55 cents…

I was in a supermarket the other day. I hate shopping and I rarely go into stores, so what was I doing in a supermarket the other day? I’ll tell you what I was doing in a supermarket the other day. I was in a supermarket the other day because I forgot my wedding anniversary. Why did I forget my wedding anniversary? I’ll tell you why I forgot my wedding anniversary. Perhaps, some who know me may say, a creeping retardation invading the convoluted narrows, honeycombed crevasses, and arid canyons of my five (hey, there’s no “cent” sign on the keyboard! I just looked for about a minute; there’s the dollar sign, right above the 4, but no, no cent sign {you know, the lower case “c” with a vertical line through it} Didn’t it used to be above the 6? Did I miss a memo?) cent brain? No, that’s not the reason, although I’m not disputing the fact that I have a five cent brain. The reason I forgot my wedding anniversary is because I don’t know the date of the month any more. Why don’t I know the date of the month any more? I’ll tell you why I don’t know the date of the month any more (yeah, I’m getting tired of it too, that’s the last one). The reason I don’t know the date of the month any more (sorry, forgot) is because I don’t read the newspaper any more, which I did daily for like 40 years. The local paper here is the Newark Star-Ledger, which used to be a bulldog of a newspaper. In my youth, when I was, as the song goes “tumbling along like a tumbling tumbleweed” from state to state attending several colleges and universities along the way, wherever I’d settle I’d sample the local newspaper fare and always found them lacking (although the Kansas City Star wasn’t too bad). Now, when I pick up a paper its like logging on to Entertainment Tonight’s website! WTF, celebrity based news? Way too cult of personality-ish for this boy. It triggers my gag reflex and I spew. So no more newspapers for me.

That’s why I forgot my wedding anniversary (newspapers have dates on them) and that’s what I was doing in a supermarket the other day. See, it went like this (just follow the bouncing ball): I got home from work, parked the truck in the driveway and sauntered down to the mailbox with that little extra “Well, the bastards didn’t kill me today!” spring in your step you get when you return home from a days work still somewhat in possession of your sanity (although a liberal application of alcohol will hammer your sanity nicely back into place thank you) . After extracting the mail I re-sauntered up the driveway flipping through the post when a yellow envelope with my mother’s handwriting on it caught my eye. A card. A Hallmark card according to the embossing on the back. What’s a Hallmark card doing here in the middle of June? What’s in June I should know about? Not my birthday, nor hers. SHIT! That’s when it hit me like one of Zeus’s censuring lightning bolts hurled down from Olympus; a true “Houston, we have a problem” moment. I hadn’t forgot it was coming, I knew it was coming, I just thought I still had a few days (you see, newspapers have dates on them). I was wrong. OK, what now? From the large bay window under the portico, the dog is barking her head off, just adding to the rising bubble of, shall we call it panic? Yes, we shall call it panic; not the type of panic one experiences when going to sit down on the toilet, when gravity has one in its clutches and the point of no return has been passed, when then and only then does one notice that the seat is up and no amount of futile grasping and scraping at ceramic tile or granite counter top is going to arrest one’s decent….splashdown. No, not that type of panic, but panic nonetheless.

Think Louie, think. There’s no time to commission Tiffany’s to design and fabricate a diamond and emerald platinum tiara; she’ll be home any minute. Think! Several hours of Anniversary Sex? Nah, she’d be demanding double or triple that anyway. Ah, I know, Weis supermarket, just around the corner. It is there that they purvey the fail-safe for all gentlemen in such the same predicament as I, that of prehistoric saber toothed tiger struggling to extract himself from a tar pit….yes, that’s right, flowers. So, quick as a bunny, I hop in my truck and ignoring the dog, who has by now barked her lungs out high onto the window glass, I rocket to the supermarket, ignoring, like I normally do, all traffic and safety regulations governing the operation of motorcars in the state of New Jersey.

Boom! parking spot right in front of the store, and not a handicap spot either, although with my cancer I should have a blue parking tag. Bastards. Boom! I walk in the front door and there’s a floral display with enough flowers to cover every float in the god damn Tournament of Roses parade. Wait, first a card. Boom! Two aisles over, a plethora, a cornucopia of cards! I peruse and choose (when did cards start costing 6 bucks?) and its back to the flowers. I select several of the finest on display; flown in that morning from South America, Tahiti and other tropical environs. Now to the register to finalize the purchase. Shit, lots of people using the self-check out machines. What’s this? Register 7 is free! The couple at the register have paid and are loading their stuff in the cart. Boom! I’ll be out of here in seconds! Louie sidles up with the speed of a Madagascar giant tree sloth, lays down the fine items he intends to buy on the black rubber conveyor belt, which conveys said items into the waiting hands of the clerk who starts to pass them over the bar code reader when the lady who’s husband was still placing bags in the cart in front of me said to the clerk (named Jake according to his name tag, but not Jake from State Farm) “This 55 cent (what happened to the cent sign?) coupon is suppose to be a double coupon! You only took off 55 cents!” Crap. Never fails. Never. The lady starts on the kid (Jake) and the husband joins in. All three of them are holding the 2 inch square coupon trying to read the fine print and I’m sensing this discussion is going to drag on longer than the Great Powers accepting the surrender of Germany in Versailles in 1918. Finally, having taken as much as I could concerning the questioned 55 cent double coupon for Or-Ida Cheesy Tater Tots, I intervened. I took a dollar from my pocket and presented to the couple with my compliments if they’d just shut the hell up and, please, please, under any circumstance, do not say the words “cheesy tater tots” ever again in their lifetimes. At first there was a touch of huffiness in their tone and actions, but I believe they then noticed the bulging, throbbing veins in my neck and temples and decided to end the 55 cent debate and took the dollar. Thank you Jesus! All that commotion for 55 cents? 55 cents isn’t worth 25 cents these days for Christ sake. maybe it was the principle of the thing or maybe they were just assholes, I don’t know. But I skated out of the store and got home before the wife and all was well. She got flowers and I got a box each of Drake’s Ring-Dings and Yodels.

Well Welcome to the Club…Part 2

WALKING DOWN THE RADIATION ROAD: HIROSHIMA, NAGASAKI AND ME: By now it’s mid-October and we go see the radiation doctor. Nice guy and he starts laying out my rad treatment program (here comes the “Out to Lunch” sign again) “Your first visit is going to be the longest and they will make a mold of the treatment area.” Huh? They’re going to make a mold of Lumpy? He who resides adjacent to my Pillar of Pleasure? Sounds strange but a vision pops into my head of a band of female rock & roll groupies from the 70s known as the Plaster Casters who’d make plaster molds of rock star’s genitals. This radiation treatment stuff doesn’t sound too bad. He’s going on and on when I stop him and ask the important question. “Hey doc, I know you’re going to light me up like Yucca Flats after the first atomic blast but what’s all this going to do to my Twig and Berries down there? That’s all still going to work right?” I pointed to Donna sitting next to me and added “She’s very concerned.” He was taken aback by my question a little at first, fighting to keep the smile off his face as he figured out what I meant by twig and berries, but caught my drift and replied “Oh no, you’ll be fine. These machines are very precise and your “twig & berries” as you say won’t be affected. This is when Donna slid from her chair in a faint with a smile on her face. We let her lie there for a while happily drooling on the linoleum as he outlined the number of treatments I was to get: 23 in total. Five days a week for a month and change. Lovely. OK pal, so is my skin going to look like a piece of crispy bacon from the International House of Pancakes when you’re done spit balling all these electrons at me? No, towards the end of the treatments it’ll look like I have a sunburn in the area. Cool, so he wants to know when I wanted to get started. He was all for immediately. Well, Doc, you see, this weekend we’re driving out to Columbus, Ohio with friends to see the Penn State – Ohio State football game and we’re staying with friends who live there (one of whom pumped so much bourbon whiskey into me one night that I almost managed to puke the cancer out. Thanks Wally, you didn’t know it at the time but you pioneered a new medical field: Alcohol Oncology) so you can forget about immediately. How about we start the following week? Cancer ain’t ruining my kickoff. So let it be written, so let it be done.

When all this nonsense started I told Donna not to tell anyone, not the kids, not my mom, no one. I saw no point in getting people nervous and I didn’t want the sympathetic looks and least of all the pity. Originally the news ban was to remain in effect till we found out what the hell I had for sure, then it was expanded until the treatments were done and then let’s see where we are along this path. I’m a stoic from the Old School; you don’t burden people with your problems. Well telling Donna to keep something quiet crosses up all the circuits in her brain, causing the wiring up there to spark and burn (if, in a different time ribbon, Winston Churchill had told my wife the exact time and date of the Allied invasion of France at Normandy and that it was top secret, well, wir wurden alle werden sprechen Deutsch: we’d all be speaking German today.) So Donna told her best friend (Lisa) who’s married to my best friend (Danny) and Lisa quite naturally told Danny; then one night they came over for an alcohol lubricated meal, which, when concluded, found us all sitting around the kitchen table with them all looking at me like I was an interesting specimen on a slide under a microscope and Donna says “Well tell them what you got!” Huh, I guess they know. Well I was a little surprised and started to think “What is it again?” I knew it began with a “L” but couldn’t remember which cancer it was so I blurted out the first “L” that popped into my head “I have leukemia.” Their jaws hit the table and Donna yelled “No, not leukemia, lymphoma is what you have. A low grade lymphoma.” OK, OK, don’t soil your panties. It’s lymphoma. It’s nothing. They all assured me that it wasn’t nothing (they were more worried about it than I was {the switchboard again} Just what I wanted to avoid) Later, as I got in bed Donna assured me that no one else knew as she hopped on the big roller coaster at the Louie Land Fun Park for an all night ride.

And so it began. First day of rad treatment. I have no idea what’s coming. All I know is that for the next month I have to be here each afternoon at 2:45. I show up early. It’s a large white building with “Cancer Care Center” emblazoned across the front and a herd of bronze deer statuary surrounding the front door. I scamper past the deer and the automatic doors swing wide, inviting me into the belly of the beast. I check in at reception: Lou Pecci, 2:45 appointment I say. She asks my birthday which I tell her. She nods (seems I got it right) and tells me to take a seat as my arrival is logged into the computer. The surroundings are pleasant. There are boxes with free knit caps, gloves and slippers for us Club Cancer Campers (CCC) as well as coffee, tea, and bottled water (what was lacking was a bar. I’d bet with what they’d rake in on booze sales they can close the rest of the hospital) and other snacking accouterments scattered hither and fro. My name is called “Mr. Pecci, they’re ready for you. Go right in.” Another automatic door. Stand behind the line on the floor and hit the wall button; this one’s operation is less than smooth, it would open 4 inches then fall shut again. Same thing again next several times I hit the button. Shit, I just opened it like a normal door and went in. Two nurses were sitting at a station on the other side of the door and I say to them “That door’s a piece of shit. I got a screw gun out in my truck and I could have it off for you in five minutes.” “Oh could you? We hate that door.” Relax sister, I knew what they really wanted was to see me bend down so they could check out my plumber’s crack. OK, one nurse, an older woman, so I figured she could control herself around a hunk of beefcake like me, takes me into the exam room and does the height, weight, temp and blood pressure routine. “Your BPs a little high.” How’d I know that was coming? I ask what’s considered normal and she replies it used to 120 over 80 but they lowered it to a new normal: 115 over 70. I inquirer if perhaps this is a thinly veiled effort by the altruistic and ethically pure drug companies to sell more high blood pressure pills? With a nod and a wink she said no. How could I ask such a question? It’s a racket I said and added that I’d bet her if she took that automatic blood pressure reading machine down to the morgue and wrapped the cuff around the arm of a corpse three days dead she’d get a high BP reading.

She then showed me the men’s changing room. Instruction followed. So I grab a hospital gown (a fetching powder blue with a small dark blue and white scattered boomerang pattern) from a cabinet jammed with them, walk into an alcove, pull the curtain and take off my pants and undies (later, after a week or so of going through the routine, I started looking forward to this. I found removing ones pants and underwear during the mid-afternoon was quite refreshing; kind of airs things out.) I slip on the gown, put my sneakers back on (checking myself out in the mirror I can say I’m one of the few males on Earth who looks hot in a hospital gown) and proceed to a locker where I plop down my stuff, turn the key and hang it around my neck. I exit the room through another door into a small waiting room and take a seat. The cool vinyl feels great on my bare ass. Now I’m an energetic non-energetic guy, nervous energy abounds in me. I’m sitting in my seat and I’m tapping my feet, drumming my fingers, humming and whistling songs in my head along to my tapping (all this stuff drives my wife batty. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s as normal as breathing to me.) Hospital staff walking along the hallway are poking their heads in to see what the rumpus is and to issue reprimands but upon seeing I’m a Cancer Clubber they nod, smile and wander off. (I call this playing my Cancer Card. I’d been working it to death at home. Donna would ask me to do something and I’d say “I’d love to honey but I can’t; I have cancer.” or ” My cancer hurts today so I can’t do that, sorry” or “Honey, the dog pooped in the foyer. I would have picked it up but, you know, I have cancer.” Also, that if she wanted to go to Seattle (which she does, all because of an old song called “In Seattle” by Bobby Sherman, A teen idol who used to make her moist as a kid. Yeah, I know, it’s goofy) to call the Make a Wish Foundation, use my name and book the trip; and hey, don’t I rate a handicap parking pass with cancer? Of course the “Cry Wolf” principle shot this strategy of mine to pieces after a month or so.) On the wall of this tiny waiting room is a rack overflowing with magazines: Cancer Today, Today’s Cancer, Cancer Journal, Journal of Cancer, You and Cancer, Cancer and You. It was an endless selection. All are packed with ads for lifesaving drugs that may kill you while they’re saving your life. Cancer is big bucks baby! You don’t realize how big till you get the damn stuff. You take notice for the first time of the multitude of cancer ads on the radio; all the different hospitals vying to treat what ails you: “They suck, use us!” “Our doctors went to medical school; they didn’t just get off the boat like theirs.” I’m fairly certain that all the cancer research is aimed at finding treatments, not cures. A cure would break the cancer rice bowl and no one likes their rice bowl broken. There’s gold in them thar lumps!

Two ladies walk in and say “hi”, then introduce themselves as my technicians. They take me back to the treatment room, the two flaps of my gown dancing as I walk, my sublime ass enjoying the breezes. We turn the corner and there, sitting in the middle of the room is one monster of a machine. It had a melty, decayed, streamlined Art Deco look to it. I walked around it twice it was that cool. I was impressed, which rarely happens here on Earth. What’s this called? A linear accelerator. Cool. What’s..I was interrupted and reminded that I was here for a reason and can we get on with it. Sure, sorry girls. I am Play-doh, do what you want with me. What they wanted to do was make a mold (OK, here comes the resurrected Plaster Casters baby!) I resisted chubbing up to avoid poking a ceiling tile out of the drop ceiling. They walked me into a different room that had a large table in it, the top canaled with deep straight intersecting lines, it looked like a giant waffle iron. Onto this table I was laid, face up. Next the girls (we’ll call them Fiddle and Faddle. Not their real names) went to the counter and picked up what looked like a large (at least 3 foot square) Glad sandwich bag with a built-in nozzle at one end, like one of those big bags you put clothes in, hook your vacuum hose to and suck the air out of. I’m watching them wondering what the hell the bag was for, I mean Lumpy isn’t that big, then they’re mixing chemicals together in a beaker, they bring the bag and beaker over to the table and tell me to lift my butt off the table which when I did they slid the bag under me, then I was told me to put my shapely butt back down. How the hell are they making a mold of lumpy here? Lumpy’s on top girls, not behind. Next, they pump the chemicals into the bag, but before they did they added a drop of something to the mixture. As the fluid entered the bag it was warm and getting warmer. Fiddle and Faddle now started pulling foot long hard plastic boards from under the table and slotting them into the grooves in the waffle iron table. They’d fold up an edge of the bag against me then slot in a board so the warm bag was held in place to my skin. They did this from about the level of my nipples to mid-thigh. OK, now I get it, they’re making a mold of my ass. Wow, these babies are going to sell like hotcakes in the gift shop! What woman wouldn’t want a mold of my aqueous posterior with its sensuous curves and provocative smooth-as-alabaster texture? I can’t think of one. Now came the interesting part. They had to get the the mold to conform to my naughty bits area. They said they’d have to pull up my gown to do this right. I told them to go for it because I am neither modest nor shy. They proceeded, but to remove the temptation (I tell myself), they draped a towel over my growing-hotter-by-the-second (from the chems in the bag) twig and berries. At this point in the process the plastic boards can’t be used in the slots as they have to be placed in a “V” between my heavily muscled legs, so in their stead the girls used 25 lbs steel weights, they looked like a small cut off section of railroad track. So two boards form the “V” and the weight is wedged up against them, the pressure with which they pushed those boards up against my apple sack (probably with the same pounds per square inch used by a industrial log splitter) made me flinch and I asked them to ease back some, which they did. I was now told not to move as the mold was forming. I saw that the chemicals they’d injected were producing a foam which filled the bag, conforming it to my cute little body and the foam was hardening with swift rapidity. OK, now I got it! They kept saying mold but what they meant was a cradle. Now it makes sense. After another 20 minutes they released me from my mold and sent me out saying that now the doctor and the cancer engineers had to figure out an attack plan to be used on that monster bug zapper machine in the next room. My first irradiation would be in two days. On the way out the nurses said to make sure I bring my screw gun the next time to get rid of that pain in the ass automatic door. “Hey, I’d love to ladies, but you know, I have….”
Oooh, the Cancer Card, well played Louie.

And so it goes…two days later I’m back among the bronze deer herd and walking into my first encounter with the linear accelerator. I check in and sit, when I’m called I go change and go cool my bare buns on the Group Cancer bench. Fiddle pokes her head in and beckons. I follow her into the treatment room. Faddle awaits within and in her hand is the mold they made the other day. As we passed into the room I noticed the door. How did I miss this sucker last time? It was massive; at least 10 foot square and easily a foot thick. I rapped it lightly while looking at Fiddle “Lead I assume?” Oh yeah, she retorts. Wow, some door. OK, let’s get rolling here. Before me looms the linear accelerator. I took a picture of it with my phone. At first I was thinking this is something out of a Star Wars movie, but no, Star Wars is cheesy. This baby wasn’t cheesy. Then it hit, this looked like it was out of the Alien movie, off the alien ship. It looked like ancient technology lost for a millennium and recently recovered. Now they put me on the table in front of the machine. The table had a grid pattern etched in it’s surface, like the graph paper from school used for those X-Y axis geometry things. I sure hope they don’t ask me to chart a rhombus. I notice on the mold (or cradle) that lines had been drawn, to line up on the table grid I assumed. I raised my ass off the table and the mold was slipped under me, there was a towel laid loosely inside the mold. I settled in. Pretty good fit I must say. Now they roll the table and me under the head of the accelerator. From my point of view, looking up, it looks like I’ve been rolled under a giant bathroom faucet spout, where the water would come out of the spout is where the x-rays would exit the machine and light me up like a bruised fruit nuclear sunset. In the ceiling, above the machine, is mounted a red laser. The laser light shoots down into the top of the accelerator and comes out the spout. Instantly there’s a red laser light cross projected on my torso. Now they say they’re going to give me five tattoos. Cool! I suggest reclining nudes under a palm tree sipping champagne under a full moon. That gets the big nix, too elaborate. What they had in mind were five dots, in any color I wanted, as long as it was black. (Tech humor I suppose) However, first they had to get me into position. So they line up the mold according to the battle plans the doc and the engineers drew up. The table is locked in position and minute adjustments made with a handheld remote. So the table is jittering side to side and front to back till I’m close to were they want me. Next they pull up my gown and after several “wows” drape a diaper over my junk with much sorrow. Following the laser light cross they use the towel under me inside the mold to roll me (“I need a 1/4 inch right. OK, perfect) for fine tuning. When they were happy with my position Fiddle took out a tat stick and dotted me up following the laser lines: one on my thigh, one on Lumpy, one on my flowing rock hard six-pack abs and one each on the hip bone points. She then started twisting my legs to get better positioning. I have to remind her several times that those legs are connected at the top and can’t be bent too far out of true without pain. Now its time to prep my package for the gamma rays that will be impacting millimeters away. This is accomplish in a high tech scientific fashion: with a piece of Styrofoam and masking tape. They moved my berries by inserting the Styrofoam between said berries and Lumpy and shoved left (a more forceful reminder to Faddle by me, in a slightly higher octave, that yes, same as my legs, the berries were also connected at the top and would not travel far without causing undue pain. Please tread lightly in this zone) Once the berries were dressed left, two long pieces of masking tape were taped to the Styrofoam (as well as inadvertently to my hairy thigh, which I only found out later when they ripped the tape off) then to the table to keep things in place. It turned out that two pieces of tape were not nearly enough to make my junk stay put, they had to run out for more tape. Finally, a 3/4 inch thick piece of rubbery clear plastic was laid over Lumpy and surrounding environs as an extra layer of “skin” to cut down on skin irritation. The girls now scurried from the room and that heavy lead Superman-proof door oh so slowly closed without a sound…

Alone I am, sealed in a lead-lined room. They must have satellite radio piped in, 70s easy listening, as I’m hearing Gilbert O’Sullivan singing “alone again, naturally.” Very fitting at the moment. Now starts the strange sounds of machinery coming to life. Above me is the faucet spout head of the giant. A winding noise emerges followed by movement that at first I can only see peripherally. From my left and right unfold what look like solar panels on a space craft. They fold out parallel to me on the table and at the end of their travel two square heads open out and lock in position. Then the entire machine starts to slowly rotate around me. This is so cool. The table I’m on is the center of the axis and the whole frigging machine is capable of revolving 360 degrees around me. Wow. So now the arm on my right has rotated up above my head (the business end of this pea shooter is glaring at from my left) and the ceiling laser flares on into the top of whatever the hell this thing is and the red cross appears on my torso again. Buzzing, whirling and the sound of electricity running through heavy conduit grows louder then abruptly stops. I later found out this puppy is a form of Cat scan that takes a peek before they unleash the x-rays. More clicks and buzzing follows as the main gun of this baby stops almost directly over Lumpy; it’s about ten degrees off center I’d say. It’s quiet now. I can hear the air conditioning flowing through the ducts in the ceiling. Then I see, by the door, mounted on the ceiling, a white light come on. The other half of the light fixture has a red lens, my little brain puts it together: the white light is the Get Ready, Get Set and the red light is GO! And that’s what happened. The white light flashed three times and from a nearby closet I hear the building thrum of very heavy electricity about to be uncorked and just as the red light comes on a harsh buzzing, very loud. This is it Louie. I count the seconds off…33, 34, 35..then quiet. They say you can’t feel a thing when it’s irradiating you but your mind imagines you can: Is that skin burning? Are my balls tingling? They got this behemoth in the right position? It freaks you out at first. So is it done? That it? No, not yet Louie. The x-ray head rotates over me to my right and keeps going till it is out of sight. The thrum starts again and the red light comes on. They’re shooting x-rays through the table, through my stately ass and into Lumpy from below; a 25 second burst this time. The machine rights itself back into the upright position and I see the door start to slowly swing open.

The ladies return and lower the table to let me off. They peel off the fake skin, then rip the tape off, which took a good bit of groin hair with it as well. I yelped in as manly a voice as I could muster, which wasn’t very manly. Faddle apologized and recommended that perhaps some manscaping may alleviate future recurrences (Donna gladly handled this chore for me. She had a marvelous time) They slowly removed the towel covering my junk and reluctantly pulled down my gown and helped me off the table. I said that wasn’t too bad as I ran my eye over the machinery. How much do these things cost? Well this one was 10 years old and cost two million dollars back then (2 million bucks and not even a cup holder!) the new ones run five mill now. I told them I’d cut them a check for a new one on the way out after I got dressed. So that’s basically how it went for a time. Every Wednesday I’d see the nurse to get weighed, I didn’t lose a stinking ounce. They were very pleased. Then I’d see the onkey rad doctor and he’d check Lumpy out. After 10 days treatment old Lumpy started melting away till at the end he was invisible. I asked the doc where the hell he went? Did I piss him out, what? He said once the cancer cells died that were reabsorbed by one of my systems, immune system I think. Kooky stuff but, good job body o’ mine! So I kept going back for treatment every day. I did notice one thing; each radiation session the number of lady rad techs grew. Each one saying they’d like to be the one to shift my junk, a few fights broke out but no one was seriously hurt. We were in a hospital so what did it matter anyway? Pretty soon there was 20, 30 of them in the room at once. A carnival atmosphere developed and they had t-shirts made up with “I handled Lou’s Junk” across the front. It literally became a national pastime among the nurses and techs to shift my stuff left. Management had to step in as no one else was receiving treatment on the eastern seaboard.

AFTERGLOW/AFTERMATH…

And so it went for 23 visits. I learned a few things, like cancer greetings. When I’d meet Cancer Clubbers going in or coming out of the changing room, having been on the accelerator before me, at first I’d say “hi” and “How you doing?” I learned to cut the “How you doing?” out because they’d tell you exactly how they were doing and it made me feel lousy because they were having such a hard time with this fucking shitty disease while my experience was basically a can of corn. I switched to “You’re looking good.” and gave them a hug. I did have a complication, albeit a small one. It was a radiation fissure. This was caused by the radiation in the skin right where my leg joins my torso. No air could get in there to dry the area out so a fissure formed and from it wafted an aroma most commonly connected with un-refrigerated cheeses from southern Europe. The solution to this was, I was told by my nurse, to go home each day and do “froggy legs.” Now froggy legs is a medical procedure in which one removes their pants and undies, sits on the couch with legs akimbo to let air dry out the fissure. The first time I did froggy legs and Donna came home to find me on the couch fanning my crotch with a magazine (my own little touch) she was a tad taken aback but once I explained that this was basically a “prescription” she suggested I use a hair dryer set on cool instead of a magazine. Good idea. I’d dry out the fissure each day and apply an ointment supplied by the nurse, in a few days I was good to go. However, Donna still insists I do froggy legs for her as she derives such pleasure from it (me too.)

My last treatment day came. I did the dance and had to see the doc one last time. I was sitting in the exam room playing with a take apart skull model when a hospital worker/social worker comes in pushing a cart packed with jewelry. What’s this stuff? Well, it’s Operation Bling is what it is. Each of us Club Cancer members gets, upon completion of treatment, to chose a hunk of jewelry. I don’t know, some rich broad set it up. I didn’t want anything. What do I need with another watch? I already have one. The lady said I should take something so I told her to pick something for me and she handed me a necklace which I gave to Donna. After she rolled away another social worker came in and asked if I wanted a massage. Seems as a Cancer Clubber I’m entitled to free massages for life from a pretty cute massage girl (who I could see was dying to get her hands on me) certified in cancer massage techniques. I said no. I’ve never had a massage in my life and I’m not starting that crap now. I just wanted out of there. The doc arrived and said everything looked fine and we’d do a test or two in a few weeks and that’s it with him. However, the other onkey doctor says six times a year, for the next two years I have to get a IV drip of some drug that sounds like Robitussin but is not Robitussin, it’s some preventative to stop the shit from coming back. OK, whatever you want. Sounds like a plan to me. Well, it is time to go home. I say goodbye to everyone; they were really a great crew and as I was walking out the door the lady at the reception desk called out to me “Don’t forget to ring the Cancer Bell!” “What’s the Cancer Bell?” “It’s a big bell right outside the door. You’re supposed to ring it when your cured.” I never saw a bell out there. What’s she talking about? I went out and looked and son of a bitch, there is a bell. A great big bastard too, like off an old sailing ship. It was mounted on a stand like a church bell. I stood before the bell shaking my head saying to myself “This is pretty corny. I’m not ringing this thing” and went to walk away, but I turned, went back and gave that bell such a push and it rang so loud and clear. I actually said “Fuck you cancer, that’s from me.” Then I pushed that bell even harder the second time and said “And fuck You again cancer, that’s for all those poor souls still in that building.” The bell was still ringing when I pulled out of the parking lot.

Well Welcome to the Club… Part 1

All my life I have never been a joiner. I have always been comfortable in my own company. I would not go so far as to say I am antisocial; perhaps selectively social would be a better term… perhaps. The seed of this malady goes way back, back to the playpen at least. At family functions, I was later told, my baby boomer toddler cousins and I would be placed in a communal playpen, or cattle pen to be more accurate, while the parents happily passed around the booze. This was before the term “child abandonment” was coined. I would stake out my own playpen corner and woe be to any cousin who purposely or inadvertently wandered into my domain. To this day some still carry the scars of my bite marks about their person. Looking back, this may have been a good thing in that it got all my aggressions out at a very early age; I have not been a violent creature since. Later in school, once enough sense had been imparted to this gooey, gristly combination of Spam and other meat byproducts I employ as a brain, and I could make sense of these symbols and runes we call letters, now spewing from this plastic keyboard, and then, realizing that groupings of these symbols formed words and words strung together begat …books! From that point I was hooked. I devoured books and they me. I haunted the school and town libraries. The Earth and it’s moon could spill from their orbits and spin off into the sun for all I cared if I had a good book to read. The written word became the steel bars of my hermitage.

By the time grade school rolled around those steels bars gradually started to spread  when the forces applied by peer pressure came to bear (this force no longer affects me as I am peerless). I signed up for pee-wee football, little league baseball and the Boy Scouts. If memory serves, each engagement with each vaunted and venerable organization lasted no more than two weeks. Then, as now, I could not abide “adult supervision.” For some reason I also started going to the PAL (Police Athletic League) House. This was in East Hanover,NJ, my hometown. It was nothing but a small house donated by someone (most likely because it had been condemned) to the town and where each Wednesday the male youth of the area gathered together in the spirit of competition and good fellowship, which was pure banana oil (i.e. bullshit) My Uncle Bill was the police chief in town (which came in handy later when I hit driving age) so maybe that had something to do with my attendance. I can’t remember what the hell we all did there in that tiny house but one reason I returned weekly was the discovery that the candy vending machine in the bumper pool room would vomit its entire weekly intake of nickels, dimes and quarters when properly struck. This fact I discovered when I was thrown into said vending machine (in the spirit of good fellowship, of course) in a bout of what, back then, would be labeled “roughhousing” but today would be listed as “felonious assault with malicious intent.”  Upon regaining consciousness I found myself alone in the room, the marauders having moved on to greener pastures, perhaps to join in the Sack of Rome, perhaps just to go outside and throw rocks at streetlights, whatever, but on getting up I saw that the tray where the candy bars dispensed was layered with US issue coinage, which I gathered, (perhaps this was my first taste of larceny) putting half in my pocket and pumping the rest back into the machine to assuage my fondness for Clark Bars. This routine continued until I discovered that my new and very first girlfriend’s house was just down the street from the PAL. The allure of touching something soft far outweighed the jingle of hard coins in pocket and the crumbly sweetness of Clark Bars, so, in future, I would tell all concerned that I was going to PAL, which I would for 3 minutes or so till I could sneak away unobserved and ride my bike (with banana seat and sissy bar; it was the 70s man) down the road to a firm yet soft Nirvana.

If you’ve managed to read this far without slipping into a coma, all the above verbiage is basically to lay the foundation to show that little Louie was, at an early age, a loner; it’s my nature. I rarely joined anything and if I did it didn’t last long. Although I did, in high school, join the lacrosse team. This was not for any particular love of the game, but to hang out with my drinking buddies, with whom the team was infested. So up to now, at 57 years of age, I have very successfully insulated myself from the generally annoying hubbub of humanity, but now, unknowingly, I have gotten downright chummy and joined a club (I cannot get the jokes attributed to Groucho Marx concerning clubs out of my mind: “I’d like to join a club and hit you over the head with it” and “I’d never join a club that would have me for a member.”) A club I had no intention of joining but joined notwithstanding. A club with no prestige connected to it whatsoever, so you won’t see the Vanderbilts, Astors, Upjohns or Claypools tripping over each other racing from the yacht club dining room to join. Upon joining this club, membership entitled me to: a not all expenses paid, all inclusive, exclusive first class trip to Club Cancer.

The GENESIS: My genitalia is colossal; medically bordering on gigantism . So one day, back in early August, finishing up a brief six hour sex session, my wife, untangling herself from down below, says “What’s this?” Well, what “this” was was, upon quick bedside examination, a bump; a bump on my right leg, adjacent to what my wife calls my POP (Pillar of Pleasure) and it continued running south and back to the bottom of my apple sack. I say “Shit, it’s another hernia!” (I had, two years ago, a hernia operation. See: “Nebraska, August, 1905” further back in these posts) and let it go at that. There was no pain connected with the bump, just like my hernia, and I had let the previous one go for ten years before having it fixed. After about another two weeks going by Donna asks if the bump is getting bigger. I tell her that she’s in that area much more often than myself and did she think it was expanding; she thought it was. A self exam at a mirror, getting my first good look at it, I’d say it was looking like an under-inflated Tom Brady/New England Patriot game approved football but the size of a large kiwi, or perhaps a small avocado; and it was hard to the touch, not pliable like the hernia. So Donna starts getting on my ass about making an appointment with the hernia doctor and not letting this one go for years like I did the last. OK, so an appointment is made for the following week, which I canceled the day before because I couldn’t bare the thought of doing all that frigging medical paperwork. Until the aforementioned hernia operation I basically had not been in a hospital since birth and really had no medical records. Normally, I don’t get sick and on the rare occasions I do, two days of rest puts me right. After yelling at me, Donna rescheduled and made sure she would be there to handle all the nonsense I cannot deal with.

OK, We’re sitting in the waiting room as Donna sifts through the reams of medical and insurance paperwork; running six pens dry of ink in the process. Unbelievably, as soon as my butt touched the chair my name was called and in we went, Donna pulling along the cart of unfinished paperwork which she completes as we cool our heels in what is cunningly called the “examination room” (which must be Latin for a small cube used for human warehousing) Waiting is not my forte so I’m playing with the pharmaceutical company supplied medical models of spines, knees and bowels, going through the drawers and cabinets as Donna yells at me (she does that a lot) not to but I’m finding unlocked drawers packed with drug samples (nothing good, damn it), hypodermic needles, and nasty looking shrink wrapped stainless steel tools of the trade used for God knows what. The nurse arrives and does her thing: height, weight, temp, and blood pressure (“You’re BPs high.” “It’s always high. It takes a lot of pressure to pump blood through these densely layered tectonic plates of muscle.”) As usual, the young nurse is making goo-goo eyes at me, sizing me up like a starving 8 year-old eyeing up a Happy Meal. This is why Donna insists on accompanying me; she has the unenviable task of trying to keep women away from me. Yeah, good luck with that. Finally my Italian-Ethiopian doctor arrives, a nice guy and he’s got his jaw flapping saying he had double meshed my hernia and his hernia work never fails. Hey, this guy sliced open my guts and put my bowels back where they belonged and I told him I wasn’t making light of his work; but couldn’t this be a new one that kind of slipped out the side and into my leg? My vast medical experience said this was a possibility. His vaster medical experience said no; but lets have a look. So I drop the laundry as he puts on the latex gloves with a snap, takes a gander and says “Oh my!”. OK, what’s “Oh my!” mean? I’ve heard it before from girls when I’ve dropped my pants but it doesn’t quite have the same pleasing ring to it when a doctor says it. He’s got me laying on the table, he’s got his stethoscope out and he’s listening to my lump. No, no gurgling. My lump won’t gurgle, huh, OK, a non-gurgling lump. Can’t be a freedom seeking wayward hunk of bowel then can it? My former hernia gurgled Italian arias in stereo. He says we need to have a CAT scan and then he used a word of Doctorspeak I’d only previously heard uttered on TV doctor shows: “stat” which I learned means “right fucking now.” Well I’m not used to doing anything “right fucking now”, continents drift faster than I move and doctor boy here wanted this done NOW. They ran me down to radiology but it was too late in the day to cat me because you have to drink an Elmer’s Glue type viscous fluid first. So a “stat” appointment was made for the next morning and Louie dutifully drank his cherry flavored glue crap (if ever anything needed vodka for taste enhancement, this is the stuff) and arrived at the appointed time to find a cute little rad tech waiting for me. Now this CAT scan machine she’s going to put me on kind of looks like a deli meat slicer that runs through a doughnut standing on its side. The table (the meat slicer) slides in and out of the doughnut hole while some sort of electronic sorcery inside the doughnut scans my cute little body. The tech tells me the procedure (I was disappointed to learn I didn’t have to take off my pants, although I did have to adhere a small plastic nipple to my lump) and I tell her to do whatever she wants; I’m malleable and won’t squawk about a thing. On the table I go, the meat slicer starts its movements through the doughnut, which is whizzing, banging and whirling inside its carcass like a Tesla coil and its over in 10 minutes, I even got to keep the little plastic nipple. Seemed to me like an awful lot of effort to see if I’m as good looking on the inside as I am on the outside, which I am, as the results confirmed…. except for one thing.

Now the doctor would get the results the next day and we’d meet up with him to have a look at my lump thing. So we’re in his office and he pulls up the video on his computer, its a black & white cross-section montage that starts at my knees and slowly works it way up my legs, like you’re looking through my body in little shaved cross sections from my feet on up; we’re seeing my knee caps, hey, there’s my thigh bone, no wait, that’s my genitals, the old twig and berries (it takes awhile to get through this vast acreage) and then there it is; it looks like a lemon growing right where my leg joins the torso. The doc moves his mouse around and clicks on it, and we’re seeing it in all its glory from all different angles. It’s like an iceberg, 90% of it’s bulk is below the surface and brother it ain’t no hernia. Huh, OK my Italian-Ethiopian doctor type friend, what now? He says to hang out a minute, he’d be right back, he’s going down the hall of the medical building to get his friend, Don Cology. I’m thinking to myself “Who the hell is Don Cology?” then I realize he said Doctor of Oncology, not Don Cology. I am a boob and this is getting curiouser and curiouser by the minute. Now, instead of one doctor I have two, a surgeon and a surgical oncologist. The new guy comes in and checks out my protuberance and says we need a biopsy and added his own little “stat” to the proceedings. OK, do what you want, I’m not going anywhere. They send Donna from the room and a surgical nurse comes in, she starts going through the drawers and cabinets I had poked around in earlier, pulling out those aforementioned shrink wrapped stainless steel implements of destruction which would soon be pointed in the general direction of my fine self. OK, one thing you have to know about me is I am not in the least the nervous kind. I’m a “What, me worry?” person. I never saw the point of worrying and as the old song says “it never was worthwhile.” I don’t know why I’m like that. I see my brain as one of those old fashion telephone “plug and port” switchboards and the plug labelled “worry” never managed to reached its mating port labelled “worry”. So when the scalpels were unsheathed from their clear plastic prisons, then orderly laid out on a steel tray and the glinting white-blue light reflected off their blades from the overhead florescent ceiling lights and into my eyes, I couldn’t work up a stitch of concern. Lets just get this done. I have other things to do, like take a nap. So lying on my back on the table with my jeans and BVDs scrunched around my knees, Don Cology saunters over to me with what looks like an old supermarket price gun in his hand, the gun has a square shaped needle sticking out the business end. He explains he’s going to cut my lump open, after spraying the area with a freezing local anesthetic, stick his little price gun in and snip out a few small hunks of “Lumpy” (my pet name for my lump) to send off for analysis. I suggest he just snip the whole fucking thing out and toss it in the trash. He recommended not to as Lumpy may be entwined around things I may not want snipped out. OK, do what you want, you’re the doctor. Never mind that I attended seven colleges and universities, you know best.

(Time out. The Army-Navy game is on. GO NAVY!! Envision time passing here, perhaps a clock with the hands moving rapidly around the face.)

 

The doctors glove up, I’m on the table, groin alfresco. My package, large and heavy, is in their way, the nurse reluctantly drapes a beach towel over my junk with a regretful sigh, then with a large pry bar and much effort she shifts my stuff to the left. Next I feel a cold spray and the entity known as Lumpy recedes into numbness. Don Cology has his back to me, either because that’s the best angle for him to pursue his aims or he doesn’t want me to be able to see what the hell he’s doing. “This may hurt” he says. “Go for it” I replied. Over the years I have put at least a dozen nails or screws through my hands and inflicted hundreds of cuts about my body with razor knives so I’m not concerned. From my point of view I can only see the back of Don’s snowy white lab coat and then I felt it, not pain, but pressure; the pressure of the knife making the incision, then the dabbing of cloth, soaking up blood I guess. I can feel the blood running down my leg and pooling, once it has run past the numbed area. Feels wet, feels weird. Next I feel, again not pain, but (I’m imagining this is whats happening since my view is blocked) the pressure of a, let’s say a digging action, like he’s spreading the hairy, fibrous husk of a coconut with a screwdriver, followed by two sharp “click, click”s, which I assume is the square needled price gun auguring out core samples to be sent to some lucky bastard with a microscope in a lab somewhere. The nurse takes the samples over to the counter and labels them then she comes back and applies pressure to the wound and the doctor says “You’re a strong man. Not a sound. You didn’t move a muscle. I wish all my patients were like you.” then he leaves. As I shortly did, after the nurse taped me up. I could see the sorrow on her face as I pulled my pants back on and left. This all occurred on a Monday, Don Cology said we’d have the results by Friday. We went back Friday, waited in the big waiting room then moved to the secondary waiting room where I played with the spine and bowel models until my Italian-Ethiopian friend came in and informed us the results weren’t in yet but they’d probably have them the following Friday which was Labor Day Weekend and the office would be closed so an appointment was made for the following Wednesday. OK, more waiting. I’m fine with it (remember the switchboard) but Donna’s getting nervous. Out in the parking lot I tell her “It is what it is. They don’t even know what the hell it is yet so stop worrying.”  Which I believe she took to heart because when we got home she made herself some hot chocolate and went on the computer checking out the Over 50 singles dating sites, I’d occasionally hear her say “Oooh, he’s cute!” or she’d whistle and cry “Wow, nice ass!”

Labor Day came and went and finally that Wednesday we gathered in the exam room once again. We’re waiting, Donna has forbid my playing with the spine and bowel models and she’s saying Lumpy would turn out to be nothing and they would just cut it out and that’d be that. Shortly the doctor enters, file in hand, I ask how his Labor Day was and all that jazz. He say fine and sits down. I can tell by his look that he’s not bearing good news, and he wasn’t,  “It’s lymphoma” he says and it can’t be removed surgically. I notice Donna take out her iPhone and hop on those singles sites again as she gives a feisty mini fist pump. So I ask him if I’m a dead man walking or what and he says no, its very treatable. OK, cool, what’s next pal? In my head I’m thinking it seems I’m falling head first and balls out into the dark maw of the cancer/industrial complex where who knows what lurks in the shadows within. So fasten your seat belt Louie, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. It’s funny, thinking back, he never said the word cancer once, it was always the “mass” and once he let slip “tumor” but never cancer. The doctor kept looking at me with a sorrowful expression on his face and he kept saying he was sorry. After about the third “I’m sorry” I said if he didn’t cut it out with the looks and the “I’m sorry”s I was going to hit him and that I wasn’t dead yet so stop it. I said this with a smile on my lips but I meant it and he realized that, he almost let another sorry slip out but caught himself. So it was decided I’d go see another oncology (henceforth known as “onkey”) doctor at the nearby hospital. As we were leaving I asked if he was now out of the loop and he said yes, unless that is, it’s decided I need a chemo port inserted in my chest. Great, just what I want. Haven’t I dumped enough chemicals into my own body on my on volition over the years? I now need another orifice to do it? Yeah, Louie, buckle up, a bumpy ride indeed.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR: Christ! Another frigging doctor! Probably not the last one either. I’m starting to feel like I’m being swung by the heels and my head bludgeoned against a tree limb at the height of each arc. The appointment with the new onkey was in a week. Up to and including this point I had felt not a single symptom from my pal Lumpy. I felt perfectly fine. I was eating well (too well in fact. Since this whole episode began I was thinking, subconsciously anyway I believe, that I was soon going to be looking like a cadaver so I’d best eat now when I can with a fork rather than later when I had to through a tube.) I’d been working through the entire thing, there was no pain whatsoever and the only time I noticed the damn thing was sometimes at work when I’d climb a ladder or have to squat for any period of time; then it would feel like I had about ten to a dozen testicles packed in down there all vying for the very limited real estate a pair of jeans affords. So the day arrives to go see the new sawbones, which we do. Hellos, handshakes and “how do you do”s are exchanged and we sit down to business. The doctor bestows Lumpy with a name, a proper fancy name for a hunk of tissue that’s run a muck: non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (or as I later learned: NHL to us Club Cancer members. We even have our own cancer ribbon, it’s green) and after him yapping for awhile (when doctors speak my brain hangs up an “Out to Lunch” sign and heads for the cafeteria) I hold up a finger to get his attention and ask what’s the story? Should I start picking out a coffin or what? This startled him a bit, I don’t think its a question he gets hit over the head with often and he quickly said no, no, no, we’re going to treat this  with radiation, not chemo. It’s very treatable. No need for coffins. Hey, that’s cool with me. I didn’t want that poison pumped into me. He says we need to do a few things first: he wants a blood sample and sends me across the hall to get one, where I start my moaning and groaning about the vampires being let loose on me with tubes and vials. Donna remained in the doc’s office where my squeamish 6 year-old little girl antics could be easily heard and the doctor told her “Jeeze, he’s a funny guy!” I think I use humor as a defense mechanism against creatures coming at me with pointy steel implements but I was getting better at it, no more swooning or passing out. So the blood was gotten and Step Two loomed: a PET scan. I had a very important drinking weekend coming up, the Dolan Annual, which has been running for 40 consecutive years since high school (1976) and I didn’t want to have any stupid cancer crap getting in the way of that so the PET scan would have to wait till I got back.

I’m back. Nothing like an alcohol infused self-embalming weekend at the Annual to recharge the batteries. I had a blast as always and Lumpy did as well. Now I had to focus my ever diminishing attention span to this Pet scan thing. I was first up for the day, 8 AM, thankfully I didn’t have to drink the Elmer’s Glue crap for this one like the Cat scan but my marching orders said no food or coffee in the morning, just water. This is no biggie for me as I don’t eat breakfast and coffee I can take or leave. I check in the hospital and settle down with a book but am called almost instantaneously as I read the first sentence of the dog eared page. Either these folks know what an impatient bastard I am or they just want to get me the hell off the premises without delay. I enter the room and the nurse, barely able to keep her hands to herself, walks me back to where the action is. She’s explaining whats going happen and I hold up my hand to stop her gabbing and tell her it sounds like a plan to me and do whatever. She said she wished all her patients were like me, they tend to be crabby.  Well I’m not crabby. Let’s get going here. So here’s what went down. The nurse brings me around back and hands me off to the tech guy. He leads me to a broom closet with an upholstered recliner in it and a flat screen TV on the wall above the door. This is really a closet. The chair barely fits in. He tells me to take a seat and then pricks my finger for a drop of blood to determine if I have enough sugar in my blood to do the dance or if he needed to drip IV some sugar into me. Seems I was sweet enough and he got right to work putting a port tube in my arm. I always turn my head when they shove the needle home. I don’t know what it is because I’ve sliced myself open a lot and bled out like a pig on a slaughterhouse floor and that never bothered me. So why does this little pinch and prick cause so much consternation with me? I think it may be the collection of the blood that’s the key, not the quantity slathered around the room in interesting Salvador Dali spray patterns. Either way I’m a wuss. He leaves the room and comes back with a small heavy metal box which he opens and from it removes a small brass colored cylinder. He puts on gloves, opens the cylinder and pulls a vial from it that he then plugs into the port on my arm. A metallic coppery smell fills the room. I asked him about the smell or if I was imagining it? He replied no, it does have an odor but most folks don’t pick it up. Now what he had injected into my arm were radioactive isotopes and the plan was for me to sit in the recliner for I think it was 40 minutes or an hour till the isotopes infused my stout finely chiseled bronzed body, then they’d throw me in the scanner. The PET scan would show the cancer as black areas. The onkey wanted to see if the shit was anywhere else in me and want to “stage” it as well (turns out I was stage 2)  OK, I can sit in a recliner. I’m very good at it matter of fact. He said I could watch TV (I tried, but all that was on were those insipid morning shows like Kathy Lee & Micheal, which trigger my gag reflex and I didn’t want to spit up radioactive isotopes all over their nice recliner) or I could nap. I wanted to read but was informed that just holding a book causes black spots to appear on the scanner (something to do with the arm muscles) so the management put the kibosh on reading. So I napped.  The PET scan was pretty much just like the CAT scan except instead of a doughnut, the meat slicer is running you through a clothes dryer. The tech says a lot of folks get real claustrophobic on this baby but I couldn’t see how, it’s open on both ends. I don’t remember if I had to take off my pants for this one. It was a guy technician so I doubt it. If it was a girl I’m sure she’d have had me in my birthday suit if I needed to be or not. On leaving I was told to avoid airports or scheduling meetings with the president or other dignitaries as I would trip radioactivity sensors and Geiger counters for the next couple of hours.

Another week of waiting follows. I just go about my business as usual. Nightclubbing in NYC each evening till dawn, going to work, nightclubbing, underwear modeling, work; keeping the wife happy on the Pillar of Pleasure (Not easy. Donna thinks every time I climb into bed and turn out the light that it’s automatically playtime. My body becomes a fun park and ALL the rides are open. I had to take the wheels off the bed because it would end up in the living room each morning) You know, the usual run-of-the-mill everyday stuff.

{A strange interlude follows: I’d wake up in the morning and look at myself in the bathroom mirror as I brush my teeth and think “Jeeze, Lou, you got cancer! What the fuck! Never saw that coming, huh?” followed by “It is what it is and we’ll just see what lies at the end of this road” Then my fractured philosophy takes over. Let’s say Lumpy takes out his little cancer knife and cuts my throat. I’m dead. So where am I? The same place I was before I was born? Taking a numbered ticket and getting in line again? People who have had near death experiences report moving towards a bright light. What if death in this life is the birth canal to the next (no sillier than any other after-death theories I’ve heard, especially the religious ones) and that bright light you see are the lights of the delivery room as you plop out of a screaming woman’s bottom, only to receive a crack on the ass from a doctor to kick start the respiratory system? What, if any, part of me survives? Will The Voice in my head that is telling me right now, at this moment while I’m typing this, that I could really go for an ice cream sandwich; (let’s call the voice Ice Cream Sandwich Guy or “Icy G” for short) will he still be around after I cast off this mortal husk? And what is Icy G going to do? Who’s going to make him soup when he’s hungry? “What’s with all the fucking questions Lou? We gotta get to work.” “Sorry Icy G, let’s go. Did you make the coffee?” “No stupid, you did. I don’t have a body.”  Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men got nothing on me and Icy G baby. Strange days indeed Louie, most peculiar. Interlude ends here}

Finally the onkey doctor calls and says I’m cool on the Pet scan. Lumpy doesn’t seem to have any relatives living with him at Hotel Louie; but he wants to do one more thing: a bone marrow test. Huh, anyway you slice it, from any angle, “bone marrow test”, doesn’t sound pretty. I usually keep my bone marrow in my bones, very few of which I keep outside of my body. That means either a bone is coming out or he is going in. I’d find out the next day as we’d get the pleasure of sitting in front of yet another doctor’s desk. We’re talking with the doctor (my brain’s “Out to Lunch” sign comes out again) “OK” he says” were going to treat you with radiation. I’m going to send you to a radiation oncologist and he’ll decide how many treatments you need then you’ll come and see me; and oh yeah, let’s do the bone marrow.” “What, now?” I inquire in a shrill frightened small child’s voice. “Yeah, let’s get it done.” Shit, it looks like I’m not getting out of here without a tad less bone marrow than I walked in with. Alright, we go across the hall to a small exam room (Seems my whole world has become a series of small exam rooms) The nurse is waiting and tells me to drop my pants (what else is she going to say?) and to lie face down on the table. The doc comes in saying he’s gonna numb me up in the lower back, where the hip bone is closest to the skin, then he’ll dig (with a bloody bone auger I saw later when I got up) into the bone and suck out the marrow, then adds,as he turns away to grab the instruments of destruction from the counter top that perhaps he’d take some bone too, maybe not, but maybe. Sure pal, take what you want. I often offer people I’ve just recently met parts of my body, sure go ahead. Again with the cold spray, followed by pressure. I feel no pain but can feel exactly what he’s doing and ask if I really want to see what he’s using for tools as he digs into my body, “Probably not” he answers. I can feel the auger boring its way through the bones I haven’t let anyone fiddle with for 57 years. When he hits pay dirt he says he’s now going to suck out some marrow and it’s going to feel like he’s pulling a tooth, which is what it felt like, exactly like sucking soda through a straw. With the marrow removal phase complete, I can hear a sound (like fingernails on a chalkboard accompanied by a mouse nibbling on a heel of hard bread, it’s the metal tool scratching at my cute little hip bone, yikes!) and I can feel he’s really pushing down hard on my back; I actually felt a chip of bone detach. Then it was a case of mopping up the blood and sealing me up. I must have impressed him because he shook my hand and told me I was a very strong guy; never flinched or bitched. Shucks, doc, you’re making me blush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains of the Day… Christmas, Too Zerow Won Phour

I dislike Christmas enough on its own, but nothing compounds the joys of the Yuletide Season quite as nicely as when it is bracketed by two funerals, as it was this year when a pair of aged uncles, one on my side (Uncle Lou. Imagine, if you will, walking into a funeral parlor and seeing your name in white plastic letters up on the black velvet board, but there it was: “Louis Pecci, Chapel A”. Spooky shit. I took a picture and its now the wallpaper on my phone), the other on my wife’s (her Uncle Tony, a great guy), decided to drop off the twig days apart and thus the funerals were deftly scheduled: one before X-mas and one just after. So to add to the woe of what I call “The Longest Day” (X-mas itself) I also had to do, in quick succession, the FPP (Funeral Parlor Polka), in time and in step. I’ve never been into the human death ritual, especially the Italian version with the weeping, wailing and yelling at the newly deceased for the simple reason of their being newly deceased. I had and have several aunts who could have won Olympic gold if weeping, wailing and yelling at the newly deceased for the simple reason of their being newly deceased were medal events. All that crying and screaming scarred and scared the crap out of me as a kid and still does to this day. Now my credo is that I’ll go to anyone’s funeral as long as they will come to mine. It only seems fair to me, a tit for tat kind of thing, you know. (when my time comes, I have told my wife to just put me out on the curb, with my Kansas hat on, on garbage pick-up day or, her preference I believe, would be to throw me out back in the woods with the old Christmas trees. I have heard rumors, which I hope are not true, that my followers are planning a destination funeral city and pyramid complex to be built on the vast plains of the Midwest. Please, don’t make such a fuss; but whatever, I don’t care. All I ask is just no religion please! I don’t believe in it now when I’m breathing so I don’t need it injected when I decide to stop breathing) Now to my wife, on the other hand, wakes and funerals are a great social event. She likes to get there early, about an hour before the body, and likes to stay late and help the janitor vacuum and lock up. All the time in between she’s gabbing like a magpie to anyone who will listen or is willing to pretend to listen (you can identify the latter when their eyes roll back into their head and they start to drool pervasively.) On several occasions I could swear I saw the corners of the newly deceased’s mouth curl into a slight smile as if they were thankful they were dead and didn’t have to listen to her yapping.

Years ago (so many years ago in fact that today’s technology now renders it obsolete) I had the idea of drive-thru wakes. One would simply pull up to the drive-thru window at the funeral parlor, punch in the deceased’s name on a keyboard and a curtain would slowly and solemnly part. The caskets would be on a large rotisserie and the casket of the dearly departed would rotate into view. One could have their moment of silence then type their name into the guest book. Also listed on the keyboard would be prayers, such as Prayer A, Prayer B, etc. One would choose the appropriate prayer and punch it in and if you’d like to leave a flower, two dollars cash into a vending machine (or use your ATM card) would drop a rose into the casket. The curtains would close and you’re off to TGI Fridays for a shot and a beer. Now days, in these wondrous and modern times we live in where every computer or laptop has Skype, one can sit at home in their recliner and handle the whole thing in moments.

(Pretend, or imagine, you are reading a killer witty and sardonic segue here leading from funerals to Christmas Day. Thanks, it’ll save me time and I need a nap soon)

OK, so on Christmas Eve my daughter Teresa and my FSL (Future Son-in-Law) Tom (he’s an astronaut) come up to the house to spend the night. (Of course, being the strict Puritan that I am I insisted, since they were not yet wed, that a board be placed down the center of the queen-sized bed they would share to prevent any occurrence of Hanky, or its close associate, Panky.) So off to bed everyone went, with visions of Santa, Yukon Cornelius, sugar plum fairies and well-endowed scantily clad cheerleaders dancing in their heads. As usual, I was up with the dawn, hours before everyone else. Not knowing which presents were mine, (the SOBs didn’t put any name tags on the gifts!) I couldn’t really do any snooping and peeking so I made coffee and cut my toe nails instead. Slowly, over time, like zombies rising from their warren holes, the rest of the brood emerged and gathered around the four-foot high overly decorated artificial x-mas tree. The Keurig machine was gurglingly dispensing seasonal yuletide coffees flavored with pine needles and x-mas tree sap as the opening of the presents commenced. Aside from the fistful of gift cards to stores I never heard of I get for the kids I still get them toys as if they were forever seven years old. So for my son Billy I got a Thomas the Tank Engine play set; Teresa, who was going to Florida in a few weeks, got a Disney Little Princess travel kit and Tom (FSL) got a Johnny Quest Action Hunter rubber suction cup tipped bow and arrow set (which he now uses to hunt down my daughter like a caribou.)  I got the wife a new laptop and an all expenses paid trip to Seattle (Indiana). I made out like a bandit. Being the only Kansas Jayhawk football fan east of the Mississippi River (and, truth be told, most likely west of the Mississippi River as well) I was inundated with Kansas gear: KU slipper, a giant KU banner, a KU Christmas stocking, a KU wind dancer, KU shirts and sweat shirts. The whole shebang. From being the guy no one knew what to get I went full circle to the easiest to buy for. It doesn’t take much to keep the village idiot happy.

At this point, right here, Christmas ends for me. I’d like to spend the rest of the day sitting around at home playing with my x-mas swag, drinking beers and having sex, as the Bible says the holiday was originally intended to be spent, but instead, for what seems like the third consecutive century, it’s off to the in-laws, where time stands still and slumber always beckons. I shall relate the few and far between high points, for to report, minute by minute, the goings on that occur there will cause you to want to repeatedly plunge nine inch railroad spikes deep into your eye sockets till the warm gray meat of your brain, in heavy splattering dollops, covers the carpeting… Alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. Once at the in-laws I put this old bromide to the test. At the bar I fill a red Solo cup one third full of scotch, add ice and attempt to add club soda, but the soda is flat so I walk off to get a fresh bottle from the deck. When I wander back my niece Gina (Gina Beans since birth) is at the bar and for some reason is filling my cup of scotch with vodka. She apologizes and fills another cup with vodka as I, with great skill I must admit, manage to get a good quarter inch of club soda into my scotch/vodka drink without overflowing the cup (why waste good booze?). Beyond all expectations, the scotch/vodka combo wasn’t bad at all.and when followed by several more of its brethren helped me to maintain an even strain throughout the day. Later on, the clan gathers in the living room, for a game (this is after the singing of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which I will spare you my enthusiasms for) which I believe is called White Elephant, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it goes something like this: everyone brings a wrapped gift; either unisex or for a boy or girl. The gifts are placed in the middle of the room and everyone picks a number out of a hat and the gifts are chosen in numerical order and opened. If the next person up wants a gift that’s been opened already he can grab that gift and the person its taken from gets to pick a new gift or “steal” one that’s been opened and that they like. A gift can only be stolen twice before its out of play. Not really paying attention, when my number comes up (fairly early, like #8 out of 23) I grab the nearest gift and it’s a wooden back scratcher/shoe horn combo and a foam pillow made of bamboo. Oh joy. Now after you’ve opened your gift and the next person is up and you’re not all that crazy about what you got you wave your not- wanted gift around like its the crown jewels of a Punjab rajah, trying to catch the eye of the sucker silly enough to want what you got. Sitting next to me is my sister-in-law Nancy, who did not want her gift, a set of four soup crocks and a set of steak knives. She waving around the box of soup crocks on top of the box of knives over her head when the box of heavy soup crocks slides off the box of knives and drops three and a half feet right onto my crotch and catches my apparatus square on the button. The IP (Initial Pain) was excruciating. Nancy was going buckwheats apologizing, but what’s she going to do, rub them? So I suck it up and slam back some more scotch/vodkas till things settle down, which after 11 minutes they do. Now in the mean time someone actually wanted my back scratcher/shoe horn/ bamboo pillow gift and it was my turn again. OK, let my grab something already opened that someone else has, nice and easy, no surprises. Ah, a gift card I’ll grab that. I hobble  back to my seat without really looking what the gift card is for and when I finally look at it, it’s a 25 dollar Starbucks gift card! Shit, I hate Starbucks coffee. So Nancy, the dropper of soup crocks onto crotches, says Gina, she of the vodka in the scotch and Nancy’s daughter, loves Starbucks. So I limp over to Gina and present her with the card. Now for some reason this impresses Nancy and noticing I now have no gift, she offers me the dropped on my crotch soup crocks as compensation. WTF, I accept the crocks that had flattened my crotch in the spirit they were given. Soon after the night was over and Christmas 2014 was thankfully put to bed, but there, looming on the horizon, a scant 364 days away, I can see the corona of Christmas 2015 cresting the calendar and I am afraid. I am very afraid.

Crisp the Season….

If I had my druthers (I do miss my druthers. Years ago, sadly, I lost my druthers in a flood, you might have read about it in the papers, but anyway, they were one sweet pair of druthers. It’s funny how druthers always travel in pairs, you never see a druther off on its own.) I’d take a flamethrower to Christmas. It is a bane to me on the scale that a silver stake through the heart is to a vampire. To me Christmas has lost its “Holiday” status, (really, I have nothing against holidays per se: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, St. Paddy’s Day, Eire Canal Day, Labor Day, Arbor Day, Flannel Feety Pajama Day; I’m fine with any and all holidays connected with the consumption of alcohol) now Christmas is just another day of work. For the last close to thirty years I’ve been doing the same (as in the same) thing every time December 25th (and where the hell did this date come from? Does the Vatican have Big J’s birth certificate down in its vaults? Oh I tend to doubt it. Nah, it’s a winter Pagan holiday hijacked by the Church) rolls around on the calendar, as it always invariably does with sickening regularity, (Christmas should be celebrated once a decade to make it seem more special and to give those of us who have no particular use for it a break) and now I feel, as the rolling tide of years crests, it’s time for a new and exciting Christmas day adventure for Louie… as long as it doesn’t require me getting up and going some place. My perfect Christmas gift would be a Christmas day that went something along these lines: wake up, sex, open presents, breakfast, relax, beers, read, lunch, nap, sex, relax some more, beers, play with presents, (trying on my 30 new pairs of underwear and slippers in front of a full length mirror) relax, beers, nap, dinner, relax, read, go to bed, sex, sleep. When I mention this “perfect day” to my wife, from the look in her eye I can tell she’s thinking that I am laboring under suspicions of lunacy and that she is counting the days till my retirement from the face of the earth. It would simplify things for her tremendously. Anyway, to each of my 46 billion (according to my blogs “hit” counter) followers, have a great holiday and whatever you do…don’t mind me.

Addendum: Last year my son and I thought we had talked Donna (my wife; his mother; wait, no…yeah that’s right) into not getting a Christmas tree. However, three days before the wretched day she cracked and bought home a three foot snap-together plug-in artificial tree which I, with plenty of griping, snapped together and plugged in. This, for one year, would have to be the methadone to sate her hunger for heroine (a real tree)  Now this year we bought up the three foot tree from the crawlspace, set it up and she seemed OK with it because it looked “cute”; especially after she draped it with enough ornaments to do the tree in Rockefeller Center. Fine with me; I don’t have to go out looking for a tree. So one day I came home and found she had put the tree up on a box so it was now a four foot “cute” tree. Later that evening she’s going on that it’s not big enough! Not big enough? To me it’s too big, way too big. She’s talking going extra large next year. May the Gods help and protect me from St. Donna and the Ghost of Christmas Past! My perfect Xmas tree would be located inside a small snow globe. Christmas comes you take it out of the drawer, shake it and put it on a table. Christmas goes you shake it and put it back in the drawer. Done. I love it.

Addendum 2: Christmas shopping sucks. Any shopping sucks. I loath either so much so that when I broke my watch several months back I text Donna asking next time she goes shopping to get me a new one. Which she did; presenting two fine specimens to choose from. One was $7.08 and the other $11.84. I chose the former for its slick canvas watch band which laid flat and tucked away nicely. I’m very low maintenance and was blessed with a Bohemian nature so price, style and fashion mean less than nil to me. Now Christmas shopping I have whittled down to a science this last decade or so. I’m shopping for three (Donna and our spawn, Billy and Teresa) and from a diligent regiment of practice I had gotten the time expended to complete the gathering of gifts down to half an hour (including driving and wrapping!) This encompassed two stores: Store A- a jewelry store. One of those fancy-smancy places where they have to look you over and buzz you in if you’re up to their exacting standards, namely flashing a wad of lettuce that will clog a sewer pipe; but it’s less than a mile from my house so it meets my proximity rule. I’d go in and not wasting any time say “Give me that, that, that and that and no, don’t wrap them” (all that shiny crap looks the same to me and I can’t understand the big whoop chicks get ornamenting themselves with it.To me it’s a sign of weakness) So within 10 minutes my wife and daughter are done. Into the car I hop and as quick as a bunny drive the 3.2 miles to Store B- a video game store where a $100 gift certificate is the cure for my son’s video game fever. Done; back home I get out the old newspaper and blue painter’s tape and quickly wrap all the gifts and carefully toss them under the tree. Easy-peezy lemon squeezy and then I’d stand there, hands on hips, surveying all before me; finished and done, like Alexander the Great when he had no more lands to conquer.

But this year, oh this year, all that Alexander the Great hubris came back to take a big juicy bite out of my shapely ass big time. I wheel into the jewelry store’s parking lot and see a sign in the window “Out of Business” WTF! This phrase I repeated with mouth agape numerous times in both English and Italian. I mean WTF! This is going to be a major fly in the ointment as I was hoping to set a new record this year. Bastards! I hoped the owner, with his fake British accent, was now being buzzed in and out of his cell at the penitentiary before being led to the showers to be used as a pin cushion by burly fellow inmate members of the He Man Woman Haters Club. OK, OK, Louie, remain calm, let’s go get the gift certificate and think this out. You are after all a Man of Reason and Enlightenment and shall navigate a true course over this minor speed bump. So off I go, twice as quick as a bunny to the video store, I park the car, put the keys in my pocket, not really looking where I’m going; I walk in the video store and smell pizza. WTF? I look up and I’m in a Little Caesar’s Pizza. Whoa, somethings amiss. I go back outside and look at the store fronts; maybe I parked at the wrong strip of stores, but no, this is it, this is the right place. No video store! What’s going on here? I’m flummoxed, bamboozled, disconcerted, dazed and confused. The new world’s record crumbles before my eyes. Now what? DO I really have to go do real Christmas shopping? It seemed that way and it was that way. Four hours later, in a very bad mood, I got home, seriously considering switching to the non-Christmas celebrating Jewish faith.

Glad I Can Help…

An open letter to the NFL…

Guys, your games are unwatchable. Case in point, If there’s a good movie on at the same time (even a not so good movie) as one of your games (even a so called “showcase” game), I’ll watch the movie every time. It wasn’t always like this for me. I used to be a rabid Giant fan, but I  grew out of it. The games today seem to be more of a corporate event at which, by the way, a  game just happens to be played. Everything is predictable; from what happens on the field to what the bobble head announcers say to the endless television commercials. It’s all become a big snore. I have several solutions to offer, but first I must wander off-message in my own serpentine way to arrive at the point…

Anyway, they do serve a purpose; they are a ready excuse to drink. Of this point we did take advantage last Sunday. We invited over several people (Mac, and Lee, his wife, and Art, also known as Arthur, KOB {King of Britons. He has a problem with the current royal lineage of England. This goes back centuries}  to eat, drink (these stories are getting harder to type. Either someone keeps moving the letters to different positions on my keyboard or I’ve had a series of baby strokes) and ostensibly “watch the game.”

Before company arrived, the wife and I went out to Shop-Rite for supplies. Whilst manhandling an uncooperative shopping cart that would have moved more surely and swiftly with no wheels on it than the four it did possess up the soft drink aisle my gaze fell upon Tom Collins Mix. This sent shock waves through me as I had been informed by uninformed people that Tom Collins Mix went out of production by a codicil of his will when old Tom dropped off the twig for the big dirt nap. I hadn’t seen the stuff on store shelves for years. Had old Tom come back from the dead and flipped the switch on the conveyer belt starting production once again? Who cares. I text my friend Mac if he felt like a few dozen Tom Collins during the game to quench his thirst and he replied in the affirmative, being as surprised as I that the mix was being sold again. I text him back if he could remember what the hell was in a Tom Collins because I surely didn’t. Gin was his response. Cool, I’m sure I’ve got that lurking in the licker locker at home.

Back at the casa, with supplies unloaded and the wife excitedly puttering around (women are always excited when in my presence) prepping for the event, I went to the booze closet to find the gin. Jeeze, it’s packed to the gills, wall to wall, front to back. I decided I would not let this stand and so rolling up the sleeves of my ever ubiquitous Kansas sweatshirt, I made like Hazel the Maid and got busy. By the Gods, I never realized how much crap was in here. I must have dumped 30 re-corked bottles of half drunk wine and strange bottles of obscure liqueurs (an Italian one made from artichokes. My dog’s butt has smelt less offensive than the cloying aroma quaffing from this bottle) down the kitchen sink. I consolidated bottles and threw out stuff we’d never drink (WTF! Harvey’s Bristol Cream?) Then I found a large half full bottle of Ever-Clear grain alcohol. Where the hell did this come from? I hadn’t been to a bug juice party since college. Eh, probably from the kids. I dumped it down the sink and was throwing the bottle into the recycle bin (the garbage man is going to think we’re a bunch of derelicts) when I thought “Hey, we can have fun with this.” So I filled it with water and set it on the coffee table with a few tall shot glasses, along side the bowls of dips, chips, sliced veggies, nuts, cheese, roofing nails, gravel, hummus, wood chips and cans of Cope.

Art arrived first, bearing photos from his wedding of several of our gang standing with no pants on in the very public atrium of the place he got hitched. Huh, I had no recollection of the event but my presence was very pictorially depicted, standing proud, last on the right. So we started pounding beers with the usual chit chat when he noticed the bottle of grain alcohol, I explained ruse and that when Mac arrived we’d be draining massive shots of what he’d think was grain and see what his reaction would be. Art’s as sick in the humor department as I am so he readily agreed. Mac walks in and we drink a shot, refill, clink glasses and shoot it down. Pour another and do the same. He’s watching us, he can see the label, and you could see his body cringing in on itself. He’s got a look on his face like “These guys are fucking hard core! I thought we’d have a few beers and Tom Collins and these clowns are slamming grain?” To his credit, as he worked his way around the couches, he reluctantly said “I’ll have one.” I poured him one, filled our glasses again and he put his lips to the glass, then took a sniff, a quizzical look appeared, then he took a baby sippy cup sip. Then realizing it wasn’t grain but water he called us a few choice names and we all cracked up. It was very funny.

So things settle down, I don’t remember who was playing, either the Jets or Giants, we’re noshing, yapping, figuring out how to mix these Tom Collins drinks (finally, Google proves it does have a relevant use) and Lee says somethings missing. Her parents drank these things back in the 60s by the industrial 55 gallon drum and she remembered them having a pinkish hue. Back to Google, OK, it seems it is permissible to add a splash of maraschino cherry juice to the drink. Well, this isn’t a Dairy Queen but in cleaning out the hooch hatch I found a small bottle of thick red sticky stuff (grenadine I think) so we shoved some of that in and it worked and once again all was well with the world. As the game’s boredom level rose so rose the blood alcohol levels of all in attendance. Halftime came and with it came a fine spaghetti and meatball  meal prepared to perfection by Donna.

After washing the chow down with beers, Tom Collins, wine and faux grain alcohol it was back to that silly ever-so-slow moving football game. God, give me college football any day. It’s so much more exciting. While Donna’s making the coffee I’ll list my suggestions to de-bore this game of pro football. First off, there’s too many of these god damn official reviews; most of them it seems are sideline plays concerning the receiver’s feet  being in or out of bounds when catching the ball. “Was his toe on the white line?” “Did his heel hit inbounds?” Hey, simple solution here boys: make the field six inches wider on each sideline. Now how hard was that? Second, way too many penalty flags. Solution: put a pirate eye patch on each member of the officiating crew. If they can only see half the shit going on out there it will cut the penalties called in half or by 50% at least. In this vein, the delay of game penalty. WTF, doesn’t calling a delay of game delay the game longer than not calling a delay of game? I mean if they’re not setting up beach chairs out there give them a few extra seconds for Christ sake. Thirdly, The goal line play. “Did the ball cross the plane of the goal?” “Did he get over?” More fucking replay reviews! Solution: bury a wire under the turf at the front edge of the goal line and put a small explosive device in the ball. The wire under the goal line will trigger the explosive when the ball does crosses the line. Now I’m not talking weapons-grade explosives in the ball. Something along the line of a flash-bang device, just enough to stun, not incapacitate. Also I’d fill the ball with powder and Mylar confetti to make it look good for TV. The ball would also have pressure sensing skin so passes could be thrown into the end zone without detonating. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Glad I can help….

 

 

 

Retiringly…

Last Friday night was Pizza Night at Casa Pecci and friends came over for, quite naturally, pizza and beers. Not wanting to come empty handed, Danny Mac, Pal o’ Mine, First Class, brought along a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, a honey/whiskey blended liqueur from the breezy and verdant Tennessee hills. So, a little pizza, salad, some beers and, with a two cubes of ice per glass, we, with steely determination, decimated 3/4 of that bottle in no time flat. A tasty treat I must say that sends the taste buds reeling. Now for years me and Jack Daniels have had a shaky relationship, well, truth be told, I was always the one who ended up with the shakes the next morning and Jack was always fine. In total, in our 32 bouts (mostly in Tennessee, at the first of my eight colleges) Jack’s record is an unblemished 32-0, with me never lasting past the 7th round. As you can guess, I’m a slow learner, painfully slow. So needless to say Jack Daniel’s was never my first choice in whiskeys when perusing the offerings at fine retail liquor outlets nationwide.

The next day, amazingly with no hangover (I was concerned about the honey, all that sugar, which I avoid whenever possible and is the reason I prefer my spirits straight) as I was putting the scant remains of the Tennessee Honey in the licker locker, I got to thinking about Jack Daniels, I had actually visited the distillery while at school, and I recalled all the JD magazine ads of the 70s, 80s and 90s (after that time I stopped looking at magazines. I don’t know if they still have magazines nowadays.) The ads ranged from full page to a few column inches. They always featured guys named Clem, Scooter or Clovis who worked at the distillery as a charcoal ricker, truck driver or barrel cooper. The ads were chockful of old fashion, old school, homespun whimsy, falling squarely into that unbounded category, my wife’s favorite, of “Cute” and at the bottom of each ad was the following: Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg (Pop: 361), Tenn., USA.

OK, like so what, right? Yeah, well, OK, right, but check this out. In the 30 years of looking at those ads whenever I ran across them (to check this specific fact) the population of Lynchburg, Tennessee has NEVER changed! A constant 361 people live in this town. That means no one has ever been born there or more importantly, ever died there. I think I’ve found my retirement community.