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Getting scammed.

Photo on 6-13-17 at 9.46 AM

June 20, 2017

Remember how I said we enjoyed our trip to D.C. so much?  The memory of watching our eldest grandson graduate high school still makes me shiver with happiness.  He graduated from a high school named after Walter Johnson, pitcher for the Washington Senators.

However, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a bit of trouble on our trip.  A large bit, actually.

Day before yesterday, Sunday morning — our phone registered the call at 8:17— I got a call from “Chase Fraud,” a mechanized call asking me to confirm who I was, that I had a VISA credit card, that I had made some ATM withdrawals in Washington D.C., like that.  I confirmed that I was, that I had.  I had my card safely in my wallet.  I had used the card several times in D.C.  We had been back in Montana about a week.

We thought no more about it until yesterday, when P. noticed two $403 and one $103 ATM charges on our on-line bank statement.  (P. keeps a close watch.)  She noticed that our balance jumped nearly a $ thousand in one day.  Then she saw three ATM withdrawals, each with a $3 charge.

She asked me if I had perhaps gotten that much from an ATM in D.C.?  Perhaps the charges against our card didn’t show up for a week?  Well, the answers were no and no.  We had been swindled!

I went to work yesterday, so P. called the credit union that issued us the credit card.  They inactivated the card.  The woman told her she wanted to speak to me.  I called her back during lunch.  Had I withdrawn $400 twice and $100 once?  I assured her I withdrew $100 at least once, but never $400.  This just muddied the water a bit.

The woman at the credit union said for the charges to be fraudulent someone would have had to physically use my credit card and punch in my pin.  That was unheard of, she said.  P. told her nonetheless, we wouldn’t pay the extra $909 because they were fraudulent charges.

In the end, an officer at the credit union agreed to pay all but $150 of the $909.  She said we had been the victim of a credit card “skimmer.”

I didn’t believe it at first, but here’s how it works:  someone fastens a card reading device over the card slot in an ATM.  They also put a cellphone-size camera on something like an information rack on the ATM.  That’s how someone steals your credit card magnetic stripe information and pin.

I remember now.  The slot on the ATM was plastic and bright green and almost too deep for my card.  What I didn’t know was that I was enabling someone else to make a duplicate card.  Moreover, the ATM was on Wisconsin Avenue, right on the street, rather than inside a bank.  (I had asked at a bank, and was directed to the ATM on the street.)

Improbable as it seemed at first, someone created a counterfeit credit card, a duplicate of mine, and used it to get nearly $ thousand from an ATM on my charge account.

Earlier today someone tried twice more to get money using my inactivated credit card.

I learned the following tips to prevent getting scammed.

  • Never use an ATM that is in an unsupervised location, such as on a street.  Find one in a bank or other business.
  • Use a card with a chip, not just a magnetic stripe.
  • Check to see if the card slot has been tampered with.  Does it look different from the rest of the ATM?  Wiggle it.
  • When inserting and withdrawing your card, jig it in and out to foil surreptitious card skimmers.
  • Always cover your hand that punches in your pin, even if nobody is around to watch.

Birthday party.

No, not Gunther’s.  Kristi Angel’s.  I’m telling you, I thought long and deep about finding just the right gift for this remarkable lady.  Then I tried to call her devoted husband, Jon.  And I’m not just slinging the term around like a sock full of sh**.  No, Jon is devoted.  It’s just that he was working, so I couldn’t get ahold of him immediately.  I called K. and asked her about her party plans.  Sadly, none seemed to be in the works, except Jon earnestly wanted to take his bride to Walker’s Grill (and bar).

I purposely buried the real news:  The business at 1212 Grand Avenue in Billings, dba “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered,” is going out of business and all their stuff is on sale.  The owner is retiring after 27 years and plans to close his door at the end of the summer.  He said everything is at least 50% reduced in price.

Photo on 6-15-17 at 1.21 PM

Following advice.

Photo on 3-30-17 at 1.35 PMJune 15, 2017

I work Mondays, but my psychiatrist said I should structure the other days with routine chores, such as a period spent writing.  This is my attempt at adhering to his advice.  I do try to follow medical advice.  Life is complicated enough without trying to decide which advice to follow.

Last night I dreamt I was to edit a single-space typed manuscript about 200 pages long.  Tears brimming, I berated the faceless wretch who expected me to wade through it.  Then I decided to at least read some of this impossibly long piece.  Perhaps the work had great literary value, so I tried.  It didn’t.

You know how it is when you read something in a dream?  The words keep shifting around?  I was able to read the word “very” that came up about every sentence.  I got a black pen, finally, and drew lines through about six of the verys, then wrote “damned” in their places.  I was certain the word “damned” would be a more fitting word.  I explained myself to the author.

After that I dreamt I was in a big communal shower with “Samantha” from “Foyles War.”  Somehow I ended up editing the verys again, changing them all to damneds.  I woke and limped out to the kitchen where I poured myself a dish of cereal.  I had “Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.”  A favorite.

The reason I limped.  Arduous four-mile hike with P. yesterday.

The only thing worse than telling about dreams is listening to someone else tell about them.  An exception, of course, is Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”

Today P. wants me to prepare a pot of my cabbage with sausage.  I’m thinking I’ll take off soon to the store to get the cabbage.  I am a willing cook and fond of cabbage.

A trip to D.C.

June 14, 2017

My psychiatrist agreed I am doing well, so he said I should take my prescriptions at least until December before dialing them back and, I hope, off them entirely.  I’ve almost forgotten how miserably depressed I was last year, so desperate that I practically begged for help.  My sister suggested that having my knee replaced with a metal one would be as traumatic as electroshock therapy for depression, and I agree.  Since April, when I got the surgery, I’ve not felt depressed at all.  A beneficial side effect of an otherwise painful ordeal.

P. and I spent a pleasant week in Washington D.C., got back at midnight the day before yesterday.  You know, we didn’t take our dog to D.C.  Instead, we enrolled Gunther in dog day camp where he evidently did quite well.  A woman at the camp (who looked like the photo of a meth addict—teeth missing, lots of sores on her face) kept him busy with other dogs.  I don’t know.  Sniffing each other’s butts, I suppose.  Trying to hump each other.  Dog stuff.

Meanwhile, P. and I took a cab from the D.C. airport to our hotel in Bethesda ($40), but except for another taxi the next day to watch Josiah graduate from high school, and a “LYFT” ride (similar to Uber), we enjoyed public transportation all week.  It was cheap and fast and easy to understand.

The subway system was seamless.  P. and I picked out a destination each day and rode Metrorail and Metrobus and walked.  You get the picture.  To the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, to our granddaughter Olivia’s choir performance, to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, you know, like that.  We walked until my new knee swelled up like a softball was in it.  All together satisfactory getting around D.C.  We even took the subway to the airport the last day.

One day we traveled by rail, bus, and foot to the Frederick Douglass Historic Site where we saw a film that stated unequivocally that the American Civil War was fought over slavery.

People were kind to us.  A huge woman saw our perplexed expressions after we got off a bus and helped us to the subway station.  Another day we went to the National Arboretum, also in the Southeast portion of the city.  We walked miles, getting by with a little help from friendly people.  While P. and I waited in the intense heat at a bus stop, a tiny white woman with an “o” shaped lipsticked mouth stopped near us, stared at her phone for a couple minutes, then told us our bus would be stopping in 10 minutes more.  There’s an app you can get for your phone that tells precisely where every bus is.  I don’t know how it works.

In Bethesda, P. and I stayed at a slightly seedy, but cheap and adequate, hotel.  In old Bethesda, home of the “Tastee Diner” and five or six other restaurants.  My favorite was a French place, “La Madeleine.”  We ate there three times.  Each time I had a crepe smothered in pesto with shrimp.  I enjoyed old Bethesda almost as much as Paris, with the benefit that I could almost understand the natives of Bethesda when they spoke.  Photo on 6-13-17 at 9.46 AM

 

Gunther will dance

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Gunther

June 2, 2017

Today we go to Lewistown to decorate graves.

Gunther was exemplary this morning, so he’ll go along.  I mean, we’ll stop several times if we see a wide place to pull over to let him frisk about and dance.

Nor will we allow him to leave poop behind.  We’ll take a water dish for the bottled water we bought at Albertson’s.

Why did I used to always take along a camera on outings like this?  I have boxes and boxes of pictures I don’t care to see again.  Turns out I saw it best the first time.

Some dithering about being hospitalized

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June 1, 2017

I feel like I”m crawling out from under the covers.  Man!  My nurse friends tell me that getting anesthetized for surgery has effects lasting a month or two or maybe three.  Looking back to weeks previous I can see that I’ve been operating as if in a dream.  My head is still filled with a strange smell of povidone iodine that a nurse swabbed the inside of my nose with.  Yet, I’m outraged because my hospital stay was damned unpleasant.

After surgery, every four hours a nurse brought me two pain tablets that would wear off after two hours.  Therefore, I had two hours of pain waiting for the magical three and 1/2 hour point when the nurse said she could give me more.  Punctuated throughout was the overpowering urge to urinate.  I found urinating into a pitcher to seem slightly, er, illegal or something.  Didn’t seem right.  Then I’d ring the nurse and a surly aide would appear to empty the pitcher.  I always ended with some dribbles of urine on me.

After the first 24 hours they had me give myself a shot of heparin subcutaneously in my belly flab.  Twelve hours later I gave myself another.  Then the nightmare started.  I got a new Night Nurse who noticed my discomfort in waiting for the last two hours before I could get another pair of pain pills.  I was in pain, man.

The previous nurse, a young man, had gotten an order to give me supplemental morphine between pain pill doses.  Night Nurse refused to give me the morphine.  She said I’d be sent to a nursing home for IV morphine because it can’t be given by mouth (yes it can.  However, you don’t give the Night Nurse any shit because only she can give you medicine to ease the intense suffering.)

Instead, Night Nurse announced that the pain pills were not strong enough (they were).  She said she was getting a doctor’s order for a stronger medicine, Dilaudid.  The normal time for pain medicine came and went.  Night Nurse came in and announced that she had left a message with the on-call doctor but hadn’t gotten a call back.  Finally after an hour and a half past the normal time for pain medicine, Night Nurse came in with two pills.  One was the Dilaudid, but the other was for cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxer.  Night Nurse was quite obviously proud of herself.  I had to wonder how the cyclobenzaprine, a tetracyclic antidepressant indicated as a muscle relaxer would interact with the three psychoactive meds I took daily, but I said nothing.  I didn’t want to give her any shit because it would only delay pain relief longer.  I got the combination of Dilaudid and cyclobenzaprine twice more before my surgeon came in to see me.  He pinched the leg he operated to replace the knee on.  Apparently finding it swollen, he said, “I’ll stop the heparin and start you on aspirin.”

See?  The Night Nurse didn’t know the source of my pain was probably the swelling caused by uncontrolled internal bleeding in my leg.  The surgeon switched me back to my previous pain med.

I ended up staying an extra night in the hospital eating the strange saltless food.  I ended up going home on oxygen because I hadn’t breathed enough during the nights while I waited for the pain relief meds.

End of my dithering.

Performance anxiety

Photo on 6-10-16 at 4.39 AM

May 27, 2017

I made two errors:  First, Barbara Dobesh asked me to perform special music this Sunday at the Church of the Fervently Religious and I did not say ’no, that’s out of the question.’  I caved because we will welcome new members.  Also I never say ‘no’ to Barbara.

Second, I got weak in the knees and did not choose to sing my powerful “Libera me” from Faure’s Requiem.  I think I could have gotten the congregation to writhe in their seats if I had sung Faure.  No.  Instead, I agreed to make music and I picked out the Beatles’ song, “With a Little Help from my Friends”  because it asks the question ‘what would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?’

Of course there’s ego.  I had triumphant dreams in which I bludgeoned the crowd with “Libera me” as though I were singing opera, leaving the group wincing.  However, I changed to the lightweight Beatles tune.  I hope this comes across friendlier.

The aforementioned Beatles’ piece has meaning for me in the context of church, even if the song isn’t particularly religious (unless one is a Rastafarian).  First, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out exactly 50 years ago this Spring.  I remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it.

Second, “With a Little Help from my Friends” was the first Beatles song I learned to play on the guitar.  I bought sheet music that had the difficult chords.

Third, and most importantly, the “downstairs coffee house” at the University Congregational Church in Missoula was the venue for me to play the song for my hippie friends of all genders and sexual persuasions.  Thus my relationship with the United Church of Christ is also 50 years old.  In fact, before we visited the coffee house I didn’t know such a church existed.  I’ve been a member nearly 40 years.

I hope those joining the church in Billings enjoy as long and satisfactory a relationship with it as I have.

Of course, my real problem is a lack of guitar skills.  In fact, P. gave me the nickname “strummy” because of my lack of finger picking.  My musical offering is likely to fall flat unless I can entice people to sing along with me.  It’s such a short song, perhaps I’ll play it twice and ask them to sing along as best they can.