The Pied Piper of The Flies

6 March 2018

The marriage was a bummer.  All six years and three-quarters yeas of it.  Except for the kids.  Two of them.  Both sweet and dearly loved,  But this story isn’t about them.

We’d moved to an up-scale Chicago suburb. It was a nice apartment.  Corner unit, ground floor, a little yard for the kids with windows on the South and East sides, which meant we got cross-breezes.  It was livable.  We could stay there until my consulting work made enough to buy a house.  Yippee.

But inside the apartment there were many episodes of sturm und drang, such as to vex the most hardy soul.  For example, the Beast was averse to sex — I found this out on our wedding night — and had limited our physical congress to one night a month, after which she would throw herself on the bed and sob with guilt.  She had, as I posted earlier, let herself go, the better to keep me at bay and it worked splendidly.

Grinding my teeth in frustration, I’d come across a little novelty store and spotted a sign to hang on a doorknob.  It was a pie chart with an arrow-shaped spinner in the center.  The headline read, “No Sex Tonight Because:” and the pie slices were labeled with the excuses most men have heard throughout their lives — such things as Headache, Period, Upset Tummy, Diarrhea, Too Tired and a few more.  The sign’s footer read, “Go Ahead, Give it a Spin!”.  I drove a small nail in the bedroom door at eye level and hung it there. That didn’t do much for tranquility in the Sprague household.

One hot and humid afternoon in July I pulled up in front of the building, deciding to put the car in the garage later on.  As I got out of the car, I heard a buzzing sound.  Insects.  Flies, to be specific.  Big blue-assed fellows.  Scores of them and all clamoring to get in the bedroom window, tearing at the screen with their six little legs.  I stopped to contemplate this phenomenon; what could be the attraction?

And then I felt a smell.  A carrion smell.  It was coming out the bedroom window.  This, of course, explained the flies.

Once inside the Laini door, I asked the Beast, “What’s with the goddamned smell?”.  In what had become her customary response to any question I posed, she thrust out her face in an expression of hostility, and huffed.   “That smell,” I said, pointing down to the bedroom.  “I don’t smell anything”, she snorted.

‘Well I sure the hell do,” I all but snarled.  “I’m gonna find out what it is.”

The kids were still fooling around with their stuff and the Beast worked on dinner so down the hall I went.


Oh, Christ, dinner.  Tonight it was to be another Shepard’s Pie.  Normally, delicious beyond description that it made a man bolt down at least two plate fulls at one sitting.  But not the Beast.  Her recipe was literally heart stopping. 

It started with a pound of hamburger so fatty it was pink — like a pound of lard with a dab of red  food coloring added.  This was pressed into the bottom of a casserole dish and covered with pepper and salt.  Next came a mixture of French cut green bean and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup.  Once assembled, this delight was topped with a layer of Tater-Tots and placed in the oven at 350-375 for 45 min.  In Minnesota, we called this Hot Dish.  Simply Hot Dish.  Ask any Minnesotan. 

Well, the Beast would bring the Hot Dish to the table and, on my presenting my plate, she’d thrust in a large spoon and hoist-out a massive portion.  The loaded spoon was held over the casserole dish for a few seconds so the grease had a chance to pour out of the meat and drain off the spoon back into the casserole dish.  We had many like dinners this.


As I approach the bed room, the smell grew stronger. Wrinkling my nose, I went in.  The smell was coming out of the bathroom.

“Jesus Christ,” I said to myself as I went into the bathroom and turned on the light.  “This is gonna be bad.”

And it was.

I opened the cabinet beneath the wash basin and looked into the wastebasket.  Yes, that was the source alright; the smell was eye-watering.  Moving aside so the light could get into the wastebasket, I beheld a pile of bloody sanitary napkins.  The ones on the bottom layer had already crusted over while those on top were fresh and juicy.  They’d been in there, festering and rotting the whole hot damned day.

“Goddamned it, woman,” I bellowed down the hall, “Get your fat ass in here!”

She came into the bedroom and saw me standing the bathroom door.  “Come on over and take a squint at this,” I said as I pointed to the wastebasket’s contents.  As she silently beheld the horror, I shook my head and said, “You sow.  You goddamned sow.” The flies were still busy at the screen.  Their buzzing was the only sound to be heard.

After a few moments, I said, “Alright go get me a paper grocery bag and a yardstick”.  She rummaged around in the kitchen for a few minutes than came back with both.  “What are you gonna do?” she asked in her plaintiff, whining voice.

I said nothing.

I took the bag, opened it and set it on the bathroom floor then took the wastebasket and emptied its contents into the bag.  The stink was worse than ever.

Taking up the yardstick, I thrust is through the paper bag’s handles and lifted it off the floor.  Sure that the handles would hold, I called to the kids and told them to open the Laini door, dad was coming through.  I marched with purpose down the hall, through the living room, past the kids and out the door.

The flies had noticed their prize was being moved and began to follow as I walked to the green dumpster about two-hundred feet away.  I lifted the lid, held the bag overt the gaping maw and let the bag slide off the yardstick. It made a splat as it hit the bottom.  Of course, the flies who had followed along followed the bag into the dumpster and prepared to feed.  I dropped the lid and they were trapped. They had followed me to their doom.

I had rid the immediate area of flies.

The next day my neighbors told me of their amazement yesterday as they saw me marching along with a bag on the end of a stick  “What was that  anyway, Sprague?” Well I told them and thereafter I was known as the Pied Piper of the flies.  Ah, fame.




The Worst Car I Ever Owned.

13 December 2017

Good lord, there were so many. Perhaps, though, was my 1962 Winter Beater, a 49 Buick Roadmasher. Like this:

Image result for images 1949 buick roadmaster

Rather than have my nice Plymouth Fury suffer death by rust, I wanted a beater as most of my Minnesota friends with decent cars had winter beaters. So I went looking. Well sure enough, a Lake Street car lot had just the ticket.

It had a straight eight with diarrhea drive, power nothing and an ugly mohair interior that stank of mildew and mold.  But it started in twenty-five below zero weather and plowed the snow like crazy.

Pull the little penis-like shifter into “D” and mash the foot-feed and the Fireball 8 would let out with a low buzzing hiss and it would lumber away at a crawl. Pull it into “L” with the throttle wide open and there would be a jarring bang as it geared down — but the acceleration did not improve.

One evening, I went around a corner and instead of feeding the wheel back through my hands, I just let it go as I yanked it into “L” and floored it. The wheel returned to the straight ahead position but Jesus, Mary and Joseph – it kept on going. Now the piece of shit was heading into the oncoming lane so I backed off and the damned thing started to correct itself. But wanting to see what would happen, I floored it again while it was still correcting and damned if the old thing over-corrected again, but to the right this time.

I found out that if I kept getting on and off the throttle after rounding a corner, the lurching would become worse and worse until it almost went off the road. I had fun entertaining my chums as the old monster went down the street.  Weaving drunkenly from side to side, my chums hooted and hollered and slapped their legs in merry mirth.

But what really made it the worst car I ever owned was it tried to kill me and my young lady friend.

Being a Minnesota car, it too had rusted way out. Part of the rust was an opening through the rear wheel well into the cab, and in that rusted wheel well was the tail pipe which had itself rusted off as it came up over the rear end. An almost-direct exhaust leak into the cab. It was a gas chamber. Did I know this? No, because I always kept a window open to let out the cigarette smoke.

So this one cold and snowy night, my lady friend and I were parked in her driveway and had been there for a while with the Fireball 8 running to keep us warm (after all, we had no clothes on so warmth was appreciated). The radio was tuned to Hobbs House, a program heavy on the torch songs, and I was about to take a post-coitus nap, when my lady friend said, “I feel so dizzy!”

It took no more than a few seconds to understand we were about to die from carbon monoxide poisoning right there in her driveway with our genitals exposed to the coroner. Oh Christ. I had enough presence of mind to kill the engine and, with pants down around my shoes, crawled around in the icy cold driveway, through the snow, to reach her door. I somehow managed to get it open and drag her out. She was as red as a radish.

I got a lot of snow on her bare parts to bring her around and then we re-assembled our clothing and went on inside. It took her awhile to come to.

Later, on the way back home I had all the windows down and the fan full-on because the smell of car exhaust made me violently ill. Drive a few blocks. Spew. Drive a few more. Spew again.

The old Buick sat out front until Spring when I drove it to the nearest car lot and got rid of it.  (ED)


Facebook has Become a Disease

25 September 2017

Facebook has become a disease.

About two weeks ago, I started “friending” all sorts of old dudes who, like me, play Santa Claus. I thought I’d get greetings and comments that would be kindly, cordial and in keeping with Santa’s reputation for benignity. Wrong. While I suppose most of these old guys were kindly souls, in keeping with their calling as Santa, a depressing number were bitter, bilious and hateful. I was treated to obscene, intemperate, emotional and illogical rants often accompanied by slogans of the basest sort. This stuff was all political and spoke almost exclusively of grievance. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to harbor such cankerous thoughts without them doing profound damage to your soul. These men have become curmudgeons of the worst sort, the kind who will swat children with their canes and kick small dogs. How such men could put on the red suit is beyond me.

In general, I find people who use Facebook to spew are censorious and intolerant, and too often that has included me, sorry to say. Facebookers will post ignorant, illogical and factually wrong propositions, making them available for all to see like a leper displaying his sores. Obviously, they expect their nonsense to go unchallenged so when someone replies with a comment that points out the errors, they get the vapors and blame the respondent for the ructions that follow, promptly “unfriending” the interlocutor.  In so doing, they cut themselves off from contrasting and contradictory views, thus contributing to some increasingly isolated and unrealistic views of the world.

On the other side of the coin, when the comments [to a post] are agreeable, the comments almost always ratchet up the intemperance and silliness of the original posting until the whole concatenation of posting and comments have worked themselves into a silly froth. This is the “echo chamber” which Facebook has become. Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social medium to have become an echo chamber. Please include Twitter and Google+ as well as all single-issue message boards and so-called “news” sites.

Well patient reader, I took action. Saturday afternoon, while beholding the whole deplorable display scrolling down my screen, I clicked the three little dots in the upper right-hand corner of all political bullshit and deep-sixed the whole damned lot.

I strongly urge everyone to do as I have done; purge your feeds of political crap. All political crap, even when the crap dovetails with your own views. The only way to restore a semblance of civility to the US of A is to dial it back. Stop trying to score points with one outrageous statement after another. You aren’t persuading others to your point of view, all you’re doing is pissing them off. Also understand that when you put a posting up on Facebook for all to see, you are, perforce, inviting criticism so you really have no call to bitch when the criticism comes.

Also recognize the political bullshit may be coming from someone who wishes us ill.  (ED)



Vladimere’s Visit.

24 July 2017

This how The Great Pumpkin looked before Vlad came to visit.  Ready, willing and able.


And this is how he looked after Vlad went home. Owiee, owiee, owiee.





More on The Subject de Jure

14 July 2017

When my dad came down with a hyper metastatic nephroma, the only things they had were surgery and mustard gas.  Yes, you heard me right, mustard gas, the stuff they used in WWI to kill the enemy.  That was it.  As for diagnostics, there was the X-ray and exploratory surgery.

Now, in 2017, we have:

CT scans
MRI scans
Stereotactic X-ray
Proton beams
Open heart surgery
Heart valve replacements
Hart/lung/kidney and, yes, penis transplants
Retinal reattachment
Nerve grafts
Burn treatments and reconstruction
Hip/knee/shoulder and other kinds of joint replacements.
Laparoscopic surgery
Robotic surgery (e.g., the Da Vinci machine)
At least 300 medicines for cancer (but no mustard gas)
Statins for the heart
TPA for stroke
Bone density scans
Pacemakers and defibrillators
PSMA scans for metastatic prostate tumors (still experimental)
Cochlear implants
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo treatments
Dental implants
Root canals
Brain implants to control seizures
Bone implants

These are but a few. They all have come on the scene since my dad died. They all cost money because the people who develop and implement these treatments shouldn’t have to work for free — hell, would you? No? Didn’t think so.

Thanks to these people, when you or your kid gets sick, these ameliorative and curative treatments, which were undreamed of when I graduated high school in 1960, are there waiting for you.

I have a Stage 4 cancer that would have long since killed me were this the 1950s but today, I’m on a medicine named abiraterone acetate that has knocked it back by 90% in just under a month. Had the results of an as-yet experimental PSMA scan been different, I would have had the tumor burnt out by a proton beam. The abiraterone acetate costs $57,000 for a course of treatment. Don’t know what the proton beam treatment would have cost, but the machine that delivers it (a cyclotron) cost $150,000,000.

So you squawk about “paying for someone else’s healthcare”, right? Well Buster, just remember when the hammer blow strikes, I’ll be paying for your’s and you’ll get all the meds and treatments you need for as long as you need them. If you’re bitching about healthcare costs, you are one ignorant and ungrateful asshole.



About the Death Penalty

8 June 2017

I’m against it. At least in the current formats: A quick buzz of electricity, the little chirp in the ear as the noose snaps the neck, the sharp sting as the needle is thrust in, the hard punch in the chest as the bullets puncture the heart. They are too quick. Here’s what I would like to see.

The convict is imprisoned 24/7/52 in a pure white cell. There will be no windows. The 4 walls, the ceiling and the floor, all white as are the bed linens. The toilet and sink are white, as are their handles and faucets. The toilet will be a bidet because a toilet can be stopped up with toilet paper. The only thing in the cell that won’t be pure white is the convict. The cell will be kept at a comfortable temperature and a white light will be kept on day and night.

The convict will not be allowed clothing as the convict might be able to make a noose. The convict will be fed through a portal in the cell door. Once a week, the convict will be allowed to take a shower and given a white towel with which to dry but during this time, the convict will not be allowed to talk with, let alone see, other convicts.

No commissary, no library, no visitation, no TV, no radio, no books.

At the end of each week, a device will be passed to the convict through the portal in the door. The device will ask the convict if he or she prefers to die, or go on living like this. There will be a colored button for Yes. The convict will have one hour to make the choice, then the device is withdrawn. Each week, the device will be presented to the convict to, again, make a choice.

When (not if) the convicts presses the button for Yes, a prerecorded message plays telling the convict the next time he or she falls asleep, the cell will be flooded with Nitrogen gas.

Sweet dreams.



Healthcare in The USA

13 May 2017

With all the strum und drang about healthcare, I thought it might be a good idea to take a fairly average health problem and look at it historically.  No screaming and shouting, no sloganeering, no breast-beating, no turd-throwing.  Just the facts.  Mine.  

I’ve got cancer and my case is typical of cancer patients.  As my doctor said, “once you’ve got cancer, you’ve always got cancer”, so this is an ongoing tale — just as cancer is for 85% of those afflicted with Emperor of All Maladies.  Oh, and as I haven’t died yet, there will be more to the story.  

When my dad died of cancer in 1959, his treatment consisted of one operation then a bottle of painkillers and it took from July 1958 to March 1959 for him to die.  Let’s compare dad’s case to mine.

  • In 2000, I had the tumor shoveled out.  Cost: $32,000.  
  • PSA tests for the next five years.  Total cost: $10,000.
  • Surgery for a complication.  Total cost: $17,000.
  • Surgery for a recurrence.  Total cost:  $12,000.
  • Oncological visits for another recurrence.  Costs so far: $550.
  • Experimental diagnostic test.  Total cost: $7,500.
  • Visits with oncologist and radiologist.  Costs so far: $900.
  • Irradiation with a proton beam.  Projected cost: $55,000.
  • Immunotherapeutic vaccines.  Projected costs: $100,000.
  • More visits to the oncologist.  Projected costs: $2,000.
  • Hospice care.  Projected costs: $5,000+.
  • Painkillers and such.  Projected costs: ?
  • Final expenses – cremation.  Projected costs: $600.

That, folks, comes up to $178,500.

So I have a question for the “I’m all right, Jack” crowd as well as the smug and callous folks who say “I don’t want my hard-earned money . . .”, and the question is: Can you take a hit like this?  

Maybe you can, or maybe will you have to:

  • Sell the house and move into a shit-hole.
  • Trade-down from the nice, reliable car to a clapped-out unreliable beater.
  • Liquidate your portfolio (you have one, don’t you?).
  • Drain the kids’ college funds.
  • Bleed usurious interest for payday loans when the bills come due.
  • Beg.  On the internet, at work, from the friends, from the family . . .
  • And, finally, file a Chapter 7.

Of course, through all of this, there will be the strain of impending debilitation, pain and death.  Those things will be watching over your shoulder 24/7/52.  Don’t forget about them, for they will compound the worry over paying for it.  Not to mention standing helplessly by as you, or someone you love Gets. All.  Fucked. Up.

Sometimes the treatments will work and the poor afflicted soul will get some good years before the cancer resurfaces in some other place.  Or, Providence be thanked, an actual cure might be achieved.  Or sadly, in our retrogressing society, it could be like it was for my dad in 1959 — or like it was in 1917 where the patient was dumped in a bed, screaming, with wrists tied to the bed rails so as to not pull out the tubes.

But cancer isn’t the only grody disease out there.  There are thousands and they can be just as taxing, just as harrowing and just as costly.

Now I’m 75 so lots of good rock-ribbed Americans will say, “Enough!  You’ve had you life.  Don’t be a drag on the public purse.  Begone!”  But what if the person we’re talking about isn’t an old goat like me but a baby?  Or a high-school cheerleader, perhaps a young parent, maybe a 40-something who’s just hit his/her stride?  Or you?  It isn’t just old dudes who get sick, you know.

Well, dear reader, there’s only one cure for America’s terrible health care problem and we all know what it is:

Medicare For All