24 May 2018

Help! Part III

"Are you okay?"
Some of these questions are asked by passersby who obviously don't speak English as a primary language.
I'm holding a napkin one of them offered against the wound. That napkin, and my right tennis shoe are rapidly filling with dark, burgundy-wine colored blood.
"No... I have no doubt I have broken my ankle."

One of the donkey teams passes by; the leader of the pack shouting at the animals to motivate them further down the cliff.
"Are you okay sir?", in heavily Greek accented English. I reply that I'm hurt.
"We will send someone to help", he says.

Another team of donkeys passes. A couple in that team stops, dismounts, and insists Sara Jean and I mount their animals. I'm worried about this...
One good leg. Probably, (almost certainly), in a mild state of shock. How safe can I be on this animal? How ironic would it be to mount up trying to head to safety, only to fall off the donkey's back and crash to the hard walkway below and further hurt myself?

We have sent Big Bubba ahead for help. I make the decision to mount up, and hope to meet litter carriers on their way up to fetch me. At least this donkey ride may help cut the rescue time somewhat.
The guy and his wife that originally rented the donkeys help Sara Jean and I climb aboard. I'm pleasantly surprised I can get on the animal's back. SJ has never ridden a horse, or a donkey, and she's no doubt more worried than me about this downhill trek.
My newfound rescuer stays alongside me, continually asking, "Do you feel faint? If you get light-headed you LET ME KNOW!" He's smart enough to know what a risk we're taking.
Sara Jean continues to make sounds like she's not at all happy to be aboard an animal that is just as unhappy to be headed downhill, away from its stable, food, and water.

We go downhill, turn, go downhill, turn, go downhill, turn...
I'm hanging on for dear life to a saddle that has no horn like I'm accustomed to on a horse. On this saddle there is a hole big enough to put both hands into to hold on. My strength is suspect.
I'm doin' the best I can.

Downhill, turn. Downhill, turn.
Finally we reach the water's edge. Thank Goodness there's a wall wide enough for me to dismount the animal. An argument ensues between the donkey leader and the folks that originally rented the animals... he wants to be paid again for his trouble. They refuse, telling him they already paid for the ride and they are NOT gonna pay again. Much shouting goes on for awhile, but my new American friends stand fast.
With help from two strong guys, I hop to a chair and sit down, just glad to be off the cliff.
A man introduces himself as "An agent of the boat". He says he'll help us to get the help we need.
Our luggage is still on the ship. We assume our son is headed back from the boat, having informed them of our situation. The "boat agent" informs us we are NOT going back to the ship; we are to be transported to a clinic in Santorini, then airlifted to a hospital in Athens.
Bummer.
Our wonderful cruise is over. They're throwing us off the ship.
(To be continued.)

22 May 2018

Help! Part Two-


(If you have not read part 1, scroll down and read the post below first.)

We had been sitting in the small, poorly ventilated cable car about half an hour. We'd hear a warning buzzer and the door would close, then almost immediately reopen. It was obvious something was wrong with the apparatus... not a confidence inspiring situation when your life depends on man-made stuff to work exactly as advertised.
Finally, an attendant came and said, "The lift is broken. You can wait for it to be fixed, or you can get a refund and choose another way down."
A special buffet dinner was set up for the evening on the ship and we had an hour to get back for it. The walk downhill on the steps would take 30 minutes. It was time to get going. So we got going.

The steps are wide. They consist of softball-sized stones embedded in concrete and are worn and slick in some places, but I felt no danger walking them. The view? Incredible. Our destination, the "Azamara Journey", lay peacefully anchored in the water  before us, looking like a toy ship from our perspective.
With the lift inoperable, lots of people were doing the same thing we were... hiking down. So there were lots of individuals on the steps combined with the up and down traffic of the donkey teams also carrying folks back to the tenders. It was busy, but still not worrisome. I couldn't keep my eyes off the view below. THIS experience was the entire reason we had scheduled this $$$$$ cruise!

There are places in the steps where repairs have been made and the edges of the steps have been rounded into slopes, rather than 90-degree edge steps.
I was an idiot. I was gawking at the beautiful sight below. I was NOT paying close attention to where my feet fell. I stepped on one of the "repairs" and felt my leg slip. My dominant (right) leg immediately got deployed to break my fall. What happened then seemed to unfold in slow motion-
I looked down at my right ankle just in time to see it turn to an angle no ankle should ever reach. At that point the skin separated enough I could see the ball exposed on the inside of the ankle, and a jagged piece of bone tearing the skin. Absolutely NO question... it was broken.
Still, you don't want to believe this is happening to you.
I tried to get to my feet. The right foot wobbled like a mechanic's universal joint.

I'm halfway down the long, long steps at Santorini with pedestrian and donkey traffic moving all around me. I cannot get down on my own. What happens now?
Will the ship or someone at the landing send a stretcher up to fetch me?
Will they send a donkey for me to ride down... with a bum foot and probably in a state of shock?
I'm angry about putting myself and my family in this situation.
I HATE being out of control.

But here I am... out of control.
(To be continued.)

Help! I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

Just getting to the Mediterranean is difficult. We spent the better part of a full day in airplanes and airports just to get to Athens, Greece. We arrived feeling like Zombies, and taxi'ed to our hotel.

Athens is a puzzle. It is OLD, but it has modern facilities. Traffic is horrible... lots of small cars and a nearly equal number of motorcycles and motorscooters, ridden by helmetless riders zipping in and out between cars and buses and lane-splitting. I feared for their lives more than they did!

At the hotel o
ur room had single beds for the three of us, a TV with six or so channels... all in Greek with the exception of CNN and MSNBS. Ugh.
It had ONE power outlet... marked 240V. Luckily, this ain't Big Bubba's first European rodeo, and he brought along an adapter/converter.

Following morning we ate a (free with room) breakfast buffet, then departed for the Acropolis on foot... 8-tenths of a mile... uphill, through very narrow streets lined with shops and streetside cafes.
The Acropolis was PACKED with people. Most of these people were consumed by stopping in the middle of walkways in order to take "selfies". Trying to navigate the grounds was irritating, to say the least. I wondered... "Is there a season to come with fewer self-absorbed people here?"

Walking back to the hotel we depended on Big Bubba's GPS to direct there safely. We stopped at a cafe we had passed on the way up and had a very nice lunch, with people, dogs and cats literally walking through the narrow street that ran through the middle of the restaurant. There are lots and lots of cats around. I assume they are tolerated by residents to keep the rodent population under control.

We boarded the cruise ship, the "Azamara Journey" Sunday. It's amazing to watch how these cruise businesses efficiently handle people and baggage to get them aboard. The whole process took less than half an hour.

Our Stateroom was small, but adequate, with a queen-size bed and a chair that made into a single for BB. Our TV had many channels to choose from, including Fox News! Hooray!
This is a small ship, with only 700 passengers. The other cruises we have taken had ships containing 3000 guests. We've decided we MUCH prefer the smaller ships.

We woke Monday anchored in the harbor at Mykonos. After breakfast we tendered to the Island and walked around. It is clean, bright, (whitewashed structures, like many of the islands), and safe feeling.

Tuesday morning found us at the pier in Kusadasi, Turkey. Again, after breakfast, we made our way to buses for the 30-minute ride to Ephesus. It is impossible to describe what is happening there.
It was a city of 240,000 people until earthquakes and the adjacent river showed us that Mother Nature is ALWAYS in charge. We took a two-hour walking tour and were surrounded by ancient relics the entire time. Ephesus, (and virtually ALL the Mediterranean), makes us reflect how "shiny and new" our country still is.

Wednesday morning we woke in Rhodes, Greece. Old, old, old fortifications on the pier and in sight just off the bow of the ship indicate this was an important place that needed to be protected. Although we stayed in town, relatively close to the ship, there were available tours to be taken to many ancient, beautiful sites. One day, we intend to return and see them when we can do it more leisurely.

Thursday we opened our curtain to a breathtaking sight.
We were anchored in the harbor at Santorini, really the reason for booking the entire cruise. The whitewashed town at the top of the hill was Fira, accessible by cable lift cars, up 500 steps via walking, or by donkey. The cruise director warned we should ONLY take the cable cars... the steps are slippery and treacherous! We went up via the lift... about $7.
From there we walked to a scooter rental place and rented ATV's to ride to another town on the island... Oia. The views along the way were simply SPECTACULAR. It's unfair really for the driver, because you must concentrate on the road and not the great views. Run off the road in certain places and it'll be a long time before you say "oof" and are injured or killed.

We arrived in Oia, parked the 4-wheelers, and started walking the walkways. For my FaceBook friends, many photos and videos will be posted there to show how magnificent this place is... I'm guessing almost 2000 feet above the water.
We stopped at a restaurant for refreshments and a bite to eat, then returned to the ATV's for the ride back to Fira.

We returned the machines and made our way back to the lift, bought our tickets to ride back down the hill, and entered our little car.
And sat. And sat. And sat.
We sat for 30 minutes in 90-degree heat before someone finally came to tell us the lift was out of service. We could either wait to see if it was fixed, or they would refund our money and we could walk or ride donkeys down.

And that, dear friends, begins the REST of the story, (to be continued).



05 May 2018

Bank of (Part of) America-

Yesterday I closed two accounts with Bank of America... one of which had been active for over 35 years.
"Can I ask why you are closing these accounts?"
"Certainly. I'm a retired ARMY Viet Nam Veteran and I still support and defend the Constitution."
... Puzzled look on her face...
"I don't understand."
So I educated her.

Our country is in more trouble than I imagined.
And even reasonably intelligent people have NO idea.

16 April 2018

Eagle Eyes

I was 16.
My barber had a cork bulletin board 10 feet from the chair. On that board he allowed customers to post 3X5 cards with stuff they wanted to sell, rent, whatever.
While he cut my hair I would read the contents of those cards to him.
He couldn't believe it.
So I had him stand against that wall with a newspaper and I read the articles to him... from 10 feet.
I literally had the eyes of an eagle.

I fought against using them, but "trombone player arms" finally took over when I was about 50 and I was forced to get reading glasses.
As you've read here, I succumbed and got hearing aids a couple months ago.

This getting old is crap.
What's the alternative?

Bartender... one more... over here please.

23 March 2018

Huh?

March, 1966.
GREETINGS! the letter said.
I was 19 and it was my induction notice.

Included were instructions about how and where to report for a physical to investigate whether or not I was worthy of further attention and training from my wonderful Uncle...
Sam.

My memory is foggy, but I remember standing with 100 or so others my Uncle also had an interest in. At one point we were all told to disrobe to our skivvies. It was obvious they intended to poke, probe, examine, and report findings to decision-makers.

My memory of the hearing exam is NOT foggy-
That technician looked into my ear canal and asked, "What would cause you to have scar tissue on your eardrums?"
My response was that I had worked clearing brush with a chain saw for a construction company. That company felt they could get a couple extra horsepower by removing all the mufflers from their saws. At the end of each workday I was deaf for an hour or so. When I mentioned my discomfort to my parents they said, "Your ears will get used to that."
My parents were right. My ears DID acclimate.

But my ears were not damaged so badly that I could not wear Olive Drab.
Basic training exposed me to the M-14.
Advanced training... more M-14 and some M1911.
OCS... more of the above, AND add the M60A1E1 and M48A1 tank.
And then Helicopter Flight School and the start of FIFTY years of assault from the sound of a turbine engine.
My ears never had a chance.

My tinnitus is irritating, but not debilitating.
But the fact I can no longer understand my wife when she speaks from another room is frustrating.
And having to have "Closed Captioning" continually on the TV is aggravating for all those viewing with me.
I went to the VA for help a month ago. They tested, then took molds from my ears.
The devices arrived and were fitted last week.

I didn't know what to expect.
Everyone I've talked to that uses them has a "love/hate" reaction to them.
I think I like 'em more than hate 'em.

I think the latest generation of these things is dramatically improved.
The fit is very nice... I just feel like I'm wearing a set of foam ear plugs all day long. I'm actually surprised I don't get uncomfortable with them at all as the day wears on.
They fit behind my ears, so, unless you're looking awfully close you can't tell I'm wearing 'em.

The two sides talk to one another, so anything you hear in one ear is also transmitted to the other ear. That alone improves hearing. For years, hearing in my left ear has been better than in the right. I can tell the volume in the right ear is higher than the left... I'm assuming they set them this way because the right side needs more help.

The batteries are short-lived. The VA gave me a BUNCH of 'em with the aids, so I'm set for several weeks until I have to dun the VA for more. The first ones lasted 6 days.

I don't know why, but I expected them to last longer.

Sara Jean loves 'em. She says I'm not talking as loud as I did before getting them... good for everyone around me.

I checked on the cost of the things...
As a taxpayer, you don't want to know.

The only time I really need CC on TV now is when we're watching something produced by the BBC.
(Sara Jean has always needed help understanding British stuff too, so she doesn't mind my use there.)

I used to equate hearing aids with old people.
The "man in the mirror" is someone I no longer recognize.
And now he has devices stuck in his ears.


Thank GOD gave that old man a sense of humor!

17 March 2018

The Shape of Things To Come

During a conversation with an old High School Classmate years ago... (a retired Full Colonel from the Air Farce), the suggestion was put forth that unless republicans changed their values they'd never win another election.
I responded "So, all republicans have to do to get elected is succumb to ruining the country as the democrats have?"
My classmate wasn't happy with my response.
We haven't communicated since.

But isn't that what's happening to us?
DACA is unconstitutional... Barack Obama knew it, but did it anyway.
The rule of law? What's that?
That's so OLD SCHOOL.


But it's now obvious the trend is irreversible.
We no longer have two political parties.
We have "bad", and "worse", and have been forced to vote for the lesser of two weasels since 1980.

Our debt has ballooned from $20 TRILLION to $21 TRILLION in under six months of Trump's leadership. We are on the verge of not being able to service that debt.
What cannot continue... won't.
What will it look like?
Venezuela.

What do you absolutely HAVE to have to survive?
Getting those things won't hurt ya if I'm wrong.
Not having them if I'm correct will be... uncomfortable. :(

I think getting 'em now would be a good idea.

10 March 2018

Inertia

Yes, it's been over a month since I've put fingers to keyboard here.
Reasons?
Part of it I discussed with a virtual friend this morning-

Having access to FaceBook and a more focused audience is a release valve. Much of what I might have shared here has been published there. 
Near-instant response to comments there is rewarding, (or irritating).

It's now been almost 13 years since "Pitchpull" came into being.
I was more active... Flying EMS... I had started my own business... We had bought, and were managing a property in Destin, Florida.
There was a lot of exciting stuff going on, and it was easy to write about interesting things happening in our lives.
Now, in retirement, there is still much going on, but thankfully it's mundane.
The Lord has blessed my family with good health and enough wealth to be comfortable.
Who wants to hear about that?

And another thing I have found is important for me and mine-
Someone close to me once said, "I don't play that game".
More and more we find that simply removing yourself from the negatives in life, including "Drama Kings/Queens" works wonders at lowering blood pressure!

We can and DO travel. We spent a couple months of Autumn in lovely Destin. We've Wintered in Gilbert Arizona where days generally are 

75 degrees + -,  and nights are about 50 degrees. 
In the three months we've been here we've had two days of light rain. Perfect.

We've been to Las Vegas for a weekend, to include a visit to "Front Sight", a shooting complex in Pahrump, Nevada.
I don't care for Las Vegas, but the drive to, and around there was GORGEOUS.

We'll be headed back home to the Midwest soon. But we'll be there less than a week before we head to Washington, D.C. for a week to attend an OCS reunion I'm coordinating there.
Then, a month later, we'll do something that's been on my bucket list for years-
We're cruising the Mediterranean for two weeks, to include a stop for a full day in Santorini, Greece.

So, lots to write about.
But would you be bored or irritated hearing about it?

Some will. Some won't, obviously.
I feel guilty not writing here.

I simply need to overcome inertia.

22 January 2018

Those Damn Dams!

Some years ago I was a member of the Science Center in BigTown. One of the member's benefits was to be able to attend, free, any of the almost weekly seminars given by "experts".
We went into town to watch the new Blue Angels movie on the IMAX theater there, then noticed a Native American "expert" would be giving a talk an hour after the showing of the movie.
Thinking it might be interesting, after the movie we went to buy brats and burgers at the concession stand to use up the free hour.

The expert was a lady from one of the Western tribes near the Hoover dam. She discussed all the horrible things that had happened to the population surrounding the dam, especially how the environment had been negatively impacted... Indian lands submerged, populations forced to relocate, and ecosystems downstream from the dam dramatically changed.
There was NO discussion of the power being produced and transported to cities like L.A. and Phoenix, or the indirect benefit of recreational activities like boating and fishing, not to mention flood control.

The expert volunteered to stay behind after her talk to answer questions the audience might have.
I asked, "The situation boils down to one problem, doesn't it?

There are WAY too many people in the world who require water and electricity. How does your organization intend to work for a solution to those problems"?

Stunned... like I had slapped her in the face...
Crickets.

But it's the truth, and it IS a problem we should be facing and educating the world about:
People consume stuff.
More people? More stuff consumed!

Be part of the solution-
Feel free to send this post to friends.

17 December 2017

Autonomous Vehicles

Up 'til recently, the idea of an autonomous vehicle has been anathema to me.
I like to drive... I'm an "enthusiast".
I've owned an Olds 442, a couple Corvettes, and a few Sporty sedans to include our latest... a Taurus SHO.

I LOVE the feeling of pressing your right foot to the floor and having the "G Forces" press your body against the seatback.
And I have never understood anyone who thinks a Toyota Prius makes a good primary mode of transport.
But I'm ready to admit something-
I hate long trips.

We've just finished a stay of two months in Destin, FL.
We love Destin, and have had a wonderful stay.

But loading our 250cc Piaggio MP3 into the back of our Cummins/Ram truck and driving the 11 hours each way is something I have grown to despise.
We came home for a few days to take care of a few "Honey-do's", and plan to leave soon to begin our Winter stay with our son in Gilbert, AZ. That drive will take 22+ hours. We have reserved motel stays in Edmond, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and hope to arrive in Arizona on the third day of the drive.

IF-
We had the ability to rent a motor home that we could program to autonomously make the drive while we sat in the rear reading a good book, fixing meals, and using the bathroom facilities without stopping, I would be ecstatic.
And looking into my crystal ball I see our society moving in that direction whether we like it or not.

I will mourn the loss of freedom when human error makes slipping behind the wheel, putting your right foot firmly against the floorboard demanding the horses under the hood press your backside into the seat a "danger to the rest of society".
But I absolutely will NOT miss the long days driving down a boring slab of concrete to get somewhere you MUST be on a date certain.

I take comfort in the fact it will take tree-huggers a while longer to automate motorcycles...
And, thank Goodness they accelerate fast enough to satisfy my inner hooligan for the rest of my driving days!

"James, we'd like to go to Gilbert, AZ!"

11 December 2017

The World Is A Mess. But It Could be SO Much Worse!

Global warming is man caused.
Humankind's pollution is poisoning our air, our water, and our food.

How wonderful that Stalin killed 12 million vermin.
Mao killed over 45 million.
Hitler probably killed 8 million+.
Planned Parenthood has contributed to untold numbers of deaths.
(Sources I checked indicate these numbers are horribly conservative.)

Think what a poisoned, weatherweird world we'd be living in if all these people (and their offspring) had survived.

(Sarc button off.)