Your Call Is Important …Just Not To Us

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2013 by gofigureharvey

This has been one of those weeks, when every aggravating thing that could happen happened. I attempted to file my taxes and discovered I have to pay Uncle Sam $858. I burned my forearm taking baked haddock out of the oven, proving once and for all two theories I’ve long held: that eating healthy and using kitchen appliances are both hazardous undertakings. I tried to pick up a prescription for medication I’ve been taking since I was 12 years old – for Chrissakes, Nixon was beginning his first term! – and I was told it’s no longer covered under my insurance. What’s that you say, Mr. Walgreen? Not covered? THYROID medication? Wait. Neither are my generic acid reflux meds? The ones I take for the heartburn caused by injustices such as owing the IRS 800 clams?

I’m one of those lucky sonofaguns forced by the city into signing up for the less-than-awesome health insurance it foisted upon its employees. In a word? It stinks. It costs a bundle, the coverage rots, and surprises like this one aren’t anything new. It’s known as Advantage Worcester/ Fallon Community Health Plan  – or is it Reliant? (The insurance plan formally known as Prince? I joke to keep from weeping. These HMOs have more umbrellas than a golf course in a rain storm.) I had to snake my way through four phone numbers before I got CVS/Caremark on the phone. I listened to terrible harpsichord music and sour Spanish guitar solos and finally spoke with Brandon who didn’t know why I can’t get my prescriptions filled. However, I was given a 1-800 number I can call, but not tonight because they close at 5:00 PM. Brandon said he’d be right back with suggested alternatives to my prescriptions, but after 28 minutes of that guitar, my phone battery died. Alternatives? Like what? Baking soda? Voodoo?

You know damned well I slip the prefix “DIS” in front of “Advantage” every chance I get. Just as I never miss the opportunity to refer to that branch of City Hall that handles benefits as “INhuman Resources.” I’d tell them that I refer to their department this way, but they never answer the phone. Ever. It just rings and rings and rings…

I’m guessing my thyroid meds, which were covered in January but not in March, are the victims of over-diagnosis. Too many people must be suffering from hypo or hyperthyroidism, leading the pharmaceutical companies to suspect that they can make more dough if they charge us full price. Do  they toss cash in the direction of the insurance companies refusing to cover? That would be criminal, and I’m sure no insurance company would every do such a thing,because their only concern is the welfare of their members.Forgive me for suggesting it. What was I thinking? I must be goofy from the pain I’m suffering without the acid refux meds I should be taking – the ones that will now cost me $54 every month.This crappy insurance was rammed down our collective throats faster than you can say “colonoscopy” three times while having one.We had about 10 minutes to decide what we wanted when we were literally herded into the sign-up like aging palaminos headed to the glue factory, supposedly to meet a deadline or GOD HELP US! go without coverage.

DISadvantage Worcester/FCHP aka Reliant? I don’t know anymore, but one day, when I went to pick up my medicine at the Plantation St. location, the CVS/Caremark pharmacy was boarded up and apparently left town faster than a bandit with a sheriff’s posse in hot pursuit.  All I know is, DISadvantage drains my wallet every two weeks and provides me with a whole lotta nuthin’ in return. The City obviously stuck us with this cut-rate mess to save a few bucks. Can you say : “Open Enrollment?” I know I’ll be saying it; I’d say it now, but I’m still on hold.

I don’t mean to exclusively pick on the healthcare industry. I also despise Verizon and Charter – snake oil salesmen without the charm – which is why I’m going to get me a tin can and string and  use it  to call and cancel HBO and Showtime just as soon as my contract is up with both of them, because I can only watch “Braveheart” so many times before I change the channel and watch “SNAPPED!”   – which could be an unfortunate situation for all concerned.

And don’t get me started about the 858 bucks I’m supposed to cough up for the IRS…

 

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2012 by gofigureharvey

Gofigureharvey's Blog

The sun hadn’t risen yet as I was making turkey stuffing in my cramped “dollhouse” kitchen, the stuffing my mother taught me how to make over 45 years ago; the stuffing that would become my signature contribution to all holiday meals. The recipe hasn’t changed in my hands, mainly because it was taken out of the hands of my grandmother. Nana had a tendency to monkey with every recipe she found, and when she “stole” the one created by the chef at Messier’s (where she worked as a waitress for 25+ years) she made it correctly only once, and then ruined it annually by adding and subtracting ingredients. The year she tossed in chestnuts was the year when we put a foot down, collectively, and wrestled from her the original recipe. My mother took over the job of stuffing-maker, back when we still lived in a second-floor flat on Lincoln…

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The Recipe

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2010 by gofigureharvey

The sun hadn’t risen yet as I was making turkey stuffing in my cramped “dollhouse” kitchen, the stuffing my mother taught me how to make over 45 years ago; the stuffing that would become my signature contribution to all holiday meals. The recipe hasn’t changed in my hands, mainly because it was taken out of the hands of my grandmother. Nana had a tendency to monkey with every recipe she found, and when she “stole” the one created by the chef at Messier’s (where she worked as a waitress for 25+ years) she made it correctly only once, and then ruined it annually by adding and subtracting ingredients. The year she tossed in chestnuts was the year when we put a foot down, collectively, and wrestled from her the original recipe. My mother took over the job of stuffing-maker, back when we still lived in a second-floor flat on Lincoln St. The two- decker, like my mother, is gone now. It was in the kitchen of 204 Lincoln that I first became the cook’s assistant. It was my job to crush crackers.

Crackers are what triggered this return to childhood. As I crumbled three sleeves of Saltines this morning, I looked at my rolling pin. It’s fairly new, no more than 5 years old. It’s your basic model, not chisled from granite or marble; just a wooden pin. It was the handles that caught my attention , for my mother’s rolling pin had none. Somehow, over the years, hers had lost its handles – I’m sure there was a story involved in its “disfiguration” but I never thought to ask and I never knew it to have any. I crushed the crackers by applying pressure to the middle of the pin with both hands. Now, decades later, I still pulverize the Saltines by the same method, never thinking to use the handles. I decided to give it a try, to see what I’d been missing all these years. Remarkably,  my usually nimble fingers became clumsy and the power of my wrists was diminished by the awkwardness of my lousy grip. Back to the old way, I told myself. But the  real old way would mean sliding the crackers out of the neat Zip-Loc bag and spreading them out onto waxed paper – waxed paper!  That was what she kept in the utility drawer, that was what slipped and slid out from beneath my hands until I mastered the technique of keeping it all in place. When all the crackers were crushed, I’d step back while my mother poured from a battered sauce pan steaming chicken boullion into the bowl of ingredients. Now, I pop open a can of Swanson’s chicken broth. It has less sodium according to the label, a fact that would’ve translated into “less flavor” to my mother’s thinking.  And she’d be right.

We would be living elsewhere when I was old enough to be trusted with more complicated tasks. The day would come, in the kitchen of the caretaker’s house on the shores of Coes Pond, when she handed me the box of “Bell’s Seasoning” and taught me that  “too much is too much and too little is not enough.” Today I know just how much is just right. Do not ask me to measure such a thing.  Like so many other influential lessons in life, the directions are not written on any index card nor are they scribbled on the back of a grease-stained envelope. Instead,  they are lodged firmly in that lovely place we call “memory,”  a place I find myself visiting more often lately. It’s where the hard edges of our lives seem to soften with time, and moments like the crushing of crackers take on an extrordinary significance.

the WPS committee’s suggestion box is full… of something

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 by gofigureharvey

A recent memo from the EAW lists some disturbing changes supposedly “suggested” by the Worcester School Committee. If these changes are forced upon teachers I suspect there will be a revolt by union members. The list includes cutting the number of personal days, cutting out dental coverage, adding an extra professional development day without compensation, random drug testing, and a mandatory dress code. Our backs are already against the wall, with health insurance costs rising and more and more pressure being placed on classroom teachers to lift flat test scores. If money needs to be saved, perhaps the committee should look into trimming some of the fat that roams DAB. Worcester needs quadrant managers like a fish needs a bicycle. And just what is a “facilitator?” For that matter, why are there so many retired DABers returning to the trough for consultant work? In my neck of the woods that’s called double-dipping.
More on this later. I have papers to correct.

Let them know: Teachers are not Public Enemy No. 1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2010 by gofigureharvey

Here is a list of advertisers currently purchasing space from InCityTimes, an independent publication run by an irresponsible vengeful and unstable individual bent on offending and trashing anything and anyone in her path. Several of those listed are wonderful establishments run by owners who may be unaware of her recent attack on Worcester teachers. Let them know why your business will be taken elsewhere, so that they might right their wrong and stand with you against slander, libel and ignorance:

Broadway Diner; Boulevard Diner; Racha Thai, Squire’s; Worcester Animal Rescue League; Jan’s Kitchen; Standard Auto Wrecking Co;Atty Deidre Healy; YOU INC; Biagio’s Grille; WonderBar Restaurant; Hanover Theater; Advanced Auto Body Inc; Worc. Public Library; WCCATV. It would be especially important to voice your outrage to School Committee member John Monfredo, who continues to support this nasty example of yellow journalism by writing a regular column in its pages. As a former principal, who was often kept aloft by the hard work of his subordinates, he should be among the first to distance himself from this rag.

 I’ll miss the great food at Squire’s and the Broadway’s breakfasts, but the sacrifice is worth it.

the ones that got away

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2010 by gofigureharvey

Recently I’ve come to appreciate that not all of my opinions fit into the mold of the publication for which I regularly write. As a columnist I am often incensed, delighted and outraged by the world around us; not all of it fits into the four corners of Worcester. That said, rather than bicker over content, I will from time to time load this blog with the opinions that don’t make it to Water St.
I’ll begin by posting the most recent piece that caused a brouhaha in the Canal district and forced me to decline a rewrite. In 15 years I’ve never missed deadline – ’til now. Here is what I call “The Little Column That Wasn’t”:

Copy date: October 4, 2010
Section: HARVEY
Byline: by Janice Harvey

@HEAD: Oink, Oink

@DROPCAP: Until now, I’ve honored a moratorium on any references to the Worcester woman who prints an independent newspaper here in the city. I won’t bother to give her the ink it would require to type her name or the name of the amateur rag she publishes. Quite frankly, her vitriolic, bizarre ramblings are the stuff of nightmares for an English teacher, and I’d just as soon forget she exists. But every now and then, her fractured syntax, poor spelling and obscene language get under my skin.
Heaven help us. She’s at it again.

@BODY: The no-name “newpaper” publisher (that’s the way it’s spelled on the paper’s website) has aimed her water pistol at anything that moves over the last eight years, targeting, among many others, the city’s fire chief – by calling him a pedophile (Whoops! Wrong guy! Sorry!) and a local columnist whose popularity, credibility and talent raised her grrr-een-with-envy hackles to the point of name-calling and insults. Dianne Williamson, you are not fat.
Now it seems this dyslexic menace has set her sights on Worcester’s teachers. (According to her latest trashing, WPS teachers “are making asses of themsleves.”) Perhaps I shouldn’t have broken my own rule by actually reading her “newpaper,” but when an incensed colleague informed me that many of us are making $100,000 a year, well, I was flabbergasted. Imagine my surprise!
Naturally, I want to book a ride on this gravy train; but I’m confused, because I just happen to have a complete listing of all city employees’ salaries. Hmmm… I’m looking. But I’m not seeing these figures – not among classroom teachers, anyway. I know what I make, teaching English to nearly 150 high school students every day. It’s right here, on page 61 of the 116- page listing. I’m raking in $49,104.95 annually.
No – wait. That was based on my salary when I was working at an alternative site. I don’t get that $4,000 stipend now. So I guess I can continue to live high on the hog for $43,784.85.
And “hog” is the right word, because suddenly teachers who want to work with something other than an expired contract are “hogs.” Says so right here, in this no-name publication, the same paper that says we should “shut the f—k up” and renew our old contract. We should be “greatful” that we are doing so “incredibly well” – her spelling, not mine. Yup, that’s us – a bunch of ungreatful hogs.
This hog spent the bulk of the weekend preparing interim reports, correcting 25 persuasive essays, 100 or so quizzes on a Langston Hughes story and a vocabulary test based on the novel “Heroes” by Robert Cormier. That’s when I wasn’t creating three different lesson plans for the upcoming week. I sure would’ve liked to go apple-picking on a beautiful fall day, but heck! Duty called, and I am, if nothing else, a responsible sort of hog. Last week, I spent 30 bucks laminating two word walls and a “Did You Know?” poster I made about Arthur Miller, so my students will have a better understanding of the man who wrote “The Crucible.” I drove to Staples in a Hyundai that needs an oil change. I had a tough time getting the posters into the car without bending them, since my back seat is crammed to the dome light with young- reader paperback books I’ve purchased and scavenged. When I opened the rear passenger side, Harry Potter fell out.
When you consider that I wouldn’t leave school with a fever last week until I was sure I had a sub packet ready, I guess I am dining at the taxpayer’s trough. On October 29, 2010 I’ll mark my 20th year with the Worcester Public Schools. I think I’ll celebrate that evening by inviting a few friends over – teachers, I think – we can hoist mugs of hot cider and roast a few marshmallows in the crisp autumn air.
I know just what I’ll use to get the fire started.