WHISKERS ON WHEELS – chapter 1

I had never seen Jim cry before. We were together 14 years and I had never seen him cry. I was taking my afternoon nap when the front door rattled with a knock from the outside. The door always rattled when someone knocked or walked into the house. The glass slats of the door’s jalousie window, loosened with age, replaced the doorbell which had quit signaling arrivals years ago.

Jim opened the door to Dr. Peterlin, my doctor. I liked the mannerly man. He was a kind and gentle person who always treated me well, although, over the years I had always seen him in his office. That was such an exciting place. Everybody always fussed over me and made me feel like I was the center of attention. After my visits I was ceremoniously offered one of my favorite treats.

But, I sensed that something was awry. Jim was crying, Dr. Peterlin was very somber and he brought one of the nice ladies from his office with him. I tried to get up from my nap to greet them but realized I could not move. Although it had been amputated at the hip last year to stop the spread of cancer, my leg hurt badly and I could not breathe. Those of us belonging to the genus ‘Felis silvestris catus’ have a gut feeling about this type of situation. We call it ‘the bottom of the ninth’.

But there are no regrets. My life has been such a wonderful adventure. I’ve seen all 48 continental states, moused in almost all of them, spent several of my 9 lives evading careless drivers in parking lots, and eaten some of the most bizarre human food at places called ‘truck stops’.

I was born in a place they called Pennsylvania. Jim’s friend, Larry, my other human, had decided to quit driving truck after just a year on the road. He said he was like a fish out of water driving a truck and wanted to go back to his roots, farming. He had a really neat house on 5 acres of land.

Luckily for me, Larry got lonely on his little farm and decided to adopt an animal. He always had dogs before, but this time chose to have a cat as a companion. The first time I laid my eyes on him was at the SPCA shelter in Danville, Pennsylvania. My siblings and our mother had been dropped there by a nice old lady. She confided that her mean husband wanted to drown us in a burlap sack, but, she managed to steal away with us early in the morning and save us from a horrible death.

Momma was adopted immediately by a farmer who needed a good mouser for his barn. I didn’t tell him that Momma saw a mouse once and screamed like her tail was afire. We were put into a large cage with about a dozen other young ones like us and that is where I was when Larry came to see us. I was sure he would overlook me, just a scrawny, orange alley cat with no heritage to boast about. The attendant pointed out a beautiful, sleek Persian and something he called Maine coon with gorgeous long hair.

They all made a fuss over Larry, climbed up his legs, tried to lick his face and in general acted like truck stop whores, a sub-species of humans which I learned about later. They were often likened to a species of reptile, the lizard. But, Larry spotted me sitting in a corner minding my own business, came over and picked me up. Now, at that point in my life, I wasn’t too enthused about human beings. They smelled strange, talked funny and didn’t have any fur. What weird creatures I thought them to be. So, I did my feline best to be unattractive and remote.

My evasive tactic didn’t work. He chose me, signed the papers, paid a lot of money and we headed to Gonsar Place. That’s what he called his house. It was my job to be a ‘pet’.

I napped on the front seat as he drove us home. Had to relieve myself and found a quiet little corner under the seat. At the shelter they had introduced me to a thing called a litter box, but, I really had to go and there wasn’t anything to scratch and dig around in his truck. Later I learned I had committed the greatest faux pas for someone of my species, but my new human didn’t admonish me.

He did most of the talking on the way to Gonsar Place. I yawned and meowed a few times just to let him know I was being tolerant but not at all interested in a life with a human hundreds of miles from nowhere and living away from my real family being forced to do whatever it is that ‘pets’ do. I was not a happy feline.

“Well, here we are,” he announced proudly as we turned down the lane to the house.

I looked up, yawned and curled back into my favorite napping position. When the truck came to a stop I felt a tug on my tail. Then came a full-fledged violation of feline independence as he gathered me up into his arms and headed toward the house. I decided then that this human had much to learn about cats. But for now all I could do was look around at my new home.

It proved to be somewhat interesting at first glance. There were several structures that appeared to present good mousing opportunities although I had no intention of being just a common mouser. Nevertheless, the singing of birds spiked my curiosity and the country smells excited me. I tried to be subdued and reserved like I was in the cage at the shelter, but my immaturity and naiveté allowed a feeling that I had not experienced since being nurtured by my momma. I learned later that humans call this phenomenon a purr. It’s an uncontrollable betrayal of our desire to remain aloof.

“Welcome to your new home, Rocky.”

Closing the door behind him, Larry put me down on the floor allowing me to believe that I had escaped his grasp. I quickly realized there was no escape from this building he referred to as home. However, there was much to explore and I immediately became fascinated by the sights, the smells and all the great nooks and crannies that provided opportunities for exploring. He called me Rocky and I was just fine with that name. Thank God he didn’t choose Puss or Fluffy or Caesar. Rocky. Yes, that’s a fitting name for a wild and ferocious feline. I was determined to become king of my new domain.

Rocky’s new home in Pennsylvania

gonsar 1gonsar 2

an apple a day?

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A few weeks back I lamented EXCUSE ME FOR LIVING about the complexities of navigating the health care system as a senior citizen.  Much of it was written tongue-in-cheek; however, the discouraging reality of Medicare is that 1) many doctors are too busy keeping up with government paperwork to read the latest research articles concerning nutrition and alternative care, and 2) they are held to unforgiving guidelines by insurance companies and the feds.  Quite often the last person to whom we should talk about healthy diet and non-pharmaceutical treatments is our M.D.  They are locked into a health care system which advocates the old-age trinity of drugs – Lopressor, Lipitor, and Metformin to address issues that are often the results of lifestyle choices and can be changed by lifestyle choices.

But, ultimately, it is our choice.  Most of us, especially the septuagenarians amongst us, have learned our bodies intimately over the years and we know good health versus pharmaceutically sustained health.  They are not synonymous and, as I stated in a previous post, merely having a pulse and a brain wave is not the goal of living a long life.

I often use my mother as an example.  She had a few of the usual older age health issues including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  Medications were prescribed which in short time produced side effects.  More medications were prescribed for the side effects.  When Mom died she was taking 15 different prescriptions, her health quality was abysmal, and she certainly did not enjoy her “golden years”.  Mom was not a fighter.  She was taught as a young girl to trust her doctor as a god and to adhere to whatever treatment he prescribed.

I am a fighter and a rebel.  I believe there are many other men and women who find themselves in the same situation which I am in.  I strive to be more than just data and statistics in some insurance company’s actuarial department, more than just a nameless body who floats into the doctor’s office for scheduled maintenance.

Sometimes the mind awakens in the morning saying, “Giddyap”, but the body says, “Whoa boy, slow down.”  Those mornings are difficult and it’s all relative to what I remember as good health when my body and mind were young and frisky.  Accepting the limitations of aging is not a surrender, but rather a compromise.  “Okay, old age, I cannot do a marathon anymore but sure as hell I can still walk a few miles.”  Like many things in life, I want my senior years to be about quality, not quantity.

This is the journey on which I want to take GABBY’S PLACE.  I have recently taken a personal health assessment after years of traditional medical care for the few health issues which plague me today and my inventory is disturbing.  Increasing pharmaceutical usage is not the route I want to take.  A recent blood profile was seen by my medical doctor as dangerously out of line with government guidelines and subsequently viewed by an experienced nutritionist as nearly perfect.  “Just a few tweaks,” she said.

I am not a doctor nor a health professional, but I do have an unsettling attitude about what our health care system has done to the people who trust it much as my mother did.  What I write in the future on GABBY’S are just the ramblings of an old man disgusted with the results of a health care system which cost a fortune when I was  a working man and equally miffed about Medicare, the system for which I paid with each payroll deduction forcibly taken from my paycheck over a lifetime of working.

 

excuse me for living

 

My recent blood work was a disaster.  Lipids were screwed up, glucose was pre-diabetic, and my doctor was not in the mood for excuses.  Two bowls of ice cream the night before the testing was my reason for the high numbers.  No, I don’t eat ice cream in  excess.  I have it perhaps twice a month and this was just a matter of an old man forgetting he was having a blood profile the following morning.  Since I was in the dog house anyway, I added to my litany of complaints for the doctor the increased pain level in my right hip and leg which kept me from an exercise routine that included 25 miles of walking weekly.  Thus was my excuse for the 20 pounds weight gain and skyrocketing triglycerides.

She didn’t buy any of my excuses.  Instead, she increased my statin for cholesterol levels, threatened to increase my blood pressure medication and handed me a low-fat diet plan.  And then adding insult to injury, she ordered a colonoscopy.  Dangit woman!  I’m an old man, just leave me alone.  I don’t have a wife, never did have one, never will have one because y’all just nag a man to insanity and then he dies.  It’s not old age that kills us, it’s the nagging.

I don’t crash willingly.  I’m a fighter.  We all know that doctors today have to stay within the established guidelines put out by insurance companies.  We also know that we, as patients, have to play the same game if we want to keep our inusrance coverage.  We are no longer individuals with peculiarities and health oddities who used to have family GPs that knew us by first name on sight.  Now, we are just another blip on their statistics charts.  We are all playing insurance cat-and-mouse.  Only now we can smell a rat sitting somewhere behind a computer deciding who lives and dies.

How many of you remember the food pyramid of the 1990s?  Whole grains were the darling of the government’s dietary guide.  High carbs, low fats were the mantra of the day.  Eggs and butter and whole dairy were passe.  That government-approved diet probably killed as many unsuspecting people as a dozen Big Macs every week.  I knew it was bull crap because I gained 30 pounds, felt bloated always, saw my BP skyrocket and watched my blood lipids put me at risk for my first heart attack.  Then I returned to eating fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats including fried beef liver a few times monthly, potatoes as desired and a slice of pie after supper.  And I cooked with butter.  My arteries did not explode, my weight dropped, and my blood pressure returned to normal.

Don’t even try to reason with your doctor.  If a man wants to keep his insurance effective, he has to play the game.  And how many of you have an insurance plan that covers oriental medicine or holistic healing?  That’s what I thought.  If you don’t want to play the mainstream pharmaceutical game, you may as well take your marbles and go play elsewhere.

Doctor says to drastically cut red meat.  But I know that a beef steak in my system will provide 24 hours of energy and mental acuity.  Doctor says to add a fish oil supplement to my diet.  I agree, but I know that a quality fish oil which is 99% contaminant free and guaranteed ultra-refined is about as expensive as a trip to Cancun. The capsules available with my insurance plan come direct from China.  Would you trust those little dioxin, PCB laden golden nuggets?   Doctor says to add more fish to my diet.  So tell me doc, why is it that California is considering warning labels on canned tuna products?  Hello, it’s because our oceans are polluted with all the chemicals we are dumping on our crops.  Doctor says to reduce stress levels and meditate.  OM, OM, OM, OMMMMM.  Yeah doc, you’re getting on my nerves. OM, OM!

Staying healthy in spite of our health care systems and environmental disgraces is a challenge.  It’s not for wimps.  I research as much as possible about food and nutrition.  The internet is a fantastic tool, but even there a person has to use common sense.  Grapefruit juice 8 times a day does not a healthy diet make.  Eating only spinach for 2 weeks will drop the pounds but who wants to wake up to a spouse who growls, “Arrrrrrrgh, matey,” and smells like Popeye?  Okay, okay, maybe Olive Oyl doesn’t care, but I do.

God gave to us miraculous bodies that can do amazing things.  Knowing what foods and nutrients are good for us is not a matter of rocket science.  Quite often it is as simple as paying attention to your body.  When my eyes and skin turn yellow and my muscles start to ache for no reason, the first suspect on my list is the statin which I take for cholesterol control.  Never mind that my liver is failing.  When my energy levels drop to a crawl and my brain suffers from a severe case of fog, I do a mini inventory of recent protein consumption.  Was it plant-based or was it meat protein?   Some of us do not process plant-based protein efficiently.

Do you think the world’s aborigines back in year 200,000 BC had a website to google healthy eating.  No, they learned by trial and error and were keenly aware of their bodies’ reactions to foods, they did not pollute their berry patches and rivers, and they did not import sushi from China, and they probably did not suffer from high blood pressure, clogged arteries, or dementia issues.  The biggest worry was that ferocious lizard over across the river and Billy Stonehead with the humongous club.

My point is this.  We’ve got to have the cojones to stand up to our doctor, health insurance company and U.S. government, then we must learn to fend for ourselves with our health care because we are nothing more than statistics on a graph in some faraway governmental office or insurance company’s actuarial department.  How personal is that?

We are responsible for our health because, just like the government, our health care system is flawed and broken.  Pharmaceutical remedies may keep us standing upright and pumping blood, but at some point in the “golden” years of life, one must ask if merely having a pulse and a brain wave is the finale we desire.

 

I love a parade

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I love a parade.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Day, Rose Bowl’s New Year’s Day, my local Veteran’s Day, and yes, that silly Dairy Princess parade in my home town.  Along with about 62 other high school band members we marched down Main Street celebrating the selection of the one young lady who had collected more money than any of her competitors for the privilege of sitting in a 1964 Chevy convertible provided by her daddy, who also happened to be the local Chevrolet dealer.  We, in our white bucks, carefully maneuvered through the residue of the horse-riding honor guard which led our little festivity.

Yeah, I love a parade.  Parades were fun and watching them on TV was a holiday tradition.  With the advent of instantaneous media on every household screen, the parades celebrated in China, North Korea, and Russia displayed a different reason to have a parade.  The military might of these nations was dismaying and ominous.  The goose-stepping troops reminded me of video I had seen of earlier parades in 1940s Germany.  They were not smiling and cheering.  I don’t think they were having a fun time like those of us sidestepping horse manure on the streets of Mytown, USA.

Thank God the military parade planned for Washington, D.C. has been delayed.  I can’t think of any valid reason to spend millions of tax-payer dollars on a display of military equipment and manpower.  We know who we are as a nation.  We know for what we stand, don’t we?  Opportunity for all, right?  Liberty for the oppressed, right?  Social justice, right?  Or have I become an old fuddy-duddy who lives in a Pollyanna world?

VoteVets.org is a non-profit founded by veterans for the purpose of electing veterans to Congress and informing the general population of ongoing issues with veterans.  Homelessness, war injuries, suicide are hot topics in the veterans’ community that are not being addressed by an Administration more concerned with displaying military might.  VoteVets.org has filed with the city of Washington, D.C. a letter of intent to host a 5K run on Veteran’s Day of 2019 around the National Mall with proceeds directed to homelessness among veterans.

My country is better than this national disgrace of veterans’ homelessness inflicting 40,000 of the men and women who sacrificed to serve.  I’m supporting a run around the National Mall for veterans rather than a parade to show the world we’re Billy Badass.

GABBY COOKS – 3 can quickie

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.  It serves 2.

Dangit!!  I need a meeting tonight and I’ve got just 1/2 hour to fix supper and eat.  I have only $2 in my wallet so I can’t do Mickey D’s.  Let me see what’s in the pantry.

These are the ingredients

  1. (1) 15 oz can seasoned mixed greens
  2. (1) 15 oz can seasoned black-eyed peas
  3. (1) 8 3/4 oz can yellow sweet corn
  4. (4)  5″ corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS

  1. Empty the cans into a sauce pot and heat
  2. While that’s heating, quarter the tortillas and fry in a fry pan in about 1/4 of oil
  3. Serve the corn chips atop or with the soup
  4. Eat and get to that meeting!

GABBY COOKS-stewed chicken breast

Clean & serene living means learning healthy habits and good eating.  And I love recipes that are quick and simple.  Here’s one of my new favorites.  It serves 2.

I have always preferred dark chicken meat, legs & thighs, thinking it to be more flavorful.  But, chicken breast with skin and bone intact is a healthy alternative  and equally delicious.  I believe it cooks up moister and more tender than skinless & boneless breast.

When my recipe uses crushed garlic and herbs, I sprinkle the crushed garlic on my cutting board with the herbs and a pinch of salt and then chop vigorously.  The resulting blend works nicely in any recipe, especially when one of the herbs is dried rosemary.  

These are the ingredients

 

  1. (1) plump chicken breast with skin and bone
  2. (1) 14oz can of diced tomatoes
  3. (4) medium-sized red potatoes, unpeeled and diced
  4. (1/2) cup diced onions
  5. (2) strips bacon sliced into bite sized pieces
  6. (1/2) cup diced pepper, green or any color
  7. (2) TBSP butter
  8. (2) TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  9. (1/2) tsp dried rosemary
  10. (2) cloves garlic smashed
  11. salt & pepper to taste
  12. optional 1/2 TBSP dried parsley
  13. optional 1/2 tsp dried thyme 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. in a heavy stew pot render the bacon and drain excess fat 
  2. add the butter and olive oil and heat till butter is melted
  3. place the chicken breast skin side down in the oil and butter and brown lightly
  4. remove the chicken breast
  5. add the garlic and onions and saute till golden, do not scorch the garlic
  6. add the potatoes and green pepper, stirring to coat and allow to cook about 4 minutes
  7. add the seasonings and the can of tomatoes, stir to mix all the ingredients
  8. place the chicken breast, skin side up, atop all and cover with tight lid
  9. reduce heat to barely bubbling, you want this to cook slowly
  10. check often and stir to prevent scorching
  11. tomatoes and potatoes should add enough moisture, you want this a thick stew-like consistency, but add water or broth if necessary
  12. cook for about 45 minutes

TO SERVE

Remove the chicken breast to a cutting board and allow to set about 5 minutes.  Remove the skin and meat from the bone.  Slice the meat.  This can be eaten as a plate entrée or a bowl-style stew.  If plating it, spoon a generous helping of potato mixture on the plate and top with the chicken slices.  If serving as a stew, spoon a hearty helping of potato mixture into the bowl, add the chicken slices and blend.

 

VoteVets.org

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VoteVets.org has submitted a letter of intent to the government of Washington, D.C. to host a 5K run around the National Mall on Veteran’s Day of 2019.  Whether it happens or not remains to be seen as things that happen in our nation’s capital are subject to daily change depending on the temperament of the Administration sitting in the White House.  Details are forthcoming, but the Hill reports the non-profit organization is organizing this event to counter the military parade still envisioned by President Trump for sometime in 2019 after abandoning plans for a Veteran’s Day, 2018, parade at a possible cost of $92 million.

It will be planned as a 5K event for each of the 5 deferments citizen Trump received during the Vietnam War era, four student deferments and one medical deferment for bone spurs.  The organizers intend to raise money for homeless vets citing that the needs for veteran services far exceed the need for military and personal aggrandizement of the current political regime.

VoteVets.org is a progressive political organization dedicated to ensuring veterans have the resources they need to complete their missions abroad, and are taken care of when they return home.  With a membership of 220,000 the group was co-founded in 2006 by Jon Soltz and Jeremy Broussard initially for United States Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with a goal of putting in Congress war veterans who are critical of the war in Iraq.  Its current focus is to educate the American public on war and military issues and hold politicians accountable.

Homeless vets numbered about 40,000 in January of 2016.   They are increasingly younger; however, the majority are in an older age group, 51 and over, having served in the Vietnam War era.  During the next 10 to 15 years the number of homeless vets over the age of 55 is expected to increase dramatically.