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I wandered about town yesterday paying bills. Thanks to property taxes, doctor bills and such, I spent in one day more than double what I spent in March’s entire Month of Frugality. But thanks to a friendly conspiracy of blog readers and mysterious others, I’m still staying ahead on everything and even gathering money for summer’s icon-painting class.

During my stop at the lumberyard (where I am a seasonal regular and where one of the managers is the great grandson of the incompetent drunken bootlegger and fugitive from federal “justice” who built my house), the guys informed me that Handyman Mike was dead.

Handyman Mike was my predecessor-in-home-fixing to The Wandering Monk. Mike was not always competent and he liked to start work around 11:00 then take a long lunch, which is why I welcomed the Monk. Mike was also one of the area’s rare liberals who could always be counted on to recite cliches like, “I’m not anti-gun, but nobody needs an AR-15.” But he was a super-nice guy, intelligent, personable, and heroically helpful in an emergency.

When part of my roof suddenly sagged, dropping the the ceiling threateningly over the place I sleep, Mike was there immediately after his work day to shore it up. Later he and his minions eventually worked out a budget repair. When another handyman left me with a giant section of uncovered roof and was vague about when he might return to finish the job, Mike rounded up two minions and had them at work within the hour.

He dropped dead of a heart attack sometime in March. Mike was a heavy smoker and he looked older than his 60-something years. Several people mentioned over time that he seemed too old to be doing such rough work. But he never appeared unhealthy. And heaven knows he was rarely stressed out. “Laid back” was the definition of Mike. He could spend much free time (and not-so-free time) discussing movies and politics, both of which we enjoyed.

I don’t think Mike had much in the way of family, but he had a long-time girlfriend who is no doubt devastated. Nobody really seems to know her, though.

There’s been altogether too much dying going on lately.

On the handyman front, I’m glad that The Wandering Monk is so much younger. Late 30s, 40 maybe. But he, too, is a heavy smoker, consuming roll-your-owns at a scary rate. Last time I saw him, in February, he was coughing his guts out and claiming it was merely his lungs “getting rid of old crap” as he attempted to cut back to the equivalent of a pack a day.


  1. MJR
    MJR April 4, 2017 10:10 am

    Damn, I’m sorry to hear about your friend Mike. Passing away in one’s sixties is way too young. As for the Monk, all you can do is let him know about your concerns, you can’t force him to quit. I know how hard it can be having had a friend who was a two pack a day kinda guy. When my friend was told he should quit his response was always “If smokes are the nails in my coffin then my casket will not fall apart.” Back in ninety one he passed away. The last time I saw him, a week before his passing, was one vision i wish to forget.

  2. Claire
    Claire April 4, 2017 10:20 am

    Thanks, MJR. I never tried to get to get the Monk (or Mike) to quit smoking. I figured that was their business. Probably if they were close friends, I’d suggest it and offer any help I could give. I’ve told the Monk I hope he does quit, but even while coughing his guts up he was adamant that he loves smoking and only intends to cut back.

    I figure they know the potential dangers and whether to smoke (outdoors or in their own environments) is on them. But yeah. Whether they waste away of lung cancer, emphysema, or COPD or drop dead of a heart attack, it’s heartbreaking. I realize those catastrophes can strike any of us, but I do hate to see people increasing their odds of dying either young or horribly.

  3. ExpatNJ
    ExpatNJ April 4, 2017 10:50 am

    My condolences on the loss of your friend, and helper.

  4. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty April 4, 2017 11:19 am

    Sorry about Mike too. I just wish each and every smoker could spend a day with a hospice patient dying of COPD or one of the other diseases that leave them more or less suffocating – sometimes for years before the end. I can’t think of a more horrible way to live, or die.

    But yes, it is their problem and their business. Just wish they could see the results before they choose that path… the eventually irreversible results. And there is no medicine or treatment that begins to alleviate the agony then. I’ve been there with so very many of them when they died. And comforted so many family members who could not help but be glad the torture was over with.

  5. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal April 4, 2017 11:38 am

    My mother has one uncle left out of all her mother’s brothers, sisters, and their spouses. (My grandmother was one of 12 kids; 2 of the 3 boys didn’t make it to adulthood). Her last aunt died a couple of months ago, but the husband is still around, and until he broke his hip last month was very healthy for his age. He is 93 (or 94?) and has smoked all his adult life, and is mentally sharp. He also has been healing very well, and the break wasn’t too bad. Anti-smoking folk wouldn’t want to know about him.

    I realize it’s his hardy genes (he’s a Boone, somehow related to Dan’l) and I wouldn’t recommend anyone take up smoking due to his experience.

  6. ellendra
    ellendra April 4, 2017 11:50 am

    So sorry to hear about Mike. It’s hard losing someone.

  7. Claire
    Claire April 4, 2017 12:00 pm

    “He is 93 (or 94?) and has smoked all his adult life, and is mentally sharp. He also has been healing very well, and the break wasn’t too bad. Anti-smoking folk wouldn’t want to know about him.”

    I suspect there are a fair number of such people around. Definitely inconvenient statistics for anti-smokers. In addition to good genes and good luck, I often wonder whether such people also have some countervailing habits like getting lots of exercise or eating a Mediterranean or modified-Med diet.

    But without a doubt, it’s one more of life’s crapshoots.

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, guys. But I have to emphasize that I wasn’t close to Mike and though I’m shocked and sorry to see him die so suddenly, for me it’s not so much a personal loss as it is yet another reminder that life’s short and unpredictable. For his girlfriend, it must be hell.

  8. Claire
    Claire April 4, 2017 12:01 pm

    M.L. — I agree that slowly dying of some lung disease is a prospect so horrifying I wonder how so many people can face it without committing suicide. And you know better than most how horrifying it is.

  9. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 4, 2017 12:42 pm

    My mom was one that couldn’t quit, even after she was on oxygen. And Dad spent years carrying those bottles around for her.

    One of the reasons I’m so pissed off at governments who are banning vaping, when it’s a relatively safe substitute.

    Moment of weirdness down at the newspaper this week. One of my wife’s high school classmates made the obits.

  10. Comrade X
    Comrade X April 4, 2017 1:18 pm

    Choosing how you live maybe also is choosing how you die but IMHO it is better to have that choice than having those who knows what is best for the rest doing it for you (or to you).

  11. Bob
    Bob April 4, 2017 4:40 pm

    Sorry to hear about Mike. Even if you and he weren’t close, it’s difficult to experience. All you can do with The Monk is let him know you care, what you wish he would do, and if so inclined, put him in God’s hands.

    My mom died of lung cancer, never smoked the first time. My good friend Ray could not walk across the room without stopping to catch his breath. He was a heavy smoker but died from burns he received in a kitchen fire. I guess you just never know, huh?

  12. John
    John April 4, 2017 7:37 pm

    If we’re going to go semi-full depressing…

    I’ma rollin’ me an decadent Bugler roll.

    Devil want me, should find not hard, a justification.

    Mama Liberty see the hell come in. So too my sister who worked a while at Amazon complaint department. Ya both know your data set is skewed. If I’m not bitching, your not going to see me.

    Can’t see my lungs be loving all the extra particulate, any more than if they where in a coal mine.

    War, pestilence, death by automobile, drowning, earthquake, tornado, wild animal, SMOD. I should maybe dodge some of the bullets?

    My wife divorced thirty years ago and my girl friend inherited a half million dollars and last known was heading to Hawaii. Some drugs, even the fun ones, can kill me too.

    So, not yet, neither sex nor chemicals are on my never list, because I do not yet have one. A never list that is.

    I’m nearing seventy, and when walking, almost any task I am doing, I pass almost everyone else I encounter, as if seems, they are not sure if they are going anywhere, or have any objective at all.

    Tomorrow, or some next day I die. Today though, I’m still alive.

  13. Shel
    Shel April 5, 2017 8:47 am

    At least one person (yes, non medical, and yes, that person did stop smoking) whose opinion I value looked into the tobacco info and remains unconvinced that it’s as grim as portrayed, so its possible there is another side to this issue as well. My mother chain smoked Lucky Strikes – and drank – and ultimately died of pneumonia, relatively peacefully, fortunately.

    However, Bull Durhams have provided at least one long lived person a good deal of pleasure

    And while it’s never enjoyable (although sometimes it’s a relief) to hear that someone we like has passed away, we all know our time is coming. If we don’t have to hear of any more demises, it means we’re either oblivious or the next to go.

  14. John
    John April 8, 2017 2:22 am

    Hi jc2k
    A tease I’m thinking?

    The guardian no less.
    “New study finds”. No link to the study though. Not that that matters much as “New study” releases seem to be like locusts, except daily, rather than maybe every seventeen years.

    I did a “New Study”!

    To see if there where still snails in Mountain View.
    I parked my wheels in a shopping place and looked around and didn’t see any.
    To be more thorough, in interest of good science, I looked under my wheels. Nope. So then I looked under the cars on both sides of me. No snails.

    (No government or other grant money paid for this research.)

    “New study finds”: No evidence of any snails in Mountain View.
    I think there is some respect worthy science to discourage taking up smoking.
    The Guardian piece (echoed on Google) is not it.

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