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”.