Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Friday, December 22, 2017

How I became the Roadkill in Boerne, Texas

When I changed the name of this Blog a few years ago, I did not expect to do much more than see the occasional alligators (bits of rubber from truck tires strewn along the highway) and roadkill, as we make our way around Texas.  But, due to a leaking heater hose this past Wednesday (December 13), and the bad luck to choose the wrong automotive repair facility, I became a part of that roadkill.

We left Schertz early that morning, and for the first time, I tried a short cut, using FM3009/Natural Bridge Caverns Road, to TX1863, through the town of Bulverde, up to SH46, and over to Boerne.  Unfortunately, I drove a bit too fast near the Johnson Ranch Elementary School, in Bulverde, and was stopped by a local policeman.  He was super kind, as soon as he realized that steam was pouring out from under the hood of my minivan, and he used his flashlight to help me locate the source of a leak (heater hose), and suggested a couple of places to seek mechanical help.  He also - most kindly - let me off with a warning.

I was not able to find either of the shops he referred me to, and ended up turning into a place on the way out of Boerne, called Two Fat Guys Complete Automotive Service Center.  I knew, going in, that I was at the mercy of this place, and I have to now say that I pretty much allowed these two fat guys - neither of whom I met - to have their way with me.  The young man who provided the counter help to me was named Alex Minozevski, and a Val Minozevski also had something to do with the repairs on my minivan.

Basically, all they did was replace the two heater hoses, that were delivered to them by a Napa Auto Parts outlet.  They charged me $36.00 for their diagnostic, $282.53 for the two hoses, $49.16 for the parts to do a coolant flush, $60.00 labor for that flush, and another $60.00 labor for the replacing of the heater hoses.  Total:  $529.68

Featured prominently on their written estimate is their price guarantee:  "If you find a lower price on any of the services shown above, let us know and we will beat it!  Guaranteed."

Napa Auto Parts, in Boerne, over the phone quoted me $109.00 for the heater hoses.  Their web site offers these same hoses for $89.99:

So, why would you have such a guaranty, and then turn right around and gouge a customer to such a remarkable degree?!  I have called and talked to young Alex a couple of times, late this past week, and he did offer a credit of one hundred dollars, but when I followed up to ask when that would post, he said he could only pass this along to his boss, as he himself is not authorized to post credits.  And, yes, he is the one who posted the charges to my card.

Even the Cadillac dealer to whom I used to take my Caddy rolled the diagnostic cost into the final repair bill, and I think that charging me separate labor costs for the flush and the actual hose replacement is twice what should have been right and proper.

I spoke to Valerie at their main location on Monday morning, 12/18, and found her to be just as mealy mouthed as Alex, who I suspect is her son.  She says that their guarantee is only for services, and is only honored if one has the time and the means to physically obtain written estimates from their local competition, and has nothing to do with their price gouging for parts.  She tried to justify their 300% markup on my heater hoses, but I am not buying that (Oh, wait!  I did so buy it!), and claimed that she has already issued me a credit via my credit card, but so far nothing shows up at my bank.  Ultimately, that credit of $112 did come through, reducing my total hit by that much.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I Got Your Knee

I find it peculiar that something that began as a silent protest against injustice, and, if you will, hypocrisy, idiocy, and a few other well-chosen words, turned into an argument as silly as what we now seem to have.  As I understand it, Colin Kaepernick, a pretty decent quarterback, decided to simply remain seated during the National Anthem played before an NFL game.  Sort of like Rosa Parks did all those years ago.

At first, nobody paid much attention to what he was doing.  But, gradually, they did, and his act of sitting became a bit more.  As he tried to explain what he was doing, which I believe was simply seeking a way to call attention to oppression, by this simple act of protest, the arguments have grown.

One obvious outcome is that he is out of work.  And, what began as a simple protest has somehow become all about patriotism, disrespect for the Flag, and a whole lot of things that he did not say or do, and does not say or do.  Frankly, the whole thing has got me to wondering about something even more basic than his protest.

By the way, before I get to that, let me say that I totally understand what he is saying, and I not only agree with his right to say it in whatever manner he chooses, but I hope that maybe, just maybe, this could lead to some public acknowledgment of what we, as a nation, still need to do to live in real and actual equality.

Granted, also, this has been pushed off the stage a bit by the tragedy in Las Vegas, but in my opinion, Kaepernick's point is driven even deeper to home by the insanity that transpired in Las Vegas.  We, the majority, have remained silent for far too long about far too many things!

We need real equality, and we need it now!  We need real gun control, and we need it now.  The time for talk about these issues should be long gone.  It is way past the time to finally take action.  Get the money out of politics, and ban the NRA and all lobbying!  Don't pass more laws, because there are too many on the books that are not being enforced as it is.  Enforce those laws which are essential by restoring the Equal Rights Act, and strictly adhering to it!  For me, simple gun control is not enough, and I see complete and total confiscation as the only solution.

I should not have to repeat facts like the single common factor in our mass killings is guns.  Or, that other nations which banned guns a long time ago, have no mass killings.  That every excuse that has been presented to date has been weak, lame, and sadly off the mark.  But, there you go.

I know that many folks still want to strictly interpret the Second Amendment, but only that part that they believe supports their precious *right* to bear arms.  They always ignore that part about a "well regulated militia."  And, their position ignores the precious *right* that the rest of us have to simply live, and to remain alive!  I submit that the Second Amendment was written by people who did not have access to even so much as a revolver, let alone automatic, or semiautomatic weapons.  Therefore, it is sadly out of date, and needs to be rewritten so that it applies to today's world.

I have really gotten off the subject here, haven't I?  OK, back to my point.  It is this.  Here's a suggestion to solve this whole sit, stand, kneel, anthem, flag, protest thing.  How about eliminating the playing of the national anthem before sporting events?  I mean, what is the point?  It's not like the event that is about to transpire is going to do much to further our national interests, or even put us on the international stage, now is it?

So, here's the quick solution to part of this controversy.  No more national anthem.  Let the military seek another way to recruit cannon fodder for the rich man's wars.  Save the taxpayers some money, in the process, too!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The South Ain't Gonna

I grew up in the 1950's in the state of Washington. We lived all over the state, mostly in rural and small town settings. My father worked in lumber mills, on dairy farms, and wheat ranches. We never stayed in one place very long because he was an alcoholic, who just could not keep a job. I did not see a black person until I was about 13 years old. I knew very little about the rest of the world, other than what was taught in the various schools that I attended. I was aware that there had been a Civil War in the U. S., and that the primary issue there had to do with slavery, and that the pro-slave folks (if you will) had lost that war. I was also aware that we had very recently fought and defeated Nazis and evil little yellow men all over the world, and it was thanks to people like John Wayne that we had wrested most of the U. S. A. away from Native Americans.
The thing is, I knew as a child that the south had lost, Nazis were bad, and there was nothing inherently wrong with anyone whose skin differed from mine, including those little yellow men. I was even ignorant of any Biblical mention of slavery because we did not attend any church.
I was not aware of all the homage paid to "the fine traditions of the Old South," or the "Glory" of that Old South. I do remember reading about Stonewall Jackson and various Southern Generals and leaders. But, I also recall reading about Lincoln and Grant and Sherman. We did not have Confederate monuments, or any monuments dedicated to that Civil War, because our state wasn't much settled at the time of those events. We were very much more aware of The Spanish American War, and Teddy Roosevelt, and WWI, and of course, WWII.
Big days in our calendar were - believe it or not - May Day (as in, the rites of Spring and flowers; nothing to do with labor), Memorial Day, Arbor Day, and of course the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I still remember my mother referring to Armistice Day, and seeing my father always buy a poppy for that occasion. Of course, that turned into Veterans Day during the 50's, because frankly, the farther in time we got from that First World War, the fewer people still lived who were even alive during that time. My point in mentioning these days is that none of them included Confederate Hero's Day, or Jeff Davis' birthday, or any such celebration of either the Civil War or the Confederacy.
I do recall that there was obviously an effort to glorify those events all across the country, though, because of movies and television. The very term, 'rebel,' was used as a euphemism for hero, in many movies, up to and including the short lived "The Rebel," starring Nick Adams, in 1959. Rebels were seen most often as lone good guys going up against many bad guys. The good guy theme was common in movies and TV dramas that portrayed rebels as those who came west in the years following the Civil War (because their beautiful homes had been destroyed by evil northerners), and it was they (former Confederate soldiers) who were often the ones who famously settled the American West.
So, I suppose I was aware of attempts to glorify certain aspects of the old south, but only in that limited area dramatized by Hollywood.
I guess what I want to say here is that I have never quite grasped this entire "The South Will Rise Again" philosophy, or seen the need to try to bring to life a world that never really existed. The idiots who want to parade the flags of that lost cause have some kind of wildly distorted idea of what that old South really was. They somehow believe that a restoration of the miserable Confederacy would guarantee them a better life. It's like somehow they would miraculously be moved out of their falling down trailers, and into mansions, each and every one. Of course, the reality is that, as long as they feel that they can look down on someone else, anyone else, they feel better about themselves. And, let's face it. If you live in a trailer, surrounded by falling down appliances and vehicles, and overgrown weeds, a slave's life has to look worse than your own.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Viva Mexico?

Saturday evening, as guests of some long time friends who live in Cd. Juarez, we ventured out from our home, and across the border, to Cd. Juarez.  This was our first time to go across the border for strictly social reasons since our return to El Paso in 2012.  For what it is worth, that is something we used to do two or three times a month, but for many reasons just don't do anymore.
               We went to a place called "Viva Mexico," Viva México Restaurant, a restaurant that is located very close to the Free Bridge, also known as the Cordoba Bridge, in what used to be a small shopping center.  They feature a pageant of sorts, much like El Paso's "Viva El Paso."  They offer a full menu and following adequate time to eat, they put on a spectacular show that features folklorico dancing, singing, charros on horseback, some very talented lasso work, and even a Juan Gabriel wannabe.
               They advertise that the show on a Saturday begins at 9:30 PM, and they recommend that you allow two hours before the show to give you time to eat.  We were a bit late for our reservation, so we did not get good seating.  We were stuck up on a tiny second floor balcony, overlooking the entire restaurant and stage, along with a large group of about eight people, and two different groupings of four (the groupings of four consisted of two separate parties, as one ate and left part way through the show).
This was a view of the floor and stage.  The raised area is the stage, and the flat area surrounding it is sand, for the horses.  This was taken from our table up on the second floor balcony.

             Unfortunately, although the building is in good repair, their idea of air conditioning is totally inadequate, especially up on that second floor.  This location is actually old, as we remember there being a super market and other businesses here way back in the late 60's, early 70's.  At any rate, at some point in time this part of the original structure was completely remodeled to accommodate the restaurant, and the interior is very picturesque, with the feel of a village somewhere in Mexico.
               The menu is varied, and the food was good.  We had the carne asada a la tampiqueña, and what we got was what I know as fajita, or skirt steak.  The meat was tender and cooked just right, although it did lack seasoning, believe it or not.  On the plate was a delicious cheezy chile sauce, to go with the meat, some refried beans, with grated cheese, one rolled tortilla with a delicious molé sauce, and another that was like an enchilada.  The pricing for the food was reasonable, by the way.
                About an hour before the show was to begin, some Mariachis came out and worked the floor.  Unfortunately, either my hearing aids were just not working well, or the acoustics were very poor.  Because all I could hear was occasional trumpet blasts, and the murmur of singing voices.  I could recognize some of their songs, but it always took some time.  When it was time for the show, there was no mistake, as the lights all went out, and a voice began booming out to let us know what was happening.
                Again, I left my hearing aids in place, and tried different settings, but ultimately gave up, and took them out, as it seemed to make no difference what I did, the audio was just too loud, and that all by itself was distracting.  There was a young man who sang some Mariachi songs (in costume) and a young lady as well.  But, the show began with a very heavy, very loud drum beat, and primitive dances, evidently to represent the Aztecs and some other indigenous folk dances.  The music continued at too high a volume, for my comfort, unfortunately.
              There were a number of dances of different folklorico styles, with music from different parts of Mexico.  there were at least six young ladies, and as many young men, and they did look to be very professional.  Unfortunately, for me, there were too many obscure dances, and it quickly became boring for me.  Interspersed with the dancing a Charro would come out riding a beautiful horse.  The horses danced to the music, and there were at least four of them at one time or another.
              The best part of the show, towards the end, was when some three or four young men began to do Charro rope tricks, with lassos of different colors, including some that glowed in the black light that was then applied.  Some appeared singly, then pairs, then one on horseback, who even stood on his horse, while jumping in and out of the loops he was making.  When they all performed together, it was very well choreographed, and well rehearsed.  These guys alone were worth the show.  And, the most beautiful horse of the evening came out during their performance.  You can see this magnificent black beauty in the video on their web site.
              I do have some serious advice for the singers, for the announcer, and for whoever does their sound engineering.  The volume is too high!  Singers, including the lame Juan Gabriel wannabe:  look at what a consummate professional, like Juan Gabriel, does with the microphone!  Real Mariachi singers usually do not need a microphone at all to be heard over the instruments, and a professional will tend to move the microphone farther away from their mouth when hitting those high or those extra loud notes.  Unfortunately, these people all appeared to be hungry to the point that they wanted to 'eat' their microphone!  Coupled with an already too loud system, and we heard (OK, I heard) way too much sound distortion.  Not good.
              As for the singers' abilities, let me say this.  The male was not bad, except for his tendency to hold his microphone too close.  The female may be good, but she threw in some notes that did not fit her songs, and went into almost operatic riffs that were - in my opinion - totally inappropriate.  And, of course, she also tried to eat her microphone.
              That leaves us with the Juan Gabriel imitator.  This guy kind of had the slightly corpulent look of Juan Gabriel in his forties, and wore a decent suit.  He may have a good voice, but mostly what he did was shout and screech.  He seemed to throw out bits and pieces of vaguely recognizable Juan Gabriel songs, but I don't think he sang a single one, from start to finish.  Worse, he tended to play up the gayness of the famous singer, instead of showing the tremendous talents of Juan Gabriel for composing and singing and performing.
              We saw the original, real deal, more than once, and I, for one, was a big fan and I was always impressed with the show put on by him.  Yes, he did, as he aged, bring out his own gayness, but he didn't really flaunt it, or turn it into something low class. This impersonator, however, seemed to think that was the important part of the legacy that is Juan Gabriel's.  He even went so far as to seek out an obvious gringo young man to come up on stage with him, so he could not only ridicule the young man, but push the gay Juan Gabriel all the way.
              Ultimately, I would recommend a visit to this place for the food, with the proviso that you not put your expectations too high as to the show.  As I said, this is a very professional production that is spoiled by a poorly regulated sound system and entertainers who lack knowledge of how to use a microphone.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How I Met Your Mother (For Our Four Adult Children)

How I Met Your Mother (For Our Four Adult Children)

            It was supposed to be a blind date, but it wasn't really that simple.  Things are never really all that simple, though, are they?

            I arrived in El Paso, Texas, sometime in October of 1967, after a thirty day leave in Seattle.  I had already been in the Army nearly two years by this time, having trained at Ft. Ord, California, Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and Ft. Gordon, Georgia.  After my Basic Training, then Advanced Infantry Training, followed by Field Radio Repair School, I had spent some thirteen months stationed in South Korea.  My arrival in El Paso was because of what we then called a Permanent Change of Station, to Ft. Bliss, which is now nearly surrounded by El Paso.

            I spent most of my Leave at my brother, Mike's, home in Seattle, and while there, he and his wife gave me the contact information for some former neighbors, who were then living in El Paso.  This was Mike Robertiello and his wife, Christine, and their baby, who I think was named Damien.  It was rightly thought that it would be a very nice thing for a young man such as myself to have someone outside the Army to interact with at my new duty post.

            I therefore wasted little time in contacting Mike and Christine after I got settled at Ft. Bliss.  Incidentally, my duty at Ft. Bliss was just about the best duty I experienced in my three years of Army Service.  I was assigned to the U. S. Army Air Defense Board, which was part of the Army's Test and Evaluation Command, headquartered - I believe - at Ft. Meade, Maryland.  Our mission was to evaluate and test new air defense weaponry under extreme conditions.  Since my Military Occupational Specialty was Radio related, I was assigned to the Communications Platoon, and we provided the radio communication to the people who did the actual testing.

            I should mention that the testing required Temporary Duty (TDY) in such exotic locations as Alaska and Panama.  That's right.  Extreme cold and extreme heat and humidity.  I ended up spending three weeks in Panama, but that came later.

            Back to my arrival at Ft. Bliss.  I was invited to go to Mike and Christine's home on what was then the far east side of El Paso, when I first called them.  So, on my first free weekend, I took a bus from Ft. Bliss to downtown, and transferred to another bus that carried me east.  The home they were renting at that time was located below I-10, just west of Lomaland Drive.
            As I got acquainted with Mike and Christine, they introduced me to other friends of theirs, in particular a lady by the name of Emma Sanchez, who happened to be the aunt of a former fellow serviceman/friend of Mike.  It seems that Mike had been stationed at Ft. Bliss a short while before, and one of his friends was Bobby, who introduced his GI friends to his aunt, Emma.  Emma was a widow who lived in El Paso's Lower Valley, who had opened her home to her nephew and his GI friends while they were at Ft. Bliss.  She did the same for me.  She gave me a bedroom in her little house, told me it was mine whenever I wanted it, and basically gave me a place away from the Army.

         As soon as I was able I bought a little car (a piece of junk, really; it was a 1965 Triumph Herald, a little red convertible clunker), and was able to end my dependence on El Paso's spotty bus services.  I was thus able to pick Emma up from work on Yandell (she worked as a bookkeeper at a finance company) on Friday's, and take her home, so she could avoid one evening's bus ride per week.  I would then take her grocery shopping on Saturday to nearby Chew Din's on Alameda Avenue.  Before long Emma began talking up a young lady she rode the bus with, and said that we should meet.

         At length she provided a phone number for this young lady, and I called her a couple of times.  Emma arranged a blind date for us, but things kept happening to put our date off, farther and farther into the future.  We were supposed to meet in December, but the young lady in question had to go out of town, then something happened while she was out of town, and then her mother suffered a broken arm, and so on and so forth.

         Finally, one Friday in January, I picked Emma up from her place of work on Yandell, and we proceeded on downtown to pick up Blanca at her place of work, another finance company, located on the second floor at 109 N. Oregon St.  This was coincidentally Jan. 12, the birthday of Blanca's mother.  Blanca's recollection of the first time she saw me is that I entered the office where she worked, and approached to counter that separated the supplicants from the loan people.  I, in my normal gringo English, asked for Blan - ka (should be pronounced as blon-ka), and her response, instead of being some sort of normal affirmative, was simply, "Here I am!"

        That was pretty much it.  Emma rode in the back of my little car, on the way home, and she and I kept up a running conversation, but Blanca hardly spoke at all. We dropped her off at her home, and then went on to Emma's.  Blanca and I later spoke on the phone at length, but she had proven to be a tad shy upon our first face to face encounter.

        Our first date?  It was in fact a double date, with another couple.  She was an old family friend of Blanca, and he was another GI, from Ft. Bliss.  We went to the drive-in on Montana to see the movie, "How The West Was Won."  Apparently, John Wayne was in it.  I do not remember much about it, and had to rent it many years later, when it was available on VHS, to actually see it.  One of the interesting aspects of our dates, including that first one, was that Blanca had to be home by ten P. M., each and every night.  Well, that all began on Jan. 12, 1968, and we were married at the Center Chapel at Ft. Bliss, on June 22, that same year.  And, yes, we are still together, all these years later.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We Arrive At The Beginnings Of My Blog.

Part IX………fun and games in El Paso’s Lower Valley……..
We then drove around the neighborhood looking for the thief, but saw nothing.  Later that morning, we learned that some neighbors – who had also been burglarized – did chase him down, and beat him up before letting him go.  They did recover their stolen items, but we never did see the missing car stereo.  The police speculated that he had someone waiting nearby with a car, and they likely got away clean, albeit the one guy had to take his lumps.
During these years, we still struggled, but we had a good time.  I learned/taught myself how to work on cars, as I had to do my own maintenance, and many repairs.  In reality I became a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, and an all around handy man, as I replaced water heaters, evaporative air coolers, electrical things of all kinds, and pretty much kept up with all of our homes, over the years.  I also continued with electronics as a sort of paying hobby, repairing and installing car stereos for friends and family for many years.  We also, from the time we lived on Valley View, made many trips to Chihuahua, Mexico, where Blanca still has a lot of family, and where my best friend lives.
Our kids all remember the rush to load the car with them, an ice chest (for the beer, of course), a few clothes, whatever we were taking to whoever had asked for it, as soon as we got off work on a Friday afternoon.  Then, four hours on the road, where the kids had to listen to Dad’s tapes of the Beatles, Billy Joel, Atlanta Rhythm Section, etc., while I smoked my head off, all the way to the home of our friends, or Blanca’s Aunt and Uncle, or a cousin, and a weekend of partying.
We lived on Moses from June of 1986, until we sold it and moved to Tom Ulozas Drive, on El Paso’s East Side, in December of 1993.  By this time, our two oldest had left the nest.  Arthur graduated in 1989, and went off to UT - Austin, never to return, except, of course, for visits.  John, Jr. graduated a year later, and first went into the Army, then moved to the Denver area, before returning to the El Paso area, in late 1993.  Since Blanca was teaching in the Ysleta District, all of our children were able to continue their schooling in the same district, so that they were able to stay with their childhood friends.  Blanca, Jr. (AKA, Ikis) graduated from Ysleta High School, then took classes at UT, before coming back home to attend El Paso Community College, and work at a number of jobs.  Andrew, our baby, changed schools in his senior year, to Hanks High School, which was much closer to home, and then graduated from that school.
We were very happy in this house (me, mostly because it had a swimming pool, so a lot less grass to cut; never could get any of the kids to help me out with cutting the grass…), and our first grand daughter was born while we were there.  Bryan, our oldest grandchild, spent most of his weekends with us, and a lot of his summers, after his parents divorced.  After he started school, while he lived with his mother, I drove across town every Friday afternoon to pick him up, and he spent his weekends with us.  There were some job changes during the years we spent on Tom Ulozas, for both of us, until Blanca reached a point where she felt that she could not find a decent job in El Paso.
So, in the summer of 2004, we went to visit Blanca, Jr., in Arlington, and while there Blanca landed a job with the Dallas ISD.  I didn’t really want to leave El Paso by this time, but while in Arlington, I went online and found a job during the four days we were there.  So, I returned to El Paso, gave notice at my job, packed a few things, and returned to Arlington, where we both began new jobs in the first week of August.  Once we were there, I first worked as a Telephonic Case Manager, with a commute from Arlington, all the way up the Dallas North Tollway, almost to Plano (nearly forty miles, one way).  This was doable, but I really didn’t like the work, and hated the commute and the odd hours (I went in at 10:00 AM, and got out at 7:00PM), so after only four months there, I changed to doing a Medicare fraud investigative thing for the insurance company that serves as third party payer for Texas Medicare.  This still involved a long commute, in very heavy traffic, but the hours were a little bit better.  While there, I was approached by a head hunter to go to work for a company that wanted a bilingual RN Case Manager.
I had never been recruited for any job, and have to say that I did enjoy the experience.  I kept refusing, and they kept raising the offers, until I couldn’t say no.  Meanwhile, Blanca was doing fine with her job, but then, she had a fall on MLK Day in early 2005, and she broke her left wrist.  She received pretty crappy care, and had to go to a second specialist after coming out of her first cast, because the first Orthopedic Specialist never set the broken bones.  The break healed crookedly, leaving her wrist with a permanent disfigurement.  She had to have an Open Reduction, Internal Fixation procedure in March, after coming out of the first cast.  The surgery by this second specialist involved placing pins and plates, and some metal screws, and of course, then they put her in a bigger cast.  All together, she spent something like five months in casts, and then had many weeks of Physical Therapy, with the end result that her wrist has lost a lot of movement, and even looks crooked today, more than five years later.
By making the move to Arlington, we were able to immediately accelerate our retirement plans.  We stayed with our truly darling (yeah, I know.  I don’t talk this way, do I?) daughter and her girls for just over one year, then bought a house in Farmers Branch, located between our two work locations.  We stayed there until our move to Costa Rica, in early 2009.
I began drawing a small pension from the state of Texas when I turned sixty, and that income became the basis for our application to live in Costa Rica as pensionados.  Blanca then retired at the end of the 2007-2008 school year with something like 21 years service as a classroom teacher.  I continued working mostly because we had a mortgage and knew that this was not a time to be trying to sell a house.  This part of our life all ended rather abruptly when I was suddenly laid off on Jan. 5, 2009.  I had been very ill, in bed over the New Year holiday, and I remember at one point, sometime around the first of the year, in the midst of all the sneezing and coughing, I got up to go to the bathroom, and discovered that I had developed double vision.  This was, to say the least, a bit off-putting, which is just a way to avoid saying that it scared the podwaddin’ right on out of me.
I had to wait a day or two, until Friday of that first week of the new year, to get to the doctor, and he immediately arranged for me to see an Ophthalmologist (that same day), and scheduled me for an MRI, which was then done on Tuesday evening, the 6th of January. 
The Ophthalmologist said that something was causing pressure on the fourth cranial nerve (a condition usually associated with high blood pressure, or Diabetes, but I had neither), and this pressure was causing the double vision (dipoplia). This condition usually lasts for six to eight weeks, and then gets better on its own, depending on the root cause. The temporary fix was that I had to find a pair of glasses with plain lenses (after four years of no glasses), not an easy thing to do, and then, upon returning to his office late that afternoon, his staff affixed a plastic ‘prism’ lens to the inside of the clear lens (I later learned that this is what is known as a Fresnel lens, and if you want to know a little something more about a Fresnel lens, read Jimmy Buffet’s charming book, Salty Piece Of Land).
The weirdness was just beginning: It was my Right eye that was focusing wrong, by the way, but it was to the left lens that this prism was affixed. This bends the light before it gets to the retina, causing that eye to match (more or less) the weak eye. Not comfortable, and not really clear vision, but it is better than double vision. I could at least watch a little TV, but reading was pretty much out of the question.
Now, comes the bad news part of this little episode:  I called my boss on Monday morning, January 5, 2009, to let her know what I had learned, and to bring her up to date with what I considered a potentially serious personal health issue.  Coincidentally (I’m with all those TV detectives, in that I don’t believe in coincidence in situations like this – and, yes, the pun is intended), not two hours later, I received a conference call from the big boss, my boss, and a third party, informing me that at an unspecified point during the previous year a ‘business’ decision was reached in regards to the “Texas Market” (blah, blah, blah, blah, yada yada yada yada), and my position had been eliminated, effective Jan. 16. It was supposedly also decided that previous year to hold off on informing me until after the holidays, so as not to spoil my holiday. Very generously, they “offered” me a three month extension of COBRA, in addition to paying me through the end of January, provided that I sign a waiver saying that I wouldn’t sue them, or talk about them.  Well, the company is called Coventry Health Care, so I guess you can easily surmise that I did NOT sign their frickin’ chicken$hit waiver.
Well, I got over it (obviously), but it was still a very low blow.  In the wake of this sudden job loss, I decided it might be the better part of valor to just go on ahead and move to Costa Rica at that time, rather than to continue working for a couple more years.  So, in February I put in for my Social Security, since I was already 62, and arranged for a mover, and we got everything packed, took a final, farewell tour of Texas to say goodbye to kids, grandkids, and family, and flew on down there on April 29.  The rest, as they say, is history.  OMG, that was more than eight years ago!  And, that is just about where I began writing my Blog, aptly (I thought so, anyway) named "Grumbles From Arenal."

Basically, if you want to know what came next, you can go back through the links in today's Blog, and find all of my entries from our three years in Costa Rica, through to today.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Career As A Nurse

Some six months after I had earned my license as a Registered Nurse, I went to work for the El Paso City/County Health Department in September of 1977.  My first assignment was to the Ysleta Health Center, located at 9060 Socorro Road, across the street from an old cotton gin.  Just next door used to be (I think) a Boys' Club, with an outside swimming pool, that was filled in a long, long time ago.  My boss, the Charge Nurse at the clinic, was Mrs. Christine Barron, RN, who was a long time Ysleta resident.

This was one of several buildings put up all over the county at roughly the same time, either during the 60's or the early 70's.  I recall the same essential building in Tigua, Northeast, San Juan (on Trowbridge), Buena Vista (not too far from ASARCO's smelter), Moon City (on North Loop), and Canutillo:

The clinic building still looks much the same, all these years later.  I do not believe that the cage at the entrance existed way back then, and the handicapped access ramp was added in the 1980's.

I am sorry that I no longer remember Mrs. Barron's maiden name, but I do recall that she talked about growing up in the Ysleta area, and spending time on both sides of the border, as her father had a ranch just across in the Zaragoza area.  She was a widow, with two grown children, both of whom had gone on to live their own lives.  I believe her daughter was already in Austin, and her son was married and starting his own family.

She, like most of the older female RN's and LVN's I worked with way back then, took me under her wing, and tried to teach me the important aspects of Public Health Nursing.  In the late 1970's almost all of the Public Health Nurses in El Paso were graduates of one of the finest Nursing Schools in Texas, The Hotêl Dieu School of Nursing.  Hotêl Dieu was a Catholic Hospital, located down on Stanton Street, between Arizona and Rio Grande.  Across the street, at the end of the block on Arizona, was the School of Nursing, which later was taken over by UTEP's Nursing School.  Believe me when I tell you, the graduates of that old Diploma school were far superior to anything that has come out of UTEP.

Mrs. Barron was amazing, and set a standard so high that I was really worried that I could never reach it.  One of the most important services that we delivered in those days was the administration of routine childhood immunizations to all children in El Paso.  In Ysleta, we did pre-school kids on Tuesdays, and School aged kids on Friday afternoons.  She could provide immunizations to many more than I could, perhaps 4-5 times as many.  It did take me months to get up to her speed.

Back in those days, a very important part of what we did in Public Health was provide educational talks to our 'captive' audiences of parents and grandparents, just before we started calling out the names of those who were to be immunized.  I did not speak much Spanish at that time, and our audience was always very heavily weighted towards no English at all.  Mrs. Barron pushed me very hard to improve my Spanish enough so that I could deliver my share of these talks.  The easy part was that no script was followed, but something short and sweet needed to be delivered in each talk.  We might talk about mosquito control, or household hygiene, and we always provided information about how to care for the children in the hours and days following their shots.

So, while I got an education into Public Health, my Spanish was being improved.  I worked with Mrs. Barron for some years, and learned a lot more than Spanish from her.  She taught me a lot of the Ysleta area history, and about what it was like for her growing up in El Paso's Lower Valley.  She reminisced, at times, about her family, and told how her father owned a ranch on the Mexican side of the border when she was a girl, and her family used to cross back and forth all the time.  I learned about some of the families that had lived in that part of the county for many generations, and some, whose names are known today.

And, then, after some years, she reached the point where she basically tested me by telling me a joke, in Spanish, that she tied into the Ysleta area, and when I realized that I could understand her joke, I knew that I had at last arrived.

There used to be a general medical clinic in Ysleta called the Johnstone Clinic.  Dr. Johnstone was very well known in El Paso, after establishing his practice here in the years following WWII. His clinic was where generations of Ysleta area residents went for health care for the entire family.  At one point in time, there was a lady named Juana, from Mexico originally, who had moved to the Ysleta area, and began taking her family to Dr. Johnstone.  Over time she wrote letters home to her Comadre, (literally, co-mother) urging that she bring her ahijado (Godson) to live in this area as well.  "Comadre," she wrote, "Come live here.  You'll really like it, and we have this really great doctor, who I just know will be able to help mijo (my son)."

Well, finally, the Comadre was able to relocate (quite legally, I assure you) to the U. S. A., and she settled in the Ysleta area.  Now, it was up to Juana to arrange for her godson to be seen by the great Dr. Johnstone, so she made an appointment, and the two Comadres took little Chuy (nickname for Jesus) to the clinic with great anticipation.

When the staff called the little boy's name, both mother and godmother eagerly entered the exam room to see what could be done for little Chuy.  The staff member told them to put the little boy on the exam table, and to take off his little shirt and his pants, and they covered him with a sheet, for his examination.

Finally, when they felt like they could take it no more, the great doctor entered the room, in a rush. "Good Morning, ladies," he said.  "What can we do for (looking mostly at the chart) Jesus today?"

"¿Que dice, Comadre?" (What did he say, co-mother?), asked the new arrival, of Juana. Juana explained, "He asked what we are here for."
"Oh.  Esta bien."  (Oh.  That's good.)

Juana explained to the doctor that she was concerned that maybe her godson had a problem, and she just knew that he could fix it right up.

"OK," said Dr. Johnstone, "Let's have a look here."

Juana then had to explain to her inquiring Comadre what the doctor had said ("vamos aver"), as he began his examination of the little boy.

He did all the usual things, listening to the chest, feeling up and down the arms and legs, and so on.  He asked some of the usual questions, as well, for which the caring Godmother, Juana, translated as best she could, but rarely well, you understand.

At length, he turned to the women, and said, "Well, it is pretty obvious.  This little boy is mentally retarded."

"¿Que dice, Comadre?  ¿Que dice?"
"Pos, que todo est bien, Comadre.  No mas llevese el niño a la casa y ponle mentolato en la tarde."