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The Burning Bush

My day was interrupted a week ago by screams emanating from the bar. Now, normally screams coming from the bar are attributable to customers who've just had some kind of concoction involving 100 proof liquor in strange combination; so I think nothing of it. But these were no howls of "Banzai!" When my barmaid started screaming "Paul - hua!" I perked up, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran. You see "hua" is the Pinyin for "fire" in Chinese.

Sure enough, I arrived in time to see what appeared to be the part of the air conditioner on the outside of the building blowing billows of smoke across the parking lot and into the street in front of the restaurant. Upon further inspection, it turns out that the mulch, right next to the building, had not only smoldered but actually was licking flames about six inches in height smack in the middle of the garden, perilously close to the building, and even closer to my favorite piece of topiary.

Immediately the shot-and-beer guys in the bar started making quips about how I looked extremely gay trying to put out a fire, with a tiny bucket of water, dressed in slacks, an Oxford shirt, tie, and loafers.

You see, I'd run inside and, finding no pail, I got a champagne bucket, filled it with water and doused the flames. "You're not gonna get very far with that!" The good-natured catcalls continued from my customers. They were right, too. The bit of water was not enough to satisfy the first rule of caution; all materials must be cool to the touch. Some of it was either steaming or smoking. So I went back inside and procured a five gallon bucket of ice, and put the ice on top of the burnt hole in the mulch, next to my precious tree.

Just then, a clown who looked like he needed a shower, who wore a plaid shirt paired with hounds-tooth pants (and boots) came ambling up and informed me that he'd called the fire department, and that he, as a volunteer fireman for another town, wanted to help me "extinguish the fire" (which was now an icy, muddy mess encircling my carefully pruned tree). I told him I'd have no part of it; and that if I discharged an extinguisher on the mess, it'd be a) useless at this time, b) cost me $45 to re-charge, and c) could be poisonous to my tree.

"We (he announced in an officious manner, meaning 'us part-time play-firefighters') care about the safety of the public, not trees." Just then, a fire truck that looked like a pumper, and also a hook and ladder truck entered the parking lot of the restaurant.

"He's not bein' very cooperative. He don't wanna pull up the tree that was burning." Thank goodness the paid firefighters had more sense than the moron who was confronting them. The Sergeant turned toward me. "Where's the fire, sir?" I pointed to the pile of ice and the tree. "It was there. It's out now."

"Well then why did you call the fire department?"

"I didn't call the fire department. This gentleman called the fire department." I pointed to the walking fashion disaster. "And he wants to pull up my $500 Loblolly Pine which, as you can see, has had far more than that invested in it as it's a piece of Japanese topiary."

"Well, it could still be involved in the mulch surrounding the area, sir, so we're going to have to investigate," said the Sergeant.

"Get the hooks and (unintelligible) and spray it down."

"Are you going to pull up my tree?"

"Only if there are live coals on it. We'll try to be careful, sir."

They scattered a full 8" of mulch, weed barrier, and about 4" of soil from the ground about a three-foot radius of the tree. I held back tears as they ruthlessly uprooted an azalea which blooms in magenta variegated flowers, as well as a tuft of ornamental grass.

Something then occurred to me. "Say, does cedar bark burn?"

"No, only if the surrounding area is completely involved. It takes a lot to burn cedar bark. But what you have here sir is...

(He and I in unison:) "Not cedar mulch."

The shit I'd been charged through the nose by my ex-landscaper last year was actually quite flammable, and quite dry, and very much like a tinder-box spanning the front of the restaurant. It was colored to look like cedar, but that's about it. I turned as red as the rest of the mulch was.

A customer inside of the bar photographed the whole affair and only the Good Lord knows what caption will be placed under an image of me with my hands in the air, appearing as if I was arguing with the members of the fire department. This customer is a member of the press, sometimes.

Of course, calls to the landscaper have gone unanswered. I will, however, sue him in a court of small claims; not for the difference in cost between the mulches (because that's going to be very, very difficult to prove), but instead for the cost of having fire-retardant spray (the same that we use for live Christmas trees) applied to the mulch in the immediate vicinity of the building. The cost of this may very well impel him to opt to replace the mulch with the good cedar stuff.

I'm still worried about my tree. Half the bark had been burnt off of it, so I sprayed pruning spray on the bruise. My gardener (the one who does topiary) says that the tree will most probably survive, because as expensive as they are, Loblolly Pines are, in fact, rather hardy, especially in this climate. So we fed the tree, and now, on the way in or out of the building, I comfort him and tell him that everything's going to be alright.

Oh, the cause of the fire, you may be wondering... an errant cigarette butt flicked against the building by a customer.

Strattera, Day One:

So yesterday, after a few months, three visits to a psychologist, I visited my primary care doc (actually a younger fill-in in the same office, my doc was out) I finally got my meds for "adult ADD." My mom and to a lesser extent my wife had been bugging me for years to have that checked out because my memory can be quite flaky and my listening skills tend to be, let's say, somewhat less than optimum. (I had a terrible time paying attention in class back in school; if I wasn't so smart I wouldn't have gotten the good-but-not-stellar grades that I'd gotten). I finally had gotten it checked out to a) Get them off my back and b) See how it helps my job performance because I truly have an awesome job now, not like that dead-end job I'd had until 2005 in a cruddy old warehouse. So I want to do my best and always have wanted to.

Before I got into my actual report, I'd like to insert in that Microsoft Outlook is my friend. My psychologist had said that I was managing my ADD, like most people with it try to do, by using it like I do to remind me of all appointments and tasks. I think I'd be lost without it or some equivalent.

Anyhoo, read the linked writeup on Strattera, but basically it's a non-stimulant drug for ADD and ADHD (I am not hyperactive, by the way, unless you count always being fidgety with difficulty sitting still for long periods of time hyperactive).

So even though I took the first pill yesterday, I'm considering this "Day One" i.e. my first full day taking it. The major side effects of this medication are suicidal thoughts in teenagers, nausea, diminished appetite, and heartburn. I'm happy to report that I'm not thinking of killing myself but I did almost right away experience the heartburn in spades (and it feels like it's coming back again now as I write this) and a feeling of slight nausea, and those did conspire to diminish my appetite. I barely ate anything for dinner. Hey if this helps me lose weight, hello? Bonus! Of course, the fact that I had gorged myself on a pizza bar for lunch might have had something to do with the diminished appetite, too.

Hey, I had taken the day off yesterday because it was my eight-year wedding anniversary and so I could have a four-day weekend and this place only has its bar on weekdays so I took advantage, OK?

As far as effects on my mind, nothing really yet. I was told it might not be for several days before I feel anything significant there - it can take up to a week to build up in the body. However, I did notice some moments where my thoughts, for lack of a better word, calmer. Things kind of... slowed down a tad. It was so subtle that it's barely worth mentioning and could have been my imagination.

That's it for now. I'm going to try to keep a daily log of this for at least a week so look for one tomorrow.

Unless I forget.:)

Day 2 >>

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