Under The Knife

My eyes have been getting progressively worse over the past couple years, to the point where looking with my left eye is akin to peering through muslin. Yup; with age comes cataracts. So here’s what awaits me later today (squeamish warning):

…and I’ll be getting the right eye done too, in a couple of weeks. Fortunately, my eyedoc is an absolute artist at this surgery — he’s the same guy who carries a SIG 226 under his white coat… how bad could he be?

After a lifetime of shitty eyesight that not even Lasik could take care of properly, here’s hoping things will get better. Apparently, it does.

Wish me luck, y’all.

Update:  all done, no problems.  See you tomorrow.

Yes, I’m Still Writing Books

It has been an unconscionably long time since I put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard) to produce something that isn’t a blog post. This was because for the past few years I have been otherwise occupied, and the creative impulse went into hibernation. However, when I was staying at Free Market Towers the urge to write started to re-emerge from its long slumber, I took a few tentative steps to dust off the work and get rid of the rust — and now that I am free of Wadworth 6X, watching cricket and attending servant-floggings, it’s time for me to get back to work. Serious writing work.

Alert Readers will notice that I’ve added a “Buy Kim’s Books” section just below the header. There you will find links to all four of my previously-published works, and if you haven’t read any of them… well, this would be the time you apologize for your egregious inattention and get to it. That’s the old stuff.

“But what have you done for us recently, Kim?” 

Glad you asked. By the middle of March I will be publishing a new one, Skeleton Coast, which takes place in German South West Africa (a.k.a. Namibia) in 1908, and contains the usual Kim elements of murder, skullduggery, and sex. My dear friend Sarah Hoyt has offered to prepare it for Kindle formatting as soon as I’m done with some final last-minute editing (I can’t believe how many spelling errors still manage to float to the surface, like a Mafia hitman’s victims).

And the next few novels should be ready for publication by the times noted.

Now follow that link. You know what to do after that. I myself will be doing what I’m supposed to be doing… as Oglaf notes:

 

365 Days

One year ago last night, my wife Connie died of ovarian cancer.

In many cultures, there’s almost a mandatory mourning period of a full year after the death of a loved one, and I now know why. It has to do with anniversaries: “Oh, last year this time we were celebrating something together. This year… I’m doing it alone.” Those add up, and they take a toll on you as that horrible year drags on. But with the merciful passage of time — and it’s true: time does heal the worst of wounds — those little aches, those pangs of shared memories, fade and lose their sting. This year, I’ll remember an occasion from last year and this time, it will involve just me. Not as painful.

I have spoken many times about how my friends all over the world rallied around me and helped me get away from this most personal tragedy, so I’m not going to repeat any of it other than to say that they collectively gave me a reason to carry on living: not that I was going to do something foolish like cap myself, of course, but they got me to do things that helped dull the pain of memory, kept me busy, and above all made me realize that I still have so many things to live for. The alternative was for me to sit in a one-room garret and stare at the walls — which my friends, as they told me in no uncertain terms, were not going to allow me to do. Instead, once I’d taken care of the soul-destroying minutiae of death, I sold the house, traveled, and did the sorts of things which reminded me of the things I hadn’t been able to do before, but could now do. I did those things, and I will do again.

It’s called living. Life goes on after death and now, one year after that most profound tragedy from which I thought I’d never recover, I’ve come out from my period of mourning with renewed purpose, renewed hope for the future, and a renewed determination to live my life to its absolute fullest. That feeling, that intention, is not something that happened suddenly, or just this morning; it’s been a gradual process which began at some point (I have no idea when) and grew stronger and stronger as the year went on.

Now it’s been three hundred and sixty-five days since Connie died, and if you’d told me then that I’d be feeling the way I do today, I’d not have believed you.

Now, at last, I think I’m healed (although of course there may well be the occasional twinge of pain — I’ve felt a few just writing this post). All I needed was to get through the horrible anniversary to put the seal on it, and thanks to the boundless support from my friends, my family and my Readers, I made it.

Now it’s time for adventure, time to live again.

And if you’ll all indulge me, I’m going to continue to chronicle some of those adventures on these very pages. That is the real reason why I started blogging again — there’s no point in having an adventure when you can’t share it with anyone — and it’s only when I wrote this post that I realized it. (And by the way: a huge round of applause for Tech Support BobbyK, without whom I’d be snarled in incomprehensible Gordian techno-knot,  and you wouldn’t be reading any of this.)

So stick around: I’m going to drink deeply of Life in the years to come, and you’re going to share it with me. Enjoy the journey, because I most certainly plan to.


In Memoriam:

Constance Mary (Carlton) du Toit
14 May 1958 – 3 February 2017

Stupidity, Part 2

(For Part 1, see here.)

So I woke up In Socorro NM after the previous night’s harrowing near-miss with an empty fuel tank, and you’d better believe that before leaving Socorro I filled the tank up again (even from 7/8 full), just to be sure. Then I set off, heading west along U.S. 60.

The outside temperature in Socorro was about 25F (-4C for my Furrin Readers); cold, but I was in the southern United States, right? so I figured it would warm up as the day went on.

Wrong. As I crossed the Continental Divide (altitude about 5,000ft), the temperature was 0F (-18C) but the day was clear, with no snow falling or anything.

As I drove on, I was a little worried because with cold that extreme, a car’s parts can easily start to break — and I hadn’t seen another car (in either direction) for about half an hour. So I was a little nervous, even though all the gauges looked fine.

Then, about twenty minutes later… ice on the road.

At this point, the road was no longer the arrow-straight highway in the above picture: it had become twisty and hilly, and the shade thrown by the hills was preventing the ice from melting. I slowed down, gradually of course (I’ve driven on icy roads before), but even at 30mph, I felt the car slip occasionally — all-wheel drive doesn’t help on ice.

Now I was really worried. Had I gone off the road, and crashed into a roadside ditch (or worse, off the road into a valley) and the windshield had shattered, I would have been exposed to the elements — and at 0F, even with blankets and warm clothing, death from exposure can take only minutes — and with the paucity of traffic, there was no telling whether there’d be any chance of timely assistance.

As I’ve said, my phone had “bricked” (gone completely dead) the day before. I was, to all intents and purposes, completely alone and isolated. And the temperature fell still further, to -4F.

It was as nerve-wracking a drive as I’d ever made, and only when I was finally able to head north towards the interstate, along a straight road with lots of traffic, did my stress level start to subside.

And I never thought I’d ever say this, but I was glad when I finally got onto I-40 — ordinarily a terrible road to drive on — but on this occasion, something to be welcomed with open arms.

Two things: under such conditions, I’m never going to take a long road trip along back roads without either a companion or else an accompanying car. And if I do have to take such a trip alone, I’ll stick to the poxy interstate highways.

Dying under such circumstances is tragic. Dying unnecessarily is stupid. And I’m not a stupid man — at least, not in this regard, anymore.

Stupidity, Part 1

I could have died, twice, on my drive from Plano to Las Vegas — and both times were from my absolute and utter stupidity.

Day 1 — last Sunday — saw me leaving home at about 8am, day’s end destination TBD, looking forward to a drive through small-town America.

By late afternoon, I finally cleared West Texas. I won’t say it was a boring drive — I did hit a tumbleweed full-on somewhere outside Plainview; terrible mess, cleaning twigs and such from my front bumper and license plate — but it was when I got to New Mexico that the fun started.

Normally, I travel very carefully and with much preparation so that I don’t have to worry while on the road. This trip was a little different. Maybe my mind was still in Britishland, where no trip lasts longer than a couple of hours, and if it does, there are always villages and such where one can find gas and such — and even on the small byways, there’s traffic.

This was not the case on US Highway 60 in New Mexico. Whoa. I could drive for an hour without seeing anybody — couple of trains, but few cars and even fewer people. So when my gas gauge showed a quarter-tank, I looked at the map and saw that the next town was 30 miles away — easy, because even when my gas warning light comes on, I get 40-odd miles, as my car’s handy lil’ trip calculator showed. Except that the next town wasn’t a town, per se, but a few houses; and no gas station. Okay, the next town was only 15 miles away, so no problem, right?

By now night had fallen and the temperature had plummeted from Texas’s warm and friendly 56F to much less: about 28F with, as I was to discover, a biting wind which put the chill to about 15F.

As I got to the next town, I looked for a gas station, but nothing was visible. According to the calculator, I now had 20 miles’ gas left. Shit. There was also (surprise, surprise) no cell phone coverage along that stretch of road.

There was a motel on the east side of town, and I decided that if there was no gas station in town, I’d turn back and stay the night there, and deal with the fuel issue the next morning: in that kind of weather, sleeping in the car was right out.

Luckily, however, I turned a corner, went under a railway bridge, and there was the blessed sight of a 7-11. I dad to pop an aspirin tab, my heart was racing so fast by that point.

I stopped, filled up (nearly freezing to death in the process, because — idiot! — I had forgotten my gloves at home), and set off again. Right before I filled up, though, I checked the trip calculator one more time, and saw that I’d had 12 miles’ of gas left. Way too close for comfort.

Anyway, just as an intellectual exercise, I looked to see where the next gas station showed up — US 60 was about to join I-25 shortly, according to the map, and there had to be a gas station there, right?

Wrong. The next gas station anywhere came up a full 30 miles after I’d filled up. Without that 7-11, I would have run out of gas in the middle of Fuck Nowhere, NM. I wouldn’t even have made it to I-25.

And with no traffic to be seen anywhere, I would have had to stay in my car and wait till morning. Where I would have been found, probably as dead as a doornail and stiff as a board — even though I had a blanket and warm clothing.

But that was nothing, compared to what happened to me the next day. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Blast

Last week Doc Russia and I went off to the range for a “Welcome Home” shooting session with our handguns (to celebrate the fact that Over Here we can do such a thing as opposed to in my erstwhile host country of Britishland, where shooting and ownership of handguns is streng verboten).

As always, I took my Springfield 1911, while Doc brought, in addition to his 1911 in 10mm, a SIG-Sauer Model Something in 9mm.

Dear Readers, I got hurt. Badly hurt. Not from a gunshot wound or anything like that; but I regret to say that after 100 rounds, the heavy (230gr) .45 ACP rounds were beating up my arthritic old wrist something fierce. Worst of all, the pain was giving me an uncontrollable flinch. Even a padded shooting glove didn’t help. At that point, I quit and shot the SIG instead. And I discovered that with the Europellet, my wrist didn’t hurt at all.

Shit. Time to rethink what I’m shooting.

Before anyone gets all upset and starts hooting ‘n hollering, let me reassure you that I’m not going to dump the old 1911 warhorse yet, oh no. First, I’m going to try shooting the lighter 185gr boolets, just to see how that works out. I’ve ordered some experimental ammo from our friends at Ammo.com (see my Blog Roll for a link), and if that works then I’ll replace all my .45 ACP 230gr ammo with the lighter stuff. (“Replace” means just giving all the 230-grain stuff to Doc, of course, and ordering a couple-three thousand rounds of 185s.)

From a  self-defense perspective, I don’t think there’s much difference between the two rounds; the 185gr bullet is lighter but it arrives a little quicker than the 230gr, so anyone at the naughty end of the shot is going to be just as dead. But I will need to shoot a lot of practice 185gr rounds to make sure that I get accustomed to the lighter bullet, after over four decades of shooting the 230gr loads almost exclusively.

I don’t need this shit in my life, but needs must. As one of my friends said, “This getting old stuff isn’t for sissies.”

I just hope that the lighter .45 ACP ammo does the trick. The alternative is just too ghastly to contemplate — and I think y’all know what I mean.