Dubious Health Tip #2 – Your Ear Is Not A Candle Holder!

If you are as far from reality as I sometimes get, I’ll bet you had no idea that some people are actually going to spas or ear-candling parlors to have the wax removed from their ears by other people who, like them, are also lacking in good sense. This procedure is supposed to draw wax out of your ears and involves the placing of a cone-shaped device in your ear canal. The device is activated by a burning wick or smoke which will drain wax and other impurities from inside your ear.

You can get colored candles, scented candles and for the purists you can get candles made of pure beeswax rather than the more common paraffin candles. Some of this is undoubtedly for people with discriminating ears. I’m sure my ears would be offended if I did not use pure beeswax in a bright color with a pleasing periwinkle scent. My ears can tell the difference. I often use them for smelling when my nose gets bent out of shape.

These people will tell you this coning practice began in ancient times in China, Tibet and India. You should remember the life expectancy in those countries back then was about thirty years and if you go around doing stupid things to your body like burning candles in your ear, your can expect to add about one more week to the length of your life.

Some of them actually think the ear canal is connected to your sinuses, your lymph glands and even your brain. I know for a fact that if you are burning candles in your ears, you do not have a brain so you can forget about cleansing something you do not have. The truth is the fire and smoke does not create a vacuum in your ear canal strong enough to extract ear wax.  Earwax is thick and viscous. If you created a vacuum in your ear strong enough to suck the wax out, your eardrum would come right out of your ear stuck to a hunk of wax.

You never know where your own personal danger may be lurking. Remember if you are trying this, we have established you have no brain. If you have no brain, there is already a vacuum in your head. Creating an opposing vacuum with an ear candle, will result in an implosion that will make your nose swell up to the size of a grapefruit. This happens just before your head caves in.

Do not put a cone in your ear and light it! It is extremely dangerous. There are cases of people having to make emergency room trips to get treatment for their burnt ears. Doctors had to scrape the wax from their eardrums. The ear canals on some have been horribly burned. Some people had wax stuck to their eardrums. The eardrum can be perforated and render you permanently deaf. The wax produced by these fakers at the end of such a session did not come out of your ear. The residue you might be shown as proof of the cleaning effect of the candle is wax and ashes from the candle and wick. It is candle wax, not ear wax.

As you probably know, your ears get larger as you age and they may not be as attractive as you once thought but generally they look pretty good tacked to your head right where the Lord chose to stick them. Be sure you hang on to your ears. Do not let an ear-candler transform them into charcoal briquettes.

Nothing is mentioned by the ear-candlers that auricular candling or coning, as they call it, has a horrific downside. They really shouldn’t have to point it out. We are old and supposedly wise. One of the very first things we ever learned was, “Fire is hot. It will burn the hell out of you!” If you burned yourself in a thoughtless moment as a child, your Momma or Daddy would add to the blaze by putting some more fire of a different kind in the seat of your britches!

So you are supposed to know from the earliest moments you began walking that fire is extremely dangerous.

I know you won’t believe this but several people who have tried ear-candling are no longer with us. That’s right. They burned up their own fannies, ears and all. They started out with a serious ear-cleaning mission on their feeble minds but the results were just the same as though they were only three years old and had foolishly played with matches. A woman in Alaska set her bed on fire and then the whole room went up in flames. They got her out, and to the hospital but she later succumbed to an asthma attack.

My own Aunt Dash tried candling recently and the end result was the near devastation of her living room. Her son Orville had put the cone in her ear and lit it but he didn’t have her head tilted at the right angle. The candle was too close to her face and a wisp of hair touched the flame. Fortunately they saw it burning in time to brush it away and it fell from her head without burning her. Unfortunately the cat, Topography, was underfoot and the wisp of burning hair landed on Topography’s head. He went into a frenzy and was running in circles. His flaming head set the carpet and drapes on fire. They got him out the back door and threw him in an open well.

Aunt Dash had to renovate and refurbish her entire living room. Orville fished Topography out of the well but the cat may never grow back all that hair he lost off his big head. He is one embarrassed bald-headed cat nowadays. He won’t even come out from under the bed in the back bedroom to eat. Aunt Dash has to slide his food under the bed. The cat was named Lucky. Since he caught fire and lost the hair on his head, Orville has renamed him Topography. He has a birthmark on top of his head that looks like an outline of Australia. I’m not sure about the mark. It could be a big blister.

I hope this helped you. Just remember, ear wax is natural. It usually dissipates naturally. You do not have to dig with a pickax and shovel in your ear to dislodge it. If you think you have a problem see a doctor. Remember what old Doctor Rhine used to tell us. “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.”

I’ll bet at this point you are standing in front of a mirror. You’re standing there looking at your elbow and your ear!



Dubious Health Tip #1 – Fighting Back! Fighting Arthritis!

I think Katie Mae and I beat the allergies that attacked when we moved north of the gnat line to Athens, Georgia. We whipped the allergies but, the doldrums struck us and we became totally listless. We slowly came out of listlessness and improved to the stage of worthlessness. Then came near complete recovery to the point of “not-worth-killing.” I told my old friend C.Tross that the “not-worth-killing” level makes me feel young again. I can remember when we were teenagers, Champ Chandler’s Dad and my Dad joined voices in a chorus of critical comments (about the status of Champ and me and our unmitigated laziness) culminating in  their declaration that a drop of sweat from either of us, mixed in a number-three washtub full of creek water, would kill every mosquito in Dougherty County. That was our “not-worth-killing” period.

Now I am old and back to the not-worth-killing stage. I can’t include Katie Mae because she still goes like a buzz-saw every day. I keep checking her meds to see if she is hiding the good stuff from me but I guess it’s all a natural high with her. None of my prescriptions are capable of propelling me into that jet stream she lives in.

Dubious Health Tip #1 – Fighting Back

That big joint where the thumb bone is connected to the hand bone draws me closer to the Lord every morning when I have to drag my hands out of bed. I never heard Ezekiel sing about that bone in “Dry Bones” and I think it was because, like me, Ezekiel never worked in the fields. He missed the most important bone in the body. That thumb is about the only thing that distinguishes man from all the monkeys and most species of skunk.

I understand the big joint in your thumb is one of several carpometacarpal (CMC) joints that you have in your hand. This joints is said to be biaxial. That is an obscure but accurate Latin term for having someone hack each of your thumbs two times with an ax. My hands feel like somebody beat me on the back of them with the bottom of a golf shoe. I couldn’t possibly have carpal tunnel syndrome because the only repetitive thing I have done consistently over the years is twist the tops off beer bottles and peanut butter jars.

Recently, When the pain reached near-unbearable, I dug through a drawer of old outdated salves and elixirs and came up with a tube of capsaicin. Capsaicin, for those of you who don’t know, is made from an extract of hot chili peppers. Some brands may be a synthetic reproduction of the extract but you get my drift. This stuff will burn your ass up!

I gingerly rubbed this super simmering salve on the backs of my tormented thumbs with great caution in an attempt to keep it off my fingers and palms. Then I washed just the insides of my hands, palms and fingers and carefully dried them.

This was great! It worked! It worked! It worked for all of ten seconds!

In no time I had a generous smear of the blistering fires from hell across my upper lip, my right cheek and my left eyelid. All were still burning several hours later. That night, when I took a shower, my hands lit up like a couple of those old fashioned railroad lanterns.

When I looked for some sympathy from Kay , she said, “Why did you put it on your lips? I didn’t realize you had arthritis in your lips. Doesn’t arthritis usually effect bones and joints? Surely you don’t have any bones or joints in your lips, do you? I don’t remember anything about the lip bone being connected to the head bone!”

After listening to all that, I was really burned up! I thought seriously about manually defending myself from such demeaning statements. I quickly reconsidered when I thought bigger lips would mean bigger pain for me. If she gave me a little love tap on my mouth my lips could be a lot fatter,. More fat, more pain.  I remained silent..

Apparently she has forgotten the once irresistible attraction of my lips and their handsomely sculptured, undeniably kissable appeal.

I have a suggestion to anyone who chooses to use capsaicin. Enlist the aid of friends you dress in nuclear, biological, chemical cleanup suits. When they have finished slathering you in capsaicin, they can swath you in layers of bindings that will leave you looking like an Egyptian mummy. Be prepared to relive scenes from Dante’s Inferno. If you survive we want to hear of your experiences while you were aflame and blazing in the mummy suit. Some of us might want to reevaluate our religious views.

Be careful with capsaicin. I think its original use was for treatment of arthritic crocodiles and sore toe nails on elephants.

And about getting old. The torment of getting old ain’t always about the pain of arthritis.  Crushed and hurt feelings can also leave you with terminal drag-ass.





They Don’t Serve Cabbage With A Four-Way Bypass!

When you near that sixtieth decade and you have worked double time to misspend your  life, you have a much enhanced awareness of time. You know the Old Timekeeper can ring your chimes at any minute. This is my awakening story. This is when I thought I was hearing the bona fide pealing of the final bell.

I had lived in Southeast Georgia a couple of years when my heart started doing those little tap dance routines that leave you so breathless you have to flop down in a chair, take a huge gulp of air, get your lungs pumped up and pray your heart will go back to slow dancing. One afternoon I even drove over toward Swainsboro, Georgia from Stillmore, the little town where I worked, hoping to get a doctor to explain the soft shoe routines going on in my chest that made me gasp with fear and wonder. Strange erratic heartbeats would get my undivided attention in the mornings, so like the true idiot I am, I started out for  the Swainsboro hospital in the afternoon. It dawned on me that my heart just wanted to dance in the mornings. I turned around and went back to work. In the morning, two days later, my heart told me to go to the hospital in Swainsboro and I followed its advice. I signed myself into the emergency room. If you live in a small town with a small town hospital, you know all about the trials and tribulations I encountered at the Swainsboro hospital. The personnel at a hospital like this one are great They are some of the world’s nicest people. Unfortunately their facilities are terribly lacking for the multiple, strange needs of old guys like me and usually their brightest and best young people waste no time heading for the big city and the big money. Fortunately they did have a young emergency room doctor who was out of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and he worked the ER in Swainsboro part time. They immediately strapped me to an EKG machine and shot painless diagnostical electrical impulses through any muscle and all the flab tacked around my torso.

Then they snatched off the electrodes and what little chest hair I had, tossed my clothes back on me and the doctor smiling professionally said, “You’ve got what we call bigeminy. It’s hard to track it because it is not occurring in a consistent pattern but you should have your cardiologist take a look at it. You have a problem there.” Bigeminy, I learned was a pulse with two beats that are close together and then a pause followed by two more fast beats. My heart was doing the old fashioned two-step. I knew it had something to do with dancing. Naturally I let all this worry slide when the bigeminy went into a bashful, dormant state and did not dance in my heart again for a couple of months. The only follow up I had with the hospital was to allow them to strap a Holter Monitor to me with more dance seeking electrodes taped all over me. I wore it for two days during which time I could not take a good bath. Not only did this screw up my love life for a couple of days but the hospital promptly lost the results from the Holter Monitor test. I never heard from them again. By now I had lost all seven of my chest hairs and any dignity I might have dreamed of. A little later on my Swainsboro doctor had an ultrasound technologist put cold gunk on my hairless chest and run an ice-cube cold wand all up and down my upper body, front and back, in an effort to ferret out the errant dancer inside me. It was so cold that my jaws locked and my cheeks were still purple thirty minutes later. Once again, test results were lost. I never heard a report on the ultrasound until an alert, intelligent and persistent emergency room doctor at Phoebe Putney Hospital in Albany, Georgia retrieved them by phone from the Swainsboro doctor. He must have asked for the results more politely than I did but the test revealed no abnormalities.

A few weeks later, Katie Mae and I attended a Georgia Motor Trucking Association convention at beautiful Amelia Island, Florida and shortly after we arrived in Florida I discovered my old pal Bigeminy had been in the car with us the whole time. Every time I thought I might have a little sip of an alcoholic beverage, the bigeminy bounce began. It is terribly disconcerting to have your heart dancing jigs when you are trying to do just the little things that normally get you through the day. Little things like walking, talking and, most of all breathing steadily.

As soon as the convention ended I told Katie Mae, “If I’m going to die, I’m going to die in Albany, Georgia with people I know and love around me and with medical care I feel comfortable with in attendance. We headed for Albany. Bigeminy was not invited along but he was in the car the whole time.

I went straight to the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital emergency room. Good old Phoebe. She’s gotten so big it’s hard to see where she started and I don’t think there will ever be an end to her. It is now a huge conglomerate spread all over the place in Southwest Georgia but you can bet your fanny you can find the help you need in a larger town like Albany with the doctors and facilities that will save you. However, it was here at dear old Phoebe that on my first visit I actually slipped through the cracks and was almost lost and carted off to that big casino in the sky where old, ne’er do well boys eventually wind up.

As I said the emergency room doctor obtained the ultrasound record from the Swainsboro doctor but it revealed little or nothing wrong with my heart. I was kept there a couple of days as they ran tests on me. The test they rely so heavily on is the nuclear stress test. At that point in my life, I had already had at least a dozen stress tests (over a span of about ten years) and the results always showed me to be in excellent shape. Once again, they slapped the tiny electrodes reinforced with duct tape on my tortured old torso. Then they stood me up on a treadmill. Keep in mind that this is not your standard, run-of-the-mill, for home-use-only treadmill. This bad boy will run up to forty miles per hour and they can jack it up to a 60 degree elevation so by the time you finish, you are sure you have been running forty miles per hour up a hill somewhere in the steeper part of  the Rockies. They start you off just like you’re walking on flat land at a leisurely pace. Usually you have four, three minute intervals of this misery. After the end of each three minute session, they increase the speed of the treadmill and they elevate it a little more. They only stop if you fall down or step on your tongue.

My slipping through the cracks was not the fault of the hospital or the doctors. My undoing was the fact that I have always done so well on a stress test. I could skip, leap, talk, sing and jump rope the whole time I was doing a stress test. I had three technicians in there with me. They assured me a person who could carry on like I was performing on the treadmill had little or no heart problems. Later, a doctor came by my room and assured me once again that I was in good shape. He said I had a little blockage in the arteries of my heart but I could effectively work on that with regular exercise and the Mediterranean Diet. They checked me out and I went home.

Three or four weeks later, Katie Mae and I came back to Albany. We still owned a house at my old home place and we were having repairs made to it so we could sell it. I was alone at the house for a couple of days doing some of the work myself. Bigeminy was no longer with me but when he left, he took all my energy with him. I noticed that I could only work for a few minutes before I had to sit down and rest. I also noticed that Katie Mae was making frequent visits by the house to check on me. She later told me I looked terrible and I was lifeless and gray. I had a doctor’s appointment in a couple of days. Katie Mae took charge and moved my appointment up to the next day.

My doctor is a true lady. I think she is wonderful. When my old doctor retired, I asked specifically for a woman doctor. I had read that women actually listen to you and they are much more attentive than male doctors. I believed that then and I still believe it. The only problem is there are not enough female doctors out there and the ones practicing have no patient openings because they are so good.

I told her that I was in the emergency room only  three or four weeks back and a member of her firm had told me I would be fine with an exercise program and the Mediterranean Diet and then I said, “Do you know what I think I am experiencing now?” When she answered, “What?”, I said, “Classic heart attack symptoms.” She responds with, “Oh my God, you are going straight upstairs to the cardiologist, right now!”

This is where you have just got to love a big old town and a big old hospital and a big old staff of people who can save your big old fanny in a pinch. Her office was in the hospital building. The cardiologist was only two floors up. They threw me on the elevator on the third floor and snatched me off the elevator on the fifth floor so fast I was still too dizzy in the cardiologist’s patient’s room to understood what he was saying. I do remember the word catheterization and I said, “When”, and he said, “Right now!”.

This was about five o’clock in the afternoon and I was by myself (meaning no loved ones were near). I said, “I am going to call my wife.” When I got her on the phone, all I could say was , “You had better get up here. They’re going to do something to me and I’m not sure what it is. I did hear him mention a gal named Cathy Rization and I don’t know her but he spoke her name with such reverence she must do heart transplants!”

They shaved my groin and pumped me full of some of the best drugs you can imagine. There were two of them and we told jokes and lies while we waited on Katie Mae. When she arrived I gave her my most sincere “Good-bye” kiss and I started back on the joke telling routine until she tightened up on my collar which literally took my breath. At that point she said, “If you’ll carefully notice, these two gentlemen have already scrubbed down and have their gloves on and they are holding their hands high in the air. They were just waiting on me to get here before they begin to work on you so shut up and let them begin!” Since I was doped to the gills and strapped to a gurney I decided to let them start the show.

It gets really interesting at this point. It is especially intriguing if you are tied to a bed and there are a couple of guys beside you who are threading a miniscule tube through a freshly opened artery in your groin . How in the hell do they know how to to get that miniature camera all the way from your lower abdomen to your heart? I should still know their names. Anybody who is messing around inside you body and taking tiny pictures of your heart, from the inside, should be your best friend and a life long buddy. How much closer can you get to another person? Of course Katie Mae has always held the strings to my heart in her delicate little hands but she has never actually poked around inside it and taken snapshots of it! I’m embarrassed. I don’t even remember their names.

Amazingly I was not asleep. I continued to babble to these fine young gentleman and they did a remarkable job of totally ignoring me. They had a twenty inch screen or monitor suspended from the nearest wall .The screen was over eight feet above the floor and we could all watch the action going on in my bewildered heart as they probed and clicked away with their pygmy camera. The moment of truth came to the bed-bound boy (that was me) when one of the fellows said, “There’s your problem!” As I uncrossed my drunken eyes and finally focused on the monitor I could see the blood flowing freely through the vessels of my heart. I could see it going uphill and downhill and through passages to the sides but I could also see a point that it reached where it flowed no more. It looked like it had run into a stone wall. It just stopped. It is a chilling and eerie thing to see your own heart on a monitor while it is refusing to function like a good heart should.

This was 2001 and I was managing a truck line where one of our drivers had the same problem with his heart as I was now experiencing. The doctors in the Savannah hospital placed a couple of stints in his rebellious arteries and he was out of there and like brand new in two days. The same for Vice-President Dick Cheney who was up and on his way to helping save America in just a couple of days. I knew this was a simple fix so I told the guys, “Hey, I get a couple of stints and I’ll be like new in a few days, right?” They stopped for a minute, sadly shook their heads and one of them said, “That ain’t gonna work for you, podnah.” I’m thinking, “Oh hell! We’re starting to talk like cowboys. I instinctively knew we were about to cross Death Valley with no water and nothing wet around but my blood. John Wayne just warned me. It’s all joking aside when John Wayne calls you “Podnah.”

It was after five o’clock. One of the guys literally stopped what he was doing and left to catch the cardiologist before he left work. He found him and brought him back to the room we were in. The cardiologist took a look at the inside view of my heart and I was thinking how intimate this was getting. Three guys I just met are discussing the inner me.  The doctor, not being that personable, looked sternly at me as if to say, “You have really screwed your heart up with all those years of eating chicken livers and washing them down with red liquor!” I felt like he knew everything about me by examining the innards of my foolish heart but what he finally said was, “We are going to perform a bypass operation on you!” I said, “When?” He said, “The first thing in the morning!” Then he went out and talked to Katie Mae and told her they were going to do a three-way bypass the next morning. He told her I had 100% blockage in one artery and 90% in two other arteries.

I used to manage night clubs, juke joints and honkey tonks and normally I am not surprised or shocked by anything but I can confess to you that this floored me. Luckily I was in a drug induced la la land and even more luckily, for me, they kept me slightly whacko through the entire ordeal. I have to rely on Katie Mae to tell me some of the things that happened to me because they kept me more than half knocked out the whole time. I have no idea why they operated on me so quickly. I have always thought that some unlucky soul was bumped from the operating schedule so they could work me in. I had been in no pain. I never had a heart attack. I was simply breathless and had zero energy but I had no pain in my arms, jaw or chest. I did tell my doctor that a member of her firm had screwed up in their diagnosis of my condition and maybe that scared her into getting me fixed in a hurry. I never gave that much thought. I had never considered suing someone. Suing people does not appeal to me.

This was the first time I heard somebody mention cabbage. I was pretty freaked out at this point. The guys had already addressed me as “Podnah” and now I could hear the doctor talking about cabbage. Maybe he was having cabbage for supper. I love cabbage. I could eat a number three washtub full of cabbage but pretty soon I forgot all about greens for supper.

They put me in a cardiac care unit for safe keeping. They put a bag of sand on my groin so the cut in the artery would clot properly. One neat thing they did was to give me some type of medication that kept me pretty well spaced out. This was especially helpful because I had no fearful thoughts through the night about a team of surgeons ripping up my chest with a Skill saw from Lowes. There was no cabbage served for supper.

In the morning they came for me. The orderlies were funny and we joked on the way down to the operating room. They made a stop so Katie Mae and I could kiss goodbye. They would not let her get on the gurney with me. I feared that would be my last disappointment.

I’m pretty much in the dark for the next eight hours. I think I hear snips of several conversations that contain something about cabbage. I am concerned that all these people are thinking only about their stomachs and not enough about my heart. The doctor looks like he is about twelve years old. For some reason, this doesn’t bother me. I feel like he is a brilliant young surgeon and that he will do a fine job patching my heart and as long as they continue to pump the good meds into my body, who cares?

The doctor has told us he is going to do a three-way bypass and he will harvest the needed veins from one of my arms and one from each leg. We choose the right arm  because I’m a lefty. When we get in the operating room, he discovers he is going to be a vein short because it’s going to have to be a four-way instead of a three-way so he harvests a vein from my chest. Even that word for collecting the the veins has such a sense of finality to it. Harvest. You know it’s all over for the crop once it has been harvested.

They’re very kind. They call Katie Mae from the operating room to tell her that my means of survival are now dependent on the proficiency of a heart-lung machine. I am now all hooked up to a machine that is living for me while the doctors are playing catch and keep-away with an inanimate chunk of organ that has kept me in action for 59 years.

After working the miracles and wonders that these guys perform on a daily basis, the doctor again calls Katie Mae to tell her my heart had all the cables and tubes reconnected and it fired up like a new Chevy Corvette when they gave it that initial jump start. I am off the machine and on my on again.

I was moved back to a recovery room where Katie Mae and our son Paul came in to see me. Paul was at the University of Georgia when he was told of my dilemma. He arrived after I was rolled into the operating room and this is the first he has seen of me in a few months. He and Katie Mae were in a glum and depressed state of mind. They were staring down at me with such a forlorn look and such sadness I felt like I had to do something to uplift the spirits of my little family so I slowly reached up, pulled the oxygen mask down on my chin and signaled with my forefinger for them to come closer. As they bent down and came nearer to my face, I sang to them in a croak that sounded like a bullfrog with laryngitis, ” I love the night life, I got to boogie.”

Paul was hysterical. People were staring at him and wondering why this crazy kid was laughing at the side of his freshly dissected Father. Kay was not so entertained. She bent closer and said, “There is a special ward here on the second floor where I can get you the serious help you need, you fruitcake!”

Recovery is great! I was there for a week. Many old friends and young and old relatives showed up. I had a small red pillow that is shaped like a heart and everyone autographed it. Sometimes I had to snatch it away from the signer when I had to laugh or cough. Laughing and coughing hurt like hell and the red pillow is still here at home somewhere. I hate to toss out such an old and dear friend. There is also a strange looking plastic contraption that you had to breath into each day. It helped you rebuild and increase the strength and power in your lungs. It really hurt to breath deeply. My chest had been split open right straight through the sternum and the two halves of my sternum spread wide enough for forty couples to do some ballroom dancing inside. When the doctors finish they then rewire the halves of your sternum together to keep people from dancing in there.

The physical therapy couple came by the very first day. I took a short walk with them. We made that short walk a bit longer each day. Toward the end of my stay I’m pretty sure that the nurses doubled up on my pain killer by accident. I was really snockered. I told Katie Mae that I thought they overdosed me. The physical therapy couple arrived but I’m was so drunk that I couldn’t get out of bed. They were perplexed and confused. They kept saying, “But he was doing so good and now he can’t walk!”. They didn’t understand drunk. They finally left and the nurse came in to pull all those tubes from my chest and stomach.

I remember Lewis Grizzard’s book “They Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat” in which he described the horrible pain he suffered when they pulled the tubes out of him. I felt no pain. The nurses had inadvertently double-doped me. I’m pretty sure this tube-pulling nurse was so short she had to get up in the bed with me and put her foot on my chest so she could get enough leverage to snatch the tubes out, still, I felt no pain.

Something I did feel that will remain with me as  long as I live is the bizarre sensation that occurred when the nurse pulled the wires from my heart. Two wires that ran from my heart to the outside of my chest were left there to jump start the heart in case it decided to take a break. When the nurse pulled those wires out, I could actually feel them unwind inside my chest. It felt to me like the wires had been wound inside my heart in the same fashion as a coil spring mounted on top of a push mower that retracts the pull rope after you start the mower..

Before she left the room, I had to ask the nurse about the cabbage. “Where is the cabbage,” I queried. “What cabbage?” She replied. I told her how I kept hearing conversations all during my stay here about the cabbage but all I had seen on my plate since I had been here was red jello! “Where is the cabbage? I love cabbage. I could eat a ton of it. Do they ever serve cabbage around here or do they just talk a lot about it?” She seemed dumbstruck. She stared at me for a long time and then she said very slowly, ” C-A-B-G is an acronym for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft and is referred to in medical terminology as Cabbage. You just had your cabbage, do you want some more?”!  I said, “Oh, no, no, no, I think I’ll take a pass!”

After I was released we did not return to Swainsboro for a week. We stayed with Katie Mae’s nephew, Ken, and his lovely wife, Kim. We love them as if they are our children and we stayed there with them as I recuperated. Their hospitality was never ending and we still owe them endless thanks and our undying gratitude. Their beautiful and intelligent young teenage daughter Kensley was only three years old at the time. She checked on the condition of my ravaged limbs every day and since I still had bloody scars from the knee to the ankle on each leg and from the elbow to the wrist on my right arm she was very concerned about my condition. One day she declared, “Your legs have crapped open!” I thought that was an apt expression for the odd looking cracks on my legs.

One morning everyone left for a memorial service for a much loved aunt. I sat there by myself in a big easy chair and watched the most unbelievable and horrible scene ever witnessed on live television as, not once but twice, airplanes commandeered by terroristic mad men flew into the twin towers of The World Trade Center.

I sat there for two more days and cried with thousands of other good Americans. I told Katie Mae to take me back to Swainsboro. I told her there was no way to get well when watching the incredible sadness created in the aftermath of this tragedy.

When we reached Swainsboro I called my young friend and co-worker, Tim Rich, and I told him I was not supposed to return to work or drive for a couple of weeks but I wanted him to pick me up each every morning and take me home at the end of each work day and that’s what we did and that’s how I recovered from my operation.

Eleven years later, a new cardiologist in Savannah says the bypass still looks good. I don’t think about it much any more. I don’t think about cabbage much either. I do think about what matters most. I think about the people who died on September 11, 2001. I still think about them. I think about the people who killed our citizens that day. I think a lot about cultures that support terrorism and approve the murder of people who differ in their religious beliefs.



An Athens Aerobic Attempt

We thought we were ascending some pretty steep hills while walking in our other two favorite towns of Albany and Statesboro. Little did we know that Athens has mountains (to us). Now I realize we were living in the flatlands of Georgia. When we lived south of the gnat line, I estimated we were walking a 15 minute mile but just before we moved from Statesboro, I began to use an app on my iphone that put the lie to my calculations. Big Sister is inside the iphone. She is watching our every feeble step. She talks to me. She makes complimentary comments on each milepost we reach. I don’t know who set the mileposts but they are  recognized by Big Sister each time you hit one. With a syrupy, cheerful babble, she tells you how great you are doing and it doesn’t faze her one bit if I say, “Shut up, you phoney bitch, my feet are killing me.” My legs feel like burning logs and my lungs hurt like I just lit up the last cigarette of the fourth pack for the day. You can even set the app so there is applause if you actually stumble around and make it over a half mile. Let me tell you….. it does not sound like sincere applause to me. It sounds cynical and pretty damned sarcastic to my way of thinking. Anyhow the app is by Nike and it is nosy. It’s already spying on you but it can’t resist the chance to be even nosier. It wants you to manually verify the kind of shoes you are wearing. I lied and punched in Nike Air Max. I have no idea if there is a shoe named Nike Air Max but I saw that on the screen and used it out of fear a satellite generated lightening bolt would burn my feet off at the ankles. I’m wearing Reeboks (two of them) with the DMX construction I love so much. The DMX shoe occasionally returns some semblance of feeling to my feet and I am appreciative even if the feeling is a stabbing ice-pick like plunge into the center of a big toe.

Anyhow we set off down the street to the west. This is all downhill and it is pretty much a breeze. Katie Mae is a short gal and I almost always have the advantage of the longer stride unless my lungs start to feeling like they’re hanging out my nostrils and I notice my hands are purple. Then I cut her some slack. Katie Mae is making strange little mincing steps and when I question her about her odd gait, she says the hill is so steep her shoe tops are rubbing her toes so hard she is afraid her toenails will pop off. Now this worries me because recently I’ve noticed my toenails thickening on one foot and after a good doctor described this as fungus, I read that the fungus can cause your toenails to pop off. I wondered how hard they would pop off. Will they fly out of the top of your shoe and cut the leg of a bystander? Will they cut down the neighbor’s mail box?

So here we are, both of us, taking little delicate mincing girly steps down the street when we encounter a problem worse than free flying toenails. Katie Mae is deathly afraid of bugs. This sometimes works to my advantage when she leaps into my arms if a roach walks by. We had no bugs in our Statesboro house. We saw one roach in over 11 years and he was in that “leaving this life” pose with his arms and legs frozen in a heavenward plea for redemption. I guess they have arms and legs. You can see their little fingers and toes. Anyhow, we have walked just a few yards when we see dozens of wasps swarming around spots on the sidewalk. This makes walking difficult for me because this short woman is bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter around these wasps who show absolutely no interest in us at all. It doesn’t matter. She is afraid of them and we continue our odd stilted strut around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street in a strange apoplectic dance of the zombies. I know the neighbors are nervously peering from behind drawn curtains. This is a quiet neighborhood. I never see neighbors but I am sure they are watching us dance like drunken loons across the cul-de-sac and then fall into our desperate crawl up the ascending mountaintop on the far side of the street. I’m saying a little prayer that the neighbors will think we are practicing for a “Dance of the Dead” Halloween performance.  Luckily the wasps do not appear on the shaded side of the street so our only formidable foe is the sharp incline before us.

We have to make this circuit three times. I have a band that goes around my chest that listens to my heartbeat and it tells a watch on my wrist how my pulse is faring. It sometimes scares the hell out of me when the watch shows a blank face. I know death is imminent but I somehow manage to drag in that next ragged breath of salvation and I hear the watch laughing maniacally and a tiny voice whispers, “Gotcha!”

We hope we now know where all the big dogs live. Katie Mae was bitten by a big dog when she was a child so we have to fight that fear too. I think she is getting tougher and better. When two Shetland-pony sized German Shepherds come around the corner of a house in full Coon Dog baying mode, I become the one with a problem as the numbers on the wrist watch began to fluctuate wildly and my feeble mind sends me into an old fashioned swoon. When I regained my composure, it took me thirty minutes to find her. She was six houses down and across the street in someone’s backyard. She was four feet up in a Bartlett Pear tree. Katie Mae was okay but the neighbor is still mad about the bark and limbs missing from the tree.

When it all ended we had walked 2.78 miles in 49.26 minutes. We were doing a 17 minute 45 second mile. That’s not too bad for old folks. I think I lost some time getting her out of that tree but those short legs didn’t seem to slow her down when she left me alone with those big German Shepherds.

Not only did we get a large round of insincere applause from the Nike Big Sister but she also put a gal with an Australian accent on the phone who told us how wonderfully we had performed. They must have missed the part where Katie Mae left the course. Now that I know Big Sister is watching, I always put my phone face down when I’m not using it and I never take it into the bathroom with me.

I rewarded myself last night with two large brownies warmed in the microwave and covered in four scoops of vanilla ice cream. The Nike gal said I had lost 325 calories and at my age you really have to be careful. It’s tough keeping your weight up when you get old.

Game Day – Staying Young in Athens –

The night before the game. – We have house guests. We tell outlandish lies. We laugh a lot. It’s good to laugh a lot. You can smell the endorphins forming in the laughter-filled air of the room. The pain in your old and mostly worn out body has either diminished or completely vanished. It is a great time. The younger group drinks quickly in a rush to kill their own definition of pain and misery. The two old liars are no longer imbibers of adult drinks. They might as well be sucking on binky nipples but they are accomplished guffawers and knee slappers and maintain a steady stream of psycho-babble that entertains usually just the two of them.

We listen to Paul’s CD. He has had five or six songs recorded downtown and they sound more professional than the recordings he had made in years past. He is a crooner and he brings tears to the girls’ eyes. He sings and old Irish folksong, “Carrickfergus,” and we all have to wipe our eyes. He has to stop singing because he is turning the happy booze into sad blues. The young ones drink a little more but we all turn in early.

The dashing, daring younger women are out the door first the next morning. They are tailgating in a parking deck somewhere near Sanford Stadium and we are going to see our wonderful nephews and gorgeous niece at “Swilleygate” at the foot of the stadium, behind the Tate Center and almost under the bridge. We have Rose and Katie Mae and O.Victor with us and Paul as our wheel man. Paul has lived here about 15 years and with him driving,  I feel better about navigating the madness of traffic jammed by hundreds of other lost souls trying to find a place to park.  O.Victor and I marvel at the thriftiness of today’s young women. We know the economy is bad and cloth is expensive but the incredible ability of these girls to cover so much with so little is heartwarming. We really appreciate the sacrifices our young college women are making. We did not pay much attention to the young guys. I guess they have their clothing costs and money problems too but I feel sure they’ll be okay.

Since O.V. has back problems and the girls would rather not walk too far, Paul drops them off about a block from our destination. Victor has a couple of small insulated bags he insists on carrying for the girls. These bags are the size designed for a six pack of beer or soda so I know they can’t be very heavy but I also know that his back is not that reliable and I can see a problem developing. Paul and I continue to our parking deck. We have a cooler with wheels and a couple of camp chairs with us as we head for Swilleygate.

We were about two blocks from the stadium and I become increasingly worried as we approached the back of the Tate Center. We saw Swilleygate and all the happy participants but we saw no Katie Mae, no Rosie, and no O. Victor. We had walked at least twice the distance the girls and Vic had to navigate and they were not there.

Paul ventured out on a sortie to rescue them. He had gone only about a hundred yards when he found Katie Mae and Rose. They were fuming. They claimed we let them out of the car too far from the stadium. I think they walked in circles. When you become angry and start seeing red, it’s easy to lose your bearings and to walk in circles. Their big problem was our fearless leader, O.Victor. When they strapped those saddle bags (he insisted he could carry) on him, his normal snail pace slowed to a shuffle that moved him slightly forward (about three inches) every step he took. Paul says when he finally found Uncle Vic, a passing turtle was urinating on Vic’s foot.

You cannot begin to believe how much bitching we were subjected to after this little episode. Vic says he told them to go ahead and he would find his way. Rose says she was worried about him falling over dead so she kept walking back and forth between him and Kay so he wouldn’t be permanently lost. Kay says her method was best. She was only about a block ahead of them and before she made a turn she would wave at Vic and point in the direction she intended to take. It was good that we were in the land of plenty. Andrea and Britt always have a great amount of food and drink available and once we got to stuffing food into grumbling mouths, things quieted down.  I was just so glad Paul found Vic. If he hadn’t found him, people leaving the game after it was over would surely have trampled old Vic while he was still on his way in to Swilleygate.

There is much of the Fountain of Youth to be found in Athens on game day. It’s contagious and it flows straight from pools of excitement seen in the eyes of countless young people having so much marvelous and awesome fun. The UGA Redcoat Marching Band is only 50 feet or so in front of us and they begin to ramp up that excitement tenfold. The drums bring the thrill of it all straight to your heart in an ever rising crescendo. This first form of primitive communication can still bind us together into a single minded group of happy warriors with thousands of voices booming out as a single gargantuan call to arms……….”GOOOOOO DAWWWGGGSSS!!”

The dashing, daring, younger women, K.K. and Bonnie arrive at Swilleygate just in time for the Dawg Walk. The band has now formed parallel lines stretching across the back of The Tate Center all the way back down to Lumpkin Street on one end and to the stadium on the other. Here come the Bulldogs! Bonnie and K.K. are right at the forefront with all the other Dawg lovers, yelling and screaming words of love, admiration and encouragement. They’re slapping the players on their backs, their waists, their butts, and any other piece of a player’s anatomy they can lovingly smack. The best protection the team is provided is the trombone section where the slinging slides and tossing heads of the trombone players put up a formidable defense for the helpless players. Fortunately none of them are seriously injured by the adoring crowd and they eventually play an excellent winning game against Vanderbilt.  As soon as the players have passed through the dawg-walk line, two of the members of the band climb the steps to the third floor landing outside the Tate Center and begin their famous Rooster cheer. The crowd repeats each line of the cheer and they wind it all up with the Rooty Toot Toot calling of the Bulldogs. The excitement then begins to transfer inside the stadium for the start of the game.

The dashing and daring gals go in to see the game. We don’t see them again until around midnight. They loyally watched the entire game even though it was a Georgia Bulldog rout. After the game, when they finally reached their car, the police made them go an unfamiliar route. They got lost and it took them a while to get back home.

We return to Swilleygate and feasted as the game began. We have grown older so we don’t attend the games often. The restroom facilities and the food and conveniences all happen to be right where we are and so it suits us fine to visit with our younger kin. Often folks from Albany and old friends from other towns we have lived in will stop by to say hello. Britt and Andrea have been hosting “Swilleygate” since 2003. They do a wonderful job and the place has become a magnet for old and new friends and especially younger kinfolks. They also have two amazing sons who happen to be large, loving, caring lads (John and Thomas) who do not mind bending down and picking up old uncles who tend to topple over from time to time. This is one of the reasons we moved to Athens.

As I said, the excitement is contagious and it will rejuvenate you, body and soul. Be a spectator at such an event. Go watch Georgia play football in Athens. All those young people are going to put you as close to the Fountain of Youth as you will ever get. It’s reminiscent of falling in love again.