2007- In Review

 

Greetings,  Friends, enemies and strangers!


During the last few months, many, many people (around the world) have contacted me to ask the same question- "What happened to your newsletter?"  You may be sorry you asked.

The Read&Delete Newsletter spent the better part of the year 2007 in a hiatus mode due to the onset of M.A.W.B. (Middle-Aged Writer's Block) as the writer's muse left me for an extended period.......................... and nobody wants to be seen as museless. But, since the Hollywood screen writers' strike has also continued for an extended period,  I now have my choice of Greek mythological inspirations-- and feel quite muse-ical at the moment. So without further hesitation I will present to you:


*The Read&Delete 2007 Year In Review*-  I'd like to present my side of it.

2007 was a year filled to the brim with painful fun, watery wisdom, top-less dating and cicadas.


Grab Your Chest and Do-Si-Do
Last February was healthscare month at the Maloney ranch. One day after work, I was pushing a little snow around, and there was a little tightness in my chest, a little shooting pain in my arm, and it was time to test the Emergency Room. I tried to drive to my home hospital, but the roads were slow and I didn't want to die in a traffic jam, so I ended up at Edward Hospital in Naperville. The tests showed that I did not have a heart attack, but a medic was ready to give me a drug to lower my blood pressure- which was already low at the time. If I didn't stop him, I would have probably gone into a coma. But that was only the beginning. I was scheduled for an angiogram the next morning, but the test was rescheduled a half
dozen times and so I spent 2 days in the ICU waiting for a 1 hour test. I came out of it clean, without any arterial blockage, but the medics still managed to scare Wendy half to death by leaving her alone in the surgery waiting room for two and a half hours (until I woke from the anesthetic and asked where she was). There was very little to laugh about at the time, but I had my moments. The call button in my room was not functioning correctly (it was intermittent). Normally I could hear it chime at the nurses' station when I pushed the button. Sometimes I could get it to go by twisting the wires on the call box. When that wouldn't work, I simply made a fist and thumped my chest rapidly for about five seconds near one of the wires they taped on me. It made a different chime go off, and the nurse came in more quickly. I didn't make a habit of it, but sometimes
you have to improvise to get what you need. Something to remember the next time you are strapped in a hospital bed.


It Sounds Just Like a Stapler.......
During March, I had a prostate biopsy (rest of story censored due to graphic description of something totally gross and humiliating)
.....but I came out of it okay. No cancer.


Slow Roasted or Quick-Fried?
In the middle of March, when the snow melts and the weather breaks, a young man's fancy may turn to love, but the older man's fancy turns to ....... GOLF! This is the time when one's golf clubs are taken out, dusted off and gnawed on until the first tee time. For me, I celebrated my first outing of the year by dropping my sticks into my new golf bag holder (Chrysler Convertible) and heading off to the Tamarack Golf Club, where every hole was like an aircraft carrier-- long, open, flat and had water on all sides. Due to the recent thaw and rains, the uniform of the day should have included hip-waders. (more on this later)
 It was also the beginning of the Outdoor Baking Season. Get in your convertible, put the top down and anoint yourself with sunblock. Forty miles
later it's time to baste yourself again. In the evening you switch to mosquito repellant. Keep a baseball cap on at all times or you will cook your head. Every cumulus cloud is a blessing. Above all else-- do not wear shorts on a long day trip. By the end of the day you will have LOBSTER THIGHS- and any icy drink that you might spill on your leg can eject you from the car. But even after a full summer on the griddle-- Wendy and I wouldn't have it any other way. There is still no better way to spend a summer evening than for us to be tooling around in a convertible together with the moon and stars overhead, and the boys left at home.

One, Two--- (pause) Three, One---(pause), Two, Three
2007 was also the Summer of Rhythm. Wendy and I tossed a coin to see if we were to take couples' golf or dance lessons. (I lost). We went to the local park district and for $65 we took part in the Dancing With the Stiffs program. Thirty couples and one teacher in a poorly air conditioned room in the middle of July.
Most of the young couples were planning to dance at weddings, and the older ones were 'brushing up"on their ballroom skills-- Wendy and I were trying to survive. I will tell you now-- anybody who stands on their feet all day at their job and tales a weekly 90 minute dance class-- deserves what he gets. I danced like a marionette having seizures, as we banged into the other couples like sweaty boxcars in a train yard. Wendy bravely put up with it, but I got worried every time the instructor came by. I thought she would hand us our money back and send us out via the back door. We did have a lot of fun, and it would have been much more successful - if I had ANY natural rhythm.

And The Score is...... Girls 800, Boys 300... (and the boys win!)
Also this summer, James, our 15-year-old violinist, got the opportunity to spend nearly two weeks in Michigan at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, where the girls outnumbered the boys by nearly 3 to 1. He spent most of his time perfecting his technique (on the violin, OK!).  James says that he had a good time and is looking forward to next year. He also came home with the phone number of a lady friend, with whom since he has had his first date. We are growing up- yes we are.

Not A Recognized Maintenance Procedure
I made three trips to Michigan this year. One to drop James off at camp, one to pick him up-- and one to wash the car----- well, soak it in water, really. I was on my way to an event I refer to as the 2007 Indian Lake Aqua Interruptus golf tournament (formerly known as the Pendley Cup). I can't blame Michigan really, since it was in Indiana that the minivan took to the waves. It was a two day-ish event that was to start on a Thursday night up at the summer cottage of my good friend David.
 I was planning to leave directly from work at 3 PM on that fateful Thursday afternoon - when I stepped out the back door of the factory and walked across the parking lot to my convertible, noting that the clouds in the sky have changed from puffy white to greenish-black. This is not a good sign. The Chrysler Sebring, albeit a comfortable car- is not a fair match for hailstones. Just as I put my briefcase into the trunk and reach for the door handle, the tornado sirens go off. This clinches it. I am NOT going to be driving around in a pup tent during a twister and get myself blown all the way to the Land of Oz. I duck back into the building. Michigan can wait.
Friday morning 4AM. I get up and check the weather report. Due to power problems, most of the northern and western suburbs around Chicago are now fixed somewhere between an Amish conclave and the stone age. A lot of the foliage went dancing with the power lines up there, but the southern route around the lake 'appeared' to be in good shape, no power problems. Go or no go, that's the question. I ponder it for about 10 milliseconds.  What am I, a wimp? I've PLAYED golf in a hailstorm (I use a different colored ball when I do, since it's hard to tell a Titilist from an iceball-- JUST KIDDING!) I move my clubs to the back of my minivan (solid roof!) and set forth for grand adventure.
  I make it around the city with little or no resistance, I-55 and I-294 are open for business and traffic is light. No power problems, no water on the
pavement- we are good to go. I listen to the traffic reports as I roll along, as the 294 gives way to I-80/94, the Frank Borman Expressway. I make the Indiana border in just over an hour. Not bad. Then they happened, two things at once. The radio traffic announcer says, "By the way, there is standing water on 80/94 at Kennedy avenue", and a sea of brake lights light up right in front of me. The Indiana Highway Patrol (the 'IHPS') are busy funneling traffic into two lanes and driving us into the dead pool. My turn comes and they send me through next to an 18 wheeler. The semi churns up a wake, and suddenly I'm awash in whitewater. A big wave comes up and gets sucked up in the engine intake. The engine locks up and there we are, stuck in the first water hazard at Kennedy Avenue-- no sign of Ted Kennedy either....   I spent about 30 minutes bobbing in the surf, where I
met David (coming the other way) on his way back to Illinois to get his home dried out. The motor club guy tows me out of the I-94 boat launch ramp, and in his backyard located in downtown Gary, we crank out about 2 liters of water from my engine. Needless to say-- the golf tournament is cancelled.   But I got home with a clean engine (albeit about $300 lighter.)  Moral: Chryslers may look like a boat and drive like a boat, but they don't float like one.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...............
  2007 was also the Great Summer of Buzz--For those of you who do not live in the Eastern and Midwestern United States - I pity you. -- as you did not experience  the happy mating song of the cicada.  Our version of the little fellow spends about 17 years burrowing underground only to come out into the light of day for a week or so, sprout wings, buzz excitedly, mate and die. Just like the average suburban mortgagee, only the cicadas get to do it twice as often.
And they weren't so widespread either--some areas-- no bugs. Just a mile or so away-- the trees were alive with the guys. The sound in my office parking lot was deafening- as thousands of male cicadas buzzed about insistently, trying to get the attention of one of the nine available females in the area. The quality of the sound is unique, and unnerving-- especially if you grew up watching the old 1950's sci-fi movies. The sound of the cicada is quite similar to the sound effects used in the movies where ordinary insects are turned into enormous mutant predators by cosmic rays, atomic blasts or teenage hormones. It conjured up visions of old movies like "Them!", which featured the gigantic antics of gigantic ants, or "The Beginning of the End", where young actor Peter Graves saves us all from huge praying manti that were climbing all over Chicago's Wrigley Building. (or a postcard picture of it, anyway)   this sound gives the definite impression that some 150 foot tall cootie is going to come crashing through the trees and chase me into a cave filled with B movie actors trying to out emote one another. But it's all over now and we will see them again in 2021- (That's only 4 and 1/4 presidential elections away. So beware!)

The Seven-Month Itch
Those of you who are mechanically bent .. excuse me ... those OF mechanical bent will understand the pure and simple joy that comes from taking something that is broken and making it work once again. It is a lot of fun to do with a plethora of ordinary things: flickering table lamps, jammed camcorders, dead microwave ovens, exploded lawn mowers- these are things that can be either repaired easily or quietly disposed of at recycle centers or into dumpsters on dark nights. It can be an addiction-- or a compulsion--  to rescue and repair bigger and bigger things. At the Maloney Ranch-- we refer to this simply as  THE ITCH-- and I get it from time to time.   Wendy has been extremely gracious about this, especially this last October, after I kicked her minivan out of the garage when I dragged home a dead elephant- a 2000 Dodge Intrepid with a blown engine. The Intrepid is a fine car, apart from its 2.7 liter engine, which was designed by flying monkeys (engineers with Attention Deficit Disorder- who NEVER proofread their work). The lubrication passages inside the 2.7 engine block defy logic- so the oil has a very hard time finding its way home, and if you don't follow the maintenance schedule BIBLICALLY, you run the risk of overheating the thing and turning everything under the hood into shrapnel. That's just what it did, and that's what I bought and brought home.
    Two months, 6 pistons, 24 valves, 3 timing chains (yes, it uses 3), gears, rings, bearings, seals, oil and water pump later--- it purrs like the proverbial kitten. The trouble is that when the kitten purrs, it is extremely easy to forget about the time spent lying on an ice cold garage floor, time spent locating parts, the expenditure, the busted tools, skinned knuckles and spinal contusions suffered in the process.  You bask in the glory, forgetting the humiliation.It's sort of like childbirth-- but with flying monkeys.
 And I am looking for another challenge, a bigger one, .... because there is no cure for THE ITCH.

The Busticated Boy
  Peter loves to play tennis. He is not quite 13 years old, but can already smash the ball like a pro. But that's not the only thing he can smash. In
November, he  smashed up his finger during a basketball game (during a rebound). It's the third time he broke a finger (and the second time from playing basketball). I tried to talk Peter into playing golf, but he says that he prefers contact sports. When I say that tennis is not a contact sport,  he tells me that I need to watch him play sometime. Great. I can imagine---- John Mc Enroe meets Bill Lambeer.  Blood tennis.

 Not quite. Peter has a great sense of humor and a vivid imagination-- he must have gotten it from his mother.


Getting Malled at Christmas
Most of the Christmas season can be a blur--- with the right medication. One of the axioms that I tend to live by is: He who shops online will save, but he goes to the mall is lost. Most of my duty as the Maloney family representative for the Jolly Fat Red Pagan was accomplished via the Internet, but I took my sanity firmly in my hands by making my first trip to the local indoor mall in over half a decade. I am not normally faint of heart, (I can draw my own blood if I have to) but to do something as foolish as to wander aimlessly among the hawkers and gawkers of the upscale and the unnecessary- is beyond the pale.  On one day, Wendy and I washed about, drifting with the tide, in the ebb and flow of unbridled consumerism, as we looked at potential gifts, and other stuff-- then more stuff - more and more stuff-- until I lapsed into the Mall Zombie state.The Mall Zombie state is described as a condition where the human senses are overstimulated until overloaded- then the mind's perception closes off most of the stimuli as a defense mechanism-- then processes whatever it can in order to rationalize the situation. For me it means that I start to process colors, shapes, movement, light and sound independently and totally out of sync. It is like Mies Van der Rohe meets Peter Max meets Jingle Bells-- eventually blending into an Impressionist landscape--in soft focus and dreamy as if I were walking around the Fox Valley Mall as painted by Monet or Renoir- and losing all track of time and space.  The fog usually lifts after a few minutes in the parking lot- the crisp monoxide laden air clears the phony frankincense and sandalwood fumes from my brain. Then I notice the packages and bundles under my arms - and go into Post-Traumatic Mall Shock.  

 The funny thing is that I went back into the mall the next day, and bought more stuff. Maybe they added Post Hypnotic Suggestion to their bag of tricks.



And there you have it, an entire year summed up in an e-mail that is just too long.

My 2008 New Year's resolution is to restart distribution of the Moronic Monthly Missive of Mischief , The Blog of Blah, The Great Mattress Tag of Literature, The Son of Spam, The World's Longest Documented Literary Suicide Attempt - The One and Only (thank heavens) Read&Delete Newsletter and Commentary (now in its 15th year of obscurity) 12 issues per year , at no cost to you (and worth every penny of it)


Gotta go.... I'm running out of adjectives.

Neil