Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oops - Sorry! Wrong House!

I don't need a Pulitzer Prize to tell you that the United States went to war in the wrong place after September 11, 2001. Everybody but Donald Rumsfeld will get behind the idea that Iraq was a bad choice to sell Freedom Fries, but until recently, Afghanistan seemed like the "just war" we were prosecuting in the Middle East. New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade covering Afghanistan, will tell you we've been fighting the wrong enemy for the past thirteen years. She'll stake her Pulitzer on it.
“Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages,” Ms. Gall said. “The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan.”
You remember Pakistan? The country southeast of Afghanistan where we routinely have to barter and beg to fly over, around and through on our way to blowing things up in its neighbors? Gall continues: “I think the politicians, not all of them, but the diplomats … it took ages for them to understand that actually the persuasion wasn't working; the engagement wasn't bringing them on board; they were actually double dealing, and now diplomats will tell you very plainly, ‘Yes, Musharraf was double dealing.’” Sorry about that, chief.
Why were we in Afghanistan in the first place? To find Osama bin Laden, of course. But it turns out that bin Laden found shelter in Abbottabad, Pakistan, for six years before he was killed in a Navy SEAL raid in 2011. According to Gall, Pakistan’s government was orchestrating his protection. Ouch. I'm wondering if Jon Stewart wants his Gatorade back.
Of course, Mister Stewart never won a Pulitzer Prize. But he did once host the Oscars. See? We all make mistakes. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if they had just stuck with Ellen?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Remedial

Did you know that if you drink plenty of water every day you'll sleep through the night? It's safe, and it's natural, and it works for babies as well as adults! Of course, that "plenty" may be a difficult measure to gauge, and it's entirely possible that there is no actual correlation between drinking water and sleeping, but I'm pretty sure that if you're dying of thirst you'll probably have a hard time sleeping. Until you pass out or expire.
And so the process continues finding a way to live better through Al Gore's Internet. My recent bout with kidney stones, the one where I was oh-for-two last week, had my wife and I scouring our online resources for answers. The problem is that once you open the door just a little bit, the information flood begins. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs? It's a pretty frustrating thing to feel like I am living a healthy lifestyle, getting plenty of exercise, and taking my vitamins but still I found myself in this medical crisis that involved emergency rooms and blood tests and pain medications and all sorts of extra attention for which I didn't recall asking.
And so I ended up with a puzzle. The visit with my doctor didn't solve it. There were all kinds of loose ends. The good news was that my continued vigilant awareness of what goes into and out of my body would certainly help. Having lost twenty or more pounds over the past year gave me another gold star, but also made me all the more curious: With all this health consciousness, why am I still sick?
Well, it could be that I am of a certain age. It could also have something to do with my profession and the stresses related to it. It might be that the combinations of the bad things I have done to my body in the past, even though I have become much better-behaved, have created this ongoing issue. That's where Al Gore's Internet comes into play. How can I stop being whatever it is that I am in order to be what I want to be? If you Google the right combination of terms, you can almost always find someone or some entity that will support that world view. There is no one right answer. Just endless links to other web pages that will let you know how to feel better in ways you might never have expected. Or maybe you did, since you went looking for it in the first place.
So I'll keep drinking plenty of water, and I'll do my best to avoid all those things that bring on premature aging and heartbreak, or heart attack. Maybe then I'll be able to sleep through the night.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mowie Bowie Wowie

Do we need another reason not to legalize marijuana? How about this one: A recent study suggests that since medical cannabis was legalized the number of pet pot poisonings has risen dramatically. Apparently, as good for your "sciatica" as a nice pan of magic brownies might be, it's really bad for your dog. Rover probably didn't have getting totally baked in mind when he got his nose in your stash, but it's not the weed they're after. It's the chocolate, dude. Insert forehead slap here.
It brings to mind the plight of our poor dog, God Rest Her Soul, who spent many days in a self-induced haze after ingesting unhealthy amounts of chocolate. And this was the stuff without the stuff in it, if you catch my meaning. Of course, it isn't really fair to call it "self-induced," since we were the ones with opposable thumbs who could have just as easily moved the cake, brownies, truffles, or other chocolatey goodness far away from nose level. We were careless owners. We left chocolate where it was physically possible for her to get at it, and so we were therefore completely to blame and I retract my previous sentiment. And we did this while we weren't stoned.
Now imagine that you are a regular user and all that residual THC is faintly tampering with your thought processes as you take that cookie sheet out of the oven with those very special cookies. You were just going to watch a few minutes of the Cheech and Chong film festival on IFC, but that's when you heard that rustling in the kitchen, the clatter of the pan hitting the floor and it occurred to you that maybe you should go in and see what was the matter.
"Trixie! What did you do?"
Well, as it turns out, Trixie was just doing what Trixie would always do in that situation, and the fact that this particular batch of Toll House cookies was laced with medicinal grade polio pot has everything to do with pet ownership and very little to do with the legalization of marijuana. It was Doctor Hunter S. Thompson who said, "You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye." Or razor sharp teeth. Or a nice wet nose.
You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/huntersth153721.html#eQ5oldV7MJE5KQdM.99
You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/huntersth153721.html#eQ5oldV7MJE5KQdM.99

Monday, April 14, 2014

Through The Heart

They'll be going back to school on Monday at Franklin Regional High School. Well, most everyone. Not the ones who are still in intensive care. Not the ones who are still afraid to go there. Not the one who is locked up. Last Wednesday, when sixteen-year-old Alex Hribal went on a rampage before classes began, he changed that school forever. It now joins a long list of schools, big and small, connected to tragedy. Police have charged Hribal with four counts of attempted murder and twenty-one counts of aggravated assault.
Take some time, if you must, to try and distinguish between the experience of someone attempting to murder you versus that of being assaulted with aggravation. It's hard enough to imagine such a scene, but even harder to try to fathom how one might go about prosecuting such a crime.
The good news: No one is calling for "common sense legislation on kitchen knives." When this sort of thing happens, it breaks down that wall between the real and the surreal. If it had been yet another school shooting, we would have a place to put it in our talking points. We could all line up on our sides: those of us who want someone to pry our guns from our cold dead hands, and those of us who would rather have a few less cold dead hands. Hribal's attorney Patrick Thomassey described the alleged attacker as a good student who got along with others, and asked for a psychiatric examination. Not for himself. For his client.
Because that's what it seems our country really needs: a psychiatric examination. Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and all those other schools in between, now we can add Franklin Regional. As with all those other stories, there were heroes, and there were questions. Lots of questions. But the worst thing may have been the horrible sameness of it all. The kid who kept to himself who nobody would have ever expected, and the way yet another community has to find a way to pull itself back together. We are asked to understand that such attacks are becoming more prevalent in China, of all places. As if there was some solace to be gained from this information.
It doesn't matter if it was a knife. Or if it was in China. It was a crazy, desperate act carried out by a child. It's never going to make any sense.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Days Of Future Passed

It just so happened that instead of going to college after I graduated from high school, I found myself with a year off. As discussed here, at length, I stayed busy with the important work of serving America Roast Beef, Yes Sir! Man cannot live on potato cakes alone, and so I needed to fill my hours with more than eight hour shifts of slinging fast food while wearing some of the most ridiculous brown polyester uniforms imaginable. What does one do, for example, if they aren't in school and their shift starts at eleven o'clock?
That year, the answer was simple: Watch The David Letterman Show. Before he became a late night sensation, Dave was flaunting conventions of the morning show and making a mess of things on the National Broadcasting Company's usual slate of game shows and soap operas. It's where Stupid Pet Tricks was born. It's where that guy who had been on Mork and Mindy and the even shorter-lived variety show hosted by Mary Tyler Moore landed when nobody on TV seemed to notice.
What went on there, of course, became the stuff of legend, and was eventually moved to late-night, where I was able to catch it a couple years later once I had returned to school where such viewing seemed a necessity. For a while, I even harbored a secret wish to become a writer for his program, coming up with just a couple of the Top Ten list, maybe numbers six and three. It seemed like such an attainable goal, way back then.
Then came a time when staying up late to watch talk shows seemed less than hip. Once Johnny Carson retired, I lost my thread to Late Night, and because NBC never seemed to get that whole thing right, they hired Jay Leno, ensuring that I wouldn't be watching them after ten o'clock. When Dave landed opposite Jay and his chin, it was a relief of sorts, since I could finally find a way to reconcile my fondness for Dave and his sense of humor without staying up past midnight. I was growing a family of my own by then, without so much roast beef.
Somewhere in there, it stopped mattering to me who was on, or what the event might be. I was going to bed by the time the news came on, and the idea of staying up past the news seemed like something that young kids did.
Dave's not young anymore. Neither one of us. And now he's decided to retire, having held down his slot just a little longer than the guy who swooped in and took his job in the first place. That's got to be just a little satisfying. In his place, we're going to get "the real" Stephen Colbert. I'll probably put an episode or two on the DVR, just to get a taste of what I'm missing, but if Mister Colbert really wanted to impress me, he'd be entertaining housewives and Arby's employees at ten in the morning.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Be Still

That's the command Max told the Wild Things: "Be Still!" It's a very impressive trick, to get all those Wild Things to stop their wild rumpus, and it's probably much easier to take coming from a kid in a wolf suit, but it didn't work on me.
The number of people who looked at me incredulously, after hearing that I had spent a good chunk of the night before in an emergency room passing a kidney stone, and then admonished me to go home and lie down was just about equal tot he number of people who heard that I had spent a good chunk of the night before in an emergency room passing a kidney stone. What did I think I was going to get? A merit badge of some sort for showing up at work the next day?
I got nothing of the sort. Instead, I got woozy and had to leave two classes into the school day. I also earned myself another day off, since I had no real sense of just how off-kilter my systems were after testing my limits with such an absurd trick.
I should have been at home in bed, but that's not what I do best. I've been pushing myself up off that bed and making my way into work for the past seventeen years in all manner of conditions and states. I like to think that my constitution is as strong as my body and that I can push it to extremes that might seem ridiculous to others. And here was the irony of all of that consistency: I was preparing myself to have my Cal Ripken streak broken by a jury summons for last Monday. When I was excused via phone, I was pleased and happy to think that I was safe from any further distractions for another year. Then I went home and that night went into convulsions that turned into that trip to the emergency room.
It was as if someone was trying to tell me, "Be Still." It wasn't Max, nor was it the voice inside my head. I wanted to get up and face the day in that way I have for so very many days in a row that I have lost count. I just lost my perfect attendance pin. And that kidney stone. Now I get to start climbing that hill all over again. At the bottom of that hill is a resting place where I hope to have learned a lesson.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stones Reunion

Flopping around on the floor of the bathroom should have felt familiar. I had been there before. Or at least someplace very similar. There wasn't any comfort in that thought. There was only pain. The pain was only vaguely familiar. It was the kind that brought me to tears, and not because of that familiarity. This was the kidney stone pain that I had worked so hard to forget.
And yet, here it was again.
The first twenty minutes was spent in solid denial, but all that flopping brought me to my son's attention. "Dad? Are you okay?"
As it turns out, I wasn't. I wasn't in ways only described by the way a fifty-one year old generally responsible man could be reduced to a blubbering idiot, capable of uttering very few words outside of "Ow."
This monologue continued as I piled into the back of the car, the one that came came roaring up as my wife returned from her meeting, the one that I had so rudely interrupted with my medical condition. The one we call kidney stone. All of my histrionics got my wife to adopt some of my son's video game driving techniques. We made it to the emergency room in record time.
Not that I was fully aware of time or space. Later we were asked by the doctors and nurses why we chose an emergency room that wasn't part of our health care group. Our health care group asked the same thing. Our answer was simple: it was the closest to our home. The good news was that kidney stones will get you attention ahead of a whole lot of other potential patients.
What I wondered, as the miracle drugs found their way to the Ow parts, was how much better I would feel, along with my wife and son if I didn't have to figure out which emergency room would be best. The best should be the one that's closest, right? If you can afford it.
And the parking lot ticket you can get for leaving your car out front while trying to get your blubbering husband the care he needs. This too shall pass.