The Uphill Slide

There is always something.


The Soap Opera Life

I recommended Blackstone to my friend who’s interested in native life. The cast is of native heritage. The setting is a reserve in Canada. The plot strikes on it all. Sexual abuse, spousal abuse, incest, family, addictions, poverty, mental illness, foster care, fraud, greed, abuse of power, violence, murder, damaging the environment, strength, love, faith and on and on. I watched it a couple of years ago. All but the last season tying up the loose ends. I binged it on Netflix from the beginning until the end. I was struck this watching by the soap opera feeling of it and disturbed by the out-of-sync subtitles.

I warned my friend of the nudity and sex acts in a strip club. I warned her about the profanity. Her husband hates listening to that on the screen. He heard too much at work. Me too. At work and home. Guilty of it myself. For effect. But not in public around strangers. It bothers me when it’s not authentic and heart-felt. It often fits the screen story though. It has impact and is part of the telling.

Blackstone is a melodramatic soap opera. It has so much to say in such a short time. It’s necessary. To make you empathize with a daughter’s suicide. With the pain of addiction. With disgust and hate for a corrupt leader. Life is the soap opera that drags out for years with often unsatisfying endings. No saviors. No just desserts for the evil. But television gives us the satisfying endings that offer hope.

Spoiler:  Leona, the strong conscience goes on. Gail, the alcoholic with liver damage who sees her daughter’s ghost berating her forgives herself and finds a creative outlet. The strong women characters survive. Andy, the #1 bad guy, contracts AIDS from all his cheating and fucking. And he dies because he waited too long for treatment. That was the soap opera ending for a selfish life. But don’t completely blame his character. He grew up on that reserve too with his own corrupt father. And don’t confuse his character with the actor, Eric Schweig. Read a little about him.

The End


Understanding Each Other

The guy in the black bowler hat quietly said ‘shit’ or ‘damn’ or something impolite around a stranger. He apologized and offered an explanation that the bus driver was rude. I thought maybe a little but not super rude.

The driver and the old lady in the red hat had an exchange that sounded like bickering spouses or the condescending child to the mother she thinks is losing it. Or two people who know each other just enough to be irritated. But the bus driver bothered black bowler. He jumped in and moved up beside red hat. I heard the word Costco.

It started with Costco. Red hat asked the bus driver to let her know when we reached Costco. To which the driver responded that red hat rode this bus every week. What she seemed to be meaning was “why the hell don’t you already know where Costco is?” Of course she didn’t say those words. She was just pointing out in a roundabout way that the huge warehouse with big red letters spelling C O S T C O should be obvious to someone passing it every week.

Red hat didn’t seem at all bothered by her conversation with the driver. Maybe the underlying meaning escaped red hat or she had learned to ignore unsaid things trying to point out she wasn’t as sharp or observant as she had once been.

And when we got to Costco, she didn’t get off. She decided to go to TJMaxx instead.


Unexpected Answers

It’s $121 to fix the broken wire. That was a steal next to the $300 or $400 more it would cost to also replace a sensor on my Honda. And that extra, no guaranteed fix. Stu said there was no code to explain why I had to push twice to shut off the engine. Like the less-than-god doctor, my mechanic guessed a cure for my symptoms. “ll just wait,” I decided. Wait until that time when the car won’t shut off. Wait until that time when it only stopped because I ran out of gas. Then I’ll fix it. Look for answers.

A week ago the ABS, skid and steering icons lit up in unison on the dash. Then the car took two pushes of the button to shut off. I wanted to blame Cary for those problems. After all, she was driving when they lit up. She was the messenger of bad news.

The car’s a joint venture in my name. I pay for the repairs. Except that time she hit the sidewall on a curb and offered to buy a replacement. And how could I give her hell? I’d done it too. More than once. Two at one time when I dropped off the washed-out jagged berm of a country road. I couldn’t even leak my way home. Instantly deflated!

Stu called, “Your car’s done.” And everything’s fixed. The broken wire for the ABS also fixed the ignition button. Who guessed their connection? The mechanic didn’t. He seemed amazed and perplexed. Shouldn’t the schematic lesson of that car earn me a reward? After all, it was my car taught the mechanic something new.



“You came because you have a life change,” she said as we sat down across from each other. She meant a game changer.

I’m a grandmother. I share mundane responsibilities for one of my grandsons. He and his mother and I live under one roof. We have the common spaces with our own sorta’ private bedrooms. Sorta’ private because it’s all common space for the youngest of us.

Are we mother-daughter-son-grandson or roommates? Are we family or friends? The lines are blurred. The roles unclear. We fight. We do things together. We do things alone.

How do you think I feel about my responsibilities in this household? I love them. I hate them. I have a friend with sole responsibility for a grandchild. We mention the grandfather with responsibility for a couple of his. I feel like the lucky one for shared and not sole.

Sometimes I feel unappreciated and my dreams ignored. I can imagine what the young may feel. Dreams are for us. I think my grandson is growing up, and I’m growing old. I dream of shirking and shedding. I didn’t ask for it. I remind myself I willingly accepted it. No one said it was easy.

I told my grandson I wanted to run away from home. He laughed. He told me to go. He didn’t understand the serio comic. I gave him a hug and said “I love you.” He said it back. He doesn’t need another game changer.


Getting a Date

Getting a Date
Ear Hustle
Duration: 34:05
Published: Wed, 25 Oct 2017 12:50:33 -0000

There are only a few ways to leave prison: serve your time, get out early on parole… or escape.

Steve, Danny, Phillip and Ron are all trying to make their way out of prison. In our final e…

Subscribe to this podcast:

Sent from Podcast Republic 17.12.30R


It Gets To Me Some Days

My son put his hand on my shoulder yesterday while I talked. A small gesture with big impact.

The President dismissed John Dickerson. You call that an interview? The President’s on wiretapping and Obama, yet again. Obama is personal, not politics. Why? Trump tells the reporter we each have our own opinions. Is this opinion or fact for the news?

Life is surreal. The body is being pulled in all directions on the tortuous rack.

A hacker in Ohio was charged with crimes. He entered computers with ‘Fruitfly’ and turned on the camera as the anonymous voyeur.

Cover your camera.

He stored child pornography on the hacked computers. He targeted children. He entered Macs that have the reputation of hack resistant.

Who’s gonna’ believe you claiming it’s not your child porn on your computer. The weaponized computer turned around on us. And it’s lucky? to have caught this man since his hack wasn’t big enough to draw much attention. It’s the small-time hackers who often escape detection. Thirteen years he went undetected in people’s lives. He was a child on the brink of adulthood when he began.

Facebook tracking all my clicks and likes and shares. Selecting more of the same for me. Targeting the best and worst. A machine knowing me too well. A BFF or an enemy?

Should I become unplugged before I become undone? 


The First Time

How can you relive the delight and memory of a first time?

By continually chasing the unique or vicariously through the eyes of someone else’s first time, poor substitute though that may be.

The theater was over the top decor hinting of Hollywood, though that’s not important to a three-year-old. But it’s part of the memory—the place. The carpet, the brass, the cardboard cutouts of upcoming movies, the grandiose posters looking down as we hurried by. The carpeted red-light tunnel breaking open to first sight of the big screen.

I pushed down a seat for him, his weight just enough to hold it. The lights dimmed and the screen lit with images. He sat immobile clasping his hands and watching the movement on the screen. And I watched him. Was it awe on his face? Amazement? Fascination? Fear? What was he thinking as he sat in a dark room with strangers? He didn’t laugh or show the pleasure of movies on the small screen. I chuckled at dialogue that referenced things not in his memory. The mother and daughter in our row got up and left so he moved to the seat on the other side of me. He folded himself up like an accordion in the seat. I feared his legs being squeezed. Then it was over.

He rushed to greet his mother at the door and told her we ate pizza. Nothing else. “Did you see a movie?” she asked. He was silent as she asked questions. “What was the big animal in the movie?” I asked. “A giraffe?” he answered. Had he watched Ferdinand, the bull who loved to smell the flowers and rejected the life he was bred to lead? Had he not liked the movie or was the theater and the screen and the strangers overload?

It was a first for both of us. Not what I envisioned, but this is my story. Someday I want to hear his.



The speaker buried two husbands, so she explained of thrice singleness. The widow beside me was still wearing her wedding ring and diamond. I haven’t worn mine in years. The salesman warned us that the intricate design made it impossible to resize them. Two kids and thirty years later, he had seen my future. The rings wouldn’t slide over the knuckle. The husband’s was a hazard at work, or so he claimed early on.


Up Before Dawn

A couple of days ago I tried to make a date with a friend for today. “Oh, no,” she exclaimed. They’re predicting a big snowstorm.

Last night she called to check on us. Did we drive our fortnightly trip to Bedford? She was afraid we might wreck or be holed up in a motel. But Cary sped ahead of the snow back to Pittsburgh and went to bed almost immediately reminding me of her 6 AM work start. That ubiquitous badger in my head said I would be getting up too.

It was a pure white wonder lit by streetlights and then my headlights. We were the few awake in a sleeping world. Unplowed roads and unshoveled sidewalks with only a few tracks to follow. Snowflakes in the headlights.

A few hours later the purity of pre-dawn was black and blue from tires and chemicals.


If The Dead Could Talk

All it takes to prove my online humanity is simple arithmetic or knowing the alphabet.

Before the holidays I stood in front of rows of crosses draped with purple ribbons. Each representing a person in Butler County who died from a drug overdose. I was moved by its simplicity of death in rows. Local business owners, while claiming to understand such loss, called it an eyesore in a bad location to WTAE. The news station titled their piece State of Addiction:  Heroin memorial gets attention in downtown Butler.

I read about this memorial on Facebook in a post shared from the Butler Citizen whose subheader is Butler News, Real News, With No Filter. 

That article’s title “Butler is having a overdose memorial to “honor” the “heroes” that overdose- DISGUSTING a slap in the face to real “heroes” told you in 21 words the opinion of the author. I’m uncertain if the words in quotes are from an uncredited source or the writer’s own. Agreed that these dead did not become heroes for having a fatal overdose nor is it an honor to die from an overdose.

A venomous piece directed at this memorial and its creator and the dead overdoses. As if to prove that all these individuals deserved to die, the writer offers sad and ugly details of certain lives. Keeping score of the misdeeds in life. Are those few ‘facts’ the story of their lives? Do those things prove something? Or are those ‘facts’ trying to tell you more about drug addiction or life? There is much more to all the stories of the dead. This article is flat without meaning beyond hate. It was ugly and cruel the first time I read it. It’s still ugly and cruel.

There is no dishonor in remembering those who died in what President Trump labeled a “health emergency”. And now Governor Wolfe is prepared to label this an emergency for Pennsylvania. County Coroner William Young III’s office reported the death total Wednesday afternoon. The trend follows a marked increase in drug-related deaths in the county in recent years — 13 confirmed in 2013, 33 in 2014, 47 in 2015 and 74 last year.

I was affected by these deaths and knew not one of them. I was a victim of stolen goods and a disrupted life though not by any of these dead. The writer thinks a victim would be irritated by a memorial to someone who stole from her. Perhaps some would. Not all. What the writer does not understand is that a victim’s anger and disgust at a crime can be tempered with forgiveness and love for a human being. Even as we wish to get our stuff back, we never wish that person sentenced to death or to be forgotten or believe our stuff was worth that human life. But that’s me. I’ve read the comments.

Reactions and comments are as important to understanding a community as the article. They didn’t disappoint. Race lines were drawn—Negro dealer vs. dope sick white girl. Suggestion:  put a dumpster on the lot to trash bodies of dead overdoses. Or this story from the self-proclaimed war veteran who shot video of himself pissing on the cross of a stranger. But it is not the dead who are touched by the words and comments and actions in this posting. It is not the dead who feel the humiliation of a golden shower. The dead are beyond caring.

This memorial was not a “huge pile of hot garbage”.

This was freedom of speech with a mix of purported facts thrown in. Or maybe it was the work of trolls meant to incite. Strangely, the post reinforced things I already believed. Hate is pervasive and contagious. We like to hate groups of people. In this case, fatal overdoses. And we like to compare one person to another to measure worth, maybe even against ourselves so we can say, “At least I’m not a drug addict responsible for my own demise.” But these hate posts teach. It doesn’t matter what you say or do or who you are. Someone will hate you for something. So quit trying to please. Stop biting your tongue. Don’t let hate become you.

This post isn’t news. It’s opinion like my post, divergent opinion. And this outlet that published the post seems like that mix of news and social media. On the fringes. A dangerous combination where a reader can never know fact from half-truth or fiction. Yet still be quoted as a reliable source.

What brought me back to thoughts of this Butler memorial was a podcast, of course. The House from March 2016 on Embedded. The subjects were Opana and HIV in small-town Indiana. Opana-a drug of choice. A painkiller. Think about it. Pain-killer. Hallucinogen. Uppers. Downers. Altering the world we live in. I’ve wanted to alter the world I lived in from time to time. And the answer was in a little pill all the time, however impermanent it might be. Just for a moment, I could forget….

Kelly McEvers took listeners to a bedroom in a house in Austin, Indiana to watch a nurse alter Opana to injectable form. The pill laid melting from a flame beneath a scrap of aluminum can. Three addicts watched waiting to share the dose. They sucked their share into syringes mixed with water. Her description of one man trying unsuccessfully to inject in his diseased arm was in mental vision ugly and desperate. But he didn’t give up searching for a vein. And this altered state of Opana has led to sharing needles and the HIV outbreak. And the small town in Indiana and Butler County are connected by this epidemic. I wonder now if the war veteran or the nurse or the parents who lost custody of three children are clean or still using. Or would they have a cross in some vacant lot as a memorial to a lost life?