Friday, May 26, 2006

Appointment with Myself (37)

I've made an appointment with myself for next Thursday, May 25, 2006, A. D. (after daylight). I'll see myself at 2:30 PM, as about that time I get sleepy.

When I get home, the first order of business—the main purpose of my appointment-- will be to head to the bedroom and keel over. I will not, for example, ask embarrassing questions of myself.

I will also resist jumping on the scales to learn that I am, pound for pound, a candidate for Most Improved Couch Potato.

I will refrain from asking my age, which medical people are always so curious about. I think the question is a test to see if I'm still with it. They seem to suspect that I'm already wandering around, lost in space.

If I forget my age, I can still compute it, though the answer is too absurd. (Someone who was born in 1945 and will be eligible for Social Security next year should be a dignified human being, not someone who trips over his shoes).

I will not display any curiosity about various orifices of my body; I will not at any time bend over to check my prostate. (It's fine, though invisible to the naked eye).

I will not draw blood to check any of my levels. I'll take a pass on voiding into a Dixie cup and sliding it into a slot to be snapped up by an impatiently waiting lab tech.

I will not read the Six Steps detailing how to clean up before depositing your sample. (I always ignore this; I throw away the little wet-nap that is issued with the Dixie cup, and wash up afterwards, like a normal person).

The subject of my bowels will not come up. I will not press for a home kit to take samples to be tested at a later time, perhaps by the same person who has shown such an inordinate interest in bodily fluids.

I will not suddenly decide I need additional appointments for still more tests at later dates and other locations. No tests will be ordered; and, nothing, I repeat, nothing, will be said about my colon.

I will not quiz myself about family history (they all came from Hidalgo, IL, and were once stranded on the National Trail in 1836). I will not try to remember the ages of my siblings or what childhood diseases they may have had. (Will pass over the chicken pox epidemic of 1919).

After a nice nap I will wake up, look at the clock, and roll back over. My appointment with myself will end only when I'm ready for it to end.

I will not, while awake, brood over life's mysteries, or while asleep, dream about crazy things. I will keep my brain in neutral; I will not bother myself with routine chores, which are after all, routine. I will make a detailed "to-do list", suitably highlighted, numbered, dated, and ready for immediate shredding.

If I have any other, less important appointments coming up, I will not brood about them. I’ll mark them as play dates, or party days. I’ll wear my cowboy outfit complete with cap guns just to indicate what I think of them. When someone calls me Mr. Dunne, I’ll enjoy the questioning note in their voices when they realize I'm sixty going on six.

If, at a later time, I decide I'm not having any fun, I’ll make another appointment with myself.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Watch TV, Lose Weight, Be Happy! (36)

I prefer to watch TV lying down; it’s part of my exercise plan. Not that I watch a lot of TV, particularly since Dawson’s Creek is no longer on. For those of you who missed my first column (a show of hands please) I explained that Dawson’s Creek was the greatest show in the history of television.

Recently we moved our exercise equipment to the bedroom. “Our equipment” is the wonderful Air Glider, which can be ordered from QVC for practically nothing, particularly if you use the easy-pay plan (minimum payments only until your 2025 tax refund).

The idea was that I would exercise more if I could watch TV during my “workout”. This is in quotes, as after two minutes of warm-up exercises, which consisted of flapping my arms like a large bird, I would collapse on the carpet without ever actually using the Air Glider. So this was another fine notion shot down. The main exercise I got was tripping over the thing on the way to the kitchen.

But thanks to cable, I still manage to exercise while I watch TV. For some reason, I can’t read the screen information on the guide and menu pages. I have to jump off the bed fifty times an evening and stand in front of the TV to see what’s on. My extensive research indicates that I burn up 750 calories hopping off the bed and staggering over to the TV to read the program guide.

I don’t recommend lying down while watching TV without consulting a doctor first. My research shows that 9 out of 10 doctors surveyed agreed that you shouldn’t try this at home if you are taking any medicine including baby aspirin, or if you are of childbearing age (six to ninety, according to the Enquirer), or if you think you may be pregnant within your lifetime, or if you are under the least bit of stress, i. e., you are still alive.

For those readers who will consult their doctors and take proper precautions, meaning having a team of EMT’s at your side during your workout, watching TV is downright healthful.

I myself get exercise trotting back and forth to the kitchen for those essential snacks that TV seems to call for, stuff that has to be opened. Usually the snacks come in plastic wrap that has to be wrestled to the ground before you can start nibbling.

For example to break into a bag of chips and re-close it with a handy bag-clip will take me, on average, 1.5 minutes, which equals 34.9 calories burned. I give myself extra points if the chips, pretzels, popcorn, or Frosted Flakes, fly all over the kitchen and I have to chase them to their new landing sites on the moon.

Another guaranteed calorie reducer is to watch something with commercials and time your snack breaks so you have to rush around to get back before the show resumes.

Have you ever noticed when you’re waiting for the commercials to end, it takes forever as in a entire Presidential administration, but when you’re in the kitchen fixing a little something to nibble on, the commercials stop just as you are opening the refrigerator door?

So you grab whatever is closest, maybe a tub of margarine--you can pry it open while watching, then hang on to it until the next commercial--and sprint back to the bedroom, taking care not to bang your head into any walls. This is good for 69.7-calorie loss in itself.

Oh, well it’s not like I’m missing Dawson’s Creek.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sleep Eating (35)

Sleep Eating

How do I know I’m eating in my sleep? The evidence is usually there the next morning. I sometimes wake up with a loaf of bread in my arms.

I often don’t know that I’m on a late night eating binge. Sometimes in mid snack I will wake myself up by crashing into a corner wall. I may then realize that I’m getting ready to chow down on something not edible, doggie treats for example.

One night I discovered that I was fiddling with a box of Equal packets to see if they might be snack worthy. Turned out they weren’t. But it took me a while to figure that out.

I must have concluded (sorrowfully) that they weren’t edible, but only after much experimentation, including pouring water on them. (I assume I did this for they were wet the next morning).

My next treat appeared to be Miracle –Gro Plant Food, but that didn’t seem to hit the spot, so I moved on in my search for vittles that would get me through the night, or, in the words of that fine country song, “Help Me Make Through the Night When the Kitchen is Closed”.

Our kitchen is generally well supplied with snack foods, but they’re usually gone by 3:00 AM, which leaves the rest of the night. Hence my experiments with food substitutes or sometimes even with non-snack food, say frozen biscuits, which I’ve discovered are better heated up.

I sometimes go back to bed only to get up an hour later to check the kitchen again on the off chance I didn’t eat everything already in my previous seven food foraging expeditions (I wear my “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hat).

One night I noticed my bare feet seemed to be sticking to the floor. Strange. What could it be? I checked the freezer—no ice cream left—must have lost a little of it, a quart or so judging from how big an area of the floor is yucky, while trying to spoon it out of the box. I usually eat over the kitchen sink, but’s it hard to be neat when you’re asleep.

I have a willing helper in my pre-dawn forays: our little dog, Precious, a nine- pound Pomapoo. On the way back from the kitchen I will take a little something to chew on in bed, a handful of crackers to go with the six I just popped into my mouth. Precious is ever alert to these late night snack attacks. Sometimes I realize she’s staring at me, waiting for a bite. I always give her a sample.

In the morning I can tell if it’s been a busy night, as there will be a few foreign objects in bed, say the usual crackers plus a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats, which my sleeping self finds quite tasty straight from the box.

I consult (silently) with Precious about these discoveries; I pretend to be using a whiskbroom and dustpan, my standard tidy-up equipment. Precious and I always converse in pantomime, as we don’t want to disturb anyone who might be trying to sleep (a cub scout troop, for example).

Precious will look alarmed that I’m suggesting that we trash the leftovers. I understand perfectly. She would rather do it herself. (She’s a woman). She begins following the cracker crumb trail and eats every bite.

Some mornings I wake up, and check the sheets. Nothing there—must have been a quiet night.

Except for the loaf of bread on the night stand.

Friday, April 28, 2006

My Secret Life (34)

Last Saturday when I was supposed to be getting ready for work—who says men can’t multi-task? -- I caught part of a news segment. Maybe you saw it. It was the one about living a secret life.

Exhibit A: Your average everyday housewife with three children and one (apparently clueless) husband. This young and attractive woman is a PTA member, church choir leader, a hospital volunteer, who in her spare time, holds down a full-time job as a legal secretary.

What “secret life” could she have? Well, you could have knocked me over with a birthday balloon: she is a prostitute. She looks like the girl next door, which would be the title of the Lifetime Movie that’s sure to be made about her except they have already used it 7,000 times.

The working title is said to be: My Secret Life as a Call Girl: A Moment of Truth Movie in Which the Heroine Carla Luanne Smith-Siddons Makes the Startling Discovery that it was Her Husband’s Fault.

It seems she was getting bored with being your average everyday housewife. Glenn Campbell was singing throughout the segment; he later complained while riding a horse that he was “getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know”.

This was such a great news video that I tried to track it down on the Internet, but nothing came up. I regret particularly the loss of the very helpful list of hints that you, the viewer, might be having a secret life without even being aware of it.

I’m sure I have a secret life; I probably just haven’t told myself about it. Inspired by this great piece of TV, I decided to do a little research in my very own billfold. (It beat getting ready for work.)

First thing I did was to check my photo ID only to discover that it was obviously a picture of my Dad. Whoops! It’s me. Could it be I’ve gotten old? Is my Secret Life that I’m now masquerading in broad daylight as one of my parents? Shocking isn’t, it?

I’ve noticed that for some time now younger people (defined as practically everybody else) actually call me Mr. Perhaps this is my secret life: I’ve been pretending to be an adult for many years, so long in fact I’m now passing myself off as two weeks short of being a geezer. This is absurd of course; it’s hard to be an adult when your actual age (six) keeps tripping you up.

My secret life really comes home when strangers draw a bead on me and claim me as one of their own. They are usually rather old looking people. I listen intently while wondering, “Who are these people and why are they talking to me?”

They think they know me, even call me by my first name as though we are bosom buddies. (I know, I know—poor word choice since you are now thinking of Tom Hanks and that other guy.)

This used to puzzle me, but I’ve decided that there are people who apparently know someone who looks like me, probably my exact double, but who keep coming up to me by mistake.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. If I had wanted to be an old person, I would have been born at the end of WW II, would have graduated from high school when The Beach Boys were on the charts, and would have voted for the first time in 1968.

Oh, crap. That is me.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sleepwalking Towards Hidalgo (33)

I began my sleepwalking career at age five. I slept downstairs, as did Mom and Dad. Brothers Jim, seventeen, and Jack, fifteen, slept upstairs; they were second story men. The “big boys” were out roller-skating the evening I took my first tour.

After a fresh snow that winter night, I walked out on our front porch and headed for downtown Hidalgo (POP. 100), which was closed.

I was making tracks, like a Man with a Mission, or a five year old with the midnight munchies. I was probably going to Meeker’s Grocery. Reba, the owner, was asleep along with the rest of Hidalgo. There was nothing else to do. Only three families in Hidalgo had TV, but they were tucked in as well.

Television was a still a great novelty, but only the test pattern was playing at that hour. The lucky three households stayed up to watch the test pattern at first, but gave it up after a few nights as, heck fire, they had to get up the next morning.

At age five I was having scary enough dreams without watching TV—bears seemed to be chasing me, for example. Sometimes I would smoke a few cigarettes to calm my nerves.

But this night was different, as I was on the prowl. Luckily Mom thought she heard something. Dad didn’t think so. Women were always hearing something, according to Dad.

Mom got up to look around and came back after checking my room: “Danny’s gone!”

Dad ran out on the snow-covered porch in his bare feet and Fruit-of-the-Looms. He banged his toes on a porch post and spoke loudly.

“Where’s Jack and Jim?”

“They’re not home yet”.

“For crying out loud. Who said they could stay out this late? They need to be looking after their little brother.”

“Dad, get some clothes on!”

“What in the crap for? Who’s going to see me?” Which was a good point as there wasn’t a single light on in town.

Dad raced to the corner and found that I had just turned the block. He caught up with me and asked, “You going someplace, Bub?”

Shortly after Dad delivered me to Mom, Jim and Jack got home separately just as he was getting ready to turn out the lights.

“It’s about time. Jack, why didn’t you ride home with Jim?”

“The Houser Girls dropped me off. Jim didn’t want to be bothered with me.”

“That’s not true. You just don’t like my friends”.

“You boys are brothers—act like it! Get to bed. Your Mom and I’ve had enough commotion for one night. Not to mention Danny.”

Dad looked around. “Where’s Danny?”

“He was just here”, Mom said.

Dad looked out the front door. “Well, what’s he doing on the porch?”

I had gone to sleep standing up and was getting ready to make the return trip downtown.

This time, after a little encouragement from Dad, Jack and Jim were in hot pursuit.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

From Dusk to Dawn (32)

From Dusk to Dawn

"Anybody got any gas money?”

Dale had pulled up at the Standard Station in Greenup. His brother Don and I fumbled in our pockets and came up with a total of 47 cents. Which in 1962 would have probably bought about two gallons of gas. We were on our way to Fairview Drive-in at Casey, 9 miles over.

Fairview was known for its exciting “Buck Night”, which was when you and seventeen of your closest buddies could pile into one car (the lucky ones got to ride in the trunk) and get in for a dollar.

Even better were the Dusk to Dawn spectaculars, one of which we were on our way to this particular Saturday night. “Dawn” meant you saw four or five movies, if you were still awake at 4:00 AM.

We were pretty sophisticated guys: we smoked Marlboros and probably stunted our growth by a quarter of an inch while regularly burning holes in our T-shirts.

I think the warning labels on cigarettes came around our senior year, when the Surgeon General determined that cigarette smoking might be hazardous to your health, but, hey don’t worry, we were told, Live Modern, Smoke L&M, just as recommended by Matt, Kitty, Chester, and Doc, the Gunsmoke health experts.

Dale didn’t light up, as Route 40 was a heavily traveled two-lane highway that demanded his full concentration. Soon he had to slow down for a truckload of chickens.

He stuck his head out the window (practically standing up with one foot on the accelerator) to see if the lane was clear. After all, we had to get a move on as the show started at dusk, which of course was at 7:53 PM CST.

It was still daylight when we reached Casey. Even so, some of the less patient movie patrons began honking their car horns to indicate they were ready for show time, dusk or not.

Within a few minutes the Snack Bar Players (Mr. Tasty Hot Dog who dipped himself in mustard, for example) appeared onscreen and the show started.

I volunteered to make the snack bar run.

Dale was a little skeptical. “Are you sure you won’t get lost, Danny? It’s nighttime--with your sense of direction you’ll probably take a wrong turn and wind up in somebody’s cornfield.”

“Oh, he’s not that bad, Dale”, Don said.

“What about the time he got lost in downtown Greenup when he had his paper route?” Dale asked.

“Hey, I’m not 12 years old anymore”, I said.

“OK, but if you’re not back in 15 minutes, I’m calling your Mom”, Dale said.

I ignored this remark and made my way to the snack bar. I got back well within the 15 minute limit even though it was dark and I was carrying a truckload of snacks, which I could barely see over.

I climbed into the back seat and started to hand out everybody’s order. I stopped in mid-delivery when I noticed a couple—not Dale and Don—sitting extremely close together.

I fell over myself and my Pepsi/popcorn delivery trying to get out of a stranger’s back seat.

I finally stumbled upon Dale’s car. I climbed in and said, “You’ll never guess what I just saw.”

“Never mind that--what took you so long? And where’s the rest of the popcorn?” Dale asked.

“I got in the wrong car. There’s was this couple up front who were practically sitting on top of each other. “

“Hey, what was going on? Did you see something?” Don asked.

“No, they were just sitting close—they weren’t doing anything. They were old married people.”

“How old?” Dale asked.

“At least 25”.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Beloved Wives Day ( 30)

“Beloved Wives Day” (30)

A group of Japanese men hoping to encourage the nation’s legions of workaholic husbands to head home early and show their wives some appreciation have proclaimed Tuesday “Beloved Wives Day”.

“This is from Reuters, their Oddly Enough news, just in case they’re listening in and want credit”, I said to Phyllis, who sat patiently while I read to her from an article a friend had sent me.

“I don’t think Reuters is here in your computer room. Oh, no, you’re going to write about this, aren’t you?” Phyllis said.

I ignored this outburst and kept reading: The group, which calls itself the “Japan Doting Husbands Association” urged men to get home by 8 p. m. and say thanks to their wives for all they do. Many men can’t put their feelings of gratitude toward their wives into words. Work is number one for them.

“That doesn’t sound like you.”

“You mean you think I’m good at expressing myself?”

“Oh, no. You can talk all right-- you’ll say anything to anybody. I mean you’re not exactly a workaholic.”

“That’s good, isn’t it? I come home to my wife and puppy dog.”

I read another bit of the article. “Here’s another section I’m good at. It talks about the five “golden rules” including going home early, calling wives by their given name and looking them in the eyes when talking.”

“Oh, that’s rich. You never look me in the eyes—you’re always staring into your computer screen, or watching TV, or reading something. You are actually married to your computer. When I want to get your attention, I practically have to e-mail you.”

“Say, that’s an idea. Why don’t we set up your own personal e-mail account—you could send me a message—I always check my mail.”

“No, thanks. I’ll just call from work to make sure you haven’t set the kitchen on fire.”

I ignored this—I’ve never actually set the kitchen on fire. I did once try to pop some microwave popcorn and mistakenly set the dial on “beverage” rather than “popcorn”. I’ll have to admit that there was a lot of black smoke and the house smelled like it had been on fire. It’s also true that particular bag of Orville Redenbacher had a hole in it, as though it had been shot, but no real damage was done.

“Here’s something else: The group—the Doting Husbands –has its own homepage, which includes a column where husbands can write down their feelings they are to shy to say out loud.”

“You mean to tell me these guys have to get on the Internet to talk with their wives? What kind of a wimp does that? Sounds to me like they need a dose of Dr. Phil.”

“I thought women liked the sensitive type—you know, like that English guy, Hugh Grant, in Six Weddings and Three Funerals, or whatever it was called”.

“Hugh Grant? Who’s he?”

“Oh, that’s right-he doesn’t do those slasher pictures you like. Maybe they’ll show one of his movies on Lifetime so you can catch it.”

“Anyway, the article goes on to say the Japanese marriages are under great pressure. In 2004, more than one in three marriages ended in divorce.”

“Sounds like some of those Japanese girls are getting smart”.

“You mean you wouldn’t put up with a husband who was married to his work and who wrote comments at a web site, because he couldn’t get home on time?”

“I would be setting him out on a street corner.”

“Kind of harsh, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you say about women whose husbands don’t work?”

“No, I say women who support husbands who won’t work should throw them out. If it were me, I’d set them out with the garbage.”

I try one more time. “Here’s a guy with a broken heart—listen to this: I’m sorry I had a car accident. I’m sorry I’m away so much on business trips. I’m sorry I end up sleeping at the office so often.”

“He sounds like a “sorry” excuse for a husband, I’d say.”

“Maybe we should start “Beloved Wives” night right here. On your nights off, I could make sure I get home early, make it a point to call you by your given name (Sweetheart), and say thanks for all the things you do”.

“No, don’t do that—I’ll think I’m in the wrong house. “

“Why don’t we start tonight? Hey, how about I fix us some microwave popcorn?”

“How about you staying out of my kitchen, Buster?”

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Movie Night (29)

My wife, Phyllis, works evenings as a nurse. When she has a night off she likes to watch movies in the comfort of our bedroom; she prefers Lifetime movies and scary movies.

I like to say if you’ve seen one Lifetime movie, you’ve seen them all. They even have similar titles like, When a Tall, Good-looking, Rich, Stranger Calls, What Shall I Wear?; The Stranger in My Bedroom Who Looks Exactly Like My Brother’s Picture on the Milk Carton; and my all time favorite: Stranger in the Guest House Who Walks Around Without a Shirt Most of the Movie (he turns out to be the pool guy).

I can at least rest my eyes (snooze) during these movies, but if Phyllis settles on a horror film, I know I’m in for it, as scary stuff makes me nervous. I know I’ll be hiding under the covers for half the movie; the other half I’ll heading out to the kitchen to take on truckloads of extremely nourishing snacks. I eat a lot when I’m nervous.

I’ll start with the closest thing in the cabinet, while keeping one eye on the TV; it may take me a few seconds to realize I’m eating raisin bran from the box. Then I may mow down a bag of chips and a quart of ice cream. Next it’s time for more salt, so a few pretzels are in order. I’ll stall until the mayhem slows down, or maybe even, a commercial blessedly shows up.

I time my kitchen breaks to coincide with the moment the axe murderer or serial killer is about to do somebody in. If my timing’s off, I’m still in the bedroom, I dive under the covers, but not always quickly enough as I sometime catch a glimpse of the latest victim with flying body parts, which are later stuffed into a Hefty bag.

There are three of us watching the movie as our puppy dog, Precious, always joins us, or to be more accurate we join her as she lets us sleep on her bed. Precious doesn’t care what we watch as long as the volume is down so she can get her much needed puppy rest.
Sometimes I enlist her assistance as a ruse to leave the movie when I know a crucial moment is coming up (the slasher is getting ready to strike, you can tell by the creepy music).

Usually, I’ll say to Precious: “Do you need to go out? Don’t you need to potty? Daddy will take you out right now”. Precious will yawn and stretch and indicate that she wants to continue napping, but will go out if I think it’s absolutely necessary, i.e., I sense another round of flying body parts.

Phyllis recognizes this move as the dodge it is, but contents herself with asking, “Don’t you think you ought to tie yourself up before going outside?” (My robe belt is trailing along beside me after my latest dash to the kitchen.)

Going out often turns out to be a bad idea, as Precious will think it’s a fine time to tour the neighborhood rather than keeping her mind on Puppy Business. She is sometimes distracted by giant worms, night crawlers, which are creepy in themselves. She would love to bite into one and take it home to Mom, but I discourage her. Since I’m in my bathrobe I’m not exactly dressed to go touring.

And I soon begin hearing footsteps though I see nobody; the neighborhood is very dark; there are way too many shadows, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, which means the Serial Killer is behind us. At this moment I pick Precious up and run back to the house.

I’m out of breath when I return to the bedroom. Phyllis says, “Did you see a ghost or something? Maybe we should have watched Lifetime.”

“We could catch the last half of Switched at Birth”, I say, “or How I Married My Twin Brother. I bet nobody is hacked to death in that one”.

“Maybe next time—I want to finish this one”.

“Why don’t I just take a shower and meet you back here for the news?”

I like to take long showers. By the time I get out, Phyllis has finished her scary movie and started a Lifetime masterpiece, The Suzie Wilkinson Story: Based on The Absolutely True Story of How I Ran for My Life from my Handsome But Brutal Ex-husband/Boyfriend Who Was a Box of Rocks, But Looked Dreamy Without a Shirt.

“Oh, this looks good”, I’ll say. As I head to the kitchen.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What Have I've Been Doing the Last Sixty Years? (28)

Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve made a list. I was surprised, for one thing, by the hours I’ve spent grooming, considering how little effect it has had on my appearance. I might as well start with a few numbers.

I’ve probably shaved at least 15,330 times in the last forty years. Many of those years I used a blade, probably cut myself twice a week, for a total of 4,368 bloodlettings.

I have showered exclusively for about twenty-nine years, as opposed to the tub baths I took when I lived at home with the folks. So I’ve probably showered around 10, 585 times.

I’ve gone to work over 10,500 times in the last forty-two years.[1]

I’ve watched 54,750 hours of TV in the last 50 years. My TV viewing started in the Davy Crockett era and hit its zenith in the years 2000-2003 when I stumbled across the greatest show in the history of television. For me TV has never been the same since Dawson’s Creek went off the air. [2]

I’ve spent over 153,300 hours sleeping in the last sixty years. This estimate could be low; as I haven’t included the many times I nodded off at work.

I haven’t spent a lot of time voting. [3]The last time I went to the polls was in 1984 when Coolidge[4] was running for his second term; I’m basically apolitical which means “a plague on both your houses”.

I managed to have a mid-life crisis at every milestone birthday. Age 40 turned out not to be a problem as I got (very happily) married later that year; at age 50 I don’t remember what, if anything, happened. At 60, which was only last year, the only thing that comes to mind is I somehow managed to tear up my computer printer while trying to change the ink. In anticipation of reaching 70, I’m now working on my memory, particularly those puzzling lapses when I think, Do I need to go to the bathroom, or did I just do that?

I’ve had two minor surgeries, both performed by the same surgeon, who has taken an inordinate interest in my waterworks. But, on the whole, I’ve been healthy.

I’ve sneezed and coughed through several allergies. I’ve probably taken about 19,710 sinus/allergy pills in the last 28 years. [5]

Between 1982 and 1988 I smoked over 43,800 cigarettes without actually setting myself on fire.[6]

So there you have it, my first sixty years.

I thought when I got older I would have time for other things—like reading great books--but I’ve since learned that getting older only means having more chores. For example, I’m late for work nearly every morning now as I have to rearrange the hair on the back of my head to hide my bald spot, which on a clear day can be seen from miles away.

READER ALERT: I plan to explore this subject at greater depth in my book titled “Grooming for Geezers”. Don’t miss it when it comes out in 2012!

[1] This raises the question whether I went to work without showering on 85 occasions. You would have to include the tub baths to get the bathing total. (I ran out of paper before I could figure this.)
[2] You didn’t know Dawson’s Creek was the greatest show in the history of television? Try watching it from the beginning through all six seasons and tell me what you think.
[3] My folks were Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrats. Mom in particular took a dim view of Republicans. She was, for example, bitter all her life about Herbert Hoover. Her dislike of Hoover began even before his term as President during the Great Depression. (Incidentally, whenever Mom heard the phrase The Great Depression: she always remarked, “What was so great about it?”) Mom’s distaste for Hoover went back to World War I when he made it a law that you had to buy so much yellow corn meal to go with your regular non-yellow corn meal. It was Hoover’s fault that Mom had to eat corn bread made from “that old yellow corn meal”. And she never forgave him for it. I haven’t researched this, but I think Hoover was running the Food for Peace Program, and not doing a good job, according to Mom.
[4] Actually, it was The Gipper, but history buffs like to catch mistakes.
[5] If I now had all these pills in my medicine cabinet, I could of course start my own meth factory.
[6] I forget exactly what that cheerful statistic is about losing a minute of life for every cigarette you smoke—something like that. This would mean I lost 730 hours, or about 30.416 days. These lost days would amount to about 3 minutes a day over 40 years. What would I have done with three extra minutes a day? Probably just hit the “snooze” button one more time.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Least Smart Things List, Example No. 1 (26)

The Least Smart Things List, Example No. 1

Over the years I’ve thought of making a list of “The Least Smart Things I’ve Done”, the things that wake me up in the middle of the night, that cause me to say, to no one in particular, “How stupid!”

Many things on this list couldn’t be published of course; Phyllis (my wife and caretaker) is the only person on the planet who is privy (oh, let’s find a better word than that) to many of The Least Smart Things I’ve Done, and she is, of course, sworn to secrecy.

The first Least Smart Thing that comes to mind—that I can talk about anyway--occurred shortly after Phyllis and I got married twenty years ago (the smartest thing I ever did). I early on ran into a new problem as my wife, a nurse and a very competent person, was used to pumping her own gas.

I had never done that as I had always gone to a full service place. I had a firm rule about my car: I never raised the hood, as one or two things, usually both, would happen: I would hurt myself or get dirty.

So I always patronized what used to be called service stations, which you may or may not remember depending on whether you are a mature (old) person like myself, or whether you are a youngster who is just this second learning that people haven’t always pumped their own gas.

But one evening early in our marriage, I decided my car needed gas. I had always been of the school that just because I was running on empty didn’t mean it was anything to get excited about. I might have waited a day or two in my previous life. There were always a couple of gallons of gas left in your tank, right? Phyllis thought my attitude was dangerously lax; if she had only half a tank she was refueling.

So that winter evening I planned to fill up so my little wife wouldn’t be worried about me being stranded six blocks from home. I congratulated myself for being so thoughtful. Then I made a fateful decision: I would give the full-service station a skip; I would just pull in and get my own darned gas.

It might have been wiser to have waited until daylight for this little experiment, because it would have been dangerous, even if I could have seen what I was doing. I boldly pulled in at Phyllis’s preferred filling station and tried to remember how she managed to pump her own gas. Nothing was coming to me.

Even so, I thought I might as well take the gas cap off—seemed like a good place to start. The next thing, obviously, was to grab hold of the pump (Step A) and begin to fill the tank (Step B). Somehow I never got to Step B.

The gas wouldn’t come out no matter how hard I squeezed the pump. “What to do?” I could have asked someone, but that would have been too embarrassing. I hadn’t actually pumped any gasoline; therefore, I didn’t owe anything. No one seemed to be watching-- I decided to make a run for it. I hightailed it out as though I had just watched American Graffiti and remembered an urgent date to race somebody on a two-lane road.

I drove to the other end of town to a full-service station. I asked the attendant to fill her up, which he proceeded to do.

He came back around shortly after he started and said. “Hey, what happened to your gas cap?”

I played it cool. Darned if I knew. I told the guy I would ask around to see if anyone might have seen it.

I then headed back to the self-serve station to find my missing gas cap. I searched all over the place, and soon drew a crowd, as people were curious why I was crawling around on the concrete.

“Just lost my gas cap”, I said. “Happens to people all the time, you know”. (The crowd parted after this rather strange claim.)

The bad news was I had to tell Phyllis when she got home from work that I had somehow lost my gas tank cap.

“You tried to get your own gas? And you drove home without a gas cap? You didn’t light up did you?”

“Not until I got back in the car”, I explained.

“It’s a wonder you didn’t blow yourself up. No more of this: I’ll get your gas from now on, Sweetheart”.

And so she has for over twenty years now. I haven’t lost any gas caps since. I guess I can scratch this one from my list of Least Smart Things I’ve Done, as it won’t come up again.

Now if I just knew what to do about the other 497 things.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I Plan to Take My Love Handles With Me (25)

We (the Vienna Boys Choir) didn't talk about New Year's resolutions in our last column. I summoned up all my will power and decided not to try to improve myself this year. I don’t plan, for example, to lose weight; and I won’t be too hard on myself about exercise.  

I’ve lost weight before, but this past year I overdid it. I took off pounds in the wrong places, around my face and neck; I was no longer a fathead, but I had new wrinkles cropping up that made me look older than your average geezer. Not the effect I had in mind.

Of course I couldn't get rid of my "love handles" no matter how much weight I lost. I now weigh 167 pounds, up from 160. A couple of years ago I was weighing in at 183, which meant at 5’8” it was time to take me to market. So the good news is I’ve still lost weight, but I don't look like a bag of bones, which I did when I got down to 160 (“love handles” included).

How did you do it? I can hear you asking, that is, if you are of a certain age (60.7 years).

Tell us so we, too, can regain weight and look, if not young, at least not like the Wrath of God.

The secret: I had to start snacking again. Shocking, isn’t it? Yes, children, I went back to eating in the middle of the night.  I ate ice cream from the box and potato chips from the bag (the only way they taste right).  

I no longer tried to resist snack attacks, which is when boxes of cookies and crackers fall out of the kitchen cabinets, throw themselves at you, and take their clothes off. No, they didn’t actually do that, although I did notice the Ritz crackers flaunting themselves after peeling off their plastic wrappers.    

My wife had been hiding the snacks so I wouldn’t get into them at night. She no longer does that (she thought I was beginning to look like death warmed over).

It was hard work eating every free moment, but I was determined to look not necessarily good, but better. I’m happy to report I no longer resemble Dead Man Walking.

Although I lost too much weight last year, I’ve never gone overboard on exercise.  I have, however, been jumping on and off something called an Air Glider for a couple of years now, which Phyllis (my wife and personal trainer) ordered through QVC.  I didn’t get off to a flying start—at first, I lay down and sobbed after the warm-up exercises—but finally I worked my way up to a 20 minutes session three times a week.  

I started slowing down on my exercise after last year’s checkup when my waterworks specialist (urologist) revealed I had a hernia. I had realized for some time that something wasn't quite right in Australia, or Down Under, but I thought maybe it was just a simple matter of my underwear losing its snap.  At my checkup with my regular doctor a few months later, it appeared I had the beginnings of a second hernia. Thank you so much for that bulletin.

So for several months now I've not been jumping on the Air Glider very often. (Helpful health hint: Jumping on anything is not a good idea for guys with waterworks problems.) Don't remember the last time I was on it, to tell the truth. About the only exercise I get these days is when we walk our little dog, Precious, a nine-pound Pomapoo.

I exercise maybe twenty minutes a week now—that sounds about right, don’t you think? One of the things I love about exercise recommendations is just when I got up to twenty minutes, three times a week, everything I read said you should do at least thirty minutes a day, or even forty-five minutes a day. The only thing I can do for forty-five minutes straight without having an EMT crew standing by is to take a nap.

They (the Winners of Spoilsport News Awards for Learned Reports That Claim Whatever You are Currently Doing is Not Enough) also like to carry on about how important it is for everybody—including senior citizens, or in other words old people like myself—to do strength training. If I can walk from the kitchen to the living room and carry a cup of coffee and a Danish at the same time, that’s strong enough for me. In a normal day the heaviest thing I’ll lift will be a stapler.  I’ll skip the barbells, if you don’t mind.

To sum up, I'm eating more and exercising less. Which means I'll be keeling over any day now. At least I won't resemble a walking corpse. That's something, isn’t it?  

Happy New Year!    

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Low Profile (24)

I’ve grown accustomed to people not recognizing me, particularly if they haven’t seen me for a few years, as I’ve put on a few pounds. (“Few pounds” as in I have to carry my “love handles” in a sidecar.) I’ve gotten used to reintroducing myself, even to relatives. This doesn’t come up often, as I don’t get out much--I’ve generally kept a low profile.

But occasionally, usually when my wife thinks I need to be aired off, I’ll be in line somewhere and run into someone, who will give me a very blank look. I’ve learned how to deal with it: I say: “Hi, I’m Danny, your double first cousin once removed.” (There’s a lot of that in my family.)

Or, I’ll say to some youngster, “I’m your Great-Great Uncle, which means your mother is the daughter of one of my grand nieces.” Usually people will start moving away from me when I get into these sorts of discussions.

I’m careful what I say about second cousins, however; I was once under the delusion that I had second cousins. Apparently, I don’t. What I have are double first cousins once removed in some cases and just plain first cousins once removed and sometimes twice removed. I draw the line at twice removed; after that, you’re only “kissing cousins” or something.

I can usually convince even distant relatives that I am who I say I am. Where I run into
trouble is when I talk with non-relatives who know my siblings, but draw a blank when it
comes to me. (I think this is accounted for by being the youngest of seven children
with a ten-year gap between me and my brother Jack, who preceded me as the baby of the
family.) They’ll say: “No, we don’t remember you. Were you adopted or something?”

A conversation like this sometimes makes me doubt my own identity. I’ve thought of returning to my old hometown of Hidalgo to see if anybody remembers me. It’s true we left Hidalgo when I was eleven, about 50 years ago now. I’m sure none of the original settlers are still living; they have probably passed over to that great Wagon Train in the Sky, and are even now being watched over by Ward Bond.

I can see myself poking around Hidalgo just to see if anyone recognizes me. But based on my last visit it’s probably not a good idea. It seemed like a ghost town. I thought about knocking on somebody’s door just to see if they were any signs of life.

What was strange was that Phyllis, my wife and driver, and I didn’t see any people out on the street or in their yards. I decided what we had run across was just a movie set of a small town with false fronts that would fall in if you pushed them. That probably nobody lived there anymore. I was pretty sure we had stumbled into a forgotten Twilight Zone episode.

I could hear the Twilight Zone theme—it was time to run before the Rod Serling voice over came through: “This is a story about a man looking for himself in the little town where he spent his boyhood. Will he be welcomed? Will he be hailed as a conquering hero? Or has he just entered The Twilight Zone?”

Finally, just as we were getting ready to leave town, we saw a little girl playing in her front yard. I thought about stopping and asking to talk with her mother. But with Rod Serling’s voice in my head I asked Phyllis to drive on for fear we would never see Kansas again.

Phyllis didn’t think that stopping to chat was a good idea anyway. The little girl would have been warned about talking with strangers, or even worse, a middle-aged man trying to establish that he had in fact once lived in his hometown.

On the way home I explained to Phyllis what probably would have happened. I would have asked the little girl’s mother if she remembered the Dunne family. She would have said that she did; she would have named over all my siblings.

“And which one are you?” she would have asked.

I would have answered, “None of the above.”

She would have said, “Didn’t know they had you. Did they adopt you later?”

I would have said, “No, I was the youngest; I lived in this town my first eleven years. I used to play cowboys, always had my gun and holster set on. Had a Shetland pony that used to run off. I was a Cub Scout. Went to grade school here. I lived just down the block.”

“I remember my mother talking about the pony; she said the Dunne boys were always trying to get it back in the barn”.

“So your mother remembered me?”

“I guess she thought the pony belonged to Jack and Jim. I wonder why she didn’t mention you?”

I would have explained, “I was keeping a low profile”.