November 23rd, 2014
Several times a week I reenact this wonderful Calvin & Hobbes strip with my two cell-mates, Tigger and Snagglepuss. Beside the entertainment value, I am reminded of how acute is their sense of hearing and smell.
First things first: I get it in my mind to have a tuna fish sandwich. With mayo.
Yes, I know tuna has mercury and other nasties in it. I know mayo is fattening. I know eating a tuna fish sandwich several times a week isn’t the healthiest practice.
I don’t care – I like it. It tastes good and has protein. It doesn’t kill any cows or chickens.
I’ve always taken a somewhat perverse pride in the fact that I rarely get sick. I don’t think it’s my genetic pool, since my family history is filled with all sorts of afflictions — diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, you name it, someone in the Bonifonte ancestry has probably had it.
So it kind of bugged me (ha, ha) that for the last 4 weeks I’ve been laid low with … something. Since I’m not a doctor– or hospital-kind of guy I didn’t get any diagnosis, but the closest I can come is that it was a strain of the currently circulating virus that every second or third person seems to have. Usually I avoid these because of my monkish social habits, but I might have grabbed it from a door handle or something.
Whatever it was really did a number on me. Extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea and muscle aches. Couldn’t keep much solid food down and could barely walk a straight line. For four weeks. But that’s how I’ve always rolled — I don’t get sick often, but when I do I make it a seriously lengthy affair.
But things really began to get funky when I looked out the kitchen window and saw two white geese doing a choreographed river-dance piece.
I stared for a few seconds and then broke into a prolonged laugh. I looked down for a moment to pour a glass of juice, then looked out again to see two white rocks sitting against the neighbor’s house.
But those dancing geese stayed on my mind for the rest of the night and gave me the occasional muted chuckle.
Not so with Tigger the Wonder Dog.
Tigger has a problem — somehow a few fleas got into the carpet and thence into his fur (and I suspect into his butt) and the poor beast spends 24/7 chewing, nibbling, biting and scratching himself, to the point of feverishly spinning around trying to chew his butt, an act I call The Spin of Death. Accompanying these antics is a moist, sloppy sound of chewing, normally something I can put up with, but in my nauseated state it caused me numerous grabs for my trusty little chuck bucket.
His mistress has tried many baths, sprays and combings, all to no avail, and happily this Thursday he’s going to a pro for a bath. That’s good as far as it goes, but it also means I have to vacuum and steam-clean the carpet. Ugh.
Facing one’s lack of immortality is disturbing.
Have you seen the savior fare, up and down Dzerzhinsky Square
On that famous thoroughfare, with their missiles in the air
Fur hats and acting brutal, white men with lots of ruble
Spending every cent, for their Communist foment
If you’re weak and you don’t know what help to seek
Why don’t you go where the fascist sits,
Putin on the Ritz.
Different types who wear a greatcoat, pants with stripes
And armored coat, perfect fits,
Putin on the Ritz.
Dressed up like a Marxist paratrooper
Trying hard to look like Igor Cooper (super duper)
Come let’s mix where Communists walk with sticks
Or Kalashnikovs in their mitts
Putin on the Ritz
Wields his power like a royal daughter
While he rides a bear across the water (to a slaughter)
You’ll declare it’s simply topping to be there
And see them mapping smart-bomb hits
Putin on the Ritz!
I know you have many good points — sun, sand, surf, weather — and they are why I want to move into your warm embrace. I know you also have a dark side; we all do, really, and I promise I won’t hold it against you if you exhibit the occasional hurricane. I won’t even mind if alligators come gallumphing through my front yard or poisonous snakes wrap themselves around me once in a while.
It beats the 7-month-long winter we have here in Pennsylvania, and total lack of sun, sand, surf, etc.
But without seeming to be unappreciative, I have come up with a short list of things I would like to see you institute before I move there. I’m not quite sure exactly when I’m going to be moving — hopefully within the next year or so — but I think that a year is enough time to get everything in place. Please feel free to contact me, dear Florida, if you need any help in understanding or executing any of these items.
Here we go …
Legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana — I’ve been dry for several years now and I miss my old friend. Besides, what better way to spend my twilight years than to be surrounded by the aforementioned sun, sand, etc. while I am fully and truly baked? NOTE: This is a deal-breaker, sweetie. Don’t think I haven’t been checking out Colorado on Craigslist … when it comes down to the wire, I’ll take weed over waves any day. I can always sprinkle kitty litter around the bathtub and install a sunlamp.
Bike lanes and bus routes — I’m not sure that I want to drive again, so I’m planning on either biking or bussing my way around town. I note from countless close inspections of Google Maps that many of the towns I’m considering have bike lanes, which is good, but your bus service is a little more spotty. Try to up your game on public transit, okay? P.S.: Monorails would be awesome.
Language — Look, I know you’re one of the leading hosts of immigrants, both legal and illegal, in the United States — what are you, #2 or #3 in the country? Regardless, let’s not get too crazy, okay? I mean like, to the point where everything is in an alien language. If I go to the library I won’t be happy if I find one little shelf labeled “English Language Books” while the rest of the shelves contain only Spanish language ones. Or if every single store’s name begins with “La” or “El”. And don’t think I’m a racist — I’m an American. There’s a small but important distinction there …
Old Retired People — I am also aware that you have a rep as being the Graveyard of the U.S. — that people flock to you when they realize they can no longer run faster than Father Time. I appreciate that you’ve set yourself up to serve these folks, but let’s not go overboard, okay? I don’t want to be waiting half an hour for some rickety former Snow Belter to pick up their dish of stewed prunes from the counter while I’m jonesing on a Cuban sandwich, all right? How about we mark out an area somewhere — maybe near Lakeland, or somewhere down near the Everglades? — where all the old people have to go. As an addendum to that thought — I’ll let you know when I finally choose a place to move, and you can pass a law that only fit young ladies under 25 years old are allowed to wear bathing suits — I don’t want to spend my Golden Years gazing at waves of cellulite and varicose veins.
Weird / Yucky / Deadly Sea Life — Look, it’s okay when Jacques Cousteau used to be around, fondling manta rays and eating jellyfish and stuff, but the shine is off by now, you dig? I’d like to go snorkeling once in a while and I don’t particularly enjoy having those weird-ass critters swimming up out of nowhere and biting / stinging / eating my ass whole. Get your poo-poo together — figure out some way to catch them and put them in aquariums, throw a bunch of birth-control pills in the water, hell, pay citizen boaters to toss quarter sticks of dynamite over the side as they go fishing. I want to be able to enjoy my swim without having to constantly be looking over my shoulder.
Close Down Northern Immigration — there are WAY too many Northerners fleeing the colder climes and filling up your beautiful shores. As soon as I move there I would like to see a moratorium on Snow Bunnies re-establishing themselves there.
Thank you, dear Florida. I hope to see you soon.
It is perhaps an axiom that oft times our actions can be misconstrued as being something totally different than what they are. The man who picks up the lost wallet usually does so in plain sight of the victim, who is at that very moment telling the policeman what his wallet looks like and where he lost it. The friendly peck on the cheek from a good-looking long-time acquaintance always occurs just when your spouse comes walking around the corner. Of course, it’s always at church or an important business meeting that you discover your impish 5-year-old has chosen that day to surreptitiously place a Chiquita banana sticker on your hindquarters.
I have to admit that I have, not without some small sense of pride, continued this ancient tradition just this very morning. I have the somewhat odd habit of sleeping not in a bed but in a recliner, one of those wondrous inventions that hold you, tilt you, rock and recline you, heat you and seat you and now even feature mini-refrigerators and audio/visual control stations. Unfortunately I don’t own one of those – the one I have is an oldie, a sort of bland non-color material liberally clawed by the cat of the house, the kind of chair in the kind of condition that even the Salvation Army would turn their noses up at, squeaky and rickety and dirty and abused, but comfortable. The hole in the front of the seat cushion is starting to enlarge to the point where the yellowed foam inside is making its break for freedom, yet still I wouldn’t trade-in this battered old veteran for a dozen new models.
It has soul.
Another of my odd habits is that as a self-employed writer I tend to keep strange hours. I have no wife or children in the house, just a room-mate who believes in my literary quest and had offered me inexpensive lodgings when I most needed them (starving-artist syndrome). As a result I often do not “hit the sheets” until 3 or 4 in the morning, and coupled with my polyphasic sleeping habits (developed many years ago in college) I am what is usually known as a “napper” — I sleep for an hour or an hour and a half, 3 times a day, and find that this provides me with enough energy to do what I need – and want – to do.
Unfortunately I am also getting older – I turned 56 a few months ago – and although I spent over 40 years practicing and teaching martial arts and consequently was in pretty good physical shape, I have allowed myself to fall into the disgrace of unfitness these last 10 years or so since my retirement from the martial world. I won’t say that I’m on the same level as your typical Walmart shopper or Chinese buffet attendee, but let’s face it – I’m not the man I used to be. No longer can I perform those jump-spinning roundhouse kicks to my opponents heads – now I just turn my lawyers loose on anyone foolish enough to challenge me and use big-sounding words to defeat little-minded opponents.
So perhaps it was not entirely unthinkable, given my sleep habits, self-imposed work schedule and poor dietary habits (hint: pizza and coffee are two of my main food groups) that one day I would get a Charley horse.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus Encyclopedia, a Charley horse -
… is the common name for a muscle spasm. Muscle spasms can occur in any muscle in the body, but often happen in the leg. When a muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and does not relax.
They go on to inform me that the cause of a Charley horse may be over-exertion (that’s not me), dehydration (hey, I take in 5 pots of coffee every day) or the lack of certain vitamins such as calcium or potassium.
MedlinePlus then gives me some fascinating news, of which I would never have been aware had they not told me -
When a muscle goes into spasm it feels very tight. It is sometimes described as a knot. The pain can be severe.
Yes – VERY severe, as I found out this morning.
I had finished up an article for a client at around 2am and made myself a little snack consisting of a banana (note – source of potassium!), a few nuts and my final mug of light and sweet coffee for the day. I collapsed into the recliner and kicked back to the “TV viewing” position – only a slight recline angle and with the feet elevated. I started watching one of my favorite oldies on the oldies network, The Honeymooners, and my final memory of consciousness was chuckling at Ralph and Norton’s antics before I fell off into my short-sleep mode.
Now after an hour and a half my internal alarm clock usually goes DING and I awake refreshed and ready for another 7-hour stint at the keyboard, but this time something went wrong. This time I was catapulted into wakefulness by not one but TWO Charley horses, one in each calf. To call this pain “severe” is like calling the Titanic disaster “a little boating mishap” — this level of pain is usually reserved for masochists and volunteers for political rallies. It felt as if Hulk Hogan had grabbed my left calf, Arnold Schwarzenegger my right and then both proceeded to squeeze for all they were worth.
A moan, long and low yet quite spirited, escaped my lips — “Ooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhh”. At the same time I rocked forward slightly in the recliner, which gave off its usual “SQUEEEEEEEK”. The pain in my legs lessened by just a little and I fell back into the chair. That’s when the next wave of pain invaded my lower legs.
Once again — “Oooooooooooohhhhhhhhh” … “SQUEEEEEEEEK” …
And again a third time … “Oooooooooohhhhhhh” … “SQUEEEEEEEEK” …
By this time I couldn’t even get out of the recliner, the pain was so bad. Arnold and The Hulkster were having a grand old time wringing out what remained of my gastrocnemius and soleus muscle groups. It was then that I noticed that Tigger and Snagglepuss, the resident Pekingese and long-hair/short-hair mix cat, were sitting quietly together watching me, fascinated by either my movements or, more likely, my sounds. Normally they respond only to the sound of a working can opener or of food being poured into a dish, so I can only imagine that somehow my preternatural moans closely imitated Kitty Chow being dumped into a small ceramic bowl.
Arnold and The Hulkster not to scale
Tigger and Snaggs watched me for several more Oooohhhh-Squeeeek cycles before boredom overtook them both and they began chasing each other. Unfortunately they chose as their play area the space directly BENEATH the recliner’s footrest, so even if I HAD been able to get my feet down on the ground the movement would have been thwarted by several pounds of combined canine and feline bodies.
“AAAHHHHH!” I managed to utter in my frustration at this newest turn of events. Thus began the mantra of the morning -
“Ooooooohhhhh” … “SQUEEEEEEEK” … “AAAHHHHH” … “SQUEEEEEEK” … “Oooooohhhhh” …
Talkin’ ’bout my generation …
That’s when my roommate’s head poked around the corner slowly and carefully, afraid to see what, once seen, could not be unseen. The look of relief on her face was priceless, but was then rapidly replaced by puzzlement. The critters meanwhile ran under her legs for shelter from the moaning madman.
At the same time I heard our upstairs neighbor, a 40-ish maintenance man, actually giggle and then walk rapidly away from a spot directly overhead.
After what seemed an eternity but was in actuality perhaps only three minutes after I first woke up I was finally able to stand up and begin lurching stiff-legged around the house like Frankenstein’s monster, still giving off guttural moans and the occasional “AHhhhh!” when a mini-seizure would strike once again in my lower extremities. After several more minutes of thump-moan-thump-moan and the rapid devouring of 3 bananas and a gallon of Orange Crush drink the pain disappeared, leaving my legs feeling like I had just finished a 30-mile forced march with a full pack on my back.
Remember back at the beginning of this article, when I mentioned how the most innocent of actions can be misconstrued?
I went to the store this morning to pick up my daily rations of milk and bread, and as I approached the glass entry doors I saw my upstairs neighbors laughing with the female clerk (our next-door neighbor), both suddenly stopping their laughter and finding things to be busy with when I walked through the door, still not being entirely able to wipe the smirks from their faces.
I paid for my supplies and left, and as I began walking up the sidewalk I heard behind me “Oooooohhhhh … SQUEEEEEK …. AAAHHHhhhhhh”, followed by an eruption of laughter. I would swear that several stray dogs grinned at me before I got back home. Little old ladies coming out of church spit at me.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair, and things aren’t what they seem.
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