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3 posts from September 2010


What I did on my fall(ing) vacation

AMbu275 As long as I can remember, I've fought hard against the odds -- uphill, wind in my face, lacking necessary God-given talent tools and/or budget -- to be The Guy.

I longed to be the center of attention, the guy all eyes gravitated to first as a radio DJ, then as a TV news reporter/anchor, a stand-up comedian (let's not go there) and film critic, which actually worked out pretty well.

I finally reached that coveted center-stage point over the weekend in a tiny Texas coastal town.

But I never wanted to be this guy.

It's 4:30 in the morning.  I'm coming out of a blackout fog on a cold condo bathroom floor with loved ones and a complete stranger staring down at me.

Holy crap!  Is that a defibrillator?

But wait, let's flash back a little like they do in the movies.

My wife Suellen and I look forward with great anticipation to our rare chances to get away to the beach.  We don't own a condo.  We will, though, just as soon as our lottery numbers cooperate.

So we rent.  And we love it.  Last weekend's trip began like many of the others.  Relatives and friends would join us at the beach.  We would gather for coffee and chats in the morning, dig our toes into the sun-kissed sand during the day as the seagulls circled low overhead and toast the good life once the sun went down.

But we -- and when I say we I really mean I -- ventured, as they say in the movies, "off-script" this time.  I've been dieting, as some of you and this region's perplexed Blue Bell ice cream distributor know.

My calorie count has been low (too low you are about to discover).  And I've been pushing myself physically playing tennis (which I recently rediscovered that I really enjoy) in the hot sun without adequate hydration. Played a rousing game of "rediscover tennis" with the family that very morning, in fact.

Distill all that with a libation or two to celebrate good times, the moon shining brilliantly on the Gulf water and the fact that the Texas Rangers had clinched the American League West division championship earlier in the day and around 4:30 a.m. we get these buzzwords:

Cramp.  LEG CRAMP!  Now in both legs!  "Ow, ow, ow, OW!"

"Got to get to the bathroom."


(That's the sound of yours truly blacking out and collapsing in a clump on the living room floor; un-carpeted of course.)

Panic.  (That would be Suellen as she comes to my rescue.)

In the bathroom now.

Splat again.

(My best description of collapse No. 2 brought back thoughts of the late Howard Cosell's call when George Foreman belted Joe Frazier to the mat in the first round of the 1973 world heavyweight boxing championship in Kingston, Jamaica:  "Down goes Frazier!  Down goes Frazier!")

Serious panic now.

(Suellen makes frantic call to daughter Lisa and son-in-law Johnny, who are two floors down.)

I'm up.  Johnny, a medical research scientist working on a cure for cancer, slums a little and checks me out.  He says my pulse is low.

"I think I'm fine now."

Splat -- the trifecta.

Now we're back to real time.  The paramedics have arrived. 

Actually it's just one paramedic, a nice young lady with slurred speech.  I'm told later she must have recently gotten her tongue pierced.  Presumably, it was on purpose.

"My partner's downthairs throwing up," she casually announces.

Still, she does a very capable job of hooking up my EKG, checking my pulse (Yep, low) and pricking my finger for blood to check the glucose level (low there as well).  The good news:  I do not require the defibrillator.

Suddenly, two more paramedics appear.  One of the new arrivals, whose partner is not downstairs tossing his cookies or jumbo fried shrimp or whatever, appears extremely professional and caring.  Still that makes three paramedics.  I think the odd number is somehow throwing the universe off-kilter.  At least it is mine.

"Sorry, guys," I tell them, "You're not meeting me on my best day."

"We rarely meet people on their best days," the professional appearing one responds with rather exceptional comic timing. 

Full disclosure:  I'm kidding around with them to keep from being scared out of my wits.  When it's generally decided that I don't appear to be in immediate serious danger and can avoid taking a ride in their ambulance (with the puking guy driving), I relax a little.

"Your color ish coming back," the emergency responder with the trendy spike in her tongue says.

"That's good," I respond.

But I can't resist:

"What color am I?"

(Ambulance drawing courtesy:  fundraw.com)


Helpful hints on being pro-inactive

Sun221 I admire the pro-active, take-charge people.

They're the natural leaders who see a problem and jump right in to do something about the dilemma. 

Like Martha Stewart, for instance.  Sure, some may call her demanding and hovering because she has a reputation for paying close attention to every detail.

Her track record, though, speaks for itself.  Ms. Stewart took a couple of twigs from her garden, wrapped ribbons around them and convinced a large percentile of American citizens to purchase Martha Stewart signature craft products at Michaels. 

This is a given, isn't it?  There's glitter, and there's Martha Stewart glitter.

Let's not forget that Ms. Stewart got where she is by only serving minimal prison time.  You've got to admire that.

Several early evenings last week, I was thinking about pro-active people I admire.  Not just Stewart, but also Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Snooki from "Jersey Shore" on MTV.

I was sitting out on our patio sipping a cool beverage and marveling that the sun was going down with what appeared to be orderly precision once again.

How does the sun do its wondrous disappearing act so well evening after evening?  After all, don't we live in a world filled with chaos?  Wars are raging.  Hurricanes and tornadoes are bearing down on us.

And the economic experts -- all of them dutifully employed with cushy retirement accounts and low deductible health insurance no doubt -- have suddenly declared that the recession is over.  (Yeah, right, pal.  Come hang with me for a while.)

I was pondering why the sun even bothers to shed golden light on us without judgment when I noticed a stir of little-bitty activity below me.  I was just reaching for a higher power; a refill.

It was a long stream of busy ants.  They were power-walking as fast as their little legs would carry them from left to right along a crevice in the patio slab.  The first evening I barely even noted them.

The next evening I noticed them again.

"Where are you rushing off to, little fellas?  Chill, enjoy the evening ritual with me.  In Hollywood the filmmakers call this Golden Hour.  That's when the sun's rays are soft and flattering.  Lots of movies are shot this time of the early evening.

"So relax, little ants.  What's the rush?"

The next day, in the harsh midday sunlight, it was pointed out to me that the shower stall in our master bathroom was literally covered in ants.  We're not talking scores of ants, or even hundreds.  Thousands!

It's as if someone had painted the shower tile black and, taking meticulous pains as Martha Stewart would,  even included tiny legs.

But they weren't moving.  The ants' journey -- so frenzied as they scurried past me an evening or two before -- had ended.  My wife Suellen zapped the little buggers with toxic spray before they could advance on the rest of the house.

I admire take-charge, pro-active people like Suellen.

I'm also thankful for Mr. Raid, or whomever it was, who dreamed up the necessary, but rather morbid idea of bug spray.

(Sun drawing courtesy:  OCAL/Clker.com)


Giving knee trouble the cold shoulder

Tennis250 This may shock some people.  Or a lot of people.

OK, full disclosure.  It'll startle you, everyone you know and quite possibly future generations of their families.

I was a jock in high school.  An athlete.  So there!

I'm not claiming to be the square-jawed quarterback, the basketball point guard or the fleet-footed track star who ruled the halls of Grand Prairie (TX) High back in the mid-1960s.

I was, uh, pretty much the last kid on the Grand Prairie Gopher varsity tennis team.  Not first team, either.  I was the last guy -- or second to last guy (I'm still working that out with my therapist) -- on the boys doubles team.

The second doubles team.  And, yes, our mascot was a burrowing rodent.

My first recollection of being revered as a high school athlete stud was when it rained and the tennis coach made us run laps in the gym.  For some reason I can't recall (or blocked out over the years), the bleachers were full of bored students on that dreary, sixth-period afternoon.

The bleacher bums began to throw pennies at the team in general; but in particular at the slightly chubby future (barely) second-teamer huffing and puffing and bringing up the rear.

Did you know it's a long way around the glossy floor of a high school gym when you're 16, semi-plus-sized and being publicly ridiculed?

The therapist I mentioned above (but have never actually been to) could probably trace my rebel streak back to that very moment of my mentally self-tortured youth.  Look closely at the tennis team pictures in my high school yearbook and you'll notice that I'm the only tennis stud wearing black socks and a smirk when both were severely frowned upon in tennis etiquette.

Anyway, that's not why I asked you here.  The point is that if anyone told me six months ago that I'd be taking up tennis again after a 35-year layoff I would have sworn they were nuts.

I still think people are a little crazy (You've heard of "Dancing with the Stars" haven't you?), but I am back in the tennis game.  White socks this time.  I do my rebelling at the computer keyboard these days.

When I was in my early 20s, way back in a previous century, I stepped awkwardly off a curb in front of our family home in Grand Prairie and twisted my knee.  So badly, in fact, that I was quite sure my days chasing down a fuzzy ball were over.

A few months ago, however, a friend suggested a game of tennis. I agreed merely as a courtesy.  I haven't even owned a tennis racket in decades.  So I borrowed one and gamely exposed myself to what I expected to be public humiliation and self-ridicule (just like the old days).

Sure enough, the tortured knee crackled and refused to obey direct orders from the brain.  "Nice shot," I found myself yelling across the net while wondering why the #&^@ I didn't run a few steps and hit the ball back.

Then a funny thing happened.  The more I tried to run on the battered knee, the more it got better, not worse.  The fact that I've lost a few pounds helps.  But as my friend Gerry (who knows this kind of stuff) says, the exercise is probably strengthening the knee.

So now I'm bugging everyone I know (my wife Suellen, my brother, friends) to join me on the tennis court.  I'm feeling years younger.  My weight loss is accelerated.  And the knee?  It's just fine, thank you.

But now my shoulder's killing me.

Your sympathy is welcome.  Just don't throw pennies.  

(Tennis cartoon courtesy:  about.com)