ralph robert moore
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Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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maybe we won't find it funny anymore
february 1, 2009
God grant we get good days forever, but of course we don't, there are those bad days tossed in the salad, like sand.
Wednesday, January 21, was one of those bad days for me.
And by "bad", of course, I have to qualify. I wasn't strolling down the sidewalk in a black top hat, twirling an ebony cane, when a piano fell on my head; I wasn't sitting with naked legs on the edge of an examination table while a doctor, eyeglasses reflecting the sky outside, worked his way around to telling me I had cancer.
All the bad things I experienced that day were little bad things. But little bad things, cumulatively, affect you.
First of all, we had to go to Mary's eye doctor for her annual vision field test, where they check Mary's peripheral vision, having her place her lovely chin in the metal cup of a large machine, a black patch over one eye so she looks like a beautiful, long-haired pirate, having her press her right thumb down on a handheld device each time she saw a tiny white light inside the machine, as if good health were a video game.
In and of itself, that sounds fairly simple. But we had to wait over an hour past our appointment time before we were called into the land of tiny examination rooms. No one makes patients wait as long as eye doctors do. Why is that? Dentist, general practitioner, cardiologist, dermatologist, our asses are off the seats in five minutes. But eye doctors? You sit with your legs splayed, staring at the illuminated fish tank, where nothing exciting ever happens in those blue and green depths, just everybody going to the left, then everybody going to the right, while the quarter hours slowly disappear in the dust of a wasted morning.
After we were back out in the sunlight of the parking lot, we made the rounds of different food markets, storing up supplies so we could stay inside the next two weeks.
At Kroger's, we had to pick up a number of Mary's prescriptions. The clerk came over and, looking down at the white package in his hand, said there was a problem with the Altace, one of Mary's medications (for blood pressure).
Mary's Medicare D carrier had decided to increase the co-payment for her Altace from $60 to $171 (for a three months' supply). No explanation why they had suddenly tripled the cost.
However, she could get a generic for the same period for $36.
I don't know a lot about drugs, but I do know not all generics are created equal. There are some generics that are chemically quite similar to the brand name drug (known as AB drugs), and other generics that cost less, but are less similar (and therefore, possibly, less effective). Obviously, we would want a generic that was most similar to the brand name. I asked the white-coated pharmacist if the generic he had substituted was an AB generic, and he got defensive, standing behind his rear counter, with its parapets of hard plastic bins of filled drug orders, that I was questioning his choice of substitution. He finally conceded the generic was in the AB group, but gave me a resentful look that I had pushed him on it. Too bad. I'm a husband. I want to make sure my wife's getting proper medication.
So we get home with all our groceries, brake the car in the driveway while I get out to roll up the garage door, and Mary says, What's wrong with our gate?
We have a wooden privacy fence around the rear of our property, like all Texans, and there's a gate on the east side of our land, at the back of the front lawn.
I looked at the gate. It had obviously been kicked in, leaving a deep gouge in the wood opposite the gate's black padlock. The only person who would do that would be the electric meter reader guy, so he could read the meter in back.
How rude. (And I do, truly, hate rudeness.)
So we go inside, and someone has left a message on our answering machine, asking us to contact such and such a number if we are Loretta Moore, or know a Loretta Moore.
We aren't, and don't.
But this same person has called our number every day for the past month.
I assume it's from a collection agency.
I've picked up the phone several times to tell them there's no Loretta Moore here, and to put us on their no call list, but they still call.
So, what can I do? I could call the collection agency and order them not to call us again, but I already told their representatives not to call again, and they still call. I could research a state agency to report them, but my hours are limited. Same with the jerk who kicked in our fence to read the meter. I could call the electric company and stay on hold while my right ear got warm, as it listened to a bunch of old Kenny Rogers songs done as violin instrumentals, but who wants to listen to that much Kenny Rogers?
Anyway, after all that, we realize the pharmacist left one of Mary's prescriptions out of the stapled white bag he handed us.
So we have to get dressed again, go all the way back out to Kroger's' Pharmacy.
We get back home, darkness in the windows, and a fan has sent me an email saying a story of mine is appearing, full text, on a website.
A website that has published my story without my permission.
I'm going to go into some detail about this, because I know from the emails I receive that a lot of the people who regularly visit this site are writers or aspiring writers, or readers interested in the writing life. So I thought a "behind the scenes" look into this aspect of publishing might be interesting.
Here's the situation:
I submitted a short story to a magazine on November 7, 2007. The story was accepted for publication on December 11, 2007. However, the editor informed me with his acceptance letter that the magazine is no longer a print magazine, only an online magazine.
This happens sometimes. I submit to a print magazine, and it turns out the magazine is now only online. Each time it has happened, until now, there's never been a problem. I withdraw the story, because the terms of publication have changed (online versus print), and the editor is gracious and professional. Writers and editors go through this all the time.
(There are some writers who are okay with publishing online, but like a lot of writers, I'm not (unless the online edition is also available as a print edition - I don't have any problem with that). If I take the time to write a story, I want to see it in print. I want to be able to hold the magazine in my hands.)
So on December 11 I wrote the editor back, letting him know I was withdrawing the story. He replied confirming my story had been withdrawn, and he no longer had any right to publish it.
But now it turned out the editor had ignored my instructions, and had in fact posted the full text of my story online, violating my copyright.
I contacted the editor, telling him to remove the story from his site.
Here's the email I received back from him, quoted in full:
You have to really appreciate the horrible grammar of his response, and his inappropriate attitude. This is an editor? (And believe me, I get a lot of letters from editors, but I had never received one like this before.)
I answered him back, of course:
The magazine did eventually remove my story, so I thought the issue was settled.
But then I received an email from the owner. He wrote me a long email which again simply repeated the misstatements in the editor's email. Here's two sample paragraphs from his email:
I wrote him back:
I debated whether or not I should include the name of the magazine and the editor in this piece. I decided not to, because the editor did finally remove the story from the site (after three email requests from me, and a threat to report him and the magazine to a number of writer forums), and because the nature of the Internet is such that if you say something negative about someone, that negative comment stays out there forever, even if the person subsequently gets their act together (which I hope this particular editor does). Also, in further email correspondence with the owner, he appeared to me to be a decent man who was willing to work at finding a satisfactory solution to the problem.
Finally, just to clarify: A number of sites, discussion boards, etc. publish excerpts from my work. I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever, and to be honest, it's flattering. You don't need my permission to post excerpts from my work. That falls under the copyright doctrine of "fair use". What I'm talking about here though is something completely different: posting the entire text of an unpublished work of mine online.
In more pleasant news, I received an email from artist Jason Mcaloon, who on his own created two posters based on my essay, Fear. The posters use the text of the essay to produce typographical designs meant as an interpretation of that text. It's amazing work. I'm reproducing one of the posters on this site, with Jason's permission, here. The PDF file is approximately 2 megabytes.
Here's Jason talking about the circumstances regarding the poster:
Jason's design site is located here.
Jason is currently at work, with my permission, on a typographical interpretation of my novel Father Figure.
I rarely handle change anymore. Mary and I pay for everything with checks, or if it's over the Internet, with credit cards. I've had the same twenties, tens, fives and singles in my wallet for about a year, all those green presidents smelling brown leather. But every once in a rare while, we do pay for something with cash.
Most recently, it was some fast food from a drive-up window. I honestly don't remember what restaurant it was. We were on the road, running errands, in a hurry, and we swooped behind a line of cars.
When we got home that night, me pulling my wallet and checkbook out of the inside pockets of my sports jacket, lifting the car keys out of my lower right side jacket pocket, the drug paraphernalia of Bic lighter and pack of cigarettes out of my lower left side jacket pocket, I realized I had some change in that pocket, from the drive-through purchase.
Quarters, pennies, dimes. And a nickel.
I haven't held a nickel in my hand for a year.
It was different from the nickels of yore.
I knew they changed bills, making them more European, to discourage counterfeiting, and they changed quarters, to honor each state, but I had no idea they had fooled around with our nickels, too.
The thing is, the nickel is such a humble thing. Barely better than a penny. I like that it has a smooth circumference, unlike the notched circumferences of dimes and quarters. I like that it has either Thomas Jefferson or, for the older ones, Sitting Bull on the front (haven't seen those in my change since childhood). But what I really liked about it was that it was heavy in the hand.
But this new nickel, it was light, like aluminum. It reminded me of the fake coins you'd get as a child in a gold-meshed pirate's booty bag. Our money is getting more and more like play money. Pretty soon, our coins will have milk chocolate inside.
When we took Joe, Mary's dad, back to the airport after his two-week holiday stay with us, we had to get him a wheelchair for the long journey across the terminal floor (he's in his mid-eighties, with an artificial hip).
I left Mary and Joe at a bench just inside the terminal, went stalking down the backs of lines at the different check-in counters, to AirWest. Walked up to the counter, explained the situation.
Five minutes later, a guy showed up with a wheelchair. Standing beside the chair, he bent over and retied both his shoelaces, which had become loose.
Finished, he looked up, gave me a professional smile.
"Sit down in the wheelchair, sir, and I'll take you wherever you want."
I had to explain to him the wheelchair wasn't for me.
It occurred to me one recent morning that, tragically, this past New Year's Eve was the last time, for the next thousand years, anyone will be able to wear novelty sunglasses showing the new year. You know, 2009, with the 00 being the lenses for your eyes.
You can't do it in 2010, because the glasses would be crooked on your face. Same thing, ironically, with 2020, etc.
The next time human beings will be able to wear novelty New Years glasses won't be until the year 3000, and who knows? Maybe we won't be around by then. Or maybe we'll still be around, but we won't find it funny anymore.