Category Archives: My Life

Can’t Touch This (or Reflections on Joelfest 2017)

All my life I’ve wanted to be a hashtag. Aside from all those years when such a thing didn’t exist. Even now that it exists I don’t really know what it is. It’s a millennial thing, so I stay away from it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Two Saturdays past was Joelfest 2017. If you don’t know what that is, read the F.A.Q. The Joelfest Selection Committee plans this thing well in advance, and the invitation is sent out January 1, so the people who don’t show up don’t show up because they hate me and not because they have a previous engagement — because no one plans out their June activities in January.

Granted, had I known in December how busy I was going to be the week of June 24, I would have suggested another date. But despite how much crap I had to deal with that week, I still made time for the quinquennial festival of William Joel. Because I care.

I used to care that people didn’t show up for Joelfest, but not anymore. I’m old now and I understand that everyone really hates me, so the mere fact that anyone shows up says something — I’m not sure what. And I can’t hold a grudge if someone decides a last-minute trip to Iceland with the kids is more important than seeing an old friend of 38 years. Right? I can’t hold a grudge about that. Can I?

The week’s festivities began Wednesday with a short trip to Columbia so The Wife could attend a work thing. The Son and I spent most of the time in the hotel pool and hot tub (which were wondrously empty for the most part). We tried to walk the campus but it was hot and muggy and Andrew almost immediately had a meltdown, so we wound up at the mall instead.

I did get to visit a new comic book shop (screw you, Rock Bottom — any comic shop that bags its books before putting them out no longer gets my business) and had pizza at Shakespeare’s and a gyro at G&D, so it was a successful trip overall. We returned home Friday in time for a little cleaning followed by opera. The next morning there was more cleaning, grocery shopping, and general preparations. In some respects it was probably good that we didn’t spend the whole week at home as that would’ve given Laurie too much time to obsess over the cleaning.

First to arrive were longtime Joelfesters Ron and Laura Leigh, all the way in from Florida (which makes everyone who claims “Oh, St. Charles is too far away” look like the sissies they are). They were followed by longtime Joelfester Scott and his wife Kim, the latter of whom was the big winner in this year’s hotly contested 50 Days of Joelfest trivia challenge. Laurie went out to get pizza and when she came back, she had Jay with her.

Now, when Jay Chism dies I will write a long and heartfelt obituary about him, but since I’m likely to go first, I’d better just go ahead and say a few nice things now. I’ve known Jay since, I believe, kindergarten, and he’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Jay doesn’t say he’s coming to Joelfest and not show up. Jay makes no pretense that he’s coming to Joelfest. He just shows up. Once he showed up in Kansas City (where I was living at the time) instead of Columbia (where the party was actually held). We laugh about it now — it probably wasn’t so funny for him at the time.

So we sat in the back yard and had a nice chat while all the other guests showed up and Laurie played hostess while also dealing with Andrew’s inevitable meltdowns (Joelfest is one of those rare occasions where I’m not the one dealing with the meltdowns). There was Liz and Ann and Gena and Christine & family and Tina & family and Melfy & family and Stevie and Coffin Joe and Paul and Julie and the Leahs.

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A pretty good crowd for a Saturday.

Now, I’m not a big rules guy. When you come into my house, I don’t make you take off your shoes. You’re welcome to put your feet up on my coffee table. You can have anything in the fridge or the pantry. Want to take a nap on the couch? Fine. Leave the seat up when you’re done in the bathroom? I don’t give a damn.

I only ask one thing: Don’t Touch My Stuff.

This really shouldn’t even be a rule. It’s really just common sense, common decency, common courtesy. I don’t come into your house and touch your stuff. I am not an animal or a 2-year-old. I had parents who raised me right. But I realize now that I’m living in Trump’s America, so I have to spell things out. But when I say “don’t touch my stuff,” all I’m really saying is “be a decent human being.”

By midnight things had wound down and Stevie ran off because a young person can only stand so many minutes of 50-somethings talking about dealing with their aging parents. The next morning I hopped onto Facebook to get caught up on yesterday’s events only to discover that not I, but my stuff, had become a hashtag.

#nottouchingroysstuff

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There’s more. So much more. But this is a family blog and some of the things that were done to my stuff is not appropriate for all ages.

This is the world we live in, where “friends” can touch your stuff with abandon and then post photographs of it. Smiling. And while I’ll never be a trending topic on the Internet, at least my stuff will be.

You know who didn’t touch my stuff? Jay. And Jay had every reason to get back at me. And not because of that whole Kansas City/Columbia mix-up. No, many years ago, when we were like, 10, I pushed him off a wagon into the mud and cow manure at Warren Argall’s dairy farm. Why did I do it? I don’t know! I was 10! Kids do stupid things! And yet Jay loves to bring up that story every chance he gets — including Joelfest 2017.

So, thanks Jay, for not touching my stuff.

Or at least being smart enough not to leave behind photographic evidence.

See you in 2022.

 

Wherever They’s A Guy Trying To Get Out Of The Opera, I’ll Be There

Our final show for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2017 season was a new version of John Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath.” I was initially looking forward to the performance. I had actually read the book, either in a college or high school literature class. I was familiar with the story.

But then I saw that it had a run-time of roughly 3 hours. Normally, I could handle that. But this was not a normal week.

1478828905_5efvy_1478541922_u3sfj_grapesblogpictureWednesday night we left St. Charles for Columbia so The Wife could attend a conference. Thursday I spend most of the day poolside with The Son, breaking only for food. Friday we returned home, did some pre-party prep, and headed out to the opera (The Trial — see above). Saturday: Joelfest. Sunday, hang out with the friends who spent the night, post-party cleanup, 3-hour opera. We don’t normally schedule 2 operas in 3 days, but we had to move one of our operas for a Cardinals game (see Baseball – Spawn of Satan) and Sunday night was the only option. I was not looking forward to capping off a long, busy week with 3 hours sitting in the frankly uncomfortable seating at the  Loretto-Hilton Center (Leg room — invest in it).

Oh, and did I mention Sunday is also our wedding anniversary? I agreed to moving the opera to Sunday night in part to get out of having to come up with something to do for our anniversary.

So it’s now Saturday night and Joelfest is going swimmingly and The Wife’s best friend Christine is sitting across the room and I figure it’s time we began our dance.

“Christine, what are you doing tomorrow night?”

“Hmm, I don’t know Ron. No plans.”

“How would you like to go to the opera with Laurie?”

Now, here’s what you need to understand: Christine and I have this conversation 4 times a year, every year. It always ends with “Gee Ron, I’d love to go, but I think you should go. It would be good for you and you should spend the time with Laurie.”

So I’m all ready for that line and instead I hear,

“Sure. I’d like to go.”

Wait. What just happened? Did I just get out of going to the opera? Have I been drinking? Has Christine? I have a room full of witnesses that heard her say she’d take my place at the opera.

And so it was that Sunday, after the last of the Joelfest revelers had left for parts unknown, I took The Son to the pool (because Lord knows he deserved some pool time after the past two days) while The Wife went to visit her mother. That night Laurie and Christine went to some fru-fru place for dinner then enjoyed an evening at the opera (I’m told it was an excellent show). I spend the night on the couch, eating Little Smokies and chips and dip while binge-watching Parks and Recreation until I passed out.

Best. Anniversary. Ever.

Baseball: Spawn of Satan

It’s been pretty well established by now that I will do practically anything for my loved ones. I’ll go to the opera, I’ll go to Shakespeare in the Park, I’ll watch movies based on Jane Austen novels, I’ll skip Free Comic Book Day for a wedding, I’ll go on a float trip, I’ll go on a cruise, I’ll get in an airplane.

I’ll do pretty much anything that isn’t an obvious risk to my life, like riding a bobsled or climbing a mountain to look at a lake. I didn’t know floating was dangerous or I would’ve marked that off the list.

Yes, I’ll do anything for family and friends. Even go to a damn St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

This comes up every couple of years. The Cardinals do some kind of special day and someone gets cheap tickets and there’s usually a free hot dog and soda involved. This year it was SMS Day, and since Sister2 and her husband work there, they got tickets for all the siblings, their spouses, Andrew, and Nephew1’s family.

(Yes, I’m aware SMS is now MSU, but I still call Riverport Amphitheater Riverport Amphitheater and always will, so don’t bother correcting me.)

Friday afternoon 6 family members showed up at my house. We fed them, watched a movie and went to bed. I did not give up my bed for a change because, you know, I can’t move my all-important CPAP machine. At least, that’s the excuse I gave.

The game was to start around 1 p.m. The gang wanted to go down early, but as my luck would have it, there was some charity run going on downtown that morning. You may recall the last time I drove downtown I got stuck in traffic due to a charity run. Dear Charities: Please find somewhere else to run.

19146144_10103031499637564_1619088713922500371_nLaurie mapped out an alternative route and we made it to her parking garage without incident. Everyone was decked out in red — even my poor son was forced to conform. I wore my Hawkeye shirt.

Chuck wanted to see Ballpark Village, which is nothing more than a giant sports bar, but you gotta appease the tourists, so we walked through it on the way to the stadium. They were giving out god-awful ugly Cardinal shirts at the door. They were so ugly I would’ve worn one — if it didn’t have Cardinals crap all over it. We then used our vouchers for a free hot dog and soda and that was lunch. I was surprised to learn the Cardinals let you bring in your own snacks and drinks, so we came loaded down with food. That didn’t stop people from throwing down $5 for frozen lemonade when the man came around.

Made our way to our seats, where we were given free SMS Bears/Cardinals caps. I normally wouldn’t wear such a thing, but it fit nicely on my fat head, and it’s hard to find caps that fit well on my fat head, so I’m keeping it. I still kept my Thule cap on throughout the day.

We were early, so we had plenty of time to sweat it out before game time. Our seats were decent but in the direct sun, which was beating down heartily. I believe the temperature was 205 degrees. It certainly felt like it. I wound up with sunburned knees.

And then, the game began. Ah, Baseball. America’s sport. The same America that gave us President Donald Trump. When God decided to punish man for all his sins he did two things: 1) He kicked us out of the Garden of Eden, and 2) He gave us baseball.

Is there anything more boring and godawful slow as baseball? No, there isn’t. And I should know, I’ve watched Sofia Coppola movies. For those of you lucky enough to have never sat through a professional baseball game, let me paint you a picture:

There are two teams. One team goes into the field while the other goes into the dugout. One by one players leave the dugout to bat. The pitcher throws balls at the batter until the required number of balls or strikes or a hit is achieved. If you hit the ball, you get to run around in a diamond. Whoever makes it around the diamond the most wins.

Sounds exciting, right? And maybe it would be, if that’s what they actually did. But instead, one team goes out into the field and they toss the ball around. The pitcher throws it to the second baseman, he throws it to the first baseman, who throws it to the shortstop, and on and on for about 5 minutes until someone finally comes up to the batter’s box.

The pitcher stares at the batter for a while, throws a ball, waits another 5 minutes, throws a ball. If you’re lucky, they strike them out quickly. But nothing is ever done quickly in baseball. There will usually be 2 strikes and 3 balls and then an ungodly number of foul balls hit before that first out. And God help you if someone gets a hit, because then the pitcher has to decide whether to throw the ball at the batter, or at the guy at the base. This drags things out even longer.

Repeat. 18. Times.

Now, I can understand standing around playing catch when it’s your first time out there. Gotta warm up and all. But after the first inning — STOP SCREWING AROUND. Get On With It. I have places to be. Places with air conditioning. Places with shade. Places with comfortable seating.

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Somewhere around the 5th inning I turned to The Wife and I said, “As God as my witness, I’d rather be at Shakespeare in the Park.”

Or “Madame Butterfly.”

Or watching “Poldark.”

Or “Anne of Green Gables.”

Or sitting by the pool all afternoon.

Or having root canal surgery.

I took a few walks to get out of the heat. You know something is bad when I’d rather be exercising.

Eventually it ended. I don’t remember who won or who the other team was. We made it home without incident and that night we ordered pizzas from Stefanina’s. I wanted one of their delicious Buffalo Chicken pizzas, but Sister2 didn’t. Guess who “compromised” and wound up eating barbecue chicken pizza.

That night I got some small revenge for the day’s events by making them all watch “Logan.”

 

Happy Birthday Dear Carrie (and me)

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Carrie Trent entered this world one day and many years after I was born. Everybody loves Carrie and so usually the gang gets together to celebrate the anniversary of her birth. I piggyback my celebration alongside it. Carrie doesn’t seem to mind – that’s one of the reasons she’s so lovable.

(Now before you start with “there goes Roy, being all self-depreciating and shit,” do I have to remind you that the last time my wife threw a birthday party for me only 3 people showed up and we wound up eating leftover barbecue for a week? I’m pretty sure I bring it up, like, every year.)

Trent wanted to go to a winery this year so Melfy suggested Noboleis Winery in Augusta. We had never been there before but a quick Internet search revealed it met our two main qualifications for being an acceptable winery. 1) It sold wine. 2) You could bring your own food. As a bonus, Noboleis was 3 miles closer to home than Balducci’s, which was our previous winery of choice.

After almost being run off the road by motorcycle thugs, we made it to Noboleis around 11:30 a.m. It was a gloriously beautiful day, which is a wonder given that it’s been raining almost every day for a month. We were greeted by the Finley clan and Stevie, who had already set up tables.

The sun was out, so I had on my Thule hat. Tim’s eyes light up.

“Where’d you get that hat? I was looking at buying my bike rack from them.”

“Hitch mount or roof?”

“Hitch mount.”

“1-and-a-half inch or 2 inch?”

“2 inch.”

“Platform style or hanging?”

“Platform.”

“Thule or Yakima?”

“I went with Swagman.”

“Nice.”

Then he tells me he needs a kayak carrier and we go through that discussion and I realize that for the first time in my life I’m having a conversation with a man that’s not about nerd stuff. What has happened to me?

17951969_10155408896019728_6736042279323204853_nAt that point the guest of honor arrives with her parents and we all settle in for a lovely day of drinking and eating and chatting. In addition to wine the business also offers pizza and other food. We ordered a couple of tasty pies and ate and drank our fill.

Noboleis quickly became our new favorite winery. Sorry Balducci’s, your pizza is better but Nobo is less crowded, has a lovelier view, is 3 miles closer and they don’t check your coolers at the door. Which is not to say that we brought in our own water and soda – which is against the rules – but we could have if we’d known they don’t check your coolers at the door. Which is not to say we’ll do that next time, and why is it so wrong to bring our own water and soda anyway? It’s not like we didn’t spend a small fortune on wine and pizza that day.

bday winery2They also have a nice photo op spot, so we took advantage of that. My camera phone isn’t that great but Stevie had a real camera so it all worked out. Did I mention the weather was glorious? And the place wasn’t nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. I think going to wineries is more of a fall thing that a spring thing. Maybe. Or maybe everyone was at the zoo. Good.

By 5 p.m. things were winding down. The Brashares had already left for an Easter Egg hunt. Cindy B, who had promised us a crate of White Castle burgers, texted to say she was unable to make it. I was sad, but too full of pizza to be too upset (aside from the fact that I was really upset about not seeing Cindy — of course). Andrew was starting to get antsy so we figured it was time to head back to St. Charles. After considerable hugging we bid everyone farewell and declared the outing an unqualified success.

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Happy Birthday, birthday buddy.

 

A (not so) Brief History of Lunch

With Special Guest Appearance by Leah, Flat Amy, and Vivian

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Growing up we didn’t eat lunch on the Roy farm. There was dinner and there was supper (We weren’t big breakfast people). In college I got into an argument with Rob Smith because he kept insisting the evening meal was “dinner” and the afternoon meal was “lunch.” There was no Internet to settle the argument in those days, so we eventually agreed to disagree. But to be honest, I always thought a little less of Rob after that because, seriously, the man didn’t know what his meals were called.

Time marches on and now it turns out Rob’s view won out. These days the only time you’ll hear about suppertime is if you’re attending a high school production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Thanks to its status as the afternoon meal, lunch usually coincides with work. At the newspaper, lunch was a pretty loose affair. You went when you wanted and you stayed out as long as you wanted. No one was keeping track or cared. As long as you met deadline and kept the presses running on time, nothing else mattered. Those were the glory days.

At my next job lunch was not a temporary escape valve. You could take as long as you wanted for lunch, but you had to spend it with the person(s) you were supporting. And that often meant supporting them in eating their lunch. Lunch at the center began promptly at 11:30 (earlier if you had the bowling group).

Eating lunch with a room full of developmentally disabled adults is not a pretty sight. I remember one day, early on, I was sitting at a table trying to eat and surveying the scene around me. Annie looked over, smiled and said, “You get used to it.”

At my current gig you can take lunch whenever and for however long you want, but you have to clock out on your computer when you leave and clock back in when you return. So if you spend an hour for lunch, you’re going to need to make up that hour later. As a result, I don’t take lunch hours. My life makes it too time prohibitive.

Have I ever mentioned that I have a son with autism? Maybe once or twice. Anyway, one of the downsides of the condition is you never get rid of them and someone always needs to be there to watch them. All you empty nesters out there who whine when your child goes off to college and leaves you all alone for a couple of months — I hate you.

My son attends an adult day program that begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. Those hours are not entirely helpful to working parents. And there is no before- or after-program programming (if you’re an entrepreneur who’s looking for something to do, I suggest you open one). As a result, we hire someone to watch Andrew in the mornings before program and briefly in the afternoons. I get up at 6:30 a.m., get to work at 7:30 a.m. and leave work at 3:30 a.m. Laura takes care of him in the morning, I take the afternoon shift.

In order to take a lunch hour I would need to get up at 5:30 a.m.

In my world there is no 5:30 a.m.

So when Vivian and Leah invited me to join them for lunch on Tuesday, I politely declined. Then while driving to work that morning I realized I had forgotten to get my sandwich out of the refrigerator. This meant all I had to eat was a bag of chips and a cookie. I concluded that this was fate — or my subconscious – telling me I should take a break from work and get out of the office for a bit.

17879825_10155049460050856_7855565578594085043_oLeah wanted Mexican and Vivian suggested El Maguey and I’m a fan of their No. 4 lunch special so as soon as the staff meeting was over we headed out the door. Amy was on vacation so we took Flat Amy along in her place.

We’re driving along and some truck blows past us and straight through a red light. We catch up with them at the next red light. Leah wants to confront the driver but I argue that just because his truck isn’t riddled with bullet holes does not mean we should antagonize him. After all, he’s already shown his contempt for traffic laws and all we have to protect ourselves is a rock. Viv helps Flat Amy wave at the driver, who no doubt cannot wait for the light to turn green.

17523604_3313212631532_442457887586085936_nLunch was relaxing, tasty and uneventful — aside from the lady who was being loud and rude to her grandchildren. Leah wanted to intervene but I pointed out that we didn’t even have our rock with us and maybe she should stop wanting to be so confrontational.

When we returned to the office I discovered that I would now need to make up 1 hour and 3 minutes. As luck would have it, Andrew and Laura were off Friday so I could make up the time then. I still spent the rest of the week complaining to Leah about how she had upset my schedule. She wasn’t the least bit sorry.

Neither was I, to be honest.

 

Hey Hey, It’s The Comic-Con

Wizard World Comic-Con rolled into St. Louis over the weekend. After studying the guest list and panels I decided Sunday would best suit my purposes. So yesterday morning I got up, put on my Hawkeye cosplay (Matt Fraction/David Aja version – easiest cosplay ever), and made my way downtown — waving to The Wife as she began mowing the lawn. (I have back problems. Really.)

I wanted to catch 4 panels which meant I wouldn’t have a lot of time for booth browsing, so I wanted to get there at the opening bell. All was going well until I got downtown and suddenly traffic stopped. I looked down the road and noticed one of the streets had flashing red lights. Ah, well, that will slow things down for a bit but not much. But I quickly noticed that traffic wasn’t moving at all. What’s going on. I look again, and I notice people in lime green T-shirts running down the road.

Oh no. There’s some f-ing 10K run or something going on, isn’t there? God I hate runners. Well, mostly I hate running, but now I also hate runners. How long is this going to go on? And it’s not like I can go around it because I don’t know where the run begins or ends and I really need to get on the other side of that street. As the minutes ticked away my already high blood pressure was working to see just how high it could get.

Never before have I wanted to shoot people in the kneecaps like I did those runners. Why are you doing this on a city street? I don’t care if it’s Sunday morning, get the hell off the roads. I’ve been to these charity walks before but they always take place in a park or some other off-the-main-drag location. Stupid St. Louis.

comiccon1Thirty minutes later I get past the blockade. I arrive at the convention center much later than planned. Julie gives me my pass and I take a moment to vent, then I make my way to the main hall. I’m greeted by HULK, which is nice.

I now have about 30 minutes before my first panel. Not a lot of time, but I quickly notice that there aren’t as many booths as in the past. I make my way through most of it before heading to room 141 for The Monkees q-and-a session.

You may be wondering what The Monkees have to do with comic books. I’m not sure, I imagine back in the ’60s at the height of Monkeemania they probably had their own comic book. The truth is, these comic-cons are comic book in name only. They’re basically nerd culture conventions. In fact, it would be more honest to just call them Nerd-Con.

Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork (Mike Nesmith was, as usual, absent) took seats at their table about 10 minutes late (Panels sometimes start late at these things but they always end at the appointed time). It was an entertaining and informative 35-minute session.

(Note to people who ask questions at Comic-Cons: It’s Not About You. Just ask your question and sit down. This is not your moment to have a personal conversation with the celebrity. When Peter is constantly responding to everyone with “that’s not a question,” maybe you should get the hint.)

I had 15 minutes before the Charisma Carpenter panel (and I figured if The Monkees are 10 minutes later, Cordelia will be at least 15) so I went for a quick trek through the booths. I returned at 12:01 to find Charisma was already seated and asking everyone not to record the session. Wow. Props to Cordy for being on time. Turned out Ms. Carpenter is much friendlier, funnier and charming than the character she played on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

It’s 12:45 and my next panel is at 2 so I’ve got time to grab a quick bite and browse. I walk down the street to a sandwich shop, but it’s packed, so I go next door to Crazy Bowls and Wraps where there’s no line but it still takes 20 minutes for them to bring me my buffalo chicken wrap. By the time I return to the hall I’ve got roughly 30 minutes. And then I run into someone.

“John?”

“Ronnie. What are you doing here?”

“We brought Emma. She wanted to come.”

Emma is the daughter of my wife’s best friend Christine. Christine and Laurie are the last people you would ever expect to see at a Comic-Con. So now I have to find Christine so I can prove to myself that this really happened and get photographic evidence to prove it to Laurie.

So much for checking out the merchandise.

comiccon2Surprisingly we found them without too much trouble. Emma was dressed in Harry Potter garb, holding a snake. It wasn’t a comic book snake. It was just a snake. I don’t know what this has to do with Comic-Con either. But then, I noticed Ballpark Village had a booth at Comic-Con so apparently there are no rules.

“Ron!”

“Christine!”

“Is Laurie here?”

“What planet are you on?”

We had a nice chat but soon it was time for my next panel — Kevin Conroy, voice of The Batman in many, many cartoons. He has a hearty laugh and a lovely singing voice. I took it in for about a half-hour but then had to skip across the hall for the Marvel Saga panel. Former Marvel editor/writer Danny Fingeroth ripped through the entire history of Marvel in 45 minutes. There was a slide show so that was an added bonus. He made a valiant attempt at covering things but honestly, if you’re going to put so much emphasis on the movies you should write down beforehand who the actors are. Unless the goal was to turn that into an ongoing audience participation bit.

I walked out at 3:15 as Danny was wrapping up. The show closed at 4 so I wanted to make one last dash through the exhibit hall and see if anything caught my eye. The things I really liked were too expensive and the rest weren’t worth adding to the clutter in my basement. I left with a free Wonder Woman mini movie poster from my buddies at Allied.

I pulled into the garage at the same time as The Wife and Son.

“How was Comic-Con?”

“You’ll never believe who I saw at Comic-Con.”

“Who?”

I pull out my phone and hand it to her.

“It’s Emma! What’s she holding? Is that — EEEKKKK!!!”

And that was the highlight of Wizard World St. Louis Comic-Con 2017.

 

 

 

My Life Update: On Snoring And Digital Comics

When last we chatted I was going through a couple of major life changes. One, I had decided it was time to stop keeping everyone around me awake at night by dealing with my snoring problem, and more importantly, I had made the switch to digital comics and had left behind my weekly trip to the comic book store. Let’s see how things have changed in just two short months.

Luke, I’m Your Father

So, having passed (or failed, depending on how you look at it) my sleep apnea test, the next step was hooking me up with a CPAP (Crap Personal Asphyxiation Program) machine. I call the lady and she says I can come in and have a training session or they will send one out with an instructional DVD. Of course they’re not open on weekends and I don’t want to shuffle around my work schedule anymore so I tell them to FedEx it to me.

A few days later a box arrives on my doorstep. Inside is a machine, a carrying case, several instruction booklets, several forms, tubing, filters, more tubing, more filters, and a DVD. I start looking through an instruction book and am quickly overwhelmed.

Something they don’t tell you in the beginning is that a CPAP machine has many parts that require constant care and maintenance. I’m too lazy to shave every morning and they want me to daily wash and rinse and clean out the tubing and the mask and the filters and the humidifier tray (which only takes distilled water, naturally). And I’m supposed to wash my hands like a surgeon before handling this stuff. Going to bed, which used to be just  brush-teeth-undress-crawl-into-bed, has now become an ordeal.

What the hell? Why is all this necessary?

“Because if you don’t keep the equipment clean bacteria could build up and get blown up your nose and into your brain and kill you.”

Oh, well that’s so much better than snoring. I’m so grateful. I won’t be worrying about that now for the rest of my life.

I check in with the 3 people I know who use these monstrosities and they all give me different answers as to how seriously I should take upkeep and maintenance — based mainly on how long they’ve been using it. None of them have died of brain bacteria yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

I put in the DVD. It starts out with a couple recreating their experience with sleep apnea. I don’t give a shit, just tell me how to hook up the machine. Next, a lecture on what sleep apnea is. I don’t give a shit, just tell me how to hook up the machine. Next, a segment on your body and how it reacts to sleep and the causes of FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST TELL ME HOW TO HOOK UP MY MACHINE….

Finally we get to the instructions. “Not all machines are alike so you may need to consult with your instruction manual for more details.” The machine in the video was nothing like mine.

The next day I’m calling the Apria people, setting up a meeting, and reworking my work schedule.

000_0379The 45-minute one-on-one goes well and I go home confident I can make it work. That night I wash everything up, plug everything in, affix plastic tubes up my nose, lie down on my back, and wait for the sweet release of sleep. I was told that a CPAP machine ranges from a setting of 4 which is the lowest to 20 which is the highest. According to my sleep study, mine needed to be set at 18. For those with math anxiety, that’s just 2 short of the maximum rate that they can blow air up your nose.

Is it comfortable? Oh, God, no. Do you get used to it? I hope to God some day, but that day hasn’t come yet. Do you sleep through the night? For the most part. I’m usually wake up around 5 or 6 and can’t stand having this thing on my face anymore so I rip it off and lay there for a bit then get up. Sleeping in on weekends is a thing of the past.

So, are there any advantages? Well, I don’t feel tired all the time. I don’t fall asleep on the couch when I sit still for 10 minutes. I haven’t fallen asleep during a movie screening in weeks — and if I can stay awake through “Going In Style,” then things have definitely changed. My blood pressure is down, my back pain has decreased significantly, I seem to have more energy, I don’t wake up in the night and toss and turn. I don’t get up to use the bathroom multiple times a night. I’m blogging more. I guess those are advantages. Of course, if I die from bacteria I’m not sure if it will have been worth it.

Oh, there’s one other thing that comes from this: My wife is very, very, very, very, very, very happy.

So I’ll stick with it.

Welcome Back To The Comic Book Shop, Jimmy Dean

Those of you who pay attention will recall that back in January Marvel Comics ended their practice of including a code for a digital copy of any of their comic books that you bought. I was not happy, as this meant I would now have to choose between buying digital or physical comics. I went with digital, because they’re easier to read and store, but this meant my weekly trip to the comic book shop was no more.

I was devastated. None of you seemed to care.

marvel-digital-code-350x217Well, in what must be the quickest business turnaround since the death of New Coke, Marvel has announced that they are bringing back free digital copies when you buy their comics.

The program starts back up in May (just in time for Free Comic Book Day). This means there will now be an odd 3 month gap in my comic book collection for future archaeologists to puzzle over.

So now I can go back to the comic shop every Wednesday and browse and buy and not talk to the shop owner and pick up any freebies lying around.  I will have to buy new bookshelves — hey, maybe from IKEA! — and let them stack up in my basement until the day I die at which point my poor wife will look around and cry out, “What am I going to do with all these damn comic books?!”

And I’ll look up from where I’m spending eternity and say “That’s what you get for making me go to bed every night with that face-hugging, air-blowing mask on my face.”