Saturday, September 19, 2009

A real pain in the @ss

(Before we begin I'd like to say I have no idea why it is somehow okay for us to substitute a symbol (@) for a letter that looks exactly the same without the 3/4 circle around it, but...whatever. Okay. If you're less offended than if I had put a real "a" in that word I’m just fine that.)


Over the past thirty years or so I've probably been to the doctor half a dozen times.

There was that time I fell off the roof in 1990 and needed five hours of reconstructive surgery, a week in critical care and three months in a wheelchair.

And now that I’m knocking on the door to Sundown City there are suddenly a million niggling things that send me running to the doctor's office every three or four days.

First it was an ear infection. I get those every year. Then it was an infected finger that started when I clipped a tiny piece of skin with nail clippers.

Then, another ear infection.

And now I have MRSA, something the Mayo Clinic describes ominously, thusly:

"MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's a strain of staph that's highly resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. MRSA can be fatal."

Fatal? Oh, please.

I have a gigantic, red, painful infection on my ass.

Oops! Sorry. I mean, “@ss.”

So, I'm sitting on my left cheek as much as possible, swallowing antibiotics and taking sitz baths every forty-five minutes or so.

They tell me this should clear up eventually, or it won't.

If it doesn't, they tell me they'll have to cut into the infection and drain it. But considering what the Mayo Clinic said up there about this being "highly resistant to the broad spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it" I figure my doctor has no idea what to do at that point.

And, it will be neither fatal nor temporary.

Thirty years from now I expect my obituary will confirm that I died, quite literally, from a lifelong, chronic "pain in the @ss."

This getting old sh!t is not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I learned from Elvis

I never cared much for Elvis Presley.

Nothing personal, of course. I never met him. I just didn't care for his music. But that's because I'm a mid-Boomer and was too young to get wrapped up in the frenzy of the emergence of rock and roll in the fifties.

I started paying attention to music in the early to mid-60s when Elvis was in the Army and pre-Motown R&B groups like The Orlons, The Marvelettes and The Shirelles had the charts pretty much to themselves. Then the Beach Boys and Beatles came along and changed everything as Elvis returned from the Army and resumed making badly-written, suddenly very old-fashioned beach movies.

In 1973 I got to see Elvis perform in Las Vegas and I fell asleep. Literally.

Wasn't just me. Elvis knew he wasn't cutting it. He actually interrupted his band at one point and apologized to the crowd because, he said, "We can do this better." And then they started again but the magic had escaped the room like air from a badly-tied balloon.

Ironically, less than two years later I was living in Memphis and working as the Program Director for top-40 radio station, WHBQ. My morning deejay was George Klein, Elvis's best friend since high school.

George was a sweetheart. He didn't wear Elvis on his sleeve but he did wear the "TCB" solide gold lightning bolt necklace that Elvis gave every member of his so-called Memphis Mafia. George didn't talk about Elvis incessantly but I quickly became aware that everything George had ever accomplished, he attributed to Elvis. That was his perspective and I guess that makes it true.

George did occasionally talk excitedly about Elvis's promise to buy him a small town Tennessee radio station someday. I believe that promise outlived the King.

One evening in 1975 Karen, my first wife, and I were in our duplex in Germantown, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, eating watermelon and watching TV. The phone rang.

It was George. He wanted to tell me he was at Elvis's house.

He waited a moment for a reaction but all I gave him was, "Okay..."

George quickly explained that Elvis had bought a new airplane and wanted him and a few other friends to see it. He wanted to know if that would be okay with me.

(I was only twenty-four and even though Elvis's music left me cold I was living and working in his town. I was impressed and even a bit envious. For a moment I thought excitedly George might be calling to invite me to go with them.)

"George," I asked, "why would you call to ask my permission to go see Elvis's new airplane?"

"Because it's in Dallas," he explained. And even though George was nearly twenty years older than me I was his boss and he waited for a reaction like a nervous teenager calling to ask his dad if he could stay out an hour later.

"George..." I said, realizing I wasn't being invited, "are you telling me you won't be at work tomorrow morning?"

"OH, NO!" He was horrified. "Elvis promised he'll fly me back in time to get to the station and go on the air at six!"

Elvis was good to his word.

George was on the air at six the next morning and spent the next three hours between records telling the tale of his wild transcontinental trip to see Elvis's new airplane. But you had to hear it to appreciate it. It wasn't the kind of hype, tease, slap and giggle you would expect to hear on the radio or TV now. George was very earnest and reporterly. He and Elvis were kids from Tupelo and except for Elvis's money that never changed.

George talked calmly on the radio that morning about his adventure with Elvis as if he was simply talking about a drive-in movie they'd gone to together. But even if he wasn't a born storyteller his was a fascinating and unique perspective.

I didn't live in Memphis long but I met lifelong residents and friends of George Klein who had never met, nor even seen, Elvis and never expected to.

In a very tight group, George was Elvis's best friend.

And he still is, I guess, because at the age of 74, thirty-two years after Elvis Presley's death, George Klein is still living back in the day. He's written a book about his life in Elvis's shadow. He gives interviews to everybody who asks. He is constantly telling how Elvis gave him, George, a new Cadillac every Christmas and his wife, Barbara, a new full-length mink coat.

You might think, as I did for many years, that's sad.

Now I just think it's George's life and he's probably grateful for every moment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The mirror lies.

My blogging buddy, Anita, just posted one of her typically charming and smile-inducing pieces on the subject of aging, Fifty is the new forever. I suppose that's what we do here whether we address the subject head-on or just obliquely, through our personal kaleidoscopic lives.

One of the things I love most about Anita is that aging never seems to give her a moment's pause or stress. I, on the other hand, am borderline obsessive.

I look in the mirror only out of occasional necessity and all I see are lies.

I stopped growing older in my mid-thirties. It was a good age for me. It's the age I chose to be for the rest of my life. So, as I push sixty (though I prefer to think of it as pulling fifty) my thirty-five year old spirit peers into the mirror at an old man and while I've never been especially attractive nor self-conscious it just doesn't work.

I can't feel like this and look like that.

I know the only option I have in order to re-frame myself is to give up and be my age because I can't possibly look thirty-five again. That's fine if I can figure out how to age without getting old. That's really what concerns us, isn't it?

Do I have to turn grouchy? Will I be forced to wear khaki pants and sensible shoes?

I'm going to work on this self-image thing because I don't believe it much matters what anybody else thinks of my appearance as long as I'm clean and semi-tidy.

The thing is -- at thirty-five this stuff never crossed my mind.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I love mornings, even though most of mine begin at 1:30AM.

When I retire I'll get up each day just before dawn and it will be perfect because there is no more grand metaphor for the wonders of life and the certainty of God than the dependable, eternal, daily sunrise.

It may surprise some who know me to learn that I have this thought nearly every day upon awakening. In a way, each morning is like Christmas morning. I don't know what gifts the day will hold but I'm excited to find out.

I'm not always so optimistic and enthused, of course, but I usually am. And maybe I'm just in an unusually philosophical spirit this morning but I don't think so.

Consider the hundreds of simple, yet significant, decisions you will make today. Will you have coffee or just juice? Will you turn left or right? Maybe this is a good day for going to a flea market or taking a walk in the park or just staying home and watching a couple of movies. None of these activities or decisions are a big deal and yet all of them and every other thought that flows through your head is momentous and magnificent because you have the freedom of all choices in your life, every waking moment.

Oh, yes you do.

Thanks for deciding to read this note. I hope it was a satisfying decision.

And, have a wonderful day however you decide to spend it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Conflicted in the 21st century

"The medium is the message."

Marshall McLuhan wrote that famous unfortunate sentence forty-five years ago in his most celebrated work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

Now, if that title alone doesn't make your heart flutter with adoration as you briskly snap your fingers in hip approval, (the early sixties beatniks snapped their fingers to applaud) on, McDuff!

"Five word proclamations are cool."

There, I just wrote one myself.

"The medium is the message."

But if you persist in plunging (with a sturdy plumber's helper) the depths of McLuhan -- who, by the way, is also credited with giving us the term "global village," damn his simpleton soul -- you run into passages such as the following from the same ponderous treatise on American culture.

Mind you, this gobbledegook has been hailed as genius for decades:

If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?

Well, now. As the green guard of the gates of Oz proclaimed, "That's a horse of a different color!" Or, as we sneered in those days...

"Far out, man!"

We all want to be smart. We wish we were smarter than we fear we are not. We try to achieve wisdom by wearing its overcoat and shiny shoes. That's just human nature, I think. We want people to like us, that's all. Well, that's not all, exactly. We also want our spouses and children and grandchildren to think we are the smartest people in their very personal lives. It would be lovely if they said so at our funeral.

Only now, just after my 58th birthday, having spent half a century trying to measure up and show it off, have I suddenly realized what I need to do about myself.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It doesn't matter that my job involves telling hundreds of thousands of people what's going on in the world (as far as I can guess or presume to sell as truth.) Occasionally I also give them one man's free perspective for the mere purpose of kick-starting a few brains. That's what I get paid to do.

I do not get paid to be smarter than I really am.

I'm starting to think my family is on to me, anyway.

Forty-five years after he published his ultimate intellectual achievment I wonder if McLuhan would be shocked to find that the age of information is a Chucky Cheese cacophony of noise, a digital blender of childish delights, proclamations, accusations and constructed horrors.

We have so many sources of information, rumor, implication, insinuation, views, opinions, counter-opinions, perspective, conspiracy theories and wild-ass guesses we've just about run out of any reason at all to try to understand the world all by ourselves.

I have absolutely no need for my brain for such purpose. I've decided from now on to use it just to amuse myself.

I guess you're on your own.

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