Drama in the front yard

The dogwood blossoms are gone.  The azaleas are browning.

Sometimes I fear the rogue rhododendron could eventually crowd out the azaleas. I’m very meticulous about the way I ignore care for these beautiful plants. Haven’t pruned, fertilized, or anything else in 24 years. Since I don’t know how to do it properly, I’m afraid an attempt would do more harm than good.

The blossoms, however, are more than adequate.

The last photo shows Jackie Mudpie, as she reclines on “the lawn,” enjoying the sun.





Fond memories of my father

Yesterday would have been his birthday.  He would have been 87.  Third one he’s missed.

Dad always went for the humor.

Here is a picture I really like — taken in the hallway of my house, with an older Treo PDA.

My sister emailed these pictures yesterday (his birthday):




Remember the First Earth Day? (I do, barely)

Anybody else remember the first Earth Day?

I think I remember taking time out of school (Knox Junior High) and roaming the neighborhood with an army of other eighth graders, picking up trash.

I think I remember it being normal, before Earth Day, to toss any kind of trash out the car window.

I think I remember a lot of trash on the ground.  Basic city streets.

Here in my neighborhood — in Salisbury, NC — we’re blessed with natural areas.  Back then, there was already a nature trail, behind Knox, but we enjoy a much bigger area now.

The nature trail is now connected to the city’s greenway, and to the nature preserve behind Catawba College (where I enjoy walking almost every day).  I remember when this area was a dry pasture.  Now there are lakes, trails, and wildlife.  All this less than five minutes, walking, from my house.  Or from Food Lion, or from the hospital.

One could argue that we’ve damaged the planet significantly since then.  But not everybody looks at the past.  Some foreward looking people have created some wonderful spaces.  We’re far more aware that we share a planet.  And we’ve got our first Green President.




Tough to work when it's this nice outside

I spend a lot of time in my messy office, working at my computer.  My dog, Jackie Mudpie, likes to be with me.  She stares out the window.  Usually, she keeps her face inches from the glass.  Today, she’s a few feet back:

Every so often, she asks to go out.  Either she jumps, because she’s seen a squirrel she wants to chase, or she cries, because she’s seen a squirrel she wants to chase.

A few minutes later, she tells me to let her back in.  She does this with a bark.

This is a neglected yard.  An azalea forest that rarely gets pruned or fed.  Nevertheless, it’s particularly beautiful this time of year:

It’s always a little harder to get work done when the weather is this nice.  That was the paradox of exams in school.  The most important week of the year to work was the week when one felt least like working.

Not much different now.

Like 7th Grade

Facebook logo

Facebook is like being in 7th grade again, but a lot easier.

With many friends, we’re really connected – before, during, and after Facebook.  Family, school, work, weddings, funerals, births.  Several of my Facebook friends have given me a ride home when I’ve had two too many — going back a number of years.  If that’s not a friend, who is?  Some of my friends are actually my closest relatives — like my wife and kids (not the 16 year old; I’m much too uncool).

Other friends become friends – after running into them on Facebook and deciding to be friends.

Add. Confirm.  A web 2.0 relationship has begun.

Next time we see each other, not only have we mutually confirmed the fact that we are, indeed, friends — but we’re more familiar than ever.

Some I’ve known online for years.  Good friends indeed.

Then there are those I’ve known in real life forever – but not sure if we’re friends.  They show up on my Facebook.  I probably show up on theirs.  I see them in real life.  They see me.  It’s a small town.  In The South.  We appear on walls, wondering (at least I am) who will make the first move?  They probably think I’m really messed up.  Damn, are we friends?  I don’t know.  We’ve seen each other a lot but really don’t know each other very well.  Nobody clicks and we leave it at that.

Exactly like seventh grade.

There are the former students.  We’re all adults now, and we’re friends.  Such pleasure.

Then there’s the one who used to be a real friend in real life.  Thinking it was high time we patched things up, considering the spat took place in the mid-1990’s, I thought Facebook might be the perfect opportunity.  Did not get confirmed.  C’est la frickin’ vie.

Then there are those from high school and college – so easy to locate on Facebook.  Potentially a great friend – going back that far – I think.  Except my 52 year old brain cells don’t remember the name or face.

With social networking from the start, the younger generation will experience life and friendship in a different way.

Perhaps they won’t forget anybody, unless they do.

Like Pulling Teeth

I had a tooth pulled today.

The estimated cost was $310.  In the waiting room, filling out paperwork, I noticed three interesting things:

1. No payment by checks allowed.
2. 5% discount for paying with cash.
3. And, on that long checklist that doctors require new patients to answer (medical history, medications, etc.) a very curious question:  “Do you need to speak privately with the doctor?”

I had a bankcard, but intended to write a check.  I asked the office worker if I could have a minute to run to the bank and get cash, thereby saving 5%.  She got out a calculator, in order to see how much money I would save.

“Fifteen dollars,” I said.

She had to check for herself.

“That’s right,” she said, after completing the calculation.  “Fifteen dollars.”

My bank was close.  I could be back in five minutes.  She let me go.

I would have very much liked to speak with the doctor privately.  $310 dollars, today, cleans me out.  In fact, I had an appointment last week and had to postpone it because we did not have the money.  But, I had finished the anti-biotic and the infected tooth could not wait.  I did have $310 today, and not much more.

Back up a week and ten years.  This tooth has given me a problem for ten years and cost thousands of dollars.  Two weeks ago, it became clear that it needed to come out soon.  Business being what it’s been — I asked the oral surgeons in town if they would trade me for an ad in our weekly paper (our livelihood).  I know a painter who trades paint jobs for dental work and thought I’d give it a try.  I made a generous offer.  One of them has advertised with us before.  They both declined.

So, if I had had the opportunity to speak with the doctor privately, I would have asked for the trade.  Alas, the office manager had done the asking two weeks ago, and the answer was no.  So I did not bring this up again and did not check this box.  No speaking privately with the doctor.

With blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., we have a world in which most people really enjoy communication.  Most businesses want to communicate with customers.  But when you see a doctor for an extraction, the development of a doctor patient relationship is discouraged.

She gave me an opening.  Everything was ready.  X-rays complete.  Chair.  Lights.  The doctor, who I had never met, enters the room.  She introduces herself and shakes hands.

“Has this tooth been bothering you long?”

So I thought I’d find out if we could have a word before she pulled the tooth.

“Ten years,” I said.  “You want to hear the story?”

“How long will that take,” she said.

“Thirty seconds.”


I spoke quickly.  “Years ago, hours after a cleaning at the dentist’s office, the tooth began to hurt.  I went back the next day and got a filling.  It hurt worse.  He referred me to another dentist for root canal.  She sprayed cold water on the tooth and it was the most pain I’ve ever felt and she told me I did not need a root canal but had TMJ.  Went to another doctor for treatment for TMJ and he said it was not TMJ.  Lived with the pain until one rough day at work with a tough 7th grade class when, on my way to my car after work, I chomped a piece of gum and broke the tooth.  Went to a different dentist who did the root canal.  Got a crown.  A few weeks later, the crown came off.  Back to the dentist for a titanium post.  When it came out, as the dentist said “whoops,” I was told to see an oral surgeon and have it pulled.  That was two years ago.

“Was that less than 30 seconds?” I asked.  The doctor had already left the room, but the assistant told me it was.

No more talking with the doctor.  When she reappeared she said things like “lean back” and “tilt this way.”  When the procedure was over – and it was quick – she was out of the room.

I said “thank you” several times – because I very much appreciate such a skill that can alleviate my pain and put me back in action.  She was fast and efficient – and it didn’t hurt at all.  Nobody in the office thanked me.

In my view, medical care should be free for everybody, paid for with our taxes.  However, since it’s not, then why not thank the patient?  If private health care is supposed to be better because of free market competition, etc., then why does everybody act like it’s a government mandate?

When I was in Russia, just after the fall of communism, I noticed that waiters didn’t care too much about service.  The idea of gratitude toward one’s customers did not seem to exist.

On the other hand, when I was in an Italian hospital for ten days in 1976, everybody was extremely friendly – always – and that was a government system in which there was no private payment at all.  There was no discussion of a bill.  And – the doctors took great pains, and a lot of time, to communicate – taking the time, in fact, to help me look up words in my Italian-English dictionary – so we could be clear, despite the fact that they spoke no English and my Italian was really lacking, about why I was so damn sick and how they were going to help me get better!

I got lucky.  The doctor was able to pull the tooth without cutting it out, so it was only $209 (with the 5% discount for cash payment).  Ironically, they offer a discount for cash but don’t often deal with it.  They had some difficulty making change for the hundred-dollar bill.  Fortunately, one of the assistants helped out.  She had some money in her purse.

Do I need to speak privately with the doctor?  I guess not.

April evening

Catawba students playing lacrosse

Originally uploaded by smpost

On my left, lacrosse in the football stadium.

Listening to Leonard Cohen.

Taught Jackie (my dog) to get out of the road and obey the command “on the grass.” She’s four or five years old. Still learns fast. She’ll happily do almost anything for a pat on the head and kind word or two.