health

Losing My Sight

I’m losing my eyesight.

It doesn’t really bother me in the classic sense. I’m in my mid-forties, after all, a full decade or more past when most start losing their senses. I’m not some Baby Boomer freaking out every time they subtract nineteen sixty-eight from the current year. We no longer must abide by Al Bundy trying to hold onto glory days. I’m overweight, I’ve got gout, and I’m either defined as diabetic or pre-diabetic depending on how overweight and/or gouty I’m feeling that particular day. I’ve had allergies my whole life and it’s grown to full-blown asthma in the past decade.

When I got my COVID vaccine (huzzah!), one of the questions asked if I’ve had an anaphylactic reaction to medication. Had to tell them that I had. They asked if I brought my epi pen with me and I responded, like an old pro at getting shots, that as long as there was no cat hair in the vaccine, I’d be fine. 

I’m not really upset about losing my eyesight. I guess I’m surprised at how it happened? Things just got a little blurrier each day. At the beginning, I swore it was only when I was staring at screens all day. And smartphones coming out the same time I turned forty is just coincidence. It’s the social scientist’s creed: correlation is not causation.

One of my best friends is legally blind. He can’t see anything out of one eye and his other eye is a train-wreck. When he’s getting his license renewed, he has to memorize the eye chart for when they make him cover his “good” eye. Fortunately it’s only five lines and it’s the same five letters, only in a different order. They also give you a few hours of lead-time.

But when he says he’s legally blind, I think of him as Daredevil or something. A stormy night in the middle of the desert. But I can still see fine. It’s just the details that are missing. Come to think of it, I’ve seen my friend drive. So hopefully he’s not in Stevie Wonder territory.

My hearing went the same way. It started with a “come again?” and ended with everybody talking like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  I probably shouldn’t keep listening to podcasts and audiobooks on earbuds, but it’s not like my hearing was gangbusters before. Or was it? I can’t really remember a time when listening was an afterthought.

The same thing happened with my sight. Maybe that’s why it’s rough coming to terms with the fact that I can’t see for fuck anymore.  Like when my daughter grows every day, but when her friend visited the other day, it’s like, “Holy crap, how’d she get so big?” even though Daughter’s still an inch taller.

It started innocently enough. I was in for one of my “diabetic but not diabetic” tests where they shoot lasers into the back of your eyeball to see if your eyes have been slurping down non-diet soda while you weren’t looking. I’d done it before. They make you stare into a camera then flash a bright light at you. I wonder if that has anything to do with my loss of vision? Regardless, it’s easy, peasey. In, out, done.

Only this time they wanted me to stick around and give me an eye test. What the fuck?

“What does that entail?” I asked, which is a much more kosher way to ask the above question.

“Blah blah blah look at stuff blah blah dilating.”

There was my opening!

“I drove myself here. Wouldn’t want to be stuck here after your work hours are over waiting for my eyes to sober up.”

“No problem. You can drive with dilated eyes nowadays.”

That seemed like a bad idea, although maybe it accounts for half the drivers I see on the road who don’t seem to be certain if they’re British or American. Although it doesn’t account for assholes backing into parking spaces.

“Well, I’m leaving here to sign legal documents,” I tried next. “Will I be able to see them?”

They conferred and decide, nah, maybe I should forego this whole pupil-fuck for a later date. But did I maybe want to take the ol’ “read some letters” test?

“Sure, but my vision’s fine,” I responded, knowing it wouldn’t be boring for technicians used to blind-as-a-bat ilk. No hilarious side-bets about whether the next guy can read 40 font. 

“Are you sure?” she asked mirthfully.

It turns out my eyesight ain’t what I thought it was. If I was, in fact, Al Bundy trying to relive a football game, my wide receiver needed to be less than five yards away.

They hooked me up to a machine where they can adjust the distance and effects of glasses. They started with a couple of easy ones, then made some adjustments. It wasn’t long before those little fuckers started messing with me. And by those little fuckers, I mean the letters, not the medical assistants.

“E, S,” I’d start out. ” The next letter’s either an H or a B, I think. No wait, it just turned into an R.”

No, the letter’s weren’t changing, they were just moving in and out of focus. The next batch was even smaller. I could barely hazard a guess.

“I’m not sure,” I continued. “It could be a P or the number six. Did you throw an infinity symbol in there just to mess with me?”

It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the things, they were just indistinct and distant. Like the sports score on a tv way up in the corner of a restaurant.

Wait, you’re supposed to be able to read the score?

Then they pulled the ultimate fuck-you move, the “oh, you wanted to skip the eye test” drop-the-mic moment. After a bunch of whirring and oscillating of screens and sheens, the letters disappeared, replaced by some smudges, a row of ants in the end zone while I’m standing at the fifty-yard line.

“This is twenty-twenty vision,” the technician smugged. 

Really? Too bad for JFK I wasn’t the guy in the book depository. Or on the grassy knoll. Hell, I could’ve been sitting in Jackie’s seat and missed the shot. 

Whatever. I guess my eyesight wasn’t as perfect as it had once been. I could still make do.

Except now that it had been brought up, pointed out that maybe I couldn’t see as pristinely as once upon a time, I started noticing it more. When I was looking at digital screens or reading street signs. Is it just me, or are the bright digital freeway billboards less clear than their old-fashioned, printed brethren? 

And that rub-the-eyes blurriness after waking up seemed to be lasting longer than in the past. Was I able to see the raisins in the bran in college? Wait a second. I don’t think I had morning blurriness at all. Is that just something I’ve made up now that I can’t see for shit? Incremental change can be a bitch. Just ask climate change.

It still took me another year to do a legitimate eye test. I randomly picked an optometrist from the vision insurance  I’ve been forced to pay into for twenty years. No way in hell was I going back to my primary care facility, admitting defeat to the schedulers and technicians who had the audacity to suggest I was anything less than perfect!

Not that I would have recognized them. Those bastards all had blurry, indistinct features.

I scheduled it late in the afternoon and walked there so Wife could pick me up after the dilation. I didn’t need to. Evidently my understanding of what happens during eye tests hadn’t progressed past the 1980s sitcom era. They now just puff some air into your eyeballs or take a picture of your brainwaves or put nanobots into your bloodstream. Who the fuck knows, but I totally could’ve signed legal documents when I was done. 

They asked if I brought in my current glasses, and I told them I didn’t have any. Each person, in turn, blinked in lack of comprehension, looking down at my chart. The receptionist, the technician, the doctor all seemed flabbergasted that someone might be taking their first eye test. We’ve all gotta start somewhere, right? Eyesight is supposed to deteriorate. If I went to the ear doctor, would it seem incomprehensible that I had no hearing aid?

Then again, when I see the requirements for COVID testing, I maybe understand. It seems like you can’t get a COVID test unless you can prove unequivocally that you have it. Well gosh, Doc, the guy that sits in the desk right next to me tested positive after hocking loogies into our shared percolator. What’s that? No, he didn’t crawl inside my esophagus. Was he supposed to?

Okay, ya caught me. I really just want to fly to Hawaii.

Oddly enough, the entire diagnosis seemed to come from the subjective “Which looks better, this or this?” than the scientific eyeball inspections.  I’m not suggesting I would lie or anything, but there’s a distinct chance I don’t precisely remember what things are supposed to look like. At one point, I called out, “Oh wow, yeah. That.” But I actually think the font changed on that one. It wasn’t that it got less blurry, but that it was all of a sudden written in bold. For all I knew, she hit ctrl-b instead of asterisk and now I’m going to be driving into walls waiting for italics to appear.

In the end, the doctor determined my eyesight is leaving me in the exact opposite manner it’s supposed to. Way to be difficult, body. The gout wasn’t enough?

Most people my age lose their up-close vision, which can be fixed via cheap, non-prescription reading glasses that’ll cost you five bucks at CVS. My up-close vision is fine, though. It’s distance that I’m losing.

My near-sightedness (not the first result to call me myopic!) isn’t helped by the cheaters. I need a prescription. But if I wear glasses to see the movie screen or, I don’t know, that car in front of me, then I can’t read a book or grade papers or see what I’m eating. So if I’m going the glasses route, I’m gonna be that guy who’s constantly putting on and taking off his glasses.

“You’ll still do fine when you get your driver’s license renewed,” my doctor told me. “But you might want to get a pair of glasses for night-time driving.”

Sure. Just for night driving. And day driving. And curling. And watching TV. And grocery shopping. Because that was over a year ago and it sure as shit hasn’t stabilized.

That first look through the glasses was shocking, though. Wow! On my way home from picking them up, while at a stop light, I focused on a tree across the intersection, then put on my glasses. I expected maybe a ten percent increase in clarity, but holy crap! Unbeknownst to me, that tree I’d been looking at had leaves! And branches! To say nothing of the sky beyond. 

Obviously, I was aware of the sky. You’d have to be pretty damned blind to not see the sky. But behind the glasses, it became so crisp. Is it possible for the blue to brighten up?

My whole world had gone from standard-def to high-def. It had been a Bob Ross painting, and I kinda like Bob Ross paintings, so I never really thought it was supposed to be more. But I guess the world ISN’T supposed to be impressionistic? 

And once again I’m second-guessing myself. Did I really used to be able to see this well? Certainly, I must have, because I remember my real transition from SD to HD. How did I not notice that my television had regressed in the past five year? Probably because I was watching crappy children’s television.

But I can’t wear those glasses too much or else my eyesight will get even worse, right? It’s crazy, I know, but I feel like it’s a drug, man. My body’s telling me that, before it knew of this magical panacea, it was gonna do its damnedest to offset the pain. But holy shit, man, we’ve had this clear plastic heroin to numb the blurry pain all this time? Body’s gonna take the weekend off. 

Of course, I know this can’t be the case. My eyesight was already growing worse, hence the glasses in the first place. It makes sense it would continue to slide. That’s why they ask me to bring in my old prescription for the new eye test. But when I first got my glasses, I could see the labels at the grocery store without squinting. Now, not so much.

In addition to not wanting to make my sight worse, I still face that near-sight/far-sight conundrum. If I’m watching a sporting event on the tv eight feet away from the couch, I can barely tell if the pass was completed or not. But if I put on my glasses, I won’t be able to check my phone or laptop during stops in action.

After a couple weeks, and a few new pairs of glasses (thankfully some of those blind friends told me how to buy them online for ten percent cost), I finally opted for bifocals. How do ya like that? Make it forty years without glasses, have to go straight to the oldest man of old-man glasses. Who the fuck am I, Benjamin Franklin now? Only instead of magnification on the bottom half, I went with a straight 1.00x. So I can shift between the TV and my laptop. And somehow my laptop looks clearer, even though the glass has no modification. Is that crazy?

Speaking of watching tv, since my hearing is going, I have to turn the closed-captioning, too. “You don’t really watch tv,” Daughter says. “You read it.”

Bifocals and closed-captioning. Good thing I’m married, cause I don’t think gramps would be picking up floosies at the bar. But at least I’m not doing what every Baby Boomer I know does, which is turn the volume up to 70 or something. Maybe that’s why this Gen Xer lost my hearing.

I’m starting to worry that the only way for me to pass my next driver’s test, still a year-and-a-half away, is to avoid using my glasses between now and then. Sure, I’ll probably cause seventy-five accidents in that time, to say nothing of the curling shots I’ll miss, but it’ll totally be worth it to not get the little “needs corrective lenses” on my drivers license. 

“Sir, have you been drinking?”

“No, officer. I just didn’t see the child in the middle of the road.”

“Are you supposed to be wearing glasses?”

“Totally, but I don’t want my drivers license to know that. It still thinks I’m a hundred eighty pounds with brown hair.”

And then we’ll both laugh as he’s cuffing me. At least I won’t tell him I took off my glasses to read a text.

I don’t think I’m alone in my conspiracy theory about glasses fucking up my sight. When one of my students found out I recently got glasses, the first thing she said was to not wear them too often or they’d make my eyesight worse. 

I mean, it’s no “Ulysses S. Grant turned the country into a corporation,” but if Linus can sit in the pumpkin patch all night, then ya gotta give me this one.

I’d be able to see perfectly fine if it weren’t for Big Eyeglass.

Sounds totally logical. You never seem them coming.

Man Grooming as Nature Intended

Despite being a lifelong suburbanite, my wife has a few granola-crunchy tendencies. Her uncle isn’t quite aware the 1960s ever ended and splits his time between espousing the benefits of a government-based economy and deriding said government for controlling our minds through chemtrails or flouride or blah, blah, blah, because by this time I’m on my seventh glass of wine at Thanksgiving dinner (Thank you, 2020!). He also thinks cats are spying on us and reporting back to aliens keeping tabs on us. And I’m dead serious on that last one.

Wife doesn’t go that far. She’s way too consumerist. But for somebody who thinks camping is an abomination, you can certainly grab her attention by calling your product all-natural or organic or hormone free. So if you want her to buy your bacon, you might put on the packaging that it comes from pigs not treated with vaginal testosterone.  Even though there’s no such thing, so technically every pig in existence. But if you wanna get sold at Whole Foods, you gotta say every madeup bullshit thing isn’t in it.

I’m looking in your direction, rBST.

Occasionally, Wife gets stuck on conference calls at work and orders me some all-natural self-grooming shit. It’ll show up on our doorstep one day and she’ll kinda, sorta remember seeing something, like a Vietnam Vet trying to recall the fogs of war. Amazon told her that people who ordered Tom’s Toothpaste might also like toilet paper with the consistency of poison oak. 

But whatever. As long as she isn’t going paleo or anything, I guess I can splash some essential oils on my nether regions. It turns out I actually like some of them. Others are nothing more than snake oil.

So here are my reviews of products you might be pondering at the next Ren Faire.

Dr. Squatch Soap. 

Of the three products she bought me, this is the only one I’d heard of beforehand. It would seem to be a product custom made for me. Its name alludes to Bigfoot and they cuss in the commercials that my robot overlords at Google and Facebook show me. 

Maybe you’ve seen the ads. They tell guys that the soap you’ve been washing with is bullshit. Okay, you’ve got my attention. The commercials also imply that our junk, which smells horrific, yet is dainty, ain’t never gonna be cleaned by some industrial soap that’s half comprised of something pussy like, I don’t know, lotion or aloe or smurf handjobs.

Personally, my soap of choice is Irish Spring. The dude in the Dr. Squatch commercial calls it mass-produced and docile and bovine excrementy. But I’m assured by its mid-1980s advertisements that Irish Spring is made beside a bucolic river outside of Kilkenny, and if I use it, I’ll be whistled at by the comely lass also seen dancing in that Men Without Hats music video. 

“Manly, yes, but I like it, too!”

But Dr. Squatch Dude has a well-groomed beard, ergo I must pay attention. And they sell such manly flavors of soap, like Grapefruit IPA and Pine Tar and… Aloe. I guess ya can’t make a rub-over-skin product without the base aloe model. 

Come to think of it, pine tar? Isn’t that the stuff they put on baseball bats to make them sticky? I don’t know if I want that on my giblets. Is the ghost of Billy Martin going to come measure my cock to make sure I didn’t add too much pine tar? The last thing I need is a scruffy looking, powder-blue wearing George Brett screaming out of the dugout like a whirling dervish.

The first one I tried was the aloe bar. Baby steps, people. I’ve been trained by years of consumer culture and if it ain’t green, it shouldn’t even call itself soap. The Dr. Squatch was fine, I guess. Nothing really to write home about. Other than its clunky square shape, the clarion call of all “natural” products, it pretty much felt like soap. It didn’t quite get the lather up that I like. Wouldn’t want to shave with it, that’s for sure. 

That square shape also makes it hard to get into some of my nooks and crannies. In fact, it feels a little like being bludgeoned. I didn’t know I was supposed to be in pain while showering. And that was before I tried their second “flavor,” Chinese Water Torture.

No, it’s not named Chinese Water Torture soap, but it might as well be. It’s called Cold Brew Coffee soap. Should be perfect for me. I already smell like coffee all day. Or at least until 2:00, after which I smell like a distillery. 

What’s that? Dr. Squatch has a rum soap, too? Maybe I’ll have to investigate. 

Or I can just have some rum. Because if the rum is anything like the cold brew, I’ll pass. 

Sure, the coffee bar smelled nice, even if I had to adjust to the unnatural brownness of it. 

The problem came in its consistency. I’m not sure if Bigfoot’s ever had coffee, but when I get an iced coffee from Starbucks, I don’t have to take the coffee grounds out of my mouth. At home, I occasionally have a filter catastrophe that results in a crunchy cup o’ joe, but that’s not supposed to be the norm. And I know the hipster in the commercials doesn’t brew his own.

The coffee soap, however, is inundated with scratchy coffee grounds. And not the Folgers or Maxwell House ground coffee variety. More like whole beans thrown for ten seconds into a hand grinder cranked by an arthritic octogenarian. 

The first time I used it, I thought maybe it was just an outer layer authenticity thing that would go away as I used it. I once splurged on an Irish Spring “Sport” bar that had little bubble things on the bottom, but they only lasted a couple of washes. Surely, once I got past the outer layer of this cold brew, it would work like normal soap. Or like fancy, all-natural, doesn’t-really-wash-you soap.

But no! That shit stayed through the whole bar. I get the whole “exfoliating” concept, but this wasn’t some John Cougar “Hurt So Good.” It was just straight-up jagged-ass scratching. I suppose I could’ve used a wash cloth, but c’mon, Bigfoot. Your commercials talk about being a manly-man and now you want me to use a wash cloth?

Eventually, I found that it worked best if I lathered up in my hand, then went to the body. 

That felt more like a little bit of gritty exfoliating, similar to the little grains inside some of those soft soaps. Speaking of which, did you know that Bath & Body Works has “manly man” soaps, too? They’re usually hidden amongst the cinnamons and lilacs and Lakeside Estrogens. You can usually tell which ones they are because they’re blue. My favorite also had a fox wearing a blue sweater on the front and had a smell named “musk.” That’s the manly triumvirate right there.

But the blocky coffee soap wasn’t the same as a granulated soft soap. Like its aloe brethren, the cold brew block couldn’t lather worth a shit. So lots and lots and of scrubbing the hands meant the bar didn’t last longer than a week or so. At seven bucks a pop, I feel like the soap should last, I don’t know, a year or so. It’s kinda like paying for a single beer at the ballgame that costs more than a 12-pack of that same beer at home.

And for seven bucks, you get the added benefit of doing a twice over before exiting the shower to make sure you don’t look like a damned leper when you step out. The soap’s supposed to clean me, not leave me looking like I missed the trash can when dumping the coffee filter. Took me so long to shower, I was late to work. Good thing we live in a patriarchy and I can just ask for a raise to make up for the time lost.

Ha ha, just kidding. I’m a teacher. We don’t get raises.

Still, maybe I should stick with the rum bar. Although maybe not on the day I ask my principal for a raise.

Somerset English Shaving Oil.

What the hell is an essential oil anyway? Are there non-essential oils? Do the essential oils tease them? Like the Catholics who say Protestants go to Purgatory, which they think is heaven, but isn’t really heaven. I assume the Catholics spend all of eternity mocking those Protestants in their fake heaven. Something to look forward to.

Although if this is English shaving oil, it probably isn’t Catholic. They leave that for the Irish Spring next door.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if English is really the operative adjective for olde tyme rituals. Sure, compared to us young pups in America, England’s been around forever. But if I really want to be shaving like I’m some grizzly middle ager, how about some Saxon Shaving Oil. Or Mercian. Although that’s too close to ‘Merican. And we all know ‘Merican shaving oil would be buffalo chicken sauce with ranch.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Or behind myself. Where the fuck was I? Oh right, shaving.

I’m fortunate enough to not have much facial hair. It takes me a month to go from clean-shaven to something approximating a goatee or beard. 

It’s the perfect amount of hair growth, because I don’t have to shave every day. If I shave Monday and Wednesday mornings, nobody will be any the wiser. If I then let it go the rest of the week, I might get some comments around closing time Friday afternoon that I’ve got a couple gristles. Not a five o’clock shadow yet, just some noticeable follicles. Actually, I never get a five o’clock shadow. Even if I let it go a week, it comes in scraggly and splotchy like I sent my cheek through chemotherapy. 

So when it comes to the best options for shaving, I never really established a consistent ritual. Through most of my thirties, I gravitated toward the gel that magically turns into foam on your skin. Unfortunately, anything that defies the laws of nature that much wreaks havoc on your pipes. 

And no, that’s not a reference to either my penis or my asshole. There’s a first time for everything.

It was literally my pipes. That gel ends up sticking to everything and clogging the shit out of my drain. It certainly wasn’t the millimetres of follicles going down there. So I switched to shaving in the shower, but the gel doesn’t do well in the wet steam. 

Enter Somerset’s Essential Whatnot and So-forth. You massage it into your skin at the beginning of the shower, then let it work its way in. It starts tingling, feels  like a zesty aftershave, except it’s a slick pre-shave. When the time comes, you lather up a little soap, just not the Dr. Squatch type. I said lather, not leather.

What can I say? The shit works. It’s a weird feeling for someone who thought shaving required a force-field of white goop. It also helps that soap lather is more see through. Who woulda thunk that it would be beneficial to actually see the face while shaving? 

Again, your mileage may vary, especially if you actually grow hair between your neck and ear. But the Somerset’s worked even after No-Shave November when I had an unruly weed-patch growing there, so long as I trim it first.

It doesn’t seem to help after No-Nut November. Although if I needed help with that, I’d feel safer using this than Dr. Squatch’s pine tar. Plus, it tingles!

Lume Deodorant.

Before even trying this product, I was predisposed to hate it.

First of all, it’s named Lume with a fancy little accent on the e. That means it’s either made by a French person or someone who thinks adding random accents to a product make it sound fancier. Like whatever asshole threw that “olde tyme” into his description of shaving oil.

Even worse than its name, this deodorant is goopy, a viscosity reminiscent of snot. When it smudges through three little slivers on top like vomit through your fingers as that last-second dash toward the toilet comes up woefully short. And they expect me to put that on my underarms? Gross. I’m trying to make that area LESS moist, why the fuck would I rub a used handkerchief there.

Handkerchiefs don’t seem to exist anymore, and that’s a good thing. My grandpa always used one. I’ve never understood why we should want to deposit our snots into our pocket for removal later. I’m sure it’s better for the environment than Kleenex, but if I promise to recycle my beer bottles, can I keep the Kleenex? Do earth-hugging communes allow tissue paper? What about toilet paper? I know way too much of our modern society is disposable, but I hope we never have to debate the trade-offs of those two paper products.

Anyway, for ninety percent of my life, I’ve liked precisely one style of substance under my arms: Bone-ass dry. Don’t give me those sprays. Don’t give me those roll-ons. If the process of applying deodorant doesn’t remove some hairs and skin, it’s probably not doing its work.

I also can’t abide by deodorants with smells. I don’t want fresh scent or forest morning or scorched earth. Not even “evergreen musk,” which was the magical manly smell that Bath and Body Works put into my sweater-wearing fox soap. Again, the purpose of deodorant is to remove smell. Replacing it with a different smell doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not fooled by the taxicab air freshener, either.

In fact, most of those scented ones give me a rash before long. Maybe I’ve got sensitive skin. Maybe I’m allergic. For a good portion of my teens and twenties, I used Ladies’ Speed Stick. It’s okay, you can judge. But maybe that’s where my hatred of smells come from, because trust me, the types of scents assigned to most of the Ladies’ Speed Stick varietals aren’t smells a nineteen-year-old dude wants wafting out of his pores. What the fuck is a Pampered Lilac, anyway? Does that mean the flower’s living a cush life? Or is it wearing diapers?

In my adult years, I settled on Arm n’ Hammer. It fits my desire for both lack of smell and dryness. If I could rub actual baking soda on my armpits and be done with it, I would. Preferably with a sweater-clad fox on the front.

Then along came Lume.

“It’s organic,” my wife told me. “It’s hypoallergenically designed by medical professionals.”

“Did they design it to have all the comfort of the Sahara desert?”

“No, but it’s professional OB-GYNs.”

Ummm…. What?

Look, I’m not the manliest man ever. The closest I ever come to standard toxic masculinity is when we’re drafting fantasy football. I prefer mini golf to real golf. When I visited Minneapolis, I took my picture throwing my hat into the air right next to the Mary Tyler Moore statue. I like my beer more nutty than hoppy. I can’t figure out whose ass was more impressive in Demolition Man– Sandra Bullock’s or Sylvester Stallone’s.

Seriously, in those tight-fitting pants, that movie is a monument to two of the best-sculpted asses on the planet. 

With all those facts in her corner, maybe Wife didn’t think I’d blink an eye at a deodorant developed by a gynecologist. The left side of my brain gets it. There are a lot of similarities between the armpit and the crotch. Dank. Moist. Hair for no damned reason. A man’s taint is the only body part that smells worse than his armpit. 

And yet…

There’s a reason things it’s called feminine hygiene. I don’t think I need to give my armpit a morning-after pill.

Although, in all honesty, I’m only showering three times a week during the quarantine. So maybe my armpit DOES need a morning-after pill.

Let’s see, goopy substance with the consistency of snot, designed for vaginas, in my armpits? Sorry, Wife. I tried your all-natural soap with poor results. I tried your olde tyme shaving oil with mixed results. But I think I have to draw the line at…

Whoa, what’s that comfortable tingle? And that pleasant smell? Why are my pits feeling so fresh? And… dry?

Holy crap, y’all. This Lume shit is as pleasant as… okay, maybe not pie, because that wouldn’t really be appetizing. But the goop rubs in as simply as my Arm n’ Hammer, especially if I’ve just gotten out of the shower. Even on day two, it rubs in seamlessly. Sure, in these COVID times, you also might wonder what happens on showerless days three and four? Truthfully, I hit a limit around day three, when I switch back to the baking soda. Lume works great at preventing the funk from happening. When it’s already there, it’s not quite as effective. Sure, I could shower more often, but this is Quarantine Time, baby!

So I guess I stand corrected. The KY works great on my manly-man armpits. But the manly-man soap was unfulfilling. Meanwhile the nonessential but quintessentially British oils are workable and don’t clog my drains. 

Snotty lube is a good deodorant, but coffee grounds should keep their asses in the kitchen. Bare foot and pregnant, yo!

While I’m at it, I’d like to admit one other earlier mistake. 

Sly’s ass is far better than Sandra Bullock’s. 

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Part 2

It’s academic time right now.

As I write this, my daughter is sitting next to me, working through a store-bought “Kindergarten skills booklet” that appears to have been written for kindergarten skills back when I was in kindergarten (Which is edible: paste or vegetables?), not what they’re doing now. So she’s burning through these. After all, if she can burn through a Dr. Seuss book, I don’t think having her trace the a at the beginning of apple’s going to vex her much. We’ve limited her to one page a day in some books, but we still have to give her enough busy work to get through the recommended one hour of morning Academic Time before our magical robot overlord, Alexa, tells us it’s time to move on to our next time allotment.

Such is life in what I’ve dubbed Quran-geddon(tm).

Is that how trademarks work? Can I just throw a ™ after something and now I get paid if anyone else uses it? In whatever quid pro-quo replace US Dollars in the sportless future when Alexa finally tells us it’s okay to go outside.

But just bear in mind I occasionally have to help my daughter with some of these things. So if I suddenly write, “no, baby, it’s six, not five,” assume I just gave Daughter instructions that included the “fuck-stain shit sickle” intended for this post.

I haven’t checked in since last Friday, back in the nascence of this Brave New World. I picked up Daughter from daycare and told her that her school and softball and dance class were all canceled, along with that little trip to Disneyland we had planned for this week. Then she and I spent about 72 hours in line at the grocery store in order to buy seven items, because the rest of the world was purchasing the entire store. The only thing they weren’t buying at that time was corned beef. So I figured I’d wait and come back after the weekend to buy that.

Oops.

To be fair to the hoarders, that’s totally on me, and I should know better than to wait until March 16 to buy corned beef. Although usually there’s a shit-ton of it, even on the 18th when I can buy it on sale.

My second foray to the grocery store showed some some through-lines from the previous trip and some anomalies. There seems to be a run on meat, in many ways the most perishable of items. My local store has filled up most of their meat refrigerators with salami packs, spread out so as to appear like there’s variety, in lieu of the normal beef and chicken and pork.

People are fucking horrible at hermitage. Why aren’t they buying the stuff that doesn’t go bad after a few days? They probably think they’re living off the grid by running a VPN while having their Google Maps giving them directions.

Bread and tortillas also seemed to be in shorter supply on Monday than they had been on Friday. Flour was gone, but sugar was there. Thank God there doesn’t seem to be a run on coffee or beer. All the beans were gone, too. Not sure if that’s a great idea for people with limited toilet paper options.

My family made it through the rainy weekend, but only through inertia. You know it’s bad when the parents are begging the child to watch Frozen II just one more time and the child’s not having it.

We broke the not-then-official quarantine both days. In fact, I’ve left the house for something or other pretty much every day. Usually it’s just a visit to a store or to get some take-out, and it’s substantially less than it would’ve been on normal stay-at-home days. Saturday we hit the bookstore to get the aforementioned workbooks. I also found a cool Marvel Comics 1000 dot-to-dot book. That’s for Papa while Baby works on her minuscule 20 dot-to-dots. Holy crap, they take a long time! “Daddy, I’ve already done, like, five and you’re only at, what, three-fifty?”

We also went to a furniture store to finally buy a desk we’ve been eyeing for a while. The vulturous salespeople there are annoying on a regular visit, hovering behind a nearby pillar at all times, ready to pounce with a “Can I help you with anything? Would you like to borrow my tape-measure? Here’s my card. You can call me even though I’ll never be more than six feet away.” They knew social distancing long before social distancing was a thing.

We knew going in that, with both the rain and the Quaran-geddon(tm) diminishing the quantity of customers, the salespeople would be even more omnipresent than usual. We braced ourselves and it still wasn’t enough. We finally glommed onto one just to ward off the other vampires. But their pheromones must not be working, because when she went to go check on something, they descended. Her tape-measure did nothing to ward the hordes off. All is fair in love, war, and commission jobs right before an economic meltdown.

Sunday we went to Michael’s to get more things to occupy Daughter and Best Buy to look at laptops for me. I thought about buying a Nintendo Switch, but they were sold out. I almost bought a PlayStation 4, but I’ve held out this long and the 5 is on the horizon. Fortunately I held firm, although I’m still wavering because “MLB: The Show 20” might be the only sport action I’ll be seeing for a while.

As an aside, I’m worried that MLB is one of the arbiters of when we get to go back to normal. The last time we shut down sports was for 9/11. The NFL canceled its games the following Sunday, and baseball dithered about when it should start up. One week later? Ten days? Then the NFL said they’d return the following Sunday and MLB followed suit the next day. Unfortunately, there is no NFL to act as the leader this time. Maybe the NHL will start up for the playoffs. But if not, it’s all on the MLB, and they aren’t known for being proactive. Last I heard they’re looking at June. That’s totally going to fuck up Mike Trout’s chance to win the all-time WAR title by the end of his career. I know: priorities!

Why isn’t MLB playing? It’s the only sport where players don’t regularly come in contact with each other. Social distancing? Take a look at the real estate between the average right fielder and center fielder. The only time they’re close to each other is when they’re in the dugout, but if there are no fans in attendance, they can just spread out in the first three or four rows of the stands. And they could play all day games because it’s not like any of us are at work. They’d make a killing on TV ratings.

Back to the present, I just had an argument with my daughter about an orange crayon. Because the first orange crayon I gave her to circle all the fucking words that start with an s wasn’t orange enough. It was too yellow. Looked orange enough to me, but that’s coming from a high school history teacher, not a kindergarten teacher. When did World War II start? Kinda sorta 1939, if you’re counting the main European conflict, but it wasn’t until 1941 that all of the major actors came in, with Operation Barbarossa in the summer and Pearl Harbor in December. Of course, the Pacific Theater could have been going on as early as 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

So don’t ask a fucking history teacher what “orange” is.

This has been my life this week. We’re using one of those charts that have been circulating online. One hour of “academic time” followed by one hour of “creative time.” There’s some outside time sprinkled in throughout the day, plus breaks for lunch and chores and quiet or reading time. I usually try to engage in whatever she’s doing, both for solidarity’s sake and to help stick to a routine myself. Of course, I don’t know if what I do counts as academic or creative. Most days, it’s probably neither. But the online time charts don’t put time aside for masturbatory self-flagellation.

It’s not like I can lesson plan during academic time. Well, I could, but by the time the hour was up, it would already be obsolete. The governor says schools are closed for the year and, I shit you not, I received an e-mail from my district the following morning saying, “That’s certainly his opinion.” And now it looks like the AP Test that my students have rightfully been freaking out about is going to change as well. Two separate test dates and they won’t cover anything from the twentieth century. So all of that nineteenth century remote learning I was working on can be stretched out. Plus the AP test will be online now, which means the motivated kids will spend the next six weeks trying to devise ways to cheat instead of studying for the exam. So there goes my pass rate.

I also liked how quickly the e-mails changed over the course of last weekend. Up until Saturday, it seemed like every company wanted to tell me how clean they were. They’ve been scrubbing every surface inside every business. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer might be things of the past, but there’s enough Lemon Pledge for every company, and then some. And when I say “every company,” holy crap! I didn’t even know I had done business with half these guys. How do they have my e-mail address? Has the government just provided every company with everybody’s e-mail address? It’s not like there are civil liberties or privacy anymore, so who cares what the government with our personal information?

Then on Sunday morning, all of the e-mails quickly switched from “look how clean we are” to “hey, we’ll deliver!” My favorite 180 came from Twin Peaks. If you aren’t aware of it, it’s one of those “breastaurants” whose main reason for existence is to see scantily-clad women. Oh, and maybe get some food. Think of Hooters and then take away 60% of each server’s clothing. Although to be fair to Twin Peaks, their food is substantially better than Hooters.

On Friday, Twin Peaks wanted me to know that all of their bikini-wearing servers will be on their hands and knees, polishing knobs during each shift. Wait, that might have come out wrong. They were cleaning everything, is what I meant to say. The message didn’t make me feel much better. In a standard restaurant, I only have to worry about the servers’ hands being clean. At Twin Peaks, ninety percent of their skin is touching everything. Fortunately, they did the economy-wide switch on Sunday. Turns out they deliver. But again, the food’s not their selling point. Customers aren’t missing the french fries, but rather the French maid outfits. And if the Doordash dude shows up wearing bikini bottoms, those fries aren’t going taste very good.

My county wasn’t on stay at home orders until yesterday morning. Then last night, the governor, who thinks he’s the most wonderful specimen of humanity and way smarter than everybody else, put the entire state on lockdown. A dictatorship is okay, after all, if the dictator is dashingly handsome and, let’s face it, better than you. Silly me, thinking we had freedom of assembly.

There seems to be some sort of distinction between “Stay at Home” and “Shelter in Place.” I’m not sure which is which, but the cities and counties have tended to start with one and then go to the other. Maybe one of them is a suggestion and the other is a mandate? I also have no idea which one the state of California is doing. We can still go to get food or medicine. And the good news is that beer is considered food.

I’ve actually taken my growler to my favorite local brewery to be refilled once, and I’m planning to go back. We’re also eating takeout for lunch more often than we need to. Because I’m on salary and I want these places to still be in business if we ever come out the other end of this. What’s the point of the checks that the federal government’s going to send out if there’s noplace left to spend it? Maybe that $1,000 will go to purchasing one roll of toilet paper on eBay.

Can’t wait to see the effect these lockdowns have on things like probable cause. Can a cop pull me over because I’m driving on the freeway? Do I have to make up some “essential” business I’m on my way to? I can’t give him the real answer, which is that that I’ve been stuck teaching academic time to a five-year old and wanted to listen to a grown-up podcast, which I’m way behind on because I don’t have a commute anymore.

We’re also allowed to go out to walk the dog or get exercise. If I don’t have a dog, can the cop arrest me if I don’t seem to be getting my heart into the cardio zone? “Come on, pansy, you call that exercise?”

Scratch that. The cops don’t need to catch you. Sacramento County just came out with an edict to call 311 if we see other people breaking their stay at home orders. Neighbors ratting out their neighbors. Getting more and more Stalin-y by the day.

I’ve got other things to say, but I think I need to flesh out a few thoughts. Better to post it here.

At least the rain isn’t coming back till Monday.

Coronavirus Lockdown Part 1

I’m writing from beyond the pale. I don’t know how long it’s been since society collapsed. After all, what is time but a communal construct?It all flows together once they closed all the schools and restaurants and bars and Disneyland. Since the rationing of bottled water and toilet paper. Has it been a month? A season? Would it still be the year of our Lord 2020, if we were still using those old calendars one might find on a dusty Google drive buried in the corner ‘neath Doordash coupons?

It’s only been a day? What the ever-loving fuck?

A lot’s changed since I finally decided to stop editing my last Coronavirus post to keep up. Back then I said we were overreacting. I still think we are. It seems like every day, they push the envelope. Not because there’s been a massive uptick showing the previous measures were unsuccessful, but more in a, “Wow, the people accepted the last infringement on civil liberties with nary a peep? Well how about if we call it shelter-in-place instead of martial law?”

But whatever. It’s not about us healthy people. It’s about the Baby Boomers next to us in the Target who can’t be bothered to wash their hands, because they’re God’s chosen generation and they’ve never given two shits about what society tells them to do, so why should they start now? I might get the shits, but they’ll die. Everyone under the age of sixty is a Typhoid Mary.

(We had a fix for social security right in front of us and we just couldn’t grab it…)

What was that? Did somebody say something? Never mind.

My family was supposed to go to Disneyland this week. Oops. After they closed, we managed to cancel Daughter’s independent study and her absences from day care and softball and dance. Oops.

On Friday afternoon, they canceled her school for the next month. Then my school canceled, as well. Then her dance class and her softball practices on Tuesday and softball games on Saturday and my curling canceled. Day care is still open (for now), but she only goes to day care two days a week. And let’s be honest, by the time this Friday rolls around, they’ll have joined the End of Days, too.

Which means I’m stuck with her for the next three weeks, at least. So I might as well blog about this shit, because if society isn’t ending, my sanity just might be. I don’t know how often I’ll post. Guessing it’ll get redundant pretty fast. And it’s not like my only-child is going to let me pick up my laptop. So I’ll have to plop her in front of the TV and then I start feeling guilty about my lack of parenting skills. At least until the electricity company tells all their workers to stay home.

Oh, and to add to the fun and frivolity, Mother Nature decided to get involved. We just had eight of the driest winter weeks on record, the trees in full bloom with daily temperatures in the seventies. Then, within twelve hours of schools being canceled, the rain came in. I think that’s what the Adult Entertainment Industry calls a “double-team.”

Still, I need to get some catharsis out. And if, in three weeks, they find me wandering the Nevada desert looking to drown my fears in some radiated dirt from all those nuclear tests seventy years ago, these blog posts will serve as evidence to chalk it up as another Coronavirus fatality.

This past Friday, I decided to go to the grocery store. It didn’t seem a momentous decision at the time. In fact, I decided to pick Daughter up from daycare first. She likes the grocery store, and it usually gives us a transition time before we get home. But clearly I missed the memo that this was the last time to stock up on important groceries before the impending Armageddon.

Holy shit! I expected the canned goods to be gone, maybe the long-term non-perishables. So when the pasta aisle looked like the toilet paper aisles that everyone’s been posting, I wasn’t shocked. Pasta lasts forever and you can do lots of different things with it. And even though I was annoyed that every single Kraft Macaroni n’ Cheese was gone, I shrugged and moved on. I mean, come on people, some of us have young kids and have to go through multiple blue boxes per day. What the hell are YOU using it for? Fortunately I managed to snag the last few Annie’s mac n’ cheeses. It sucks that I have to give my child something less processed. The organic ingredients might be a shock to her system. But at least I made sure some other fucker doesn’t get shit. It’s hoarding season, mother fucker!

I was a little more surprised at the carts full of chips. Really? You’re gonna hunker down with those things? How long do you expect them to last once you’ve opened each bag? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of a bag of chips as something that’s going to last me through a nuclear winter.

There was also allegedly a run on girl scout cookies. Usually the last weekend of booth sales are abysmal, as most people are chock full. This past weekend, quite the opposite. It shouldn’t seem to matter, as there aren’t going to be any cookies for sale until next January, Coronavirus or no. It’s like the hoarding instinct, once triggered, applies to anything and everything.

What I didn’t expect was the ground beef to be gone. Sure, you can throw it in with your first batch of pasta, but isn’t there some canned tuna or spam that you can throw in there instead? I mean shit, I was just looking for Friday night dinner and with the rain coming in, this would be the last grilling I could do for a while. What the hell is everyone else doing with it? At least nobody was getting fresh veggies. Maybe because they’re afraid of having to throw it away when it goes bad, which would mean they’d have to leave their house to roll it to the curb.

I’m now convinced that all those post-apocalyptic shows are bullshit. They always go on “supply runs,” which consist of ransacking grocery stores for all the canned goods still on the shelves. If this is what happens when the CDC tells us to wash our hands, there isn’t going to be jack shit on the shelves after the real end of the world hits.

More annoying than what was and was not on the aisles, though, was my lack of ability to get through said aisles. Holy crap! Despite having nothing to buy, I’d estimate that half the population of Sacramento California was in that one Safeway. You couldn’t even get from one aisle to the next if you were at the end near the registers. You’d get to the coffee and have to do a 180, go all the way back to the empty meat section, then head down the cereal aisle. But good luck making it all the way to the Kashi bars, because you’d end up running into the checkout line. And that fucker’s going to box you out like nobody’s business, because he’s been holding that spot since, like, six o’clock this morning and there’s no way he’s letting you cut in line. If you really need some Cheerios, he’s willing to set up a bucket brigade to get it to you, but that’s as much as you’re getting. Now just turn around and go on the Snipe Hunt that is the dairy refrigerator.

When I finally finished and made my way to the promised land of cash registers, the mass of humanity almost made me give up the ghost. All of the lanes were open and none of them were moving. There was a lady next to me who had enough things in her cart to qualify for the express lane. The only problem was that the express lane was number eight and she was in line for number one. She maneuvered past me (in line for register two), made it a couple more feet, then withdrew back to lane one. It was too daunting. Fortunately the person behind her let her back in. Asshole in the cereal aisle would’ve made her go back to the end. I suggested she circle around through the back of the store, but if she failed in that endeavor, she’d lose her spot for sure. After another five or ten minutes (what’s time when you’re stuck in line), she tried the direct route one more time. I wished her luck as she disappeared through lane three. As of the time of this writing, I don’t know if she made it clear to the other side. She might be wandering the Nevada desert looking for the sweet release of an atomic crater.

It wasn’t just the number of people that slowed the progress of the lines, it was what they had in their carts. To say overflowing would be a misstatement. After all, if you have two carts, each filled to the brim, that’s more than overflowing. And if both of those carts are overflowing, then I’m at loss for a descriptor. I wanted to ask each of these hoarders how disappointed they would be if they WEREN’T self-quarantined (sorry, “sheltered in place” sound so much more chic). How shitty would that feel to have a pantry full of garbanzo beans with a perfectly open grocery store a block away that you’re totally capable of going to. Come Monday, the stocks should be re-shelved and nary a customer in sight.

“Dammit,” I hear those people saying, “I’m healthy. Who wants some hummus?”

And what’s the deal with all the bottled water? We still have water flowing to our homes, right? If the Governor shuts down “all non-essential” services, we’re still going to have electricity and water and garbage, right? I consider those “essential.” He can maybe shut down the state-run brothels, though.

What’s that? Whorehouses aren’t run by the state? Was that hooker lying to me when she said it was my patriotic duty to procure her services? I knew I should’ve asked to see her federal worker badge.

Now I know I’m prone to hyperbole for entertainment value, but I’m not at all exaggerating when I say it took us forty minutes to check out once we were in line. The entire shopping process took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get maybe twenty items. Not a good bang for the buck there. Either I need to change my shopping pattern or they do. And we all know it ain’t gonna be they. So maybe I’ll come back next week and buy ten of everything.

It’ll be fun! Ten mac n’ cheeses. Ten spinach. Ten suppositories! Ten bars of soap.

Soap, you say? Yes, there’s still tons of soap. The hand sanitizer has been gone for weeks, but nobody seems to care about the stuff that works better than hand sanitizer.

After returning from the grocery store, I ventured out one more time Friday night. This time to Target for the most important purchase a family facing weeks at home with a small child can make: Frozen II. We had already attempted to buy it earlier in the week. Wife thought she found a really good deal on it, only to bring it home and find out it was the original Frozen, which I’m pretty sure we already have twenty copies of that we’ve watched or listened to ten-thousand times. Well, now we have twenty-one copies that we’ve watch ten thousand and one times. Because when we realized we’d bought the wrong one, it was already in the Blu-Ray player.

But with Quaran-geddon approaching, we opted for the real thing. We tried to be good. Wife ordered it on her Target app to pick up in-store, so we wouldn’t have to interact with the public. Then we waited for it to be ready. And we waited. And we waited. How the hell long does it take an employee to go to the back of the store and grab a fucking DVD?

Finally, Wife sent me to go pick up a copy. She could then return the app purchase as soon as she picked it up.

On my way back from the store, minutes after I’d made the purchase, Wife called to tell me the one she ordered was ready.

When I got home, I got the alert that Disney-Plus was going to be releasing Frozen II  three months early, starting the following day. So, at least in this household, Frozen II is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. Three versions purchased in twenty-four hours. And want to guess how many times we’ve watched it since then?

Oh, and while I was at Target, I also grabbed Knives Out. And some cereal. And an ice cream or two.

Gotta be prepared, after all. I may have been late to this hoarding party, but dammit, I’ve learned from the best.

So I finally made it through Friday. The self-quarantine hadn’t even started yet. Only three weeks (at least) to go.

And the rain was coming.

Coronavirus with Lyme Disease

Hold on. I’ll be right with you. First I have to wash my hands for two full minutes.

Unfortunately, I can’t turn over my one-minute hourglass or touch the timer button on my phone, or else I’ll have to start over.

And the water needs to be scalding. If all of my skin gets burned off, after all, I can’t touch my face.

Okay now, how long is that hand-washing good for? Is it two minutes under the faucet, two minutes out in the dangerous world?

Shit! Now I’ve touched my keyboard to type this sentence. And keyboards were already dirty, disgusting cesspools before the Plague-to-end-all-Plagues reared its ugly head. Nowadays, if I touch my keyboard or my face or a doorknob or a Kleenex, I’m taking my life in my hands. To say nothing of the lives of every other citizen in my house, on my block, in my city, and in my state. Not just the human citizens, mind you. All of our cats and dogs are susceptible. Put a mask on Fido! And you should probably devise a robot to feed the fish, too.

But crap, if I touch the robot as I’m building it, it’ll be just as infected as I am. So I need to make a robot that can then make another robot in a sterile environment. Based on the science fictions I’ve seen, the only way to do this is to make the first robot self-aware, and nothing bad can happen after that.

Oh, and Costco is now out of toilet paper.

Now don’t take this the wrong way, but have we lost our fucking mind?

Don’t get me wrong. Coronavirus seems like a bitch. The WHO puts the death rate above 3%, which is brutal if true. There’s question as to how many might be undiagnosed. But even if it’s not true, 4,000 deaths worldwide out of a global population of over seven billion is nothing to sneeze at. Sorry, bad analogy. But still, 4,000 deaths worldwide must be the worst disease of all time. Unlike that measly flu, which only kills… up to 500,000 people per year?

Clearly someone at CNN was absent the day their math class went over “greater than” and less than.”

But I’ve also heard that it mainly attacks those over the age of 70 with a history of respiratory issues or compromised immune systems. So is it only 3% of people who have been smoking for fifty years? Because if that’s the case, I’d really like to be able to wipe my ass again.

And if it mainly affects people that are already sickly, then it’s a good thing we aren’t letting professional athletes high-five each other anymore. I mean, just look at Mike Trout and LeBron James. Those guys look ready to keel over at a stiff breeze. Make them wash their hands every time they touch a football!

Of course, the death rate isn’t as important as the contagion rate. And the problem with the Coronavirus is that you can get it just by looking at someone with it. Or sharing the same zip code. At least as far as I’ve heard. But who the hell knows? It seems like every other headline in my news feed is about two more infected people in a country of three hundred million. So kiss your loved ones goodbye because statistically, it’ll hit you next. Your only hope at survival is to click on the link. Then go douse your infected finger in acid for two minutes.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve seen reported. Of course, all of these are anecdotal. But that almost makes it worse.

-A local school district just canceled school for a week. Not sure what good that’ll do, since the incubation period seems to be 14 days. Maybe they should just cancel the rest of the school year.

-Starbucks isn’t allowing customers to use reusable cups. Even though they wash them and hand them back to the very customer whose germs it has. This after Starbucks and all of its customers (and detractors) have spent the last decade bemoaning single-use cups as the single greatest threat to the survival of our planet. Can’t wait until California, which banned* single-use plastic bags years ago, tells us we have to start using them again.
(*N.B. We didn’t ban them, the stores just can’t give them away. They need to charge us. But only grocery stores. Department stores, restaurants, sporting good stores, bookstores, Target, and everyone else can give us plastic to their hearts’ content.)

-The four major sports leagues currently playing games have banned reporters from locker rooms. Because interviewing people right out of the shower, when they’re at their cleanest, is a bad idea. Much better to wait until you can get them all crowded into a press-conference room with carpeting and seats that have had thousands of ass-cheeks in them.

-Everyplace is out of hand sanitizer, which I sorta understand, and toilet paper, which I don’t. Even if it’s two-ply, it won’t protect you from a virus. But Costco is limiting the amount of toilet paper each customer can buy. It worked so well for Carter with gas in the late 1970s.

– We’re now assaulting people who sneeze on planes, or forcing the place to divert. Despite the fact that March is prime allergy month.

-Italy started banning fans from sporting events for the next month. Banning FANS! They’re legitimately going to be playing soccer games in front of empty stadiums. Because if so much as one virus gets loose in a stadium of 70,000, then all 70,000 will be dead by the end of the game. The team with the last fan standing wins.

-In the 48 hours since I started this post, the Italy decision has been followed by every other lemming in the world: the San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors, every event in Ohio, and probably, when opening day rolls around, the Seattle Mariners. But the Mariners are still playing in front of fans in Spring Training. But it’s okay, because only old people go to Spring Training. And their more susceptible.

-And this just in: all of March Madness! Holy shit! Bet and pick favorites. Usually the crowd likes to pump up underdogs and get behind them if they go on a run.

I’m reminded of before the Iraq War (the second one), when Colin Powell busted out his Anthrax presentation at the United Nations. He held up a vial and said a teaspoon of that will, like, crawl up inside the asshole of every infidel and treat us like 72 virgins. (I might’ve been paraphrasing). But based on the sporting bans, Coronavirus might as well be anthrax. I feel a little bit sorry for all the suicide bombers. Who would have guessed that all they needed to do to bring the entire western world to a screeching halt was sneeze in an airport.

Or maybe we could stop using The Walking Dead as a medical journal.

Because as far as I can tell, the Coronavirus is a pretty nasty form of the flu. Death rate is definitely higher. And maybe it’s more contagious? But it’s flu season. And really, shouldn’t we be washing our hands a lot during the winter anyway?

Speaking of which, are we still supposed to wash or hands after going to the bathroom? What’s a little fecal matter in the face of oblivion? Heck, it’s not like I was able to wipe with all the toilet paper gone, anyway.

The way people are acting, it’s the Black Death. If you’ve driven on the same freeway as someone, even if you’re in completely different cars with all the windows rolled up and no outside vent running, you are assuredly infected. And did you just look in the rear view window? Now the guy behind you has it. And now you’re both certain to die. Good job, asshat. How dare you drive your car? Quick, buy some hand sanitizer and toilet paper!

Because a 3% death rate means everybody dies. Said by the same people who claim the 2016 polls were wrong because someone with a 30% chance won the election. Percentages are hard, y’all!

A local junior colleges made the news because one of their medical students had been exposed to the virus. They reiterated that the county has no cases yet. So how the fuck was this student “exposed to” the virus? Is the virus going around wearing socks and a trenchcoat? Was it hanging out at the county line, unwilling to cross but waiting for a goody-two-shoes to look in the wrong direction? Seriously, how is one exposed to the virus if nobody around has said virus? Did she see a picture of it online?

I had it right the first time. This isn’t the Black Death. This is the Zombie Apocalypse.

Or maybe, with the run on toilet paper, we’re going for the Mummy Apocalypse.

I don’t want to blame this on the media. But come on, they’ve certainly been at the forefront of fan-flaming. They had such a good thing going with that whole impeachment thing. But with that gone, what’s going to get the people to click on ten different headlines featuring the same general content?

Coronavirus!

Boy howdy, that’s a catchy name. After all, we’ve gone through this rigmarole before, but back then it was called Swine Flu or Avian Flu or SARS. And those all sound comic. Scientific. And let’s be honest, foreign. But corona? That’s something I’ve heard of. SARS sounds like someone banging a gong, but I see Corona at the grocery store. It’s memorable. It’s catchy.

I bet Tecate’s pissed about all the earned media of their closest rival.

There was a poll showing 38% of people not willing to drink Corona, and the media (again, errantly) claimed this was due to the fancy new nomenclature. But if you look closely at that poll, only 4% said it was because of the Coronavirus. The other 34% are just sane human beings who don’t want to waste money on crappy beer. Have I mentioned before that beer shouldn’t need fruit added? I think I have.

Corona’s sales have actually gone up over the same period last year and the year before. Because people are nothing if not impressionable. If Tecate wants to get in on this shit, they better strike a deal to change the name to Covid-19, brought to you by Tecate. Or maybe Dos Equis can get in on the fun by calling it the Most Interesting Virus in the World. I don’t always wash my hands. But when I do, it’s because of Coron… crap, Covid-19.

Hey, did you know you can sing Covid-19 to the tune of “Come On, Eileen”? And… you’re welcome.

Here’s where I admit that I’ve been washing my hands a hell of a lot more often this past week than I usually do. Because it’s out there and it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of during flu season. But we can go overboard. At the bank, a woman demanded that they sanitize the pen before she signed her check. At my school, the librarian is making all of the teachers wash our hands before making copies. He’s got, I shit you not, four different soft-soap dispensers at the sink. I assume he watched which one I used and then used one of the others to clean its nozzle.

An abundance of caution. I get it. But I don’t think it was photocopiers that drove the Spanish Flu back in 1919. And I have yet to see a pen used on The Walking Dead. 

There’s something McCarthyist about the whole thing. Everyone’s got it except you. Greet everyone with suspicion. Wash at all costs to kill the reds, cause the only good virus is a virus who’s dead!

Perhaps we should make a list of who is suspected of having coronavirus. Shut yourself in your house and spy out the window. If your neighbor’s water meter doesn’t go up every ten minutes, then they’re a bunch of filthy coronas.

We can give said list to John Procter. He seems like he’d do the responsible thing. What’s that? He’s been dead for 300 years? Hmm, put your lists and theories out on Twitter instead. Seems just as reasonable.

So, after canceling schools and sporting events and flights (I saw that airlines are canceling and combining flights to lessen exposure, but doesn’t that just put more people on each flight?), what can we do? Some people have taken to fist bumping and elbow bumping in lieu of shaking hands. Howie Mandel allegedly only first bumps because he’s a germophobe. Um, okay but… fist bumping is still skin to skin contact. As are your elbows, if you’re wearing short sleeves. And sure, your elbows haven’t been grabbing doorknobs or anything, but you also haven’t been washing them as regularly as your hands, have you? And you had this brilliant idea to start pushing open doors with those elbows to avoid grabbing those doorknobs. In the same spot that every other Wisenheimer is putting their elbows to open the door.

We’re also not supposed to touch our faces. But come on, that’s not real, right? Everybody touches their faces. It’s instinct. Right now my face feels fine, but if you tell me I can’t touch it, there will immediately be a colossal itch on my cheek, the type that feels like an inchworm burrowing into my skull. I just NEED to scratch it. AHHHHH!

I think that whole “don’t touch your face thing” is what they throw in to avoid coming up with real answers. Hey, why’d this perfectly healthy hermit who’s been inside since the first Bush Administration contract this communicable disease? Eh, he probably touched his face.

It’s like when your dentist asks if you’ve been flossing. Because nobody actually flosses regularly. We floss when something’s stuck in our teeth and the night before we see the dentist. And we touch our face to adjust our glasses or run our hands through our hair or put an Airpod in our ear. Or, back in the Dark Ages, to cover up our mouth and nose when we were sneezing or coughing. But now I’m being told that’s a big no-no, because now those germs are in my hand. We should instead sneeze into our shirt sleeve. Somehow that’s more sanitary. Perhaps the dried snot on my sleeve will become a way to signal that I’m woke.

To quote The Verve in The Freshman,  “I won’t be held responsible. She was touching her face.” I’ve heard conflicting theories over the past twenty years that that song was about either a drug overdose or an abortion. Turns out it was a CDC memo this whole time. And I guess when the Divinyls were singing, “When I think about you I touch myself,” they were actually wishing death and disease upon you.

So now we’ve successfully “self-quarantined” ourselves from any other human contact. Want to know another word for “self-quarantine”? It’s called staying home. Just like we’ve always told people to do with the flu. But it sounds fancier now. “Stay home” is a suggestion. “Self-Quarantine” is a directive. Maybe it’s not a mandate yet, but the niggling conspiracy theorist at the back of my skull thinks the government is paying very close attention to how this self-quarantine is going. Holy shit, they’re playing sports in empty stadiums?  Just wait when we tell them that bath salts fucker was really a zombie.

And yes, the niggling woke-dude at the back of my skull knows that we’re not supposed to say “niggling” anymore.

The last time they made up this large-scale of a “quarantine” was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that wasn’t a quarantine either. It was an embargo. And this doesn’t feel like a “self-quarantine” either. The local news just reported on someone leaving a block that was self-quarantined. A block! An entire row of houses! Being volun-told to not venture out of their house. Because one person might or might not have “been exposed to” a particularly gnarly flu.

I overheard two people talking.

“I’ve heard someone might have tested positive for it in Elk Grove”

“Well… You live in Elk Grove, don’t you?”

Elk Grove, by the way, is a suburb of 200,00 people that encompasses close to fifty square miles.

Then again, they’re freaking out because Los Angeles County, with a population of four million, has twenty sick people. And they’re banning San Jose Sharks games because 50 people out of the 2,000,000 who live in Santa Clara County have it. And some 80-year old died.

As an aside, how many people have the flu right now?

And what about us poor souls whose seasonal allergies go crazy this time of year. How dare we show ourselves in public and make all those people worry? The wheezy cough. The weepy eyes. Why, I must be a zombie, mustn’t I?

Allergies, my wife and child can attest are not contagious. But the time for subtlety and nuance is over. It’s Coronavirus’s world now, mother fucker!

It’s like the old saying:

First they came for the toilet paper. But I was stocked up on toilet paper, so I said nothing.

I Am Gout

I have gout.

Maybe I could have come up with a better hook. Some quip or background story about the course and curse of my life. But nah. When your foot’s swelled up like a goddamned softball and the thought of walking fifteen feet to the bathroom brings on a bout of shakes and sweat like day three of a detox, necessitating a military-style gameplan complete with analysis of terrain and supposition of barriers and where-the-fuck-is-the-dog-because-as-soon-as-I-get-up-she’s-going-to-plop-herself-right-in-front-of-my-route, well, you learn to just keep it simple. I have gout.

Besides, it’s a phrase I have to repeat twenty times a fucking day when I’m having a flare-up. You get used to it.

“Why are you limping?”

“I have gout.”

“What happened?”

“I have gout.”

“Hey… Umm.. Are you…”

“Yes. I have gout. I am gout. I am Groot.”

Because nothing devolves into a one-line talking tree more quickly than a seemingly healthy forty-something hobbling around like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, right before his cloak withers around his flesh dissolving into the ether. Is that my best pop-culture old man reference? Yeah it is. What, should I have gone with Citizen Kane gasping out about his stupid sled? Well that movie sucked. I don’t care if it ranks #1 all-time. It was boring and can’t hold the jockstrap of Casablanca and The Godfather, the other two that it usually muscles out for the top spot. Yoda’s a better reference, because every Star Wars movie is better than Citizen Kane.

(Editor’s note: By “every Star Wars movie,” I mean episodes four through eight, and maybe Solo and Rogue One. The others don’t count.)

(Editor’s postscript: I can make editor’s notes that say “I” because the writer and the editor are the same person in this masturbatory act of self-publishing.)

My first bout with gout (hey, a rhyme) came in my mid-thirties. I was still single and living alone meaning, unlike now, I couldn’t ask my wife to take the trash can out to the curb just this once. Hoo boy. I remember that Lawrence of Arabia-esque trek toward the curb.

“Aqaba! From the land!”

“Trash can! To the curb!”

“You are mad, sir!”

BTW, Lawrence of Arabia is also a damn fine movie and should be hundreds of places higher than Citizen Kane.

The journey to the curb was bad enough, because at least I could use the trash can as a pseudo-walker. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Fifteen minutes later, I turned around with horror to see the wide open expanse of my driveway leading back to my front door. Nary a stabilizer nor support lay betwixt myself and my goal. The December ground was wet with light drizzle that was ongoing, yet still the prospect of getting down on all fours and crawling back into my abode seemed a perfectly viable alternative, and if my pants became shredded and knees bloody, it seemed a small price to pay. After all, I could always shower once I… wait, showering requires standing. Never mind, I guess I’ll just hobble back for twenty minutes and risk pneumonia. They hospitalize you for that, right? Bedridden for the next week sounds like an excellent gameplan during a flare-up.

That flare-up was a particularly bad one. It had started in one ankle, but after a few days of favoring the other foot while walking around, I now had two ankles the size of softballs. Walking around with one painful foot is difficult. Walking around with two painful feet is a simultaneous exercise in futility, frustration, and misfortune. I believe Chasing Amy refers to that as a Chinese finger trap.

That trash night was followed by my first ankle-related doctor visit. Which is saying something, because as a mid-thirties American male, I didn’t believe in going to the doctors for shit. There’s a reason any plan to make insurance affordable starts with making young men pay for it, because everyone knows they’ll never use it.

The doctor brought up this newfangled diagnosis called gout, but she was hesitant to classify my current condition as gout. First she had to run a thousand tests, which required my gimpy ass to drive all over town to different medical offices and hospitals, most of which had parking lots over a block away from the institution. I had to go to the x-ray guy to see if anything was broken, and the ultrasound guy to see if my leg was pregnant. Or maybe she was looking for a blood clot. Regardless, my leg was neither clotted, nor knocked up.

So then the doctor gave me a pill that I had to take once every hour until one of two things happened. Either the pain would go away, meaning I have gout, or I’d get sick as hell. And how about another “Hoo Boy” for that one. I said “sick as hell” instead of “sick as shit” for a reason. Because all of a sudden I was spewing out of both ends like Old Faithful. And believe me when I say it was “all of a sudden.” I went from zero to a million in the time it took me to crawl the ten feet from the couch to the bathroom. What started as a vague sense of “something’s not right” quickly became a pinwheel spinning from ass on the seat to face in the seat to ass on the seat and praying that there would always remain a split second between the two phenomena. But as I kneeled next to the porcelain goddess after the seventh flush, I remember wiggling my toes and still feeling the pain and thinking, “well, at least I don’t have gout.”

It would take five years, and at least three doctors, before that “not gout” designation was reversed. And no, I wasn’t doctor shopping or anything, I was just going from one insurance plan to the next based on whichever one was cheaper. It’s not like I was going to use it, anyway. Although when the second doctor only diagnosed me with a case of “you walk funny, get some orthotics,” I decided to find something more permanent. Plus, I switched to Kaiser, because then if I had to go through another bout of tests, they’d at least all be in the same building,

So now, a decade later, I can just say I have gout. Well, sort of. Because my form of gout doesn’t fit any of the normal descriptions. The only thing that made me finally admit, begrudgingly, that I may in fact have this particular affliction is that gout medicine usually helps me get better.

Gout is a form of arthritis. A flare-up happens when there’s too much uric acid in your blood. The uric acid usually falls toward your foot, creating a dull pain in the toes. And there are a few times I feel that. It’s a deep discomfort, almost a stiffness, that appears in my toes. It makes walking more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily get better or worse if I walk. It’s always there. And at those points, I think, “Yep, that’s what WebMD and Wikipedia tell me gout is.”

But those textbook gout feelings are rare. My usual modus operandi hits my ankles, not my toes, and causes them to swell up to the point that flip-flops are the only footwear that can contain them. Sometimes, but not always, this is accompanied by a sharp pain in the arch of my foot or my heel, like plantar fasciitis. But usually I chalk the arch and heel up to continuing to wear shoes, and oftentimes an ankle brace as well, which bruises my swollen foot.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Grab some Advil.

Gout is usually caused by diet, and a flare-up usually happens after eating something bad. But mine is usually caused by rolling my ankle. It can be slight or severe. Sometimes I step on a rock and my leg kicks out while my foot stays still, and I know that three or four  days later, my ankle’s going to be spherical in shape. Other times I feel the twinge and try to think back as to what I did over the last few days and can’t pinpoint what exactly I did. Even if I can’t pinpoint the incident, I don’t think it’s usually tied to food.

Except maybe salt. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in discomfort, and even an occasional outbreak, after I overindulge in salt. Whether it’s dinner at Panda Express or processed lunchmeat sandwiches or hitting the sunflower seeds too hard at a ballgame, you can bet I’ll be wearing an ankle brace the next few days.

Oddly enough, though, salt isn’t listed as one of the key ingredients that brings on gout. The magical elves at Wikipedia list red meat and shellfish as the cause. Do I like red meat and shellfish? Sure. Do I eat them a shit ton? Not really. Sure, I love me a hamburger, but my pasta sauce and homemade tacos are just as likely to have chicken or turkey. And while I’m definitely the guy at the crab feed that the organization doesn’t come out ahead on, I can’t afford to eat crab or scallops or shrimp more than once or twice a year. And the type of red meat they they usually reference on the gout sites are the nasty shit – livers and kidneys. And sweetmeats, which I’m pretty sure are fucking brains. Eww. Never ate that shit and probably never will. Definitely never will, now that I know it’ll inflame my gout.

What’s that? Beer is also listed as one of the irritants? Because of the yeast? Why are you bringing that up? Seems completely irrelevant…

So let’s go down the checklist.

Dull ache in my toes? Nope.

Eat a lot of cow brain? Nope.

Discoloration of the gap between tiles? Oh sorry, that’s grout.

After years of reading all of the descriptions of gout and thinking, “that’s not what I’ve got going on,” someone saw me hobbling along and asked if I had bursitis. I said, “No, I have gout,” then immediately looked up bursitis. Well, not immediately, because it probably took me ten minutes to go the fifteen yards to a computer. But “immediately” in gout world.

Bursitis is the swelling of the bursae fluid sacs at the joints. Symptoms include a stiff ankle, swelling of the heel, hot skin, red skin, veins popping out, pain when wearing shoes.  Ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner! I mean, not really a winner, because it’s not exactly a prize, but at least the symptoms sounded a lot closer to what I had experienced off and on for years. Why the hell does everyone want to diagnose it as gout when it’s clearly bursitis?

Hold on, let me read a little further. Causes of bursitis may include… gout. Well, fuck a duck. They might want to add that little footnote to all of the gout descriptions that say it’ll hit your toes first.

I also got it in my knee once. That was fun. While curling (actually, while sweeping), my lower leg went the wrong direction, and three days later, I could barely put on pants. The left knee is still a little bit tender, but at least it has the decency to confine itself to one side of my body, a concession my ankles rarely make. Still, nothing makes me feel quite so alive as those days that I’m wearing two ankle braces and one knee brace. I’m like Cyborg or Robocop, mostly machine with only a trace of humanity remaining.

I’ve become more adept at predicting when these outbreaks will occur. I’ve even been able to avoid a few major flare-ups. I usually feel a twinge in one or both of my ankles, and I immediately cut down on its usage. Sleep on the couch with my foot propped up above my heart for a couple nights, maybe a little ibuprofen and some ice, and a few days later, I’m fine. The acronym for a hurt ankle is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I repeat it over and over like the episode of Family Ties where Mallory learns the acronym for SCUBA.

If the twinge is a little bit worse, I can take my indomethacin prescription pills for a couple days. But not more than a couple days. Because if I have to get a refill more than once every two years or so, my doctor might want me to come back in for a closer look. And while I’m now in my mid-forties, I’m still male. Besides, you can’t drink alcohol with these pills. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a vomit-fest.

But whenever that happens, whenever I feel the gout coming and can avoid it with a little bit of precaution, I think to myself, “Whew, I’ve finally nipped this thing.”

Then the gout responds, “Oh yeah? You think you’ve got me under control? I hope you weren’t planning on going upstairs anytime soon. And have fun honing your cruise control skills.”

Because if I’m distracted or unable to take it easy for a few days, the gout hits a tipping point, and then it’s going to take a week of indomethacin and ibuprofen, not a day. Or longer. My current discomfort’s been going on for a few weeks. I thought I was getting better after four days and quit the pills for a day or two. Oops.

The last major incident before my current stroll down no-stroll lane came last February. It was the week of the Mock Trial competition at my school. I am the Mock Trial coach. Not much I can do to avoid being out and about for fifteen hours a day. Oh, and the parking garage is a block away from the courthouse, because they used the same ableist, piece-of-shit civil engineer as the hospital. I resorted to using my wife’s grandfather’s cane. Nothing says hip, with-it, and in control of one’s faculties quite like a circa 1970s wooden cane that looks straight from a Tijuana street vendor. Can I get a pimp cane to go with my pimp walk?

What made it even more sublime was that the Mock Trial case involved the defendant’s walking stick being used to bludgeon the victim. Some of the opposing teams joked that I was bringing in an inadmissible prop. Until they saw me walk. Then they asked me what was wrong.

“I have gout.”

But the cane did little to help me walk. It helps when I’m standing in front of the classroom, because then I can lean on it. But when I’m walking, it does virtually nothing to alleviate the basic problem of moving my foot through the air and placing it upon the ground. The amount of weight I put on the foot might doesn’t really affect the amount of discomfort. If anything, the cane makes it a little worse,  because in addition to pain, my foot also lacks strength. The cane fixes the latter, meaning I can walk faster, but does nothing to alleviate the pain, which is now happening more often. I’m sure, with more experience, I could be more effective with the cane, but at this point, I’m still a neophyte. Hell, I can’t even figure out if I’m supposed to use it in the hand that’s on the hurting side or the strong side.

This week, I finally broke down and bought one of those knee scooters. You know the one? You cock your leg and rest the lower half on a raised scooter. Totally fancy, and even moreso, it allows my infected foot to never touch the ground. Of course, it also puts pressure on my knee and must do something wonky with my bloodflow, because when I do finally put the infected foot down, it’s a dazzling shock to the system. A sharp pain from an appendage that thought it was getting the day off.

Oh, and the knee scooter doesn’t help with stairs.

Oh, and it looks really silly. I know, I know. That totally shouldn’t matter. If I’m already gimping around, why am I worried about appearances? Because I’m a vain motherfucker. And generations of badasses from John Wayne to John McClain to John… umm… McCain? have told me that walking with a limp can be manly. Swagger! But only pussies would ride around on a scooter.

Wait, Fonzie drove a motorcycle, right? So all I need to do is invest in a leather jacket! Unfortunately, I just bought a knee scooter, so there’s no fucking way I can afford a leather jacket.

I’ve had a few other flare-ups at bad times. They always seem to happen at bad times, because if it’s a time where it’s convenient for me to slow down, it doesn’t go into Full Gout Mode. They also tend to happen when I’m distracted. When I can feel the twinge and think, “Oh, that’s not the gout. It must just be the…”

One time was in England. I blamed it on all of the traffic circles, because driving a stick-shift on the wrong side of the car is bad enough, but needing to slam out the clutch to go from zero to fifty in a half-second in order to negotiate the two-yard gap in a continuously streaming cross-traffic is not beneficial for somebody with traditionally wonky ankles.

Sorry. Two-meter gap. Yards are outlawed in Europe.

It coulda been the salty Nando’s, too. Mmm… Nando’s. I’d chop off my ankles if it meant I could get a Nando’s here on the west coast.

The ankle got worse and worse, and by the night before we left, it was horrible. And the Bristol airport puts their rental car lot even further away from their terminal than do northern California hospitals.

When we got to the counter, my wife told me to ask for a wheel chair. I was very reticent for the same reasons I don’t want to use my knee scooter. I hate looking like an invalid. I hate needing others to push me around. I’d rather have to let little old ladies pass me than to throw in the towel. Because if I’m in a wheel chair, people will avoid eye contact with me. But if I’m limping, they’ll ask me what’s wrong.

“I have gout.”

But Wife insisted, and there I was, being pushed around by my wife, who was four-weeks pregnant at the time. And a little bit hungover, because we didn’t know she was four-weeks pregnant at the time. Makes me feel like an abusive husband. Barefoot, pregnant, and pushing my ass around an airport.

But it’s a good thing we did that. Because the airport staffers called ahead and when we got off the plane in Atlanta, there was a wheelchair waiting for me. This time it was pushed by an airport employee, because evidently capitalist America hires people for those roles, whereas socialist Britain tells you to do it your own fucking self. The wheelchair pusher had some clout. He pushed me past the milieu and, most importantly, to the front of the customs line. Holy shit, I should ask for a wheelchair more often. Then he took me out of the international terminal onto a tram and all the way to my domestic gate. Had I attempted this journey by myself, it would have taken me three hours. I would have missed my connecting flight. So fuck you, John McClain. If you missed your connecting flight, then Hans Gruber wins. And if Hans Gruber wins, then there’s no incentive for him to get a job at a wizarding school and not one, but two movie franchises are ruined.

“You feel that, Butch? That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride.”

Did I just go full Bruce Willis circle on that? I did!

My other experience with wheelchairs came two summers ago when the gout stuck while we were vacationing in San Diego. San Diego in summer. Totally the time one would expect to get hit with a form of arthritis that is exacerbated by the cold. And there’s not even any cow brain on the menu there!

The two places we wanted to take our child in San Diego were the zoo and Legoland, two places not known as favorites of the immobiles. Wife again insisted I get a wheelchair at both places. And good God, y’all, did you know they have hills in San Diego? The San Diego Zoo must have at least ten different elevation changes of a thousand feet or more. The polar bear exhibit is halfway down a hill that is approximately a mile long and at a seventy percent incline (I’m not a geometrist), so if I wanted to see them, my options were either to start at the bottom of the hill and relive the story of Sisyphus or else start at the top of the hill and run some fun experiments on terminal velocity.

And then there was that whole pride thing, again. I didn’t want to make the bus stop for me and take the time to load and unload my wheelchair. I didn’t want to ask for help from strangers, and Wife was busy single-parenting a three-year old who wants to see all the animals at the same time. So there I was, going up a steep incline using the poles of an iron fence to pull myself up, which I had quickly realized was much easier than pushing the wheels uphill. So yay for leveling up in wheelchair faster than I did in cane. But holy crap, if I had to be in a wheelchair every day, I’m pretty sure my upper torso would look like Rambo’s.

The following day, we went to Legoland. Again, we rented a wheelchair. There are fewer steep hills at Legoland, but it seems like the whole damn place is on a slight slope. There were very few places that I felt comfortable taking my hands off the wheels without worrying about gravity pulling me slowly away from my family.

But I did find out one pretty cool thing. Most Legoland rides have a separate line for disabled people. I don’t know if I technically counted as disabled, but I was definitely mobility-impaired, which was the main thing they were concerned with. Or maybe they just felt that since I paid $50 to rent the wheelchair equivalent of rental skis, I shouldn’t have to stand for long periods of time in line.

So I got to go to the super secret disabled entrances to rides, which aren’t really all that secret, but are very, very super. For most of them, you go the then end of the line or the end of the ride, where people get off the ride. And then, just like customs at Hartsfield-Jackson, you’re magically next in line. There were a few rides at Legoland that had a Fastpass-style disabled entrance, where you’d sign up for a time to come back. But unlike the real Fastpass, the time is twenty minutes from now, not two hours. And twenty minutes turns out to be just enough time to skip the line at the ride next door and come back.

Hey, wait a second. We’re taking our kid to Disneyland in March. Maybe I can rent me a wheelchair and become Dad of the Year. I remember all those stories a few years ago that wealthy families were hiring disabled people to skip the lines for them. Can I hire myself out? I assume Disneyland is a bit more scrutinizing than Legoland, but I’ve gotten the royal treatment once before.

Then again, at the rate my last week has gone, it might be wiser for my family to keep me at the hotel. Or leave me at home.

I guess in the meantime, I’ll do what I do best at times like this. Sit in pain and wait for the drugs to go into effect.

Say it with me: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Taking the Oregon Trail to My Bowels

My daughter gave me dysentery for Father’s Day. I guess ash trays are gauche these days, and ties are SO bourgeois.

Okay, it might not have been dysentery. It might have just been the flu. But somewhere around 8:00 last night, I was pretty sure this little Oregon Trail of life wasn’t quite making it through to Willamette.

Baby brought it home from day care, throwing up throughout the night on Thursday. Poor thing. I really sympathized with her. Sympathy, from the Greek word for “to suffer.” Even stayed home with her all day Friday.

Baby was mostly clear by Friday afternoon. Yay! We’re in the clear!

But that clearly wasn’t enough for the gods of tragedy. They had to pass it along to me and my wife with an Oedipal fury. Not Oedipal as in sleeping with our parents. More along the “gouging our eyes out” variety.

Wife and I actually caught the symptoms within an hour of each other on Saturday.  Thank God for grandparents nearby. If you don’t have any of those, I suggest you grow some.

Then it was just wife and I dealing with the rigors of keeping things down. We failed miserably. It seemed like we were aligned perfectly, each bout of “Out of Both Ends” starting within minutes of each other. Thank God for multiple bathrooms.

There are a few things I’ve never quite understood about the human propensity to purge the system during sickness. I know that we occasionally have to get something harmful out of our system. I have dogs and cats, and they both vomit. But dogs and cats just vomit once and then they’re done. No histrionics, no curling up by the commode waiting for the next round. Never once seen my 17-year old cat (who vomits often) dry heave. Never seen Hershey squirts flying out of his ass.

As an evolutionary trait, how did humans come up with this particular purging mechanism? How did we survive as a species? Because I think any wolf or bear in a five-mile radius would’ve heard and smelled me last night. Any other tribe members would have done their best to steer wide from me. Leave me with a little tombstone that said “Here lies Wombat. He done shat himself to death.”

During the second half of the last night’s plague outbreak, I grew tired of dry heaving and cotton mouth and feebly stated “I’d rather be vomiting up something instead of nothing.” A statement I would not agree with an hour later, but at the time it seemed logical.

I’ve always been a fan of water. It seems an odd statement, but I know a lot of people who aren’t. Think of how many products are out there to make water more palatable. But I love the stuff. On the average day, I only drink three types of fluid – water, coffee (black), and iced tea (unsweetened). Because when I drink, I want fluid, not sugar. I’ll save my sugar intake for ice cream. Or beer (drink number four on the “non-average” days).

And that first gulp of water I had last night was exquisite. My mouth was so parched. I wanted to drink a gallon of it. I downed the first pint in one gulp. Maybe not the best idea, but it was soothing every square centimeter of my mouth, tongue, and throat. I tried to pace myself. I swished some of the second pint in my mouth instead of swallowing, then fill a third pint and put it by my bed as I tried to pass out for another hour.

And then it all came back up. More violent than before. As if my body was shaming me for attempting to, I don’t know, hydrate? Survive? Seriously, body, what the fuck is your problem?

And this is, again, when I start to question the purpose of vomiting, and especially of repeat vomiting. The symptoms when we are sick are not actually from the virus or bacteria itself, but from our body’s attempt to attack and remove those foreign agents. The flu doesn’t cause you to vomit, your body attacking the flu causes you to vomit. As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I know that no amount of logic and reason will stop my body from thinking dust is a mortal enemy.

So the first round of vomits is understandable, removing a bit of poison. Your stomach doesn’t like the last thing you ate, so get in there and remove it. And if I put something potentially damaging in afterward, it’s probably a good idea to be on guard. My body really doesn’t have the fucking time to process shit right now, what with the fighting off Montezuma’s goddamn Revenge, and all.

But water? If I had put some Crystal Light in it, I could understand. My wife tried some Sprite and on an earlier respite, I had a little ginger ale. Our bad. I deserve that sickeningly-sweet upchuck and the burned nasal hairs that come with it.

But it was just basic water. What the fuck kind of overzealous white blood cell is deciding that the building block of all life is somehow detrimental to my wellbeing? And has this little fuckwad checked in with my mouth recently? Because my mouth is definitely on board the whole “water is good” train.

I seriously question how humans are still around. How did we even get to the point where ol’ Jebediah could set out from Independence, MO, in the hopes of maybe only catching cholera this time.

Good news is I’ll have plenty of time to think about it. I feel another flux coming on.

One Day of Gratitude

I’m taking a step back from both my novel and my usual observational brilliance to think a little about Thanksgiving. It’s the Holiday that used to fall halfway between Halloween and Christmas but is now just a one-day break from Christmas season. I don’t do the stupid “30 Days of Thankful” crap that some do on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace or whatever the hip youngsters are doing these days. Hey, my spellcheck accepts Facebook, but not MySpace. Take that, random student-who-argued-with-me-about-which-one-had-more-long-term-viability!

So, without trying to be too shmoopy, here are some things that I am thankful for.

I’ll start with a non-emotional one. I’m thankful for NaNoWriMo, and I’m also thankful that it’s almost over. I won’t win. I’m currently just past 20,000 words. My new goal is to hit 30,000 by Sunday. So I’m thankful that there is something that encourages me to sit down and write 30,000 words in a month. I’m also thankful that, a week from today, 30,000 words in a month won’t seem like a failure. More on that next week, when I’m planning a NaNoWriMo postmortem.

Now the more serious stuff. I’m thankful for my daughter. Kids annoy me, but I knew it would be different when I had my own. I have two nieces, who are both in their late teens now, and I thought they were adorable as babies and toddlers. But my appreciation of my nieces was nothing compared to the last six months. I am fascinated by little things, like how intently she concentrates to pass a toy from one hand to the other.  I’m sure it helps that she’s very well adjusted. She isn’t colicky or teething (yet) and pretty much only cries when there’s something legitimately wrong, like she’s hungry. I’d like to take responsibility for that, but I know better. Her current noise du jour is raspberries (aka fart noises) with her mouth. Constantly. And it’s constantly entertaining.

I also have always been annoyed by parents talking or posting about their child doing something that every other child in existence has done as if it’s some novelty. Look, my baby learned how to roll over, he’s halfway to Mensa! Or I taught my child to hold her own bottle! Next I’m going to teach the cat to crap in a box! So I’ve tried to be pretty low-key on describing things she does that are unremarkable in the grand scheme of things. But indulge me for a Thanksgiving blog entry. Often, when she locks eyes and smiles, she then starts a silent laugh, complete with the bunched up shoulders. Then she looks away, but then turns back. She’s basically giggling and flirting. That’s what I’m usually looking forward to as I drive home from work. She’s now maintaining eye contact while smiling more often, but I still get the little coquet from time to time.

I’m also thankful for health. Not mine, but my wife’s and child’s. I mean, I assume it would suck if I lost my health, but it hasn’t really been an issue lately. My wife, on the other hand, has been through the wringer.  At this point, she’s been out of the hospital for almost two months, and let’s hope it continues. She currently has a stint in one of her ducts, so they’ll need to remove that in December, but it is an allegedly outpatient procedure. Having her upright, and able to work, and able to hold the baby, is definitely something to be thankful for, and something that I might never have even realized the importance of in previous Novembers.

My daughter has also been the picture of health, one urinary tract infection aside. I was recently watching videos of deaf babies getting cochlear implants. It was phenomenal seeing their eyes widen as they heard for the first time. One parent said it was the first time he had smiled (although he was seven weeks old, which is around the time most smile for the first time anyway – see two paragraphs above). Seeing the frustration that the babies and the parents were going through made me realize how fortunate I am that everything works on my baby. Trying to figure out what your baby wants or needs is  frustrating and all-encompassing under the best of conditions. If she could not respond to a sound or a sight, I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be.

Speaking of videos, I have not watched the video that went viral a week ago showing a man singing “Blackbird” to his dying baby after he had just lost his wife. People were posting it with tags like “inspiring” and “heart-warming.” Really? Heart-wrenching, maybe, but not heart-warming. Look, I understand that the man exhibits a level of perseverance that I could never approach. If I lost either my wife or my baby, much less both, I’d be in a fetal position in the corner. I would not be testing whether I remember the lyrics to a Beatles song (“Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my… crap, orangutan?”). But seriously, people, there is nothing on this Earth that makes me want to witness a man going through something that horrible. In fact, I would have rather never known that even happened. So I’m not thankful for all you bastards that posted it. But now that I know it happened, I guess that’s one more thing to be thankful for. And another reason to go hug my wife and daughter.

I’ll end by giving you all something to be thankful for – a short post from the writing wombat.

Now go spend some time being thankful. And gluttonous.