Tag Archives: allergies

The Chief at 56

The Chief in a moment of self-adulation after a run this past summer – and to prove to real and cyber friends I can actually move faster than a fat man walking through a cactus field. Naked. Blindfolded.

As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday, November 5, the Chief turned 56.  It’s not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55.  And I remember years ago thinking that, once somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t really matter.  But I’ve learned every birthday matters.  It’s another year forward and another chance to improve oneself.  I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves, such as joining a new gym.

This year’s birthday was rougher than expected.  I got sick – again.  Allergies that usually plague me with the change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications.  My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain cedar.  I confirmed my sensitivity to them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist.  Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and local stores had long proven ineffective.  Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander.  I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.

But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match.  Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst.  And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes.  They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck.  Misery!  Misery, I tell you, dear readers!  Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change.  Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat.  I even wrote about it six years ago.  However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights.  Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session.  But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire.  I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym.  Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school.  Some 35+ years ago.  Okay, it’s a man thing!  You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome!  The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk.  I often keep it unzipped during workouts.  No one had ever had a problem with that.  Until November 2018.

The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.”  He then walked away.  And so did I.  I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got home.

This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old sweat jackets.  It doesn’t cater to GQ cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms!  It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless, women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office.  Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter.  As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I love the idea of dogs almost anywhere! 

I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember.  I even did so last year – before the Sweat Jacket Incident.  But I just couldn’t make it this past Tuesday.  Again, those allergies.  Or maybe the flu.  Or I’m being punished for not completing my second novel by now, as promised.  Perhaps internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught up to me.  But then again, I never was too keen on the idea of being a serial killer.  That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.

But other distractions arose, particularly with this aging house.  Bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price tags.  I relish the thought of living in the house where I grew up.  I don’t have to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent paid on time.  I have the joy of dealing with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations.  Aaah – suburban life!

So this birthday wasn’t the best.  But I made it to another year!  I’m always thankful for that.  The alternative is not pleasant.

The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part of going to Heaven.”  I thought, if there is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away 3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night.  Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell into a mortal depression.  When I marked my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make it much longer.  I was ready to give up.  I still truly believe my father returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized, four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with him.  I could understand my 83-year-old father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems.  His body could no longer take the punishment.  But then, he came back to take the dog?!  Oh well…such mysteries are not for this world to understand.

Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized I had so much I wanted to do.  I still hadn’t published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write.  I realized I couldn’t give up.  It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me.  I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the east the next morning.  Some people I’ve known actually think it won’t, if they die!

So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of 56!  I’m still writing and still fighting!  Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate these allergens and get back into the gym.


Filed under Essays

No Synching

Dearest Followers:

Allow The Chief to pull his Stradivarius from behind the toilet paper and bathroom cleaning supplies and attempt whole-heartedly to extract a bit of sympathy from you.  This past Monday, October 21, I awoke feeling disoriented.  I can’t explain it exactly, but I simply felt…weird.  Yes, I realize you folks have come to expect that from me, especially since I’m a writer, and a troubled mindset is one of the drawbacks of the creative spirit.

I’ve encountered this sensation before – only once previously, though.  But, on this past Monday, it felt more intense and painful.  I kept feeling that anything and everything I did – no matter how small or mundane – wasn’t right.  I couldn’t open a door in the right way.  I couldn’t even pick up a piece of trash the right way.  I mean, EVERYTHING I did wasn’t right.

I keep thinking it might be related to my allergies.  The summer to fall transition is almost always the worst for me.  But, every few years, I have a period like now, where it hits harder than freight train striking a vehicle stuck on the tracks.  Simple over-the-counter and / or home-based remedies won’t help.  I have to visit my family doctor and get some high-caliber, prescribed medicine.  This year, he gave me three.  Feeling tired and lethargic comes with the territory.  I’ve always said my worst allergies follow the hurricane season in the Atlantic / Caribbean basin.  And, this time around, the storm was a Category 5.

I’m pretty much over all that mess now.  But…that overwhelming disoriented feeling.  Is that related to my allergies and / or the prescribed medicines?  I know some high-octane medicines have a myriad of potential side effects.  In fact, reading the list of side effects – diarrhea, fatigue, nausea – makes me wonder if they’re worth the trouble.  Let’s see, what do I prefer?  A runny nose or a runny ass?  Too many choices!  Like trying to find a book to read while eating cereal.

Then again, are my years of frequent alcohol consumption finally coming back to haunt me, like the fact I never attended a high school dance?  I consider myself a recovering alcoholic, but I still haven’t given it up permanently.  Smoking, yes, but I can’t resist a good screwdriver or wine cooler!  I just watch myself.

Perhaps, this is what life is like headed towards age 60 – meaning the seventh decade of my existence.  As a youth, I recall my parents – mainly my mother – opining that life begins at 40.  At that time, people, indeed, seemed to have reached the apex of happiness with family, career, etc.  Now, I hear that 50 is the new 40.  Medical advances have made it more likely people will live into their 80s and 90s.  Thus, 50 really is becoming middle age for many Americans.

I just don’t know.  But I feel friends and family are likely to scoff at me, if I mention aloud that I’m feeling incredibly disoriented.  ‘So, what’s new?’ they might say.  ‘Tell me something I DON’T know!’  Okay, okay!  You don’t have to rub it in, like sandpaper mistaken for…well, toilet paper.

I’m only putting this out there – to this audience, my faithful followers – because I’m not really ashamed of it.  It’s just frustrating and annoying.  Okay, it pisses me off!  It interferes with my daily activities.  I can’t even work on my creative writing.  That disoriented sensation blocks my artistic mind from producing anything.  So, I just go to sleep.

As with the last time this happened, I realized I just needed to stop trying so hard to understand it and merely take a shower and plunge into my bed with its 10-year-old mattress.  I’m curious to know, however, what you folks think.  Has this happened to you and, if so, how did you deal with it?  Remember, if you don’t take this seriously, we’ll hear about more drama from the British royal family!

Image: Gary Larson, “The Far Side”


Filed under Essays

Desert Eyes

I think the genetic faucet in my eyes got turned off a couple of years ago.  They’ve been almost consistently dry since then.  I can’t keep them moist.  Either that, or years of consuming Bacardi and Coke have finally taken their toll.  I guess my liver’s next in that case.  Seriously, though, my eyes feel like buckets of sand.  They’re no longer the sparkling pools of sumptuous chocolate they once were.  Now, they’re dried, aquatically-anemic cesspools of pollution and pollen.  That dry eye syndrome supposedly hits people as they “Age.”  In other words, when you get to be an old fucker, certain parts of your body decide, at long last, they want to lead lives of their own.  On most people, it’s usually the genitalia.  But, mine is still comfortable living with me.  We have an understanding.  I leave Frank and his 2 buddies alone when they’re in a bad mood, and they leave me alone when I need to write.  Thus, my eyes have sought independence – and sandpapering themselves every few minutes is their way of trying to break free.  I don’t think I qualify for an ocular transplant because I’m otherwise healthy and suffer from no real eye ailment.  I might be able to manufacture a glaucoma certificate from a doctor.  But, that would be – what’s the term? – wrong.

In the meantime, I flush my eyes with tap water and soak them often with Visine.  I should buy stock in that company.  I’d get rich and could write full time like I’ve always wanted.  I wonder, though, if I’d qualify for disability.  Hey, that’s an idea!  I could use my schnauzer, Wolfgang, as a seeing eye dog.  He has big beautiful dark brown eyes, and no one can resist him – not even a lesbian.  I could say I’ve had him for a while and trained him myself to be a guide dog, while my vision became encrusted with mold.  It was an emergency situation, I’d tell the tired old Black woman sitting behind the counter, so I couldn’t wait until Lighthouse for the Blind got me a golden retriever.  That’s the good thing about government agencies – they love Black people and dogs.

I drove to the gym last Saturday night and felt like I had taken a wrong turn into rain-swept Seattle.  Seated forward with both hands on the wheel, I surely looked like a schizophrenic on a crime spree – or somebody from South Florida.  I squinted at the weight machine, making certain I injected the pin into the right one.  I didn’t want to try suddenly to lift 210 pounds and render myself a quadriplegic.  Then, I’d be doubly disabled.  I’d qualify for more government aid, but I couldn’t train Wolfgang to pick up stuff for me.  He draws the line at some things.  One guy looked at me funny as I fumbled with the weight pin.  I’m just pissed off, I told him.  My parole officer is on vacation, and I couldn’t go to Galveston without letting him know first.  The guy slowly meandered to the other side of the gym.

The National Weather Service says this year so far has been the worst on record for pollen counts.  Every laboratory across the nation is stunned by the levels of dust and moth wings clogging their measuring cups.  I’ve always been sensitive to the change of seasons, especially from summer to fall.  Occasionally, the winter – spring switch knocks me for a loop.  I’d usually just take some over the counter crap, drink some orange juice, not masturbate for a couple of days and go to bed early.  And, that would do it.  I’d be fine.

This year is different.  Way different.  Ominously and aggravatingly different.  Even my dad is having allergic reactions.  And, he isn’t normally allergic to anything except a losing year for the Dallas Mavericks.  No amount of OTC stuff is helping me.  It just gives me that delirious effect I get when I drink alcohol on an empty stomach, or have 3 Red Bulls in succession.  That can be a good feeling – until you have to do something really important like drive at night, or eat.

I have reading glasses, but I might as well use Coke bottles.  They’re even more outdated than my cell phone.  I’m squinting so much my upper and lower eyelashes are getting to know each other in ways not even they imagined.  Taking a shower provides the only relief, since I can stand beneath the rushing water and let it flood my eye sockets.  It feels almost as good as having my back popped.  Walking around I feel like I’m looking through an original Thomas Edison fish eye lens with the quaint strip of gauze around the outer edges.  I walked carefully while at the store earlier today, afraid I’d bump into some truly disabled person, like a soccer mom.  Those suburban housewives can get vicious if you encroach on their space, or don’t compliment their lazy kids.

Accompanying the frosted vision is sneezing, body aches and lethargy, so I realized it’s nothing catastrophic, like glaucoma or failing to have enough bowel movements.  On top of that, I’m lethargic.  You know you’re sick when you’re not just tired, but lethargic.  The next stage of exhaustion is comatose.  I’ve approached that level several times – mainly after consuming a box of cold meds and some Bacardi in one sitting.  That’s an even better feeling than getting your back popped.  If I was in a coma, though, I’d definitely qualify for disability.  The only thing is I wouldn’t be able to work on my writings and this blog because that would be – what’s that word again? – wrong.  I don’t want that Black chick at the government office to come after me.  But then, if she did, that would count as a hate crime because I’d be on disability.  I always like to think ahead.

None of those scenarios sound pleasant.  Heavy rains fell here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area starting last night and into this afternoon; washing away a good deal of that dust and moth wings.  Then, the sun came out, and dried up everything.  So more dust formed and more moths perished.  And, here I am again – with sandpapered eyes.  Oh, well.  At least I can invest in Visine and make some serious cash.  After all, they owe me.  We’ve bonded.

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Pollen Counts Exploding


For those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies, this year is turning out to be one of the worst.  I thought it was just the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolitan area, due mainly to the severe Texas drought, but this mess is nationwide.  The South and Midwest are particularly hard-hit.  Pollen counts in individual counties are setting records.  A clinic at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, for example, measured 11,000 grains of pollen per cubic meter this past Tuesday, the worst they’ve seen.  Normal pollen counts for this time of year don’t exceed 2,000 grains per cubic meter.  Aside from the past year’s drought here in Texas (which is starting to diminish for most of the state), an unusually warm winter is exacerbating the pollen explosion.  Yes, it snows in Texas!  We used to get heavy snow and ice every year in the DFW area.  But, within the past 20 years, I’ve noticed a considerable decline in cold weather days.  We haven’t had snow in DFW since February 2011.  This doesn’t bode well for summer, and I don’t want to get into a climate-warming debate.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to soak my burning eyes in Visine again.


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