Archive for the ‘Humor/Satire’ Category

Going Under the Knife with Equal Parts Grit and Fear

CT Scan of Garcia stomach

CT Scan of Garcia stomach

The following account includes details of human biology that could make normal people a little queasy.  It’s an honest account and, I might add, a therapeutic one for the author.

Last time somebody opened up my stomach and took a gander it was all quite spontaneous.  You see, the stomach is supposed to be a sterile environment.  But in my case last October, an undiagnosed ulcer perforated.   It was a mess.  Suffice to say I was en route to getting numerous rapid and intense infections that would make me, if left unattended- a dead man by morning.  But waking up that day not knowing I would later be taking an ambulance ride to the ER had its advantages.  At least I had no idea what was about to take place.

Now, some six months later, after an endoscopy performed to check on my progress from the perforated ulcer operation discovered- oops- a tumor- they’re going to open me up again.  Only this time I know exactly when; 8am, ET, Thursday, May 2nd, 2013.   They’ve blocked off 6 and half hours of operating room time to get a 1 to 2 centimeter superficial carcinoma out of my body and cure me.  I’m grateful for that.  It was caught early.  Stomach cancer is not curable in later stages. And, of course, to be on the safe side, cancer-fighting doctors are using an AK-47 to wipe out a gnat, so they’re also going to remove 60 to 70% of my stomach.

I am likely to be going from being an overweight former smoker, to being a perpetually slender and much healthier former smoker.   God works in mysterious ways.

But the knowing is not fun.  I am sentimentally enjoying meals I know I am not going to be having again for six months.  Even sipping from a water bottle is a luxury.  In less than 24 hours,  I will be lying in a Georgetown University hospital bed with a tube running from my nose into my stomach while an IV pushes saline solution, antibiotics and painkillers into my bloodstream.  No water or even crushed ice for at least 2 to 3 days.  You get nothing but a moist tooth brush type thing to keep your mouth sort of hydrated.  You know it’s bad when you start salivating at the mere thought of green Jell-O.  Forget solid food for 3 to 4 weeks.   Welcome to the wonderful world of nutritionists teaching you how to eat six small meals a day.

I generally have a very good attitude about these health things.  But only because I suspect I’m going to live to laugh about it.  I would not be this sanguine if the situation were dire.  Still, dark thoughts enter the mind from time to time.  Will this be the 5% of operations that have complications?  What happens if they mess up the anesthesia and you have a massive coronary or something?  Do you see the white light and the tunnel and everything if you’re knocked out on heavy drugs?  Who do I bitch to about a bad outcome if I’m, like, dead?  Will they get all of it so I can avoid post-operative chemotherapy?  What if it’s worse than they thought and I awake from the operation and they tell me the whole stomach or some other organ is gone?

But then I remember they have done about 3 bazillion tests on me so they have a pretty good idea of what they’re dealing with.  I have Dr. Waddah Al-Refaie, Surgeon-in-Chief (that’s his actual title) of the Vince Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University performing the operation.  I also realize how fortunate I am to be alive in this day and time when there is so much knowledge about these terrible diseases that used to be death sentences.  Perhaps most importantly, I remember there are so many folks so worse off than me and my stupid stomach.

I have a health directive in place.  Finances are in order.  My peeps know who to call if stuff goes south.

To my many wonderful family, friends and co-workers with whom I have shared the cancer news in recent weeks and who have been so sweet and supportive- THANK YOU!   But just because it’s early stage cancer and an operation may cure me, doesn’t mean you can stop praying.  No siree.  Keep those going please.  Especially from 8am-2pm on Thursday, May 2nd.

Speaking of prayers- here’s an Irish joke somewhat appropriate for the occasion:

An Irishman is flustered not being able to find a parking space in a large mall’s parking lot.

“Lord,” he prays,” I can’t stand this. If you open a space up for me, I swear I’ll give up drinking me whiskey, and I promise to go to church every single Sunday.”

Suddenly, the clouds part and the sun shines on an empty parking spot. Without hesitation, the man says, “Never mind, found one!”

Beards: Presidential and Otherwise

For some reason, beards have been a big theme this week. It started Thursday when I attended a Washington Nationals baseball game and my good friend, Walter Ludwig, whom I had invited, noted the very excellent beard sported by right fielder, Jason Werth.

Beard Werth

Exceptionally full and outdoorsy, even woodsman-like, I’d say.

The beard theme continued Friday when I read this article in The Hill about the creation of a political action committee dedicated to the financial backing of bearded candidates, regardless of party affiliation or ideology.

This PAC is for real. The paperwork for the Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD) was filed with Federal Election Commission Wednesday by a Jonathan Sessions, who describes himself on his website as a member of the board of education in Columbia, Missouri.

Sessions notes, as did this fine article on nearly a year ago, that Benjamin Harrison was the last U.S. President to fashion a beard and that it’s high time political beards came back into fashion.

As this touches on Presidential history, one of my absolute favorite areas of study and expertise, some cursory research finds there were five American Presidents with actual beards:

Abraham Lincoln
US Grant
Rutherford B Hayes
James Garfield
Benjamin Harrison

This period of 1861 to 1893 was truly the high point for Presidential beards. The only exceptions were Andrew Johnson who had no facial hair at all and was, perhaps not coincidentally-impeached; Chester Alan Arthur, who did sport impressive mutton chops- and Grover Cleveland, one of our four mustachioed Chief Executives (the others: Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft). Early Presidents, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren were also mutton chop enthusiasts but did not have mustaches (or beards).

Since Taft, we have had nothing but clean shaven Presidents beginning with Woodrow Wilson who was inaugurated in 1913. The first patent for a safety razor, by the way, was issued in 1880 but even then the early razors still needed to be sharpened by professionals. The point is that about 1916, some 15 years after the release of the first disposable razor, there was widespread adoption of this remarkable tool from Gillette. Politics has not been the same since.

The political beard article in Slate, by the way, points out that recent adoption of beards was significantly stymied by the images of both hippies and Fidel Castro.

(Fidel Castro, Jerry Rubin)

(Fidel Castro, Jerry Rubin)

This trend could have been stopped dead in its tracks had Richard Nixon done a Richard Nixon to China thing with beards (the analogy that’s probably outdated now about how only an anti-communist could escape political peril offering peace to communists).

Beard Nixon

That is, I must say, a pretty cool looking Tricky Dick.

And then, of course, there’s this gentleman:

Beard Uncle Sam

And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes beards as American as:

beard apple pie

The Week Justin Bieber Turned into a Word I Can’t Use in a Headline

March 8, 2013 5 comments
(Photo courtesy

(Photo courtesy

Other than Mila Kunis and Jennifer Lawrence, I hate celebrities. I take pride in not recognizing their names or even being aware of their existence. My ignorance about them defeats their unending need for attention. But this Bieber kid has sent my celebrity-hatred into overdrive.

First, the little jerk tweets endlessly about his upcoming birthday. Who does that? Then when his birthday arrives he makes a big deal about going out shirtless to clubs where he knows he’s going to be assaulted by underage girls. He wears this expression that says, “God, I hate being so loved like this.”

He gets kicked out of a club or arrives and leaves quickly or something after getting into a dispute with bouncers and tweets: “Worst Birthday Ever.” He later deletes the tweet after, I presume, his agent or his nanny told him he was coming off like a spoiled, 1st world brat.

Then he’s 2 hours late for a London concert, royally angering thousands of parents who paid good money to get their 8-year old daughters there and, hopefully out in time to catch a train and to bed before school the next day. Bieber claims technical problems caused the delay, but security guards say he was late playing video games.

Then in an apparent bid to win sympathy he gets short of breath or something at another concert and has to take a brief break while a rep takes to the stage to say that even though Bieber should be going to a hospital, he’s going to bravely finish the concert. Which he does- then checks into a hospital, taking up a bed normally reserved for people who are actually sick- then instagrams a picture of himself without his shirt on in said hospital bed.

Then as he walks from a hotel to a limo, he brushes against a paparazzi, who tells him to go the hell back home to the states and the young superstar pops back out of the limo and threatens to “f—ing beat the f—out of you,” while his body guards hustle him back into the car.

He is, quite simply, out of control and needs to be grounded. Or better yet, he needs to read either a history on the inevitable, pathetic decline of teen idols or a 1971 issue of Teen magazine with Bobby Sherman on the cover- and then be shown pictures of Bobby Sherman today. This, Biebes, is you at 70.

Now, for someone who hates celebrities so much, why, you might ask, would I know so much about Justin Bieber’s very bad week? Because the kid is like a slow motion car accident, that’s why. And like any other normal human being, when you see a car wreck it’s hard to turn away.

So this is me not turning away.

RGIII’s Special Skills Wasted on Sports

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment


To say Robert Griffin III is an inspiration is a considerable understatement.

He seems to have single-handedly willed what, on paper, is a mediocre football team into a playoff contender. He shows up at the Verizon Center to take in a Wizards game and the doormat of the NBA somehow rises to the occasion and knocks off the defending champion Miami Heat.

I see no reason he cannot pinch hit, pitch relief and run the bases for the Washington Nationals from time to time. I suspect he wields a pretty mean slap shot if the Caps can use a little help and if they actually play hockey this year. DC United could certainly use a forward with blazing speed.

But we’re thinking way too small here.

In his primary job as quarterback of the Redskins, since he is already uniting Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C., I propose that RGIII be immediately made an honorary member of Congress and the chief negotiator in the fiscal cliff talks. Trust me on this, if you can take something built by Daniel Snyder and make it look good, you are capable of anything- including finding a solution to the debt crisis.

With Hillary Clinton about to step down after four stellar years as Secretary of State there is an obvious void. Oh, the President likes Susan Rice for the post, but congressional Republicans threaten to block her nomination, so it would seem a natural that you-know-who be tapped as our emissary to the world.

Can RGIII mediate a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Please.
Could RGIII talk Assad into leaving Syria? Must the question even be posed?

With that smile, that work ethic, that humility and composure, and all the raw skill and talent, not to mention an IQ I would wager is close to Leonardo da Vinci’s, there are many, many more useful things Mr. Griffin ought to be doing than throwing a friggin’ football for Dan Snyder.

All that said, if he does it for just one more decade and ten playoff appearances, I can see RGIII’s first campaign appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire around 2024 or so.

And you can sign me up right now.

Why Thanksgiving is the Bestest Holiday Ever

November 21, 2012 1 comment

(Hey, where are the minorities?)

In my book, Thanksgiving is always a great day because it combines several primal urges we are allowed to fully indulge in with one of the most beautiful human sentiments there is- appreciation.

But first, the primal joys. There’s eating! And then there’s- more eating! There’s sex, of course. NOT. So kidding. No one has ever had sex on Thanksgiving Day. OK, maybe in the morning but after noon, when the smells of the turkey are beginning to waft through the kitchen and then, of course, several hours later after having consumed the allowable mass quantities, the last thing anyone would ever want to do is have sex.

So instead of sex, there’s the third best thing in the world in November- NFL Football. There’s just something incredibly comforting about a house full of people chatting, cooking, nibbling, drinking and giggling while a couple of guys ignore them completely and take over the couch, not particularly caring about the outcome of the contest but bonded in their Thanksgiving maleness. If there is a female reading this who loves watching Thanksgiving football, may I apologize for the previous sexist remark, and possibly have your phone number?

Here are four specific food reasons why Thanksgiving is the cat’s pajamas.

Mashed Potatoes

I make the best mashed potatoes on the planet earth. You laugh? You chortle? Ask my son. Ask anyone who’s ever eaten them. They are so good they have made people cry. Their texture is perfect- not too lumpy, not too soft. After that, the ingredients and ratios cannot be divulged, but they involve perfect amounts of butter, heavy cream, olive oil and garlic salt.

Rolls with Butter

No doubt about it, Thanksgiving, to a large extent, is the butter holiday. And what better vehicle for consuming large dollops of butter, then warm rolls that have just emerged from the oven, ideally hot enough that when the butter touches the surface of the bread, there’s instant melting and fusing going on. And then when the rolls accidently rub up on the plate against the gravy that is smothering the succulent turkey meat, well, if I keep writing about this sort of thing I’m going to have to rush off to take a cold culinary shower.

The Crispy Turkey Skin

OK, I said it. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud about it, but it’s the truth and many of you out there may as well admit it too. Crispy turkey skin is insanely tasty. Never, ever leave me alone in a kitchen with a turkey that’s just come out of the oven. It’s happened a few times but I can’t get into the details because there may be children reading this.

The Wings

There is a turkey skin moment that occurs on your way to oneness with the great meal- the traditional crunchy bites of certain parts of the wing. Ask any caveman. If they are being honest with you (and cavemen have a mixed record with honesty), they will tell you that crunchy, delectable moment is one of life’s greatest joys.

I once had a Thanksgiving Day dinner with some people, among them, a man who announced at the start of the meal, after the prayers but before the eating had started, that he loved wings and would be eating them all. I was incredulous. I looked around the table. I looked at the Turkey, confirming like most birds, there were only two such wings.

I was seething. The things I was saying in my head cannot be repeated, even in front of motorcycle gangs. And he did it too. He bogarted the turkey wings. What a selfish little man. I am the eater of the turkey wings. This is how it is. It is lore. Who did he think he was? I felt very bad that he passed away before the next Thanksgiving and that I had such mean, mean thoughts about him that day. It still comes up in counseling.

The Appreciation Part

And as for the gratefulness factor of Thanksgiving- selfish wing-eaters aside, I do love the moment of unity before the meal- in fact, the whole notion of sharing a bounty that we are blessed and fortunate to receive. It’s not a cornball thing. It is always a touching, beautiful thing when we create a moment to really appreciate what we have.

When we close our eyes tightly and all the misery in this world kind of washes over you and gradually fades away into the now and that now is sitting around a table with friends and family. The wolves may be howling, but they howl outside, while protected, we eat our meal in a warm place and love one another for just a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. May yours be peaceful, bountiful and succulent.

Election Home Stretch: But First a Hurricane

October 27, 2012 Leave a comment

(OK, this graphic could have been done more professionally but my resources are limited)

I’m not sure which hype will win the day.  The closest, craziest Presidential election race ever, or the storm of the millennium- a combo hurricane/blizzard/nor’easter more perfect in its evil ingredients than even the last Perfect Storm in 1991 that was so horrific it was turned into a popular movie.

I do know this.  Because I live in the all-important swing state of Virginia, any possible power outages will have the added benefit of wiping out several hundred political TV commercials, thus frustrating the mass media strategies of both campaigns.   Honestly, these media strategies have always been puzzling to me.

On the 833rd viewing of a particular campaign spot, is something supposed to suddenly click?  Does the viewer slap his head in a moment of unexpected epiphany?  “You know, the first 832 times I saw that commercial, I must have missed the candidate’s furrowed brow at the mention of massive deficits- but now it all makes sense to me!”

I get a kick out of the regular “people” in these commercials.  It’s not bad enough that the “small businessman/woman” is clumsily reading cue cards, but they’re also not even a small businessman/woman, they’re just bad actors.  “Ok, honey, at the end of the speech about how your kids are all in debt, give us that forlorn look, right into the camera- bingo, that’s a wrap!”

I’ve been whipsawed now for several months.  It’s Morning in America!  Millions of new jobs have been added!  No, it’s Armageddon in America!  It’s all a living hell until January 20th when everything suddenly changes!

Ok, so Hurricane Sandy’s impending visit will give us a political commercial respite, but what if the power outage also takes out the internet?  Then, what?  Where, exactly, am I supposed to find out the latest on the political polls?  My God, what happens when 1pm comes and goes and I haven’t been able to check the latest Gallup tracking numbers?   Is it really possible I may not be able to read Nate Silver for over 48 hours?

Well, the good news is that not only do I still have leftover tuna cans from last year’s big hurricane, I added to my supplies yesterday with a last-minute, late night visit to the local Harris Teeter.   True, they had run out of cheap water, but I do now have several dozen very attractive and incredibly expensive bottles of Fiji water.

I also have a very entertaining Saturday ahead of me.  From my 10th floor Pentagon City apartment, I have an excellent view of the Costco parking lot.  Storm preparation mayhem and panic all unfolding right before my very eyes as I sip my Fiji water and munch on my tuna and crackers.

God, life is good.

Olympic Outrage: Uniforms, Fries and Umbrellas

Finally- an area of agreement between our dysfunctional political parties. Everybody hates the U.S. Olympic team’s outfits that will be worn for the big opening ceremonies in London. This is because they are made in China and, apparently, because they have berets that look kind of French.

There hasn’t been this much outrage since it was discovered by the Athenians back at the first Games in 700 B.C., that their togas and sandals had actually been made by the Spartans. There was also great angst back then in regard to the new headwear made from olive branches. For everybody, of course, except Caesar, a Roman, who liked the look and adopted it for his own years later.

As for solutions to the made-in-China problem, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, suggests throwing all the uniforms in a large pile and burning them. While this would be deeply satisfying for many, it seems a waste of expensive material. Can we just give the uniforms to the actual Chinese? Or- perhaps we can quickly make the Chinese team’s uniforms and call it even?

As for the jaunty little hats. Those wacky folks at Fox and Friends, the morning news show famous for its measured response to the great issues facing American society, put on French accents and had a good ol’ time making fun of the look earlier this week, implying the berets were kind of effeminate and something only wusses would wear. Who would don such a thing, for crying out loud? MSNBC answered last night on the Ed Show. Oh, yeah- these guys:

Speaking of things that look French, an even bigger problem in my view is the great French Fry Scandal that has now engulfed the games. As an official sponsor, McDonalds has strong-armed the Olympic committee into giving them the sole right to sell fries. No other vendor can violate this exclusive arrangement. Except for those that sell them along with fish, in which case, they are no longer fries, they are now “chips.”

Official Fries of the Olympics (left) Unofficial but Acceptable Olympic Fries (right)

This is nothing new. A HUGE controversy erupted at the first games regarding the barley, wheat and grape concessions. It turned into a nasty little row between Epemetheus (husband of Pandora of the famous box) and Achilles (of ‘heel’ fame). Epemetheus ended up with the wheat and barley, Achilles with the grapes, but a third vendor, McDonaldoclese ended up making a killing winning the exclusive wild boar and mutton concessions.

And, of course. the biggest outrage of all is the stuff attendees of the London Olympics are not allowed to bring into any of the stadiums or other venues. No bottled water. No large, golf-style umbrellas or oversize hats. No Frisbees, hunting horns, drums, vuvuzelas or whistles.

There were no such restrictions at the first games. Pig bladder water containers were welcome. Daggers were allowed. Even gigantic war horns.

Clearly, times have changed- and not for the better. I am sure the organizers of the first games would have rued the day they allowed their athletic competition to be taken over by exclusive sponsors, corporations and heavy-handed governments.

It’s un-American, I tell you, and I am angered by all of it. Why? Because, as everyone knows, it is mandatory now to be outraged by something at all times and the Olympics last a long time- like a month or so- so this covers my outrage quota through damn near the end of August. Ah, August- a month I’ve always hated.