Last meals – eat drink and be merry!

It’s a toss up for my “last breakfast”. I had eggs over easy, bacon, rice and pancakes at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver.

I spend quite a lot of time on the road traveling around mostly to other towns in Wyoming.

I haven’t had any death-defying driving experiences nor any close calls other than a couple 360 degree black ice spins.

A couple weeks ago I was driving back from Riverton and made a stop in Rawlins for snacks and gas.

The clerk informed me that I-80 east and west were both closed due to snow and blowing snow.

It was calm, sunny and warm in Rawlins, but I was stuck at the Econo-Lodge there for the night. Even as Econo-Lodges go, this one was desolate.

Might as well make the best of it.

IMG_2881

My “last lunch” pork noodles at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver.

I cruised around downtown which has improved over the years. I had a chili relleno at a small Mexican place and went back to the room, if that’s what you want to call it. The Econo-Lodge was more of an Econo-Fridge. The heater hadn’t been on for quite some time.

Closed roads are a growth industry in Wyoming.

The interstate was closed down because there was no more room along the route to accommodate any more trucks, let alone passenger cars.

Pizza Hut advertises on the room keys, bored, I decided to order my “go to” Canadian bacon and mushroom thin crust with extra cheese. I was able to eat half of it. The cable was pretty good in Rawlins – there’s not much to do there in the middle of the week in the dead of an early snow storm.

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

At 2am, the REEEEE REEEEE REEEEE! screeched out on the cable TV. The roads were open. I would still wait to get out around 10am when the sun is higher.

I gobbled the rest of the cold pizza and downed a warmed over cup of yesterday’s coffee before getting on the road.

It was a bumper to bumper parking lot from Wolcott Junction to Laramie. Traffic was stopped by an accident on the westbound lane. It took three hours to go 90 miles.

I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

Wyoming winter driving takes some getting used to. If you can successfully drive in Wyoming during even a small snowstorm, you can drive anywhere.

Riverton, like most other Wyoming communities, is centrally isolated from just about every place else when the weather gets nasty.

I grew up in Cheyenne and let me tell you, if you’ve never experienced a blizzard in southeast Wyoming, I always felt lucky about living in Lander and now Boulder along the front range foothills.

It’s so nice to wake up, look out the window and notice that the snow has fallen into neat little piles on tops of fence posts and not rudely strewn about in seven-foot- high drifts.

I’ve met several people in my travels who have been to Wyoming. Besides having visited Yellowstone Park, the second most frequent comment is, “Oh, yeah, one winter during the War, my train was stranded in Cheyenne at the depot while going to California.”

Midway was probably a fonder memory than Wyoming.

Icky John C'Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

Icky John C’Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

I was in Riverton to document a traditional Northern Arapaho bison ceremony. This was my third trip to the Wind River Indian Reservation in three weeks.

It was a successful hunt and ceremony, which is the subject of another post. I was anxious to get back on the road but didn’t check the road reports.

Hmmm.

Under most circumstances, I’m a calm and collected driver, but when the interstate suddenly disappears in a puff of white, it’s quite a different story.

Luckily, I didn’t get stuck on the interstate and it closed behind me. I’ve been stuck back in the days before cell phones and GPS.

Back in those days, it was cassette tapes and Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra tunes soothing me while my car pounded through invisible snow drifts and crept around several 18-wheeler convoys near Elk Mountain.

White knuckles.

Disgruntled travelers examining their jack-knifed u-Haul trailer and contorted semi0truck silhouettes in the media strip made me realize how out of control these drives can be.

I can’t imagine being killed by a wild and crazy trucker or freezing to death knowing my last meal was cold pizza and day-old coffee.

My romanticism has me eating bacon, eggs over easy with a pancake for my last breakfast at the Red Willow in the Wind River Casino; pork noodles from the 20th Street Cafe as my last lunch; and steak and lobster from Svilar’s in Hudson, Wyoming.

I better get with eating, drinking and being merry.

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Be nice to your mail carrier this holiday season

christmas seals

Christmas seals appeared on all my parent’s cards they sent out during the holiday season.

I stopped to chat with the postman as he was locking up the Silver Sage Village mail boxes. I get a few things by 1st class mail, but it’s mostly bills and junk.

Today was no different as the mail ended up in the circular file headed to the recycling bin. The other day I got a letter from the IRS saying I owe a few bucks. Maybe government agencies are obliged to use hard copy and resort to first class mail.

“Things have been really crazy. We made a deal with Amazon and now have 40 percent of their business,” he lamented. “That, plus everyone has started mailing a lot earlier this year.”

Like November 1.

The post office, unlike FedEx and UPS delivers on Christmas and Sundays. He said some days he starts at 7am and doesn’t get finished until 10pm and mail is getting delivered at odd times.

What about “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

“Oh, that’s still true, but this month the mail just gets delivered later! We’ll get it figured out eventually.”

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay which also must have a deal with the postal service. On all packages, I get a postage discount, plus I don’t have to go to stand in line at the post office and can have the occasional chat with the postman.

Every year, I plan to send out hard copy Christmas cards, and every year I don’t get around to it. Fifty cents for a stamp and fifty cents for the card – a buck to send a greeting and well wishes is a pretty good deal.

I remember when I was young, my parents sent out Christmas cards every year. That tradition included going to the post office and picking out just the perfect stamps for that year’s mailing.

It was also a time to make donations to fight tuberculosis and putting those on the envelope was also signs of the season.

I don’t even remember mailing packages. Once in a while something would be sent to my aunt in Washington DC, but she generally came back to Cheyenne for Christmas. She always brought with her “big city” gifts like Godiva ch0colate, sweaters from Lord and Taylor.

These days, all that fancy stuff is now very common and available in malls.

We’ve become mass society.

The Baby Boomer diaspora also contributes to the package shipping explosion. When my grandparents died, my uncles and aunts didn’t come around as much any more. That meant my cousins didn’t come to town much either.

Any presents had to be mailed. That was all before FedEx and UPS. When all the cousins were in high school, the unwritten rule was, no more gifts.

I really don’t send stuff out, but now that I’m getting to the point in life that I’m downsizing, I’m selling stuff on eBay. Why on earth I held on to that Charlies Angels lunch box, I’ll never know (although I still have a crush on Kate Jackson) but someone will enjoy having it gathering dust on their shelves.

The few holiday greetings I’ve sent out are gift cards to amazon.com or event tickets. As long as there are kids, there will be a demand for unnecessary stuff. The cycle seems to keep going and going.

Even if I don’t get around to sending out cards this year, I’ll at least be nice to my mail carrier this holiday season.

By the way, I learned that this quote which has become the US Postal Service motto was written by Greek historian Herodotus, 503 B.C. The words are inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.

What a long strange trip it still is – aging better together and the power of community

Auntie Jeannie is standing on the right end next to my mother. Alison is sitting second from the right, Alison's sister Leslie is being held by Auntie Elsie.

Auntie Jeannie is standing on the right end next to my mother. Alison is sitting second from the right, Alison’s sister Leslie is being held by Auntie Elsie.

I got a call from my cousin, Alison, yesterday. These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Alison told me her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. My condolences go out to my cousins Alison and Leslie and her sisters Carol Lou and Janice.

I’ve been attending funerals lately. Last week, it was for Eastern Shoshone tribal elder and one of my mentors Starr Weed in Fort Washakie.

It was my first open casket wake. I don’t know what I expected, but it was solemn and heart breaking. One of Starr’s grandsons, Layha Spoonhunter, was one of my Wind River Tribal College film students. His class project was an oral history of Starr. I felt for him and his mom, Wilma, who is married to my former boss, Harvey, and his aunt Elaine who organizes the Gift of the Waters Pageant in Thermopolis.

A month or so ago, my Uncle Rich died. He had quite a few home health care workers supporting him after he returned from the hospital. He was a 442nd war veteran and in Army Intelligence. He was too small in stature for combat. I also learned after he died, my Aunt Sadako was moved to an assisted living place in Cheyenne.

I live in the Silver Sage Village senior cohousing community in North Boulder. There have been murmurs about it, but just recently the community began discussing “aging in community” which has been on my mind quite a bit, lately.

I’m making a documentary movie about my and my neighbors’ experiences of growing old in cohousing and their thoughts about the future. I’m also helping produce a national conference on the topic that will be held next year May 19 to 21 in Salt Lake City.

My movie won’t be anything earth shattering, but hopefully will give others wanting to start up an intentional community some insight into what to expect. These discussions are about the first ones we’ve had in the five years I’ve been living at Silver Sage Village where the topic has been about something more substantive than maintaining the buildings.

A bunch of people are reading “Being Mortal” by a doctor named Atul Gawande. His basic premise is that modern medicine is good about keeping people alive, while not knowing when it’s time to allow us to die not in a hospital but at home.

Gawande says that in the past, 80 percent of people used to die at home and 20 percent died in a hospital or medical facility. Now that number is reversed with 80 percent dying in a hospital and 20 percent dying at home.

Back to Auntie Jeannie.

I also learned that at 77, she was one of the primary care givers to my Auntie Elsie, well into her 90s. A few months ago, she broke her hip and Jeannie got her settled into a rehab / hospice center as well as helping Sadako get settled into her assisted living apartment. I surmise that what happened was Uncle Rich’s home care workers also did more for Sadako than anyone realized.

I imagine with all this care giving Jeannie was a bit stressed out.

Elders providing care for other elders is becoming common place anymore and a problem.

I can see myself in that boat particularly since my immediate family is strewn all over the place with their own lives and issues and I have no kids.

Like in Jeannie’s case, the work takes more out of the care giver than the patient.

Cohousing is a way to spread some of the load.

Jeannie was married to my Uncle Jake who was the youngest son on my dad’s side that had 13 total kids. It was a very strong extended family and everything revolved around my grand parents house.

Mainly during the summers, everyone would gather various places in Cheyenne and along with the rest of the Japanese community. On Memorial Day there were big picnics and on the 4th of July we all went out to Jeannie’s parents who lived out in the country and blasted off fireworks.

Back then, all the cousins were close, and all the aunts and uncles were close but there was a big diaspora after the grand parents died. We all became adults, had our own lives and lost the closeness we shared as children. Social media has helped keep us connected, but it’s still not the same as it was.

How do more seniors get engaged as caregivers for one another?

I had a brush with death and had a visit from the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come and got a glimpse into my future. What if I couldn’t walk, feed myself, or breathe on my own, flat on my back in a hospital bed?

I can tell you it was lonely.

The hospital was 20 miles away and the rehab place 40 miles away in Denver. I didn’t broadcast that I was laid up but a few neighbors and friends managed to find out and dropped by. I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some editing.

I didn’t realize how doped up I was. A guy can only watch so many “Pawn Stars” reruns before boredom sets in.

I’m happy that I got a second chance to do things differently the next time around. I am grateful to be living at a place like Silver Sage Village. At the urging of Diana Helzer, we sold a place nearby with too many stairs in favor of Silver Sage Village that is on the ground floor with no steps and is fully accessible.

I really didn’t know much of anything about cohousing but am lucky to have neighbors who helped out by bringing by food and helping Diana with some of the care giving like transport in the dead of winter.

The downside of living in cohousing is antithetical to any care giving.

There are many conflicts about the day – to – day management of the place that arise and escalate, some cause hard feelings, but that’s part of life anywhere and shows how fragile community living can be among a whole variety of personality types. The differences seem more pronounced since everyone also is trying to get along.

In my experience, those sorts of relationships have been more work related, but much of living in cohousing is work related and I’ve had to learn how to separate out my personal life here from my business life here.

When I returned to Silver Sage Village after six weeks of hospital and rehab stints, I don’t know how it happened, but neighbors brought by meals and offers of help. I don’t know if neighborliness can be “organized” but however it came about was greatly appreciated. That, along with the layout of the fully accessible condo, was important in my continuing recovery.

It takes a village to raise a child but also takes a village to move an elder towards the end of life.

I don’t expect my neighbors to help me into the shower, or wipe my butt, but I hope they’ll continue to mostly be around.

Gawande talks about the importance of hospice that helps a person be comfortable and provides ways to navigate life.

Do I want my friends and family to be hovering over me out of some sort of self serving sense of duty when I’m delirious and out of it? Is that quality time to be with someone at the last breath?

I’ve put myself into self-imposed hospice now while I still have plenty of breaths left and want to be comfortable in my house living life to it’s fullest. I’d rather be around family and friends while we still have our wits about us.

Here I thought I was out of the event planning business.

Look out for the “Getting the Band Back Together Tour” truckin’ into a town year you – the Cousins Reunion; Cheyenne, Gillette, Lander, Boulder and points in between.

What a long strange trip it still is!

Confessions of an upward facing dogie

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O'Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

A month or so ago, Denver Post reporter Claire Martin caught wind of the documentary I’m making about “aging in community”. The principle photography is done, but there are a couple stories that need updating and I’m gathering up some photos for extra coverage.

The movie is based on my “aha” experiences and perspectives learned after being pretty sick to the point of having the “end of life” and drastic “heart lung transplant” conversations with my doctors back during the summer of 2014. My colleague Maryann Williamson interviewed some of my Silver Sage Village neighbors about their perspectives about aging in an intentional community like cohousing.

The Denver Post article came out yesterday – the beginning of Labor Day weekend. There’s another chapter in this saga which marks the one year anniversary of me taking yoga classes.

In this town, that shouldn’t be too earth shattering at all. For a Wyomingite, it’s not the usual way to while away the hours. There’s an advertisement to attract former Wyoming people back to the state that says something to the effect that “we have latte’s and yoga” which are why an expat like myself should move back.

Yee Haw – git a long little downward facing dogie!

A "dogie" is a neglected calf that is eventually rescued and looked after.

A “dogie” is a neglected calf that is eventually rescued and looked after.

Over the past 10 years or so, one of my annual missions is to take footage of all the entertainment along the Bolder Boulder route. The 2014 acid test was whether or not I could complete my usual task and finish the 10K. All went well, but I needed to take a swig of O2 going up the Folsom Street hill into the stadium.

A month later, I was given the okay to put the supplemental oxygen aside while weaning off of the prednisone. My chest xray in June wasn’t that great, and my lung doctor wasn’t very optimistic at all. That’s when I also started with aggressive treatments at the Southwest Acupuncture College Boulder Campus. I attribute my miraculous recovery to that, which is another story.

In retrospect, the Bolder Boulder probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, since my percent of oxygen was around 80 percent, which was pretty good, considering a couple months earlier it was in the 60s and 70s. I had gained back some of the 37 pounds I lost laying in the hospital for a month and half and I noticed the lost weight right a way since my inner knees didn’t ache.

Anyway, I was still very weak and had trouble lifting the milk jug out of the fridge and still not very stable on my feet, having taken a tumble on the step going into Silver Sage Village. I finally could push the clutch pedal on the Eurovan and I started driving, which also wasn’t a very good idea.

My occupational therapist had me trying to do push ups against the wall and half push ups on the floor. I couldn’t do either. Sit ups were painful because of the scarring from the leaky intestine ulcer that was also repaired. I didn’t want to lift weights or go to a gym. The OT couldn’t do anything more for me. When I relearned how to walk and my gait was straight, she turned me loose.

I was picking something up at McGuckin Hardware on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day. I noticed the The Little Yoga Studio next door. There was a woman inside working on the computer at the front desk. They were closed, but she told me to take a schedule from the box by the door.

Being a Boulder guy, I wasn’t a yoga guy. Many years ago, Comcast used to have Core Power Yoga on TV in the mornings. I did that for awhile, then the practice started to include weights and equipment, which seemed out of context.

That gave me some knowledge and experience with the basic poses. Since my body was totally out of whack, I thought yoga would be more balanced than going to a gym, plus I only needed a mat – although I had sticker shock when I saw mats cost as much as $85. I needed to get stronger and more flexible. Shortly after Labor Day I made my first visit.

I really didn’t know what to expect since it was my first time in organized yoga practice, I thought it was more meditative, but I have come to learn that the Americanized versions of yoga are very different from it’s 5,000 year old traditional roots in south Asia. I was also surprised to learn that yoga in America is an 18 billion dollar a year industry. The yoga industrial complex includes, clothing, mats, equipment, food. In Boulder, you can’t turn around without your water bottle whacking into a yoga teacher.

Ronald McYoga

Ronald McYoga

I got a deal for yoga at one of the other studios in town. Turns out that was part of a yoga franchise – McYoga. It was a huge place with showers, a store with branded merchandise. That wasn’t for me – some of the same teachers work there, too.

My initial reasons for going to yoga class a couple times a weak were totally health and medical related. Some of the teachers give little dharma lessons at the beginning of the class. At the beginning of one class the teacher gave a bit of a rant about how westernized yoga moved away from the traditional tenets, which wasn’t a good thing. and that there should be more attention paid to the original teachings.

That brought to mind an NPR radio story I heard six or seven years before, about a group in Fairhope, Alabama that wanted to take the original spirituality out of yoga and replace it with Christian spirituality, since they liked the asana part – physical aspects – of yoga, but not the meditative part.

At the time, that struck me as odd.

Now that I have more of an interest it really strikes me as odd.

I also remember this story because I mnemonically link it to a former basketball player from Fairhope who played at Wyoming named Quentin Higgins.

Afterwards, I talked to the teacher about this, and turns out there’s quite a bit of information out there about the topic of non-yoga yoga. I watched a documentary called “Yoga, Inc.” which was mostly about the lawsuit between yoga mogul Bikram Choudhury and some of his teachers about unauthorized uses of his yoga pose sequences.

Om

Om

The yoga classes are helpful for me physically. I was going a couple times a week with a day of recovery time in between. I now try to get there four or five consecutive times with a couple days of rest between. But also, I want to be around the practice more which is insightful. My journalistic curiosity always gets and best of me and I’m now researching American yoga for another documentary project.

I’m learning that horse has left the barn and there must be some other angle that hasn’t dawned on me yet about putting yoga back into yoga. I’m talking with my pal Ravi Dykema about it next week. I’ll take a meeting with anyone who has a perspective on this.

Meanwhile, I’ll be continuing to “age in c(OM)unity”.

Hard copy still the best evidence of the present to inform the future

I've been sorting through my stuff and it's more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I’ve been sorting through my stuff and it’s more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I used to think hard copy would clutter up the world and everything would be digitized by now. Turns out, that’s not really the case. There will be plenty of hard copy carrying forth into the future.

Lot’s of history is “preserved” that way. I’m testament to that and sorting through boxes of papers and artifacts from my previous lives. I don’t know why I’ve held on to this stuff for so long.

Don’t be surprised if you get a mysterious envelope filled with some tangible tie between us.

Literal shared memories.

The main reason I like making historic documentaries is the research. I’ve gotten to know my way around the state of Wyoming archives, on three projects, most recently one about modern expressionism in Wyoming.

I like handling old photographs and learning about things past and assembling it all into a story.

I have an iPod with 80GB of memory. It will soon be out of date.

I have an iPod with 80GB of memory. It will soon be out of date.

A few years ago when iPods came out, I early-adopted one of the huge 80 gigabyte models.

Back in the days of cassettes, the rage was compiling a variety of music mixes on tape from LP vinyl records.

We used to borrow each others albums and copy them for our own collections. Not only had I accumulated vinyl, cassette tape music mixes, but also started buying CDs.

The iPod was supposed to revolutionize music storage. That it did, but they also sterilized memory making.

Hard copy.

A friend of mine posted on facebook recently about some problem he was having with his iPod hard drive – we have the same model – about cracking the case to get at it and the battery.

Backing up information continues to be a headache, not to mention batteries going dead. There’s a company that makes an adapter to replace the hard drives with high capacity SD cards, which is a pretty good idea. I’m looking into bumping mine up to 256GB.

My turntable still plays records, but I got rid of all of them in favor of CDs. My neighbor still has some discs to spin.

My turntable still plays records, but I got rid of all of them in favor of CDs. My neighbor still has some discs to spin.

Gone are the days of turntables, memorable scratches on certain songs, beer-stained 8-track labels, the residual aroma of pot on double album jackets. They take up space, but no fear of loss due to battery failure of out-of-date operating systems.

Kids must be learning different things in school. Metaphors must be changing, too, with way fewer industrial references.

I don’t think talkative people sound like broken records, or those with disagreements are now on the same wave length.

Carhartt jeans are still inspected by people, including these three in a factory in Mexico. They add that personal touch.

Carhartt jeans are still inspected by people, including these three in a factory in Mexico. They add that personal touch.

I put on a new pair of jeans the other day and there were these paper inspection labels in the pockets.

We’re led to believe that everything is automated and made by high tech machines.

There are still some items that have the human touch, including my Carhartts made in Mexico.

Not only were my trousers inspected three times, but one of the inspectors saved on paper by changing their ID number using a Magic Marker.

I don’t know what I expected the future to be like by now. When I was a kid there was the Hanna Barbera cartoon sit-com “The Jetsons.”

The Jetsons TV family was the view of a typical 1960s family if portrayed in the distant future.

The Jetsons TV family was the view of a typical 1960s family if portrayed in the distant future.

The Jetsons traveled around in hover craft, their house was cleaned by a robot named Rosie. George worked at the Spacely Sprockets office, Jane puttered around the house, Judy was in high school and Elroy was in elementary school.

Middle class and All-American for the future as envisioned in the early 1960s, which was the same present portrayed in Leave it to Beaver.

For 99 percent of us, we did become mass society – most everyone has a TV, microwave oven, internal combustion engine car.

Carhartt is one of those companies that has purged it’s guilt with a “Made in the USA” line and also stuff made elsewhere. Regardless, it’s good to know there are humans involved in the manufacturing quality control.

There’s plenty of esoteria that goes into making smart refrigerators and smart coffee pots, but the basic purposes remain the same – keep food cold and water hot.

After the Star Ship Enterprise blew up, Picard was able to retrieve his family album as he took over the Star Fleet command.

After the Star Ship Enterprise blew up, Picard was able to retrieve his family album as he took over the Star Fleet command.

Remember “Star Trek Generations”, the movie set in the 25th century when the Star Ship Enterprise is destroyed? Captain Kirk turns the keys over to Jean Luc Picard. Picard manages to save his hard copy family album.

Some of the photos and papers dated back to the 18th century. If it was digitized, the electromagnetic pulse would have wiped the disc clean.

Hard copy isn’t safe from disaster. The library at Alexandria was the book repository for the world at that time and it was supposedly destroyed by a big fire – no copies left of any of that.

Grocery store plastic bags cost a dime in Boulder, Colorado. The hope is to reduce the amount of trash that will be preserved for future generations to find and learn about our culture.

Grocery store plastic bags cost a dime in Boulder, Colorado. The hope is to reduce the amount of trash that will be preserved for future generations to find and learn about our culture.

I tossed out the trash today. It was in a plastic bag. I always dump it out so the organics will deteriorate and not leave any evidence of my diet in the landfill.

My neighbors use those nuclear war-proof bags with the draw strings. Archaeologists and paleontologists of the future will have a pretty good idea about our 21st century culture and determine that we inhabitants revered our detritus as evidenced by the stockpiles of leftover food, old papers and various containers hidden in large altars excavated into hill sides surrounding urban areas.

I hope ‘American Sniper’ has a good story: I like sniper movies

"American Sniper" has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit - fair use)

“American Sniper” has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit – fair use)

There’s been quite a bit of social media and entertainment news traffic about the movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.

Last night at the Silver Sage Village pot luck dinner, there was a pretty good discussion about the military experience of five men in the community , which is no experience. None of us saw any duty during the Vietnam War era, mostly because of student deferments.

I’ve always thought that service in the military was a part of my maturation process that I missed, considering that four of my uncles were in the army 1-A. My dad was 4-F.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch American Sniper.

After some thinking, I realized that I like sniper movies. There are sniper characters in lots of movies which date back to when I was a kid. I was a bit of a loner back then – still am – which probably explains my attraction to them.

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called "Combat". (photo credit - fair use)

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called “Combat”. (photo credit – fair use)

There was a TV show called Combat with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley. I remember one episode called “The Sniper”. The squad takes refuge in a French town after it was liberated and gets pinned down by a Nazi sniper. They can’t find him and Sgt. Saunders eventually figures out he’s been hiding in plain clothes in town.

Turns out the bad guy was abetted by Sgt. Saunders’ love interest. He eventually mows the sniper down with his Thompson sub-machine gun, after the girl gets sniped. She has a recognition and reversal and realizes she should have remained loyal to her homeland and dies in Sgt. Saunders’ arms. Combat always had good stories with war as a back drop.

From when I was young, I’ve always liked James Bond, some war movies – many have snipers as characters.

In no particular order, here are some sniper movies that came to mind. I’ve watched these many times. All of the video clips linked are graphic, so open them at your own risk.

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in "spy Game" (photo credit - fair use)

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in “Spy Game” (photo credit – fair use)

Spy Game – This is one of those two generational movies. Robert Redford plays a veteran CIA agent – Jason Muir – who recruits upstart sniper Brad Pitt – Tom Bishop – during the Vietnam War. He passes on all his spy wisdom to Pitt who is a bit of a renegade and ends upĀ  imprisoned in China after a botched attempt to rescue his girlfriend who was aiding the bad guys in the Middle East in exchange for money to keep her NGO going. Robert Redford is retiring and the double entendre story has Redford giving his exit interview with his bosses while using CIA resources to spring Pitt and the girlfriend from prison. Bishop and Muir were both better loners than team players.

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in "The Professional" (photo credit - fair use)

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in “The Professional” (photo credit – fair use)

The Professional – This is an odd movie with Jean Reno as Leon, the assassin, and a 12 year old orphan named Matilda played by Natalie Portman. In one scene, Leon gives Matilda a sniper lesson teaching her how to follow a target with a high powered rifle. I think this scene is only in the director’s cut. I don’t remember it when it was on TV the other night.

Matilda wants to learn the ways of an assassin to avenge the death of her brother. Gary Oldman plays a rogue cop addicted to meth trying to foil Leon and Matilda.

It’s a different kind of love story and when the two aren’t blowing stuff up, the two get to know each other like father and daughter as well as partners in crime.

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit - fair use)

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit – fair use)

The Day of the Jackal – The original has Edward Fox playing an assassin who is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. The Jackal ends up getting a clean shot at de Gaulle, but misses. He’s noticed by the French police who kill him.

Fox also became a staple in couple of my favorite war movies A Bridge Too Far which was written by my favorite screen screenwriter William Goldman and in Force 10 from Navarone, the sequel to The Guns of Navarone.

There was a remake called The Jackal with Bruce Willis as the bad guy who is being chased by Richard Gere. The new version doesn’t have much similar to the original. Both versions are on cable TV. I catch parts of them when channel surfing.

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in "Dirty Harry" (photo credit - fair use)

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in “Dirty Harry” (photo credit – fair use)

Dirty Harry – This was the first installment of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of San Francisco detective of questionable ethics Harry Callahan. It came out the year I graduated from high school in 1971. The psycho bad guy is a sniper called Scorpio played by Andrew Robinson. He was type cast after his Scorpio role. Towards the beginning of the movie, a San Francisco police helicopter catches up to him on a rooftop aiming on some unsuspecting targets. He leaves notes at each crime scene demanding $100,000 from the city government or he’ll keep killing random citizens ($100,000? why bother!?) He and Callahan have a final shoot out in a rock quarry when the infamous line “Do I feel lucky” is uttered. Scorpio was a Vietnam vet who came home and was a victim of PTSD and mistreatment when he came back stateside causing him to go berserk. This veteran stereotype probably wouldn’t go over very well today.

Eastwood also directed American Sniper. I wonder if he had any throwbacks to his original Dirty Harry role and Scorpio.

Back when I was a kid, playing war was a part of goofing around in my suburban neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I still don’t think that there was anything odd about my pals and me dressing up like WWII soldiers and digging fox holes in the vacant fields behind the subdivision. It was a big treat to browse around the Sergeant’s Surplus store for old canvas backpacks, dummy grenades and such.

I didn’t turn out to be that demented.

This socialization process was the norm back in those days. I owned lots of toy guns, including a Sgt. Saunders Tommy gun by Mattel and a Marx bazooka that shot these blue plastic rockets.

When we played, nobody wanted to be the sniper because that entailed being alone and we all would rather storm pretend machine gun nests.

This is why I think there has always been a fascination with the lone wolf sniper persona.

There are plenty of other movies from Rambo to the Hurt Locker that include snipers in them. I’ve heard that American Sniper is very graphic. My guess is that any gore is left up to the imagination. I can’t see director Eastwood going over the top with any of that.

American Sniper will be on demand soon, I’ll likely live the life of Chris Kyle vicariously on the small screen.

Modern health care: mixing folk cures and medical apps

I just reenrolled with Kaiser Permanente as my insurance provider for 2015.

I just reenrolled with Kaiser Permanente as my insurance provider for 2015.

As has happened to me on an annual basis for the past 20 years or so, Kaiser Permanente (KP) cancelled my health insurance coverage on December 31. I call it cancelled, insurance companies call. the new iteration new and improved.

I’ve always had the choice to either re-up with the same policy and pay more or get a lesser policy to keep the premium about the same.

I’m sticking with KP – brand loyalty.

Over the past year, I’ve been melding old world medicine in the forms of acupuncture at the Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic for my lung problems, neti pot flushing to rinse out my sinuses, gin soaked raisins for joint pain; with modern medicine through KP.

I've been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

I’ve been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

The reason I’ve stayed with KP over the years is the HMO is one-stop shopping. I’ve had the same primary care doctor for many years and access to others in his group over at the Baseline office.

The main downside is the hospital and emergency services are located 15 miles away at the Good Samaritan Hospital. That was a big hassle when I was laid up early in 2014.

Anyway, there was a NPR radio segment on “Science Friday” yesterday about how smartphone apps are changing how health care is accessed.

That’s been very handy for me.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

I use the KP app on the phone which is the same user inner face as the computer. I can access my health records, write to my docs. On the computer I can make and cancel appointments.

The best part is being able to communicate by email with my doctors. Over the past year, I’ve developed a long list of them from the main doctor, to surgeons to rheumatologists, to pulmonologists. They’re all pretty good at writing back and that saves on co-pays and trips to their offices.

It’s amazing what they can tell from blood tests.

In addition to keeping track with the app, I’ve been able to combine old world and new world medicine together successfully. I downloaded my health record and put it in my acupuncture health file. That’s been useful since the herbalists there are able to see how my regular doctors have been treating me and can suggest acupuncture and herbal alternatives. KP offers acupuncture, but its clinic is pretty far to the east of me so I haven’t tried it.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

The Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic is a lot like an HMO. Based on a patient’s needs, there are a variety of practices offered from acupuncture – needles, moxabustion; body work – shiatsu, tuina, cupping; herbal medicine; pain management and combinations of those practices. I have a smartphone app about the acupuncture meridians.

I’ve heard about people who refuse to use modern medicine in favor of traditional remedies.

There’s a reason people used to die when they were 40.

There’s room for both approaches in the same treatments. My post herpetic neuralgia got better with acupuncture and electrical stimulation and blood letting. My Kaiser doc put me on prescription drug neurontin and the combo has been reducing the pain.

I've been trying some kitchen remedies like gin - infused raisins for joint pain.

I’ve been trying some kitchen remedies like gin – infused raisins for joint pain.

Lately, I’ve heard about soaking golden raisins in gin for joint pain and arthritis. I haven’t asked my medical docs about it, but will report to them if I find it effective.

I made up a batch and have been eating nine gin-infused raisins daily.

I’ll report back any changes in my stiff fingers battered up from sports abuse and autoimmunity. A couple of my friends have reported that the raisin – gin concoction was effective.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

My Kaiser doc did recommend the Neil Med / Neti Pot. I bought the starter kit for a couple bucks at the pharmacy and it worked instantly for my sinus dripping / nonallergic rhinitis. I use it a couple times a day with a couple shots of the prescription flonase in the morning.

Did I mention I’ve been going class at the Little Yoga Studio two or three times a week?