Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Dorien/Roger often compared himself to the Li'l Abner Character Joe Btfsplk, the one who walked around with a little, dark cloud always over his head. I thought Roger was too hard on himself, but as an illustration, he wrote this blog.              -Gary 
The shore of Lake Superior is magnificent in summer…endless miles of pebbly beach where one can walk for hours without seeing another person. But on a warm summer’s day with no wind, there is a reason why there are no people. To walk there then is to guarantee being enveloped in a literal cloud of tiny, swarming insects I assume are gnats. The locals call them “noseeums.” And their effect can be maddening.

Problems are like noseeums. One or two at a time and they can be shooed away with relative ease. We all have them, all the time.

But today is a Lake Superior lakeshore day. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

My friend Norman is being released from the hospital today and to save the $400-plus expense of ambulance transportation, it was agreed that I could pick him up and take him from the hospital to the nursing facility where he’ll remain during the period covered by Medicare, and from there transferred to an assisted living facility.

But in order to let me transport him, he needs the oxygen tank from his apartment, which I arranged to pick up this morning before going to get him.

At 8:30 last night he called to say that they needed the oxygen tank immediately, in order to be able to check it out. I hate going out at night because I am never sure of being able to find a parking place when I return. But having little choice, I went down to my building’s parking lot to get into my car.

But my car was not there. I was positive I’d left it there, though on rare occasions I will leave it for up to a day on the street. But I was positive I’d parked in the lot, and even remembered where. It was not there. I walked up and down the entire lot three times, then walked up and down the street in front of my building another two times. No car.

I called the police to report it stolen. Not having driven it in over a week, I had no idea when it could have been taken. They asked for my license plate number, which of course I could not remember (I’m very good about forgetting things under pressure). I looked everywhere through all my papers for the plate number and finally found it. I was told the car had been towed.

Since I have a parking sticker, I could only imagine I had somehow parked it on the street.
So this morning, first thing, I began trying to find out exactly where my car was and how I could get it. I made no fewer than seven phone calls. The police gave me a number. I called it. They did not have the car. They gave me another number. I called it. They did not have the car. They gave me a number. I called it…well, you get the idea.

Finally…finally…I found it, in a city impound lot so far away from where I live I was surprised that it is still in the City of Chicago. To get there by public transportation will take well over an hour, I’m sure.

When I called Norm last night to tell him I’d be unable to pick him up today, he suggested I go and get his car, which has serious front-end-wobble problems.

So now, when I finish typing this gnat-filled note, I shall take the elevated over to Norm’s condo (half hour plus), get his car and his oxygen tank, go to the hospital, pick him up, take him to the nursing home, return his car to his condo, take the Red Line downtown to the Blue Line, get off at Western and take “a bus”—they didn’t specify which one—to the impound lot, where I shall hand them $275 and they, with luck, will hand me my car.
On pondering why they had towed my sticker’d car from the sticker-required parking lot, the only thing I can think of is that the stickers might have an expiration date…something, of course, no one ever bothered to tell me.

Oh, the fun we have.

They’re just gnats, and they’ll all be gone tomorrow. But for right now….
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Modern Science

When I first went to Mayo and met with the oncologist in charge of my case, I was offered the chance to participate in a “Protocol”…a new study on the effectiveness of various types of cancer treatment. My cancer was, I gathered, very unusual in that it did not present as tongue cancers normally do. It was located deep inside the base of the tongue, and I was given the option of radical (to me, anyway) surgery in which a large portion of the tongue would be removed to excise the tumor, or a combination of radiation (35 treatments) and chemotherapy (2 or 3—I can’t remember now—industrial-strength doses). I opted for the latter, not wanting to lose part of my tongue.

Seven weeks later (which I am proud to say I took totally in stride and only on reflection realized how horrendous the ordeal had been) I was released from treatment and told to come back in three weeks to have the major lymph nodes of my neck removed, to be inspected to make sure the cancer had not spread to them. It hadn’t, but once removed they could not be replaced, and the effects of having my throat and all the muscles involved therein slit from ear to ear combined with the effects of the radiation’s destruction of my salivary glands to create the “me” I now must live with for the rest of my life. (But “live” is the operative word and, bitch and moan as I do, I will gladly take it all when considering the possible alternative.)

In the course of my follow-up exams, I twice was given a P.E.T.—I have no idea what the acronym stands for—scan, but it involves a marvelous $1.5 million machine which produces a 3-D image of the entire body and can locate cancer cells anywhere they may exist.

Not being the quickest on the uptake, it took me until this, my 11th or so check up to think to ask the doctor: If the P.E.T. scan can spot cancer cells, why was it not used instead of going through the process of removing my lymph glands? It would have saved a very great amount of time, effort, and mental and physical inconvenience (a singularly inappropriate word), and may have saved me and others who have to go through it incalculable distress and physical disfigurement.

He replied that that is one of the purposes of the Protocol I signed on to. The P.E.T. scan, he said, while more than 95 percent accurate, still has some room for error. I observed, and he agreed, that everything, including examination of the removed glands, has a degree of error involved. They are trying to determine whether the removal of lymph glands is really necessary, given the advent of detection devices such as the P.E.T. scan and in light of the error factors of both.

He said, in summing it up, that it is very likely that removal of lymph glands will gradually be phased out as better detection measures are developed. While this will do very little for me or everyone else in my current state, I do take some comfort in thinking that something they may have learned from my participation in the Protocol may someday spare others from similar disfigurement.

Hope springs eternal.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Bittersweet View

Shortly after I started putting up a blog detailing, via letters to my parents, my adventures in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1956, I heard from Con Filardi, a former shipmate aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14), who I’d not known at the time. He’d stumbled across my blog, and we’ve since established a friendship we never could have had aboard the Ti because he was an officer and I a common seaman, a latter-day Icarus fallen from the skies of the Naval Aviation Cadet program.

While I have some great movies of some of my adventures, I didn’t have a still camera and therefore don’t have all that many still photos of my days aboard the Ti, which were, on reflection, among the most memorable of my life. Con, however, took a great many still shots, which he has been kind enough to share with me. He recently found many more in storage, and sent some to me, including the two accompanying this entry (the first photos I’ve ever attached to Dorien Grey and Me) [I have been unable to find these photos.     —Gary]. I am deeply indebted to him. The instant I saw these two photos, I experienced an amazingly powerful bittersweet mixture of joy, anguish, loss, and longing impossible to put into words indescribable. It was as though some invisible hand had reached through my chest and grabbed my heart.

To know that the instant those photos were taken, I was there, somewhere on that ship—probably in the commissary office with Nick and Coutre and Chief Sewell—going about my business, utterly unaware that photos were being taken that I would be looking at 53 years later made me so acutely aware of wanting to be there, physically, again, a 22 year old kid. Foolish as it may be to hear, or even to say, I miss it so much it hurts.

Primitive tribes believe that a photograph captures the soul of a person being photographed, and that second of time in which it is taken, and holds it forever. The Ti is long and sadly gone, but at the instant shown here, she is alive and vibrant, and I am one of the 3,000 men living within her.

There is much to be said for being a hopeless, irredeemable romantic. But it comes with a high price, and I pay it every time I allow myself to dare to yearn for something or someone from my past. And even now, when I am having a wonderful time I am acutely aware that it will not/cannot last forever, and that it soon will be the past, and that, even before it is gone, I will miss it.

Nostalgia requires distance. The Ti and my Navy days were not nearly so important to me at the time I was experiencing them. While I was actually in the service I hated it and couldn’t wait to get out. The last several months I would wake up every morning and, as soon as my feet hit the deck, say, “I hate the Navy!” I was very young and it never occurred to me that time would change my perspectives. The young, especially, have difficulty in being able to see the forest for the trees. They’re too busy absorbing experiences and are too close to them to be able to get a perspective on them. I know I could not fully appreciate, at the time, just how lucky I was to have been able to see worlds I’d only dreamed and read of. Not that I wasn’t thrilled by the adventure at the time, of course…a kid from Rockford, Illinois finding himself in Paris, Rome, Naples, Cannes, Beirut, Istanbul. But each day required my full attention. It takes time to blend them together and provide an overview. It is only as we climb the hill of time that we are able to look back over where we’ve been and be awed by the view.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Now Playing

Fairly recently I reestablished contact, after nearly 50 years, with a friend from my grade-school/cub-scout/college days, Ted Bacino. I have often said that the mark of a true friend is the ability, after not having been in contact for years, to effortlessly pick up where it left off. Such is the case with Ted, and I have him to thank for reopening long-closed doors of memory.

We’ve been, for the past couple of exchanges, talking about our home town, Rockford, Illinois, and what we remember of it in the 1940s?1950s. We got to talking of Rockford’s movie theaters, and the nostalgia, for me, is almost palpable.

When we were growing up, Rockford was an industrial town of 90,000; the second largest machine-tool producer in the country, which was a source of civic pride. (Machine tools are the machines that make the parts for other machines.) We had ten movie theaters: The Coronado, Midway, Times, Palace, State, Rex, Capitol, and Rialto, with the post-WWII additions of the Auburn and, in the suburb of Loves Park, the Park. Both the Auburn and the Park were modified Quonset huts.

The Coronado was the city’s flagship movie house in the Grand Dame lush tradition of Movie Palaces.

By far the largest of Rockford’s theaters, it had a Moorish theme, with a grand, red-carpeted staircase sweeping up to the huge balcony. The walls of the auditorium were made to resemble a Moorish town, with small balconied building facades extending out above the seats. The ceiling was painted an evening-sky blue, with stars.

It and its closest rival, The Midway, showed nothing but the biggest, first run movies. The Coronado was on the west side of the Rock River, which cuts the city in half, and the Midway…which had elements of San Simeon in its exterior design…was on the east side, across from the city’s largest hotel and tallest building, the 12-story Faust.

The Times, just a block south of the Coronado, had an art deco facade and, while probably only a third the size of the Coronado or Midway, was one of my favorites. It played the less-than-blockbuster first-runs and occasionally a second run of a popular film which had first played the Coronado or Midway.

We had a vaudeville theater, too: the aptly named Palace. I don’t know what circuit it was on, but I’ve read and heard that Rockford was a really tough town to play and was noted in vaudeville circles for the audience “sitting on its hands.” (When I was growing up, Rockford was at least 75 percent Swedish, a nationality not known for its bubbly good humor.) The Palace had seen much better days by the time I came along, but still had vaudeville shows on weekends, between showings of not-quite-stellar films. Ted reminded me that they even had their own version of the Rockettes: the Palace Theater (pronounced “Thee-A-ter”) Adorables, and the orchestra was under the baton of Paul Walker. You could time it to go in in time for a vaudeville show, sit through the movie, then see another vaudeville.

The State, on the west bank of the Rock River and on State Street, Rockford’s main drag, was actually two buildings. You entered the lobby, then went down a long hallway to the auditorium in the other building. The State was very popular with kids, since it showed lots of westerns, and on weekends featured cliff-hanger serials like “Sheena, the Jungle Princess” and Gene Autry adventures. One of the first times I was allowed to go to the movies by myself, my mom was furious with me when I sat through the film, short subject, newsreel, and cartoon twice without telling her in advance. Hey, I didn’t know I was going to do it!

The other theaters were in a descending order of importance to me, and were largely undistinguished. I don’t think I ever went to the Rex, which was far off the beaten path on the city’s east side, and the Capitol and Rialto, on the west side south of downtown, were within a block of one another and had a reputation for being rather sleazy.

So, you see how a simple mention of just one movie house so many years ago opened up a floodgate of memories? Oh, yes, and next to the Times was a small Caramel-Corn shop. I can still smell it, and both my mouth and my mind water at the memory.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, "Short Circuits," available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.