Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Cruise - Part One

Many, many years ago, before some of you were born, say around 1999 or so, Ema and I decided to take a cruise. Once the idea sunk in, we were so excited about this adventure that we swore not to let the fact that we couldn’t afford the trip stand in our way. Nor did we allow the fact that I have an inner ear disorder which obligates me to spontaneously empty the contents of my stomach whenever the ground on which I’m standing moves. Ema assured me that today’s modern ocean liners are so stable and smooth, that you don’t even know you’re on the water. I reminded her of the time I lost my lunch while standing in line for a movie when a 4.2 earthquake hit. Touché.

While booking the trip, we decided that as long as we were spending money we didn’t have, we mize well splurge and get an outside stateroom with a balcony. This way, our last memories of life prior to moving to skid row would at least include a decent ocean view. The kind person on the other end of the phone assured me that we had booked the same room that we saw in the brochure. “Yes sir,” she said, “We have you and your wife booked to share the deluxe ocean view stateroom on the Cordova deck.” “With a balcony?!?” I blurted. “Yes, sir, with a balcony. That will be nine hundred thousand dollars.” Actually I forget the actual amount. All I know is that we made more than a couple of trips to the day-old butcher in the year following our trip.

The day of the cruise had arrived, and we couldn’t wait to get on the ship and check out our deluxe stateroom with balcony! We made our way down into the ship to the Cordoba deck. This should have been our fist clue, as the further down in the hull of a ship your room is, the noisier and less desirable it is as well. Think “steerage” from the movie Titanic. We reached our room, mid-way down a very long hallway lined with buzzing fluorescent lights. I slid the key card, pushed open the door, and Ema and I stood in silence for several long seconds staring into the room which represented our last bastion of fun and frivolity before the vexing and pitiless phantom of financial demise embraced us at the end of the gangway as we stepped ashore.

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Unreal OC - Episode 42 - Win

Our good friend Win visits us from the UK as we stumble down memory lane, talk about why British people use the wrong words for things, and laugh until we make ourselves ill.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 3

Thursday, 7:17 AM – For the first time in several days I felt fine. I mean, aside from the cold which I was still fighting off, I didn’t have anything “wrong” with me. This was both curious and disturbing. I mean the cold had provided enough aches and pains to keep my gait at the speed of an arthritic sloth, but otherwise I thought I might just have come out on the other side of my woeful week. It had been twenty days since my throat surgery, and all was healing on schedule. My face had cleared from the ink incident, and I hadn’t even thought about the chipped tooth. I felt a glimmer of encouragement, motivation even. After a few minutes of gleeful contemplation I greeted a co-worker, “Hi Sssteve. . .Sssteve, heh. . .ahem.” I said, clearing my throat and smiling. “Hiya Tom. Heckuva whistle you’ve got there.” Steve walked on by, laughing to himself, shaking his head. I spoke to myself, “Sssteve, Ssssteve, sssseason Sssix of Ssssimon and Ssssimon.” With every “S” came a distinct, fulminating whistle. It seems that the chip in my tooth was more than an unpleasant cosmetic deformity. I spent the rest of the day avoiding words containing the letter “S” and training my tongue to form consonants in a manner that avoids embarrassment.

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 2

Wednesday, 9:00 PM – Felt good all day, but while brushing my teeth in preparation for bed, discovered a distinct chip on the interior corner of my Left Maxillary Central. I showed this to Ema who seemed deeply concerned over the fact that I know the standard dental chart name for my left front tooth, yet brushed off the chip like it was nothing. I too, realized the abnormality of a non-dental professional dedicating time to memorizing all of the correct names for his teeth. I went to bed, ran my tongue over the newly-discovered chip, and made the decision to tone-down my anatomical references. Ema, after all, needs confidence in the degree of sanity of her mate.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Warranty Ran Out - Part 1

Have you ever owned a car that, every time you drove it you discovered something else wrong with it? Monday it’s that squeak coming from the rear axel; Tuesday you notice a new, cryptic icon glowing amber on your console; Wednesday morning you find an odd-colored puddle under your car. Would it surprise you, in light of this scourge of problems, to discover your warranty had recently expired? That these problems were simply a manifestation of the car makers’ well-constructed ploy to provide every vehicle with time-sensitive, self-destructing parts?

Well I believe, just as with many of the cars I’ve owned, that my personal warranty has expired. It seems my maker, in all his or her wisdom, had also provided me with self-destructive parts. And, at the risk of making this blog a dumping ground for self-indulgent belly aching, I thought I’d take the next couple of episodes regale you in the events of the past week as they played out – day by excruciating day.

Monday, early AM – Had a dream that I was blind in one eye, and awoke to find my left eye open. Apparently it had been open some time; and as my dreams played in the theater of my mind, my Rapid Eye Movement caused my open eye to dance wildly, making physical contact with the pillow. Lost in sleep’s sweet slumber, I felt no pain nor was I awakened during the night. Waking to an eye that’s already open was whacky, almost amusing, but as the zaniness of the moment wore off, and I was forced to take that first blink, I was introduced to a pain that could only be described as ‘wicked.’ One hour of flushing the eye with saline was enough to re-hydrate the eye. During my lunch break I went to CVS and bought a sleep mask.

Tuesday, mid-day – Glanced in the bathroom mirror after a particularly important meeting to find dozens of black dots of various sizes covering my face and neck. It took a couple of minutes to realize that the pen I had been absent-mindedly flicking during the meeting had lost its end cap, thus transforming it into a very efficient ink gun. I wetted some paper towels, squirted some hand soap on them and started scrubbing. Some of the smaller dots disappeared, but the larger ones simply smeared into my skin. I rinsed, looked into the mirror, and noticed red splotches popping up like a pox from my hairline to my collar. Seems I was having an allergic reaction to the ink or the soap or caustic combination thereof. Another couple of rinses, and I stared stupefied at the deranged harlequin looking back at me. With three hours to go at work, I managed to stick to the shadows, and discovered how to make darkness my friend.

To be continued. . .

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Podcasts to Which I'm Currently Subscribed

This list is not all-inclusive, so if you're one of my podcasting buddies and you don't see your podcast listed here - fear not, but feel free to send me a scathing email all the same.

  • Alt.NPR: Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
  • APM: A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon
  • APM: Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett
  • Croncast
  • Geek Counterpoint
  • Managing the Gray
  • NPR: Fresh Air
  • NPR: Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!
  • podCast411
  • Podcasting Underground
  • Radio Leo
  • This Married Life
  • Rory Blyth: The Smartest Man in the World
  • History Podcast
  • The Love Long and Prosper Podcast
  • This American Life
  • Tucker Tales Podcast
  • WGBH Morning Stories
  • LifeSpring
  • Griddlecakes Radio
  • The Zedcast
  • Science Friday
  • Verge of the Fringe
  • The Hollywood Podcast
  • Cush – Things I Say
  • Fat Guy Radio

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For Burney

Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to be the first person on your block to own a really cool item. Did this propel you to the level of popularity you had hoped? I’ll sure bet it did. I remember when my neighbor, Burney was the first person on our block to get a powered lawn mower. It was 1970, and back then, powered mowers were usually reserved for lawn care professionals, those wealthy enough to have a lawn larger than a welcome mat, or, in Burney’s case, someone with a delicate self image who believed that owning cool things would make him likeable. Anyway, Burney’s new mower fulfilled every desire he had for popularity, and made him an instant celebrity. I’m surprised the local paper didn’t stop by to take a picture of him proudly perched over his ½ horsepower gleaming green beauty. Not only could he now mow his 350 square foot plot of sod in less than 45 seconds, but he could effectively scare every cat within ear shot into the next county. Yep – Burney was sitting on top of the world.

One afternoon while I was hanging out with Burney on his front steps, he brought out his little baggie of tobacco and rolled up his cigarette like he always did. He said he had to smoke outside because his wife didn’t let him smoke in the house. I was five years old – what did I know from tobacco? All I know is that whatever kind of tobacco he was smoking, it sure smelled a lot different than the kind of tobacco in my parent’s cigarettes. He used to smoke his cigarettes differently too – taking long drags on them and holding the smoke in his lungs for a really long time. Sometimes he’d burst out in coughing fits and have to take a slug out of his can of Coors to quiet himself. He'd take a long pull on the can, then fling his head forward with a resounding Ahhhhh. "Don't drink beer, Tommy. But when you're old enough, make sure it's cold. Ice cold." Yeah, Burney was a really funny guy. One day after smoking a cigarette on the porch he decided to mow his lawn. I reminded him that he had just mowed it before lunch, but he didn’t seam to want to listen to me. He just laughed a little, pulled the rip cord on the mower and started her up. He started coughing again as the mower blew exhaust toward him, so he walked away from the mower to get his Coors. As soon as his back was turned, the mower started moving forward. It rolled straight off the lawn, over the sidewalk, off the curb and into the street right in front of a car. The car managed to stop with a skid and Burney looked toward the sound, dropped his Coors, and ran into the street. He was a fast runner for an old guy of 30 or so, but not fast enough to grab the mower before a car coming from the other direction smashed into it and sent it sailing 50 feet through the air and careening off a parked van.

Some of our neighbors heard the raucous, and came out to see what was happening. Both drivers from the cars ran over to Burney who was frantically trying to turn what was left of the mower off. I don’t know why, but it took three people two minutes or so to shut down that engine. I stayed on the curb, watching the whole incident go down. I remember the three men trying to yell above the noise of the mower, all the while black smoke billowed from the exhaust. They finally shut it down and lifted it onto the sidewalk. They talked for a while, exchanged their versions of what had just gone down. During the commotion my mom ran out of the house, thinking the car skid and resulting casualty may have been me. She stood next to me until things calmed down a little then took my hand and brought me back inside our apartment.

The next day I walked over to Burney’s house and found him working in his garage. He had several Coors lined up along his workbench, and was bent over the warped carcass of his mower, sweating and talking to himself. I didn’t say anything. I sat on a stool and watched him for about twenty minutes. He didn’t even know I was there. Finally he glanced toward me and blinked. “Hi Tommy.” He said. “Hi.” I replied. “Is it broken?” I asked. “Naw, just banged up a little.” Burney said, looking back down at the heap of twisted metal. “Heck of a wreck though yesterday, huh? Did you see how this thing flew when that car hit it?” “Yup.” I said. Burney paused, looked past me for a moment as if he was formulating a thought, then gave me a half smile. “You’ll probably tell this story to your kids someday.” He said. At that age I had no real concept of time or any notion that I’d ever be a father. “Uh huh.” I said. “Well, do me a favor if you do tell this to someone okay?” “Uh huh.” I said. “Tell them that I got the mower up and running the next day, and it worked just fine. Will ya do that for me?” “Sure.” I said. “Thanks Tommy. You’re a good boy.” And with that, Burney leaned back over the mower, tightened a couple of bolts and started it up. It looked and ran just like new; and Burney spent the rest of the afternoon mowing every lawn along our street; stopping only occasionally to take a sip of ice cold beer offered by his gracious neighbors.

Monday, March 19, 2007

With All Good Inventions

At 6:16 AM this morning I stood in my kitchen staring blankly at our newly acquired Bread Buddy. Ema bought our Bread Buddy Sunday at Target. She says she bought it for me, but as far as gifts go, I’d say it ranks right up there with vacuum bags. Well, that’s what I thought yesterday when she presented it to me, but my mind has since changed. Now bear with me honey, because I know you’re reading this and probably thinking “Well that’s the last time I even burn one lousy neuron trying to think of something to make Tom happy, that no good #&@!(%! "

You see, it’s not you, it’s me. Yesterday I didn’t see the beauty nor the fun inherent in bread dispensation. Frankly, it’s not just the fact that the Bread Buddy keeps our bread fresher than ever, but it also makes picking slices from the loaf easy and, yes I’ll admit it, almost fun! You see, the reason I wasn’t thrilled with this item when you presented it to me was that all I could think of was “Someone made a million dollars on this over-sized Tupperware container and it sure as heck wasn’t me!” I mean if all it takes to be an inventor these days is to look around your kitchen and find something that could be used differently if it were three times its original size, then Thomas Edison is turning over in his grave right now! I’m not saying there can’t be beauty in simplicity; what I’m saying is that there should be a modicum of creativity involved or else. . .or else I fear the future. That’s right, I said I fear the future!

So yesterday I once again put my own interests in front of yours, and hurt your feelings in the process. When will I learn? I can’t answer that right now, actually, because I’m busy working on my own invention for which I cannot disclose details. Suffice to say, your dear gift was the inspiration for my idea. So thank you for taking time to think about me while you were out shopping, and for having the intuition to realize that the true value of any gift isn’t in the gift itself, but what it can inspire in the person who receives it. Now, do you have any idea how I could go about creating a giant food processor? I have this idea of how to make a great, automatic dog washer. . .

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Word to My Peeps

Is there such a thing as high quality Easter candy? I know that Sees makes some pretty good chocolate bunnies, but I’d be willing to say that 99.998% of all Easter candy produced in this nation falls far below most prison standards for quality confections. Take those horrible, hollow chocolate bunnies for example. You know the ones wrapped in really thin foil that are nearly impossible to peel without leaving serrated bits of foil caught in the bunny’s poorly assembled seam? The kind that melts at room temperature, and only resembles chocolate by its color? Why is generic Easter candy so inferior yet so much more expensive than say, a Hershey bar? And who in God’s name ever came up with the notion that a kid is going to just LOVE getting a Cadbury Egg?!? Actually, I think it must have been my aunt Ruth.

I’ll tell ya, the only Easter treats in my book worth anything are those little marshmallow Peeps. Although the other day I absent-mindedly grabbed one out of a candy dish at a friend’s house, popped it in my pie hole, and found that it was crunchy. I did a quick detour into his bathroom and spit it into the sink. He’s got one of those modern, raised wash basins that sits on top of the counter, and the inside surface is made of off-white, rough, natural stone instead of polished porcelain like most sinks. Anyway, as I went to wash the half-chewed pink Peep down the sink I noticed that the pinkness wasn’t going away. It seems that whatever artificial color the Peep people use stains this type of stone. I pumped some hand soap out and tried washing the pinkness away with that, but it didn’t work. I looked under the sink and found some Ajax which I sprinkled onto the pink stain and let set for a couple of minutes. I used what I hope was a retired toothbrush I found under the sink to work the Ajax into the stain. Then, as I rinsed away the cleanser, I noticed that the pink stain was gone, but so was the natural stone color! The Ajax had managed to bleach the off-white stone to bright white, and I was left staring at a 4” oval of white which stood out even more than the pink did just a few minutes prior. I put the Ajax under the sink, quietly exited the bathroom, and made my way toward the living room. Oh, on the way, of course, I absent mindedly scooped up another stale Peep and threw it in my mouth. I managed to keep this one in my mouth though. It was the least I could do.

Friday, March 16, 2007

‘The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows. '~Gaston Bachelard.

I woke up last night at 2:20 and started thinking about stuff. Waking up in the middle of the night and fixating on one thing is bad, but thinking about stuff is much, much worse. In the case of last night, all the stuff revolved around religion and politics – two subjects that I usually avoid. Apparently, as the quote above suggests, I needed to ‘sweep out the shadows.’

I know from experience that if I want to suppress the brain chatter and get back to sleep I have two choices; and both are equally effective: I can try to employ an Asian meditation technique I learned which involves imagining warm liquid gelatin being pumped into my head and oozing in, filling all the gaps between my skull and my brain, then slowly setting as my mind loses all connection to the outside world and my consciousness fades to black; or I can pop in any DVD starring Steve Guttenberg. Last night, however, I decided to strap myself in, and run with the chatter. Here’s some of last night’s stuff:

- I’ve been a-political all my life, but have recently really gotten into the John Edward’s campaign. I wonder if I should volunteer my services as a writer to him. I mean, he’s one of my Twitter friends, that makes us almost like real buddies – right?

- Dude – Where’s My God? Where did this thought come from?!? Is it really as profound as I think it is, or am I in that limbo of partial-consciousness where every idea sounds great? If one of the beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus died for our sins, and that God loves the world and sacrificed his only son to show how much He loves the world, then what does that say about the kind of God that God really is? I mean does this mean that God found no other way to forgive our sins than to have his own son tortured and killed in a horrible way? This God sounds more like one of the Inca Gods who were all about sacrifice, than our notion of an all-loving God.

- I’ll bet that one of the reasons that the president allocates so much money toward ‘keeping peace in the Middle East’ instead of toward finding a cure for cancer is that if the war in Iraq and his campaign against terrorism is looked at as a success – even in the distant future - President Bush will be remembered as a great hero. But, if he concedes and signs a bill allocating ten billion dollars to cancer research which results in a cure, the doctor and his team who announce the cure will be written into the history books as the hero, not the president.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Psycho House

As we talked about in Episode 40, in 1991 I was invited by my friend, Win to Universal Studios where I sat in on the last day of filming of the movie Noises Off. During my visit to the studio, after my embarrassing encounter with Christopher Reeve, Win and I decided to take a self-guided tour of the back lot. Now, if you’ve ever been on the Universal Studios Tour, you’re familiar with the standard areas they drive through – the western town, the pueblo with the flash flood, the NYC cityscape, the Psycho house, etc. I told Win that I wanted to see all those places, but also get the opportunity to get out and stretch my legs a little as well. So win grabs two bottles of champagne from the craft services area which were destined to be popped as the director, Peter Bogdanovich shouted the last, “Cut, Print!” and off we went in a ‘borrowed’ golf cart.

It was dusk when we made our way to the NYC cityscape, parked the cart, and walked with our bottles of champagne toward ‘Sting Alley.’ We sat in that alley under a fire escape and popped both bottles. There was no one around, no sign of security cameras, no guards riding by on their little carts. We drank about half of each bottle, then headed back to the cart. From there, we drove to the Psycho house.

Again, we parked, grabbed our bottles and went inside. It was completely dark as we stumbled up the dirt bluff to the house. The inside of the Psycho house consists of uneven dirt floor and wood framing. There are no rooms to speak of, only a couple partial walls, but there was a small room built out of a dormer at the top of a 16 or 20 foot ladder. There was a light on in that room and Win told me that he heard from another crew member that they kept a replica of Anthony Perkins’ decaying mother from the movie up there – sitting in her rocking chair, and all. Win and I sat on the dirt floor, tipped the champagne bottles, and tried to decide if one of us should ascend the ladder to see if that rumor was correct. I’m embarrassed to admit that even a full bottle of champagne wasn’t enough to build sufficient courage for either of us to do that. On the way out though, we walked to the side of the house where that dormer was, and could make out the figure of someone sitting in a chair on the other side of a very dirty window. That was confirmation enough for both of us.

All in all, we spent about an hour or so driving around the back lot. I’ll probably never be able to take the normal tour again after that adventure. Win will be a special guest on The Unreal OC Episode # 42, so tune in and we’ll talk more about our adventures in the back lot as well as tell you about the ‘wrap party’ for Noises Off we went to and Peter Bogdanovich’s wife’s birthday party as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Unreal OC - Episode 41 - No Sympathy

Wanna here what Ema and her sister, Linda say about me when I'm not around? Check out this week's episode!

The lovely ladies take over the show for this episode as Tom’s throat continues to heal. Ema and her sister Linda take this opportunity to talk about Tom behind his back. Special guest star: Robin, Linda’s daughter.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Right Nostril

Yesterday, at approximately 3:11 PM, I sat in my ENT’s office and took in a full breath of air through my right nostril for the first time in 20 years. You see, I lived with a broken nose since that fateful night back in 1987 when my friend, Jonny and I got pummeled by a drunken gargantuan outside of a local tavern. Jonny and I were walking home from 2nd Street in Belmont Shore – Long Beach, for those unfamiliar with this territory – when we noticed a huge, inebriated man screaming at a girl outside of a bar. Jonny, fueled by several quarts of liquid courage, decided to walk over to the gargantuan and inquire as to what may be the problem. He got within striking distance and was backhanded – slapped to the ground in a heap. As I rushed toward him to give him a hand the gargantuan turned toward me, grabbed me square by my shoulders and head-butted me across the middle of my face with his forehead making intimate, catastrophic contact with the bridge of my nose. I was knocked to the ground. I scrambled to my feet in an attempt to bolt out of there, but as I rose I was greeted by his fist which planted itself, again, on my nose. I was nearly knocked unconscious, but managed to dig into the sidewalk and lunge away from the scene, building momentum into what must have been the fastest ½ mile sprint I’d ever run.

A few minutes later Jonny met up with me on the steps of my parents’ house. Primed by the sprint, blood gushed from my nose like an inverted oil well. Jonny was basically unscathed. With the exception of a small red patch on his forehead from where the gargantuan’s massive hand made contact, he was fine.

The next day when I woke up and looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize who I saw. My nose had been smashed into a ball and bent in half. I went to an ENT, who with the help of his nurse who braced my head from behind, managed to bend my nose back into place – more or less. They told me that I’d probably not be able to breath out of my right nostril until I had surgery to correct the septum. They were right.

So, for twenty years, I’ve been a left-nostril breather. Not many people know that about me. I sometimes wonder how my life would be different had I been able to breath out of my right nostril for all these years. I think about all the successful people who are lucky enough to use their nose to its full potential. Perhaps I could have been a great athlete – the extra oxygen provided by that pathway enabling extraordinary feats of strength, skill, and endurance. Or maybe that small amount of extra oxygen would have allowed my brain to develop more better. . .I mean betterer. . .I mean better! See – Who knows?!? But I’m not going to worry about that now. Fact is, I’m a full-nose breather once again, and I plan on being one for the rest of my days. And Jonny – just to let you know – the next time you want to defend someone outside of a bar, dude, you’re on your own!

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Dog in the House

Last Thursday our family acquired a dog. The dog was handed to us by a family friend who found it wandering around Long Beach without a collar. Since the friend lives in a humans-only apartment complex, she was forced to find a home for the critter. This is where we came in. Now, I’m going to have to preface the rest of this entry by stating that I am NOT a dog person. I like cats, reptiles to some extent, even the occasional hamster-like creature, but dogs have never been on that short list. Suffice to say, if I was caught in an avalanche and on the brink of death, and there was a Saint Bernard coming toward me with a cask of brandy around its neck, I’d probably give a weak smile at the sight of him. Outside of that imaginary scenario, I couldn’t fathom the idea of being glad to see a dog.

So when Ema approached me in the kitchen last Thursday evening and told me about this stray Dachshund, I was less than enthused. She told me how small she was, how cute, how cuddly. How she wouldn’t wreck anything in the house; how much the kids would love her. Now I don’t know how your household works, but at my house neither my wife nor I claim to have the ‘final word’ on any decision or dispute. We compromise our decisions and come to an agreement based on the least amount of projected damage. In other words, even something as appalling as bringing a dog into the house must first undergo careful consideration before the inevitable – you guessed it – approval. As usual, my careful consideration consisted of me going on a fifteen minute tirade about how opposed I was to this idea. It’s important to let the other party know your position is soundly-framed and well-mortared so that, even in the event of you relenting, they will know exactly where you stand on the subject. The dog was delivered the following day.

I was one week post-op, still recuperating, down to my last four doses of prescription pain meds – let’s say not in the best mood to receive this canine care package. Maybe I was more vulnerable than usual. Maybe fighting the constant pain had weakened my resolve, altered my sensibilities; but I’ll tell you, when I saw that little dog my heart melted. Forty-one years of disdain, apprehension, and contempt for all things dog-like seemed to disappear.

So we’re in the kitchen, and all eyes - my children, my wife, the family friend, were upon me and everything seemed to slow down to one-quarter speed as they glanced up at my face, awaiting my reaction. I realized in that infinitely long moment just how crucial it was for me to stand my ground, not show any signs of acceptance or weakness. After all, just twelve hours before I stood in that same kitchen and read my beloved the riot act. But, it was no use. The crack of a smile escaped as the dog ran up to me and licked my ankle. I tried covering it up by morphing the smile into a smirk and saying “You are a very short dog.” but it was no use. My cover was blown. I knelt down, scratched the dog’s head and said the only thing I could think of which might save me an ounce of dignity: “You are three dogs long and one dog high. Let’s hope you never have to dig me out of a snow drift!” I turned and walked down the hallway toward our bedroom, and heard the sound of little claws on our floor scampering up behind me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sisters are Doin' it For Themselves!

I just finished editing The Unreal OC episode 41 – No Sympathy. Ema and her sister, Linda hosted this one as my throat isn’t up to non-stop talking quite yet. I’m able to either carry on short, quiet conversations, or belt out 4-5 good yells at the kids during any hour period. I’ve found that alternating the yelling and quiet talk not only helps my throat, but also perpetuates that whole manic-daddy persona I’ve been working on for some time. "No Nick, I have no problem with you playing ½ hour more video games today if you promise to sweep. . .SAM, LET GO OF YOUR SISTER’S HAIR OR I’LL MAKE A PERSONAL VISIT TO THE EASTER BUNNY COMPOUND AND HIJACK ALL TRUCKS OF CANDY COMING YOUR WAY!!!. . .the side walkways, as well as the front patio.”

Anyway, I think Ema and Linda did a terrific job on the podcast. If anything, I think the podcast may have turned out a little too good – professional, polished, upbeat, funny as hell. . .like they didn't need me at all. . . Well, find out for yourself when I post the episode this coming Wednesday 3/14.

I’ve got to go do a shot of liquid Tylenol, and make my Sunday morning donut run.

See ya – Tom.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Post Op – Day 5 – No Complaints Tonight!

I’ve done a quick re-reading of my last few posts, and have come to the conclusion that I’m complaining too much. So, in light of this revelation, I’ve decided to make this post 100% complaint-free!

During my hospital stay, I really liked having a nurse who:

  1. Spoke very little English, and gave no signs that he comprehended one word I said during his nine hour shift.
  2. Brought me blankets when I asked for pillows.
  3. Brought me Kleenex when I asked for a straw.
  4. Signed me up for the ‘unrestricted’ dinner of roast beef, green beans and mashed potatoes even though I was on a strict liquid diet.
  5. Didn’t know how to adjust the bed length so I was, during the duration of my stay, curled up in essentially a toddler bed.
  6. Did not wear a watch, and so had no clue to time and/or my medication cycle.
  7. Ignored repeated requests for apple juice, but regularly brought what appeared to be random items left of food trays in the hallways – spare yogurts, a bowl of cereal, and even an open container of apple sauce without a utensil.

There – That felt so much better. All my negativity was really wearing on my soul! By now all of you know how I feel about bad service. It was refreshing to be treated so well by a professional hospital staff that miraculously knew what I wanted, and provided it with promptness and courtesy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Post Op – Day 4 – I Hate Unpacking!

Ema dropped me off at my ENT’s office this morning at 8:40 AM. The appointment wasn’t until 9:00, and so I sat, hunched on the front steps, imagining the dramatic visual impact that my fetus-like stance would have on the office staff as they drove into their parking lot to start their day. “Oh that must be Tom, the one for which we’ve short-changed meds, short-sheeted beds, and failed to call his prescriptions in as promised. . .poor fellow.” Oh yes, I did say ‘short-sheeted beds,’ but that will be covered in the next post when I get into the details of my hospital stay.

But alas, all this pitiful exercise really yielded was a sore back and a cramp in the ball of my foot that is – several hours later – still nagging me. You see, by 9:10 AM there were nine of us standing in front of the office, including two, six-month-old twins with chronic ear aches, an elderly man with a hole in his cheek, and a polished-looking woman in a business suit. At this point not one member of the office staff had driven past. It was becoming obvious that the staff had a secret entrance, and about then that I put my ear to the door and heard giggling from inside. I glanced at the business woman who correctly read my cue and in one smooth motion, whipped her cell phone from her purse and pressed a single digit – the speed-dial number for the lobby of the office. I heard the phone ring, the giggling stop, and the ‘clack’ of the deadbolt as the door swung inward.

I didn’t see my ENT today. Those special meetings are granted only to those who have yet to secure a surgical contract. I saw the Physician’s assistant, Anne, today. I think they used to call these people nurses, but they may be medical students without any real credentials – I’m not sure. Anyway, for what I needed today, my three-year-old would have qualified. Today was the day I got the ‘packing’ taken out of my nostrils. I’m happy to say that my prediction in my previous post regarding the composition of the packing material was correct. It is indeed vintage newspapers! In my case, vintage obituaries, apparently belonging to some of my doctor’s previous patients. Eerie, yet fascinating reading!

The Obits were removed, and I was told to come back in five days to have the stints taken out. I didn’t bring up the point that five days from now is a Sunday. We had all been through too much by this point; and I needed to find a comfortable place to resume my recovery far beyond the sounds of the screaming twins, and the giggles coming from the reception desk.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Post Op – Day 3– Let the Irony Begin

Okay – Open wide as I provide you with your daily dose of irony as I take my daily dose of whatever this green stuff in the prescription bottle is: I get the UPPP surgery so that I will be able to breathe better at night, and I spend the last two nights gasping for breath – not getting one wink of shut-eye because my throat is too swollen! I’m certain that one day – hopefully soon, I’ll be able to read this and laugh. Sure isn’t happening now. . .

Tell ya what though – My kids sure are being cute. Sam keeps bringing me toys and books, handing them to me in a very charming way. Yesterday he brought me a box of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese, and said, “Here daddy feel better – mac n’ cheese.” I smiled so wide that my lip nearly cracked.

Here’s a quick reminder to get your “Things I hate/Things I love” submitted for our contest. The drawing is April 1st, and the winner will be announced on episode 43. That’s it for now kids – gotta get horizontal again, finish watching the rest of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ and figure out how to liquefy yet another delicious meal.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Post Op – Day 2 – Misery Loves Company

First of all, hats off to Ema who went mono a mono with my ENT yesterday in a valiant attempt to get me some more potent meds. Loritab is essentially liquid Vicodin, the same medication prescribed to me for my wisdom teeth recovery two months ago. I’m sorry, but plucking a few little teeth and having my throat reamed out with a drain snake are hardly comparable and so neither should be the prescribed pain management! The doctor claimed that he doesn’t like prescribing any of the Oxy’s – Oxicodone’s for those in the know – because they are potentially addictive. In my mind, that makes about as much sense as car manufacturers advising against wearing those pesky seat belts because in the event of an accident your shoulder might get bruised. C’mon people, prescribe what I need, and let me take my own chances with the agony of withdrawal.

Alright – I promised myself that I wouldn’t build this post around one long rant, so I better make it a short one instead. My throat, by the way represents only half of my misery. My nostrils are packed with what feels like vintage newspapers and a few plastic ‘stints’ which, according to information I gleamed from my 45 second conversation with my doctor yesterday, are the only things supporting my nose at the moment. I fear sneezing out these stints and watching as my nose collapses against my face like a deflated punching bag.

More fun to come? You bet. My throat feels worse by the minute, so you can expect my next post to be even more uplifting! Keep the faith, my friends. I’ll be back to share more shortly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UPPP Journal – 3 Hours Before Surgery

It’s 6:04 AM on the day of my surgery. I’m to report to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center at 8:30 AM for my UPPP (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) and Septoplasty. I considered getting only the UPPP done, as one mutilating, invasive surgery per day is usually my limit, but when they told me I could ‘super size’ the order to include the Septoplasty, well. . .I just couldn’t resist!

Yesterday I had to go to the hospital to do all the administrative paperwork, get some blood drawn, and a chest x-ray. The x-ray tech introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Mike, and I’ll be your x-ray technician,” and then asked “Do you know why you are getting a chest x-ray today?” This threw me for a loop. I mean, I assumed this type of info would be on that chart neatly tucked under his arm. But I decided to play along, “Well, I’m going in for throat surgery tomorrow, and I suppose during the procedure if the doctor sees anything deeper down my throat that needs attention, he could use the chest x-ray as a map.” Mike didn’t turn back toward me. He shut the door behind me and asked me to take off my shirt. Now ordinarily, when another man asks me to take off my shirt, it’s after a couple of drinks and maybe some playful eye-batting, but Mike was all business. A few seconds later and it was all over. . .the x-ray, that is. -Jeeeesh.

I was instructed to not eat or drink anything after midnight, and I realized immediately that the poor folks at the Taco Bell all-night drive-thru window may have to clock out and go home early. Phil and Claudette, if you’re reading this, I’ll be back as soon as I can, so keep the Chalupas hot! And that brings up another depressing thought. The lovely dinner that Ema made for me last night was my ‘last supper’ for at least two weeks. I suppose eating less will be a good thing, but eating far less is going to be a shock to my system. You see, my side dishes are bigger than most peoples’ main courses. It’s not unusual for me to have lasagna with a side of tostada grande.

Well, I better go and not drink or eat anything now. I’ll check in tomorrow with the first of several post-surgery updates. Thanks for your time, your patience, and your well-wishes. - Tom