Those People

I’m slowly shutting down my Facebook account, although in a minor way. I’m just switching to my professional page and letting the personal one die, in terms of updating. I’ll keep the news feeds of family and some friends, people I like to hear from, but mostly it’ll be just me. I’ll post what I want but I won’t have to read which of my friends became friends with someone else, or comments from their idiot friends on something they’ve posted, or an obvious hoax that makes me roll my eyes.

Politics too. I’m a big fan of America, like to learn about all of it, geography to government to politics to flora and fauna. I’m amazed at the home of my birth, and its history. Which is far from perfect but still fascinating and a noble effort. Good try, Founders! We’re hanging in there.

But this particular presidential election, as weird and novel as it is, leaves me cold. Just can’t get excited, don’t really care what anyone thinks, pretty sure I know how it turns out, etc. Can’t avoid that going forward, as much as I try. It’s not that I don’t think people should refrain from expressing their opinions (I wish they would, because it makes no difference and turns social media into soapboxes). I just am not interested.

And then there’s the bigotry. That irritates and embarrasses me a lot.

I had relatives who were wonderful to me and many other people, and were just vile racists. I am certainly not alone. So I’m used to the strange contradiction; people are complicated and have odd, often hateful ideas when they can be really nice and sometimes smart people.

I’m talking about religious bigotry, and specifically Christian bigotry. I don’t have a dog in this hunt; it’s the majority religion (if dwindling) in this country, and is easily fair game. The Simpsons do (or used to do) this beautifully; they satirized everything, including religion, but they incorporated it into the mainstream and never got nasty. Ned Flanders seemed awfully silly, saying grace in the drive-through lane at McDonald’s, but he was a good and decent man who tried very hard to be the best person he could be. And so on. Rev. Lovejoy was a tad bit cynical and jaded, but I’ve known plenty of ministers like that. It was a fine jab in the ribs to religion, as well as to pretty much everything else.

The person who objects to a mosque being built in their neighborhood, or assumes all Muslims are terrorists in training, are morons but they’re consistent in their bigotry. The ones I speak of are not.

The ones I speak of, in fact, would be horrified and outraged about the above reaction. And yet they could simply replace the faith system – turn it from an obviously Christian meme, for example, to one focusing on Islam (they pray 5 times a day! And face a particular direction! How stupid and primitive is that!) – and they’d be just as horrified.

And object, of course, and point toward the Duck people or Mike Huckabee or whomever, as if they represent any significant fraction of American Christianity.

Anyway. I don’t want to give it any more words. I love these people, the way I would love a racist uncle. I’d just try to avoid him as much as possible so I didn’t end up feeling too negative, so that’s part of it right there. I don’t want to think bad things about these people, who can’t seem to control themselves.

And I’m tired of messing with Facebook, trying to hide certain posts and still stay in touch. I’ve tried pointing out the inherent bigotry and the multiple straw men, and I just don’t have the energy anymore. Hate the ones you’re going to hate, I guess. Go to a Trump rally; it’s none of my business.

But don’t pretend it’s intellectual analysis. It’s bigotry. No time for it, sorry.

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Placeboing

Photo Mar 10, 10 11 58 AM_editedI have a pharmacist. His name is Ben. He’s very pleasant and personable.

I’ve seen him a couple of times a month at least for the past few years. Before that I had another pharmacist, but she had a baby. And so it goes.

If things are slow at the pharmacy and I’m not in a hurry, sometimes Ben and I will have a conversation, usually pharmaceutical in nature. My wife and son both take chronic medications, and since I’m the runner of errands in this household, I usually am the one who picks them up. The medications. I can’t really pick up my son. I might be able to pick up my wife. You know what I mean anyway.

One of our recent conversations had to do with me not really being a customer. That is, I don’t take chronic medication. I take very little in the way of medication at all; the occasional ibuprofen if I’m sore or have a headache. It just isn’t an issue.

And it hasn’t been in a while, certainly long before Ben’s time as my pharmacist. I think the last time I filled a prescription for myself was in 2008, after minor surgery. So far, so good.

That’s the up side. No medications, no problems. Blood pressure fine, cholesterol fine. I could probably take a low-dose aspirin daily – and sometimes I try to remember to do that – and statistically tilt the odds in my favor, but the odds of what? I’m not a likely candidate for cardiovascular disease.

The down side, of course, in having a relationship with the local pharmacist is that if I need or want a medication that I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable with leaving out on the coffee table, say, well. Ben’s gonna know about it.

Not that I see this on the horizon. But horizons are funny things. I think about it, anyway.

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The only thing I’ve taken for this recent cold has been ibuprofen, and I’m not sure why I did even that. I wasn’t aching and had no fever; it just seemed like a proactive thing to do for a few days.

The other bottles you see up there in the picture are herbal medicines, or herbal something, and that’s new. I’m not sure I’ll be putting them on the coffee table.

I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to alternative medicine. For one thing, I believe in science.

Actually, that’s the only thing.

But it’s not complete nonsense. Melatonin has been pretty persuasively established as a sleep aid, for example. My wife and son both take it at night with their other meds, along with some herbal tea for my wife.

I don’t usually have sleep problems, though. I’ve developed a solid routine and hygiene, staying away from screens and not going to bed until I’m ready to sleep. It works for me.

When I travel, though, it’s sometimes another story. The last time I visited Texas, I had a rough time. Big-time insomnia, up every night until 3 or 4 a.m.

So this last trip, my daughter introduced me to her personal sleep cocktail, 10 mg of melatonin and 400 mg of L-theanine, which is an active ingredient in green tea. I could just drink green tea but I don’t like it. L-theanine carries other claims, such as stress reduction, an antihypertensive effect, and various other psychoactive properties. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to neurotransmitter receptors, such as glutamine and GABA. It’s a feel-good supplement, although Beth swore that the combination produced very nice sleep for her.

So I tried it. I slept very well. Deeply, in fact, even if less than I preferred.

I bought some, then. Just in case I have problems at some point.

I just don’t really accept that Big Woo-Woo offers me anything except a belief system. Maybe this combination of melatonin and L-theanine produces, in me, a calming, sedating, sleepy effect. Maybe it does nothing and I just think it does.

It’s just that I can’t figure out what the difference is. Assuming no harm (and there’s no evidence of harm, at least at normal dosages), if I’m fooling myself into relaxing enough to sleep well by swallowing gel caps consisting of green tea extract, I’m perfectly happy to be the fool.

And Ben agrees with me, so there. That’s what a personal pharmacist is for.

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Recapping the Road

A week ago at this time my mom and I were getting close to the El Paso and the New Mexico border, a long day but another easier trip as I engaged my inner Great Santini and his persistent pre-dawn beginnings to road trips (RIP Pat Conroy, who modeled Santini after his own, rigid and militaristic father). Those first three hours in the darkness and gradual lightening seemed to fly by, the only cog in the flywheel (I don’t know what a flywheel is, really) being that we both seemed to have acquired a cold. Both Beth and Bix were on the mend from what looked to be a similar illness, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. I ate a Whataburger and chocolate shake, then crawled into bed in the hotel room and stayed there. The next day was better.

And then it got worse, and better again, and it’s still hanging around, but still: I spent a wonderful week with family, and if I came away with a minor cold it was a perfectly acceptable trade-off. Although I wish it would go away.

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My daughter, who has plenty to do, only occasionally has murmured a little about her concern that I was looking a little frail, and always aware that diabetes has a genetic component (and there’s a family history of autoimmune disorders, as Type I is, although only with the female members) she decided in Seattle to check my blood sugar. It was a reasonably fasting study and I got a reading of 70, normal if a tad low.

So she sent me home from Austin with a spare Accu-Chek, asking me to keep an eye on it. I did, never opposed to new information, and it was fine. Fasting of 90, up to nearly 100 after breakfast, then a big spike after a huge lunch to 120 and then 140 before dropping rapidly back to the 90s. Exactly the way my endocrine system should behave, particularly if I’m going to shove a few 100 g of carbs in all at once.

So that’s off the table. And blood pressure is fine, and assuming I have similar lab results on my next physical compared to previous years, I’m aging in an unremarkable way. Not that I can rule out disease out of the blue, like leukemia or multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s or anything else scary I can think of, but for the moment I’m in good shape, knock on wood.

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And it was an amazing trip, with great conversations and beautiful scenery and easy drives. My mom got to re-bond with her granddaughter, now 31 and just a grown-up, y’know? She run a business and serves as a single parent a good part of the time, something I have experience with and recurring nightmares about, but she’s doing a remarkable job, and Mom noticed. That was worth the trip right there.

Then the Bix time, more for grandpapa than great-grandma, who was a stranger and not all that interesting at first, not when I could run around the backyard with him for hours. But bonding was accomplished, hugs were finally leeched out of a rapidly moving toddler, and we did exactly what we set out to do, except with more fun.

The colds? Bah. Everybody gets colds in the winter, or most of us. I’ve had a couple of them. We’ll survive.

Mom dropped me off at the airport hotel in Phoenix (I was taking an early morning flight the next day), and I had a nice dinner with a couple of college friends; really, could it have been more perfect?

Knowing, as we did, that this was our only chance to do this. I mean, Mom will be 80 next year. Now or never.

Except when we parted company, both of us were playing around with the idea that we might need to do this again next year. As I said, the trip couldn’t have been better. Here’s to more.

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Random Thoughts on returning

I won’t reiterate what I’ve written elsewhere, although you can always iterate it if you’re so inclined. Short story: My road trip with Mom to Austin from Phoenix had a 24-hour delay, not a big deal, and I got a chance to improvise in a city I lived in for only a fraction of my life (considering I spent a few years in the northern part of Arizona, it amounts to 10 years, pretty much. But they were important years, including all of high school). I never got lost, but I misjudged where I was a few times, just in terms of distance from another place.

But it was a great day, perfect weather, and as it turns out I got a bonus, a nice visit with people I might not have had time to check in with had it gone another way. Seven friends in all, one I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Bonus, once again.

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Top: My high school friend Marilynn, whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated in 1976. Bottom: My teacher and friend since 1973, when I was 15 and he was 38. Still friends, still the same.

I took the light rail from the airport to downtown, where a friend met me and gave me a nice tour of the new city, completely unrecognizable to me, along with a view of Chase Field (where the Diamondbacks play) from the restaurant overlooking the field. Not the best vantage point for baseball, but a nice view of the field. Which they were resodding, apparently.

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The next day was all ad lib, and the next morning we headed out. That story another time in more detail, because there was detail.

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My daughter had been suffering all week from what she suspected might just be allergies, but I suspect was just a cold. She was doing worse than Bixie, although he had a stuffy nose and a bit of a cough. This is worrisome in a toddler with Type 1 diabetes, but Beth was always on top of it, always checking the blood sugar and ketones, and all were acceptable. He ate and drank. He was fine.

By the time Mom and I left, though, we were not so much. Mom seemed to get the least of it and me the worst; infectious disease and contagious periods are mysteries to me, particularly with a mystery of a virus that wasn’t particularly virulent, just annoying. A bad cold. Sore throat, coughing, runny nose, sneezing. Exhaustion, but then it was a long trip.

I spent our first stop on the way home in a hotel room with Mom in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where I crawled under the covers around 6:30pm and stayed there. The next day I felt better, then worse, then better, then worse, and so on. I took an early-morning flight to Seattle, window seat, coughing directly into the bulkhead (or whatever it’s called) or my sleeve, conscious that I was in a flying incubator and I was the monkey, so to speak. It wasn’t Ebola, just the common cold, but I felt like Patient Zero on that flight, although surely I wasn’t.

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Flying into Seattle, banking west over Lake Washington to head south toward the airport.

And then my plane landed early, around 9:35am, and I couldn’t get a ride until 12:30, so instead of waiting for three hours in SeaTac I just grabbed the light rail to downtown Seattle (which took an hour, amazing, so many stops), rushed a few blocks to pick up a bus to SPU, where my wife was finishing her last class. We then drove to church, where she spends most of Wednesday afternoons and evenings, then I took the car home, arriving four hours after my plane landed, and had a three-hour nap, then back to church for choir rehearsal.

Riding the bus was also a virus-based experience, but mostly because I was hacking and feeling miserable, on a bus with the usual downtown types, hacking and sniffling, immediately visualizing Ratso Rizzo at the end of Midnight Cowboy, which is…I dunno. Don’t know the shelf life of that film. But that’s what I was thinking.

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And today I’m about the same, although just the duration is starting to feel like I’m worse. But this is the season and I’m not alone. Trying to avoid marathon naps, is all, considering I’ve got a huge amount of work coming up. Although a nap seems the best option, to be honest.

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Next week I’ll write another column about what it was like to travel with my mom for 30 hours (hint: Tremendous fun, lots of good conversation and laughter, and really an easier trip than we’d imagined).

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All of this was totally worth it, of course. It was a peaceful and pretty much stress-free trip, enjoying the sun and warmth, both nature’s doing and just being around family, and especially this little boy. I spent a couple of hours every day (at least) doing what seems to be his favorite thing these days, being outside. He has a nice fenced backyard with plenty of room to chase grandpapa, and I mentioned to Beth that I knew there had to be a good reason I started to exercise all those years ago and stop smoking the few cigs I indulged a day. I can’t jump much to save my life, my vertical leap having been cut down to a few inches I suspect (it was actually a pretty decent stat in my younger days; I could always jump. Strong legs), but I could race a 2-year-old back and forth across the lawn, and for this I’m grateful. He might remember this, and I certainly have documentary evidence.

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I’m a finicky eater when I travel, although I did fairly well this trip aside from the travel days, given the nice choices in Austin. The driving and then the cold ended up costing me a pound or so, which of course is a strange situation for a guy who hasn’t tried to gain weight since he was 14 and trying to play football. But that pound makes a difference when I’m at a steady (same since November) but low weight, right around 162-164 pounds in that period, only during weird times dropping below 160 for a few days before I start scooping in the gelato and pizza.

So, maybe this helps and maybe it doesn’t. I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to get motivated to develop the willingness to lose some pounds, or many pounds, but I’m way past that, and I also know that after the age of 50 or so we start to run into a psychological block. If it’s not a health issue, then it’s just comfort and vanity. Good motivators, but c’mon. Life is too short.

I just stopping eating so much sugar. So did Beth. So did my wife. Diabetes will do that to you. This is the way I look now.

And it won’t change your life, except…you might be able to run around with your grandchildren a little more. More importantly, if what happened to me is any indication, if you step on that scale regularly (and sheesh, write it down; look for patterns, not any given day) once the weight is off, it might be easier than you think to keep it there. I really don’t know. I wish I could help more, but there are so many other factors, including endocrinologic issues and some psychological ones. We do need our comfort food. We do need comfort.

Anyway, I have bills to pay and work to do. Or a nap to take. Or pizza to eat. Or all.

And definitely a trip back to the boy and the daughter. Soon.

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