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Episode XXIL: In Which I’m Overwhelmed by a Moving Experience

6 Aug

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So last week I was scrabbling along, no major curves along the path, no sudden obstacles, no tremendous forks or other life-altering cutlery in the road. Then PLANG, it happened. (I feel it necessary to interrupt myself here, apologies to my train of thought—that’s quite all right, don’t worry about it—why, thank you—don’t mention it—you’re too kind—get on with it already—that the overused onomatopoetic term “BOOM” is not only overused but doesn’t actually apply to me. I don’t hear BOOM when a seismic event wobbles my world. I hear more of a metallic PLANG, not unlike being smacked in the mug with a long piece of aluminum siding.)

 

So anyway, PLANG, it happened.

PLANG

I was asked to help a friend move.

 

Now, don’t be mistaken—the experience itself was not traumatic. Just tedious. The process of gathering, wrapping, and boxing every single solitary item of your earthly existence and carting the whole mess to another location is unadulterated first-world hell, but that wasn’t what PLANGed me.

Side note: One comes to understand who one’s true compadres are come moving time. Only real buddies will show up to devote an entire weekend helping you tote your box springs, fold-out sectional, appliances, underthings, attic crap, and shot glass collection from hither to yon. The old “a friend in need” adage, yah? Yah. I’m thinking of pitching these nifty sayings to U-Haul for display on their trucks across our fair land:
igotit igotit

A friend moving out is a friend no doubt.

A friend relocating is a friend ingratiating.

A friend moving furniture is a friend who’s been earnedfersure.

Or something.

 

End of side note.

 

No, what smacked my visage into a flattened cartoon face shaped like a long piece of aluminum siding was the flashback. Travel with me, won’t you, way back to 1973. Your vision’s getting wavy as harp strings carry you away to plaid polyester land. Don’t look down. Damn it, I told you not to look down! YAPR 67es, those are saddle shoes you’re wearing, with heels the size of an 8-track tape player. Take a gander around. Spiro Agnew has just resigned from the Veep’s Office. On TV, William Conrad is nabbing crooks, usually by sitting on them, as Detective Frank Cannon; Tony Orlando and Dawn top the charts with, yech, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” And out of nowhere, Mom and Dad have called it quits, meaning that little eighth-grade you must bury all your possessions in cardboard coffins and follow the parental unit of your choosing to every apartment, trailer park, and government-subsidized housing complex this side of Tulsa. And you have to say goodbye to your dog, Cricket, because it’s been determined that she’s too much to care for in all the hubbub.

 

Oh, the horror.

 

Yeah, I recall those times as the Years of Living Transiently (YLT). Never did I feel unloved or hungry or victim of any of the true terrors that so many youngsters must endure. After about the third move in less than a year, however, I learned not to unpack fully but to simply shift my more immediate necessities to the tops of my boxes. I’m sure that kids of military parents share a similar memory of quicksilver logistics. My wife’s gypsy-like youth was comparable. You live like a MASH unit, always on alert for immediate evac.

 

Through all the moves uncounted during my YLT era, though, I also learned that no matter how many times you move, you never get it quite right. Every time you pull up stakes, you say to yourself this is going to be the one where I’m uber-organized. Socks here, books in this box, bowls over there. Then you end up throwing everything anywhere it fits. When you get to your new abode, you open a box and find it has a can of motor oil, floss, and toilet paper. Another box has detergent, silverware, three bags of old Doritos, and your high school copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

Martha The ManSame goes with your moving-in process at the new place. As you’re unpacking, you determine that you will be the epitome of efficiency, the Martha Stewart of domestic organization (except for the jail time). So you organize your cereal boxes by bran content, your CDs alpha by artist, your spices as they appear in the song Scarborough Fair, and so on. And, of course, this all goes out the window the minute you eat your first bowl of Trix.

 

So this, my being PLANGed by a YLT flashback, made me realize this is likely why the wife and I haven’t moved since 1992. My daughters say it’s boring never to have relocated once during their lifetimes—to which I say, “travel with me now waaay back…”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

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Well, Hit Me with an Anvil–It’s Contest Time Again

25 Jun

by Roger White

 

OK, OK, you don’t have to klonk the Spouseman over the head with an anvil. Speaking of, you don’t see too many anvils these days, do you? Think about it. When, in your daily comings and goings, have you come across a nice, sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing anvil recently? Critics of modern society may hold forth about how the increasingly technological, service-oriented nature of our economy today has killed such former life staples as record albums, newspapers, actual books, travel agencies, home phones, and the pleasure of becoming permanently out of touch with that behold the anvilglommy high school friend, but I say a true death knell for the world that was is the marked lack of anvils. There was once a time when every decent home needed a good anvil. Nowadays, I’ll bet you can go a whole year without even saying the word “anvil.” And this is so because we simply don’t make things anymore. We tweet. We blog. We text. We don’t plow and dig and forge things. Today’s kids may not even understand the term.

 

Old guy: “I need me a good anvil.”

 

Young guy: “What’s that? An Advil? Got a headache?”

 

Having said all that, however, I did find a reputable anvil supply house—on the internet, ironically enough. For all of your anvil needs, visit www.anvils4sale.com. A classic, German double-horn anvil will set you back about $2,700, but if you’re not fussy, you can land a decent, used church window anvil for right around a thousand bucks. I’m not exactly sure what a church window anvil is, but it sounds righteous.

 

I’ve been told by more than one Spouse reader that I tend to ramble. This may be true. Let me just say the word “anvil” one more time, and we can get to the meat of this column: Anvil. OK, I’m good.

 rambler guy

So, anyway, the whole reason I didn’t want to be klonked with a church window anvil is because you guys have been clamoring for another contest—namely the Movie Mashup. In retrospect, I realize it’s been since last December since we mashed up some good movies, so here we go. Father John Connor, you’re now eligible to participate again. And thanks for the rosary beads.

 

If you recall, what we have here, fellow catnip cosmonauts, is a collection of famous lines from movies. However, quotes from two different movies have been squished together to make one line. Here’s a for instance: “What we got here is failure to phone home.” This is, quite obviously, a collision of “Cool Hand Luke” and “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Get it? No? Okay, here’s another one: “My precious goes all the way to eleven.” That’s a combo platter of “Lord of the Rings” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Or as I call it, “Lord of the Spinal Rings.”

 

So. Below (or above if you’re reading this upside down) are 10 Movie Mashups. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to tell moi what two movies got cozy and had relations to make the mixed-up quote. The first 18,427 people to respond with any cinderfella storysemblance of an answer win a genuine “Jesus is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker. If you get pulled over by the cops for displaying said bumper sticker, I will not be held accountable. E-mail moi at rogdude@mail.com with your best guesses. Void in Maine, Oshkosh, and in that little gin joint over by 5th Street. Ready? Set? Bang.

 

  1. “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been Mister Tibbs.”
  2. “Love means never having to round up the usual suspects.”
  3. “You’re gonna need a bigger damn dirty ape!”
  4. “Attica! Attica! Toga! Toga!”
  5. “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become a martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
  6. “Say hello to my little wire hangers.”
  7. “Shane, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”
  8. “As God as my witness, I’ll never see dead people again.”
  9. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets a box of chocolates.”
  10. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice elephant in my pajamas.”

BONUS: “I’m gonna get medieval on your pod bay doors, HAL.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

My Uvula Has a Beer Belly

22 May

by Roger White

 

I understand about growing old, and I don’t mind it, really. No, really, there are a few perks that tag along with decrepitude. Like being able to take a nap any time of the day without having to explain yourself. Or the well-practiced art of feigning random episodes of deafness when the wife has her chore list out. Oh, another biggie is the ability to dodge zzzzzhelping the neighbors with any heavy lifting. That’s a personal favorite.

 

“Oh, look, hon,” says the wife one glorious Saturday afternoon. “That new couple across the street bought a new hutch. Go over and see what you can do. They need help getting that big ol’ thing out of their truck.”

 

The glorious day turns dark. “Yes, dear.”

 

I toddle over.

 

“Hey, there, young fellah,” I rasp, sounding in the terminal throes of emphysema. “Need a hand?”

 

“Well. If you think you can, sure!”

 

“Okay, now,” I wheeze. “I’ll hop up in the truck bed and push her your way.” I go to climb up in the truck and freeze, back bent double. “Uh, oh.”

 

“You all right?” the wary young couple inquires simultaneously.

 

“Darn it. Ol’ war wound.”

 

“War wound? Vietnam?”

 

“Yep. Battle of Inchon.”

 

“That was Korea.”

 

“Oh, yeah. Korea.”

 

“Well, look, mister. You go on home and rest your back. We can get this. But thank you, anyway!”

 

I toddle away as the gloriousness of Saturday brightly returns.

 

Alas, some very real maladies have visited themselves upon me with the piling up of the years, and these are the things that make me ponder my mortality. My weekly stab at playing tennis, for example, has been indefinitely curtailed because of some vague pain in my lower neck that feels like I have an angry lobster attached to my spine. I went to the doc about it; he felt around for a while, wrote me a scrip for steroids, and sent me on my way. Well, I have a big mat of chest hair now and I’m prone to wild fits of road rage, but roidsI’ve yet to feel any relief from the spine lobster. Doc thinks I’ve torn my trapezoid or something. Sounds like a circus injury, I know.

 

Another aging ailment (AA for short) that has come to squat upon my person is flab. Funny word, isn’t it? Flab. Flab is something I never suffered from as a kid, as a teen, or as a young man. If anything, I could have used a little extra body acreage. I was always skinny as a pipe cleaner—and about as shy. Yes, that is correct. Pipe cleaners are notoriously shy. Anyway, as the seasons have passed and I’m now in the autumn of my years, I’ve noticed my leaves turning brown and…wait, wrong metaphor. I’ve noticed a bit of girth round my midships. The wife insists my beer intake and stubborn sedentarianism are the culprit, but I cling to advancing age as the true cause. By the way, that’s a new religion I’m starting—Sedentarianism—but that’s for another column.

 

The upshot of this is: I’ve a bit of a muffin top, you see. Well don’t stare.

 

The thing of it is, it’s not just our outer bods that fall victim to flab. Noticing that I’ve been yukhaving trouble staying asleep for any considerable stretch lately, I’ve set myself up for one of those sleep studies. Wifey seems to think I have a flabby uvula. Sounds naughty, I know, but no, we all have uvulas, fellahs. It’s that dangly thing in the back of your throat. Mine is apparently sagging into my breathing passage and clogging me up at night. Yes, even my innards have grown old and tired. My uvula has a beer belly.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Let’s Play the Blame Game

11 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Did you ever notice how a lot of bloggers and columnists these days start their blogs and columns with “Did you ever notice…”? Uh oh.

Actually, in all the 2,103 columns I’ve written over the past (censored) years, I don’t believe I’ve ever kicked off an installment with those four Seinfeldian words. So allow me this one:

Did you ever notice how there is always someone or something to blame for every cotton pickin’ thing these days? In this age of victims, nothing just happens by chance or circumstance anymore—someone must be blamed. Fault must be found. Perpetrators must be punished. And surely somewhere down the line, lawyers must be compensated.

I have resisted this mindset as long as I can, dragged my feet against the rushing tide of the times until my heels are raw. So I give in. I will now add my voice to the din; therefore, I give you my “blame” list for some of the odd quirks and tendencies that are endemic to li’l old me.

Scapegoat No. 1—Doorways. Ya know the age-old question of “what did I come in here for” that hits you when you walk into a room and then draw a complete blank? Well, at my age this happens just about every hour on the hour. I thought I was getting old and feeble-minded, but as it turns out, my door is to blame. Yep, psychologist types at the University duhhhhof Notre Dame have determined that walking through a doorway triggers something called an event boundary in your noggin. In other words, what you were thinking of in one room goes flying away when you go to another room, especially when the TV is on and the Cowboys have the ball. Okay, I made up that last part. But isn’t this great? I have a lawsuit in the works against Pella Doors and Windows. If you want to join me in a class action suit, dial 1-800-DUM-DOOR.

Scapegoat No. 2—Apple Maps. I get lost a lot; now, I’ve someone to blame. Did you hear about this? Seems that Apple Maps, in its rush to compete against Google and other major online map companies, goofed big time, putting many cities and landmarks in the wrong places.

In one grievous instance, Apple plopped some town called Mildura, Australia, more than 40 miles away from where it really is, and—believe it or not—some drivers actually ended up stuck in the rugged Australian outback and had to be rescued by police.

Can you picture this? The road sign reads “Mildura Straight Ahead” but the car’s Apple Map says “No, Ron, turn left.”

you are here, no here“Crikey!” says Ron and turns left against his better judgment. Ten hours later, as Ron scorches in the 110-degree heat of the outback, he decides to leave.

“NO!” orders Apple Map. “You are here. This is Mildura.”

“But…I’m thirsty.”

“I’m sorry, Ron, but I have shut off your motor.”

This is ripe for another juicy legal action, no?

“Uh, yeah, hello? Is this Apple Maps?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, I have Apple Maps on my iPhone, and it told me that to get to Dallas I had to drive straight ahead off the Galveston Sea Wall, and my car is now in 15 feet of water. Can I speak to your legal department?”

Scapegoat No. 3—Kitty litter. One of my duties around the homestead is waste management—and this includes changing that most toxic of entities, the kitty litter box. I have always thought that this lovely, touchy-feely euphemism—kitty litter—is one of the cruelest of domestic ironies. The term “kitty litter” sounds cute, harmless, even cuddly somehow. Have you ever changed a kitty litter box that hasn’t been touched by human hands in over a week? This is one of the foulest, nastiest, zombie apocalyptic-type things you’ll ever come in contact with. I honestly believe that you could arm the U.S. Marines meowuhohwith cats, turned back end toward the enemy, and you could send any opposing force running faster than Iraq’s elite Republican Guards.

Anyway, it turns out that, now stay with me here, some suicide attempts have actually been linked to kitty litter. I believe it. A study by a guy named Teodor Postolache (really, that’s his name) claims there’s a link between an infection called Toxoplasma gondii, which you get from handling kitty litter, and suicide attempts.

So there you have it, honey. I would change the box, but, man, I’m so down. What’s the use in living?

Side note to self: File suit against the Fresh Step company.

Now, this last part has nothing to do with anything, but I believe it carries a strong message for you and me. Seems that a Florida man remains in the hospital with severe injuries after the cops stopped him for DWHATSIYS.

What’s DWHATSIYS, you ask? That’s police lingo for Driving While Having A Traffic Sign In Your Skull. Duh. The Florida Highway Patrol pulled over one L.R. Newton after he smashed into a road sign and then kept on going. When they stopped the guy, they found that a big chunk of the traffic sign was sticking out of his headbone. Newton’s in stable condition, but the sign didn’t make it.

Stupid sign. I’d sue the sign makers.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

I Feel Funny. No, Not Funny Ha Ha.

23 Jul

by Roger White

Gentle readers, you must pardon me if this installment of my periodic, oft-nonsensical missives unto you appears somewhat professorial, pedantic, and/or prosodic. I must warn you from the start that in my ever-vigilant endeavors to explore the bounds of subject matter for this whimsical journalistic discourse—with precious little regard for my personal safety and body fat content, mind you—I sometimes cross the line between investigative reporting and life-endangering folly. Not unlike intrepid chroniclers before me, such as George Plimpton, Terry Southern, and Henry Cabot Henhouse III, I must at times insert my very own self into the dark heart of the topic at hand.

Therefore, be advised, then, that I am penning these words with the assistance and/or interference, as the case may be, of 200 milligrams of the analeptic monoamine-releaser modafinil. In other words, I’m all hopped up on a tab of prescription Provigil, the latest “wakefulness aid” to come down the off-label pike. And I must say at the outset that moment by moment, my intramuscular energy levels are increasing at an astonishing rate, while my cognitive abilities appear to be coalescing, dare I say multiplying, as I type. Note that I am also scrubbing the kitchen floor grout with a toothbrush, learning Mandarin Chinese via iPod, and performing a mental audit of our family’s previous three years of Form 1040 Schedule A itemized deductions. Piece of cake, really.

Just as this generation of moms has discovered that dipping into their kids’ Ritalin stash has rendered running the household a veritable breeze, folks who were recently prescribed Provigil tablets for narcolepsy or other sleeping disorders have found that a daily off-label popping of one of these minuscule motivators transforms them into super-functioning cerebretrons. Now, we had our own forms of Ritalin and Provigil back in the day. We called it speed. Except if you consumed enough of this heart-squeezing substance, say, to stay up all week during college finals, you could very well end up speeding right into the emergency room.

However, according to a recent ABC News segment on the growing crowd of Provigil partisans, this new wonder drug has no adverse side effects they can detect so far. Let me underline the so far. So far. There. I’ll italicize it, also: So far. I mean, they’ve been studying this stuff how long, a year maybe? How tragic (or comic) would it be to witness a hefty portion of the population go running to their doctors claiming a sudden onset of narcolepsy so they can all leap onto the Provigil Express only to gradually mutate into half-stallion, half-cyclops people in five years’ time?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have many of my neighbors and friends become half-stallion, half-cyclops people. This isn’t Arkansas.

The great dearth of longitudinal studies notwithstanding, Provigil sales have skyrocketed. Prescription sales have reportedly increased 73 percent in the last four years—to approximately $1.5 billion in 2011. That’s billion. With a buh.

One guy, a Mr. Dave Asprey, who runs a billion-dollar (with a buh) Internet security firm, told ABC News he starts his day at about 4 in the a.m. Get this, Asprey once bounced out of bed, worked out for a couple of hours, flew 20 hours to Australia with no sleep, and then delivered a series of speeches that were so inspiring they were featured in the local newspapers.

How are we supposed to compete in the workplace with a Provigil Pete? I believe that employers should screen for Provigil in the same fashion athletes are checked for steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. How on earth am I going to be able to justify my afternoon siesta when Pro-V Patty is in the next cubicle cross-referencing the company archives back to 1862? And what about all those Salesperson of the Month plaques that decorate your friendly car dealer’s walls? I say if they discover that any of those guys were on Provigil that an asterisk must be placed by their names. The asterisk of shame.

Anyway, back to Mr. Asprey. As an experiment, ABC took the guy off the drug for several days, and he did admit he felt a bit “off.” He even admitted his speech was altered! Hmm.

All I can report to you personally is that as I have been writing this column (and scrubbing the kitchen floor and learning Mandarin Chinese and self-auditing my tax returns) I have experienced a certain mental expansion. 官官話官話, 國語 官官? No?

I also believe this is in large part due to the locus of the monoamine action of modafinil, which has also been the target of studies identifying effects on dopamine in the striatum and nucleus accumbens, as opposed to the noradrenaline in the hypothalamus and ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, as well as serotonin in the amygdala and frontal cortex. But you knew that. Duh.

Otherwise, I feel no adversefafctcts shatsoevr, infact I hav neveer flt btetr in…  in.. 9 … 1…….1

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

I Played Drums for Frank Zappa — Didn’t I?

8 Jun

by Roger White

One of the few nice things about growing old is that the more ancient you become, the less you can be blamed for how quirky and oddly selective your memory is. We boomers (aka flower children, hippies, yippies, Owsley’s owls, hepcats, heads, groks, hipsters, space cadets, longhairs, psychedelic cosmonauts, merry pranksters, etc.) are also able to bask in the added bonus of being able to point the flying fickle finger of forgetfulness at all that, um, consciousness-expanding experimentation of our salad days as yet another source of our cumulus-dotted craniums. Or is that cranii? Craniundum. Whatever.

As one sage and far out philosopher once pined: “If you remember the ’60s, then you weren’t there.” At times, I regard this statement as the deepest of the deep—an epistle of the era; other times, not so much. “Let’s see, so if I remember being at Woodstock, then I wasn’t really? But Santana was there, so does that mean he actually wasn’t? It sure looked like him. Could have been a body double. Hmmm, what’s Wavy Gravy’s phone number?…”

Regardless, what I’m chirping about isn’t just the occasional fortuitous forgetting, such as conveniently deciding to help a buddy configure the surround sound in his far, far West Texas cabin on the very weekend your wife’s sister’s extended family was slated to hit town.

And it’s not just about ungraciously unremembering, like hiding comfy in your cube while your coworkers render the fourth “Happy Birthday to You” of the week in yet another forced bonding ceremony in the breakroom, complete with dry cake and strained smiles and laughing hard at all the boss’s jokes, ha ha ha, oh, God.

And it’s even more than just a nice, fat case of what I call the “lazily laying asides.” You know what I’m talking about here: cleverly delaying emptying the dishwasher, mowing the lawn, putting your dirty clothes away, or cleaning up the dog’s indiscretions on the carpet until somebody else takes care of it—all in the name of thick fog in the old noodle. “I didn’t see it, I swear. Without my glasses, it looked like a dark, skinny chew toy.”

No, as satisfying as these little geriatric perks are, I’m referring to good old (are you ready for this alliterative ace?) narcissistic nostalgia. Witty words, eh? Just call me an emperor of expression, a duke of declaration, a guru of, uh, some word that begins with “g.”

Friends, narcissistic nostalgia is that endearing trait we old-timers display now and again that involves taking a mental bicycle pump to a personal brush with greatness from long ago and puffing up that memory into a full-blown, if somewhat fraudulent, fat tire of genuine stardom. These episodes generally occur in social settings, such as parties, class reunions, corporate happy hours, or waiting in the endless line for the john at the most recent Stones concert. (I hear they’re on the road again, by the way. Rumor has it this tour’s going to be called either “Steel Wheelchairs” or “A Bigger Bed Pan.”)

Narcissistic nostalgia, or NN as it’s known by those who study this sort of thing, is nothing new. Folks rustling through the autumn leaves of their years have been exhibiting traits of NN since Biblical times, when a graying David kept rehashing to his tribe about how he beaned the 30-foot-tall Goliath with a single tiny pebble. David’s peers actually recall that Goliath stood only about 5’ 8” and that David was packing heat—but by the time David was a doddering old king, his buddies figured it was better to let him tell the story his way.

Thus it is with us geezers today. I had my own NN experience recently, and it took my wife to gently sweep my cobwebs (thankfully out of earshot of my rapt audience).

Now, as I recalled it, it was about mid to late ’70s. I was living in Dallas-Fort Worth with some musician pals of mine. Frank Zappa was tooling through town when his drummer got hold of some bad herbs just before the Mothers were scheduled to play the Tarrant County Convention Center. One of Zap’s bandmates had swung by our place with the news and asked if anybody could sit in on the skins for the evening’s gig. “I’m your man,” I said—and the rest is history.

Well, NN history. My dear wife knew me then, and here’s what really happened: It was 1985. Jimmy Carl Black, Zappa’s drummer from the Mothers of Invention days, dropped in to see a mutual friend I was living with in Arlington. Jimmy Carl scored an impromptu gig at a place called The Hop in Fort Worth but didn’t have his drum kit with him. So he played on my little old set that night, and those babies never sounded cleaner.

And that, dear compadres, is the closest I came to playing drums for Frank Zappa. I still say the NN version is better.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Oak Hill with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.