Saturday, July 28, 2012

"We're all just waiting to die here - I don't wanna be like that"

Rydal Park Retirement Home, The Fairway, Rydal (Jenkintown) PA

When I visited my friend Betty Wms here, I'd park in the Whole Foods parking lot. I was hoping to see Betty and I did. Plus many other wonderful people.

Here's my dear friend Helene in the living room of her three-bedroom well-windowed apartment. She's experienced mild shell-shock from leaving her own home in Maple Glen about a year ago. Then her children sent her to the Artman Home, dementia capital of the western world, but her friends helped her escape.

I came straight from shopping at Giant where I brought her

Helene badly needs intellectual stimulation, so I also brought her a copy of a Paris Review Interview with my fave writer, Nobelist John Steinbeck.

At noon we went down for a cafeteria lunch.

I couldn't eat since I didn't bring my insulin but in her apartment I ate my whole-wheat pretzel sticks and an unstoppable amount of really fresh almonds.

Just got off my exercise bike cuz my sugar was a whopping 174. While on bike, I watched Bonanza for the first time in lo these many years.

Great episode! Mistaken identity will cause Paw to be hanged. The other Ben Cartwright is a con man.

Will exercise at end of blog cuz I had more than the allotted watermelon and chili con carne.

My chili is really delicious. I used left-over pickling spices, which I'll never do again cuz you must spit them out, and the usual veggies. I prefer chili sans meat.

The beautiful bowl was given to me by Helene. She said her son dumped the rest of her dishes in the Dumpster to expedite ridding her Maple Glen house of furniture.

Here's Helene's couch which I remember from the living room of her Bauman Drive house. There were two of them separated by a coffee table with seashells on them, among other objex d'art.

I just kept snapping away, a regular East Coast Bill Hess.

Above is my friend Betty Williams. I said to her, Betty, I still have those little dishes you gave me when you moved here from your home.

They're in my downstairs baffroom next to the ND phone I keep permanently off the hook so I won't hear it ring. It goes directly into voicemail.

Betty was aghast when her husband Bill insisted they move into Rydal Park. They'd traveled the world together, have wonderful children and great-grandchildren. He died about 10 yrs ago, as the men usually do.

He used to organize programs at Rydal Park in the below room. I never met Bill and would've been scared to anyway.

Their main room where they have entertainment and hold religious services. One time I went past and heard the pastor of Abington Prez  preaching a hell and brimstone sermon for the elders. I was horrified. Fortunately most of the residents are hearing-impaired.

I just love Betty Wms, who I met when she was in NAMI. When she and her aide Sue were in line I asked her How are you doing?

Terrible, she said.

How's your garden, I asked.

I don't have one, she said. They moved me to another floor.

Such are the indignities that occur as we age and enter our dotage.

Here's Betty, 90, and her aide Sue from Liberia. All of Sue's relatives are in America. Like me, they watched the Olympics last nite tho Betty did not remember. I watched at Mom's house. Mom had no idea what was going on. Neither did I.

How's Chip, I asked Betty about her only son.

Fine, she said. He's coming to visit this afternoon.

Meet Kurt Simon, 90, who escaped from Westphalia in 1939 before the Nazis could get him and his family. He worked as a German translator for the government before retiring.

He's been at Rydal 14 years and is very happy. Helene and he are on the same floor. I said to him, "Helene says you have a wicked sense of humor, Kurt."

I asked if he has any family. "I'm the end of the line," he said.

Basically I talked to everyone around me....Edith, 82, from Elkins Park who's been there two weeks and loves it. "I do everything here I could do at home."

She was eating a healthy salad and said the food is too good, she's worried about gaining weight.

Helene can't stand the food. She was a wonderful cook back in the day. I used to go over for b'fast and she'd serve me Davie Eyre Egg Pancakes and for dinner when we'd often have flan for dessert.

For lunch, Helene had a really unappetizing meal: lox and cream cheese on lily-white bread. No wonder she hates the food.

Next time, I said, get it on whole wheat bread. A bagel, she says, is too big to fit in her mouth.

No one can understand what I'm going thru, she kept saying. She does not accept suggestions at all.

Here's a previous post I wrote about HAR.

The many windows at Rydal look over sumptuous gardens.

Altho Helene wanted to go up to her room after lunch, I prevailed upon her to walk around the downstairs, which admittedly is now governed by the Gestapo.

Previously, one could come and go as they liked. I used to just walk in to visit Betty, but now, as in Artman, you must sign in. Every resident wears a bell around his neck. An identification thing where you can probly holler for help.

All told, I spent less than two hours with Helene.

When I exited thru the sliding glass doors and was greeted by a sheet of hot air, I looked at my watch: 1:30 pm.

It felt like I was there for six hours.

On the way home I stopped at a garage sale on Sleighride Road, where I bargained for a few items.

I told the woman who ran the sale, on the right, I never come down Sleighride but they've milled Cowbell so now I traverse Buckboard and Cowbell instead of kicking up dust, heigh-ho Silver, on Cowbell.

I snuck into Scott's house and delivered this 'golf shirt' I bot at the garage sale. For $7, I bot the shirt, a pair of sunglasses, and two books for Grace Catherine.

Grace and Mom-mom, whom I visited yesterday for lunch.

"I push this chair in," said Grace, as she smashed her toy dog Lucy's head against the table as she pushed the chair in.

"Bye, Bubby," she said, as she and Mom-Mom climbed up for the nap.

I just love when she calls me Bubby.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hello Pastor Jack - God bless you and your wife Joan

Biblical fundamentalist Jack and I are talking on the phone now.

"I have staked my whole eternal destiny upon a savior I have never seen with these eyes," he said.

Now it's the next day, Friday. Hello Sergeant! This is a pun that only people over 50 will get. If you get it, please leave a note in the comments and a free gift will be delivered to your doorstep.

Jack can quote the Bible verbatim. Not surprising, since this 75-yo man is a retired pastor. We speak for an hour and a half. I lie on my red couch, where I have recovered from a coughing spasm from talking and eating nuts at the same time.

Just heard on the news that 2 oz of almonds per day can lower your weight by three lbs. Why the heck didn't you tell us how much 2 oz is? Dyou think I'm still in Mrs. Hess's fifth grade class at Mercer Elementary?

I like the classic lines and all them windows! I used to daydream constantly. About the love of my life.

Piersall, a manic-depressive, like I used to be.

On the radio, there was a report that one man has been declared CURED of AIDS, due to a bone marrow tplant. Two other guys are probly cured, said a Harvard doc, but more studies need to be done.


How come no one studies this gal, sitting quietly at her laptop amid whirring fan, to see why I'm cured? AND if there are others like me. My former BF Simon was also cured but he's too dead to be studied.

So Jack and I are talking into the night. An hour and a half to be exact. One story after another. He was convinced at the tender age of 5 that Jesus was his savior. His parents were not religious but he used to attend services with a neighbor. His wife Joan also accepted Jesus at the age of 14.

They still pray in the morning and in the evening before bed. Joan had gone up to sleep, the only time she has surcease from that most terrible pain in the world - depression - and Jack will join her in the bedroom after he gets off the phone from me.

He and his wife have tried everything - and I mean everything - to get her out of her horrific depression.

TMS? I asked on Thursday morning when they came to our Daytime Meeting of New Directions at the Giant.

Yep, he said. From Dr Hartman at Philmont Guidance. 31 treatments, I believe, not covered by insurance.

Silent rant on our misguided greedy insurance system where huge profits are bolstered by denial of care.

Jack and Joan certainly won my heart at the meeting and I knew that nite when I came home from driving Scott to the train in the pouring rain that I was gonna call Jack.

His wife can barely speak.

When I dropped Scott off, the thunderstorm had stopped, but I was listening to a suspenseful audio about a Vietnamese POW who had just escaped into the jungle.

The brutality of his captors is unsurpassed. He and his fellow pows gave them names like: Little Hitler, Bastard, Moron. I drove slowly cuz I could barely see with the slick roads. There's always an asshole on your tail even when you're going the speed limit, but I drove carefully to the drive-in at the Hunt Valley Starbucks for a cuppa ice coffee decaf, which I sipped luxuriously on the way home.

Depression is a brutal illness. In my bipolar days, my depressions were short, maybe six weeks at the most, but Joan's has lasted a year and a half.

Her favorite time of day is Bedtime....the only way she can escape.

She is seeing Waldfogel of AMH who is trying various and sundry. I suggested the MAOI's....been there, done that...also the Seleg patch....untried....and then I brot up Deplin, the megadose of folic acid which helped my childhood friend Nancy.

"The Lord has a purpose for all this," Jack insisted. And who am I to disagree?

He said he's reading the Book of Job.

Ah! Perfect, I said. The Book of Suffering.

I also read that when I was depressed and still have passages marked in my own bibble.

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth," quoth Jack.

Is that from Job, I asked. I thought that's from the New Testament.

I looked it up online while he was talking.

Oh no, more evidence of an Afterlife, which nothing can convince me of. I'd be terrified of eternity....such a long long time....

Jack said he'd feel terrible if he could never see his parents again, which he is counting upon. He lives in their house in Churchville, Bucks County, and feels their presence when he goes into their bedroom.

What a wonderful raconteur Jack is and for his sake I hope he sees his parents again.

He does believe, however, b/c he is a fundamentalist, that I am eternally damned if I don't accept Jesus as my savior.

I told him he's as extreme as the Muslims I'm reading about in the great novel-like nonfiction book my son Dan leant me

 As you may remember, I have insulin-dependent diabetes from my kidney antirejection meds. Every Friday a stupendously good series of diabetes articles comes directly to my Inbox.

This morning, two people said they got insulin-dependent from taking the acne drug Accutane. It's a wonder the drug hasn't been banned.

Jack's wife Joan, who's had depression much of her life, was depression-free for a wonderful nine years. During that time they traveled, taking a cruise to Alaska, with a stateroom with windows. They were upgraded once they got aboard, since apparently there were some extra rooms.

Like the Mediterranean cruise Sarah and I took when my kidney function was slowly declining, they were so impressed with the kindness of the crew, most of em from Indonesia.

Sarah and I saw the ruined streets of Pompeii, one of the joys of my life.

Sadly, Joan, remembers nothing of their cruise, due to ECT and also the fact that depression itself causes memory problems.

A year and a half ago, Joan found it difficult to sleep. She has always worked in various capacities, as well as attending women's groups such as Bible Study.

Jack, who calls himself Freddy the Medicine Man, called the family doctor and asked if it was okay to take Ambien CR, as SEEN ON TELEVISION!!!

Hey, if it's on TV, it must be good, right?

Sure, said the family doctor, read ignoramus.

Three days later Joan, who is now 75 and who can barely speak, woke up and said to Jack, the most fearful words in the world.

"It's back."

But God has a purpose in all this. We are simply "a speck" in the ocean of time, said Jack, and haven't a clue what His reason is.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Minor adventures on Cowbell Road and at The Giant

At ten in the morning, my car tiptoed out of the drive b/c today is Milling and Paving Day on our street and I went to the Giant to shop. Yes, yes, I know, it's just like when they predict've gotta get out before the 'trapped' feeling comes upon you.

With me I brot two pieces of mail, including a condolence card for my friend Helen Kirschner - who runs our daytime support group. Her 93-yo mom died at a retirement home in Lewisburg, PA. I sent an email to key people in the group notifying this and wanted to tell them where Lewisburg was.

Could not find an online map of the entire state, which pinpointed location of Lewisburg. So I called up the chamber of commerce. She didn't give me great info either.

Actually I do have an atlas downstairs but am too lazy to go down and look it up.

In a condolence note, you want to say some of the wonderful things a person did for their loved one which I mentioned. The note will definitely make Helen cry, which is healing.

Bought this 'personal watermelon.' In my Melon Class I took with Mary Ann Moylen, she said that melons are at their peak in July.

As usual, I grabbed an empty box in the produce dept in which to carry out my groceries.

So, I'm wheeling my cart to the car when I see a Papa John delivery man CRASH into a parked car.

It was right in front of me.

BAM! Loud noise. I waited for Papa John to stop but he did not.

I unloaded my groceries and went up to his car which he'd parked at an awkward angle.

"Sir," I said, looking at the older, bearded man inside. "You better see if you damaged that car!"

"Did I?" he said meekly.

"I dunno," I said. "Go look at it."

Then I copied the license plate of the vehicle that was hit. From previous experience, I knew I was sposed to get the make of the car but for the life of me, I didn't recognize the logo. It was long and sorta looked like a deer but it was not a deer.

I would call the cops when I got home and also Papa John.

PS - just drove Scott to the train station and saw the same logo: Suburu.

Meantime, I've gotta get home. Remember, this is Paving and Milling Day.

About an hour ago a Water Truck came by but I was too late to get the foto. Just got a couple shots now.

I know, I'm as excited as the little neighbor boy who keeps riding by, helmet on head.

So I'm coming home on Davisville Road and I come to Keystone Screw. That's the company right behind where I live, separated only by a little woods.

I park in the parking lot - "Cars will be towed, private property" - lock my car and carry the carton of groceries thru the overgrown jungle that is the path that people take to get to Davisville and also to go to school.

I call the Upper Moreland Police Dept where dispatcher Joanna takes my info. She asks what kind of car Papa John drives.

I do not know. A sedan? A van? A station wagon?

A sedan, I say brightly, cursing my non-observance.

See what you think about the photos about the water truck.

Got it! See the water spraying outa the back?

Now, I read the blog of Bill Hess of Wasilla, AK, who is having a terrible medical problem after having part of his bowel removed due to polyps which turned out benign. Some of the hospital staff is inept which is not unusual. In a comment I left him on FB, I told him to be sure to get an experienced phlebotomist and not to use a student intern.

Here's an experience I had yesterday at Quest Diagnostic nearby.

When I go to get my blood drawn - and I do this monthly since I'm weaning off my Prednisone, one of my kidney antirejection meds - I always ask for Emily, as she's the one who can usually get my vein.

Yesterday Emily was off, so I had Tom, a floater.

He visits all my veins, thumping them and massaging them, with no luck.

I am what's called a "hard stick" - my veins do not cooperate. I was wondering if he'd wanna use my neck, as I have a close friend, a former heroin addict, who would stick herself in the neck.

Instead he chose a vein on the back of my left hand.

He used a pediatric butterfly needle.

"Is it coming out?" I asked.

"It's coming," he said.

"Oh, that's good. We only have four tubes to fill."

I asked Tom which was his favorite Quest to work in.

"The one with the least work," he said. "And also closest to home."

He works in Delaware County wherever that is.

I looked at the blood tubes again.

"Still lookin' good," I said.

"Yeah, we're cookin with gas."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fishing at Tyler State Park - Wouldn't you really rather have a Packard? - Making Pickles

A  long time ago when I lived in San Francisco, I went out to the rocky shore and watched some people fish. When one of them caught a fish and it was jerking on the end of the line, I turned away in sadness. I couldn't bear to see the little fellow losing his life on the end of the line.

I guess every life must come to an end. Here's the little fish I caught yesterday at Tyler State Park. I'll never forget the THRILLING FEELING of the tug on the end of the line.

I went with my friends Yin and Patrick Cox who live in Montgomeryville.

We were guided by young Andy Desko, Education Specialist of the PA Fish and Boat Commission and  volunteer Jim.

Under the shade of one of the pavilions, Andy gave us lessons on safety and manners, knot tying, how to hold a fishing pole which is so long you've gotta be careful not to poke anyone.

Here's the bank of the Neshaminy Creek where we fished. There were LOADS of fish waiting underwater and hiding in the rocks which went deep into the water.

Yin, originally from China, was a natural angler. It seemed like every time she cast, she caught something.

Casting is tricky but I finally learned the hang of it.

I caught more than half-dozen fish but would lose them when reeling them toward shore.

I'll never forget the feel of the fish tugging at the end of the line, then reeling it in to find NOTHING on the end.

Jim threaded the worms onto my hook and also unhooked the few fish that I did catch.

Jim shows me my fish. We threw all of em back in the water. When a fish caught on my hook, here's what Jim would say to me:

Reel it in a little, now jerk! When you jerk you're making sure the fish won't escape the hook. Still, it's possible the fish can get away.

Jim was a great teacher. He didn't make me feel bad about my occasional lousy casts or when I 'jerked' the fish so hard the entire fishing line came onshore, with no fish attached.

On my way home from Tyler, I stopped for gas at Ron Farber's ARCO in Southampton. I could not believe my luck that I had my camera handy so I could photograf this white-walled Packard automobile. Didn't know it was a Packard till I looked at the photo at home and blew it up.

From Wiki:

Packard was an American luxury-type automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899, and the last in 1958. 
How old were YOU when the last Packard was made in 1958? I was 12 and then as now loved cars. I remember a Jaguar sports car parked on our street back in Cleveland.

I ran outta my house real fast - we lived on Glenmore Road - and I fell on the sidewalk. Can you blame my haste? What a car.....

Did you know there's a Packard Building on Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia? One day when I was attending grad school at Hahnemann, I had time between my classes. I began to explore and came upon this luxury apartment building.

Instead of demolishing this grand old Packard automobile showroom, they transformed it into this building. I used to visit it often.

Nothing like a delicious crisp pickle, right?

Scott and I grew cucumbers and I reserved three of em for pickling. We also have a couple of green tomatoes which I also pickled.

Instead of canning the pickles, I found a recipe from the Christian Science Monitor where you simply immerse the pickling items in a bath of vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic and pickling spices for 24 hours.

Here's the liquid I poured over the pickles in a huge jar.

I let it pickle in the fridge for 24 hours. They have a great crunch, good flavor and are fun to look at. "You mean I did all this?" I ask myself.

Am listening now to Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand on the radio. He wrote it after WWI, when a pianist had his right arm shot off in the war.

Leon Fleisher, renowned pianist, is performing it right now. Fleisher, born in 1929, lost the ability to play with his right hand in the 1960s due to intense pain that was later diagnosed as focal dystonia.

Through Botox injections and Rolfing, he regained his ability to play.

He's very active today making up for lost time. Many of these grand masters such as Rubenstein and Vladimir Horowitz and R.H. Lokoff play well into their octogenarian years.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

For sale: The Norman Fisher House in Hatboro, PA, designed by the legendary Louis Kahn

I spoke to the realtor, Deb, of Elfant Wissahickon-Chestnut Hill and she emailed me photos of the house.

 Rear of the house facing a tributary of Pennypack Creek. Total of 2.69 acres.

Architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974) was born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky in Estonia, near Russia. He taught at Penn and was the subject of his son's film, "My Architect," an attempt by the son to understand his quirky late father.

Another legendary architect Frank Gehry (b. 1929) was born in Canada and named Frank Goldberg.

 The Fishers once walked down these wooden halls. Can you hear the patter of their feet?

All the furniture is gone, but I'll have a seat facing the woods, thanks.

On second thot, maybe I'll sit on the Kahn-designed bench (cushions removed) and contemplate the stone fireplace.

Reminds me of Shofuso, Japanese Teahouse in Fairmount Park. Odds are that Kahn saw it too.

My friend Lin Yiu and I peeked in from outside at this door.

A kitchen is a kitchen is a kitchen. But what's the floor made of?

Front of house on Mill Road. Gravel drive! When I drove over to ask Doris if New Directions could visit, she and Norman's cars were parked in a little jut on the driveway.

Norman had a workshop in the basement. Rich Fleisher was very impressed.

 Wonder if the creek ever floods. The house is located a good way beyond the crick, but who knows?

Side view with the door Yin and I peeked thru. Look how the house is lit up, light filtering through the trees.

 Inground pool.

One unforgettable winter day, when my kids and I lived across the street in Village Green Apartments

the Pennypack Creek froze and we walked across it. Skated across it actually tho we were wearing boots. That's where I discovered the glorious backside of the house.

For an Art Matters article I wrote about sculptor Robinson Fredenthal, who studied with Louis Kahn at Penn, showed me the Fisher House. "I know that house," I told him. "Didn't know it was famous, tho."

 One of Robin's geometric shapes on Market Street, downtown Philly. I visited it several years ago. The wheelchair- bound Fredenthal died several years ago at 69. He had Parkinson's disease since his late 20s.

Looks like a ceramic tile bathroom floor. Look at the faucets!

Would you buy this house if you had $600,000?