Sunday, March 31, 2013

Power and Privilege, Arizona Style

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Eoc (some news sources refer to it as "EOC") is a charter high school in Yuma, Arizona,  whose function appears to be helping students who have fallen behind in earning high school credits complete a vocational education.   On the morning of March 22 of this year, just a scant three months after the school massacre at Newton, MA, students and teachers were startled and shaken when an adult male pushed his way into a classroom against the will of a school administrator.  The man, visibly and vocally angry, frightened the teacher and students during an episode of ranting and finger-pointing.

The teacher, who stated that she feared for her own personal safety and the safety of her students, managed to record some of the explosive tirade with her cell phone, and she is pursing an assault charge against the individual.  She described the intruder as "confrontational and aggressive."

And the fellow who caused the disruption and brought the morning's school activities to a standstill?  Well, he walked away unfettered.

The man who bullied his way into the classroom and caused the commotion was Arizona State Senator Don Shooter, a Republican currently serving as chairman of the state senate's appropriations committee.  Shooter told a counselor at the school that "he was a very influential person in Yuma and the state of Arizona."

Senator Shooter has reported that he came to the school to complain about his grandson being bullied by a teacher.  He chose to address that situation by bullying himself into the classroom.

The senator claimed to have not been armed during the incident.   He can probably thank his lucky stars that the school teachers and administrators were not armed either.  Ironically, several Arizona legislators of Senator Shooter's own political party have been highly vocal in their support of arming teachers.

Power and privilege continue to walk arm-in-arm in America, with the "very influential" seldom bothered by rules and laws designed to keep the rest of us under control.

(Many thanks to my good friend MB for sharing this news item with me.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Recall Looms Large for Arpaio

by Pa Rock

Staying home every day seems to be dulling my combative urges.  There is still lots of outrage going on in the world, but I just can't seem to get fired up about any of it.

But I'll give it a try.

Here in Arizona, a recall petition is being circulated against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a geriatric reprobate who just won his fifth term in office last November.  Joe is begging for cash nationally to add to the millions that he already has banked because he and his sheep don't want to risk the subversion of democracy by a democratic process.  Joe has sent out a troop of individuals to try to confuse and intimidate voters who might not be smart enough to keep his flabby butt in office.

It would seem unlikely that recall organizers could be able to oust Sheriff Joe from office,  especially just after he won re-election.   But Old Joe knows that very thing happened to former state senator Russell Pearce, the right-winger who was the primary author of  Arizona's most infamous piece of hate legislation:  SB 1070.  And Joe's winning percentage decreases with each election.  So, anything is possible.

The eighty-year-old Arpaio is already threatening to run for a sixth term in 2016.  He also makes periodic threats to run for governor.   One other possibility is that the voters will retire him in the upcoming recall election, and then he can begin his next career as a Fox News commentator.

I still have not found an Arpaio recall petition to sign, but I'm looking, Joe, I'm looking!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Caretaker Promenade

by Pa Rock

My sister, Gail, arrives in Phoenix this evening to take over caretaker duties from my oldest son, Nick, who will leave in the morning.  It is very nice having family who are willing to interrupt their lives in order to take care of me.

I had a visit from a new home health nurse today, my second in two weeks.  I also have had one visit from an occupational therapist who decided that I did not need his services, and have had two visits from a physical therapist with two more to follow.

I have been to see my primary care provider and have follow-up visits scheduled with my cardiologist as well as the surgeon who performed the operation.

All seem to agree that I am doing well.

My two most immediate concerns are when can I resume driving, and when can I get rid of these damned support stockings.   When I am allowed to begin driving again, I will be able to get to medical appointments on my own and let my relative caretakers get back to their lives.   And as for the other concern, I have questioned all of my providers so far about the tight, white stockings.  (If I could get rid of them, I could meet all of the needs of my feet without assistance.)  Surprisingly, there seems to b e two schools of thought on the subject.  Some believe they are medically necessary, and another group thinks that they are throwbacks to torture devices from the Middle Ages, and the only doctors who prescribe them are sadists with foot fetishes.

Social Update:  Nick took me on a long drive around the western side of the Valley this afternoon, and we wound up sitting in the beer garden of a German restaurant in Old Glendale.  (No, I did not imbibe.)  It was a pleasant setting, in pleasant weather, where we were able to have a very pleasant conversation.)

Nefredia called from Okinawa this evening.  It is always wonderful to hear from my old friends over there, especially her.

It takes a bunch of people to raise a village idiot, and I am fortunate that my caretakers are so steadfast, reliable, and kind.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rat Gophers

by Pa Rock

Back in olden times I remember reading about prairie dogs in big sets of books called encyclopedias.   The articles would feature photographs of the critters that must have been taken very close-up because they appeared to be the size of Ozark groundhogs.

When I arrived Phoenix in 2007, I finally got my first look at a prairie dog while sitting at the local Sonic and throwing pieces of my sandwich to the birds.  Suddenly in the midst of the feathered scavengers there appeared a small furry animal about the size of a large hamster.  He was sitting on his hind legs waiting for more of the sandwich.  I asked the carhop about the little beggar, and she told me he was a prairie dog.  "See that field over there?"  She pointed.  "It's full of prairie dogs.  We feed them tater tots."

A few days later I was having lunch at the McDonald's next to the air force base where I work.  I was sitting in my car at the edge of the parking lot looking out across a long, desolate ditch.  I noticed several small hills of loose dirt in the ditch, and it wasn't very long before the little hamster-creatures began poking their heads out of the holes in the dirt piles.  As I watched, they scampered about,  playing and looking for the occasional morsels left by careless customers - or customers who could care less.

(Aside:  With the mentions of Sonic and McDonald's, are you beginning to get some idea of the origins of my blocked arteries?)

My oldest, Nick, has been with me all week, and he set several goals during his visit - the most challenging of which was to get my backyard into a more presentable condition.    The backyard has a weed issue, and it is home to several prairie dogs who keep it pockmarked with small holes and piles of dirt from their continuous excavations.

Nick declared war on the super-shoveling little varmints.

He started by leveling off the dirt piles, but before he could even get back to the house, the piles of dirt would begin to miraculously reappear.  Then he began to water the yard with a vengeance, an act of war that did seem to slow down the rebuilding process.  Yesterday evening after he ended his daily assault, Nick came in the house and we both watched an one of the industrious prairie dogs began clearing his tunnel - unfazed - for another day of life in the trenches.

Today I was doing something in the house when I suddenly heard Nick yell out, "Why you little rat gopher!"  He was at the window watching as his brief victories from yesterday were quickly being obliterated.

The backyard does look better - but Nick has to leave in a couple of days,  and the rat gophers are quite at home, thank you very much!

Why am I reminded of Caddy Shack?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Of Carousels, Calliopes, and Cane Poles

by Pa Rock

The nicest thing about having my children and sister spend time here helping out isn't all of the household assistance I'm receiving - which has been plentiful and much appreciated.  The absolute nicest thing about having them each visit for a week at a time is all of the face-to-face communication that is occurring.

It's hard to explain what is actually happening in your life, or who you have become, in an email, and that has been my primary form of family contact for several years.  The more I talk to each of them, the more I realize how much I miss the personal contact, the up-close view of how they are changing and what is going on in their lives.

It's nice to be sixty-five and still working, still contributing a service to society, still drawing a paycheck.   At some point, however, we all have to consider jumping off of the merry-go-round and heading home.  I'm not there yet, but I am watching the world slip by as the carousel spins to the eternal music of the calliope.  I'm seeing things long forgotten, hearing voices not heard in years, and reaching for the comfort of home and family.

And I am catching glimpses of grandchildren growing up much too fast without Pa Rock in their lives.

Maybe this heart issue happened for a reason.

Maybe it's time to invest in a cane pole and take the young ones fishing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stress, Food Choices, Exercise, and Health

by Pa Rock

(This posting will be another on my medical trials and tribulations, so if you've had enough of that - stop here and check back tomorrow.)

Three months ago I started visiting an endocrinologist who took on the task of revamping my diabetes-fighting regimen through new medications and education.  His efforts were producing good results up until the point that I mentioned that I sometimes had trouble getting enough air while walking on the treadmill.  The doctor, being very smart, immediately referred me to a cardiologist, and after several tests I was told that I would have to undergo open heart surgery.

That bit of news produced an immediate rise in my stress level, and my diabetes numbers began spiraling out of control.  The endocrinologist told me that was due to stress and basically I would have to live with it until after the surgery.

During the several post-operative days that I spent in the hospital my blood sugar numbers were always above 190 and went over 300 on a few occasions.

I am home now.   Nick and I have been learning about heart healthy foods, and he has made some wonderful meals.  Today we went grocery shopping and spent quite a bit of time reading labels.  We were seeking low sodium for heart health and low sugar to fight the diabetes.  Needless to say, options are limited.  I learned, for example, that microwave meals which advertise themselves as "healthy," basically aren't.  We did stock up on Mrs. Dash for seasoning, some fish and shrimp, dark meat  chicken (which Nick boils and then bakes), and some terrific frozen fruit bars.  I also found some very low sodium chips and cookies that met both the sugar and salt requirements.

My friend Mike, who had a major heart episode a couple of years ago, has given me some recommendations on what I need to be eating, but I would appreciate all suggestions of low sodium, low sugar, edible items.  I don't want to spend my remaining years being bored with meals.

I am also exercising daily as part of the heart recuperation.  This morning I walked a long block around my neighborhood, and this afternoon I went shopping with Nick and did a lot of walking through three different stores.   I also had a visit from a traveling physical therapist who showed me some simple exercises.  My breath increases daily from all of this activity - exactly what the heart doctor wanted to happen and what my tired old body needs.

And the blood sugars?  Yesterday morning was 207.  I forgot to take one yesterday evening, but this morning it was 122, and this evening 118.

I am beginning to experience some success due to the above changes - and with the love and support of my children, sister (and her adult children), and friends.  Thank you all.

Our health is controllable to an extent - if we choose to control it.  If you are healthy, stay that way.  If you aren't healthy - change your lifestyle!

It's not always fun, but it is simple.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Customer Service: Roses and Thorns

by Pa Rock

I had four customer service experiences today, two of which were great, and two which were much less satisfactory.

First the thorns:

I tried to call three medical providers today to arrange follow-up appointments.  Each had an answering machine screener.  One call, to my heart surgeon, got through with just a minor wait.   The other two (names and specialities to remain anonymous  - but two which would ordinarily have an appointment scheduled after a major surgery) were horrid.  The first kept me on hold with recycling messages about how "your call is important to us - please wait for the next available operator" for fifteen minutes.  I finally opted for the leave-a-message option and it wouldn't let me access it.  I hung up and will try again tomorrow - and I will give the physician a personal ear-full when I see him.  The second kept me on recycled messages for fifteen minutes and then a receptionist finally came on the line.

Automated answering machines represent piss poor customer service, and they should be forbidden, by law, in the offices of medical providers.

Now for the roses:

First rose goes to Walgreen's.  I bought stock in Walgreen's a few years ago because they have many, many stores in Phoenix,  carry a nice variety of merchandise, and are easy to navigate.  Today Nick and I went to one to return a set of bathroom scales that Molly got for me when she was here.  It turned out to require stooping over to push a button, something I cannot do at present.  The scale was still in the original packaging, but we did not have a sales receipt.  The young lady who was handling our return said that she would have to get her manager to ring-up the return because of the missing sales receipt.

The manager was an extremely nice and competent young man who quickly took care of the matter.  When we told him that we also needed to find some other items, he gave us a personal tour of the store, and told us how to possibly get Medicare to pay for one of the items at a specialized Walgreen's store.   After some more help I told him that I was a shareholder (albeit a very minor one) and how impressed I was with his customer service.  He talked about Walgreen's stock and told me some positives about the corporation of which I was unaware.  As we were checking out, he started explaining discounts that brought our total order down significantly in price.

Walgreen's, you are a winner in the stock market and in the community!

The other rose goes to my credit card company which I will keep anonymous, but my card is associated with VISA.

After we returned from Walgreen's, I got a call from a representative of the credit card company.  The only personal information that he wanted from me was my zip code to verify that he had reached the right party.  He then told me my street address and the amount of the purchase that we had just completed at Walgreen's - so he was who he said he was.  The young man said there had been an attempt to use my card number at a Rite Aid in New York today for $300, and the credit card company was suspicious and declined the transaction.  He was right, I had not been shopping in New York today.  The card was cancelled and I will receive a new one shortly.

I don't know what type of algorithm VISA uses to sniff out fraud, but I am impressed.   VISA, you rock!

And one rose to each of my kids and my sister who are taking weekly turns being my maids, butlers, and chauffeurs!  I am so fortunate to be related to such caring individuals!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hospital Weights and Measures

by Pa Rock

The last time I was in the hospital, which admittedly was a couple of decades ago, anything produced by a patient's body was weighed and measured.   The nurses monitored the amount of urine that each patient produced, neatly recorded the totals in ledgers, and tallied bowel movements.  They also had to have a look at what was left in the toilet bowl.

A couple of years ago I spent a few days sitting with a sick friend who was in a military hospital on Okinawa.  The military medical people also liked to maintain a record of when and how much.  That, however, may say more about the military than it does the current state of real medical care.

During my current hospital stay, nothing was weighed or measured - except my vitals and breathing.  Nobody followed me into the bathroom, and there were no warnings not to flush until the nurse could check on what I had accomplished - or failed to produce.  When I finally did complete my first post-surgical bowel movement, I was ecstatic and thought a maybe a trophy should have been ordered - but the nurses could have cared less.

That's a problem.  People just don't care anymore!

(My apologies to those who read this before breakfast!)

My cardiologist just came by and confirmed that I am going home today.  Molly is safely at Sky Harbor Airport awaiting her flight to Portlandia, and Nick is sitting and dozing in my hospital room

It will be so nice to sleep in my own bed tonight!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Birthday in the Hospital

by Pa Rock
Birthday Boy

I'm sixty-five today and can think of many places I would rather be celebrating than at West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, Arizona.  Molly will be out later this morning, and Nick arrives sometime before noon - so I will have two of my kids with me on this special day.  I also understand that a few of my friends from work may stop by.

My goal for today is to take a shower.  I have already harassed every hospital employee who has been brave enough to walk into my room.  Being this grungy cannot be healthy.

One year from today my Social Security will kick into effect - and then I will be on easy street!  (That's a joke!)

Things are fine.  I am getting healthier every day.  Hope to go home tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm Back!

by Pa Rock
(Not very) Patient

Friday morning (10:00 a.m.) in Phoenix.  I am sitting up and am back on the computer for the first time since surgery on Tuesday.  I had 181 emails waiting on me, eleven of which weren't asking for something, and seventeen spam messages.

Tim did a nice job of keeping the blog running, and I really appreciate that.  Molly is here with me.  Nick is supposed to arrive on Saturday, but apparently is dealing with nearly a foot of snow in southern Missouri.  I feel confident that he will arrive safe and sound.

Just did a lap around the ICU.  It was easiest trip yet!

I have spent the better part of two days watching continuous NCIS and Law and Order SVU on the USA Channel - which means my mind has turned into a radish.  So let's blame bad writing and poor spelling on that.

Love you guys!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Final Day in the ICU


Tim Macy

The news on Rock's recovery continues to be optimistic.  From the reports I heard from my sister as well as the nurses taking care of Rock, he had a few issues with an irregular heartbeat and some shallow breathing.  The doctors changed the medications around and got the situation(s) resolved.  I spoke with Rock earlier today.  When I called a second time the nurse told me he just closed his eyes.  He sounds tired and maybe a touch bored but he is in good spirits and knows exactly what is happening to him and all around him.

I suspect the nurses at the hospital are surprised with Rock's level of awareness.  Given the self-indulgent state of our nation (I realize I'm veering toward opinion here--Pa Rock will retake the reigns soon), most people don't know what to make of observers.  Pa Rock is a classic observer.  He remembers names, notices what book everyone's reading and overhears bits of conversations.  Complimenting this ability, he has the memory of an elephant.  As religious followers of The Ramble can attest, Rock remembers stories, events, characters and details spanning his six and one half centuries of life.

I'm hoping you will all tune in to hear the words of Rock himself tomorrow.  This is his final day in the ICU.  He's moving "up" to a new room tomorrow.  Well-wishers are encouraged to email or call the hospital as of tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 2 of Recovery


Tim Macy, happy son

The news out of Glendale is all positive.  My dad was up and walking at 330 in the AM, though I suspect not because he felt like it.  Apparently, after open-heart surgery, the protocol is to have the patient walking four times a day.  Not being a medical doctor, I won't venture a theory, but probably something to do with circulation.  My dad has walked twice now, with the help of a nurse and his sister Gail.  His one complaint was that he didn't sleep well, or rather, that he'd "slept all he wanted to."  For those not intimately acquainted with my father, he's not the type to lie around in bed all day.

I phoned the hospital this morning to ask about my dad and, to my surprise, the nurse put him on the phone.  He was able to talk normally.  He sounded like it was any other day.  I had expected to hear a weaker version of his voice--it was nice to hear him sounding like himself.  All reports say that he is recovering faster than anyone expected.

Rock's sister Gail is leaving tonight on the red-eye out of Phoenix, back to Florida.  Her visit was a surprise and a great one!  She didn't tell anyone she was coming but I could tell from my dad's voice that it meant a great deal to him.  She will return to help out around Rock's house the first week of April.  My sister Molly is there now.  My brother Nick will be in Phoenix the last week of March and I will make my way to the Scorpion State after Gail leaves.  This gives Rock close to a month of having someone close by in case he needs a hand.  At the rate he is recovering on Day Two, he may not need the help but the visiting will still be nice.  Maybe if Rock is feeling good enough by the time I'm slated to visit, I will bring my wife and daughter along for a proper visit.  Olive (my little girl) immediately says "Pock" (Pa Rock) when she sees a picture of her grandfather.

I don't believe the room that Rock is currently in will allow phone calls from anyone but immediate family, but I suspect he will be making the transition out of the ICU very soon.  By that time I'm sure he will have reassumed the reigns of The Ramble and those tuning in will hear his familiar voice as they read.  Likely, this will be my final guest posting.  Thanks to everyone for checking in and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recovery Update by Tim Macy, Guest Blogger

To all of those folks checking in from around the globe to see how my dad's surgery went this morning, I'm happy to report that the procedure went as planned.  The surgeon came out after roughly four hours and spoke with my sister Molly and my aunt Gail.  There were no unexpected problems.  Molly and Gail are going to be allowed to go in to see Rock pretty soon, they may be with him now.  Molly has been updating me regularly.

There will no doubt be a long recovery to follow but the scariest part is officially behind my dad and he will be back to an active lifestyle in 4-10 weeks.  Thank you all for checking in.  I will post again tomorrow unless Rock is up on his feet enough to do it himself.  From what I hear, they will have him standing and walking in a day or so.

Rock is at the West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, AZ.  If any followers of The Ramble have specific questions please feel free to email me at


Surgery Day

Pa Rock rambling...

For those of you who are aware of my medical drama, here is how things stand.  I will report to the hospital (West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, AZ) at 5:00 a.m. this morning for open-heart surgery at 7:00 a.m.  The triple by-pass will take about four hours to complete.  I have been told that I will have to get up and sit in a hospital chair sometime in the afternoon, and on Wednesday I will have to ambulate around the ICU and practice deep-breathing on some type of gizmo. If things go well, and they will, I should be released in about five days.

I will reportedly be able to go back to work sometime between four to ten weeks after the surgery.  I am hoping for a very short recovery period, but I have a house full of books just in case I am stuck at home for an intolerable period of time.

Molly is here with me and will stay until Sunday.  Nick arrives on Saturday and will be here for a week.  Molly is going to drive me to the hospital and Nick will probably be the one bringing me home.  Gail (my sister) will be here after Nick, and Tim will be here during week four.  Hopefully after all of that fine attention I will be able to get by on my own, but, in the event I need more assistance, I have many good friends at Luke Air Force Base who can drop by and help out.  (I live on the Air Force base.)

I just learned that Gail has flown to Phoenix and will be at the hospital during my surgery.    She will be in town for a couple of days.  I am very fortunate to have such a great sister!

Obviously The Ramble will be down for at least a couple of days.   Tim will post a medical update sometime this afternoon.    Remember, he is a professional writer, so expect his posting to be witty, insightful, and highly polished!    (No pressure, Tim!)  I will get back to banging out my own entries as soon as I am able.

Thanks for all of your concern and uplifting thoughts..  I will make it through this just fine.

You have my respect and affection, always...

Pa Rock

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cockroaches on a Bus!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

(This story sounds like it could be an urban legend in the making - except that it appears to be true!)

This past Friday forty-eight unsuspecting souls boarded a Greyhound Bus in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a short ride into New York City.  The ride, unfortunately for the passengers, was not short enough.  Fifteen minutes into their trip cockroaches began swarming through the interior of the bus.  The frantic cries for help from the passengers caused the driver to pull over to the side of the highway and free his terrified riders.  He then called for a new, vermin-free bus.

Some reports said that the cockroaches dropped into the bus from the ceiling, while others speculated that they may have been brought on board by a passenger in some sort of container and deliberately released as an act of urban terrorism.

Regardless of the origin of the swarm, passengers were duly terrorized.    Greyhound reportedly gave refunds to everyone on the bus.  No word yet on whether the company will spring for PTSD counseling!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

La Cage Aux Folles Comes to Phoenix: God Save the Queens!

by Pa Rock
Theatre Aficionado

La Cage Aux Folles, the campy musical on which the film, The Birdcage, was based, is currently playing at the Phoenix Theatre.

It's a simple story:  two middle-aged gay men own a club on the French Riviera that specializes in risqué acts featuring men in drag.  One of the men, Georges, serves as the emcee of the show, and his partner, Albin, is the lead drag star who performs under the name Zaza.  Georges has a biological son, Jean Michel, whom he and Albin have raised together as their own.

The conflict begins when Jean Michel returns home from a holiday with his girlfriend and announces that they are to be married.  She is the daughter of a conservative French politician who has a political goal of closing down the drag clubs along the Riviera.    Jean Michel does not want the politician to know that his parents are gay, and he initiates a plan to ease Albin out of the house during the visit of his fiancé and her parents.    The plan, not surprisingly, collapses into hilarity.

La Cage is a great musical, and the Phoenix Theatre performed the material with skill and daring.  The Cagelle Chorus was a fun ensemble of men in drag, some of whom bordered on being delicate and pretty while others could have been sun-dried Arizona politicians.  But they were all physical and loud - and had lots of fun with their musical numbers.

The other standout stars were Georges (Rusty Ferracane), Albin (Robert Kolby Harper), and Jean Michel (Colin Ross).  Mr. Ross had the most lyrical voice of anyone on the stage.  Eddie Maldonado who played Jacob, the maid, was also a standout.    Maldonado, who was recently seen on the Phoenix Theatre stage in the role of Prince Herbert in Spamalot, is highly physical and comedic - and steals scenes with ease.

The Saturday night performance of La Cage Aux Folles received a well deserved standing ovation.  That's high praise for drag queens in Phoenix, Arizona!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wild at Heart: Elvis and Lula on the Yellow Brick Road

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

Somehow over the years I had gotten it into my old gray head that I had seen David Lynch's great film, Wild at Heart.   I have certainly seen some of the iconic scenes from the 1990 cult film on multiple occasions, but I didn't realize until last night, when I happened to flip on the Sundance Channel just as the movie was beginning, that I had never watched the complete movie before.  Last night I corrected that cinematic omission - and was it ever a treat!

Brief summary:  Sailor, a small-time hood, is in love with Lula, a hot twenty-year-old blond.  But there is a problem.  Lula's mom, herself a hot blond who wouldn't mind being ravaged by Sailor, is homicidally committed to keeping Sailor away from Lula.   Mom sends one flunky after Sailor just as the movie gets started and that guy winds up getting "man-slaughtered" by the tough street hood.  Sailor serves two years in prison, and when he gets out Lula is there to meet him.  Sailor breaks his parole by hitting the road with Lula as the two speed off through a dystopian American south in hopes of reaching California.  Lula's mom, not to be left in the dust, sends not one, but two men to intercept them and kill Sailor.  From there on the movie is a road trip through weirdness and dangerous circumstances.

Wild at Heart is so loaded down with symbolism that it would take a notebook or two just to record the references that I managed to catch.  Two themes run heavily through the movie:   Nicolas Cage doing his "Elvis" thing as Sailor, and Lula's mom, Diane Ladd, filling in the gaps as the "Wicked Witch of the West" from The Wizard of Oz.  Oz references abound throughout the movie, and Cage sounds almost as good as Elvis when he sings "Treat Me Like a Fool," a number in which he has the girls screaming and swooning.   Nick Cage's impression of Elvis is so good that one must assume he had more than a passing interest in the singer - a fact that might even explain why Cage was briefly married to the King's daughter, Lisa Marie.

Diane Ladd's "Wicked Witch" (Marietta Fortune - Lula's mother) is wonderful.  She is a chain-smoking, gin-swilling hag with a deadly focus on destroying Sailor and saving her daughter.  Ms. Ladd received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the role in this movie.

Laura Dern (Diane Ladd's daughter in real life) is equally wonderful as Lula.  Her passion for Sailor never dims, and she heats up the action to a point where it is miraculous that the film didn't burst into flames.

Willem Dafoe also turns in a remarkable performance as Bobby Peru, a small town Texas hustler, who tries to insert himself between Sailor and Lula.  Dafoe's scene where he appears to be trying to seduce Lula is worth the price of renting this movie.

Also worth the price of the rental is Nick Cage singing "Love Me Tender" to Laura Dern as the credits roll at the end of the film.  He is channeling Elvis to heart-wrenching perfection!

Overall, Wild at Heart was an evening very well spent!  It is pure David Lynch - and what could be better than that?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Will Portman Shows his Dad How to Man-Up

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Will Portman is a twenty-one-year-old junior at Yale University.  He is the son of Rob Portman, a Republican U.S, Senator from Ohio - and he is also gay.  Young Portman came out to his parents two years ago, and they were accepting of the news in a loving manner as all parents should be.

Daddy Portman, the senator, kept the news of his son's sexual orientation within the family (and out of the press) all through the 2012 election cycle - which was essentially a Republican hate fest.  Daddy was on Mitt Money's short list of possible vice-presidential picks and apparently did not want to detract from Mitt's message with a family matter.  Daddy also had a voting record of opposition to gay rights in general, and opposition to gay marriage in particular.

But then the election came and went, and Mitt washed out to sea in his yacht while valiantly yelling about the 47%, self-deportation, and the curative powers of dancing horses.  Four long months came and went after the election and today, finally, Daddy Portman manned-up and stepped boldly into the modern world.  The senator announced that he has had a change of heart and now supports gay marriage.  He said that he has spent twenty-six years in a loving and committed relationship with his wife, and he wants all three of his children to have that same opportunity.

(He may have also glanced at a few national polls.)

It's good to know that we are never too old to learn from our children!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Phoenix, Too Hot to Handle

by Pa Rock
Phoenician by Circumstance

There is a very informative opinion piece running in today’s Internet versions of the Los Angeles Times ( and Truthout  ( dealing with what the author sees as the troubled weather future of Phoenix, Arizona.  The article, entitled “Phoenix’s Too Hot Future,” was written by William deBuys.

The writer, Mr. deBuys, argues that the weather situation in Phoenix, and particularly the heat and dust storms, while already bad, is destined to become much worse.  He cites an established weather history that includes facts like the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix and its suburbs) routinely has 100 days a year where the temperature reaches a roasty, toasty 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  He also notes that the city set a record in 2011 with thirty-three days of temperatures exceeding 110 degrees F. 

It’s hot here in the summer, damned hot and getting hotter.  We run from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building, travel even the shortest of distances in air-conditioned cars (which adds to the greenhouse gas problem in our bowl of a valley) with the windows up, and race to park in any spot with even the slimmest hint of shade.

There’s a reason our crabby old snow birds go home in the summer.

 The author of the article blames the increasingly miserable heat on a couple of factors:  a history of overbuilding (based on greed) and climate change.  He pointed out that the metropolitan area’s rapid growth has spread masonry structures and asphalt paving across once pristine desert lands.   These structures, roads, and parking lots rapidly absorb heat, yet are slow to release the heat in the evenings.  The result is that the desert is not cooling as well in the evenings as it once did. 

All of the ill-conceived construction combined with a long-term drought has also put an unsustainable burden on local water supplies.  Water is a finite resource, and it is not present in an amount that will accommodate projected growth in the Valley, especially in times of drought.

The unrelenting heat, diminished moisture, and buildup in greenhouse gases has fed into an increase in the size and ferocity of the area’s legendary dust storms,  phenomena the locals refer to as “haboobs.”  These events are epic:  day suddenly becomes night, the winds roar in, tumbleweeds, lawn furniture, and all manner of unsecured personal belongings fly across the roadways, and drivers pull off of the roads as far as possible where they sit in the darkness and pray that they aren’t rear-ended by other drivers trying to get to safety. 

The good news is…well, actually there is no good news.  The local politicians, and particularly our Republican state legislators, are in denial about climate change and remain committed to the belief that Phoenix can build its way out of economic difficulties.  They see conservation as some sort of evil liberal plot, trust that water will always be there, and know God alone decides what the weather will be.

Of course, those legislators represent people who buy gold from Glenn Beck’s sponsors, stockpile weapons in the desert, and pray to a white male God who’s older than Joe Arpaio.

It’s hell out here - or very soon will be!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis I

by Pa Rock
Fallen Catholic

The smoke was white and the big bell rang out, so it must be official:  the Catholic Church has a new Pope.

Congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aries, Argentina, who was declared the 266th successor to St. Peter as head of the Catholic Church just a few short hours ago.  One minute the 76-year-old Jesuit was a Cardinal, a Prince of the Church, cloaked in bright red, and suddenly there he was on the balcony wearing the white robes of a Pope with the sweet air of infallibility.

The Cardinal is a man of firsts:  the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from a non-European country in over a thousand years, the first Pope from Latin America ever, and the first Pope to use the name "Francis' for his official Papal moniker.     Francis I is not the first caucasian to lead the church, nor is he the first man to attain that august position.  Indeed, the other 265 Popes have also been white men, and most of them have been on the elderly edge of life with uncomfortably old attitudes and notions about right and wrong and their roles in the lives of the faithful.

Pope Francis I is reportedly anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-gay marriage, so he enters the Papacy significantly out of sync with most of the world's Catholics - perhaps with the exception of those in Uganda.    It would be a blessing for all peoples of the world if this important religious leader could navigate his Popemobile into the twenty-first century and operate realistically in a contemporary setting.

That would, of course, be a stretch for the man and the institution, but a Pope who was in touch with the real world would be such a blessing, and it would certainly help to invigorate a stagnant Church.

It would also be a blessing if the new Pope was vigorously invested in protecting children and drove the pedophiles from the temple.

There are two things that I particularly like about Pope Francis I.  First, there are reports that he avoids Church bling and pampered living.   His living quarters in Buenos Aries supposedly consisted of a small room and a twin bed.  It is inspiring to think that a Prince of the Church has the clay of Mother Earth oozing through his toes!  The other thing that I like about Papa Francis is this:  he is not a Ratzinger!

Pope Francis, may your heart and mind be open to the needs of people in today's world.   Bring the Church forward to stand with her people.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Brass Teapot "On Demand"

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My friend and co-worker, Vickie, came to work yesterday morning anxious to tell me that she and her husband and a friend had watched a great new movie, "The Brass Teapot," on-demand over the weekend.  Vickie is a sweetie, and she knew that the screenplay for the movie was written by my son, Tim, and it was based on a story that Tim published on the Internet several years ago.  She has even met Tim.

Being a typical proud parent, I felt that Tim's name should have appeared above the title in script a bit larger than the title.  But his name on the credits was rather nondescript and, in my opinion, seemed to race by as the credits were rolling.   I asked Vickie if she had seen his name in the credits, and she assured me that she had.  Then she reminded me of something that had completely slipped my mind.  His name (our name, actually) appears a couple of times in the film itself.  The two main characters, John and Alice (played by Michael Angarano and Juno Temple) have the last name of "Macy" in the movie.

Here is the skinny on how that happened, according to the screenwriter:  The story and the original script had only first names for the young couple.  At some point late in production it was decided that they needed a surname for return addresses on a couple of bills.  Tim received a phone call from someone involved in the filming and was asked about a last name for the central characters.  He responded that any name was fine with him.  Then he was told that the stars liked his name and wanted to use it.  My bashful son declined, but after some prodding he agreed to it if they would make it clear during any subsequent interviews or promotions that he had not written his name into the script.  It was only to be used by the art department for the envelopes.

Tim said he was on the set one evening watching Michael and Juno act out a scene when he heard Michael say, "We are John and Alice Macy."  It wasn't in the script - just an ad-lib - but it stayed in the edited version of the film.

I thought it was kind of cool, and suggested he could pull a Hitchcock and insert his name somewhere in any future film he wrote.   (Hitchcock often did cameo appearances in his own films.)   Tim won't do that, of course - his modesty is truly aggravating!  My dad, who had a penchant for putting his name on things would have loved seeing it in a movie.  Dad even managed to get a street named "Macy" in our hometown.  (The best I could manage was a personalized license plate, but now I've gotten past that phase of life!)

So "The Brass Teapot" is a Tim Macy signature film - and a damned good one!

"The Brass Teapot" will be in theaters on April 5th in New York City and Los Angeles.  It is currently "on demand" on iTunes, Amazon, XBox, AT&T, Brighthouse, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Insight, RCN, Time Warner, Verizon, VUDU, Suddenlink, and Dish Network.  It is not being carried by my cable provider, Direct TV.

Direct TV, you suck!

Did I mention that the screenwriter is my son?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday's Poetry: "The Shaking"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Two years ago today while I was living on the Japanese island of Okinawa,  a monster earthquake hit the area around Fukushima on mainland Japan.  A subsequent tidal wave, also of monster proportions, then washed ashore doing unbelievable damage.  One of my friends was on an airplane flying into Tokyo as the earthquake hit, and his flight had to be rerouted because of damage to the airport that was to have been his destination.   The poor guy spent a night sleeping in an airport and then had to travel across Tokyo by using a variety of conveyances.
That night and the next morning many of us on Okinawa watched the coastline nervously for tidal waves, but fortunately we were spared.  I contacted a former exchange student daughter who had lived with us years before in Missouri and was, at the time of the earthquake, living near Tokyo.  She said she had felt the shaking and things fell from shelves in her home and broke.

A couple of military people that I worked with actually got to travel to the Fukushima area and help in the recovery process.  Another friend went there a few months later with her church group on a humanitarian mission.
During the two years that I lived on Okinawa I felt the earth move about half a dozen times.   Usually my apartment building would sway slightly for thirty seconds or so.  One day while I was at work there was a more serious jolt, and when I returned home that evening I found a few items broken.
The earth itself serves as sort of a baseline for all mankind.  It is solid and dependable, the one true thing.  When the earth moves without warning, all that we know as real suddenly seems to become far more ethereal.
I stumbled across the following poem, "The Shaking," on the Internet.   The write-up with the poem said that it is about Christchurch, New Zealand, but the poet's name was omitted.    I felt that it gave a good sense of what it must be like to ride out a major earthquake.  

This posting is respectfully dedicated to my friends in Japan.  May your days be safe and the ground remain stable.

The Shaking

The earth just keeps on moving
Beneath my very feet
The cracks keep on appearing
And make the old house weak

I see the hidden terror in the eyes of those around
I watch them as they try to bypass all the broken ground

I see the children shudder
After every shake and jolt
That pulses through the underground
From this deadly fault

My city falls around me, and people die in pain
Cracks in concrete, open wounds, the bloody liquefaction stain
Streets of rubble, twisted bridges, broken buildings, new formed ridges
First the rumbling, then the crumbling, then the sights of structures tumbling

A city once so beautiful
That stood so proud and wonderful
Is now a ghost that haunts us all.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dan Brown and Papal Intrigues

by Pa Rock

The election of a new Pope is a very complicated and secretive process.    The 115 voting Cardinals will be locked in a room where they will talk and vote until one of their number receives a majority of the votes and is declared the successor to the throne of St. Peter - and immediately becomes infallible.

Traditionally the Cardinals have been held incommunicado so that they cannot receive any influences from the outside world during the voting process.   That process also makes for high drama on the outside as the world waits in breathless anticipation to learn who will emerge as the leader of the world's Catholics.

The most widely known tidbit about the process is that the Cardinals vote on paper ballots, and those ballots are burned after each attempt to elect a Pope.    The smoke from the ballot fires exits through a designated chimney.  When the Cardinals have failed to elect a Pope, the smoke is black, but when a new Pope is finally determined, special chemicals are added to the burning ballots to create a white smoke.   White smoke, new Pope, and the crowds in St. Peter's Square go nuts.

But there is a lot more to the process than just the color of the smoke.  Recently there have been several news stories about the measures that the Church and its police force, the Swiss Guards, are taking to insure that the Red Caps can do their business in secrecy.   Cell phones have been banned - and although the Cardinals will not be frisked, members of the Vatican staff will be.  Jamming devices have also been installed to prevent eavesdropping on the deliberations and to keep those inside from communicating with those outside.   Opaque plastic sheeting has been placed over the windows in the conclave area to keep the paparazzi from trying to snap pictures of the Cardinals as they do their business.

All of this Papal election business has put me in mind of a very good novel by Dan Brown.  Mr. Brown, best known for The DaVinci Code, had an earlier book also featuring the same central character, Robert Langdon.  The first book, Angels and Demons, involved the College of Cardinals being held captive by a sinister force as they were meeting to elect a new Pope.  

I have read both books, and found Angels and Demons to be much more enlightening and entertaining than the blockbuster The DaVinci Code - though both will keep the reader busy turning pages very late into the night!

Since we obviously can't get a peek into the Vatican during this historic election process, Angels and Demons has a "you are there" quality to it that offers readers a decent sense of the place and the process.  This would be a great time to read the book - or re-read it - or at least rent the movie.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Making a House a Home

by Pa Rock
Crusty Old Bastard

I moved into my government quarters last August and made it livable enough to meet my needs, though it would undoubtedly be considered minimally livable by others.  But all of these months it has been just me.  I never have company.

I have a dining room table (wooden, purchased years ago at Sam's Club for my farmhouse) and four chairs (from Pier 1 Imports).  I use the table for holding piles of whatever needs piling - and typing.  My living room consists of four wicker chairs (thank you, Big Lots)  that were originally intended for patio use, a couple of odds and ends tables, and a modestly-sized flat-screen television.  There are three very small bedrooms with my old iron bed occupying about eighty-percent of the floor space of the master bedroom.  There are bookcases and books everywhere - and I also have interesting art on most of the walls.

Today, realizing that I will soon have company - out-of-town and local - following my upcoming surgery, I decided that it was time to make this mess look more civilized.    After screwing-up my courage, I ventured into a furniture store where I was almost assaulted by a young lady who was obviously working on commission and very, very hungry.   Her aggressiveness (think car salesman on steroids) was so over-the-top that I made a hasty exit.

The second place was less severe.  I convinced the sales lady to leave me alone while I looked around.  After I found some things that interested me, I came and got her and we talked.  Tomorrow they will deliver a new mattress and box spring for my old iron bed, another mattress and box spring on a simple frame for the guest bedroom, and some nice living room furniture.

The place still won't be a palace, but at least I can offer guests a comfortable place to sit and relax as they talk about me - and while they are discussing me, I will be snoozing comfortably on my new mattress!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Stepping Back from the Grid

by Pa Rock
Cranky Old Coot

Is texting of benefit to mankind, or it is just one more drain on our time and attention?   Does it free us to accomplish more in our brief lives, or is it simply one more constraint – another strand in the leash that ties us to the grid and the constant roar of the world run amuck?

Obviously my biases are showing.   I am getting more and more disturbed with the notes, inquiries, goofy remarks, jokes, ultimatums, pictures of cats, and other drivel that pops up on my cell phone in the form of texts.  The older I get, the more valuable (at least to me) my limited time on the planet becomes - and I don't want to spend it trying to type drivel with my thumbs.

Texting is rude.   I like to sit on the back row, up high, at movie theatres.   It’s a personal preference dating back to the days when I watched movies from the projection booth.  But sitting on the back row in the modern age means that I am constantly distracted by the numerous morons checking their phones and answering texts during the show.    It is like watching twinkle lights on a gaudy Christmas tree.  And then there are those charm school dropouts who check their messages or text during meetings or conversations. 

Texting is dangerous.    Thousands of Americans have been involved in horrible automobile accidents because someone was texting.    People endangering themselves by acting in a stupid manner is their business, but when they are racing down the road in a machine weighing thousands of pounds, coming directly at me, while texting about the fur ball that someone’s cat coughed up, it quickly becomes my business.

I have already stopped responding to text messages, and later today I am going to drop my texting option with the phone company and have those annoyances blocked.    Anyone requiring my attention will have to go old-school and resort to calling, using email, writing a letter, or coming for a visit.   (And I faithfully promise not to check my email in a moving car or at the theatre.  My dumb phone does not even have an email option.)   I have texted my last – deal with it!