Today, I woke up in a cozy bed. I drank a fresh cup of coffee. I took a hot shower. Then, I turned on the television set and devoured a hearty breakfast.
Right then and there, as the ghastly images of an unprecedented natural catastrophe in Houston flashed before my eyes, it occurred to me that several million people living in Texas and Louisiana weren’t able to enjoy the simplest of pleasures most of us take for granted.
Deep down, I do think most people are good people. I believe most people want to help others when they can. Despite our differences, I’m convinced that most people want to help their neighbors and fellow citizens in times of crisis — even those they do not know. And, I’m just as certain that most people don’t care about the color of someone else’s skin, or how he or she votes in an election, or what lifestyle is chosen — good people will usually do the right thing when acts of human compassion are needed the most.
The relief effort now underway in Houston shows the better side of all of us. Yes, we are petty. Yes, we are spiteful. Yes, we are flawed. Yes, we make mistakes. But we also care. We want to reach out and help people in their time of need. Many have already done so.
Yet, some people do go the extra mile. Some people make the added sacrifice. Some people risk their own lives to try and save others. These are the true heroes.
In the past few days, I’ve seen and read amazing stories of some remarkable people. They have opened up their homes to total strangers. They have driven hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, towing ramshackle boats to rescue those who are stranded in their flooded homes, who are waiting for a hero to arrive. They have donated money, and food, and emergency supplies. They have taken in pets and moved them into foster homes. They have worked tirelessly around the clock — all while I slept, while I drank a fresh cup of coffee, while I took a hot shower, while I watched television, while I devoured a hearty breakfast.
A Houston police officer even gave his life. His name was Steve Perez. Wait a minute….his name *IS* Steve Perez. Say that name. Say it aloud. He deserves to be known and remembered, not as a “was” but an “is.” Steve Perez is a hero.
I’ve written before that I’m far more impressed by casual acts of kindness and random good deeds than the supposed marvels and talents of those who are rich and famous. We sure have a peculiar way of defining our “heroes,” all too often associating personal valor with the talent to throw a ball or look beautiful in a movie. Too frequently we misconstrue heroism with money, fame, and power. Willfully accepting these shiny objects of superfluous celebrity stands as the very antithesis of being heroic, since doing so calls attention to oneself instead of one’s character and deeds, and letting genuine acts of human compassion speak for themselves.
Alas, the true heroes among us are not famous. More often than not, true heroism is anonymous. Heroes work in nursing homes, often for appallingly low pay and for little recognition. They serve as caretakers, sometimes without the reciprocity of simple gratitude. They willingly volunteer to help the less fortunate. They fight to defend wildlife and protect the environment. They commit their lives to justice. They go out on nightly patrol, trying to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. I will admit, these heroes are much stronger than me. They perform admirable deeds that in some cases I do not think I could do. I think that’s what makes them heroes.
Right now, Houston has a serious problem. It’s a problem of unfathomable size and scope. Dealing with these problems will not be easy. But solving the very worst of Houston’s immediate problems will be an absolute given, a certainty, all thanks to the many heroes out there working and volunteering as I type and you read, heroes with names we do not know.
Tonight at midnight, it becomes legal to smoke marijuana in Nevada.
This new law which goes into effect a few hours from now is long overdue, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come in other states. I believe in the total decriminalization of (outlawed) drugs.
Let’s look at the hard facts. The “War on Drugs” has been a failure from the start. We’ve wasted billions of dollars in law enforcement and prosecution at every level. We’ve blown billions more on incarceration. We’ve ruined countless lives making non-violent drug violations every bit as harsh as murder and child sex crimes in some states. We’ve also seen many people killed on both sides of the law because of drugs.
I say the “War on Drugs” has failed because no one can possibly make a convincing case that it’s succeeded. Despite all the efforts — from law enforcement to education — the majority of Americans have tried illegal drugs at least once. If that’s not a failure, I don’t know what is. When hundreds of billions are blown fighting a pointless war with zero tangible results to show for it and still more than half the country ignores the law, what’s the point?
I’ve been asked to attend a few “Light Up” parties tonight here in Las Vegas. One of my closest friends even wants me to write about his gathering of lucky invitees who will all get to imbibe in a secret stash that’s equivalent of popping the cork on a rare bottle of 1962 Chareau Lafite Rothschild. Another associate suggested that actually I smoke marijuana for the first time and then document my experience as though I’m some poor man’s Timothy Leary.
Surprising as this news might be to many, I’ve never tried any illegal drug (other than moonshine — does that count?). I’ve never had any desire to smoke, snort, nor inject. I have my own reasons for this position, which I’ve conveyed in my past writings. Nonetheless, this personal opinion about what’s best for me doesn’t preclude me to issue judgments towards others who may have quite a different view. This is what’s called freedom and individual responsibility. To each his (or her) own.
I love to drink and make no apologies. I also know alcohol is a far deadlier vice than marijuana. On this there is no debate. About 10,000 people die per year because of drunk drivers. The number of injuries and amount of property damage caused by drinking is considerably higher. Then, there are the needless brawls at public gatherings, the abusive marital relationships worsened by alcohol, and the general lethargy caused by drinking which probably makes this our most costly social addiction (except perhaps for guns).
So, what happens when we legalize marijuana? Even for the “let’s legalize drugs” crowd, the results are pretty shocking.
A new study found that the number of traffic deaths declined in states where marijuana was legalized [REUTERS STORY HERE]. Traffic deaths declined! One can speculate as to the reasons why there’s an apparent contradiction between changing laws and expectation. Perhaps many users who would otherwise drink to excess are now smoking marijuana instead, which doesn’t necessarily inhibit operating a motor vehicle. Maybe the worst that happens is the stoners fall asleep at traffic lights. Maybe they’re too busy waiting at the drive-thru at In-and-Out Burger. I don’t know. But the statistics don’t lie.
So, who does lie? Well, the Attorney General of the United States of America — for one. Jeff Sessions is now ordering tougher drug sentences for offenders. That’s right. President Trump’s point man on criminal justice is taking us back to the bad old days of prohibition. He’s returning to the failed policies of “Just Say No.” All research shows this to be not just the wrong approach. It will also waste more money. It will clog up the overburdened courts. It will lock up more people needlessly. It will break up families. It will waste money we do not have to waste [READ MORE HERE IN THE ECONOMIST].
We have truly reached the point where society is turned completely upside down. We have responsible marijuana users who have been proven to cause little or no harm to society, nor to themselves. We also now have an Administration and a federal government determined to prosecute and punish these people. It’s madness.
June 30th, at least for one night and for a little while until the heavy hammer comes down, Nevada will join the ranks of progressive states with modern, science and fact-based 21st Century outlooks on drug laws. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration intends to take us back to the failed drug polices of the past.
This is yet another policy position that is both stupid and utterly indefensible.
READ MORE: I strongly recommend reading “Race and the Drug War,” which details the vast disparity of justice based on race and income.
I’m rolling out a new feature certain to amuse, shock, and confuse.
Let’s call this — my monthly “Shit List.”
This list will include rankings, from 1 to 10, of the people, places, and things that most piss me off at this moment. My list is subject to monthly revision based on (in no particular order) — wars, plagues, gambling losses, cocktail consumption, and mainstream media brainwashing.
A drum roll please….
MY MONTHLY SHIT LIST — JUNE 2017
 President Donald Trump
President Trump is likely to remain atop my monthly “Shit List” for quite a long time — at least until one of two things happens: (a) He’s impeached, or (b) Adam Sandler releases another embarrassingly unfunny movie and seizes the shameful pinnacle of the #1 spot — whichever comes first. Trump’s daily carnival of contrived chaos might be comical were it not so consequential. Based on just five months in office, Trump is likely to go down in history as King Kong in the demise of American democracy.
 Songwriters Who Sing About Maritime Disasters
I’m fed up with folksy three-chord songs about sinking ships and drunken sailors reminiscing about some sad old wreck buried at the bottom of the sea. I don’t want to hear this! Life is already depressing enough without listening to some a whiny-ass wanna’ be pirate singing about a rusted relic running into an unexpected storm, sinking to the bottom, now polluting the bay. Never mind torturing suspected terrorists at GTMO with blasting heavy metal music. Put on a Gordon Lightfoot album and the terrorist will be squirming like a canary. “Yes, I admit being a member of Al Queda — now please, don’t make me listen to ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” again! This is a phobia of mine, every bit as queasy as spiders and killer clowns. I don’t like songs about maritime disasters.
 Racist Cops
I’m tired of seeing young men of color gunned down without proper cause by law enforcement, followed by our courts’ failure to punish such gross injustices. This might be the most important issue of our time, one which threatens to destabilize our society. Racist legal practices must addressed by the establishment before mass civil unrest erupts (and mark my words — it will). Consider the multitude of shocking well-documented cases where citizens are treated quite differently based on race (YouTube has many videos, including this ONE). Comedian-activist Dick Gregory said it best: “If dogs were being shot down by police in the same numbers as young Black men in this country, angry White people would be storming city hall.”
 Omaha High-Low Split Players (at the Orleans Casino — Las Vegas)
The charred souls of bitter, broken-down men largely populate Omaha High-Low Split tables infested with a chronic dreariness. These crusty, crabby, cantankerous shards of once-productive members of society have become devoid of any pulse of humanity. If these fossilized Omaha players weren’t wasting away the final vestiges of their miserable lives by spending 65 hours a week hunched over poker tables squeezing out a measly $1.62 an hour plus comps, they’d probably be writing depressing songs about shipwrecks instead. Low-stakes Omaha players = miserable miserly malthropes.
 Snooty Waiters
I’m sick of being treated like dirt at fancy restaurants. The snooty charade usually begins with the forced up-sell on bottled water. “Tap or sparkling, Sir?” Then, after listening to the waiter gab on for three full minutes describing the steamed carrots I get looked down at like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe when I dare ask for the price of the nightly special. Listen you too-lazy-to-get-a-real-job pest — you interrupt me while I’m speaking to my dinner guests to ask if everything is okay (if things aren’t okay — wouldn’t I let you know?), and then you disappear like magician’s white rabbit when I want to order an extra serving of those carrots you talked me into. Hey my bow-tied pal, you’re not Ivy League professor lecturing on constitutional law. You’re a fucking waiter. So, zip the attitude.
 Fanboy Sycophants
Celebrities don’t know jack shit about much of anything, except perhaps what they’re really good at — like actors (with movies) and athletes (with sports). But ask them about anything else, and their opinions are just as worthless as yours and mine. So then, why does everyone go dick fucking gaga when a celebrity posts something on Twitter, often on a complex topic they’ve never taken a second to study? Please stop it, people. Save the blind-faith ass-kissing for rare occasions when your hero actually does something truly remarkable, or says something original. Poker fanboy sycophants are among the worst. Any tweet with a Day One/First Break chip count with 1,600 “likes” is grounds for a long eye roll and an immediate block.
 The San Francisco Giants
These miserable pricks have cost me a fortune during the last few weeks. There’s a guy I know betting with me (no juice, so it’s legal) who’s has been riding the anti-Giants gravy trainwreck since the start of June (they’re currently 27-51, the worst record in baseball — and have lost 6 games in a row). A few nights ago, thought I might have a shot at a win. Shitty Giants were up 6-3 late in the game, then the Braves (the Braves!) scored a touchdown — 7 goddamned runs in the bottom of the whatever to win the game 10-6. 7 runs! I’m bleeding money on the Giants. More like hemorrhaging rent money. Bastards!
 Democratic Party Leadership / Establishment
Is there a more clueless gaggle of ineptitude than the current leadership of the Democratic Party? Republicans have all but gift wrapped the entire ballgame to Democrats, but they still somehow can’t win a meaningful election. Democratic positions on every major issue are more popular with the general electorate (health care, foreign policy, taxation, gun control, etc.). Democrats also raise plenty of money. Democrats have the perfect boogeyman to run against in the White House. Nonetheless, they keep on losing in embarrassing fashion. Re-electing feeble fossils to leadership posts, running lame, gutless candidates who are often ashamed to stand up for the progressive agenda, overemphasizing divisive issues, and generally behaving like the San Francisco Giants of politics — all reveal it’s way past time to clean House. And, the Senate. Move aside, losers. You blew it. Time for a new generation of voices and ideas.
 Absentee Homeowners
Las Vegas has become a haven of hell for lazy absentee home owners, mostly rich fucks living somewhere in California, who slumlord out their second and third “investment homes” while letting the neighborhood turn to total shit. They try charging California rental prices and then when the properties sit empty for months, squatters move in, tear the place apart, and turn the street into a ghetto. I know this firsthand, because I’ve seen it happen. The city should enforce much stricter codes on upkeep and seize property when laws are violated. I think absentee homeowners (a nice word for slumlords) are scum.
 Shitty Summer Movies
Summer movies are shit. Wizards, superheroes, cartoons, car chases, skull-fucking mindless comedies, talking machines — I don’t care for summer movies catering to 9-year-olds who infest cinemaplexes like larvae buried in the Everglades. Since when did adults abdicate our rightful role as guardians of the cinematic arts and allow corn-syrup slurping kids to completely take over Hollywood? I can’t wait for September — which means the return of decent, thought-provoking French movies with subtitles no one can understand.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this story:
Marieta saw some nice new furniture on the Internet and decided to order a sofa and love seat for the living room. The old stuff was about ten years old, so she said it had to go. It’s direct from the factory in North Carolina and they said it would take three weeks for delivery.
So, at 8 am today some bug-ass clown bangs on the front door without any fucking notice at all and announces “YOUR SOFAS ARE HERE!” Gee, couldn’t we get a phone call first? I’m standing there like a dick in nothing but shorts and sweating like a beached whale and have no time to take a shower, and now I’ve got to fucking shove furniture all over the downstairs living room. But hey — the sofas are here, so I go ahead and roll with it.
So, off come the sofas from the panel truck and they even unwrap them for us. Instantly, I see these sofas are monsters and realize there’s a problem. The goddamned things won’t fit through the front door!
HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MANUFACTURE FURNITURE AND NOT STANDARDIZE THE DIMENSIONS, YOU PRICKS!!!! ????
Fact: 95 percent of all front doors in the United States are 40 inches wide. Yet, this cock mashing sofa clocks in at like 44 inches! Who are they making sofas for — the goddamned Pope!!! ???
How can a reputable furniture company not make stuff that will fit through a front door? It’s not like we live in some cramped-ass gerbil-cage in Manhattan. We live in a 2-story house! We somehow got refrigerators, stoves, king-sized mattresses, 65-inch TVs, and a piano in the house THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR — but we can’t get in a fucking sofa!
I’m flabbergasted that a company would do this to people.
The two Hispanic guys just look at the door and shake their heads. Garage entry is even smaller, as the access door through the kitchen is 38 inches. Back yard has access, but the sliding-glass door barely opens to about 39 inches.
So, the delivery guys basically say, “you’re on your own.” Fine, screw their tip. I mumble to myself — “That saved me a twenty spot, now get lost. Scram!”
So, right now, I’m four inches on the wrong side of being too big and I’ve got a brand new gorgeous sofa and matching love seat sitting out in the fucking front yard, exposed to the blazing flames of the sun, with no place to go. I have no idea what to do, other than stick them in the garage which will make for some very expensive cat scratching posts.
Screw ordering furniture over the Internet! Buyer beware!
I think “esports” is total bullshit. It’s a joke.
Bunch of punk-ass kids with no social skills living in their parents’ basements jittering on computers all day and night like overdosing dope-fiends. All that’s missing are the black spoons and Bic lighters.
While running almost daily over these past five years — I’ve been yelled at, flipped off, and nearly run off the road. I’ve fallen down flat on my face, busted open a kneecap, and been accosted by mean school children who called me “fatso.” I’ve been chased by a pack of angry pit bulls.
By my estimate, I’ve run approximately 5,000 miles in six different countries on two continents. Along my way, I’ve gratuitously dropped perhaps 9,500 F-bombs, some expletives mumbled, others screamed at full volume. This averages out to nearly two F-bombs per mile of running — double that average when running anywhere in South Florida because of oppressive humidity and playing dodge ball among world’s worst drivers. Indeed, I’ve learned that fury can be quite the devilish motivation, especially when skirting and sidestepping cars and trucks and forced to constantly be on the lookout for maniacs distracted by smartphones who simply do not see or fail to yield to the doddering 6-foot tall, 225-pound, 55-year-old blob off on the shoulder heaving desperately for air along busy boulevards and tricky avenues mostly lined with speeding traffic.
Fuck running. But I do love it so.
I can’t explain the contradiction, really. Aside from the giddy self-satisfaction of enduring the elements of the not-so-great outdoors, often battling the extremes of temperature and topography, the closest sensation I can relate to is that running has become an alternative form of meditation. One becomes addicted to mental and physical rhythms of the body in motion. I’ve even perfected the art of dozing off while running, as odd as that seems. I’m almost never tired nor do I feel worn out after running. I never ache after running. I’m more alert and alive than ever. I only feel tired and listless when — for whatever reason — I miss a run after a day or two. I ache when I do not run.
I guess in some ways running is a drug.
Today was the hottest day ever in the history of Las Vegas. Since this city was founded in 1905, that means this was the hottest day ever recorded in 112 years. Oh, that means the high reached a blistering 117 degrees.
I ran five miles at precisely 4 pm today, right when the temperature peaked at the all-time high. Yes, this was planned. This was by design. If I’m going to run, I’ll run. If I’m going to sweat, then I won’t candy-ass it by running in the morning when it’s just 98. I want the full fast and furious version of running to the extreme.
Mind you, this isn’t a sick brag even though I’m a master of sick bragging, but rather a demonstration of what simple dedication and strong willpower can do. Those who know me best probably know, I’m not particularly motivated nor hard-working most of the time. But I do make it a personal mission to run about six days a week, no matter what the weather conditions. This “sacrifice” averages out to about six hours per week, hardly time-consuming given all the time most of us waste doing far less productive (and counterproductive) things in our lives.
The coldest temperature I ever ran in was a bone-chilling 5 degrees once — at South Lake Tahoe. That run, which lasted only a few miles, nearly killed me. The trouble was, South Lake Tahoe is at 7,100 feet and running at that high altitude puts tremendous stress on the lungs, especially if you’re not accustomed to the conditions. I can’t say it did much good to breath in all that cold air either, as I contracted bronchitis and was coughing my head off for the next two weeks. Yes, I do admit — one can take this running thing to the extreme.
But, for whatever reason, the heat has never bothered me. I’ve run in 100-degree weather hundreds of times, and never experienced the least bit of discomfort. Sure, after sweating like a beast I smelled like a farm animal afterward, but that was nothing a good shower couldn’t cure.
Here’s a shot taken yesterday while eggs and runners were frying on the sidewalk.
Many things that bring us down are beyond our control. Some of us lose our jobs. We go broke. We lose friends, and sometimes even our closest family members are no longer among us. We may work harder than others and such effort may take us nowhere. Other times, something effortless results in a huge bonanza. Life can be wildly random.
Running is the one thing over which I do have total control. All decisions and movements are mine. All effort is my own. Every step forward is, in and of itself, a very small victory. Satisfaction is the ultimate reward.
Most days, I run between 2 and 5 miles. It takes me about an hour to run the full 5-mile course in my neighborhood, which is positioned on a gradual slope. Running on a flat surface is much easier than running on slopes when paths are sometimes up and sometimes down.
What’s toughest for me are the hills. Hills are murder on the legs. There’s a quarter-mile stretch of my daily run which is all uphill. My legs feel like rubber afterward. They shake and want to collapse. That part of my run isn’t getting easier. To the contrary, it’s getting more difficult. I suspect that losing some muscle mass due to age, even if it’s a little, has something to do with this.
As for vanity, I gave up worrying about extra weight or carrying a stomach a very long time ago. I’ll never have a perfect body, so why worry about it? Why obsess over weighing a certain number, when it seems more practical to do your own thing and let physics and biology take its course? I’ll never be disappointed in not weighing a certain number because frankly, I don’t fucking care. I’m going to eat my buttery meals and drink my wine, and then run when I can to stay as fit as a can. Why bother with worrying?
That would be my advice to those who, like me, may carry a little extra weight and want to lose it. Don’t worry about losing it so much as doing things you enjoy which might burn off some extra calories. It’s really not that difficult it you make the time.
Some readers may think their busy schedules excuse them from exercise. I don’t buy that excuse. I used to work long hours, day and night. I also used to travel more than half the year. Consider that since I’ve begun running as a ritual, I’ve run the following number of times in these cities:
London, England — 2
Cannes, France — 20
Eindhoven, Holland — 10
Dublin, Ireland — 6
Cork, Ireland — 1
Ft. Lauderdale, FL — 25
West Palm Beach, FL — 30
Hickory, NC — 6
Laurel, MD — 6
Atlantic City, NJ — 20
Philadelphia, PA — 3
Pittsburgh, PA — 5
New York, NY — 1
Rome, NY — 10
Gary, Indiana — 5
New Orleans, LA — 30
Shreveport, LA — 9
Dallas, TX — 1
St. Louis, MO — 10
Phoenix, AZ — 1
Los Angeles, CA — 35
Escondido, CA — 20
South Lake Tahoe, NV — 12
Reno, NV — 2
Flathead Lake, MT — 2
Fargo, ND — 3
Sacramento, CA — 2
Las Vegas, NV — 1,200
Looking back, my toughest runs were in South Lake Tahoe, Flathead Lake, MT (due to elevation) and Gary, IN (due to it being a shit hole). The easiest runs were almost always along oceans, which means along flat surfaces while enjoying gentle breezes. I never had a problem running in South Florida, or Atlantic City, or even New Orleans during the summer. Flat = good. Hills/Altitude = bad.
The longest run I’ve ever made was 12 miles, which was 18 months ago in West Palm Beach. That distance won’t break any world records, but I was very deeply satisfied I could still run that distance without stopping at my age. That said, I did encounter a terrible chafing problem afterward where the meat of my thighs has rubbed together so much the skin was raw. It wasn’t pretty.
Injuries are a customary hazard with running and all serious runners will encounter them at some point. My view is, you have to just run through the pain and discomfort. I don’t recommend this to everyone, of course. Each body is different. So, please do listen to pain signals within the body, especially if you are just starting out. For me, I know I can work through discomforts.
Twice, I had lower back pains so bad that I could barely stand up without assistance. This is something that just flares up out of nowhere about once a year. Each time, I stretched and ran through the pain and then felt much better afterwards.
Another occasion, I was running along Okechobee Blvd. near the Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track. Racing rough a crosswalk at a busy intersection, I made a giant misstep, missed the curb, and smashed by face onto the pavement. In the process, I busted a kneecap that turned bloody but looked much worse than it actually was. That caused me to miss a few days, but after the swelling went down, I made it a mission to return and race through that intersection, this time, bouncing over the curb like Rocky racing up the famous steps and thrusting his fists into the air.
The worst injury I suffered was seemingly benign and invisible, but which is, in fact, very painful, even to the point of causing debilitation. Plantar Fasciitis is a knife-like pain up through the heel, which suddenly hit me a few years ago. I can’t explain the sensation other than to say that even taking a small step is excruciating. That stopped me from running for about six weeks, the only real stretch of time I’ve missed in five years.
I’ve tried to share the ups and downs of daily running from time to time with readers. Some readers have even contacted me privately to say they will try and get healthy and will try running — to which I reply, bravo!
If it hits 118 degrees, I know where I’m headed — outdoors to the pavement.
Well, since you’re already into the fourth paragraph of today’s feature, I’ll take this as an indication you’re either innately curious, or sick enough to wallow in the joy of my misery.
At age 55, I’m told that puts me at higher risk for colon cancer. Gee, that would really suck to be diagnosed with any form of cancer. But if I do get such a scary diagnosis, I sure as shit don’t want it in my ass. Excuse the pun.
Most of us put off unpleasant procedures like this until — sometimes it’s too late. Especially men, like me who often feel invulnerable. Since I don’t feel any pain down there, why worry about it? That’s the all too-familiar tune. Sure, I get annual medical check ups. I visit my dentist regularly. I go through a vision test and get new glasses whenever I can. So, why would I voluntarily subject myself to such an intimate intrusion by undergoing a colonoscopy?
In other words, if it’s not broken, why fix it?
My ass works just fine.
I won’t gross you out with too many gritty details, but the downside of putting off a colonoscopy is a slow death in the most miserable way. Unfortunately, I happen to know this firsthand. Marieta’s father died from colon cancer about 20 years ago. Losing him was painful enough. But to see such a strong and kind man like Marieta’s father, who was once worked as a Bucharest policeman, bed-ridden during the final six-months of his life was a terrible ordeal to bear, especially since colon cancer was entirely treatable, if it had been caught in time — in other words, if he’d had a colonoscopy.
Marieta lost her father that way, and she certainly didn’t want to lose me, especially in the same manner. So, prodded on by her insistence — what most of us husbands would call “nagging” — I finally agreed to undergo my first colonoscopy, earlier this week. In fact, we agreed to go in together as a couple. She decided to have one too, on the same day. No, we didn’t get a 2 for 1 discount. We didn’t even get frequent flier points. Cheap ass insurance company. Like having Spirit Airlines insurance with a $5,000 deductible.
The procedure is relatively quick and simple, which I’ll get to in a moment. It was also completely painless. However, the prep was a bit annoying, especially for a foodie, like me. I was instructed forgo all food and drink for a 24-hour period prior to the procedure. No, not even a glass of wine.
Being a Type-A personality, I took these medical instructions to the extreme. I didn’t eat or drink anything (except for water) for 40 hours straight. I’m not sure that qualifies me for any Guinness Book of World Records, but I think I deserve some kind of Evel Kneivel award for my immense sacrifice. I don’t believe I’ve ever gone so long without eating or drinking anything in my entire life, except once when my car broke down in West Virginia and I deduced starvation was preferable to eating anything in that state.
To my surprise, fasting was much easier than I expected. Perhaps being a Muslim and doing the Ramadan thing — which means not eating for 30 days — isn’t such a big deal, after all. Besides, it’s a pretty effective way to lose weight. Maybe I’ll convert, at least to the fasting part (not!).
On the same morning when the 2017 World Series of Poker officially began, an annual event in Las Vegas which I’d worked steadily for more than two decades, while players from all over the globe — including hundreds of friends of mine — were congregating together in gambling’s biggest and most prestigious event, I was having a rubber tube inserted into my ass.
How far the mighty have fallen.
The prep was critical. They make you drink this clear liquid, which tastes like artificially flavored citrus soda. I was told there are some yucky-tasting prep kits. But I was prescribed one of the really good ones. I must admit, it sure was tempting to spike the prep drink with a little vodka (my new creation — the colonoscopy screwdriver). But I was a good boy.
Anyway, I drank two full dosages of the prescribed citrus drink and for the next 24 hours I felt like I was riding a motorcycle through central Mexico. Fortunately, there were no major disasters. There were, however, a couple of really close calls. Football is called “a game of inches.” Well, the prep game of having a colonoscopy is kinda’ like that, too. Then and there I realized there are advantages to having house cats. One just gets used to poop and vomit on the floors. What’s one more little “accident?”
Our procedure was done at an outpatient facility here in Las Vegas. From the moment we entered, I was impressed with how professionally things were run. I was taken to an admission section, asked several questions about my medical history, and then was asked to disrobe. No lap dance.
They gave me a gown to wear, which was this weird thing that was very poorly designed. It opened in the rear, which meant my entire backside was exposed to the world. Worse, the strings in back were inaccessible. Much as I tried, I couldn’t reach around and tie it. So, I finally just gave up. I figured these medical people have seen just about everything by now, so I walked down the hallway like some doddering old mental patient with my ass hanging out until someone ran over from the nurses’ station and tied my bow up like a pretty Christmas present.
Next, they laid me down on a stretcher with wheels and then some people with masks on came over and started wheeling me into an operating room. I didn’t like the looks of those people with the masks. They looked scary. I thought this was just a colonoscopy. It was supposed to be 20 minutes, in and out. They looked way too serious. Maybe they saw something on my chart.
By then, it was too late. I was placed in a small room with all kinds of electronic equipment. Next, a woman stuck a needle in my arm and told me I’d be getting something called “saline solution.” I asked, “why.” She replied this was to keep me fully hydrated. I insisted that I wasn’t thirsty, but if some Chateauneuf du Pape could be pumped into the bag I sure would appreciate it. No one thought that was funny. Medical people have no sense of humor, or maybe they just don’t know French wines.
Anyway — next, an even more serious-looking man who resembled one of those silver-haired doctors you see on TV came into the room. He introduced himself Dr. Something-Or-Other, “the anesthesiologist.” I wasn’t there to take notes, nor remember names. All I knew was, he was expensive. Marieta had done some advance research on the anesthesia they typically use. She disovered it’s the same stuff Michael Jackson was addicted to. I did not find this news comforting.
Next, Dr. Anesthesiologist punched the “play” button on a stereo system, and all of the sudden Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” came on with the volume cranked up to “7,” blasting out of Bose speakers. I know they were Bose, because I saw them with my own eyes. I know this firsthand because I was there.
My colonoscopy was about to begin….
[You have to click the music for the full effect……do it, and then read on]
At about the second stanza, a soft rubber mask was placed directly over my mouth. I was instructed by someone with a calm voice to inhale deeply. Then, I was told to roll over on my side and tuck myself into “the fetal position.” I looked at a clock on the wall. It read 8:16 am. As for the doctor, I still hadn’t seen him yet. My only worry was that he’d clipped his nails sometime this week.
My deep breathing continued. The music played. I’m not sure how long I stayed conscious, certainly not until the first chorus when the saxophone solo came in. I went totally blank within about 30 seconds.
The next thing I remember was opening my eyes. A nurse was standing at my side. I was still laying in the fetal position. I wondered — when are they going to start my colonoscopy?
Oddly enough, I had a short dream. I also noticed drool coming out the side of my mouth and dripping onto the pillow (hey, you knew this story wouldn’t be pretty). I recalled the clock time flashed 8:16. I wondered what time it was now and when they would start the procedure.
I rolled over onto my back trying to find the clock hanging on the wall. It wasn’t there. The music was off, too. In fact, I wasn’t even in the same room. What the hell happened?
That’s when the nurse spoke up. She said everything went smoothly. No complications. She told me they’d removed something called a polyp, which would later be tested at a lab. Most polyps turn out to be benign, I was told. I couldn’t believe the procedure was already done, so quick. I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t even remember a thing. I slept better than a baby with a hangover.
Within 30 minutes, Marieta had joined me waiting in the recovery unit. We were wheeled out together and by 9:30 we were out the door on our way home. The two-hour start-to-finish procedure basically gives us ten years peace of mind, that we don’t have to worry about colon cancer.
While the prep period certainly wasn’t fun with the mandatory “cleansing” stage, and missing meals was annoying, the actual procedure of undergoing a standard colonoscopy (including polyp removal) is relatively simple and worry free. I’ve had haircuts that were more painful.
So, why share all this?
During the course of my writing, I’m never quite sure which topics will resonate with readers. I seriously doubt this column will become a reader favorite. Surely, there will be some wisecracks, most intended in good fun.
Aside from the laughter, please do take a moment to think about this seriously. In the U.S. 50,000 people die from colon cancer every year. Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with the cancer. Most of these deaths would not have happened if the cancer was caught in time. It’s highly preventable.
Honestly, I would never have agreed to do this procedure unless Marieta absolutely insisted. Unless she nagged. I also thought getting a colonoscopy would be both embarrassing and painful. I was wrong on both counts. It’s not embarrassing, unless we make it so. It’s also not painful. I didn’t feel a thing.
If today’s article motivates just one person to have a colonoscopy, and something gets diagnosed early, this will be well worth it. So, don’t put it off — especially if you’re someone in a higher-risk category.
Ten years from now, I hope to have another colonoscopy. And in twenty years, another. And, thirty years from now, on my 85th birthday, yet another. Think of it this way. It sure beats the alternative.