There was all the potential for great drama. Three brothers, separated by a total of four years and three worlds, sat with their mother in the hospital waiting room anticipating news of their father’s surgery. The dialogue was Pinter-like, enough for a play. In fact, there was enough material for a feature film. Unfortunately, I don’t write drama.
Hospitals bring out the best, and more often, the worst in people. Brought together by the joy of birth or the gravity of illness, we gather out of hope and concern in an effort to will a positive outcome. Sometimes we are successful. Sometimes not. Often the patient leaves the hospital simply altered, only to recover and improve months later or to eventually regress and return. Uncertainty and fear of failure permeate the halls.
Relatives and friends who hardly socialize, or even speak during good times, are stashed in claustrophobic waiting rooms and compelled to vegetate until the doctor or surgeon summons them The forced smiles disappear quickly and every slight and indignity is remembered and exaggerated by the assembled clan. The door opens and another family troops into the waiting room. Two, three, four groups now vie for the limited seats, ancient magazines and control of the now black and white T.V.
As evening fell the soap operas and game shows were replaced by the Republican National Convention. The delegates, speakers, even the signs in the Astrodome helped divide the family. Each member picked a side and either cheered or debated with the television transmission. They fought each other through the tube and a convention 2,500 miles away. Officially they weren’t fighting. They were simply agreeing or disagreeing with the Republicans.
“Look at Marilyn Qualye’s hair. It looks like a helmet.”
“Isn’t President Reagan amazing? Eighty-one years old!”
“Helmet? Maybe a defective helmet.”
And so it went. The comments and remarks became nastier and nastier until they sunk to the level of the late Lee Atwater. The whole time everyone pretended that the discussion was not personal, but political. But they all knew better.
The hostility had just about reached the surface when Doctor Cohen entered the room. His face was calm and emotionless. There were no clues as to how the procedure had gone or what the patient’s status was. And then he spoke. With minimum of jargon he described a successful surgery.
He was asked a few questions that eventually led back to his initial report. The sixty-seven year old man would be in Recovery for about three hours and then spend about a week in a private room on the seventh floor.
Now that the immediate danger had passed, whatever remained of their shared focus and purpose quickly disappeared. No more pretending. No more Republicans. The uniting fear and guilt gave way to anger and resentment. They were the only family now in the waiting room and the veneer of civility was shed as completely as a rattlesnake looses old skin. They truly hated each other and they wanted to be certain that that wasn’t a secret.
One stormed out, only to return a half an hour later with a fresh supply of venom. Occasionally a stranger or two would enter the room, but the uncomfortable silence and icy stares forced them to leave.
Four hours later the patient was wheeled into his room. He was attached to five machines. One unit automatically took his blood pressure every 15 minutes. Another provided pain medicine whenever he pushed a button. A unit of blood was slowly dripping through the IV. Tubes were down his throat and elsewhere. His breathing was aided by an oxygen mask.
The family gathered at his bedside, drawn by his apparent vulnerability. For a moment it appeared that the seriousness of his condition would overcome the animosity of his family. But only for a moment. As he drifted in and out of consciousness his family drifted in and out of the lounge next to his room.
The whispers gave way to shouts. The door stayed closed for ten, fifteen, thirty minutes at a time. Negotiations failed. Someone suggested an abortion in the 108th trimester. But when the doctor would come to check on the patient, all fighting would stop and everyone returned to his bedside.
The morphine helped to mask the patients’ pain and will erase all memory of this day. Lucky him. The rest of us will remember this day forever.
Dave Cunix is a local freelance writer and owner of Northpoint Insurance Services. The surgeon delivered a 12 pound spleen 8/18/92. Patient and spleen are resting comfortably. Not every family reunion is a Kodak moment.
We, the Baby Boomers, had a variety of role models while we were growing up. These leaders helped us to decide what we wanted to be as adults.
How many young men practiced an extra hour of basketball motivated by the on-court heroics of Dr. J. and the off-court exploits of Wilt Chamberlain.
How many young men and young women entered public service and government spurred by their admiration and respect of Robert Kennedy and Golda Meier.
And how many of us followed the day-to-day unraveling of the Nixon White House so flawlessly executed by the greatest of all investigative reporters, Woodward and Bernstein? We read the book. We saw the movie. Journalism schools reported a glut of applicants. We all wanted to go undercover and land the big one. Well, this morning I finally had my chance.
Like other self-employed individuals, I too am constantly barraged by solicitations from associations that are supposedly representing me in Washington. Each piece of mail included all of the various ways they have influenced legislation, made my life better, will lower my phone bills, get me better insurance, and all they want in return is the $50-$100 dues they have already earned.
Now I don’t mind these missives. Some are pretty amusing and they all fit easily in the wastebasket. One group, however, is particularly annoying. To protect Joyce from legal action, I won’t use their real name.
The National Association of the Semi-Evolved sells health insurance. No, let me correct that, bad health insurance. Over the last five years I have talked to many of their ex-clients. Somehow I got on to their mailing list. About two months ago I made the mistake of sending back a reply card (postage paid) with a dismissive note about their products and agents. This prompted a call from a local supervisor.
I talked with the supervisor for almost a half hour. Actually, I told him to mail me a brochure and I’d get back to him. He couldn’t. More precisely, he wouldn’t. I was ready to just blow him off when he started to make some extremely strange charges about my current carrier, John Alden, and other normal insurance companies. He begged for a face to face meeting in my home, and this was my opportunity to finally be an investigative journalist.
At about 8:40 this morning, a rusted blue van parked in front of my house. The magnetic sign identified the occupant as a representative of the National Association of Sleaze and Expediency. As the rumpled salesman entered my home I felt like I was about to compete with Dan Quayle on Jeopardy.
I had seen so many movies about going undercover and investigative work that I thought I knew what to expect. I was totally unprepared for the boredom. Five minutes into his presentation I had already tired of the half-truths and generalities. He produced a copy of a Blue Cross claim statement and misrepresented what was in black, white and orange highlighter before me. He lied. And when caught in his lie he restated his remark in the form of a disclaimer that would have made a law professor proud.
My lack of patience got the best of me. After thirty-five minutes of sparring I finally landed the knock-out punch. I told him I wasn’t interested in his conveniently handy book of testimonials, I only wanted to see one claim they had paid successfully. Beaten, he recommended that I stay with my current carrier and quickly packed up his stuff. He was careful to grab all of the written information I had been able to drag from him. He left, tail firmly between his legs, his parting shot roughly translated to “Why buy insurance from a company that will pay most of your claim, when you can buy insurance from us and be guaranteed to have half your bill paid?” I was polite. I didn’t laugh until he climbed into his van.
And there you have it. A story of fraud and intrigue equal to the best of Carl Monday or Geraldo Rivera. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to get washed. He insisted on shaking hands when he left.
It was a quiet Friday morning in July. The Justice of the Peace of this small Massachusetts town paced the aisles of his office turned wedding chapel as he waited for the bride and groom to arrive. Finally one stood by the podium while the other was directed, shotgun to the small of the back, to the front of the room. Not the ideal way to get married, but it was HER fault. After all, she had KNOCKED me up!
Ok, I’m not preggers. There was no shotgun, but yes, I have remarried. I thought you all should know.
Wow, married! Scared? You bet. I mean, I’ve been here before and yet I haven’t. I’ve enjoyed marginal success as a husband, but all previous attempts have ended in divorce. Acquaintances ask me how I have the guts to do this again. I simply answer that I’ll keep trying until I get it right. My friends know better.
I began my quest for stability about twenty years ago. I remember Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad singing “I’m getting closer to my home” and realizing that that was a worthy goal. I wanted a home of my own. I envisioned a shelter. There would be walls to block out the cold. Blankets of warmth would be available as needed. Home wouldn’t be a strife torn dungeon I was sentenced to when I couldn’t find anywhere else to be. No, it would be a safe haven, a secure and peaceful place that would be hard to leave each morning.
Yes, that is a touch simplistic. So, you have your goals – I have mine. As the years have gone by, I have learned from each relationship what has worked and what hasn’t. Now, with all of this experience and knowledge to guide me I stand here today as confused and hopeful as I was on my first wedding night.
Knowledge and research don’t guarantee a successful marriage. Love, luck and flexibility are key ingredients. But who am I even to speculate that those are the key ingredients to MY MARRIAGE. Yes, I love Anna deeply and I have every reason to believe that is reciprocated. Surely, I am due a little Good Luck. I am working on flexibility, though I will never be mistaken for Olga Korbut
We enter hopefully, prepared to work hard for our sake and the sake of our children. Wish us luck. We all could use some luck.
I was knee deep in the déjà vu. Another friend was telling me how she and volunteered for doormat duty. Volunteered might not be the right word. She had what she thought were some compelling reasons why she was “forced” into being a patsy. She couldn’t stop her brother from taking advantage of her. And as always, she swore she would never, ever, let him use her again. Like I said, knee deep.
Perhaps it is chromosomal. I’m always amazed by how many women are user friendly. Motivated by guilt, a desire to be loved and appreciated, low self-esteem, or all of the above, they are in constant servitude. Sometimes the person pulling the strings and pushing all the right buttons is an elderly parent. Sometimes it is a sibling. It can even be an ex-spouse.
I remember one friend who showed great personal courage and strength in every area of her life but one. Her chronically unemployed ex-husband and her manipulative children completely controlled her. They snapped their fingers and she came running. We all agonized over her self-inflicted imprisonment and wondered how long her second husband would tolerate her weakness. The answer was not long. She now lives alone in a Lakewood apartment where she divides her time between work, visiting her kids, and backbone reconstruction.
Last night I heard another tale of woe. The bottom line is that a thirty-five year old divorced woman with two kids was allowing her single, slightly younger brother to sponge off her. Fifty bucks here. Eighty dollars there. Co-sign for a loan. He is simply financially incompetent. He is not on drugs. But he is as addicted to her money as surely as a crack-head is to coke.
Whether you view addiction as a disease or an illness it is her obligation to cut him off. Tough love is the only cure. Bankruptcy may be part of his treatment. A return of her self-respect would be a positive side effect.
Women should not allow people to take advantage of them. It is hard to respect a doormat.
I was slightly out of breath. I hadn’t realized how big my soapbox was.
I was ready to pontificate about the jerks and fools that had crossed my path today. I was ready to relay to you, my readers, how these cretins had ruined my plans and disorganized my agenda. And I was prepared to skewer the cowards who are unable to handle the rigors of life in the America of 1992.
But I had to stop. I had to because it became apparent that they, and you, and I are all victims. We have lost our privacy. We are losing our dignity. And the word RESPECT has effectively been eliminated from our vocabulary. There was no point in skewering anyone. We are all innocent bystanders.
My industry is filled with snoops. It is part of the business. We collect data, analyze it, and then decide how good a particular risk is. We ask specific, detailed questions. We talk to doctors. We check medical records. And we often send blood and urine samples to the laboratory.
We need this information so that we can properly underwrite you as a risk. But do we need all the info we seek? I don’t know.
I sat across from Bob in his new office. He had just signed the application for a large life insurance policy. Everything was terrific until I reminded him that he was going to have a blood test. The test would check him for a variety of things including drugs and AIDS. He freaked. He didn’t want to take an AIDS test. Period. Over the next fifteen minutes he detailed his extremely limited sexual history. (It would have only taken five minutes but he kept repeating himself.) I sat there thinking to myself that I have a better chance of becoming the Pope than he has of having AIDS.
Was Bob over reacting? Yes. Is “ignorance is bliss” a good lifestyle to choose? No. Was I a touch upset? Yes, a little. But, it is his body. And if he really would be happier not knowing whether or not he has AIDS, who am I to force him into confronting the issue? I will find him a different policy or he will simply have less life insurance protection for his wife and sons. It is his choice.
I was eating breakfast with Lou at the Beachwood Marriott two summers ago. He was a Home Office employee of a major insurance company. He confided to me that their blood tests had yet to discover even one HIV positive applicant. I said “Great. Does that mean that we can stop the testing?” He said “NO. You won’t believe how much cocaine we’re turning up!”
It is so easy to be frustrated. Doctors are practicing defensive medicine. They order tests and treatments as much to prevent lawsuits as they do to prevent disease. Medical records reveal that patients aren’t necessarily healthier, just more medicated. And when these people try to buy other insurance, their medical records serve as an impediment.
Your health, your credit, your driving record, etc… are all readily available. Sometimes that makes your life and mine easier. Sometimes it screws up my whole day. But there is no sense in being mad at anyone; not the client who has chosen to slow down the runaway train of information collection, not the collectors not even the doctors more interested in protecting themselves than their patients. We are all part of the system. And in our own way, we are all victims.
The Ohio Primary has been pushed back to June. Our muffled voices might be heard. Our choices as nominees of the Democratic and Republican tickets may have some bearing on the final outcome of these races. We might not be irrelevant.
Two men entered the Republican primary in New Hampshire. As I write this in Mid-March (the deadline of a monthly publication can be a real pain). Buchanan and Bush are still mud wrestling for the nomination.
Over a half a dozen “legitimate” candidates began the race to become the standard bearer for the Democrats. Today only three, Clinton, Tsongas, and Brown, have managed to reach the first turn. The Democrat horses appear to be more in search of a glue factory than engaged in a run for the roses. You may be experiencing déjà vu. Me? I feel like I’m just stuck with leftovers.
Newspapers, even monthly singles publications, have two responsibilities at election time. The first is to encourage you to vote.
EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS
FULFILL YOUR OBLIGATION
Ok, I’m done. Our second responsibility is to suggest for whom you should cast your vote. This is called endorsing a candidate. We are charged with the duty of finding the right choice, the safe choice for our country. As editors, publishers, and good government types we know who the best candidates are. Honest. The task of choosing the Ohio’s Finest Singles endorsed Republican and Democrat has fallen on me. Frankly, I don’t know what I did to Joyce to deserve this honor, but hey, I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to tell 130,000 readers how to vote.
Republican: Ohio’s Finest Singles is proud to endorse Dwight D. Eisenhower for the Presidency of the United States. We’re not bashful. . We like Ike. Now some of you may have noticed that Ike isn’t running this year. We will not be deterred. General Eisenhower was the last Republican to run that we could vote for without shame. Even dead, Eisenhower is more courageous that George Bush. And he has spent the last twenty-five years more productively that Pat Buchanan.
Democrat: Ohio’s Finest Singles endorses a man with experience. A man who has done it, and done it, and done it, and done it. No, we are not talking about Teddy Kennedy. We want F.D.R. Yes, we endorse Franklin Delano Roosevelt for President. Cast your vote for the REAL Democrat. We’re tired with this fixation with Massachusetts. Kennedy, Dukakis, and Tsongas are pale imitations. Clinton has more skeletons in his closet than Jeffrey Dahmer. And Jerry Brown’s dreams could really screw up our realities.
Fearlessly, Ohio’s Fines Singles endorses Eisenhower and Roosevelt. The economy is freefalling and our foreign policy is adrift. Surely we could do a lot worse that these proven leaders. And, neither ever bounced a check in the House Bank.
I. The man of the 90’s, who is he? He awakens on a Saturday morning and makes love to his girlfriend. She then rolls over and goes back to sleep while he gets up, washes the wine glasses from the previous night, makes coffee, and marinates steaks for that evening’s dinner. Ah, Liberation! We all benefited.
II. It is said that people make fun of things they don’t understand. Well I’ve got years’ worth of material on the new “Men’s Movement”. The pendulum has swung from the Cro-Magnum ethic of “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” to the pathetic Wild Men who sit around beating drums and bitching about their fathers.
I learned a lot from my father and the example he set. I learned the value of hard work and the fun of material success. I saw that you were defined and ranked by your profession or job. Like many of these whiners, I too disliked the hours my dad worked and how that affected our relationship. At an early age I realized that the cure was to own your own business and to be your own boss. No books. No therapists. No beating drums.
III. Wrapped in Garbage. My friend Jack, the attorney, was recently smeared in our local daily. Plain Dealer reporters Joel Rutchick and Scott Stephens, with the help of low-blow specialist Joe Dirck, gnashed their teeth, ranted and raved that Jack wore Gucci shoes and owned a B.M.W. Talk about penis envy! Of course, none of these scribblers mentioned that Jack’s Beemer was purchased used and is worth about $8,000. Just think what these boys might do if they ever found out about my Wright Arch Preserver shoes and my brand new Honda Accord EX
IV. Sitcoms. Life at the Cleavers sure looked good. While growing up I fantasized that as an adult my family might one day resemble “Father Knows Best” or the “Dick Van Dyke Show.” As I got older, and the deck had been reshuffled a couple of times, I set my sights on “The Brady Bunch.” Well I never accomplished any of those goals but my life has finally begun to resemble a sitcom. My luck, its “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”
V. We spent a rainy Saturday afternoon in Tower City. As we were leaving The Museum Company I realized that I had less than 48 hours left. Her plane was scheduled to leave on Monday at 2:29. I told her that by the time she took off there wouldn’t be an inch of my body that wasn’t sore, scratched, or aching. That included my heart. I didn’t know the half of it.
President Bush returned from his Pacific Rim Trip yesterday. Alternating between kissing his hosts’ feet and throwing up on them, George and his corporate buddies wheedled a concession or two.
I was watching the news when they cut in to say that the President had collapsed and was taken to the hospital. My first thoughts were “My G-d, Dan Quayle has his finger on the button!” Phillip, who didn’t experience the air raid drills of the fifties and sixties, only concerned himself with the thoughts of a Dan Quayle presidency. Different generations, similar fears. Thankfully the President was OK and the initial reports were exaggerated.
George Bush looked invincible a year ago. I believe he reached his nadir in May or June of 1988. Slowly his popularity and acceptance returned. The public’s perception of him grew and grew until it peaked with last year’s made for TV war. Pundits filled newspaper columns and Sunday morning news shows with talk of a Bush Legacy and wondered if the Democrats would even bother to run a candidate in ’92.
What a difference a year makes! Last year George Bush was the political equivalent of the Terminator. This year he’s Hudson Hawk. Why?
George Bush and Boris Yeltsin are learning a very valuable lesson about democracies. People vote with their stomachs. A hungry voter is a pissed off voter and there are a lot of hungry, scared citizens in both countries.
We have always had bums, homeless, poor and unfortunate among us. The difference is where these people are coming from this time. They are coming from the middle or working class. They are displaced laborers, unneeded skilled manufacturing workers, and excess white collar personnel. These are people who were part of the system, possibly (no, probably) supporters of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and never imagined that they would end up like this. It never occurred to them that poverty and degradation were their destiny.
And for every homeless or poverty stricken family there are how many more who are but one missed rent check away? How many textile workers are trying to get by on pay checks for only thirty hours per week? This time the sky really is falling, and George Bush is busy selling parasols.
1992 is an election year. That means that by the time you read this you will have been treated to the President’s long awaited plan. The economy is free falling but George Bush has to wait till the State of the Union to offer any solutions. Meanwhile the Democrats are tripping over themselves trying to offer a “painless” solution. And David Duke and Pat Buchanan have slithered in to offer a final solution of their own. We once had a void in leadership in this country. Now we have a black hole.
The election is not until November and a lot can change by then. Surely out of 250,000,000 people, one of us is qualified to be President.
Music Update: I would like to commend Maria Carey, the first multi-species entertainer. I really think that it is nice that she performs for dolphins as well as humans. I even notice that some of her songs bring the dog into the room.
Well, it’s sure been nice
I might even miss you
Come here, I’m gonna kiss you.
Yeah. Mm, I wish it wasn’t
A one night stand.
It was in the year 7 B.A. (Before AIDS). I had been attending a Jaycee officer retreat that day and we were now in the town bar blowing off steam. The dance floor was crowded with locals, tourists, and others simply passing through. The band played rock-a-billy and country. Occasionally someone accidentally danced in step to the music.
Even at 6’4” it was hard for me to see over this group. The men all wore cowboy hats and boots. So did many of the women. I had been asked to dance by a local lady who seemed more concerned with dancing than who she had for a partner. I turned around and saw a woman climb onto a bar stool and I started to stare.
I guess what caught my attention was her smile. It was big and innocent. She was directly beneath one of the few lamps in this dimly lit Elks Club and the contrast of her teeth to her dark complexion was mesmerizing. Had I not been in a remote section of Arizona, I would have sworn she was a Sabra (native Israeli). I came to find out that she was born in Philadelphia and of Italian descent. Her name was Gina.
I don’t wish to dwell on the physical, but Gina was beautiful. She had the darkest, deepest eyes I had ever seen and her long, thick, dark hair fell in curly ringlets about her shoulders. She was wearing a white cotton blouse and a black skirt. I remember thinking that she wasn’t really in style, and yet, as striking as she was, she couldn’t be out of style.
We danced. We talked. And as the night grew old I saw most of the people pairing up for the evening. Another officer, Gary (age 27), was seen leaving with two women in their sixties. Gina was genuinely interesting. I didn’t want to ruin the moment with a slow dance or a fast jog to a motel room. We decided to take a walk.
The Arizona sky was clear and bright. The stars too numerous to count. We sat down on a grassy knoll by the lake and talked about ex-spouses and work. I found myself massaging her neck. We continued to talk and I continued to massage. I can’t tell you when, or how it happened, but sometime that evening our guards dropped and our inhibitions disappeared and our passion overcame us. It would be a lie to say that we made love, but it would also be wrong to search for selfishness as our motivation. We tried to give each other a moment of pleasure. And we succeeded.
I thought of Gina the other day. I don’t know why. I just did. I can go a year or two between daydreams of her, but I know I can’t forget. We left the knoll that evening and said good-bye knowing that she was scheduled to leave the next morning. She did. To this day I feel cheated that I never had the chance to wake up to that big smile and those warm dark eyes.
Gary returned to the cabin at 9am the next morning. He was teased for years about the grey hairs in his red mustache.
7:45Am. Corky and Lenny’s Cedar Center He’s late! A Client wanted to meet “as early as possible” on Monday morning. I offered breakfast and gave him a choice of places. So here I am. I’m sitting alone at Corky’s hoping the waitress remembers that the white stoneware thing in front of me is a cup.
All of the regulars are here. There are little old men who have maintained office hours here for years uncounted. They don’t look at menus or even order. Their meals are brought out to them automatically. The contractors sit together. Deals are made over lox, rye toast and exaggerated claims about yesterday’s golf game. And there is always a booth or two filled with women. In the past these ladies met for breakfast before a day of shopping or club. Now the women who come to Corky’s appear to be on the way to their offices. Times change. Corky’s doesn’t.
I spend a lot of time in restaurants. It is part of my job description. Much of my business is done over breakfast or lunch. The meals are seldom fancy or expensive. Many restaurant chains were built by businessmen. Where would Denny’s be without the armies of over caffeinated men waiting for their prospects to either show up or to sign at the (x)? Would Getty’s survive without expense accounts?
Lunch the other day was at the Crazy Horse. The food is only ok. But the scenery is excellent. Old married guys love to have an excuse to come downtown to the Horse. They appreciate a salesman taking them out. In reality, places like the Crazy Horse are terrible places to make a presentation. The prospect can’t give you his undivided attention. Clients are taken there after the sale as a way to say thanks.
It is 8am. I called the Client’s home and found that he just left for our appointment. The waitresses are passing my table like truckers passing a Yugo. The man in the loud plaid shirt at the next booth is describing the 300 yard drive he stroked the day before. The meeting at another table has come to an end. The smiles reveal who had made money and who has not.
My Client just entered and shook hands with two guys on the way to my table. He quickly wrote down their numbers and promises to get back to them before noon. It’s obvious that we are both going to have a profitable day.