One Day...Under the Rainbow



Another rainbow picture!

Well, it certainly doesn't get any better than this...does it?

No...actually it gets MUCH worse.

Hey...I'm still coming down from the previous "Health Updates" posting. As promised, I went looking for pictures to post and spotted this one...thought that would be nice...a companion to the earlier rainbow posting. But, guess it was the mood, the picture reminded me of that fateful day...

(I'm going to try to lighten this one up, so bear with me.)

Some of you know that Julie had a gambling streak...a slots woman! Actually, if you have been keeping up with the pictures, you know she was "a winner!" That picture of her holding the BIG $10,000 check was not one of those staged things where you can have your picture taken with a cardboard cutout of, say, President George W. Bush. (Now, who the hell would want to do that?! Don't get me started on politics!!!) No...that check represented a real jackpot that she won over in Metropolis on March 15, 1997...so much for the Ides of March! (The Ides of October was the one we should have been watching for...the date 7 months later when she would suffer her massive lupus flare at Emerson Elementary.)

Okay...one story spawns another.

Before I continue with the "rainbow story", I have to relate the details surrounding the $10,000 jackpot. Julie was sitting at home minding her own business, when all of a sudden, she says "My hands are itching!"...her "sure sign" that she was going to come into some money. She says "Ronnie...lets go to the riverboat!" I say "Julie...the news has been talking about how high the water is...I don't think that's a good idea!" Julie says "Ronnie..." I say, "Look...go play the computer slot machine...see how your luck is running." Julie says "&%#@&*%!", but goes off into the computer room to play (like she was playing) the slots. I wandered in from time to time to see how she was doing and she kept wracking up the (play) dollars. As I am looking over her shoulder, she hits the maximum jackpot on her "Red, White, and Blue" machine. She turns to me and says "Ronnie..."

So...off we go to Metropolis!

When we get there, I have a BIG concern. There is no land access to the boat. These folks are so anxious to get your money that they won't shut the sucker down. Somehow, they have erected this floating walkway that looks to be several blocks long...leading out to the riverboat. I say "Julie...I think we need to go see a movie, eat dinner, or something"...anything but venture out on the water. Julie says...well, actually she doesn't say anything...just starts walking out on the floating platform...finally, turning and saying over her shoulder "Come back and get me in a couple of hours!"

I drive off to Paducah, which is my normal routine when she gambles....being too cheap to gamble (after I loose my $20, I'm done) and WAY too cheap to watch Julie gamble. (Julie will put three $1 tokens into a machine, spin it, and before you find out if she wins or loses, she puts three more tokens into the machine next to it and gives it a spin...and, often, she'll do three machines. I mean...that's $9 ventured in less than one minute! She says it's her "system".)

After two hours, I make my appointed return...just as Julie is walking off the floating platform. I ask her how she did, and she replies that she came out ahead. Since she didn't seem too exited, I went into my commiserating mode and said "That's all right, Honey...as long as you break even, you are a winner at the slots...you had fun and didn't lose money." Made me happy!

Julie says that she is hungry...says let's get a sandwich at Burger King. Well that fit into my (cheap) budget and so off we went. As we were approaching, I asked if she wanted to go in or if she wanted to use the drive thru. Julie tells me to pull into a parking place. As I turn off the engine, she reaches into her fanny pack (she loved those things) and hands me a picture...the picture posted under "miscellaneous"...the picture with the fake check. That's when I brought up the fake pictures with celebrities...thinking, yeah, well, it's a cute souvenir...how much did THAT cost ya? Julie then promptly hands me the REAL check...no mistaking that!

After being somewhat speechless, I finally recovered and said "Well, I'm not surprised in the least. I mean after watching you "walk on water", why would winning $10,000 surprise me? We had a good laugh...and she still let me off the hook for dinner by agreeing to eating at Burger King. What a woman!

Okay...back to the original story...the Grand Canyon, the rainbow, and that fateful day.

If you look at the picture again...a smiling Julie Newell, posed so relaxed at the rim of the Grand Canyon, a rainbow (that seemed to follow her everywhere) as a beautiful backdrop on a perfectly gorgeous day. Who could want more?

Well, Julie had something she wanted...she wanted to go home...and die!

Julie had been having some health problems prior to our trip...at first passing it off on her usually hectic schedule prior to vacations...finishing up working at school, making travel arrangements, packing, etc. (I just got out of the way!) Finally, though, she went to the doctor the week prior to our departure and had some tests done...the results of which would not be available until our return...in a couple of weeks.

Here is the gambling connection. Julie had always talked about going to Las Vegas. I was game...we hadn't really had a "big" vacation since our marriage ten years earlier. (Hey, remember, when your first honeymoon meal is pickle loaf sandwiches and your first night's activity is sleep...) But...in retrospect, we were also very dumb. We booked a 10-day stay...actually two fives to be separated by a trip to the Grand Canyon. (Folks...do you know how much money you can lose in Las Vegas in TEN DAYS?!)

Well...the first five days in Vegas went according to plan...the plan according to the people who build those massive casinos. We...I'll include myself because I DID venture my $20 each day...we lost most of the money that we brought with us. Hell, we lost it all...but, we did have credit cards. (THAT is the beginning of another story, but we won't go there!)

Anyway, blessedly, it was time to leave Vegas Part I and venture out into the wilderness, desert, or whatever. Anywhere was better than being around a slot machine!

As we were driving to the Grand Canyon, I noticed that Julie was more quiet than usual, but passed it off to a slot machine hangover. We got to the Grand Canyon late in the afternoon and I insisted on venturing forward and taking some pictures. Julie didn't seem too thrilled about that, but went along with my unusual "enthusiasm". (Y'all know me...I'm the one that tags along...often with a heavy sigh...as Julie goes forth to conquer the world!) Deathly afraid of heights (unless it's an airplane), Julie still agreed to stand next to the rim (as long as there was a railing to hang onto) so that I could take the rainbow picture. Actually, she is looking back at me, because she wasn't about to look at what was behind her.

After I took my pictures, she said "Can we go now?" I asked what was wrong and she simply said that she didn't feel well...that it was probably the heat and the sun. We had hotel reservations for Flagstaff, which is quite a distance from the Grand Canyon. Prior to our departure from home, we had tried to get reservations AT the Grand Canyon. After many rejections..."We've been booked for 6 months"...we settled on Flagstaff. Hey, it's a vacation...just more scenery to see, right?

I could tell that Julie was really in distress...hadn't ever seen her like this. So...after we drove down the road a couple of miles, we saw a lodge. Taking a chance, I pulled into the lodge and asked about a room. "Why, certainly, sir, we have several vacancies!"

How lucky we were...NOT. The room was NOT four stars...if we looked up, we could have probably seen the stars. Nah...kidding about that...couldn't possibly see the stars because we were on the first floor. While Julie got cleaned up and rested a bit, I ventured forward to find food. Yep...you guessed it...cold cuts. (Hmmm...maybe that's why Julie did so much cooking in her later years...she was tired of damned pickle loaf sandwiches!)

Well...after a fine cold cut dinner, what more to do? Of course...it's time to SLEEP! Fat chance...not when a bear occupies the room right above us...a restless bear...one who paces all night long! Okay...probably wasn't a real bear, but it must have been a bear of a man. Ten minutes didn't go by when the upstairs occupant didn't walk across the floor...make that STOMP across the floor. At first, Julie and I were distracted...then we were irritated, but, after the first couple of hours, we were just plain amazed. What in the hell could he be doing that caused him to walk the floor constantly for two hours straight?

Finally, at 3 a.m., after we hear the bear walk across the floor one more time, we hear a door slam. We then hear footsteps descending steps. We then hear a car door slam. We then hear a car engine start...and the car drives away. Julie looks at me...I look at Julie...and in unison we say "Damned bear has a driver's license?" I think we finally got a couple of hours of sleep that night.

Then it's back to Vegas, baby!

Julie doesn't perk up when we arrive back in Las Vegas...don't even think she played the slot machines that day. After resting up, we ventured out the next day, but our slot machine luck hadn't changed. We had tried several casinos...with the same result. Finally, we are sitting in a restaurant having one of the cheap gambler's specials and Julie puts down her fork, looks me in the eye, and says "Let's go home." I try cheering her up...figured she's just down because we had lost too much money. She says "Ronnie...I just want to go home...I think I'm dying."

Okay...THAT got my attention...but I didn't know what to say. We talked for a while, as she detailed her horrible feeling of fatigue, her aching joints, her skin rashes...and she threw in feeling bad about losing so much money for good measure. As we finished dinner, I proposed that we take a final $100 and go across the street to the Holiday Casino (which was her favorite at the time; I think it's Harrah's now), play the slots until it was gone, and then drive out to the airport, change our ticket reservations, and go home...to see what the doctor had found out from the test results. She agreed.

Well...our luck changed. Julie could walk by a slot machine and money would fall out. Hell...I could walk by a slot machine and money would fall out. (Yeah, I know I said I was cheap...and I am...but with the hundreds of dollars that we were winning an hour, I caught the fever! I'm bold when I'm playing on "their money".) The floor manager was comping meals, drinks, whatever.

Julie still felt physically bad, but in her first demonstration of mind over matter...it didn't matter! She was NOT interested in going home now! She told me that she had promised Rachel (who was house sitting for us) that if we did well in Vegas that we would send for her. So...at the end of the day we talked about it...and decided that...ya know...we lost all that money earlier...we are basically just back to even...and by the time Rachel gets here, our luck might have changed again... Yeah, we started rationalizing...and didn't send for Rachel. We'll wait and see how we do tomorrow...we've still go three days to go.

Well, tomorrow came...but our luck didn't change. The change people would come up and fill the slot machine with the big bag of money...and Julie would empty that sucker! That afternoon, we had the Rachel conversation again...began our rationalization again...and decided that we would wait yet another day. However, by the time evening arrived...and we were still emptying slot machines...we decided to wire Rachel the money for a plane ticket to Vegas! Rachel came and enjoyed herself, but she couldn't keep up with Julie. Rachel must have experienced her first jet lag...she wanted to stay in the room and sleep!

On our final night, Julie decided that a Vegas show would be nice. I encouraged her to take Rachel...I would continue to play the slots. Hey...when you catch the fever! While they enjoyed the show, I won enough money to pay for their tickets...three times over. For a cheapskate like me...I was on a roll!

Almost forgot...I DID have one slight mishap...one turn of bad luck, you might say. I lost $5,400 at the slot machines! As I said earlier...we could walk by a machine and money would fall out. At one point, I wandered aimlessly looking for a new machine to play, spotted one, and inserted my dollar token. (I still wasn't as carefree - foolhardy - as Julie about dropping those coins into the machine...one would do!) I did this a couple of times and then all of a sudden bells started ringing, lights started flashing, and everybody stopped what they were doing and looked in my direction. It seems that I had hit the jackpot on a progressive machine...a payout of $5,600! Those of you who play slots...and know what the progressive machines are...have already caught my dismay. To actually WIN the jackpot on a progressive machine, you have to do TWO things...get the bars to line up properly AND insert the maximum number of coins...three in this case. So...instead of actually winning the $5,600, I won $200. With many, many eyes upon me, I acted as nonchalantly as possible...collected my $200...a tried to disappear!

When I later found Julie, I said "Guess what, Honey, I just lost $5,400 on the progressive slot machines!" She didn't bat an eye, because she KNEW there was no way that I would lose more than $20 on a slot machine. I then calmly told her my story. Her reaction? I don't think she actually said anything...Julie was good at getting her message across without words - like that day in teacher's bedroom. Her look said it all..."Dummy, you play the maximum coins in a progressive slot machine...not one!" Trust me, I learned my lesson. Before I ever put a coin in a slot machine, I check to see if it's a progressive. "Ronnie" don't do progressive!

Okay...the fun is over. Unfortunately, this story ends on a down note.

At the end of our Vegas adventure, Julie, Rachel, and I climbed back on the plane and returned to Cairo. The next week we went to the doctor...and got the results. Julie was diagnosed with lupus...an arthritic condition in which the body turns upon itself. The doctor gave us words of "encouragement"..."a couple of years ago, a lupus diagnosis was a death sentence...you had maybe five years to live. However, progress has been made...your chances are much better now." Yeah, right...Julie is 34 years old...and if she's real lucky, she might live beyond 40!

Most of you reading this probably didn't even know Julie when she was 40...didn't come to know her until long after she had beaten the odds given to lupus patients at that time. Yes...Julie was one hell of a fighter!

Did lupus slow Julie down...yes. Lupus and its "cure"...try 80 mg of steroids a day for over a year...inflicted a horrible toll on her body and her self-esteem. But...did it ever break her spirit? NO!

As the poem at the bottom of the home page says, yes, she might have rested once in a while...but JULIE NEWELL NEVER, EVER QUIT!