Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Highs and Lows of 2014 - The Lows

Obviously, this place isn't the mecca that it once used to be.  That's OK.  If you're here to read this, then welcome back!  But I'm doing this more for myself than anyone else (and isn't that really what blogging should have been all about all along?). This is my 10th time I've done this, and I love going back each year to see how things have changed, and how much they've actually stayed the same.  As I found out last year, it was pretty difficult to come up with ten "lows" for the year.  And the demise of blogging, retirement of HNT, and embarrassment that is current social media didn't even make the list!  Some of these might seem fairly petty or inconsequential.  So be it.  And as you'll find in past years, there's a couple of these that might find themselves on the "highs" list too!

These are what make my "lows" list (the "highs" list can be seen above...):

"The 10 Low Points of 2014"
(from least low to lowest of the low)
10. The neighbors - I've mentioned in the past that my apartment complex has become a white trash ghetto over the years.  So much so that I don't even care much anymore.  Last year they came in at #3, up from #7.  Little boys peeing in the dryers, half-eaten food dropped wherever it seemed convenient, garbage and cigarette butts as far as the eye could see...  New to the list this year (which still didn't bump it up past #10)--the soiled diapers in a trash bag that sat in the parking lot until buried under the snow, and the news story from early January that Helena police received a report that someone left a dead duck in an unlocked vehicle on the 600 block of South California.  Yep, that's where I live, and that's the downstairs neighbors.  Damned kids...

9. Mrs. Stoneberg died - My 2nd grade teacher died in late March at the age of 98, and frankly, I thought she had already died. I thought she was 98 when she was my teacher FIFTY YEARS AGO! She truly was one of my favorite teachers.

8. The Captain & Tenille - The news that they were going to be divorcing hit me harder than it ever should have.    Apparently "Love Will Keep Us Together" didn't work in this case.

7. Death of a classmate - It shouldn't be unexpected.  As we get older, our classmates are going to start dying off.  That was really brought home by the death of a very popular classmate in February.  Well-liked, successful, and quite active in the community.  Died unexpectedly in his sleep.  For no apparent reason.  The thoughts of mortality have stuck around ever since.

6. Politics - On all levels, from local to national, politics has become totally repulsive to me.  Civility, rules, common sense, etc. have all been tossed out the window.  I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers didn't envision the current state of affairs ever happening.  Montana's bi-annual legislature convenes next week, and I'm certain that they'll be making national headlines fairly quickly (actually, they already have...)

5. Obama took away my free insulin - One of the advantages of being uninsured is that pharmaceutical companies, needing documentation to get their huge tax breaks, will often give medications away for free (or massively discounted) to those who can't afford health insurance.  For over four years, I was getting my insulin for free, which was far better than paying the $200/month it would have cost me.  Then Obama told me I had to have health insurance or else, so I got it.  And I felt good, because my plan was totally subsidized.  Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical company dropped me like a hot potato.  The good news--there's an independent pharmacy in town that has some sort of contract that gets me my insulin for a few pennies on the dollar.  Not free, but certainly affordable. 

4. My body - My advice to the youth of America--be good to your knees.  Sadly, no one ever suggested that to me.  I'm not to the point of needing assistance or anything, but a simple walk down the street kills me.  My right knee is shot, but both should probably be replaced.  Old age, weight, and a touch of arthritis have all conspired against them.  Then there's my eyes.  I can't do any close work without reading glasses.  Yeah, it's old age, but the diabetes is a concern as well.  Still, I have better vision than the rest of my family, and don't think I make note of that any time that I can!

3. Michelle - If you're a long-time reader here, you might remember that Michelle is the name of my main trombone.  The soul band I'm in had an outdoor gig in June.  After a sound check, we had about 20 minutes to kill before starting, so I left her on her stand to grab a bite to eat.  A breeze had picked up, so I headed back to the stage, but the inevitable had already happened.  Michelle fell over, and her bell put a healthy dent in her slide, rendering her unplayable.  Fortunately, I had a second horn with me, so the gig went fine, but I had to send Michelle away for most of the summer to get fixed and to have a general overhaul.  Something that she hadn't had in all the years I've had her.  She came back almost like new, but it's gut-wrenching to have your livelihood in someone else's hands!  Yeah, it's really that big of a deal!
2. Shumpy - Back in the earliest days of HNT, we got to meet Shumpy.  Shumpy lived in Dallas and seemed to know everyone.  He even had his own domain in the days that the rest of us just let Blogger do the work.  He was a Parrothead, a Star Wars geek, appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show, hosted legendary Halloween parties, and was basically everybody's best friend.  When I had my 50th bday party in Dallas, Shumpy hosted the Friday night festivities, which went well into Saturday...  After some time, he got married, and became a father, which became the most important thing in his life.  It was around Labor Day when I was on my Alaska road trip that I read that he was back in the hospital with serious organ failure.  And before I even made it back home, he was dead.  A huge shock, and even more of a loss for anyone who knew him.  He's the fourth HNTer to have died over the years (that I know of...).  As I've mentioned one told me that people I met on the internet and came to care about would be dying on me.  Damn you all for making me care!

1. Sick and hurting friends - I have diabetes.  I consider myself fortunate in that I'm managing it pretty well.  I don't have anything like food allergies, mental diseases, or physical ailments that hinder a relatively care-free life.  I do count my blessings to those ends.  On the other hand, there's a lot of you who are suffering, and there's nothing I can do about it.  One of my musicians in the symphony will be having surgery on the last day of this year which may prevent her from ever performing again.  One of my favorite friends has been fighting lyme disease for the better part of the past year.  It has nearly incapacitated her.  Another one went in for a check-up, and came out weeks later with most of her colon removed due to cancer.  She's still fighting the fight, and there's no guarantees.  Yet another had a similar experience with breast cancer.  She recently underwent surgery to correct the botched reconstruction of her boobs.  And yet another found out that her diagnosis of bipolar disorder over years was most likely incorrect.  Toss in the newly-divorced ones, those with the death(s) of close loved ones, those who have been fighting chronic problem throughout their life...and you have a melting pot of darkness that I feel helpless about.  Contrary to popular belief, I'm the type who wants everyone to be safe and well, and it pains me that I can't do anything to really help.
So, that's the downer list for 2014.  Mostly not so bad. Fortunately, there were lots of good things that happened too! You can check those out in the "Highs" post above this one. Go. Now!

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