Thursday, September 30, 2010

Love Card Day

Sorry about yesterday.

(DO NOT click onto the link, unless you want to be severely grossed out. You've been warned.)

I gave serious consideration to NOT running those photos, after I got a chance to see them myself, but I had promised them to you, so I kept my word. Sometimes, it's better to break a promise.

Anyway, the following is not grody at all. It is, however, a reprint. I'd apologize for that, but I've done enough apologizing already. And if I really was sorry to be running this piece again, then I wouldn't run it. So there.


One of my readers e-mailed me recently, to ask a question concerning my availability on September 30th. I replied, "Are you insane? That's Love Card Day! Of course I'm not available, you dope!"

Heck of a way to talk to one's mother (especially since she reads this stuff and still actually admits to folks that I'm her son) but I don't plan anything for Love Card Day. Well, except for the obligatory exchange of love cards, of course.

[blank stare]

Why are you looking at me like that? You don't mean to tell me you've never heard of Love Card Day! What planet are you from? Earth? Where's that? And, while we're at it, who stole my underwear?

[even blanker stare, if that were possible]

OK, enough "funny" introductory material. Here's the scoop on Love Card Day.

MY WIFE and I met, had a couple of dates, fell in love, and decided to get married.

(That's the abridged version. More details are available here.)

Anyway, as we progressed through the courtship stage (as it's known to ornitholigists) we found out a very interesting fact concerning our fathers. Her father and my father were both born on the same day, in the same year.

I don't know what the odds are against that happening - two people meeting and finding out their fathers were born on the exact same day - but I suspect it's rather high. Higher still if you limit it to people who end up marrying each other. On top of that, our fathers were both raised in the same Boston neighborhood, Forest Hills, just a few blocks from each other. Anyway, they were both born on September 30th, 1931.

(As an aside, as MY WIFE and I got to know each other better, we found out that our paths had crossed many times before we met. It was spooky finding out how many times we might have gotten to know each other before we actually did. However, we both feel that we didn't actually meet at those times because we wouldn't have liked each other then. We both grew to be people we could stand and then we met. For instance, I used to do lots and lots of drugs, while MY WIFE has never done an illegal drug in her life. I was a long-haired metal-playing freak, while she was a strait-laced church-going choir member. When we met, I was balding and sober. MY WIFE was... well, pretty much as she had been. OK, I had become someone MY WIFE could stand. However, I digress.)

So, the thing is, we celebrated both of our fathers' birthdays on the same day, which was September 30th.

I'll cut to the chase. In 1994, my father died. In 1995, MY WIFE's father died. This made September 30th a somewhat sad day on the calendar. However, instead of dwelling on the deaths, MY WIFE had the idea that it would be nice to turn it into a day of celebration. I agreed. In honor of our fathers, we remade their shared birthday into Love Card Day.

Now, none of the stuff we do on Love Card Day sounds like a great way of memorializing someone. However, if you knew our fathers, you'd know that they both liked a good joke and they both really liked to eat. Those were probably their most outstanding traits. So, here's what we do, in honor of our fathers, on Love Card Day.

First, we each buy a greeting card for the other person. This is the "Love Card". We designate a particular brand of greeting card, and we both shop for that brand, independent of the other person. The only qualifier, other than the brand, is that it must be a "Love" card - one that expresses that sentiment. It doesn't have to be humorous, but usually will end up being so. On the initial Love Card Day, it was a Hallmark Shoebox card because we had coupons for free ones.

(On that first Love Card Day, when we exchanged cards, we found that we had both bought the same card. We had shopped at different times, in different stores, but out of the couple hundred or so choices available, we got the same card for each other. We have failed to replicate this extraordinary coincidence since then, but we took it as a sign that we were on the right track when it happened.)

Next, since our fathers both loved to eat, we have dinner.

That's it.

It may not sound like anything earth-shattering, but it turns what could be a very melancholy day into a day that we, instead, look forward to sharing with each other. Nothing wrong with that. It's our own personal holiday.

So, dear reader, make a note: I am never available on September 30th. It's Love Card Day, you dope!

(I would have given a link to the site where I found the calendar, but when I clicked onto the site from which it it supposedly came, it would not load. If you can't get there from here, why bother trying? If the copyright owner has a complaint, e-mail me. I'll be glad to include a working link next year when I re-post this piece again.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Promised You Grody. This Is Most Definitely A Promise Kept.

In my previous posting concerning dental travails and triumphs, I told you that I was going to post some grody photos from my actual time in the chair getting the procedures performed. And then, because my dentist hadn't actually sent the photos to me by the time I posted, I instead gave you this silly photo of me showing off my new choppers in a somewhat grotesque fashion.

I had no real need to re-publish this photo, as you could have easily clicked onto the link and seen it, but since some of your blogs have an interesting feature whereby your blogroll listings include the current first photo displayed on any given blog you've got listed, I felt it was prudent to put a photo here, because...

Good news everybody! The grody photos showed up in my e-mail yesterday. And let me tell you, they are grody, indeed.

From: Encarta

gro·dy [ grṓdee ] (comparative gro·di·er, superlative gro·di·est)


Definition: very distasteful: disgusting or extremely unpleasant (slang)

[Mid-20th century. Alteration of grotesque]

Let me assure you, the photos are NOT pretty. They do, however, illustrate rather well every bit of what I went through. If employed to scare children, I think these shots might get the kids to brush their teeth about twenty times a day. In that regard, they have true value.

Before you get to see the photos - if you really truly want to see them - I will point out that they are the property of Domenic D'Amico, DMD (Long May His Tribe Increase!) and unauthorized reproduction, without the express written consent of the person with whom you're reproducing, is frowned upon in every state, even Mississippi. I will also point out that the mouth is mine, and unless you want your mouth to look similar, you shouldn't pirate these shots.

(Even if your mouth already looks similar - and I know, from some of your comments, that a few of you sport hardware of the same sort - you shouldn't steal the good doctor's photography. Not only might I beat you up, but he has all sorts of drills and things which could make life extremely unpleasant.)

OK, enough preamble. I'm going to leave a whole bunch of white space between here and the photos. Scroll down at your own risk. I will not accept responsibility for heart attacks, premature births, soiled drawers, or any other results of you viewing my sad and sore mouth. You've had more than enough warning.

Here comes the nasty! Bail out now if you have any misgivings!

This shows my mouth following the extractions, but prior to the final placement of the screw-in pieces of the implants. The metal bits are the implants proper, which were placed into my jaw via the expedients of slicing open my gums, drilling into the bone, screwing in the titanium rods, then stitching up and waiting, basically, for the bone to get tricked into accepting the rods as being teeth and healing around them. In a small percentage of cases, a rod will be rejected by the body, necessitating a second attempt at placement. Luckily, all of mine took. I have four similar rods in my upper gums, holding a full prosthesis permanently in place.

There is what appears to be a sore or an ulcer on the right side of this shot, but it's an optical illusion formed by reflections off of pooled blood and saliva. I hope it is, anyway. I sure as hell didn't feel it in my mouth anywhere before, nor do I now.

And here we see the screw-in bits screwed in. Notice the change from flat metallic to gold. The denture snaps onto these gold bits for secure placement.

Notice the sort-of burned-looking area to the right of one of the gold bits? It looks that way because it was literally burned. The doctor felt that access to the implant was impeded by my gum tissue having healed around it, so he used a laser to burn some of my gums off.

Also, you'll notice the whitish bits where suturing has been done. That would be collagen, inserted following the extractions. It was felt that I had lost a bit too much tissue on the side of the implants, so this was done to build up the area.

Lovely stuff, isn't it? Here's another shot of mostly the same view.

I want to make clear that all procedures performed by Dr. D'Amico were done in as painless a fashion as humanly possible. He always cares, and he asked me many times if I was all right or if I needed more pain relief (which he never denied me, if I requested it) and he explained every procedure, in plain English detail, both before and during their completions. He is the best dentist I've ever had. If I had had him for my dentist for a longer time, maybe I wouldn't have had to undergo such hideous-looking procedures.

Now, as a reminder as to why I needed this done, here's how my bottom teeth looked last year.

And here's how they look now!

NOT grody. Not in the least.

Well, OK, the stains on the uppers aren't pretty, but they're nothing that can't be taken care of with some heavy-duty cleaning, which I'll ask Dr. D'Amico to do this afternoon on my next follow-up appointment. I didn't realize how bad that was until I saw this photo. Anyway, it only shows in a shot like this where the dentist asked me to really smile wide to show off the lowers, which are freakin' Pristine!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Adventures In Modern Dentistry

THURSDAY, September 23 – 11:44am

With luck, the Percocets will kick in any moment and my writing skills will deteriorate rapidly. Therefore, I’ll write about my dental work while I still can.

(That’s a joke, of course. My writing isn’t affected in the least by the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Whether that says more about my writing or my past, I’m not sure.)

My mouth is finally complete. I have a full set of implants on the top. I have a full removable denture, anchored by two implants, on the bottom. Here’s a photo!

Not bad, eh? If I hadn’t incessantly gone on about my dental procedures – HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE – no one would be any the wiser. Heck, I’m not any the wiser, so why should anyone else be?

This morning, I had the final three remaining real teeth removed from my bottom jaw. That took about twenty minutes and was a relatively pain-free procedure. I was novocained to the gills, and the teeth weren’t exactly immovable objects to begin with, so all I felt was a sensation of heavy pressure as they were yanked. Oddly enough, the real pain began AFTER the extractions.

(Before I tell you about the pain, I want to make sure that you know how magnificent my dentist is. He’s Dr. Domenic D’Amico, of Watertown, and he’s done all of my dental work over the past eight years - excluding the two sessions of implant surgery, which were done by a specialist - and I wholeheartedly recommend him should you find yourself in need of anything similar to what I’ve had done. He’s a caring and skilled practitioner, and I consider myself blessed to have him as my dentist. Whatever descriptions of pain follow, I don’t want my florid prose to give you the mistaken impression that any of it was due to less-than-wonderful service by Dr. D’Amico or any of his friendly staff.)

(No, I was not paid for that endorsement. I really like the guy, and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than he has. Of course, if he reads this and wants to give me a kickback, I won’t complain, but he’s so damned good at what he does, I… well, hell, it almost makes me sad to have no more teeth to pull.)

As I said, the real pain began following the extractions. And there were a fair number of interesting procedures involved. Let me tell you about them.

SUTURING – Why is it I could have three teeth yanked with a minimum of ouch, but it felt like there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward? Oh, wait. It’s because there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward. For some unknown reason, this hurt like hell. I guess I’m just the sensitive type.

COLLAGEN – The good doctor decided that I had lost a bit too much bone, on either side of the implants, since the time of my most previous extractions. As a precautionary measure, he inserted some collagen into the gums prior to suturing. As it was explained to me – or, at least, as I absorbed it, which may be another thing altogether – the collagen, once blood flows into it, begins forming bone tissue. If I have that wrong, then I have no idea why he did it. In any case, he didn’t charge me for it, so combine that with my ignorance and I have no reasonable grounds for complaining.

LASER – On the other hand, there was a bit too much gum tissue surrounding one of the implants, so in order to be able to get at it more easily, a laser was used to burn off a small portion of my gums. During this part of the procedure, I was given huge green goggles to wear. I suppose that was in case, say, he sneezed and inadvertently jerked the laser into my eyes, then it would make it less likely that I’d be permanently blinded. Either that or it made me look really goofy and broke up the morning for he and his assistant. Or both.

FITTING OF THE PROSTHESIS – I have to explain something about the various bridges, temporary dentures, implants, and whatever other oral junk I’ve been wearing during the previous eight years. None of them hurt in the least. This new denture, however, when placed into my mouth for the first time, was very painful. That surprised hell out of me, and while having hell out of you might sound like a pleasant thing, this wasn’t. It was excruciating, actually, and I began wondering if I had made a terrible irrevocable decision to allow those final teeth to be pulled.

I winced and the doctor noticed. Actually, his first clue to my discomfort probably came when I said, "Holy Fuck! It Feels As Though You Dumped Fire Ants Into My Mouth!" Actually, with the missing teeth and whatnot, it came out as, "Hoy Fug! Id Feezadooya Dund Fianz Ihmehmou!" In any case, he got the message, even though I didn’t actually say that, so he set about correcting the fit of the denture. This took about an hour. I know because I watched two episodes of The Office while it was happening.

(One of the marvels of this modern age of dentistry is that you don’t have to just sit there being… well, I wouldn’t normally choose the word ‘bored’ to describe the experience, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment, so it will have to do. Instead, if your doctor has a notebook computer, you can watch a movie, or some cartoons, while parts of your body are being removed. Or, if your first choices of entertainment are unavailable – in my case, The Three Stooges and Phineas & Ferb – you watch a few episodes of a sitcom. Here is as ringing an endorsement as could possibly be given to a comedy series: At the exact moment when one of my teeth was yanked, a scene involving the characters of Jim, Michael, and Dwight literally made me laugh out loud. I kid you not. My bloody incisor was in front of the screen, but I was laughing. Amazing.)

Anyway, Dr. D’Amico filed down a bit of the prosthesis and then placed it back into my mouth. It still hurt. He continued to place it in, ask me exactly where the pain was, remove it, do an adjustment of one sort or another, and then rinse and repeat. After perhaps twenty-five repetitions, it fit without any major discomfort. And, since the Percocets have now taken over my brain, it still doesn’t hurt too much. I hope this remains the case as the weekend wears on.

PHOTOGRAPHY – Throughout my various procedures, Dr. D’Amico has, at intervals, taken photos of the work done. I assume he may have written an article for a dental journal, or perhaps he just keeps a scrapbook of particularly grody mouths. Whatever the case, it doesn’t bother me to have him take the photos. I know for a fact that he’s not charged me for a few things over the years, and I consider that good payment for being a dental model.

Below are the shots he took of this latest procedure. They are VERY graphic, and may be unsettling to some of you. Therefore, I’ve left a safe white space between here and the carnage. If you have a weak stomach concerning dentistry, you probably shouldn’t look. Scroll down with eyes closed and hope you stop where I begin writing again. Those of you not bothered by oral gore, enjoy!

Lovely stuff, eh?

Actually, the dentist didn't upload the photos to me yet. I'll have to show you the grody stuff in my next post.

I’m going to kick back and enjoy the buzz now. See you later.

FRIDAY, September 24, 11:12am

Here’s a valuable thing to remember: The physical act of smiling will make you happy.

Now, that probably sounds dumb, but it’s the truth. If you feel down, depressed, dour, or a whole bunch of other things beginning with "D", just smile. After a short time, you’ll find that your forced smile has become a real one.

I don’t recall where I first heard that advice, but I do recall that it had scientific testing to back it up. When you use the muscles that make a smile, your brain starts producing dolphins. Or maybe it’s endorphins. Anyway, then you feel happier, which results in more of whatever they are being produced, which leads to a real smile, and so on.

If you don’t believe me, try it.

Oh, come on! Don’t do it for just a couple of seconds and then tell me I’m full of shit, unless telling me that will make you happy, in which case I’ll have accomplished the same thing for you. No, you have to keep on smiling for a minute or two. It helps if you look in a mirror while you’re doing it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See? It really does make you feel better, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

This bit of trickery is, unfortunately, something I tend to forget. Maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll remember it more easily. Anyway, I had reason to use it this morning, it made me feel good, and I decided to pass the magic on to you.

You’re welcome.

The reason I needed it was because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I was also in pain.

The problem with having had dental surgery, and then having a wonderful drug such as Percocet given to you to alleviate the pain, is that Percocet screws up your sleep patterns. Well, I suppose I should amend that. It screws up my sleep patterns. Your mileage may vary. In any case, while I found myself to be very tired, and hardly able to keep my eyes open by 1 am last night, I found that when I lay down to sleep, I couldn’t. Here are the reasons…

1 – Percocet tends to give me a dry mouth. Therefore, I drank a few gallons of water throughout the day and had to pee every hour or so. This continued during the night, so a full bladder awakened me whenever I drifted off to sleep, which wasn’t often because…

2 – Percocet, while making me pleasantly yawn-filled and hazy, also adds an element of jumpiness into the mix. The mind tends to jump from one thought to another, all of them extremely interesting. It’s this combination of being an upper and a downer that delights me so, much as I once adored the combination of cocaine and alcohol. It does, however, make real honest-to-God sleep almost entirely unattainable. So, in order to get the sleep I desperately needed, I stopped taking the drug, which led to…

3 – Pain.

So, I had a choice. I could stay off of the pills and have pain, but pain doesn’t help one to sleep. Or I could take more pills, which would alleviate the pain but, again, make sleep impossible. Meanwhile, I had to take a pee again. All of it was working against me getting any significant sleep, so I decided to take more pills. If I was going to be awake anyway, why be in pain?

If you’re a regular reader of mine – and why wouldn’t you be, aside from having to wend your way through crap like this? – you may be experiencing a touch of déjà vu. That’s because this convoluted mess about sleep and drugs probably reminds you of THIS OTHER CONVOLUTED MESS ABOUT SLEEP AND DRUGS.

(If you go to that link, you’ll find a story about me being aided in my attempts to sleep by a bug crashing into my Venetian blinds. It’s actually a good story, in my very humble opinion, and features God as my co-star. I’d usually end a parenthetical such as this with some sort of snappy joke, but if blasphemy and a complete lack of humility didn’t already make you laugh, there’s not much else I can do to help.)

Having no friendly insects to aid me last night, I slept for perhaps an hour, and that was accomplished in five and ten minute segments at intervals between the pain, peeing, pill-popping, and other things beginning with "P". So, this morning, I was not in a good mood. I was tired, grouchy, uncomfortable, and other things beginning with letters from the alphabet. I decided that perhaps a cigarette would help me to feel more like I wanted to feel.

(OK, so most of you know I’ve been quitting smoking for the past two weeks. I have been a pack-a-day, or more, smoker for forty years. For the past 14 days, I’ve been proud to have never smoked more than 9 cigarettes during any one 24-hour period. The average day has been around 7 smokes. While the lessened intake of smoke has resulted in me feeling generally healthier, it hasn’t contributed to any good vibes.)

I had a cigarette. And while I was having it, the latest round of percs kicked in more than previously. And I remembered that thing about how forcing yourself to smile will help you to really actually feel better. So, I smiled during the whole time I was having the cigarette (which, excuse yet another parenthetical, isn’t easy to do while inhaling smoke through a mouth full of new dentures and stitches, but I accomplished it.)

And I felt immeasurably happier, overall, so I decided I would share the secret of my happiness with you, which I have now done, so my work here is through. Never fear, though, as I’m sure I’ll be back later on with more hare-brained nonsense!

(And, of course, it could be the drugs making me happy, and maybe the smile thing is totally full of shit. I’ve taken that into account, but since I’m the only one with the drugs, you’ll have to settle for trying that smile crap.)

SUNDAY, September 26, 6:23pm

Panic time. I tried to get the denture to come out. It wouldn’t.

In case I didn’t make it clear earlier, the thing is supposed to be removable. The two implants I have in my bottom gums are meant as anchors to hold the prosthesis steadily in place. The denture more-or-less snaps onto them. Then, when I want to take it out – for cleaning or whatever – equal upward pressure applied on both ends should lift it off of the anchors. Except, when I tried to get it out of my mouth, it wouldn’t budge.

The dentist had asked me to keep it in for as long as possible over the weekend. The reasoning was that the tissues underneath it would heal more quickly if protected. And the fit is snug, right up against everything, so nothing would get at the gums. Also, I think the idea was for me to get used to it more quickly.

Overall, it felt good, but not great. It certainly functioned well. No problems eating, other than a soreness in the gums, which I assume was to be expected following three extractions, suturing of the wounds, lasering of the gums in some areas, and all the other necessarily sadistic procedures I had performed on my mouth. I could feel pressure in certain areas, but nothing me and my buddy Percocet couldn’t handle. And I’m sure those small pains will be addressed on Monday during the follow-up appointment. However, I had taken a short nap, following the Patriots victory over Buffalo, and when I awoke, I was in fairly serious pain. My face felt a bit swollen, the pressure in the gums seemed to be increased, I could taste what might have been pus…

Sorry. That last is gross, but it was a really foul taste. I know that all of it – the pain, the swelling, the taste – might be natural occurrences following oral surgery and having the gums covered, and unable to be refreshed via brushing or mouthwash, for more than three days. The medications might have contributed to it, too. However, I felt that removing the denture, cleaning it, and rinsing my mouth, would probably alleviate all of the problems.

So, I placed my thumbs in my mouth and tried to take the prosthesis out. It barely budged. And the effort to move it caused some serious pain.

Bad thoughts flitted through my mind. Maybe my mouth was infected and stuff had oozed under the plate adhering it to my gums. What if I applied too much pressure and broke it, or destroyed one of the implants? I increased the pressure slowly, and felt a slight rise from the gums, but it hurt like hell. I was becoming a bit scared, along with frustrated, and I hoped I wasn’t doing irreparable damage to either my mouth or to my lovely new choppers.

(And they ARE lovely. The doctor did a fantastic job. Nobody could possibly tell they weren’t real teeth. MY WIFE has been particularly complimentary concerning them, and she just wouldn’t bullshit about it. If they looked gruesome or phony, she’d let me know.)

After a good ten minutes of trying different pressures and angles, I felt it move enough to know I could now get it out. I increased my efforts and pushed hard, and it finally popped off of the implants. The relief was immediate and immensely pleasurable.

There was a small bit of mouth gunk in the part that had been contacting the gums, but nothing overwhelmingly alarming. I gave the surface a good brushing to clean them up. I looked at my gums. Not a pretty sight with the stitches still there, metal sticking up from the two implant sites, and the general sickly look of moist body tissue that hadn’t had air touch it for a good 72 hours, but nothing that made me feel I should place an emergency call to the good doctor. I swished a bit of mouthwash over the area, and immediately felt less anxious about things.

I’ve now had the teeth out of my mouth for about twenty minutes. All soreness and all feelings of being swollen have vanished. I haven’t felt this good all weekend. I hope the dentist can make the fit better on Monday. I’d much rather keep it in – barring pain – than have it out. Aside from cosmetic concerns, without the teeth in, my jaw can close far more than it ever has before in my life. There are, of course, no lower teeth for my uppers to contact to stop progress, and it’s a very weird and sick feeling. I don’t like it, at all.

I now have my teeth in a little plastic box they gave me for storage. I’m going to keep them out until I need them to eat. Just dress me in a bear costume and call me gummy.

(OK, I guess folks think it would have been a good idea to remove my sense of humor while they were removing the teeth, but those folks are just stoopid.)

This wraps up whatever this was. I’ll talk to you later in the week to varying degrees depending upon how well my teeth fit by then.

MONDAY, September 27, 8:50am

I'm in work, and just out of the dentist's office. He made a few adjustments - shaved down the denture here and there - and it feels better. He wants me back on Wednesday to adjust it more. I guess it's going to be an ongoing process, at least for the next week or so.

I think it's sort of like when you wear a pair of shoes that are tight and uncomfortable. When you take them off, you feel better. When you try to put them back on, your feet have swollen and they feel worse than they previously did. So my gums are feet and my teeth are shoes. It's probably a good thing I'm out of drugs.

I'll be back later this week with an update, including the grody surgical photos. Be still your beating heart!

Soon, with more dental stuff.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Stupidity Is Ray's Gain!

The winner of the book giveaway is Ray (extremely significant other of Daryl.)

And the answer was Edgar Kennedy.

I realize that, even now, some of you are saying, "Who?"

Such a shame. The man was supremely funny, a talented and versatile actor who starred in his own series of two-reel short subjects that ran for 17 years. In addition to the more than 100 films in that series, he appeared in over 300 others, mostly as comic relief in dramatic presentations or as comic foil in the movies of Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and other masters of comedy. Over 400 films - some sources would put the number at over 500, but many are lost and cannot be verified - and the man is nearly forgotten today. An absolute crying shame.

A decent brief history at Wikipedia.

Edgar Kennedy was not only a fine comedian in movies with sound. He actually began his career in silents, and was one of the original Keystone Kops, possibly the most popular ongoing series of movies during the silent era (and arguably of all-time.)

Edgar Kennedy is far left, standing, with mustache

Known as "The Master Of The Slow Burn" (which is when someone slowly becomes increasingly agitated and annoyed until his temper finally erupts like a volcano) Kennedy played a put-upon head of household in his "Average Man" series of comedies for RKO. Almost always frustrated in his efforts to remain calm by his argumentative mother-in-law (Dot Farley) and cowardly mooching brother-in-law (most often played by Jack Rice). He had a wife (usually played to scatterbrained perfection by Florence Lake), who was loving and supportive, but generally too dumb to realize how hideous her mother and brother were. The comedies worked because Kennedy's character was sympathetic, even if sometimes full of uncontrolled rage. On the all-too-rare occasions when he actually laid hands on his mother-in-law or brother-in-law, it was entirely justified. The effect for the audience was one of catharsis.

For a great taste of what these comedies were like - and a look at all four actors mentioned in the preceding paragraph - go HERE.

Aside from being a skilled comic actor, Kennedy also directed many films, among them some of the more popular in the Laurel & Hardy series. He was usually billed as "E. Livingston Kennedy" when directing, probably an effort to distance his directorial efforts from the bumbling characters he played on-screen at the Hal Roach Studios.

Another interesting tidbit? Kennedy was, before becoming a screen actor, the amateur Pacific Coast Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and he had a fair record as a professional before he figured out there were better ways to make a living aside from getting smashed in the noggin.

I could go on about the man, but what I'll do, instead, is direct you to one more website, this one run by the author of the book Ray won. The site is called - fittingly enough - Edgar Kennedy, Master Of The Slow Burn. It is lovingly maintained by Bill Cassara, the author of Kennedy's biography. Please do yourself a favor and go there. Read more about this very interesting, and unjustly forgotten, performer. If you want more, you could order the book (as I did, twice, leading to the giveaway of the second copy.) The prologue and introduction to the book are available at the site as teasers.

Speaking of the book, it will be on it's way to Ray (via Daryl) any moment now. I find it wonderfully fitting that Ray won the book. He's a swell comic actor in his own right. If you'd like an immediate laugh, go enjoy any of these short films in which Ray co-stars.

Rainy Day Old Maid

West Of Limbo

Subliminal Tactics

Thanks to everyone who made a guess.

I'll be gone until Monday, as I'm having the final dental work done to get my lower implanted denture, which necessitates the removal of my three remaining real bottom choppers. No doubt I'll have something to tell you about it, especially if I get the drugs for which I'm hoping.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Continuing Stupidity Is STILL Your Gain!

OK, yesterday I offered a contest for a free book. Nobody won it. And the reason for that has nothing to do with your intelligence.

The book is a biography of a comedian. In order to win the book, I asked for folks to name a comedian - any comedian - in the comments section here. And you folks named a whole slew of really fine comedians.

Here are the guesses that were made:

Jerry Lewis
Sid James
Joe E. Brown
Charlie Callas
Buddy Hackett
Dick Van Dyke
Bob Hope
Victoria Wood
Red Skelton
Richard Pryor
Billy Connolly
Henny Youngman
Jerry Van Dyke
Peter Sellers
Victor Mature
James Finlayson
Jonathan Winters
Joe Besser
Joe DeRita
Don Rickles
Pauly Shore
Stephen Wright
Jack Benny

None of them was the one. Too bad, because there are a number of folks on that list of whom I'd love to read a biography, with Sid James, Joe. E. Brown, Charlie Callas, Henny Youngman, and James Finlayson heading the list.

(Did I mention I love supporting players, character actors, and otherwise obscure [at least to American audiences] comics?]

Anyway, I'm afraid I severely overestimated the possibility that any of you would name this fellow. He's been out of the public eye for a long time, and the films he starred in - which were many, albeit mostly two-reelers - haven't been played on TV, or even in revival movie houses, for decades. If I named the folks he supported - that is, those people whose own starring vehicles he appeared in - you'd be able to narrow it down by reviewing cast listings for their films, I suppose. But, I wanted to give first crack at the book to somebody who really, truly loved this guy and might have named him without a whole bunch of clues. Since that didn't happen yesterday, I'm going to give some rather obvious clues (at least, they should make his identity obvious to those who know of him, even though I'm sure some of you will still say, "Who?", when I finally reveal his name. Shame, that, as he was pretty much a household name back in his day.)

Please try to guess who he is from the following hints. Since you may read my blog at a wildly varying time from others, and I'll be making it relatively obvious - at least to those of you who know of him - I wouldn't want to give a vast edge to anyone in my own time zone. Therefore, I'll take all correct answers given by 8am, Wednesday, September 21st, U.S. Eastern Time, throw them into a hat, and choose a winner at random. So, if somebody else has already made the guess you would have made, don't let that stop you from making the same guess.

(And I'll ask one favor. If you DON'T like this fellow, let me know. I can't imagine why you wouldn't, but I want the book to go to someone who truly enjoyed his work.)

Here we go...

1 - Some of his appearances on film were in silent movies, but his own starring roles were all made with sound. In the silents, however, he appeared in some of the most-watched movies ever made during that era.

2 - He appeared in films with Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and the "Our Gang" (or "Little Rascals") kids.

3 - He had one shtick, or bit of business, he almost always performed within his later filmed appearances. He was, as a matter of fact, sometimes referred to as "The Master Of ... " that shtick.

That might be enough to give it away to someone who knows the guy and appreciates him. If none of you get it today, I guess I'll have to assume I'm the only guy in the world who still loves him. That would make me very sad.

Oh, well. Post your guess (ONE per customer, please) in the comments, and best of luck. I'll give the results tomorrow.

Soon, with that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Stupidity Is Your Gain!

Today, because I was stupid, I’m giving away a book.

Now, if every time I was stupid I gave away a book, the world’s libraries would be filled to overflowing. There are extenuating circumstances involved in this stupidity. The stupidity involves the book itself.

A couple of weeks ago, I was searching the internet for information concerning a comedian. I googled the name of this performer, and came upon a website devoted to him. I found out that the person who ran the website had written a biography of said comedian, and that the book was available at Amazon. I went to Amazon, where I had the opportunity to read the introduction and the prologue. It seemed to be fairly well written, and I decided to buy the book.

I inadvertently ordered it twice.

I got the book – the first time – and I’ve enjoyed reading about this entertainer. The book has given me a lot of background information I never knew, it contains numerous photos and family memorabilia that I wouldn’t have seen elsewhere, and it’s generally a good job by the author. If you’ve enjoyed this comedian’s work, you’ll find the book a pleasure.

But, DUH! I ordered the book twice. After having had the book for three days, another one arrived on my front porch today. I realize what I did. I had gone to Amazon, put the book in my shopping cart, and then went somewhere else on the internet before completing my order. I came back to Amazon, ordered a different book about something else altogether, and then said to myself, “Self, remember that book about the comedian? You should remember to get that book, too.” And so, I clicked it into my shopping cart a second time. I don’t know why I didn’t see the quantity ordered when I checked out, but I didn’t, and so the second copy – which had been on backorder - is now in my hands, and it’s lovely, but I have no earthly use for it.

My stupidity is your gain. You have a chance to own the book, for free.

My problem, though, is how to get the book into the hands of someone who really cares about this comedian. I could give you the name of the performer, but that would make it less likely that a real die-hard fan would get the book. Someone who merely likes the comedian might win the book, while someone who dearly loves him could be left out in the cold. So, that’s why I haven’t given any clue as to the performer’s name.

Here’s what you have to do to win the book. In the comments section, I want you to name a favorite comedian of yours. The first one of you to name this particular comedian will win the book. It’s that simple.

You may as well take a shot at it. It’s free, and you’ve got nothing to lose. Go ahead – name a comedian you like. You never know!

Truthfully, however, I don’t expect any of you to name this performer. His name is relatively obscure these days, recalled fondly by those, like myself, who heroicize old-time comedians. If you do name this person, you certainly deserve the book and you’ll treasure it.

ONE guess per comment, please, and only one guess per reader.

I’ll give some rudimentary clues:

1 – Although his name is fairly obscure now, he appeared in hundreds of films.

2 – He worked in films by some of the most famous comedy teams of all-time, some names you’d immediately recognize.

That’s as much information as I can give you without giving too much away, I think. If I gave you some of his physical characteristics, or specific comic bits for which he was known, that might make it too easy.

So, think of a film comedian you like - someone from the past - and take a guess. First person to name him wins the book!

Soon, with the answer and the winner.

P.S. If nobody wins the book right now, I’ll give more clues tomorrow and fix it so that somebody will definitely win the book. So, you may as well take a guess now and see if you can win the book before I do that! What have you got to lose?

Friday, September 17, 2010

From The Queen, To Meme, To Youyou

My wonderful bloggy friend, Lime, is The Queen Of Memes. Her answers to the ridiculous questions posed are always vastly entertaining, and just off-kilter enough to make me want to hug her - which I did when we met, as a matter of fact, and here's the photographic proof:

Yes, she is picking my nose. That's the kind of good buddies we immediately became upon our first physical meeting. I would have reciprocated, it being the gentlemanly thing to do, but MY WIFE was taking the picture. It isn't right for a man to stick part of his anatomy into another woman's openings while HIS WIFE is standing right there.

Anyway, Lime was given a meme to do, and she did it in her standard goofy-yet-intelligent fashion. You should go see the original. HERE IT IS.

I would assume that you went to her place and now you're back, but I know how things work here on teh interwebs. People pretend to have done things which they haven't at all, such as picking their friend's noses. So, if you're one of those people, I'll explain what you need to know. Lime was given eight questions to answer. She did so. She was then supposed to compose eight questions of her own, and tag eight other people to answer those questions. She did that, and I was one of the people she tagged. Now, normally - as you know if you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time - I would jump, using both pedal extremities, upon someone who tagged me to do a meme. If you need proof concerning this assertion, you could go HERE or HERE (or pretend to do so, if you're one of those people.) In this instance, however, I'm glad to have the excuse to fill space without having to be tremendously lucid. Since I've been more-or-less giving up smoking, my brain functioning quite not well is. This usually odious task will now allow me to write in short nonsensical bursts, as opposed to the rigorous theoretical dissertations for which I'm generally known, thus saving me from having to smoke until I make a joke about it later on, which I will.

(By the way, I italicized the word 'those' three times in that last paragraph. For some reason, I find that worth noting. Your mileage may vary.)

Well, I guess we should get on with this. Here are Lime's questions, conveniently followed by my brilliant-yet-accessible answers.

1. In 10 words or fewer explain the media fascination with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

Men like sluts. Women like dissing sluts. Media knows this.

2. Which of your coworkers most drives you to fantasies of homicidal rage and which irritating behavior from this individual is most likely to set your fancy to flight?

Surprisingly, none of my actual co-workers (or "quirkers", as MY WIFE likes to call them) drives me batty. They are all intelligent, funny, and ply me with cookies from time to time. However, there are a few folks with whom I have to deal, from outside of the office proper, who occasionally leave me with a burning desire to administer a dope slap. You'd be amazed at the number of actual professional voice talents who can't read...

3. Describe the art project you'd create if I gave you 3 dirty socks, a baggie of old bread wrapper twistie ties, a D cell battery, a pound of peanut shells, and a small bottle of dishwashing liquid. What message would you hope to convey to the masses with your great piece of art?

Hold on. This one requires actual thought. I need to re-up my nicotine levels.

[goes outside to have a smoke, then returns, thus fulfilling the promise, made above in the fourth paragraph, concerning a smoking joke]

Now that I've regained the ability to form cogent thought, I realize that this question is ridiculous. Therefore, I'll fill the dirty socks with the peanut shells, glue the twistie ties all over my naked body, shove the D cell battery up my ass, and squirt passers-by with the dishwashing liquid while beating them over the head with the dirty socks filled with peanut shells. I will call my work of performance art, "Man's Inhumanity To Man", and I expect that the same folks who found THIS a delightful piece of art...

... will argue endlessly over the meaning of the D cell's placement and lobby to get me a grant from the NEA.

(I have no idea who the artist is, but the image came from HERE, so that's where I give the credit until more info is available.)

4. For the next month you either have to go every where dressed in a mariachi jacket and neoprene pants or you have to enter every room, public or private, singing "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time." Which do you choose and why?

The clothes, because I don't know the song. However, I'll wear the jacket as a pair of pants, and use the pants for a hat, since it wasn't stipulated that I had to wear them as designed.

Loopholes! I love 'em!

5. Knock, knock. Who's there?


"Jesus who?"

"OK, you go to hell. Next!"

6. What would you do for a Klondike bar?

Haven't I done enough already?

7. Poof! You will now be a member of the opposite sex for the next month. What do you think you will learn? What do you hope to experience? What do you dread?

I will learn how much money a lesbian prostitute can make in 30 days. I hope to experience orgasm. I dread finding out that even lesbians fake it.

8. Fill in the blank. I really ought to___________ but instead I will__________.

I really ought to be working, but instead I will continue on with this meme.

Here's another photo of Lime and me. We're laughing with you, not at you (unless you're wearing a mariachi jacket and neoprene pants.)

And, in that spirit, here's the second part of the task. I have to create eight questions to be answered, and then tag eight of you poor suckers to answer them. Here goes...

1 - You have a choice. You can have your nose replaced with a second set of your genitals, or you can have your genitals replaced with a second nose. Which would you choose, and why?

2 - Do you think I give a tinker's damn?

3 - If you suddenly found yourself transformed into a cockroach, would you step on yourself?

4 - If fuschia was a smell, and avocados were polar bears, why not Toronto?

5 - Does the fact that Deep Purple isn't in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame piss you off? How about the fact that Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers ARE in there? I mean, come on, not a bad singing group, but that's like putting Eddie Brinkman in Cooperstown.

Eddie Brinkman, whom I really liked as a player, but come on...

6 - If you were Eddie Brinkman, would you be pissed off now?

7 - Artichokes or Hand Grenades?

8 - What's that smell?

And here's the part of the game we all dread. I name eight of you to actually try and answer the silly questions I've made up. I choose...


Blogged Down At The Moment

Eddie Bluelights

Land Of Shimp

Uncle Skip

Matt Conlon


and, last but not least (leaving the seven above to wonder which of them IS the least)

The Surly Writer (who hasn't been doing much writing lately, surly or otherwise, so maybe this will give her something to easily get back into the swing.)

(I wish I could see the look on each of their faces as they find out they've been chosen. I could probably go another twenty minutes without a cigarette if I had those surprised looks to amuse me.)

Soon, with appreciably better things, I would assume.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I wrote this in the early part of 2006, so anywhere I say "34 years", make it "40 years". I linked to its original posting in the body of my Monday piece, but it occurs to me now - from re-reading the relative lack of comments on this piece during its 2006 incarnation - that many (perhaps most) of you have never seen it before. It is excellent background, given my recent travails concerning smoking, and I consider it one of my more well-written pieces, period, so you'll probably find it entertaining as a stand-alone.

Also, I'm still incapable of concentrating for any appreciable length of time without having had a cigarette, and that limits my ability to write anything both new and good.

(New? Not a problem. Good? Problem.)

So, without any further ado - since you adon't need any of that - see what I mean about 'good'? - here's...


My Mother says that since I started doing this blog she's found out things concerning me that she never knew before, with the implication being that she didn't want to know them. Uh, Mom? Turn back now!


I've been a cigarette smoker for 34 years. That's a long time. 34 years. I should probably be dead by now, huh?

I smoke about a pack a day, usually Kools. If Kools aren't available, I'll take any menthol. I sometimes think I might be as hooked on menthol as I am on nicotine. The odd times when I've bought packs of non-menthol smokes, I find myself smoking more. It's as though my body is saying, "Hey! Where's that minty stuff that makes me breathe easier? Smoke another one and get me some, NOW!"

What has smoking done for me? I almost never go more than 5 minutes without coughing. I hack up lovely greenish-brown phlegm after any sort of exertion. I can't run more than the distance between home and first base without feeling as though I'm going to pop a lung. My right hand smells. My breath probably stinks. I'm sure my clothes aren't springtime fresh. My bedroom smells like a particularly vile ashtray - even I can smell it, after I've been out of it for a couple of days. I've probably spent more than $35,000 on cigarettes; the sort of money that could have bought a very nice house, at the time I started. I have a continually nagging worry about some sort of disease eating away the tools of my livelihood - my tongue, my throat, my lungs. I know I'm not doing my heart any favors and, considering the history of heart disease in my family, I could just as easily be dropping dead in the middle of this sentence as completing it. When I wake up, I have to have a cigarette before I feel normal. I spend extra hours out in the snow in winter and the broiling heat in summer because I can't smoke indoors where I work. My teeth are at least a couple of shades darker than they should be - even my implants. And, when I get down to two or three left in a pack, I plan my itinerary around getting to a store to buy more.

Other than that, it's been good for me and I really enjoy it.


I had my first cigarette when I was 14. It wasn't a Kool; it was a Marlboro.

I had been playing hockey on the Neponset River in Dorchester, Massachusetts, with a bunch of my friends. The game actually took place on a small inlet of still water off to the side of the main body of the river. We called it "the lagoon", and I guess that's what it was. It was surrounded by grass, dirts and reeds on three sides and a railroad bridge, under which the river itself flowed, on the fourth. You gained access to the lagoon by following some train tracks from Central Avenue, going as far as the beginning of the railroad bridge, and then climbing down the bank. The lagoon froze solid much sooner than the river itself ever did.

Except, this time, it hadn't quite frozen solid enough to completely handle the weight of eight teenage boys in skates. I was playing goal. After we had been on the ice for about three minutes, there was a rush towards my end. As the teams battled for the puck in front of my net (that is, the two rocks I had set up on the ice and between which I was standing) there was an ominous creaking sound. Anyone familiar with frozen ponds or rivers knows that sound and knows that it isn't good. We all looked at each other with alarm in our eyes and then started scrambling for shore, but the ice gave way and we took a dip into the frigid water beneath the ice.

Everybody made it to shore safely, none the worse for wear aside from being sopping wet. I was soaked from the waist down, but had been close enough to the riverbank to gain shore, among the reeds and dirt, without going deeper than my waist. It was the same for everyone else except the other goalie. Being at the far end of the ice, he had gone in up to his chin.

After we all caught our breath, we took off our skates and exchanged them for the boots we had left on the bank. We walked back up the railroad tracks, wondering what we were going to tell our parents. Most of us were under orders to NOT skate on the river. Looking back, this seems like a reasonable enough request for parents to make of their kids - don't drown yourself - but to us it seemed silly. We knew enough to not skate on the actual river, for goodness' sakes, unless the temps had been below freezing for a month solid. Anyway, the lagoon was shallow enough that, even if we fell in, we wouldn't be in any real danger - so long as we weren't right out at the edge where the current might sweep us under the railroad bridge, down the river to the falls, where we would go flying over, dropping 20 feet onto the rocks and discarded shopping carts in the water and getting mangled beyond all recognition.

Still, here we were, all wet. We were all facing at least a tongue-lashing, if not an outright beating for those of us with less-enlightened parents than myself. We had to figure out some way to get into our houses without our folks finding out how dopey we were. We figured the best way to do this was to stay out until our clothes dried and then go home.

The problem, of course, is that wet clothes do not dry when you're outside on a freezing day. What they do is freeze. We were now not only in peril for our lives (sort of) but in extreme discomfort. Our pants, our socks, our underwear were all starting to become stiff and causing us no small discomfort. This was especially true in some places that teenage boys really don't want discomfort of that sort, having not had the opportunity to use the affected equipment to full advantage yet. I, personally, had visions of my stuff freezing and breaking off.

(Even so, I was still more concerned with what my parents would say. I imagined myself standing in front of them, a tragically underused pink popsicle in my hands, and my father telling me, "Well, let that be a lesson to you! The next time you've got a dick, you'll think twice before disobeying us and skating on the river!")

At the other end of the railroad tracks, back by the Central Avenue station, was the Hendrie's Ice Cream factory. One of us remembered that there were these huge industrial exhaust fans that blew out from the factory and he got the idea that maybe we could sit in front of these fans and actually have a shot at drying off. This sounded reasonable. Just about anything, aside from facing our parents or having our nuts freeze, would have sounded reasonable just then. So, we headed for Hendrie's.

Thing was, the fans blew out from the second floor of the factory. In front of the fans there was a ledge where we could sit. However, to get to the ledge, we had to climb onto the roof of the station, make our way over to the edge, and then hop onto the ledge. What the hell. We were already wet, freezing, facing the prospect of frostbitten genitals, and we had parents waiting for us at home who might or might not lop off our heads, so what was the additional risk of a broken neck to that? Luckily, it was a Sunday afternoon in Massachusetts during a time when the blue laws were still almost wholly in effect. There was almost no traffic on Central Avenue and nobody at all in the station. We hopped up onto a couple of newspaper boxes and from there boosted ourselves up on top of the station. From there, we clambered across the roof and hopped onto the ledge in front of the fans.

The fans weren't blowing particularly warm air, but it was warmer than we were so it was better than nothing. We didn't give any thought to what sort of noxious gases the fans might be expelling. It was an ice cream factory. What could be unhealthy for you there? We sat, shivering and miserable, and I didn't know if I was actually getting drier or if I was just losing the feeling in my extremities.

After we had been there for about an hour, and as the sun was beginning to set - bringing the temperature down a bit more as it did - Ricky Feeley pulled a pack of Marlboros from the inner pocket of his coat. He had taken his coat off prior to the game, leaving it on the riverbank with his boots, so it wasn't wet at all. He took a cigarette out of the pack and, with a pack of matches advertising the exciting possibility of earning your high school diploma at home and never having to attend school again, he lit it.

This was something new and astonishing. We stared at him with unbridled admiration. Until now, none of us had ever seen anyone but our parents smoke. His stock continued to rise as he blew out huge white clouds, occasionally making a ring appear. He appeared contented beyond belief. The rest of us were now not only cold and wet, but envious as well.

To Ricky's everlasting credit, he saw our looks and decided to share his joy. He took out the pack again and extracted seven more cigarettes, handing one to each of us. One or two of us were hesitant, but he assuaged any fears we had by explaining that it would make us warmer. Well, this made sense! It was something that was on fire, after all, and if we sucked it into our bodies, we'd have to get warmer, right? So, we all passed around the educational matches and lit up.

Of course, none of us knew the actual mechanics involved in really smoking, except for Ricky, so we puffed a bit of smoke into our mouths and blew it out, the smoke never reaching our lungs. Ricky saw this and got mad, explaining that we were wasting his cigarettes by not getting the full advantage of the experience. He showed us how to inhale the smoke, saying that you pulled the smoke into your mouth and then, before blowing it out, you inhaled sharply, propelling the smoke down into your lungs. Then, you blew it out of your mouth - or your nose, if you were really cool and which he demonstrated.

We all tried this. And we all hacked our heads off. Looking back, it's amazing to me how anyone ever gets hooked on these things. You have to make a concerted effort to poison yourself; it doesn't come naturally at all. We coughed, and our eyes teared up, and if we were getting warmer it wasn't without the added excitement of feeling as though we were going to upchuck, but we soldiered on, learning the intricacies of such things as French inhales and generally feeling very sophisticated and grown up, even though we were sitting on a second-story ledge in wet clothes avoiding our parents.

As it turned out, we never completely dried off, but we got dry enough to not drip all over our floors and carpets when we finally went home, so we avoided whatever punishment we so richly deserved. An added benefit of sitting in front of the fans, of course, was that we also didn't stink of smoke when we went home, otherwise we would have no doubt received a punishment even more severe than that we would have gotten for falling in the river.

As I lay in a warm bed that night, a good dinner digesting in my belly and my folks watching Mission: Impossible downstairs, I made plans to acquire my very own pack of smokes the next day. And, here I am 34 years later, not one hell of a lot smarter than I was then. The only difference is that I now smoke menthol cigarettes.

I've come a long way, baby.


Update for September, 2010 - I'm still averaging around 6 cigarettes a day since last Thursday. I've been able to lay off of them, while at work, much more so than I initially thought I might. And thanks for all of the prayers, encouragement, well-wishes, advice, and other heartfelt missives. I've truly appreciated each and every one.

Soon, with more better stuff, I hope.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Success? Not Quite. Failure? Not Quite That, Either.

[This is not a short story, an anecdote, or an opinion piece. It’s a state of mind. I’m typing whatever thoughts occur to me during my attempt at quitting smoking. There will be no editing of this document. Therefore, if you find grammatical errors, misspellings, poor sentence constructions, or obviously not-fully-thought-out thoughts, please congratulate me on being able to retain my usual style despite the pressure.]


6:59 am

Amazing. I didn’t set my alarm this morning, but I still awoke within a minute of when it is set to go off on a workday. If this is any indication of how my body reacts to change, this isn’t going to be easy.

I’m trying to quit smoking. I’ve been a smoker for forty years.

(If you’d like to find out how I started smoking, you could read this tale of adolescence. I’ve been told it’s entertaining, and I don’t see any reason to doubt my mother.)

Anyway, I took a couple of days off from work in order to give myself the best chance at succeeding. This is the morning of the first day, then there’s Friday, then the weekend. That’s four days.


I figure four days should be enough of a start to give me a real chance at continuing to not smoke when I return to work. The problem there is that I’ve become quite used to taking five or six breaks a day to go outside and puff tobacco. I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with myself if I have to sit inside of the office for 9 hours straight.

Well, yeah, sure, I could work, but I do that now. Although there’s no heavy lifting, my job is sometimes very taxing mentally, and it’s done more efficiently if the person doing it is allowed a break when he or she needs to clear the mind and relax a bit. I’m going to have to learn how to do that without smoking.

(It occurs to me that I’ve never held a job at which I didn’t smoke. I can’t remember a single one.)

The thing I need to do, now, is stay busy. I need to keep my mind occupied as much as possible. The thought I need to retain is that I am free to do anything I wish, except smoke a cigarette.

Seems easy, but even when 99.99% of your entire body isn’t itchy, you still desperately want to scratch the 00.01% that is.

8:38 am

I just finished four slices of peanut butter toast and a big glass of milk. I always – ALWAYS – have a cigarette after eating. My lungs are very surprised at the moment.

Eating will be a problem for a little while, and not just because of my penchant for after dinner air pollution. I fully expect to eat more often, and I am ready to gain some poundage. I’ll trade the weight gain for the smoking cessation, if need be. I know I can lose the weight later. I’ve dieted before and been successful. I’ve never quit smoking, so I’ll take the one I know I can do in order to do the one I don’t.

Holy Mackerel, Andy! I don’t know what that means, but it sure is a mouthful!

9:39 am

I watched a couple of Edgar Kennedy short subjects on DVD. Very funny guy, unjustly forgotten. Not the point, though. One of the characters was smoking. I was laughing right along until then. Not that I became morose, but it reminded me that no matter how much of a sealed vacuum I might try to create, smoke would creep in.

It was the same way twenty years ago when I gave up cocaine. For a few months, every time I saw a scene in a movie or on TV of people doing coke, I could fairly much taste it. If you give up something, but others are still doing it, you have to live with it.

I have the feeling that sounds banal, trite. I think I’m feeling a little tired, actually. I’m going to go back to bed and take a nice nap.

(One of the perks of not being at work!)

1:03 pm

Had a very short nap, and then decided to go get a haircut. I couldn’t find a parking space by the barbershop, so I drove home in a haze. I shouldn’t be driving. My ability to focus on the task at hand is miniscule. My thoughts go flying off in twenty different directions at once.

I’ve come to the conclusion that keeping a diary of this experience is not as…

Fuck it, I can’t even think of the word I want. It stinks, is what it does, or is, or will be. So, I’ll write if I feel like it, but I’m not going to chronicle every little thing I do. That would be boring in the extreme.

And the crowds cheered as I shut off the computer.

5:42 pm

Put some laundry in the washing machine. Before that, I put the first dose of nicotine and tar in my lungs.

All day, I fought the urge to have one. I feel almost normal again. For the first time today, I can think without my thoughts disintegrating into little shards of muted panic.

I also feel guilty.

I can rationalize. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve done well so far. I went 11 hours, minus some short naptime, without a smoke. That’s the longest I’ve gone without one in perhaps six or seven years. The last time I went that long was when I joined a group that tried to quit smoking. The Town of Watertown sponsored it. I went to pre-quitting meetings, and then quit at the same time as the rest of the group, on a Saturday. I lasted most of that day, but was in a foul mood the whole time. When I finally had a cigarette, I felt like a curse had been lifted.

Today, I was in a decent mood most of the day. I think that’s because it was my decision to quit, and I wasn’t part of some government-sponsored behavior modification thing paid for by my taxes. In this case, it has been solely on my own initiative, and that gave me more gratification. The first time I broke the fast, though, it made me feel worse about myself, whereas the previous experience had left me feeling less guilty.

I feel physically normal now. It won’t last, though, and that scares me. I know I’ll start feeling the urge, and I’ll again not be able to truly focus my thoughts. I’m going to try to get through the rest of the day having had just the one cigarette all day, and then maybe tomorrow morning I’ll have a bit less of a craving. I hope so.


7:36 am

I wound up having four cigarettes yesterday. However, I’ve had none so far today, and I’ve been up for almost fifteen minutes!

My willpower is the stuff of legend.

I’m OK with having had the four cigarettes yesterday. I generally smoke a pack a day.

(I’m wonderfully consistent in poisoning myself. Any time I don’t obsess about the number, I look into the pack I’m working on, do the math, and find that I’ve had between 17 and 23 smokes by the time I go to bed. For ease of calculation and conversation, I say I smoke a pack a day. If you’re unfamiliar with smoking, a pack is 20 cigarettes.)

What I have a problem with is that I woke up this morning with just as much of a craving as I woke with yesterday. I truly don’t look forward to another fight against that, not being able to focus, everything I do not occupying my thoughts enough to keep my thoughts on track, stumbling around the house aimlessly from one uncompleted task to begin another, and seeing that about seven minutes have elapsed every time I think it’s been an hour.

If I could write coherently – or more coherently than I am – that would help. I truly can’t think of the words I want. I really cannot.

So, I’m going to shut up for a while. I’ll come back if I have anything important to tell you.

You know my style by now. Insert your own joke.

9:19 am

This is turning into a journal of failure. I had a smoke a couple of minutes ago.

I had given MY WIFE a ride to the bus stop in Watertown Square, and I was planning on going grocery shopping from there. Problem was, when I got to the store, I realized I had forgotten our reusable grocery bags. I decided to drive home and get them. As I did so, I once again realized how out of it I am when I don’t have a dose of nicotine in my system. I felt as though I were driving drunk. Well, maybe not drunk, but not quite sober, either - somewhere unsafe in-between.

Anyway, I decided to do the shopping later. I pulled the car into our garage and went inside. I had some toast…

I should probably mention that I’ve given up coffee for the time being. I connect having a cup of coffee with having a cigarette, so I decided it would be best to substitute tea. The tea will give me enough caffeine to stave off the headache I’d get from not having coffee. Also, the lessened intake of caffeine will make it easier for me to sleep, and sleeping is my great ally right now. The more I sleep, and the more soundly I sleep, the fewer cigarettes I’ll crave. I usually wake two or three times in the night and have a cigarette each time. The one thing I’ve done, and I’m proud of, is not having a cigarette at any time during the past two nights. When I’ve awoken, I’ve had a drink of water and gone back to bed without smoking. That’s a small victory.

MY WIFE wondered, during our ride to her bus, if I shouldn’t see a doctor and perhaps get a prescription for some sort of aide. She mentioned Chantrix, I believe, which I think is Wellbutrin. I might be mistaken on that. Anyway, I said that I don’t have any intention of seeing a doctor until after I’ve quit. I hate going to see doctors. No matter what you go to them for, they always give you a lecture about not smoking. MY WIFE didn’t understand my current reluctance. She thinks it doesn’t make sense to still not want to see a doctor if I’m going to tell the doctor that my purpose in seeing him is to quit. The problem is that I’m a contrarian by nature. I would feel defeated if I went to a doctor and told him that I was quitting. Somehow, it would seem as though he had won. What I want is to have already quit, and then when I go to the doctor, and he says, “You should quit smoking”, I’ll be able to tell the son of a bitch that I don’t smoke.

I am some kind of fucked up mentally.

Anyway, I decided that I’m in no shape to drive, and my mind can’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds. So, I had a smoke. Now I can focus again. And before that feeling wears off, I’m headed to the store. See you later.

10:46 am

Back from shopping, where I picked up mallomars, thin mints, barbecue chicken pizzas, good humor ice cream bars, and other assorted oral substitutes with which I shall blow myself up like a balloon.

I feel I should explain something about the cigarettes I’ve had. You may be wondering where I got them. Didn’t I clean out the house before quitting, throwing away ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes, etc.? Yes, I did. And if yesterday had been trash day – which it usually is – I would have been less tempted. However, since Labor Day fell on Monday of this week, trash day was pushed back to Friday. And when I was tempted on Thursday night, I knew all I had to do was go into the trash and retrieve the final pack of smokes I had thrown out. So, I broke open the trash bag and took them out.

Yes, I broke open a trash bag, stuck my arm in amongst the rotten tomatoes, putrid bits of raw chicken fat, used handkerchiefs, and shitloads of ashes and smelly butts, and then rewarded myself for performing such a feat by smoking a poisonous weed. I could actually feel my IQ lowering as I did it.

5:52 pm

I’m not really sure why I even turned on the computer. I don’t have much to say.

I’ve had three cigarettes today. That’s not bad. It’s not perfection, either. Anyway, the smokes that were remaining in the pack I pulled from the trash are now gone. If I have another cigarette, it will be because I consciously made the decision to go into a store and buy some. I hope I don’t.

I’m going to eat some mallomars and thin mints. See you later.


7:25 am

I made the conscious decision to go into a store and buy some. That was last night. I had two from the pack, for a total of five for Friday. That makes it nine I’ve had during the past 48 hours. I’d usually average about forty. It’s not COLD turkey, but maybe it’s room temperature.

(Anybody know the origin of that phrase?)

I’ve decided that having a cigarette every four or five hours, if I need one to think, isn’t the worst thing I can do. If I can get through the day without a single one, fine. If I have three or four, though, I’m OK with that, too, at least for now.

Are you disappointed in me? I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but I’m also proud of what I’ve accomplished. The numbers are somewhat impressive, and I know the sort of semi-shakes I’ve been having. I’d rather have had zero and been able to crow about it, but the small number I’ve had would make me feel very proud except for my having broadcast to every Middlesex tavern and farm my intention of quitting, thus setting myself up for either huge applause when I succeeded or huge humiliation when I failed. Ego is a harsh mistress.

I’m losing it again. I write more than a couple of paragraphs, without nicotine input, and I feel as though my verbal skills have reverted to grade school. My writing skills, I mean. And it’s not that I can’t communicate at all, just that I can’t express myself with the ability I have at my command when my mind isn’t making that sound from the end of “Killer” by Alice Cooper.

(If I could embed that sound here, you’d know what I mean.)

Fluffbrain, over and out for now.

8:25 pm

I’m back from attending the BC – Kent State football game at Alumni Stadium. I went with my good buddy for many years, Sean Flaherty.

Sean and I have an odd relationship. We’ve been friends since high school, and we’ve been in bands together. We really enjoy each other’s company, and I can’t think of any time when we’ve had a serious argument. We’re the best of friends, but we see each other once or twice a year, at most, and we used the occasion of seeing this football game as an excuse to finally exchange Christmas presents from last year. We both gave each other books about baseball, as it turned out.

The point, as if I had one, is that we met at Marketing Messages in Newton, my place of employment. From there, we went to the game. While I was waiting for Sean to arrive, I went up to my office and read the many kind comments left for me on this blog. The wonderful community on the blogosphere consistently amazes me. To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Also, I visited the wonderful website, Universal Hub, a Boston-centric compendium of news and pointers to other interesting sites. I knew that Adam Gaffin, who runs U-Hub, had posted about my attempt to quit, and I had heard from MY WIFE – who had heard from a colleague of hers – that many folks over there were rooting for me to succeed. I have my (friendly, mostly) arguments with some folks there, but the comments were unfailingly supportive. I truly appreciated that.

The scoreboard for the day? I had one smoke at about 8:45 in the morning. The next was at 1:40, and I had that one as a public service. I had to drive to meet Sean. I had no desire to endanger other drivers, so I had a cigarette. It allowed me better concentration while behind the wheel. I had another one I probably shouldn’t have allowed myself, at 2:15, when Sean arrived and just before going to the game. From that point, I didn’t have another one until arriving back at my car in Newton at 7:15. That makes four, total, for the day thus far. I expect I’ll probably have another just before bed, but maybe I’ll be able to go without it. We’ll see.

There’s one other thing I want to mention before I forget about it. My boss, Rich Snider, is a mensch. He gave me a call this morning, at home, just to see how I was doing. He quit smoking years ago, he truly cares about my doing so, and I am very grateful for that. He made me an interesting offer last week. He said that if I felt the need for outside help, he knew a good hypnotist. He made the very generous offer to pay for my first session, and he said that if I felt I needed the help, at any time, the offer was on the table. He’s something special. Of course, I’m coming up on twenty years at Marketing Messages, and I wouldn’t have stuck around for that long unless I liked him.

So, three day total will be either 13 or 14 cigarettes. And the cravings are lesser than they were the first day. I haven’t been successful at completely stopping, but I think I may soon be. I’ll try to go as long as possible tomorrow. We’ll see.


8:06 am

I have a feeling that, so far, this has been wordy but not especially compelling, a journal of slight success and moderate inconvenience. It’s hardly the modern day Confessions Of An English Opium Eater, and The Basketball Diaries doesn’t have to worry about its position in the pantheon of addiction literature. What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I’m wishy-washy.

Honestly, I’d love to have given you a heroic tale, but I just didn’t have it in me to completely abandon my sanity. I suppose if there’s been one consistent thread here, it would be that a lack of the chemicals in tobacco smoke leaves me unable to concentrate. As a matter of fact, I’m finding that to be the case right now. It’s taken me about twenty minutes to write these two paragraphs. I can either have a smoke and write some more, or fight it and not.

I’m choosing not to have one, so no more writing until later. It’s too frustrating.

7:23 pm

I’ve had five cigarettes today. Again, driving was required - MY WIFE and I attended a play in downtown Boston - so two of those smokes were ingested for the safety of everybody else on the road, one for the trip in and one for the trip back. I just finished the fifth one, so I figured I’d write a bit while my head was in a place to do so.

I’m unhappy that I couldn’t just quit. I probably could have toughed it out a bit more, and gone without a couple of those I’ve had during these four days, but, on the other hand, I’m a little bit proud of how many times I wanted one and I did tough it out. Getting down to an average of five or six smokes a day is one hell of a lot better than doing a pack a day. And I’ve done it without any sort of help or aid. I don’t have perfect willpower, by any means, but I’ve come up with more than I have at any time in the past.

I mentioned earlier that I quit for a day a few years ago. The longest I’ve ever gone without a cigarette during the forty years I’ve been smoking is a day and a half. I did that about fifteen years ago. I’ve never gone through a four-day stretch on as few cigarettes as I’ve had during this four-day stretch. And I’m sure I can keep it at this level of five or six a day. If I do that for a while, and get my body truly used to the lower levels of nicotine, maybe I can make the step to complete abstinence sometime in the near future. Maybe I’ll get a prescription aid, or try that hypnotist.

By the way, somebody – I’m not sure if here, or at Universal Hub - mentioned The Mad Russian. For those unfamiliar with who he is, he’s famous in the Boston area for helping people to quit smoking. He doesn’t advertise HIMSELF as The Mad Russian, but he’s known more by that sobriquet than by his actual name. Anyway, lots of folks have been through a session with him and quit. Many people swear by his treatments. I went to him once, about twelve years ago as I recall, and it was utterly unsuccessful for me. I had a smoke almost as soon as I left his office, and didn’t even cut down as a result of my visit to him. Similarly, I took part in a group hypnosis session once. Some people quit smoking after that session, one of them a relative of mine. Me? Again, I had a smoke on the drive home and the supposed hypnosis had no effect whatsoever on my levels of nicotine intake. I still smoked a pack or more the day after. I don’t think I was hypnotized, but I’ve heard you don’t really know if you’ve been hypnotized or not. Whatever the case, it didn’t help. Perhaps a one-on-one session with a hypnotist would do something to help, and maybe I’ll find out about that.

The bottom line is that I believe I’m on the right track this time. I’m getting through the night without having a smoke whenever I wake up. I can shave, shower, get dressed, and whatever else I have to do in the morning, without having a cigarette. Those are big steps for me.

As you read this, I’m at work on Monday. That will be tough. At home, if I want to have a smoke, but I want to fight the urge, I can do whatever I want to take my mind off of it. At work, I won’t have that option. All I can do is suffer through the craving and hope it passes somewhat quickly. If I have to have a smoke – that is, if I really WANT one, because I know I don’t HAVE to have one – I can go outside and have one, like I’ve always done, and see if the lesser amount of smokes I’ve had the past four days will lead to me wanting one less often during my work day. I hope so.

I’m fairly certain this has been long, but not especially entertaining. If I had quit completely, it would have at least been gratifying to those of you who wanted me to do so. And I didn’t give out with huge amounts of anger or cursing, which would have at least been something to keep it interesting.

I gave it a good shot, if not my best shot, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for caring about me. I’ll give it my best to maintain at this level, and then give quitting another shot soon – very soon – and probably avail myself of some help when I do.

I guess that’s about all for now. Thanks for giving me an ear.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

40 Years Is Enough, I Think

The sign of a truly dedicated athlete is the smoke in his hand!

As you read this, I am not at work and I am somewhat uncomfortable. Today I am attempting to quit smoking.

Before I say anything else, let me give reassurance to those of you who want it. I’m not quitting because I’ve been told I must. I didn’t go to a doctor and hear him say, "Quit now or you’re going to die!" No, I’m quitting because I want to be a non-smoker. I’m tired of being slave to a weed.

I enjoy smoking, for the most part. That’s why it’s going to make me uncomfortable to quit. Cigarettes are my reward when I’ve accomplished something good, and they are my solace when something doesn’t go right. When I want to relax or take a break, cigarettes provide my excuse. A smoke is my aide when involved in strenuous mental activity (not a common occurrence within my head, as you know, but still...)

It's going to be hard to never again look like this...

I am deadly tired, though, of carrying cigarettes wherever I go, and planning ahead to make sure that I have enough cigarettes to last me through whatever I’m going to do. I’m sick of going to a sporting event, or a movie, or a concert, or some other place where smoking is not allowed, and intermittently ruining my enjoyment of the event by wondering how long I have to wait until it ends and I can have my next smoke. I hate going out to dinner - with friends or family who are unfailingly solicitous of my behavior, by the way – and sucking down a hurried last dose of nicotine before entering the restaurant, and then lighting up as soon as I get out the door afterwards (or, even worse, excusing myself from the table, between finishing my entrée and ordering dessert, in order to go out and suck on a cancer stick.)

Mostly, I want to quit because it has become more of a pain in the ass for me to continue than I would like it to be. For instance, MY WIFE and I have a vacation planned for October. We will be flying to Chicago, and staying a week. And you know what really sucks about airline travel, aside from everything else about airline travel? Not smoking. And it’s not just the inability to have a cigarette while on the flight. That I can generally deal with since it is a delineated period, supposedly beginning at a scheduled time and ending at a scheduled time (although we all know that isn’t always the case.) As long as I know I’m going to be sealed inside of a tin can for a certain length of time, I can usually make my peace with that. But, damn, ever since 9/11 there’s an indeterminate eon before the damn flight when you can’t smoke, too, since you have to get to the airport two hours earlier, to subject yourself to various scans and searches, and if you really feel the need to go outside and have a smoke, rather than sit like a lump in the airport waiting area for two hours, you have to subject yourself to searches all over again, and the security folks look at you as though you have personally insulted them each additional time you come through and I’m not interested in tempting them to do a strip search. Then, at the other end of the journey, no cigarettes until after you claim your baggage. And, believe me when I tell you, I’ve left my luggage at the mercy of thieves, more than once, by ducking outdoors to have a smoke before getting my bags. Anyway, big-time pain in the ass. And that’s the sort of thing that makes quitting a less-onerous pain in the ass, for me, now.

(Admitting that rankles me. That’s because there are a certain amount of do-gooder busybodies out there who have spent their puckered lives making folks like me more miserable in the hope that the misery inflicted by them would accumulate to a point where I would consider quitting less of a pain. If there’s one overwhelming reason for me to continue smoking, it’s to prove those sorts of assholes utterly and completely wrong, and if it took my contracting cancer and emphysema to do so, so be it.

OK, that’s idiotic, but it truly pisses me off that any interfering and overly-officious state-sponsored dickweed might take my quitting to mean that his persistence in tormenting me worked to modify my behavior. Fair warning: If anyone from the government takes credit for my quitting, I’ll mutilate him.)

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing today (and tomorrow, and over the weekend.) I’ll be back to work on Monday, and I’ll have kept a diary of my non-smoking experience. It should be chock full of invective, obscenities, and other fun things.

Soon, with that.

So handsome and sophisticated! Will you still recognize me?