“We Cling to Whatever Floats”

Actually It’s a Lot Sooner Than That

Let’s face it: 2017 was nobody’s favorite year, unless they’re billionaires or right-wing extremists. And it definitely wasn’t mine. In the month of December, not only did I break some ribs, but Friday I was admitted to UCLA Hospital for one of my rare recurrences of adrenal insufficiency.  If you want the full background of what happened to me in September 1966, click here. To summarize very briefly: Chromophobe adenoma (pituitary brain tumor, rarely malignant) leads to panhypopituitarism which results at intervals in an Addisonian Crisis, which is what I had on Friday. The cure, very simply, is to inject me with 100mg of Solu-Cortef. Otherwise, I just fade peacefully and lethargically into nonexistence.

Unfortunately my condition is rare enough to flummox most doctors. It took a whole day for them to come up with an endocrinologist. Fortunately, she knew her stuff; and I got well quickly. Most doctors know that my condition exists, but they know little or nothing about the symptoms and treatment.

So that, plus my retirement and Martine’s impending departure (some time in January), added to the continuing devastation wrought by the Trumpf Administration, has led me to regard 2017 as an evil year.

2017 was, indeed, a prime number, which school janitor Frazz in the above cartoon strip of the same name, got right. But his teacher friend, Miss Jane Plainwell, is wrong about the next prime year being 4034, which it can’t be because it is evenly divisible by two. The next ten prime number years are, in order: 2027, 2029, 2039, 2053, 2063, 2069, 2081, 2083, 2087, and 2089. As you can see, they come pretty fast and furious.

Are there any benefits to be derived from surviving through a year that is also a prime number? Nope. As Frazz observes, “We cling to whatever floats.”

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

Mad About Travel

Crescent Lake Oasis Near Dunhuang, China

Immanuel Kant was a great philosopher, but I have no desire to emulate him. According to an editorial in Philosophy Now:

A curious case, this Kant. They say that travel broadens the mind, but Kant never in his whole life travelled more than ten miles from his home city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). He scraped a living for years as a private tutor before eventually becoming a hardworking professor at the university. He lived a life of disciplined regularity, taking the same walk around Königsberg at the same time each day, with such regularity that it was said that the inhabitants set their watches by him.

Living in Cleveland in the 1950s and 1960s, I desired more than anything else to travel. Even when I came out to California and got a job, it was a full seven years before I could afford to go anywhere but Cleveland. And when I did, my parents were appalled. “Why don’t you come to Cleveland?” Mom wheedled. “I’ll cook my favorite dishes for you.” That’s all I needed—to get even fatter.

I started out with baby steps, going to Mexico and traveling all around the country by bus and train (back when there were trains). I went to England and Scotland, too, and even joined my parents in 1977 to visit Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

In 2001, I went to Iceland; and, in 2006, I discovered South America. Now my desire for travel is insatiable. On the left corner of my kitchen table is a collection of travel guides from Lonely Planet and moon. While waiting for my morning paper to be delivered, I can read about the Trans-Siberian Railroad (2 guides), Iceland, Bolivia, Ecuador, and New Mexico while sipping a cup of hot tea.

December 29 is the last day of my working career, so I may not be able to afford some more distant locations; but Mexico and Guatemala continue to beckon. If I should win the lottery (hah!) I will try for the Trans-Siberian Railroad between Moscow and Vladivostok, though maybe diverting through Mongolia to Beijing. I can always dream, can’t I?





It’s Uayeb Again, Folks!

Mayan Glyphs

This is a slightly edited reprint from my posting of December 31, 2012. As you may recall, there was widespread fear among New Age types that the Mayan calendar was coming to an end … and we would all be doomed! We were: Trumpf got elected in 2016.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Mayan Calendar lately, mostly in connection with The End of the World back in 2013. Well, it didn’t quite end; and the Mayan Calendar just went on into a new baktun.

In the Haab’, or Mayan Solar Calendar, there are eighteen months of twenty days each. Where does that leave the other 5.25 days? To account for the difference, the Mayans created an intercalary five-day month referred to as the uayeb. Unlike other days in the Solar Calendar, the five days of the uayeb are thought to be a dangerous time.

The Mayan Glyph for Uayeb

According to Lynn Foster in Handbook to Life in the Ancient Mayan World, “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.” It was a time of fasting with abstention from sex and all celebrations. People avoided washing their hair or even leaving their huts during this time.

As we in the United States come to the end of another uayeb, I hope we are ready for what 2018 brings. Because, ready or not, here it comes….


7 Things You’ll Never Catch Me Doing on My Vacations

Caribbean Cruise Ship

Since I am something of what Spiro T. Agnew called a “nattering nabob of negativity,” I thought of concentrating on travel activities that I would avoid like the plague:

  1. Speaking of the plague, going on a large cruise ship ranks right up there. I don’t know which is worse, catching Legionnaires’ Disease or equivalent rot when cooped up with several thousand upscale vacationers, or pretending to be friends with said vacationers when I have zilch in common with them.
  2. Ziplining or bicycling, not recommended for someone with an artificial hip or panhypopituitarism.
  3. Staying at a luxury hotel or resort and spending hundreds of dollars a night for a bed and a lot of snooty attitude.
  4. Skiing because of its demogaphic profile, high costs, and high potential rate of injury. (Okay, so I’m a wuss. Is that OK?)
  5. Traveling in the jungle, as I am mosquito-phobic. I’ve got to this age without contracting any tropical diseases, and I want to keep it that way.
  6. I don’t make friends with other American tourists: I travel to interact with the natives of the country I am visiting. If you see me on my travels, don’t talk to me in English, because I will answer you in Hungarian. The only exception: I belong to The English Group of Buenos Aires (TEGOBA) and enjoy attending their Friday meetings.
  7. Visiting wineries, as I am diabetic, and alcohol turns to sugar in the body. Besides, I don’t even like wine.

Within these boundaries, I manage to have a great time when I travel. My next travel post will emphasize the things I love about travel.


Christmas in Palenque

The Town of Palenque, Chiapas, Near the Ruins

The year was 1979. My brother Dan and I were traveling in Southern Mexico, roughly following the route Graham Greene had taken in his book The Lawless Roads (1939), when he was doing research for his novel The Power and the Glory (1940).  It was Christmas, and we were in the little town of Palenque, just a few miles from the Mayan ruins of the same name.

Dan liked hanging out in the cafés along the zócalo, because that part of Chiapas was a major coffee-growing area, and Dan is a coffee aficionado the way I am a tea aficionado. You have to understand that Dan was wearing slip-on loafers. While we were munching away, we were approached at our table by a shoeshine boy. Dan slipped his shoe off and handed his foot to the boy, which foot was clad in bright red wool socks. The whole restaurant erupted in laughter, including the shoeshine boy.

Mexico has some wonderful Christmas customs, especially the posadas. Between December 16 and 24, children travel around singing carols. We always donated to them.

Christmas Posadas Singers



It Looks Like I Did It This Time!

Three … Count ’em … Three!

On Thursday, I went to see my doctor, who immediately suggested that I get the right side of my ribs X-Rayed. Which I did, but the radiologist never got around to telling me the good … or bad … news. But he had conveyed the info to my doctor, who called me on Friday with the news. I broke three ribs.

Tuesday, the day of the fall, wasn’t so bad, as my body’s own deception system was in force. Wednesday and Thursday, however, were horrible. If a butterfly had collided with me, I would have screamed in pain. Everything seemed to result in spasms of pure torture. Worst were the nights: Spasms attacked me when I laid me down in bed, spasms attacked me if I moved so much as a millimeter, and spasms attacked me when I had to get up out of bed. If I had to go to the bathroom during the night, I awakened Martine with my screams upon shifting my legs to the left and getting up.

Yesterday, my doctor prescribed some acetaminophen with codeine to help me get through the night. It worked, and I actually slept a full eight hours last night—and that’s after napping an hour and a half on the couch while watching Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), a film that I love. And today was altogether better. The miscellaneous spasms seemed to have ceased altogether. Only when I have to lead with my torso do I have any serious pain. I have learned to get up using my knees to take the brunt of the weight (though that won’t work with our high bed) and to lead with my left when I do have to get up.

I have been led to believe that healing will take anywhere between six and eight weeks—but I already feel some slight changes for the better. I still can’t drive safely because I can’t steer crisply without getting my left hand over-involved.

So it looks like my retirement begins with a much-needed rest. I still have two work days the week after Christmas, but there won’t be much to do. I just have to take the bus, which isn’t too bad.

Although she is still planning to leave, Martine has put the departure date off until I get better. She has been incredibly helpful. So we still mean a great deal to each other: She is just on a different life journey. I am grateful to her for her help.