight they gathered around a supper of frijoles, goat steaks, canned peaches, and coffee, by the light of a lantern in the jacal. Afterward, the ancestor, his flock corralled, smoked a cigarette and became a mummy in a gray blanket. Tonia washed the few dishes while the Kid dried them with the flour-sacking towel. Her eyes shone; she chatted volubly of the inconsequent happenings of her small world since the Kid's last visit; it was as all his other home-comings had been.

Then outside Tonia swung in a grass hammock with her guitar and sang sad canciones de amor.

"Do you love me Just the same, old girl?" asked the Kid, hunting for his cigarette papers.

"Always the same, little one," said Tonia, her dark eyes lingering upon him.

"I must go over to Fink's," said the Kid, rising, "for some tobacco. I thought I had another sack in my coat. I'll be back in a quarter of an hour."

"Hasten," said Tonia, "and tell me — how long shall I call you my own this time? Will you be gone again to-morrow, leaving me to grieve, or will you be longer with your Tonia?"

"Oh, I might stay two or three days this trip," said the Kid, yawning. "I've been on the dodge for a month, and I'd like to rest up."

He was gone half an hour for his tobacco. When he returned Tonia was still lying in the hammock.

"It's funny," said the Kid, "how I feel. I feel like there was somebody lying behind every bush and tree waiting to shoot me... I never had mullygrubs like them before. Maybe it's one of them presumptions I've got half a notion to light out in the morning before day. The Guadalupe country is burning up about that old Dutchman I plugged down there."

"You are not afraid — no one could make my brave little one fear."

"Well, I haven't been usually regarded as a jack-rabbit when it comes to scrapping; but I don't want a posse smoking me out when I'm in your jacal. Somebody might get hurt that oughtn't to."

"Remain with your Tonia; no one will find you here."

The Kid looked keenly into the shadows up and down the arroyo and toward the dim lights of the Mexican village. "I'll see how it looks later on," was his decision.

At midnight a horseman rode into the rangers' camp, blazing his way by noisy "halloes" to indicate a pacific mission. Sandridge and one or two others turned out to investigate the row. The rider announced himself to be Domingo Sales, from the Lone Wolf Crossing. He bore a letter for Senor Sandridge. Old Luisa, the lavandera, had persuaded him to bring it, he said, her son Gregorio being too ill of a fever to ride. Sandridge lighted the camp lantern and read the letter. These were its words:

DEAR ONE:

He has come. Hardly had you ridden away when he came out of the pear. When he first talked he said he would stay three days or more. Then as it grew later he was like a wolf or a fox, and walked about without rest, looking and listening. Soon he said he must leave before daylight when it is dark and stillest. And then he seemed to suspect that I be not true to him. He looked at me so strange that I am frightened. I swear to him that I love him, his own Tonia. Last of all he said I must prove to him I am true. He thinks that even now men are waiting to kill him as he rides from my house. To escape he says he will dress in my clothes, my red skirt and the blue waist I wear and the brown mantilla over the head, and thus ride away. But before that he says that I must put on his clothes, his pantalones and camisa and hat, and ride away on his horse from the jacal as far as the big road beyond the crossing and back again. This before he goes, so he can tell if I am true and if men are hidden to shoot him. It is a terrible thing. An hour before daybreak this is to be. Come, my dear one, and kill this man and take me for your Tonia. Do not try to take hold of him alive, but kill him quickly. Knowing all, you should do that. You must come long before the time and hide yourself in the little shed near the jacal where the wagon and saddles are kept. It is dark in there. He will wear my red skirt and blue waist and brown mantilla. I send you a hundred kisses. Come surely and shoot quickly and straight.

THINE OWN TONIA.

Sandridge quickly explained to his men the official part of the missive. The rangers protested against his going alone.

"I'll get him easy enough," said the lieutenant. "The girl's got him trapped. And don't even think he'll get the drop on me."

Sandridge saddled his horse and rode to the Lone Wolf Crossing. He tied his big dun in a clump of brush on the arroyo, took his Winchester from its scabbard, and carefully approached the Perez jacal. There was only the half of a high moon drifted over by ragged, milk-white gulf clouds. The wagon-shed was an excellent place for ambush; and the ranger got inside it safely. In the black shadow of the brush shelter in front of the jacal he could see a horse tied and hear him impatiently pawing the hard-trodden earth.

He waited almost an hour before two figures came out of the jacal. One, in man's clothes, quickly mounted the horse and galloped past the wagon-shed toward the crossing and village. And then the other figure, in skirt, waist, and mantilla over its head, stepped out into the faint moonlight, gazing after the rider. Sandridge thought he would take his chance then before Tonia rode back. He fancied she might not care to see it.

"Throw up your hands," he ordered, loudly, stepping out of the wagon-shed with his Winchester at his shoulder.

There was a quick turn of the figure, but no movement to obey, so the ranger pumped in the bullets — one — two — three — and then twice more; for you never could be too sure of bringing down the Cisco Kid. There was no danger of missing at ten paces, even in that half moonlight.

The old ancestor, asleep on his blanket, was awakened by the shots. Listening further, he heard a great cry from some man in mortal distress or anguish, and rose up grumbling at the disturbing ways of moderns. The tall, red ghost of a man burst into the jacal, reaching one hand, shaking like a tule reed, for the lantern hanging on its nail. The other spread a letter on the table.

"Look at this letter, Perez" cried the man.

"Who wrote it?"

"Ah, Dios! it is Senor Sandridge," mumbled the old man, approaching. "Pues, senor, that letter was written by 'El Chivato,' as he is called — by the man of Tonia. They say he is a bad man; I do not know. While Tonia slept he wrote the letter and sent it by this old hand of mine to Domingo Sales to be brought to you. Is there anything wrong in the letter? I am very old; and I did not know. Valgame Dios! it is a very foolish world; and there is nothing in the house to drink—nothing to drink."

Just then all that Sandridge could think of to do was to go outside and throw himself face downward in the dust by the side of his humming-bird, of whom not a feather fluttered. He was not a caballero by instinct, and he could not understand the niceties of revenge.

A mile away the rider who had ridden past the wagon-shed struck up a harsh, untuneful song, the words of which began:

  Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl
  Or I'll tell you what I'll do—

############################################

Ok! I have some pretty sharp people among my readers, and I suspect that more than a few of them already know about the O. Henry/Cisco Kid connection.

What I wondered about was whether there was an actual incident that inspired the story, I'm confident there was, and that I've found it.

In a much earlier post ("Possibly a good movie ..."), the second part was about taking a very fine book and making a very sorry movie from parts of it.

The movie was "Texas Rangers (2001)" and it turned out to only have a few names in common with ...

"Taming The Nueces Strip" by George Durham


This book is still in print, from the University of Texas Press, and of course from Amazon.com (if they don't have something, it probably doesn't even exist).

It is primarily the story of Georgia farm boy George Durham's experience of serving with the Texas Rangers during the period of 1875 and 1876, under the command of Captain Leander H. McNelly, in an outlaw-infested region known as the Nueces Strip.

When Texas was the Mexican state of Tejas, it was separated from Coahuila by the Nueces River, which ran down to the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi.

After Texas won its Independence in 1836, it claimed land down to the Rio Grande River, establishing its border there. That claim was upheld by the United States when Texas allowed itself to be annexed to the U.S. in 1845, but Mexico repudiated that claim and tried to treat that part of the state as its own, resulting in the Mexican-American War.

The area between the two rivers (the Nueces Strip) became a magnet for local desperadoes, and for cattle thieves from Mexico trying to liberate what they referred to as "Grandma's cattle".

It didn't help things much that the aftermath of the Civil War left most of the Southern states (including Texas) in an unholy, anarchistic mess. To deal with that, in 1875 newly elected Governor Richard Coke created a special force within the Rangers, to be commanded by McNelly, and tasked with cleaning up the Nueces Strip.

He had some imaginative (but direct) approaches to the problem, as illustrated after a Mexican bandit gang had made a raid on a store in Nuecestown, a bit northwest of Corpus Christi. Among the things they took were ...

eighteen brand-new Dick Heye saddles, which were what you'd now call the Cadillacs of the saddle world. They were heavily studded with silver conchos in a pattern that you could tell half a mile away, a fact that proved to be the death warrant for many a man.

McNelly was very interested in those saddles. Upon learning from the store owner that he had some more on order, but they weren't in yet, he studied a moment, and then told him:

"When they come, don't sell a one until I tell you differently." He turned to Sergeant Armstrong and ordered, "Describe those saddles to the Rangers. Make sure they understand exactly. Then order them to empty those saddles on sight! No palavering with the riders. Empty them! Leave the men where you drop them, and bring the saddles to camp."

Among other things on his plate was also dealing with anglo outlaws; in particular one John "King" Fisher, a friend of John Wesley Hardin and a guy who casually wandered back and forth on both sides of the law, and may have even been responsible for one of the earliest road signs in Texas -- where a road split into two directions, on one a sign nailed to a tree warned,
  "This is King Fisher's road.
   Take the other."

He was a cattle rancher and also a cattle rustler as well. Certainly an outlaw by definition, but sometimes also The Law (serving as a sheriff several times), meeting his end by being gunned down, along with his friend Ben Thompson (yet another "been there and done that" as both outlaw and law officer, born in England; his family emigrating to Austin, Texas when he was a kid) in an ambush at the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio, Texas in 1884.

Most of the above was lifted from my "Possibly" post. What was not in that post was this ...
McNelly (and most other Ranger Captains kept a book (The Book) in which were listed names and what other information was available on various outlaws and desperadoes they were after. They updated it as much as possible.

From chapter 8 ("Betrayal") of "Taming" ...

Before we moved the next morning Casoose rode in with a compadre. He caucused with Captain, and Captain called us into formation and cleared this new man. He was down in the The Book as Old Blas. Nothing else. Captain told us to scratch him and see no harm came to him. Captain never did order him back into The Book, and the old cutthroat used that clearance for forty years - until Pershing crossed over and flushed him out and killed him.

Blas was a crafty old butcher. Years later, when one of the Rangers stole Old Blas' girl friend, he rigged up a deal whereby this Ranger killed her by mistake one foggy morning - a neat trick that was told to the writer O. Henry who made a story out of it.

Borrowing (once again) from Paul Harvey: "And now, you know the rest of the story. :-)
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Paperwork.

Sometimes, I really, REALLY envy Napoleon.

Why?

Read somewhere that a LOT of his time was eaten up by that.

But, every now and then, HE would deal with the problem by clearing his desk, LITERALLY;  by just shoving it all off his desk, onto the floor, and having an aide dispose of it.

When you are Emperor, I suppose you can do that.

As I remain considerably shy of THAT position, it's probably NOT an option in my case.

Sigh.  :-)
-

Friday, March 07, 2014

... perhaps MORE savvy than a pet rock.

At least, I HOPE that's a good description of the heads of hospital billing services. :-)

With any luck, this may be my final word on my financial disaster stemming from my accident in late July last year (chronicled in boring detail in A Scream of Pain. )

I had thought that when I finally reached a summing up point, it would have to be called "Death by a thousand cuts", in honor of hospital billing systems that separately bill for various activities and trickle them out over a period of months, so you're never quite sure when you have the whole picture.

At present, it appears there are three accounts to deal with from St. Josephs Medical Center and four from Memorial Hermann Hospital, totaling about $6100.00 altogether. I have yet to hear anything about the last of the Memorial Hermann accounts, but I should find out something next week.

Many people have told me that if I pay SOMETHING on the bills each month, the billing departments are unlikely to push any further. They just might be right.

The biggest monster among those bills, for $2369.40, I received just a few days after the accident. I wanted to get the whole picture before starting any payments. But, in early October, an invoice for that bill threatened to turn it over to an outside agency for collection if I didn't call them and state my intentions.

THAT scared me. If a collection agency takes on the debt as its own, they can take actions, such as hauling you into Small Claims Court where you are at the mercy of a judge, who just might be capable of ANYTHING in his calls. I recall a manager of a company I used to work for telling me about a judgment he received in an alimony and child support case, and explaining to the judge, "Your Honor: That's more than I MAKE", getting the reply, "Well, you're just going to have to get a second job, aren't you?".

So, I called them and talked to a receptionist (you NEVER get anyone in charge). I told her that I could maybe manage $60.00 to $70.00 a month on the entire bill. As I already felt that bill to be in the $6000.00 range, we were talking about 1% a month on the individual bills.  She said she would pass that information along, but she felt they would insist on $300.00 a month as a minimum payment. Well, THAT was as impossible as $300 MILLION, so I just hung up, feeling that further conversation was useless with her.

BUT, a couple of days later (Oct 9) I went onto their web site and opened up an account on that bill and made a payment of $25.00 (1% of $2369.40 rounded up to the next multiple of $5.00). It accepted the payment. So far, so good. A few days later, an invoice arrived thanking me for the payment and demanding the rest of the total within ten days or call that number again (which seemed pointless after the last experience). A couple of weeks later, another invoice arrived, repeating the collection agency threat.

The next month (Nov 9 - trying to be consistent as computers seem to like that :-) I logged onto the account and made another such payment, and then opened up another account on the second St. Joseph's bill and paid $15.00 on that.

So far, I've made five payments on the monster (number six coming up in a couple of days) and the same pattern repeats (Thank you, followed by threat) making me pretty sure I am dealing with billing software here.

BUT, so far the threat hasn't been carried out, and each time I log on, I see the total is down by exactly the amounts I've paid in (meaning NO interest or penalties have been tacked on).

THIS is what makes me hopeful that, SOMEWHERE in the loop is a REAL LIVE HUMAN BEING, ... perhaps MORE savvy than a pet rock (now you know where title comes from :-) who understands that, YES, they CAN scare the Hell out of me by playing hardball, but all they'll acquire by doing THAT would be a notification from a Federal Bankruptcy Court.

At present, I'm now making monthly payments on six of the seven accounts, and maybe by next week I'll find out if the seventh is also doable.

If so, I'll be literally paying for the rest of my life, but they should be payments I can handle.

With luck, I can drop THIS subject and get back to posting about things that interest me.

BTW, yesterday, I updated my "Posts I Feel Good About ..." (see column on left side of page) with eight entries, near the top. Hope you'll give them a look, and not be bored. :-)
-

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas ...

... and Happy New Year :-)

To those of you who occasionally check my blog to see how I'm doing, well, I'm hanging in there.

I had my accident (breaking my right arm) on 24 Jul 2013.

The next day, I posted "A Scream of Pain" ( http://paulinhouston.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-scream-of-pain.html ) , telling all about it.  I updated that post 15 times, the last update on 05 Sep 2013, when I had reached the point where I could resume work.  That semed a good place to cease adding to it, while it still remained shorter that "War and Peace".

But, not putting up ANYTHING afterwards, for a long while, resulted in one of my Air Force buddies calling the store where I work, to see if I was still ALIVE.

My "Hamlet" post ( http://paulinhouston.blogspot.com/2013/11/hamlet.html ) was in response to that, meant to demonstrate that ...

 1) I WAS still around, and ...

 2) I was NOT completely obsessed with my financial crisis (not more than 95%, anyway :-)

As of today, FIVE months after the accident, I am STILL awaiting some MAJOR bills from Memorial Hermann Hospital.

I plan one more (hopefully FINAL) post on the situation, to be titled "Death by a Thousand Cuts", in honor of hospital billing systems dribbling out seperate bills for various services, over long intervals, so you're never quite sure when you've reached the end.

Because of the holidays, it will almost certainly be after New Years Day before I have it ready to post.

The experience I've had with the bills I HAVE received (and began making small payments on), while exasperating, actually give me hope that the post wont be as depressing as the "Scream" post.

The grand total, from two different hospitals (with 7 or 8 different accounts) looks like it will be in the $6,000.00 ballpark. As I am 71, it seems quite likely that I will be literally paying on this for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, the payments may be ones that I CAN make.

So, THAT's where things are right now.

I AM trying to keep the perspective that, of the 7 BILLION people occupying this planet, quite likely at least 5 BILLION of them would swap places with me in a New York Minute*.

* In keeping with my obsession with the meaning and origins of terms ...
New York Minute - an infinitesimal amount of time.  I think Johnny Carson once defined it as "The interval between the light turning green, and a Manhattan driver behind you laying into his horn".

To those of you who HAVE helped (and some of you have been absolutely amazing), Thank You and God Bless You.

Bottom line:  For all of my moaning and whining, I'm actually pretty good.

I hope you all are too. :-)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And that's all she wrote ...

Ever wonder how that phrase came to mean "It's over!" ?
No? Never?!!!   Well, tough.  I'm gonna tell you anyway.

It's from a Hank Williams song of late 1950 or early 1951 (Dear John), and each verse ended with that phrase and a chorus of  'Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)'.

To me, that's the big mystery of the song. 'I've sent your saddle home' is perfectly clear English.  At 71, I just haven't been around long enough to understand its use here. I have searched and searched (and searched). In this matter, google is not your friend.  All I've ever been able to accomplish is to verify that those are the actual lyrics.  If any of you can answer, I'd love to hear from you.

As for "That's all she wrote" becoming synonymous with "It's over!", I think the verses make it pretty clear how.  Especially the last one. :-)

Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)
 Written by Aubry Gass and Tex Ritter
 Recorded by Hank Williams  12/21/1950

Well when I woke up this mornin'
There was a note upon my door
Said, 'Don't make me no coffee, babe
 'Cause I won't be back no more'
And that's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)'

Now Jonah got along in the belly of the whale
Daniel in the lions' den
But I know a guy that didn't try to get along
 And he won't get a chance again
And that's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've fetched your saddle home)'

Now she didn't forward no address
Nor she didn't say goodbye
All she said was if you get blue
 Just hang your little head and cry
An' that's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)'

Now my gal's short and stubby
She's strong as she can be
But if that little old gal of mine
 Ever gets a hold of me
That's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)'

Now Jonah got along in the belly of the whale
Daniel in the lions den
But I know a man that didn't try to get along
 And he won't get a chance again
And that's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've fetched your saddle home)'

Now I went down to the bank this morning
The cashier said with a grin
"I feel so sorry for you Hank
 But your wife has done been in"
And that's all she wrote
'Dear John (I've sent your saddle home)'

-

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hamlet

I know, I KNOW!  Someone has already written about this guy.  So?  :-)

Method in the Madness ...
Some of you have probably come across that phrase and wondered where it came from (or not).

Well, it comes from Hamlet, wherein Hamlet is a young prince of Denmark whose father (the King) has recently died. Uncle Claudius has ascended to the throne and married his mother (Queen Gertrude).

As Shakespeare's play opens, some friends of Hamlet tell him that the guards of the night watch have reported seeing an apparition, a ghost "very like the late King", wandering the battlements of Elsinore Castle in the wee hours before the dawn.

Hamlet goes to see, and the specter beckons him away from his friends and tells him that his death was not natural, that it was "MURDER, most foul" and that Claudius had poisoned him.

Hamlet vows bloody vengeance. He wants it to be so complete, that when he finds Claudius alone one night (unaware of Hamlet's presence because he's in the midst of meditation and prayer) Hamlet draws back, fearing that if he struck now, Claudius would be sent straight to Heaven. He not only wants the bastard DEAD; he wants him IN HELL!!!

But, Hamlet is not a kamikaze. Regicide carries some pretty stiff penalties. They come up with some pretty awful ways of doing you in; not out of mindless brutality, but out of very thoughtful deterrence meant to make it crystal that THAT is very definitely a NO-NO!

However, even in those medieval times, there had developed the idea that a person "not in his right mind" may not be responsible for his actions.  So, Hamlet begins laying what would amount to an insanity defense by acting peculiar and going about muttering gibberish and nonsense.

(Now, I seriously doubt that, if he killed the King in that state, they would just let him go. I suspect that he would spend the rest of his days in a medieval version of an asylum, not very different from the worst cells in the dungeon, and might soon wish they had just killed him and gotten it over with. But, if he didn't think it all the way through, he wouldn't be the first.)

King Claudius has asked his adviser Polonius to keep an eye on Hamlet. He finds Hamlet buried in a book, and when he asks him what he is reading, Hamlet (who knows what Polonius is up to) tells him, "It says that old men ... (but I don't believe this) ...", openly mocking Polonius while pretending not to do so.  Now, while Polonius often appears to only be full of platitudes (to his son, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be.", "To thine own self be true."), he is not stupid.  Recognizing the mockery that Hamlet is pulling, he casts this aside to the audience, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."

The old boy smells a rat and is not completely sold on Hamlet's madness.

Anyway, that's where the term comes from.

The "Lost" Hamlet ...  
The first time I ever saw the play performed was in the mid 1960s, when I saw Hamlet at Elsinore (1964)  broadcast on the local NET (National Education Television - precurser to PBS) station (Channel 8 in Houston).  

It was a made for BBC Television production, filmed at the actual location the play is set in (Elsinore Castle, in Denmark) on black and white film. That choice was made because a lot of the location shots depended on whatever existing light there was, and black and white film was the only type fast enough to do the job. (It was a decade later before Stanley Kubrick could do something similar with color film when shooting Barry Lyndon. By then, color film speed had greatly improved, and he rented a hideously expensive camera lens from NASA that had a HUGE aperture in order to pull that off.)

This version of Hamlet had the absolutely finest performances of the two lead characters; Christopher Plummer as Hamlet and Robert Shaw as Claudius.

Plummer played the Dane as if he was genuinely mad, and Shaw as Claudius was sexy, charming, and dangerous as Hell. You could easily imagine Gertrude falling for him, much more than you would believe that for others who had that role.

After seeing it that time, I never even heard of it again for a long time. I looked all over when videos and DVDs came out, but to no avail. The movie was shot on film and transferred to videotape (in those days (before Beta and VHS), videotape was 35mm film stock, with a magnetic recording layer in place of film emulsion). Also, in those days, the BBC had a horrid habit of re-using those tapes; recording new material over whatever was there before.

Movies meant for theatrical release usually have hundreds (more often thousands) of copies made for distribution to theaters, greatly improving the chances that people can restore an old movie later on.

As this was a production meant for a showing on television, it was all too possible that not a single copy existed and that it was gone forever. 

Found ...
After writing that, I searched on google for information and whatever images I could find, and came across this ...


I'm guessing that the original negative was available, or that a few 16mm prints may have been made (for schools). However they pulled it off, the BBC was able to remaster this movie, in time for a film festival in Sarasota, Florida, and then they issued a DVD in October 2011, which I now have. 

I've now confirmed my 47 year old memory of how great those performances were, and you can too. Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, even some Walmarts have this.

Christopher Plummer as Hamlet
from filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com

Robert Shaw as Claudius - from the DVD cover.

Enjoy! :-)
-

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Scream of Pain (FINAL Update - 25 Dec 2013)

FINAL Update - 25 Dec 2013 - I've noticed a few people coming straight to this post, to see where things stand.  I've decided that, since the previous update of 05 Sep 2013 was the point where I was returning to work, that it would be a good place to cease adding to this post, while it was still shorter than "War and Peace".  Today, I posted Merry Christmas ..., where I tell where things stand at the moment, and in which I mention a future post that will deal with the financial situation. I plan no further additions to this post.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

25 Jul 2013 - I just sent the following email (edited slightly for this post) to a few of my friends ...

Oh God! I've REALLY done it this time
Last night (Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013), I had a bad fall in my apartment. I couldn't move my right arm at all (though my right hand seemed to work Ok).

I had to crawl to my door and yell for help. Someone called 911 and I was taken to St. Lukes hospital St. Joseph Medical Center, where they determined that I had a fracture in my right humerus (that long bone between your shoulder and your elbow.

They said the fracture was too high for a splint or cast, and just provided a sling to keep it in position. (That sling's got a strap that is adjustable with e velcro strip. The damned thing keeps popping loose. Does that hurt? Yep! You could say that.)

They expect me to follow up with a visit to my primary care physician (completely oblivious to my statement that I have no such thing), to make sure it's healing properly. They said it could take 4 to 6 weeks to heal.

In the meantime, I cannot work or drive. The simplest things are a nightmare to do with left hand. Getting up from a sitting position is screamingly painful, as is reaching down low for anything.

Making it though these next 4 to 6 weeks without that part-time paycheck scares the hell out me.

To which one of those friends replied ...
F’en-A man… that sucks!  What does work have to say about it?

And I answered ...
Not much that work DOES have to say about it.  As a part-timer, there is NO sick time or insurance involved.

The store director said to give them a call if there's anything they can do.  I'm confident that my job still awaits me when I can return.  Making it, until then, is the challenge

The next six weeks promise to be Hell.

If I'm less prolific over the coming weeks, it will be because even typing and using the mouse under these conditions defy my powers of description.

Beavis and Butthead would simply say, "This sucks!!!", and I doubt that Will Shakespeare could improve on that.

Says it all! :(

Update - Sat, 27 Jul 2013 ...
Among the people to whom I sent the email announcing this post was a blogger who responded ...

Sorry to hear it. Do you want that published on my site?

I replied ...

You are quite welcome to publish it, if you wish, but that was not my intention. In truth, the post is a whine that I needed to get out of my system by sharing.

The next six weeks have me VERY worried, indeed.  

BUT, I reached birthday # 71 two months ago, have had my share of ups and downs, and am STILL here.  A lady shrink, dealing with one of my depressive cycles told me that she saw "a survivor.  You've just pulled up stakes and moved halfway across the country to make a new beginning. Wimps don't do that!".

Ok. She was doing her job, but I treasured that.

As bad as this pain is, it's NOT the worst I've experienced.

THAT honor would go to the mid-sixties, when (fresh out of the USAF)  I was living in rural Arkansas and had to have a wisdom tooth removed. That is usually the province of an oral surgeon, but a local regular dentist about twenty miles away was the only option.  He ended up having to break the tooth to get it out.  On a pain scale of 1 to 10, I would have rated it as "20". Thank God my brother came with me as there was no way I could have driven home after THAT.

Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman's experience in "Marathon Man" over a decade later had NOTHING over THAT.

So, while worried as Hell over what's coming (I think I qualify for a PhD in worrying sometimes :-), I expect to survive this, as I already have so much else.

Thanks for writing, and have a good 'un!

HELL is made up of LITTLE things ...
Ok!  That's me trying to be optimistic.

But, if any of you have recently heard screams coming from the general direction of Houston, Texas lately, that was probably me trying to wash myself, change out of a tee-shirt and regular shirt with one hand (the wrong hand) pulling it off and replacing it with a fresh one over a limb that has a broken bone in it.

Working with the wrong hand means deliberation in all things, to avoid being scalded from a simple thing like hot coffee.

Now, I can shoot my pistol pretty damned well with my left hand (from much practice and the belief that it should be usable with whatever hand is available). Give me a problem I can solve by shooting, and I'm good to go.

But, that is the only thing that I'm currently ambidextrous at.  I suspect that is going to change over the coming weeks.

With this fracture, I dare not risk tripping or slipping on a wet surface. Another fall could possibly kill me;  while I don't really know if the pain and shock could stop my heart, it's not  something I want to put to the test.

The friend I mentioned near the top of this post offered to help if he could, but he works for an outfit that sends him all over the place. He'll be out of town for awhile. If he gets back soon, I hope I can get his help on a doctor to see if this is going to heal enough for me to become functional again (I'm damned near an invalid now).

There's a couple of friends that I hope can help with long term loans and, as much as I hate to, I may have to ask them for help.  I'm looking through my junk to see what I can sell to get by.  That last part is long term, after healing enough to be able to drive again.

I've spent a fair chunk of my life being completely alone (preferring it that way), but it does have its disadvantages, sometimes.

Oh, boy!!!

2nd Update - 29 Jul 2013 -- Horror Show 
This picture does look like something out of a zombie movie, but (I hope) this is nothing more than the Mother Of All Bruising ...
I called the rental office and asked if they had a camera and the means to transfer the pictures to a flash drive of mine. They did, and here's where things are at the moment. (Had to wait until today, as that office isn't open on weekends).

And Yes!  I did look up gangrene, but the lack of fever makes me feel that's unlikely.  I will watch it, but am reluctant to totally destroy myself financially (as in "cast out into the streets") by panicking.

Need a bone doctor to go to, to determine just what I'm up against treatment wise and financially (I dread what will probably come from St. Luke's St. Joseph) before I decide what kind of help I need and from whom to ask for it.

Long days ahead. :(

3rd Update - Tue, 30 Jul 2013 - In case I drop off the grid ...
My hopeful optimism over that bruising may have been premature.

This morning (Tue, 30 Jul 2013), it has spread, and new bruising has appeared on other parts of my body.

Some of it may actually not be unusual; new bruising on the bottom of my right wrist (which impacted on the table corner when I fell) may have taken these 5 and a half days to spread from the interior to where it's now visible. Same for other parts of my body that may have been affected by the fall.

What has me scared now is my right hand is becoming swollen (could be an extension of the wrist bruising) and it's one of the things for which they warn, "Seek Help Immediately!".

Well, from WHO?!!! I don't have a family doctor. I am completely alone and have nowhere to go, unless I call 911. There's already a 911 debt on me, which is certain to appear soon. That is not a trivial thing. If I have to cross that line, it might really be all over.

I am truly scared to death of a financial tsunami, that leaves me in a position of, "Well, you'll live. Of course, that living may end up being beneath an overpass, but Hey! Them's the breaks.".

I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but if I cease writing, maybe these people will have some idea of what the Hell happened to me ...

Allen House Apartments 713-524-0514 (residence)

Randalls Food Market - 713-668-4778 (employer)

Of the two, Allen House will more likely know.

There ain't nobody else.

Dear God!  I'm scared.

4th Update - Fri, 02 Aug 2013 - South Martian - I Need Help.
This is the ninth day of my situation and, with my usual impeccable timing. I'm putting up this post (begging for help) at a time when most of the intended audience will be leaving for the weekend and probably wont even see it until Monday.

I keep getting advice from people, telling me that:
 "Paul, you really need to find ..."
 "You need to go to ..."
 "You need to get someone to ..."

When I try to explain that there is nobody; that I am completely alone, and can barely even get around (I can't drive right now, and walking any distance is painful), I might as well indeed be speaking to them in South Martian, as it doesn't appear to be any language that they understand.

I've already mentioned, above, my reluctance to call 911 to make another emergency visit to an ER and my absolute fear of that resulting in a financial collapse that ends everything.

I've downloaded a form that I'm going to fill out and mail to Metro (Houston's bus system) for a card that allows free rides (Because I've passed the 70 mark), and maybe I'll have that in a week if I'm still alive by then.

I phoned St.Joseph Medical Center (above, I had referred to it as St. Luke's, which I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles was what the 911 guy told me as to where I was taken) to find out how long they keep the x-rays that were taken, to see if they would still be available to whatever doctor I eventually get to see. I was told they hold them for five years, so I guess that wont be a problem.

What I need is info on where I can go for treatment (the doctor at St. Joseph said it needed to be an orthopedic surgeon - a bone doctor), preferably somewhere close to my address of
   3433 West Dallas Street, Apt. 1102
   Houston, Texas 77019
   (A block north of the River Oaks Shopping Center)

A place where I can get help in spite of my circumstances, which are ...

 No insurance of any kind.

 On basic Medicare (Part A).

 Almost no assets at all.

 Trying to live on early-retirement social security and the
 meager earnings of a part-time cashier at Randalls Food Center
 (which, of course, have stopped until I'm able to function again).

I hope this is read by someone who knows the Houston area and has some ideas.

Where can I go?

And, BTW, are my fears of financial Armageddon realistic?

In my present condition, I really don't think that I would survive on the streets, if it came to that.

Getting more than a bit desperate here.

On the other hand, I suspect that an eventual autopsy report on me (whenever it is written) will likely note ...
   
   COD:  He worried himself to death.


5th Update - Tue, 06 Aug 2013 - Rays of Hope
Friday, the 2nd, I set out to walk to Kroger (a bit over 3/4 of a mile away) to get some groceries, planning on taking a taxi back (that would only be about $4.00 over that distance - certainly worth it as I probably couldn't have carried the load that far).

I've mentioned before that walking is a bit painful over much distance, and tense because of having to be extra careful to avoid a mis-step and another fall.  Plus, would you believe that Houston in August can get HOT? :-)

On my way there, a very nice blonde lady pulled over, having seen me stagger a bit, asked where I was going and gave me a ride (as she was already going there herself). She gave me a ride back and helped me get my things up to my apartment (2nd floor - Thank God there's an elevator).

Nope. Things didn't go any further than that; the word "husband" came up in the conversation, but it was a very nice experience. She was even nice enough to laugh when I wondered aloud if I should hang on to this sling when I recovered, having never considered before that I could pick up girls with it.

Saturday, the 3rd, when I took off the sling to try and change out of my tee-shirt, instead of my right arm just hanging limp, I could actually move my right forearm if I held my upper arm. I could also raise that arm. Just a bit in each case. as in a couple of inches. Hurt, and I didn't want to push it. NOW, I'm more desperate than ever for someone to check this out.

Later that day, in response to my plea for advice, I got this email from another blogger ...
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Paul - I am very sorry to hear of your injury and resulting disability. I have two suggestions for you.

One, call the local county hospital and ask to speak with the social work coordinator. Explain to him or her your injury and situation. My mother suffered a leg injury about three months ago. The social worker got involved and the amount of support that was made available through medicare and VA was unreal. Further, it is continuing. It is worth your time to make such a call and see what might be available to you.

Two, contact a social security disability lawyer and let him or her evaluate your situation.

I do hope that you find this of some help.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, the 4th, got an email from a former co-worker offering the use of her son to drive me around if necessary. Greatly appreciated, and I might have to take her up on that sometime, but we'll see.

Having heard absolutely nothing from some people I'd really hoped to hear from, here's where things now stand ...

Tomorrow (07 Aug 2013), I have an afternoon appointment with an orthopedic surgeon at Memorial-Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.

At St. Joseph, the doctor told me that my type of fracture normally heals Ok, without the need for surgery (for implanting pins? Don't know; didn't think to ask.).

I hope to God the surgeon finds no surgery necessary and just has advice on what I should (and should not) do to allow this to heal properly. When the appointment was set up, I was told that the office visit could run from $95.00 to $250.00, plus another $100.00 for x-rays.

My hope is that this visit, and maybe a follow-up visit in a few weeks should suffice. In that case, the cost will hurt, but will not destroy me. The main thing I WILL need help from friends for would long-term loans to make up for lost income.

If surgery is necessary, that's a whole 'nuther story, costing probably an order of magnitude more, and then I'll have to take up that blogger's suggestion with a vengeance.

Tomorrow IS another day.
~Scarlett O'Hara

6th Update - Thu, 08 Aug 2013 - Went to the surgeon yesterday.
Yesterday (Wed, 07 Aug 2013), I kept my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. I didn't update this post until now because I was just too damned tired.

The really good news is that, though the humerus has a complete angled break near the top, he didn't see anything requiring surgery.

In place of the sling (which I may keep, for picking up girls :-),...


... he's given me a wraparound brace to keep the bones lined up properly...


He wants me to start moving that arm (using common sense, of course) and to come back and see him in four weeks.

My worst fears were not realized. They're going to try and run most of the bills (which wont be all that horrible) through Medicare. Odds are pretty good that Medicare will not cover a lot of it, but it will take time for this to run through the bureaucratic mill, and that time is welcome indeed.

For such a self-centered recluse, I've somehow managed to acquire an amazing number of really good friends, many of whom try their level best (often in vain) to see that my head is screwed on properly, and to help me keep my fears in perspective.

The latest such attempt is from Karen, a wonderful lady in central Michigan who sent to me this email ...
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Paul, I told you that the best way I could help you from Michigan was pray, and it must have worked! Sometimes we let our fear get in the way of the facts! I was sent the following message that says it best. In the meantime, listen to the doctor, heal, and work at moving that arm. In a few weeks, you should feel lots better!

Bear Attack in Churchill , Manitoba , Canada

These are pictures of an actual polar bear attacking a man.

The pictures were taken while people watched and could do nothing to stop the attack!

Reports from the local newspaper say that the victim will make a full recovery.

The photos are below.


May your troubles always be smaller
than your imagination!
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Hear, Hear!!!  :-)

7th Update - Sat, 10 Aug 2013 - Sometimes, there really ARE monsters.
I ended the previous update with the pictures of the polar bear cub as a way of trying to put my fears in perspective.

Yesterday (Fri, 09 Aug 2013), I got something in the mail that made me feel as if that cub's DADDY  had just joined the party ...


The monster was this ...



... and the relevant (killer) part is ...

Way up near the beginning of the post, I expressed DREAD of what may be coming from St. Joseph Medical Center for that trip to the emergency room.

Well, it's ARRIVED; to the tune of $2,367.90 for the 911 ambulance call and the ER treatment.

Add in for the visits to the surgeon (including one 4 weeks from now), and anticipated loss of six weeks income and I'm looking at a hit in the range of $4200.00 to $4500.00 altogether.

Do I HAVE it?   Not -- even -- close.

I pretty well went through my panic attack last night, and hope I can now take a calmer look at the situation.

I knew SOMETHING would be coming from St. Joseph about that ER visit; I just didn't expect a gut-punch quite that bad.

SO. What ARE my options?

########### (Morbid thought that I'm NOT posting here).

Ignore it.

Try running it through Medicare even though I'm positive THAT wont fly.

But, maybe I'm wrong and they might help a bit. Besides, they insist on an itemized invoice, and I certainly want to see THAT.

Hopefully, I'll think of other possibilities.

I've sent this email to St. Joseph's ...
------------------------------------------------------------------------
I've just received your "statement", which amounts to
 "YOU owe US $2367.90 -- SEND IT!"

I need an itemized invoice for this -- Medicare will INSIST on that if I submit it to them.

Paul Gordon
3433 W Dallas St Apt 1102
Houston, TX 77019-3840

Master Number: ******
Invoice Number: ***********
Thank you.
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As today is Saturday, it will be Monday before anyone even reads it.

My ER visit involved three men of 911 taking me to St. Joseph's, and hanging around a bit until someone could see me and take me off of their hands. It then involved a couple of ER people asking questions, getting some x-rays taken, giving me two prescriptions (for blood pressure and pain killing), putting a sling on me and then cutting me loose.

I figure between 2 and 2-1/2 hours there.

I will be fascinated to see what cost almost $2400.00 (approximately four times what I figure the combined costs of two visits to that orthopedic surgeon and the x-rays of their own which they took), and will update the post with that info when (and IF) I get it.

If I have any problem getting it, that too will be noted.

To be continued ...

8th Update - Thu, 15 Aug 2013 - Three weeks and a day ...
... since the accident. One week and a day since the visit to the surgeon.
So, where are things now?

Limbo.

Using the brace instead of the sling, I'm very slowly getting more motion with my right arm.

On Monday, I got into my car, to see how far I have to go. Climbing in was no problem. The car is a Honda Civic, with automatic transmission, using a tee-handle shifter on the floor.

I had enough strength to pull and release the emergency brake handle (on the center console, behind the shift lever). Could NOT reach over and grab the shifter unless I used my left hand to move my right hand over to it. Once there, I COULD work the button you use to release the handle when it's in park.

Using the ignition key was fun, I could manage to reach over and put it in, but needed help from my left hand to push it in enough to be able to twist it and start the car.

Not much strength in my left arm yet; if I lie down and hold my upper right arm down with my left hand, I can manage to raise my right forearm, but it wants to just flop to one side or the other. Very sore when that happens; I'm guessing there are some lateral muscles involved here that aren't really ready for anything just yet.

Obviously driving falls into the category of "not really ready" at this time. Right now, my right arm is useless for helping with steering. While I could probably manage somewhat with my left arm, attempting to drive anywhere at this time would be dangerous and stupid.

Way up near the top of this post, I mentioned sending in an application for a Metro card that would allow me to ride buses free (because I'm over 70). The card arrived Saturday, but I'm not ready to try it yet.

I'm not steady when walking right now; when I go very far, my right leg really hurts near the hip area and I have to be careful how I step to avoid another fall. The bus stops are a pretty good distance from my apartment.  If I get on a bus right now, it's jerking starts and stops (traffic and road conditions) risk another fall that I really don't need.

I hope my arm strength and stability improve enough in the next three weeks enough that I can take advantage of the bus to get to my Sep 4th appointment with the surgeon (and not have to pay about $30.00 round trip cab fare).

Speaking of money, I mentioned in my last update about emailing St. Joseph to request an itemized invoice of their charges. On Monday, I called them, and made that request again. I was told that it will take several business days for it to arrive, so I may have it by tomorrow.

We'll see where things go from there.

9th Update - Fri, 16 Aug 2013 - Some damned good people out there.
Well, it's Friday, and I'm still awaiting that itemized invoice that was promised me. Got a message on my answering machine, from St. Joseph's business office, wanting me to call them. But, without that invoice, I've really nothing to discuss with them. I'm not quite ready to use the term "run around" just yet, but for people wanting their money, they seem to be taking their own sweet time about it.

Got the following letter today, from the Mulholland family in Illinois ...
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Paul,

I've been reading your blog a year or so now.  Don't always agree with you, but I always enjoy it.

I was sorry to read about the super hard patch you've hit.  I hope this little check helps a bit.

I'll continue to watch your blog -- learning to be a "lefty" is tough.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They enclosed a check for $50.00, referring to it as "little".  Well, it may be "little", in comparison to what I am facing financially, but I suspect that (in this economy) it is far from "little" to them. These people, who only know me through my blog, reached out to help and I am grateful, beyond my powers of description.

The help may be "little", but you are familiar with the phrase "being nickeled and dimed to death" to death where expenses are concerned.  Well, that works the other way as well. Every "little" bit helps.

To the Mulholland family: Bless you, and Thank you.

Addendum - 0910, Sat, 17 Aug 2013 - NOT asking for donations (yet).
I wanted to express my thanks to the Mulhollands for reaching out that way and for making me feel that I was not in this all by myself.

Before seeking financial help in earnest, I want the whole picture first.

I need to see (from my next visit to the surgeon on September 4) if things are healing properly and I will be able to work again.

Are my walking problems related to the fall?  Does something need to be done there?  Or, does the magic number "71" (my age) have more than a bit to do with it?

And, to find out (by submittal) what (if any) help will Medicare provide?  I'll keep in mind one blogger's suggestion about the VA.

Once I've got a solid picture of just how bad things really are, I may very well ask for help from some of you, maybe even putting in a link to PayPal (I've had an account with them for ages), allowing donations to be sent to them for my email address.

But, we're not there yet.

10th Update - Thu, 22 Aug 2013 - News:  Good, bad, and hopeful.

Monday, the 19th: Getting more mobility in right arm, although still very weak.

Actually got out a bit, walking to nearest bus stop and using my new free pass to take the bus to my bank where I cashed the check I mentioned above. Then, two more buses (because of the routes) to get to a Randalls that had some items not carried by the Kroger that is much closer to my apartment. Finally, a short taxi ride from there to my apartment. (Still have difficulty carrying much for any distance. Plus, there were frozen items; the bus might be free, but the wait times can run up to 40 minutes on some routes).

The walking problems I mentioned above don't seem related to the fall. More likely due to a lack of walking recently. The tension over having to be extra careful where and how I step probably has a bit to do with that. Seems to be getting better.

Wednesday, the 21st: Still awaiting that itemized invoice from St. Joseph's. I've been assured that it actually is on its way. In the meantime, I've finally responded to a couple of letters that I received from an outfit called Chamberlin Edmonds, that notes ...
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chamberlin Edmonds works with Iasis Healthcare-Texas to help patients that have little or no medical insurance. We can help you find government benefits, such as Medicaid or Medicare, which could pay the hospital bill. Iasis Healthcare-Texas is providing this service to all patients at NO CHARGE.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I phoned them and talked to a representative, who felt that there really was help they could provide. He asked me to come to his office in the St. Joseph Medical Center to get started on the paperwork.

I told him I could probably do that, in a day or two (after I determined the bus routes so I could manage it without a $40.00 round trip cab fare).

I'd already planned on taking the bus downtown to Metro's main transit center to get a map of their routes and a bunch of schedules. (Yes! I could have gone online, or phoned them and asked to mail them to me, but that would have taken a solid week. I could also have downloaded them and printed them out, but they are huge files, and with my equipment; well, life's just too damned short. Besides, I desperately needed to get out. :-)

A google search of that transit center brought up a map that also showed St. Joseph's at only five blocks away. So, I went there as well and got the paperwork done.

The Chamberlin Edmonds rep felt that, because I was over 70, I may be entitled to more benefits than I thought. So, he's gonna go for it, and any reckoning with St. Joseph's is put off while that goes through the mill. That's the "hopeful" part.

The "bad" part is that it may take a month before I know anything, and the finances will get pretty damned desperate during that time.  A few of you have offered to help there. I sure hope you still feel that way, as I just may have to take you up on that.

Thirteen more days until my second visit to the surgeon. Although my arm is becoming more mobile, I sure want assurances (from x-rays) that the bone is knitting properly and that I can exercise that arm without being afraid of pulling apart something that is still healing.

And, that's the way it is, on Thursday, 22 Aug 2013 (and I have NEVER been that much of a Walter Cronkite fan. :-)

11th Update - Sun, 25 Aug 2013 - Breakdown
Breakdown: noun
(1) What I often have when things go awry.
(2) The St. Joseph's Itemized Invoice I finally received yesterday.

Almost had the first version yesterday, when I could not turn the ignition key in my car. Horrific visions of having to have the car taken to the mechanic on a wrecker truck ($60.00 estimated) and having to have that switch removed and replaced ($300.00 based on past experience with the most "snake bit" car I have ever owned -- a 1994 Dodge Intrepid that was up to ignition switch number THREE by the time I lost it to repossession at a bit over 91,000 miles).

The last time (a week ago) I had started up the car, I had cranked the front wheels over to one side to make it more difficult for anyone to move the car without the key. The odds are pretty good that by doing so I made it necessary to put pressure on the steering wheel to free up the locking mechanism so I could turn that key.

In my present condition where I have to use my left hand to force my right hand to push the key in hard enough to turn it, I can't use that left hand on the steering wheel to free it up. Tomorrow, when more people are around, I'll ask one of them to give it a try. With any luck (and Lord knows, I could sure use some), it should turn out that there is nothing at all wrong with that ignition lock and I'm simply not strong enough to work it yet.

We'll see.

As for the second definition, I can now tell what 911 costs in my instance, although much of the bill is about as specific as a fortune cookie. Here it is ...
---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    08/21/13

GORDON, PAUL        1320500460    07/24/13    07/24/13   001
                                                          D1
                                                         801
   PAUL GORDON
   3433 W DALLAS ST APT 1102
   APT 1102                                   07/27/13   RDJ
   HOUSTON TX 77019-3840
275001 SELF PAY ACCOUNTS

07/24/13 1 78 XR SHOULDER 2+V, COMPLETE  1  608.00    608.00
07/24/13 3 80 XR HUMERUS 2+V             1  551.00    551.00
              TOTAL, Diagnostic, Radiology          1,159.00

07/24/13 4 40013 ED LEVEL 4             1 1,516.00  1,516.00
07/24/13 5 40021 ED PROCEDURE LEVEL 1   1   475.00    475.00
              TOTAL Emergency Room                  1,991.00

07/24/13 2 23419 HYDROCODONE-ACETAMINOPHEN 5- 1 7.20    7.20
              TOTAL Drugs/Self ADMIN                    7.20

              TOTAL CHARGES                         3,157.20  

07/28/13 152 A6400 Uninsured Discount  275001         789.30CR

              TOTAL PAYMENTS/ADJUSTMENTS              789.30CR
              ESTIMATED PATIENT BALANCE DUE         2,367.90

---------------------------------------------------------------------

And, there you have it. I seem to recall about three hours from the time that the 911 guys showed up until I was released from St. Joseph's. Note that $789.30 discount. Could have been a lot worse.

But, that's only half the hit.  There's still the bills from the orthopedic surgeon, and the loss of six to eight weeks income until I can go back to work.

FWIW

Addendum - Mon, 26 Aug 2013 - Thank God!
The ignition switch I was concerned about turned out to be Ok.  As I had hoped, the turning of the front wheels I mentioned above had kinda locked things up. Today, I got a better angle on it when trying to push and twist the key while moving the steering wheel and, with a scream that was probably not heard outside the city limits, managed to free it up.

Arm still weak, and that really hurt.  But, am so thankful that I'm not looking at having to replace that switch. Things are already desperate enough without that on top of it.

To be continued ...

12th Update - Tue, 27 Aug 2013 - Desperation.
It has come to this: things are now desperate enough that I have added a PayPal button in the left column, and will greatly appreciate any donations that may result.

In the near future, I need to somehow get a long term loan (or loans) when I learn just what the total impact is. That impact could be a minimum of $1500.00 if the medical costs are somehow covered and the loss of six to eight weeks income is all I have to worry about. The other extreme would be no help available there (not at all impossible) and the grand reckoning could be somewhere in the $4500.00 to $5000.00 range.  Now, do you understand why I keep freaking out?

I've had a couple of you offer to help financially, but you need to be aware of what that could entail. I do NOT want handouts;  I'd much rather have loans long term enough that I could actually manage to pay them off, eventually.

But for now, I simply need to survive to get to that "near future". Hence, the addition of the Donation button.  I truly hate having to do that, but the alternatives are getting kinda scary.

13th Update - Thu, 29 Aug 2013
- Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Two days ago, I added the PayPal Donation button. I didn't really have a lot of hope in it (Let's face it;  I don't have millions of readers;  dozens would probably be more accurate.), but I thought it might be worth a shot.

So far, precisely TWO wonderful people have responded, and Thank God (and them) for their help. Between them, they may have delayed the inevitable by a week and a half.

I'm going to leave the button up there for awhile (it may still help a bit, over time), but it sure looks like I'm gonna have to figure out something else.

To those of you who tried, I wont forget you. Thank you, so much. :-)

14th Update - Sat, 31 Aug 2013 - "Earn this!"
An amazing last few days. Got a money order from an Air Force buddy, who I know is not rolling in wealth, but he extended this help anyway, and I am grateful beyond words.

Drove my car around the apartment complex Wednesday, to see if I could. Right arm did protest, but managed to pull it off. Will get easier as that arm strengthens. Drove it again last night (Friday), winding along back streets to Kroger on a grocery run. The reason for waiting until night is that both the State Inspection Sticker and the License tag expired at the end of July. I meant to take care of those in time, but the accident (July 24) intervened.

Now that the License tag as expired, I cannot just renew it at the local grocery store, but will have to go to a DMV office, taking along the certificates of passing the State Inspection and Emissions Test (along with title and insurance forms).

With any luck, I should be up to driving in morning traffic late next week, so my grand plan is to schedule an early morning appointment at Pep Boys for that inspection, so it will be finished early enough that I can take the forms, grab a bus to the downtown DMV office and get back with the renewed tags before Pep Boys closes. Then, I'll be back in business. (Jayne to Mal, in "Serenity": "What you plan, and what happens, ain't usually the same. :-)

This same week coming up is when I should learn (from my final visit to the surgeon) if my arm has healed enough that I can start exercising it (without tearing something up) to get my strength back. For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to use that arm normally (but without straining it), and have gotten quite a bit of mobility in it.

I hope that, by the end of next week, I should be able to tell Randalls to start scheduling me again. After all, I'm gonna need all the hours I can handle (and get).  At least, they've called occasionally to see how I'm doing, so when I finally show up, they probably wont react with "Who?" .

If you've noticed the removal of the PayPal Donation button, it's because in addition to that money order mentioned above, I received a very generous donation Wednesday from another who'd rather remain anonymous and instructed ...
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Don't post my name for the donation on your blogs or email. I am a firm believer in paying it forward, so rather than pay me back, put the amount towards someone else that needs it some day in the future.
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It will probably take awhile before I am ready, but I'm going to do my level best to honor that request and to not disappoint.

Now, I'm not out of the woods yet, by a long shot. There is still a reckoning coming with St. Joseph Medical Center, and with Memorial Hermann Hospital. So, it's possible that the Donation button may have to be restored, but it's my understanding that they will probably work with me on this. We'll see.

This gift covers the anticipated loss of income that this accident has caused, with a bit to spare. But, that was the most immediate and lethal threat that I was facing.

With this gift, the donor has done nothing less than to give me back my life, and with it (probably with full awareness) one hell of a responsibility: literally the challenge of a lifetime; best summed up by the last request that Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) made of Private Ryan (Matt Damon) in "Saving Private Ryan" ...

   "Earn this!"

15th Update - Thu, 05 Sep 2013 - "Doctor's Note"
Past few days a bit weird.

Another wonderful letter and check from an Air Force buddy.  My friends have literally been lifesavers.

Above, I mentioned visiting Chamberlin Edmonds a couple of weeks ago, to see what aid might be available to help with the bill of $2367.90 that I received from St. Joseph Medical Center. I was warned it could be a month before I heard anything.

I thought perhaps maybe they had accomplished something already when I got another bill from St. Joseph's on Tuesday, the 3rd, for $758.00. If that's what the bill had been negotiated down to, cool!  That I would be able to handle.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. The bill was for something entirely separate: The emergency room physician's fees. Although the first bill was probably being generated before I even left the emergency room and was received a couple of days later, St. Joseph's waited SIX WEEKS after the visit to spring this little surprise. Perhaps this is simply the way they do things. Yet another thing that I hope Chamberlin Edmonds will be able to help with. I alerted them. We'll see. (And, I'll report.)

Wed, Sep 4th, I went to see the surgeon for what should be my final visit. Freaked out a bit on seeing the new x-rays showing what appeared to be a humeris bone broken in two pieces with a large gap between them.  Wondered if I had managed to horribly screw this up.  But, that wouldn't jibe with the greatly increased mobility of my right arm, along with the slowly recovering strength in it.

The surgeon brought up the x-ray on a monitor that showed it much more clearly; showing what appeared to be gossamer traces of a cloud surrounding that break, and confirming that it looked that way because new bone growth wasn't as dense as the original bone. The bone is actually healing just fine, and he told me that I don't need that wraparound brace any longer. And also that I can begin to exercise that arm, as long as I use a bit of common sense.

When I told him that I was going to ask Randalls to plug me back into their  schedule, he saw nothing wrong with that and asked me if I needed a "Doctor's Note" to go back to work.  I told him that I didn't think so, and actually didn't take that question seriously. I had worked two generations in engineering and IT, and never had to consider anything like that.

But, when I stopped by Randalls on the way home and told the Store Director that I was ready to go back on the schedule, the first thing he asked was if I had that note.  So, I went back and got this ...


You can right click on this to bring up a larger image in another tab if you're curious about what a company wants before they'll let you return to the fold.

I spent much of today (Thu, 05 Sep 2013) getting the car inspected and taking the bus downtown to renew the license tags and then come home and put them on the car. That's now done, and I can drive again (Thank God!). Still some soreness in right arm when steering, but rapidly getting better. Drove to Randalls and dropped off the Doctor's Note. When I go in Saturday to look at the schedule, I should find my name on it.

Getting back to work is the main step in my resurrection. There are still bills from two hospitals to deal with, and all I can do there is await what will come.

Almost there ...
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