This chapter picks up where Chapter 5 left off with my life in Las Vegas. You might think that I had the world by the tail. My wife and I had our dream jobs and we were living in our dream house. We owned both of our vehicles and thanks, to the largess of my father-in law had no credit card debt. If this was anybody else’s story you would probably be right. Well, life is not a bowl of cherries unless you count the soft and sour ones in the bowl, then you have a closer approximation to real life.
My mother-in law had just died prior to our moving to Vegas. That meant that my father-in-law was now all alone in Florida. The only family he had was living in Chicago, and they weren’t that close to begin with. So, we did the only humane thing, we invited him to live with us in Vegas. He said he would but that he would give us a year to get settled in. In all honesty, he never caused a problem for us. We did it all on our own. Prior to our leaving Florida, one of my co-workers warned me about my wife. He had said that her job was in danger there. He also stated that she really wasn’t that well-liked at the hospital. He insinuated that her days were numbered there. As you can imagine, this gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I, however, shelved these negative vibes. We were after all going to a better place. What could go wrong? I am sure that you have noticed that this seems to be a recurrent theme in my story, and you would be right. You may also recall that I discussed my wife’s addictive personality and her low self-esteem problems. Well, these issues would come front in center before too long.
While our house was a great house, there were areas where tinkering was called for. Areas like yard work and landscaping for one. I had always wanted an outdoor kitchen and a gazebo, so these projects were soon tackled. I put an outside door in my father-in law’s future room with a wheelchair ramp. He also had a small little shaded area where he could smoke, read the paper and enjoy the fresh air. So, by the time he had moved in, most of the fine tuning was done. We had one major project left, though. We had a balcony that ran the whole length of the back of the house. I wanted to cover that balcony, so it would be more usable. So, we investigated all options and, of course, we chose the worst one. We decided to go with a glass enclosure. You are probably saying, “Are you stupid?”. You would be right. We fell for all the hype. Do not ever buy a glass enclosure with a glass roof in Las Vegas. No matter what we did, it remained a sweat box in the upstairs enclosed area. I ended up covering the glass roof from the inside, with foil, insulation and paneling. So much for a nice view of the night sky. After all this, I finally made the upstairs enclosure usable, so I actually did get to enjoy the extra space quite a bit. We had a pool table up there, as well as a nice sitting area to watch TV and a place where I could set up my various holiday villages. So, all things considered, it worked out ok in the long run except for one little issue, the damn glass roof leaked. The install people did a terrible job. So, I had to go on the roof and apply silicone caulk on all the window panes. What a pain in the ass. The patio had a 55 x 12 foot glass roof. Do you know how many panes of glass that is and how many tubes of silicone that amounted to? Oh, and I had to do this every two years to keep it from leaking. What a big freaking lemon this glass enclosure turned out to be?
Besides the issue with the roof, we had the worst building inspector in the world. He was a vindictive asshole that apparently hated his job as well as all the local contractors. Because now all the back windows were no longer a direct egress to the outside. Our side windows were our egress and they were technically too small. So, we had to have bigger windows installed. I always wanted a spiral staircase, so we had one installed in the backyard. Well, the inspector struck again, he said that the steps were half an inch too shallow. So, the poor ironwork guy had to build a new staircase and remove the old one by crane and replace it with the new one. You know what, that asshole inspector never checked the new staircase. He just wanted to be a prick.
Well, after this fiasco, you would think I would be done messing around with the house. You would, of course, be wrong. On the side of the house we had a large enclosed RV parking area. I thought it would look really nice to have the wall all lined with Italian cypresses. It took 50 of them. So, we had them all professionally planted. I followed all the recommendations with the fertilizers and insect sprays and they grew well. If you leave the tree alone, it will eventually grow tall and narrow to about 50 feet in height. If you cut the tops off they will get fuller but won’t grow any taller. Basically, you have a really nice privacy wall. So, after they reached 12 feet of height, I topped them all. Well, you would have thought that I have committed some mortal sin or something. Because soon afterwards, my trees started dying one after another. I brought in one of the branches to the nursery to see what was killing them. Well, they were infested with three different kinds of insects. I again followed all the instructions, only to have more and more die. I tried replacing them but to get one the size they had grown into was extremely expensive, and only to see them die anyway, was heartbreaking. Within one year all 50 trees had died. $4000.00 down the drain.
Now, this brings me to the pigeon issue. Prior to our moving to Las Vegas, they had a drought which had lasted three years. Do you know how much shitting pigeons can do in three years? Over the years, builders have gotten smarter in designing the roofs on their new houses. The eaves no longer provide sanctuary for pigeon families. You may have guessed it, my house was not one them. Fun fact: they mate for life and will nest in the same place until they either die or the place is removed. Pigeons are crazy and suicidal as well. I learnt more about pigeons than I ever wanted to. So when it finally rained in Las Vegas, I had at least two inches of pigeon shit on my front entrance way. There was so much that I had to shovel it up before I could hose it clean. Well, I followed the instructions and bought a stupid plastic owl. The pigeons thought it was quite funny as they sat on it while it swung in the breeze. So, I hired a pigeon expert who charged me $500.00 to put some spikes in the areas where they were nesting. What a rip off, he didn’t put in enough of them. So I bought 500 feet of the f–king spikes and turned the roof off my house into a pigeon war zone. This still did not stop the f–king pigeons. I found one dead on the ground with a spike hole in his body. He had tried to wedge himself into nest and ended up committing Hari-kari. So now, I finally opted for the final step. Remember earlier when I said that death was one of the only ways to break the cycle? So I had no choice but to kill them, and that is what I did. I bought a pellet gun and I killed the rest of them. I had finally broke the cycle. You may go why all the uproar over a stupid bird? Well, they aren’t called rats with wings for nothing. They carry over 15 different diseases. They are very dirty and nasty birds. So ended my big game hunting days.
So, just as I got the home front taken care of, issues began to appear at work. I firmly believe that my wife had a self-destructive personality based on her low self-esteem. I think she believed that she did not deserve to be happy. We both had always wanted to work in critical care. Since she was older and was having issues on the floor she worked on, and there was initially only one opening, I let her apply first. She passed the class work but she failed out of the clinical part. So, she dropped out of the program. She had also been complaining of chronic neck pain, so she went to see a pain management specialist. I reminded her of my experiences with them in Florida (story to follow in Chapter Nine), but she insisted on going to see one anyway. This guy, because I can’t justify calling him a medical doctor was a money grubbing quack. First of all, he destroyed what little self-esteem she had left and got her hooked on methadone besides. He also said that she was not capable of working as a nurse any longer. So he filed her disability papers. I am sure that is why she really had went to see him in the first place was to get out of working. Well, her plan worked, she hasn’t had to work a day since.
To back track a little, in the first year we lived in Las Vegas, my mother, father and sister had come to visit us. We had a great time, and my wife really engaged well with the family. Two years later when my mother and sister came back to visit, she never bothered with them and slept most of the time they were visiting. Even when I cooked the meal with my new outdoor kitchen, she did not partake in the meal. She said that they came to visit me not her. See how her self-esteem had been destroyed by this pain management specialist. Life continued to spiral out-of-control with her. My poor stepfather was at a loss in how to help. He was torn between not sticking his nose in our affairs and offering advice. It didn’t matter, she did not listen to anyone but the pain specialist. He had her just on milk shakes to purge the toxins out of her system. She subsequently lost 30 pounds and looked like a scarecrow. I would find her at 2 am sleeping in our gazebo in the backyard holding an unlit cigarette. One night, she was so out of it that she tried to put the lit end of the cigarette into her mouth. She was also so drugged up that she couldn’t walk. So, I carried her upstairs to our room where I put her to bed. She asked me if I could get her some water and I said “OK”. When I brought her back the water, she had fallen out of bed. She had peed herself when she tried to get up to go the bathroom instead of waiting for me to get back with the water. I cleaned her up and put her back to bed.
This is when I finally had enough. I went into my room and I just lost it. I started to cry. I was having a nervous break down. In case you are wondering why I sleep in another room? I work nights, so I sleep in the daytime. I chose the spare bedroom for two reasons: one, because it is quieter and it was easier to make the room darker as well. Now back to the story, I knew that I could not go on this way. Something had to give or it was going to be me seeking psychiatric help.
So, let’s back pedal a little, you might recall that I mentioned that I also wanted to go into critical care as well. Even though initially there was only one opening, another one became available. Even though I was accepted in the program, my director asked me if I could wait until the next rotation of classes. For better or worse, I was the main preceptor on our floor and we had a new graduate that needed someone to train her. As luck would have it, she ended up becoming my second wife. Even though this second marriage was a bad idea and was doomed from the start, it had quite a few positives as well. As her orientation progressed , we discovered that we truly enjoyed each other’s company. It was nice to have someone to talk to that wasn’t high all the time and that actually had some energy and ambition. Even though we were only friends initially, she helped me to realize that I needed to make some changes. So, I filed for divorce. And because I listened to a lot of bad advice instead of following my own counsel, I lost my shirt. It took 2 years to complete the divorce and I estimate that it cost me almost a half million dollars over the period of the ten years that I paid her alimony. This one impediment in my life almost totally derailed me. I had a very difficult time overcoming it and it has been the focal point of my life for many years.
During the divorce proceedings it was decided that I would keep the house. So, I refinanced it and gave her her share of the equity. I also had to give her part of my 401K. I also had to pay the court fees and her lawyers fees, as well. Prior to our court appearance, we had all decided on a 5 years of alimony so that her health insurance would be covered. Of course, this is not what happened in court. First off, the judge was late because she was in rehab. My wife was using a cane, because she was actively pursuing disability. My lawyer was using crutches and her lawyer was in a wheelchair. You just can’t make this shit up! I felt like shooting myself right then and there. What really topped it off was when my lawyer, the one I hired and supposedly had my best interests at heart, totally blind-sided me. He had made an agreement with the other lawyer that they were going to let the judge make the opening proposal. Right then and there I knew I was screwed. First, the length was not only twice as for the alimony payments, the amount was also double. Of course, my wife did not speak up and say anything about how we had agreed on something else. But the bad thing is, that my lawyer was speechless. He must have thought that his reputation alone would cause the judge to give us a favorable decision. So, after three minutes or so, I spoke up. The judge says, “Are you sure you want to do this?” I said “Well, I can’t do any worse than my lawyer”. So, I was able to get the alimony payment reduced by $300.00 a month. A couple of years later, I filed for a hardship reduction and got it reduced another $400.00 a month. But I still had to make payments for 10 years.
Sometime during the two interminable years of my divorce, my preceptee who I will call “Julie” from now on moved in with me. She had been a godsend to me and truly helped me get through a lot of rough times. Even though I don’t believe either one of us was truly in love, we did have a lot of good times together. After the divorce, I told Julie that I needed to do something to get my mind off the crushing burden of the alimony, so we took up scuba diving. This would have been fine by itself if we had not bought a boat which necessitated me in trading-in a newly purchased truck for one that was powerful enough to pull the boat. So began my financial woes. I had alimony, I had a bigger mortgage payment, now I had a bigger car payment and a boat payment. Plus credit card bills for all of the new scuba diving gear we had just purchased. One year after the divorce was finalized, I had promised Julie that we would get married if we were still together at this time. So, we had a small wedding ceremony in Florida with our immediate families only attending. Can you think of a less romantic reason for getting married? Well, I will top it in my third marriage.
Many people argue against marriage because they say that the ring changes people. Well, this was certainly the case with my second marriage. Just after a month of marriage, Julie informed me that she had been faking her orgasms all along. She stated that she hadn’t had one since she started taking her antidepressant meds in high school. That was certainly an ego booster. I also noticed that she became less and less affectionate, always placing her cat between us when we sat on the couch to watch TV on our nights off together. Prior to our marriage, she had always been very helpful in our landscaping projects, well, that changed completely. Another thing that dried up was her cooking. She seemed only to want to cook for food days at work. Otherwise, I was on my own. Marie Callender frozen dinners fast became my staple diet. The final coup de gras was how she behaved towards me in public. I think she was always jealous of my educational background, and the fact that I was an RN and she was an LPN. So, it seemed that she took glee in belittling me in public to make her feel better about herself. My family and friends had informed me of this but I had just blown it off. It wasn’t till one of my photo buddies pulled me aside and had a good heart-to-heart with me that I finally realized that something had to give. Julie and I had a heart-to-heart conversation. When I asked her point blank that when we did actually kiss did she feel anything? She spoke honestly and said “no”. I said that I felt the same way. When we first had met, she was in the process of getting a divorce. She used most of her settlement money to help refurnish the house because my ex wife had taken half of the furniture out of the house in our divorce proceedings. So, it wasn’t until I quit my job and I was able to cash out my 401K that I could finally repay her the money I owed her. Julie was currently unemployed at the time, so we just filed for legal separation and she continued to live in the house. This arrangement also allowed me to continue covering her under my health insurance plan. Since I was still paying alimony for my first failed marriage, I couldn’t afford to pay any more alimony. So, we lived under the same roof and we subsequently started dating.
Just a little side note, it was during my marriage with Julie that I ended up losing my house. I just couldn’t continue to pay the jumbo mortgage plus all my other bills. So, I put the house up for a short sale. I was to rent for seven years. During that time I moved three times. That doesn’t sound like much, right? Well, I was living in houses close to 4,000 sf with garages full of tools, gym equipment and other stuff. So, it was a lot of work. I had gotten pretty good at moving. I had purchased over 50 storage bins, I had put wheels on my work benches and storage racks. This way, everything could be rolled up into my utility trailer. I eventually got rid of my gym equipment and all of my holiday decorations and some of my larger power tools, to facilitate the moving process.
During this time, I following my brother Robert’s tendency to take in strays, took on a disabled Vet who was also a photography buddy. He lived with us for one year. I only charged him $200 a month to live with us. He also helped with some of the housekeeping chores. Needless to say, life had certainly become interesting very quickly. To facilitate the dating process, we both joined Match.com. We would on a daily basis compare our communications with perspective partners. This provided us with endless amusement. It soon became evident that there were a lot of con artist on the web site. Many of their stories were word for word duplicates with the ultimate goal of getting money from you. One girl even said that she lived in Russia. Since her name was too unique to be a fake one, I looked it up on the internet and found out that she was a student at one of our local colleges. When I sent her a message asking how this was possible, our communications dried up. No surprise there. I never did figure out her game because she had never asked for money. I am sure it would eventually have happened, she was just much more patient. I also found out that many of the women replying never actually read your messages. So, I used to have fun sending them crazy messages to see what kind of replies I would get back. They, of course, did not match what I had sent them.
I ended up dating one girl that I met, not through Match.com but through Facebook. We dated for a whole year, and I actually took a trip to meet her in Thailand. We spent two weeks together. We were becoming quite serious and were working on plans to get her over to the states when my conscience got the better of me. She had a thriving business there. She also owned her own house, car and a motorcycle. In other words, she was quite successful by Thai standards. She was willing to give this all up and her family as well to be with me. My concern was what would happen if our relationship failed? She would have given up her whole life to be with me. I just couldn’t deal with that. So, I broke it off. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy. I ended dating a girl from China and another girl from the Philippines for a while. These women I actually met from Match.com. After dating them for a few months, I realized that they were not the women of my dreams.
It was not until I had taken a break from looking for a girlfriend that I met my future wife. After 9/11, people found it very distressing to socialize. Meetup.com which originated in June 12, 2002 was an answer to this issue. Various groups were setup based on special interests. Because of the highly transient population in Las Vegas, it became quite popular here. There are literally hundreds of specialty meetup groups. I used to belong to several of them. I was on one organized trip to the world famous Havasu Falls which is located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in Arizona. It is a 10-mile hike down to the falls from the main entrance or landing leading to the trail. There is a small town about 7 or so miles on the path where you can get some supplies and food. There are also limited cabins you can stay at. At the the main falls, there is a fairly large campsite for backpackers and such. This was my second trip to the falls, so, I was fairly familiar with the area. Our group had two areas marked off, I set up camp at the overflow area which was closer to the main falls. I was the first one to set up camp here, and soon several more people followed suit. What followed was unique in the respect that all of those people that camped at the overflow site still keep in touch with each other. I, of course, keep in very close contact with one particularly lovely lady who became my third and final wife…the woman of my dreams. I met her at the campsite on my first day, and we subsequently hit it off. After our weekend ended we continued to keep in touch. She routinely made trips to Las Vegas and we ended up having breakfast together at a local restaurant after I got off work. She was working in Zion National Park in Utah at the time. This park had some truly amazing hiking trails, so I went to visit her there. Where we went on a few hikes together. Our relationship soon blossomed and I consequently asked her to move in with me. This is where I will end this chapter. I will pick up the narrative in Chapter eight.