Sunday, February 24, 2019

Feeling like crap

Despite my best efforts to avoid coming down with a cold this year, I came down with a cold.

Watery eyes, runny nose, achy joints, sore throat. You know the drill.

And, no, before we go any further, I'm not trying to solicit your sympathy. One of the things I like to do with this blog is to sew a thread through our common experiences, if for no other reason than to show how much we all really share together. Subliminally, at least.

And so, the other day, I woke up with with a scratchy throat.


A sore throat is usually the first indicator that I'm coming down with something. The first thing I do is go to the kitchen cabinet where we keep all our home remedies.

Ah, there it is. Hall's throat lozenges. Cherry. I plop one in my mouth, knowing full well that it's going to affect everything I taste the rest of the day. Or for the rest of this cold.

Meanwhile, I wrap myself up in a blanket, settle in front of the TV, and wonder where this cold came from: At the high school gym, where I cover basketball games for the paper? At the YMCA, where I'm touching all kinds of equipment that others have touched? The gas station pump? The restaurant? Could be anything, even though I wash my hands constantly. And even though I've had my flu shot, shingles shots, pneumonia shots, and I think I can still see my smallpox vaccine scar on my upper left arm, there is no shot for the common cold.

It's about this time my sore throat morphs into a nagging cough. I go back to the cabinet. Damn, no cough syrup. That means I have to go out into the cold, rainy weather and drive to the pharmacy, where I buy a generic cherry-flavored version of Delsym. Is there anything else I need while I'm out? Nope. I'm good.

Until I start sneezing. Back to the cabinet. Yes, there it is. Aprodine. Aprodine is an over-the-counter remedy that sort of takes the place of Pseudophed, which used to be the only thing that really dried up my congestion before lawmakers required birth certificates, photo ID, proof of signature and armed guards to purchase the stuff. Even the Aprodine requires pharmacist approval before purchase, I think.

Anyway, now I'm popping Aprodine and swigging Delsym. I've got a pile of lotion-treated Kleenex building up on the end table in the TV room because if I got up to throw away each Kleenex after each use, I might as well be on a treadmill. So the pile gets distressingly larger.

Then Kim comes home. She's been gone all day on a pre-planned girls' trip. She knew I was coming down with something and originally she wanted to stay home and see me through it, but I encouraged her to go and be with her friends. She doesn't do this enough. Besides, while I don't get particularly lonely when she's gone, I do appreciate my solitude. There is a difference.

But now she's home. I want to hug her and hold her close because she's been gone all day. "Don't breathe on me," she warns, possibly misinterpreting my watery eyes for a twinkle instead. (Plus, my voice drops an octave when I'm congested. I think I sound sexy. Like maybe Barry White sexy). But we both know better. Suddenly, solitude sucks.

All that was yesterday. I'm feeling a little better today. Today's our grocery shopping day and I might buy some ice cream to soothe the sandpaper in my throat.

Probably cherry vanilla.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Self diagnosis

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about all the prescription drug commercials on television these days.

Based on the volume of the type of commercials I see, I don't know what we, as American consumers, purchase more – beer, cars or pharmaceuticals.

The blog I wrote back then worried about all the side effects the drugs that are meant to cure you can actually be worse than the malady you are treating. You know, the rapidly speaking voice at the end of the commercial that tells you that treating erectile dysfunction with this particular drug might actually cause your death. (Suddenly, being a Sixty-Minute Man doesn't sound so appealing anymore).

 Anyway, since then, the proliferation of prescription pharmaceutical ads on the air seems to have actually increased.

The other morning I was keeping track of the ads so I could write this blog. In the course of less than an hour, I counted nine such commercials. There were probably more because I walked away from the tube from time to time and for several reasons.

But it was astonishing to me nonetheless.

It got me to wondering if we could self-diagnose ourselves as we sit in front of the tube mindlessly eating our pizzas and guzzling our beers. (Is there a pharmaceutical for that?)

In less than an hour, I saw ads for Vraylar, Ageless Male Max (OK, not a scrip, but bear with me), Xarelto, Linzess, Taltz, Celebrex, Ambien, Prevagen and Repatha.


I guess it's possible I could wake up one day feeling a little nauseous and discovering that my symptoms match those on the Linzess commercial. Hey, Doc, I know what's wrong with me. Write me a prescription.

Or maybe my complexion is spotty. Where's my Taltz, Doc?

OK, OK. I am taking Eliquis to thin my blood as a way to treat my afib. But that was at the recommendation of my cardiologist, who hooked me up to various machines and computers to get her readouts. It was not a self diagnosis.

If it was up to me (actually, maybe it is, but I was trained to wrestle with words, not maladies. I am not a physician), I'd self diagnose my way out of taking any drugs at all. All those pill bottles on the counter make me feel like an old person.

I did google "pharmaceutical ads on TV" and found a couple sites that more or less confirm the burgeoning prevalence of these ads on television. Big Pharma, apparently, spends upwards of $4 billion annually just to advertise the top 10 prescription drugs in the country.

And, there is a movement to take these ads off the air.

Good luck with that.

I have a headache...

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Golf in February

With the forecast for temperatures in the 70s on Wednesday, primal instinct took over.

I fished out my golf clubs.

This was a major commitment on my part. For various reasons over the past five years or so, including having a daily part-time job that ate up my afternoons, I hadn't played golf at all. I can't begin to tell you how painful that was for me.

But that was about to change.

So I put on a pair of cargo shorts and a polo shirt, put the clubs in the trunk of my car, and headed off to Heather Hills Golf Club in Winston-Salem.

A couple things to note here:

• The first thing that should jump out at you is "cargo shorts." C'mon. It's February. According to the forecast, it's going to hit 70 degrees plus. The only thing more ridiculous than wearing shorts in February is, well, playing golf in February.

• Why Heather Hills?

Heather Hills is an "executive" style golf course that usually doesn't have a lot of traffic. And both of those are good things.

An executive golf course is usually short in length. Heather Hills is about 3,200 yards and a par 60. (Lexington Municipal, by contrast, is par 71, 5,600 yards). For a guy who hasn't played in nearly five years and wants to kick off the rust, this is perfect. So is the idea that there usually aren't that many other golfers at Heather Hills watching you, which could raise my embarrassment factor with any shanks, chilli dips or whiffs I might employ,

• I almost always walk the course when I play. First, I walk for the exercise. And secondly, I walk because I can save five or six bucks as opposed to renting a cart. Priorities, you know.

Anyway, I walked up to the first tee, took a practice swing, and then struck my first tee shot in five years. I used a 7-iron for a 133-yard hole.

Two things happened next. I hit a perfect shot. Well, perfect in the sense that it went straight. It also went short, maybe 90 yards or so. I didn't care about length. I hit a nice shot that went straight.

I ended up bogeying the hole and I projected my score for the entire round, meaning I would shoot bogey golf. I'll take that.

There are some issues about playing in February, however.

Like the grass. I think the course at Heather Hills is seeded with Bermuda, which means everything is an off white right now. Or about the color of my used golf balls.

Also, there's not much grass cutting going on. That means the fairway rough is a couple inches tall.

It's amazing how you can lose a camouflaged golf ball in the fairway. I lost four, but I found two. Not quite break even, but acceptable.

Another thing I didn't factor into the round was that I've grown five years older. I like to think I'm immune from aging, but, sadly, no. Those 7-irons that I used to hit 150 yards a half decade ago are now 110 yards (or less). I guess I have to recalibrate my whole game.

And walking. Sheesh. I carry two woods and six irons, plus a putter, in an effort to lighten my bag. But after Wednesday's round, which I figure was maybe 3-4 miles of walking with a 25-pound bag, wore me flat out.

I was stiff as board before I got back to the car. My feet were killing me. Heather Hills, as the name implies, has some substantial hills on it. Duh. So I need to do a better job taking measure of my surroundings.

My round actually deteriorated on the back nine. I was tired.

But, you know. I shot an 89 (a 39 on the front side). That's 29 over par. I don't care. I was playing golf. Life is good.

The next time it's 70 degrees, I'll be on the course again.

Riding a cart.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

And the winner is...

Well, here it is, Super Bowl Sunday, and I haven't made my prediction yet.

Possibly because it pains me to do so.

Once again, there's a battle raging between my heart and my brain.  The trouble is, my heart really isn't in it. The trouble is, this appears to be a no-brainer.

As I illustrated last week, there seems to be a lot of Patriot fatigue out there in real-world land because the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots are in their ninth Super Bowl this century. Unless you are from New England (or Los Angeles, I suppose), the ennui appears to be palpable.

Although, I concede, it could be just me.  But I don't think so. I talk to people. I exercise with people, some who happen to be football fans, every morning at the YMCA. I ask them their feelings about the Super Bowl. The ho-humism is nearly overwhelming.

Like most, I'm as tired of seeing the Patriots' annual appearance in the Super Bowl as anybody else.

But then, 40-plus years of sports writing forces me to make this concession: if you can't beat the Patriots in the playoffs, then shut up. As much as we might not like it, they earned it. In spite of the Spygates and Deflategates, the organization is consistently superior in its drafting and player acquisitions. And Brady, the leader on the field, has demonstrated he is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete and we should see it as a privilege to be a witness to his greatest-of-all-time career.

Really, who's been better? Starr? Farve? Unitas? Graham? Elway? Baugh? Staubach? Manning? Montana? Namath?

Just look at the statistics, people. Just count the Super Bowl rings. If the Patriots win today, Brady will own a six-pack of championship rings. Sheesh. And yikes.

As the Philadelphia Eagles showed last year, Brady and the Patriots are beatable, and when you do beat them, it makes victory all the sweeter because you've beaten the very best.

Last year, there was a sense of upset in the air.

This year, there seems to be a confluence of talent, fate, karma and history coalescing in the ozone (if not the end zone). Even the weather seems to be cooperating.

And so, it comes to this: Patriots 35, Rams 21.