There are two kinds of people in the world, them that like scary movies and them that don’t. I’m a them that don’t.

I’ve never seen Halloween for example. Any scary movie lover worth their weight has seen Halloween. Halloween is the movie by which they compare all other scary movies, at least of the slasher variety. Never saw it. In fact, I never saw any of the movies where teenagers are being chased by men wearing masks and waving around chainsaws.

Somehow I didn’t pass along the scary movie dislike gene to my son Court. He likes scary movies. He’s seen every movie involving Freddy Krueger, some more than once. He’s seen Halloween 1 through 11. To him, a chainsaw is a murder weapon and not a building tool or something used to cut down a Christmas tree.

Here are the scary movies I’ve seen, or at least that I remember seeing: Play Misty for Me, House on Haunted Hill, Wait Until Dark, Misery, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, The Sixth Sense, Jaws, The Exorcist, and The Birds. Out of those I just listed, the two I would never see again are Wait Until Dark and The Exorcist. I saw both as a teenager. The Exorcist was terrifying, and scared the living hell out of me because DEVIL. Wait Until Dark was not a true horror film since it didn’t involve any kind of supernatural being. But the idea of being unable to see because of blindness and someone trying to kill you is extraordinarily frightening to me. There is a scene in which the bad guy (Alan Arkin) jumps out at the blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) that scared the daylights out of me. I must have jumped a foot in the air. I hated being scared like that, and still do.

My granddaughter Kaiya has inherited her father’s love for scary movies. Being only 11 years old, she is restricted from watching some of the scarier movies, though she would love to see them. She watched The Sixth Sense (a movie that scared the crap out of me) with her dad one day when her mother and Mylee were on a Girl Scout camping trip. Did it scare you, I asked her. Nope, she insisted, not that she would tell me if it had…..

This photo was taken the night Bill and I took her on a ghost tour, something that didn’t scare her a bit.

My 7-year-old grandson Micah also likes scary movies, or at least proclaims to do so. I’m not sure how many he’s seen, being only 7. While visiting there a few months ago, I was there when he was being picked up from school. He got in the car and announced that he wanted to see the movie It. Shockingly, his mom said it was a no-go. But there are no swears, he pointed out……

How could anyone as cute as this like scary movies?

I’m sure there are more horror movies that I have seen that I’m just not remembering. I’m not counting any Alfred Hitchcock movies except for Psycho, because they are more psychological thrillers than horror movies, or at least that’s what I think. I did rewatch The Birds the other day, a movie I haven’t seen for probably 40 years. I will admit that the gathering of the crows on the playground was disconcerting.

By the way, even Kaiya has her limits. “I don’t like scary movies that have dolls,” she told me.

Neither do I. Or devils.

A New Joint

Don’t you love when you write a blog and you tell a Big Fat Lie to your faithful readers? I will tell you the truth right now. Yesterday’s blog post in which I bragged about how I didn’t feel death staring me in the face was untrue. Oh, it was my truth at the time I wrote the words, but I will admit that yesterday, I felt just like those two men, like I was in the bottom of the ninth.

I’m exaggerating, of course. It’s actually my sister Jen who should be grumbling, but she doesn’t write a blog, so she doesn’t have a pedestal from which to gripe. Besides, she feels too lousy to complain. Though my body felt sore and tired, it is her that had her a tube put down her throat, yucky anesthesia pumped into her body, her leg cut open, and a knee replaced. Watching her in the hours following the surgery reminded me of how vulnerable we really are.

My mom was only 68 years old when she died, so it’s almost impossible to know what her aging process would have been. But my dad was 84 when he died. He worked hard most of his life, and then took really good care of my mom in the years when she was slowly dying. After Mom’s death, Dad enjoyed his life with Shirley before going to heaven in 2010. But despite having arthritis for many years, he never had a joint replaced. Conversely, Bec’s had two hips replaced and Jen has a new knee. I’ve lucked out in the joint department, but I’m likely not far behind them. And my brother Dave could be next.

What occurs to me is that while our bodies clearly wear out from use as indicated by the inordinate number of folks on the orthopedic wards of hospitals, we Baby Boomers just keep chugging right along. Thanks to modern science, we can become bionic men and women. It’s why our Medicare and Social Security systems are going bankrupt. Boomers are just hanging in there, enjoying the ride, thank you very much.

And even joint replacement surgeries have come a long way. As recently as a couple of years ago, Bec was in the hospital for her surgery, spending one night before they kicked her to the curb. While it’s true that most knee and hip replacements are still done in the hospital, Jen was offered the opportunity to have her surgery done outpatient in a so-called surgery center.

What this meant is that she didn’t have to stay overnight in a hospital, where the cheerful nurses wake you three times a night to ask if you’re having trouble sleeping and what, by the way, is your pain level. I can offer that service for no charge.

What’s next, we all wondered. In a couple of years, they will hand you a scalpel and provide a training video to watch before you do your own surgery.

Jen, by the way, is doing quite well. She spent yesterday afternoon and evening mostly sleeping, although her daughter Maggie, playing the role of Nurse Cratchett, woke her up every hour to make her march around the house. Recognizing that Maggie is not only the mother of two, she also was a kindergarten teacher in her younger days, Jen knows she’s not one to be messed with.

As for me, despite my whining, I felt fine after a good night’s sleep.

It’s All Good

I was at the gym a few mornings ago. I never pay attention to who is around me. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but hear the man with a booming voice on the treadmill next to me greet another man who had taken residence on the treadmill next to him.

”Hey John,” he said. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. How are you doing?”

”Good,” replied John. “Really good. How about you Frank? Are you good?”

”Good. Really good,” said Frank.

”Good, good,” said John. “That’s good to hear.”

About this time, my head was ready to explode. I remembered my recent vow to model kindness, however, and took a deep breath. That was good, huh?

They continued talking.

”Well,” said Frank, “You and me, we’re about done, aren’t we?”

Thinking he was talking about being nearly done on the treadmill, I said a silent thank goodness. Not saying it out loud allowed me to convince myself that I was still modeling kindness. However, as I used to tell my sister Jen when we were kids: Mom knows and God knows.

John answered him, “Yessir, it’s about over. I guess we’re in the bottom of the ninth inning about now.”

Frank said, “Yep, I told my daughter the other day that she doesn’t have to live forever, but she can’t die before me.”

”I guess that won’t happen,” said John, apparently always one to support a friend. “I’m sure you’ll die first. It won’t be long now.”

By the way, if you think I’m making up this conversation, you would be wrong. Hand to God.

At this point, I finally looked over to see who was having this macabre conversation. I expected to see two old, decrepit men on oxygen tanks and walkers. What I saw instead were two handsome men maybe in their late 70s who didn’t look at all like they were on their last legs. They were at the gym for heaven’s sake.

There is no person who is more glass-half-empty than me, but I don’t think I’m going to die soon. I recognize that I am not staring 80 in the face, but I don’t think Bill is going to die soon either, and he is dangerously close.

Listening to them reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend 20 years ago. We were shopping together and she made a comment about the two of us being middle-aged.

What? What? I nearly screamed, “I AM NOT MIDDLE AGED.”

“Really?” she said. “Do you think you’re going to live past 85? Because the only way you’re not middle aged is if you are going to live to, say 100.”

Well, I’m not likely to live to be 100, but there was no way I was going to admit to being middle aged at 45 years old. I’m firm on that.

Age doesn’t mean a thing. Well, at least it doesn’t mean EVERYTHING. I hope when I am in my 70s, I still feel like I have a quite a few more years to live, even if I don’t.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s good.

Saturday Smile: And the Winner Is…..

Once a quarter, two kids from third grade at Las Sendas Elementary School in Mesa are selected as Outstanding Students of the Quarter. The winners get the opportunity to get up on the stage with a certificate and smile while their moms and dads shoot photos to send to Grandma and Grandpa. It’s a big deal.

And this quarter, one of the outstanding students was none other than my great-nephew Austin. He was proud to receive the award with my sister — his Grammie —was watching……

Austin is second from left

On the other side of town, Austin’s cousin Carter (my sister Bec’s grandson) was mightily winning his Running Club’s foot race. He ran the one-and-a-half miles in just over 8 minutes, leaving the second runner up in the dust. Running like the wind…..

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Little Comfort

How can you not love a mystery story in which the protagonist is a librarian? I mean, who else would be better at locating a missing, well, anything?

Little Comfort, by Edwin Hill, is the first in a series that features Hester Thursby, a librarian at Harvard University, who recognizes her skills even in the digital age. She finds herself suddenly fostering a little girl when her best friend decides she needs her space and is forced to take a leave from her job. She begins being paid for finding people, using her research skills. She is a little bit of a thing, just this side of being a clinically-diagnosed little person. But she is mighty.

Her latest case involves locating a missing brother named Sam, who disappeared years ago along with his best friend Gabe. Now his sister wants to sell the land that belongs to both of them, and she needs his permission in order to sell.

As for Sam, he has spent the missing years meeting wealthy women and becoming just who he needs to be in order to reap the benefits. He doesn’t particularly want to be found.

The story touches on the need we have to be loved, the definition of evil, and how to define family. Hester was an interesting and complex protagonist, who you couldn’t help but root for because her small size didn’t stop her from pursuing her leads while protecting those she loved the most.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Here is a link to the book.


Thursday Thoughts

We Are Finally Getting a Knee
Jen found out today that her surgery is scheduled for 7 a.m. on Monday. She will indeed have it at a surgical center as an outpatient. That means she will not be spending the night of surgery in the hospital. As a frequent hospital visitor myself, I have assured her that you really never see the nurses during the night anyway, except for the once or twice that they come by to wake you up to take your blood pressure, and generally annoy you. As her sister, I am happy to annoy her that night if it gives her any comfort.

Welcome to The Home
We are getting older, but not necessarily getting any better. Our tiny Arizona house is starting to fill up with medical accoutrements that she will need following her surgery. You got your walker, you got your cane, you got your grabber, you got your toilet accessories. Sigh……

It Feels 10 Lbs. Lighter
Jen and I spent yesterday going through the house and ruthlessly collecting things to take to Goodwill. We are spoiled by our Colorado houses that have basements and plenty-o-storage. When you have a small home with no basement and very limited storage capacity, you have to put your foot down on having too much stuff. We filled up the trunk and the back seat for Trip Number One to Goodwill. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure…..

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Our Arizona neighbors arrived this week, and we were happy to see them. They live in Alberta, Canada. The day they left, it was -27 degrees C. It doesn’t sound much better in Fahrenheit, as that translates to -16 degrees F. I think it’s safe to say they have enjoyed the past couple of 70 degree days. The first thing they did was take pictures of their yard to show their Canadian friends what they’re missing. And they say Canadians are nice….







The Flavor Holes Don’t Help

A few years back, a couple of Portillo’s restaurants opened up in the east valley of the Phoenix metro area — one near Salt River Field (spring training home of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks) and one near Sloan Park (spring training home of the Chicago Cubs). As far as I can tell, both Chicago-based restaurants are thriving. Their success is no surprise to this blogger because Portillo’s Italian beef sandwiches are delicious and their onion rings are good enough to warrant a drive across town. Perhaps most important, it seems to me that Mesa is where Illinois comes to retire. Hence, no learning curve needed.

A few months ago, another Chicago icon — perhaps the Icon to define all Icons — made its way to the Sonoran desert. The neon lights of the area’s first White Castle were turned on, and the endless line of traffic into the restaurant, and perhaps even more important, the drive-thru, began to form. Twenty-four hours of nonstop binge-eating commenced……

Bill was very excited to hear the news. Being a Chicago native, he has eaten his share of White Castle sliders. Seven or eight at a time, as is typical. They’re small, after all, and just about the only place open at 3 o’clock in the morning after a night on the town.

The first time I met Bill’s mom and dad was on a visit at Thanksgiving. Not only did I meet his parents, but I also was introduced to White Castle hamburgers. Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t going to be served until early evening, and the McLain consensus, including his mother, was that a few White Castle sliders around lunchtime would tide us over.

Kris, meet White Castle. I eagerly took my first bite. I found myself uncharacteristically speechless. While those around me were eagerly chowing down the tiny sandwiches, I was dumbfounded. I felt like Cindy Lou Who when she spotted the Grinch stealing Christmas and asked “Why, Santa Claus, why?” As I watched them eat the soggy, tasteless food item (I didn’t know what to call it, but hamburger was not one of my choices), I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, “Why, McLain family, why?”

They had no flavor. None.

Finally, yesterday morning, I gave in to Bill’s excited and frequent requests that we eat lunch at the new White Castle……

We drove the nearly-30 minutes to the restaurant, stood in line for another 20 minutes, ordered our shareable pack of original sliders, and waited another 20 minutes for our order. We sat down to eat. Bill finished one sandwich in a couple of bites, and reached for a second. He ate the second sandwich much slower. I think I heard him sigh. About a bite into his third, he looked at me with sad eyes and said, “These are really bad, aren’t they?”

I of course had figured that out after my first bite. I might as well have been standing at the kitchen counter in Chicago some 30 years ago trying to swallow my very first White Castle hamburger.

“Yes,” I told him, “they really are.”

We brought the rest home for Austin and Lilly who have enough Chicago blood in them from their father’s side to love them.

“They just didn’t taste good,” Bill said to me as we drove home. “The buns were…..” And he stopped. Then he said (direct quote, hand to God), “…..I just can’t talk about it. It’s too sad.”