Monday, February 28, 2011

Jailed in a FreeCell

I'm beginning to feel like a mad scientist. Not the mad scientist in the middle of the movie, when he has been overtaken by his madness and is intent on destroying the world. Of course, the cinematic mad scientist, besides being mad, is brilliant enough wreak havoc all over the world. That he never destroys more than himself and his laboratory is because the hero is even more brilliant. You know the hero will triumph because he is younger, sexier, has better hair and doesn't have a sinister foreign accent. There is no dashing young hero in my movie. In my movie, the world is made safe by my ineptitude.

But none of that matters, at least right now. My madness has nothing to do with world domination. And at this moment I'm as sane as the next man teetering on the edge of insanity. I am the scientist when he is still aware that his mind is a battleground and that he's going to lose the battle if the cavalry doesn't show up soon. Late at night, in a corner of his laboratory lit by an anemic candle, the mad scientist writes furiously in a notebook. His handwriting is barely legible and, for the convenience of the movie audience, he reads the words as he writes. Given the thickness of his accent, his reading is of minimum value to the audience. But those who are paying attention catch enough to know that an idea - an idea that he can rule the world, that every human can be a slave to his needs and desires - is quickly seducing his mind. He wants to regain control of his mind, to put it to work making the world a better place. His mind, however, has a mind of its own, and willingly cedes it to the evil notions that came disguised as high class street walkers.

So, here I sit at the computer, which happens to be in a dark corner of the house. The only light comes from a small reading lamp - I used the last candle the other night. And, in what's left of my sinister Pittsburgh accent, I read the words as I type them illegibly into a Windows document.

"FreeCell has seduced me," I say as I type. "I don't want to play FreeCell; I don't enjoy playing FreeCell. But it won't let me go. I come to the computer each day hoping to produce something worthy of my talents, or at least something legible. But the moment I sit down, I can feel FreeCell approach me. 'Go ahead, just one game,' FreeCell, a scantily clothed lass with even scantier morals, says softly. 'No, I can't. I have work to do.' 'Work, shmerk,' she says. 'Come on, just a quick game. One game isn't going to hurt.'

"It will hurt," I continue scrawling into the computer. "I know it will hurt, no matter what she says. One game of FreeCell will lead to another, and another and another. Fifty-three games later, I'll still won't be satisfied. I'll play FreeCell through lunch and late into the afternoon. Why is it that I'm so weak? Why is it I cannot resist the urge to play this game? Why can't I stop once I start?"

I sit hunched over the keyboard, typing feverishly, hoping to find the strength, the tenacity, the determination I need to subdue the temptress FreeCell. "Wait a minute," I say to myself, "that might work. That might be the answer. Just maybe this will free me from FreeCell."

I'm boiling over with excitement and anticipation for a new and better life, a FreeCell-free life. The thoughts are coming so quickly. I can master this. I know I can. In the euphoria, my mind becomes a hectic jumble as it devises plans to slay the monster that lurks in the games menu. But I need to get control. I must calm myself and plot at a more deliberate pace. Everything is moving too fast, my blood pressure is rising, my head is throbbing.

"There, there," FreeCell says. "Just play a game or two. It will clear your mind. Then you can sort things out."

"You're right," I say. "But, you know this is the last time."

"Of course. We'll never see each other after today."

"You say that as if you don't believe me."

"I have faith in you," she says coyly.

"What's that mean?"

"You figure it out."

"I will," I tell her. "Just as soon as I finish this game."

She smiles, pulls up a chair and makes herself comfortable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let the Sunshine In

Though I have spent the winter whining most of the time, I haven't been whining the entire time. Why just the other day I stumbled upon something I started on almost a year ago. So, I thought it would be wiser to dream dreams of summer than to wallow in the nightmares of winter.

Cuddles is now almost a year-and-a-half old now, and as the days get longer and the sun gets higher, she, too, is anticipating summer.


Let the Sunshine In

Not yet a year old, Cuddles the Cat is experiencing summer for the first time. The sudden burst of heat and humidity that dropped by the other day didn’t faze her, although she is none too happy about changes it caused in her routine. The disappointment can be seen in her dreary eyes, her sad countenance and her shuffling gait. Where once there were thrills, excitement and activity, there are now two empty hours in Cuddles’ day. Whether the old Cuddles will reappear in October or be forever lost, a victim of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, remains to be seen.

From the day the clocks jumped ahead to savings time, Cuddles had derived great enjoyment from chasing the lively beams of afternoon sunlight that flit around our living room. I often joined in her games, using a book cover or the screen of my cell phone to transform sunlight into a frolicsome Tinkerbelle dancing on the walls. Cuddles loved the chase; she crouched in anticipation; she darted; she jumped; and finally she pounced and covered her prey. Seconds later, I made the elusive glimmer reappear, and the chase resumed. There were times when I didn’t know the game was on; times when I was unaware I’d become the source of jumpy sparkles. But Cuddles was always alert and always aware. And when one of the sun’s rays bounced off of a passing car and onto the living room wall, she eagerly pursued it.

Alas, the heat from the summer sun is too much for Cuddles’ primate friends. Now when the sunlight begins to creep in the front windows, the shades come down. A disappointed Cuddles is left to wander through the house, searching for a wayward shaft of light that isn’t there.

Cuddles is not a demanding cat; she asks for little beyond food, water and a clean litter box. She is content to spend most of her daylight hours doing very little. For the few minutes of the morning and early afternoon when slumber isn’t enough, a scrap of paper or a hair band provide all the diversion she needs. But as the dinner hour approaches, and the light from the westbound sun streams in the living room window, Cuddles comes alive and her predatory instincts come to the fore. Crouched in a corner, she stares alertly toward the window and, with her muscles taut, she waits for a darting speck of light, the elusive prey she loves to chase but never captures.

At least that’s what she did before the shades came down.

Is There a Longwinded Me?

Suzanne, our writing teacher, tells us every week to bring something from our longer work. I don't have a longer work. As a writer, I like to think I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner. I usually give out after two thousand words or so. Then again, maybe I'm lazy and just quit once the initial urge peters out.

There are times when I think I should write about my experience with Multiple Sclerosis. But every time I've tried to keep a journal, even those times before MS entered my life, I've quickly become a whiny bore. If I get disgusted after reading a few paragraphs about me - and I am my own favorite subject, you know - how long will those people who are not me last?

As it happened, Nancy and I were in San Diego over Christmas. The weather was wonderful - we got there the night all the rain in southern California ended. There were a few chilly days, but there were no sunshine-free days. I left there determined to immerse myself in a longer work. But all the enthusiasm disappeared when we got back to Ashtabula and winter. I like to think the weather had something to do with that. But now spring is just around the corner - or maybe the next corner - and whether or not a longer work is forthcoming will reveal much about the cause of my winter funk. Is it the weather, or is it laziness? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The AARP Bulletin Came Yesterday

Brother Jim reminded me today that I have been ignoring my blogger duties. The truth is, this has been the winter of my discontent. We got back from San Diego on January 2, and a day or two later it snowed, and we never saw the grass again until the middle of last week. Last night the grass disappeared again under six or eight inches of snow.

Anyway, AARP has been getting the best of me lately, mostly because their magazine is dedicated to celebrities, who are mostly boring and have had so many face lifts their faces look like masks. Then came the January AARP Bulletin, which was all about boomers at sixty-five. It caused a reaction. Whether that reaction can be classified as getting things off my chest or merely as whining is for others to say. For better or worse, this is how I felt about the article at the time. A month later, I still feel that way.

The AARP Bulletin Came Yesterday

The AARP Bulletin came yesterday.
The AARP Bulletin, January issue,

all about Boomers at sixty-five:

busy, vital people;

people doing things,

energetic, happy people.

People who walk, and run,

and swim, and bike,

and lift weights,

and work, and do useful things.


It’s winter.

My world ends at the front door.

The snow.

The goddamned snow keeps me inside.

The snow and my legs.

My heavy and slow and unreliable legs

that make driving difficult on clear, dry roads.

How the hell am I supposed to drive on icy, snowy roads

when my legs are heavy, and slow, and unreliable?

What if I lose control and go into a ditch?

Big deal.

What if I lose control and make someone else’s legs

heavy, and slow, and unreliable, and useless?


Ask for help, I’m told.

Don’t be ashamed; don’t be proud.

Ask for help.

Get in the wheelchair;

let someone else push.

And let someone else struggle with my legs;

my stiff and uncooperative legs,

my legs that won’t get into the car without a fight.

Then, when we get where I am going,

someone else can get the wheelchair out of the trunk

and help me out of the car,

and back into the wheelchair,

and push me through the parking lot that isn’t plowed,

and down the sidewalk that isn’t shoveled,

and through the door that isn’t handicapped accessible.

Have someone else do the work.

That’s the life for me.


Keep your magazines, AARP.

Don’t bother me with them.

Don’t remind me of what I can’t do;

don’t remind me of what life could be.


(Some day I'll understand how to copy and paste Windows documents into this blog and maintain the spacing. Until then, bear with me, please.)

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