Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting Under My Skin


I got a little rash on my ankle.

Okay, both ankles, and it's not really all that little.

I have had it for some time, but as summer grew closer and closer, I started getting nervous about what these ankles would look like with a pair flip flops on.

That and it itches like hell.

So I went to see the Good Doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist.

A month later, the Good Dermatologist gave me an appointment. Yet another month after that I found myself sitting in the Good Dermatologist's office waiting room.

I filled out the forms you must fill out on your first visit. I put down my name and address and checked the NO box beside each terrible disease they were curious about.

Then I sat. I sat and I sat and I sat. The room full of patients dwindled to a few in the matter of an hour.

On the wall read a sign:

OFFICE POLICY
You will be billed a $50.00 charge for not giving 24 hours notice before cancelling an appointment – or for simply not showing up for your appointment.

Office Policy.

Right.

On the other wall , another sign was posted.

OFFICE POLICY
If you are in a grouchy or irritable mood, we will charge you a $10.00 fee just for putting up with you.

I think it was supposed to be a joke. But the first sign dispelled the humor in the second sign.

"Be nice, be nice, be nice be nice…", I repeated to myself. My patience eroded after the first hour had passed.

I walked over to the magazine rack on picked a periodical from last summer – and an article about how historians portray the historic aspects of his life. It was very interesting discussing how the historians have so much trouble finding other credible historic references to the life of Jesus of Nazareth other than the New Testament.

The article went on to discuss the observations of one historian actually found Jesus' name on a tax roll, from a village he was in that was not a part of the stories of his life recorded in The Holy Bible. It really became interesting as he was being interviewed in by another historian who claimed the Bible was indeed the only reference needed to document this mans life and pointed to other historic figures that had been credibly certified to have lived based on the writings in other books and so to close his point he ….

"Mr Brill?", said a nice feminine voice – awaking me from my thought and contemplation.

Finally a nice nurse lady came and apologized for my wait.

As I tried to clear my thoughts to remember why I was there, it became clear to me that my right leg had fallen asleep. I limped on the tingly extremety – dragging it across the floor until it finally came back to life again.

The nice nurse lady led me into an examination room, told me the Good Dermatologist would see me shortly, and closed the door behind her.

And in this room I sat and sat and sat. And I sat some more.

I left the magazine out in the waiting room.

My patience was clearly at its bottom line on the gauge.

Finally, the door opened and in came the Good Dermatologist.

He was a shorter sized man, squatty but athletically built. He was wearing a golf shirt most likely bought in a pro shop earlier that morning. His forearms were strong and very tan, but his left hand was pasty white –
most likely because of the golf glove he was wearing.

"Mr. Brill?", he smiled and stuck out his hand.

"Nice to meet you", I said through a forced smile.

The pleasantries dispensed, I took off my shoes and socks to show him my wretched ankles. He looked at them.

"That's nothing but a little eczema", he said, and he spun around to write on a prescription pad.

"I assume you have a drug plan", he asked. Somehow he knew I worked for a health benefits company in town. I didn't tell him.

"Yes, yes I do…", I answered but was interrupted.

The good doctor then started complaining about my employer and all the forms we make him fill out to get new topical crèmes accepted as benefits, and it was turning into a rant on his part.

"Excuse me …" I tried to interrupt – but he just kept on going …

"Excuse me!", I said a little louder, my complete absence of patience now apparent in my voice.

"Our policies are in place to ensure that only proven and tested procedures are used in the treatment of our plan members", I said, taking the simple script for an eczema curing cream from the Good Dermatologists hands.

And he started in again….

"I must let you know that I have a policy!", I stopped him again. "My policy – much like those you posted in your waiting room, is that I will send you a bill for $25.00 for making me sit here and listen to you bitch about my employer."

He smiled at my joke.

But I wasn't really joking.

As he sat there smiling, I simply looked into his eyes and I raised my eyebrows high.

"Uh … oh … well, you use this crème three times a day, and remember to wrap it up …"

And I thanked the Good Dermatologist and left his office.

I have been using the crème for the last two weeks now. And its working a little bit.

But I still have the rash.

And it still itches like hell.

And I never did collect my twenty-five dollars.

Monday, May 24, 2010

May Two-Four At Last


The sun just went down.

The mosquitoes are out. In full force.

And I am sitting on the back patio as the last photons from today's sun wrap around the horizon to die at my feet.

The end of a great four day weekend.

The May Two Four weekend to Canadians.

Kind of like Mexico's Cinco de Mayo.

Only hold the Mayo, and the Cinco.

This holiday was originally created to celebrate the birthday of a long since passed English Queen.

Victoria Day.

But renamed by Canadians not only because it falls on the twenty fourth of May, but also because cases of beer in Canada are sold in carboard boxes that hold twenty four bottles.

A two-four.

And this is always a great weekend for at least one two-four.

Because May Two-Four is our unofficial welcoming of summer.

People go camping.

People open their pools.

People get their yards and gardens set up.

And all these tasks go great with a cold beer.

This weekend we opened the pool. And we worked on tidying up the deck. And we worked on the yards, all the while my lovely wife Darlene's supervisory attention remained totally focused on her gardens .

In the late afternoon, we fired up the barbecue – like every other Canadian household did. You could smell the cookings of steaks and chickens and ribs across the whole neighborhood. And Darlene's hand made homemade hamburger recipe was dusted off and put into production.

The smell of those burgers cooking is as satisfying a smell as a neighbood back yard barbecue can make.

And after the big meal, the neighbors around the corner held their annual fireworks display. The whole neighborhood convened on their front lawn for the big show. Everyone chips in twenty bucks or so for the fireworks and the sparklers for the kids.

What a show it was.

And what a mosquito fest it was to.

The mosquitoes wake up for May Two-Four weekend.

There were huge packages of firework displays lined up along the side of the street – with names like "Crowd Pleaser" and "The Joker" and "Screaming Demons". There were mushrooms of colored explosions high in the sky – and nervous Dads below them trying to set them off without losing an arm or a leg.

A great show.

We feel we know a thing or two here in Windsor about great fireworks displays – as the end of every June – during the Freedom Festival – a shared celebration of Canada's First of July and the American Fourth of July – light up the skies over the Detroit River with the largest annual fireworks display in the world.

The Chinese invented fireworks you know.

And when watching some of these displays – you really appreciate how such displays in a more ancient time would have terrified the common peoples – and the opposing soldiers.

So now I sit beside the newly opened pool, I savor the recognition that summer has started.

My eldest daughter Alannah and I were taking the cover off the pool late yesterday afternoon. Halfway through I said to her:

"What do you like better Alannah, May Two-Four weekend or Christmas?"

Alannah sat for a moment to contemplate her answer. Christmas is a pretty big deal you know.

Especially for a nine year old girl.

Finally she answered, "May Two-Four, Daddy", and she continued her work.

"Why? Christmas lasts so long. And you get presents?", I asked.

"Well", she answered quite profoundly. "On May Two-Four we get summer. And it lasts for four months!"

As true as true can be.

So as I sit here now in the pitch black of night – the sound of leftover fireworks being shot off by neighbors all around me and the lingering smells of barbecue meals cooked earlier today, I am thankful for how lucky we are.

Lucky to live in a land free and safe. Lucky to have a job that can afford my family these simple luxuries.

And thankful that summer has again come to settle over our part of the world.

It's summertime at last – with baseball on the radio, kids splashing in the pool, my lovely wife's hamburgers sizzling on the grill, and my outside family room, our deck – again ready to host the special moments of the times that are about to come.

Summer is here.

It sure beats the hell out of Christmas.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dreaming Of Baseball Past And Watching Baseball’s Future


I had a birthday this last week.

I'm not one much for birthdays, especially now that I am drawing so close to the age of fifty.

Nearly half a century.

How the hell did that happen?

I can still find comfort in the fact that I am not fifty yet.

I still feel like I am twenty six.

At least my mind thinks my body is still twenty six.

Last night I had a dream that I was playing baseball.

I was the shortstop.

With a man on third and only one out in a tied game - a pop fly was hit over my head.

A Texas leaguer. A high blooper destined to fall in that no man zone in left center field - too shallow for the outfielder to catch. A dying quail.

It was up to me.

I turned my body to sprint out under the ball – my eyes never losing sight of that red threaded white orb that hung in the air for what seemed like minutes as I stayed underneath it in full sprint.

A smooth gaited sprint as I floated over the ground.

It was going to fall just out of reach, but I extended my glove as far back as I could reach … and nabbed it in the webbing of the mitt.

"Got it!"

The man on third took off for home – tagging up to score the winning run. But my body was still moving to the outfield.

I ducked my shoulder and rolled on the ground to stop – the momentum of the roll brought me back to my feet, my back foot planted as I threw the ball on a rope to the catcher poised at the plate waiting for my throw – and I hit the center of that catcher's mitt – just in time for him to tag the barreling runner out – as the runner slammed into the catcher they both went flying.

The umpire waited for the dust to clear – the catcher had the ball – raised in the air in his mitt.

"OUT!" screamed the imaginary man in black. His fist pumped back with his thumb extended into the air.

I woke up just as my imaginary team mates were high fiving me and patting me on the back for the highlight reel worthy play.

A wonderful dream. A great game. "When was I up? I bet I can hit this imaginary pitcher I haven't seen yet".

"Maybe I'm on deck?"

One voice in the stands was louder than the others. A familiar voice that sounded as excited as I was at that moment … "who is that?"

"Daddy!", screamed Ashley-Rae – quite real and standing in the middle of our bedroom. "You gotta get up, we got our first game this morning!"

Now it's my girl's turn to make the plays I can only dream about making again.

And this year both my daughters are on the same team, much to my eldest – Alannah's – chagrin. Ashley-Rae moved up to Alannah's league this year.

And after three years playing Turtle Club softball, they love it even more.

What more could I ask for?

Yesterday was opening day at the Turtle Club. A big parade marched all the teams that the Turtle Club fields through our little town of Lasalle. Fire trucks and sirens – people lining the streets to wave at the kids marching in their various uniforms of greens and yellows – marching behind the banners of their leagues – with the Turtle Club mascot "Sam" (I think) a huge green turtle version of the San Diego Chicken marching along waving to everyone and holding the hands of various little players along the way.

The Turtle Club is a great organization.

At the club, all the teams gathered on the center showcase diamond - # 1 – lining the infield base bath. Select players held the flags of our country, our province, our city and our club. There were banners showing the major accomplishments of last season proudly carried by the players who earned them.

Provincial, and federal representatives of government were all there for face time … "I bring greetings from our honorable Prime Minister …" said our local Member of Parliament Jeff Watson.

But after all that nonsense was done – the leaders of Turtle Club turned their attention to the great awards of the teams from last year.

The most notable was the award to one of the boy's baseball teams – who won the Ontario Championships last year, and made it to the final game of the Canadian championships … three outs away from going to the Little League World Series in Williamsport Pennsylvania.

So close.

So great.

And the signs around the Turtle Club line the buildings and fences – listing the numerous teams of each season – for decades past – fifty two years of legacy – denoting the players on teams who won district, provincial, and national championships. So many of these placards of honors that finding a place for this year's addition will be difficult.

And there with their team at the short stop position on the infield – stood my little girls – watching but not completely understanding the immenseness of this legacy being presented before them. But looking poised – waiting for their turn to achieve great things for the Turtle Club … when their turn comes.

Ashley-Rae's shout brought me out of my dream and back into that half-wake understanding of reality.

"Okay", I said almost cheerily.

I lifted my knees in the air – rolled to the edge of the bed and sprang out on my feet with a perfect landing that even a Russian gymnastics judge would have given me a perfect ten.

"I still got it", I thought to myself.

When we arrived at the ball park – the grounds were empty. Not a soul was there.

And it was wet.

I hadn't noticed until that moment that there must have been a big rainstorm last night.

I pulled out my iPhone and looked at the Turtle Club web page. There in big green print sat our answer to the question "where is everybody?"

"PARK IS CLOSED – DUE TO RAIN"

The girls were looking over my shoulder from the back seat of the jeep.

"That sucks", said Ashley-Rae.

"Don't say that", I corrected her.

Alannah sobbed: "But I was really looking forward to this game".

I turned the jeep around and headed back around the corner to our house.

Ashley-Rae was right.

That sucked.

And it makes me feel so proud that they both wanted to play so badly.


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