Things Not to Go Cheap On (A Poem)
"Family Intervenes to Make Man Stop Delaying Stool Sample Test"
Chula Vista Times
A wife and children held an "intervention" last week to convince a 52-year-old husband and father to mail in the colon cancer test sent to him two years ago on his 50th Birthday. Family and friends do not understand George Clooney's (real name withheld) refusal to move.
"I tried a professional intervention-type person," said wife Trixie (not real name). "But the assh*** kept laughing and making jokes like 'that's not really what I doo.' 'Real funny,' I said, then hung up."
Family and friends had mixed emotions when they found out the reason for the gathering held last Friday at the family home.
"They wouldn't tell us what it was about, so when I dropped by the house and plopped on the couch I was ready to talk about almost anything. There's about four or five different issues he's got way bigger than this. This whole stool thing just snuck up on me. I never saw it coming," said Mikey, Trixie's brother.
Mother-in-law "Judes" (not real name) was actually "relieved."
"When I found out what it was about, I said 'you've got to be sh**ting me,'" said the registered nurse and former Rockette.
Speaking with Clooney's two high-schooled aged sons, they expressed frustration at the logjam and father's refusal to budge.
"It's pretty sad. Dad's stared at the envelope on his desk for two whole years without pulling the trigger. It embarrasses me. He taught me everything I know about . . . I used to look up to him when it came to things like this," said Son #1 (name withheld for privacy).
"He's always telling us what we should be doing . . . like 'go read a book' or 'you should brush your teeth more often.' I say, 'Well, you should go do your poo test.' That always shuts him right up and gets him off my back," said Son #2.
|Stool test envelope, probably stale|
Family friends said they could only wait so long.
"I squared up to him and said it was time to 'sh** or get off the pot,'" said friend Phil McCracken (not real name). "I said 'be a man, you got a lot of people depending on you around here.' Depends, get it?" (Laughing).
"I told the family, don't let him watch the Super Bowl unless he does the test, y'know. It's like 'hop on the bowl, or no Bowl,'" said family friend Seymour Butts (not real name).
The family says George spends hours in the bathroom sitting playing his guitar anyway, so they never understood the reluctance to take the potentially life-saving stool sample.
"I've heard him in there squeezing out all of Side 2 of 'Dark Side of the Moon. ' Badly mind you, but without even a break between songs," said Trixie. "This should be right up his alley."
Speaking to George Clooney directly, we tried to get the straight poop.
"I just couldn't be arsed about it," said Clooney (not his real name). "Every day, I said to myself, 'let's push it to tomorrow.' Something unexpected always popped up, like the whole COVID-19 thing, then the Tiger King show, and Bitcoin. I didn't want to hold up any of the mail-in ballots either. When the Padres lost in the playoffs, I got really down in the dumps."
The family compromised and told Clooney they'll be looking for the stool to be in the mail by the end of the week, or he cannot pick squares on their Super Bowl Bingo craps table.
© Jack Clune 2021
I am disappointed my new Sorel bedroom slippers already smell this bad, only a few weeks after Christmas. My wife bought them for me, and the fleece lining was so comfortable, I did not want to wear socks with them. I knew something was wrong after about three days of wearing them. One night, I was practicing a song on my guitar ("Carefree Highway") when I got an itch on my foot, so slipped one of the slippers off my foot partially to scratch it. That's when I got a whiff. It was pretty bad, so I figured I better air these things out for one night. I took them off, took a shower, and figured everything would be okay the next morning. I should have known there was a problem when I got out of the shower, and the dog was sitting next to them. He only comes in my room and sits there when I order the Salt and Pepper chicken wings from the Chinese restaurant across from Southwestern College. Anyway the other night I was in a rush to get up to bed because my wife and I were going to watch the Tiger Woods special - the documentary about how he cheated and his wife beat him with a golf club. I took the slippers off and climbed into bed I somehow knew to let my feet air out first before I put them under the covers. Good thing
"Wait a second. What the hell is that God-awful smell?" asked my wife Tracy. Yes, it was my feet. I had to admit it."Oh my God! Get your feet and those slippers out of this room right now!" I had to go downstairs and take another, unplanned shower. When I got out of the shower I had a text message. "Your feet left a horrible smell on the bedspread. You're disgusting." That text was from my wife. I went upstairs and I did not smell anything that bad, so I think she was exaggerating. But none of this is what I expected. I've researched on YouTube "How to Clean Your Ugg Boots." I thought I was just going to be able to throw them in the washing machine. Like I did with my five-year-old purple Adidas sneakers- they look brand new now. No, instead I have to buy some fancy Ugg Boot cleaning kit. This is far too much work, and I feel embarrassed to ask Tracy to do it.
I guess I'm just saying that there should be a warning label on the box- "Don't wear these slippers more than three days in a row, without a break," or "Slippers May Stink if you Don't Wear Socks." It's just a bummer.
When I turned fifty years old, I realized I was squinting to read everything—especially the bills at restaurants. I dine out frequently. Way too frequently, in fact. How come at restaurants, they make the bill amount on those receipts tiny and impossible to read? Is it some psychological trick they are playing on us so that we don’t register how much money we just spent on a grilled scallop taco? ($14.50, by the way).
It got embarrassing always having to ask the wait staff to read the receipt to me. I was becoming my Granddad back at The Sizzler in the ’80s. Next thing you know, I’ll be packing the whole family in the car to eat dinner at 4:00 P.M. to get the “Early Bird Special.”
Things had to change.
Costco gave me a date for an eye exam, but it was weeks away.
In a pinch, I was using a cheap pair of “reader” glasses my wife Tracy had. But those readers are pink and black, so when I wore them I would look like this T.V. personality from England:
The day for my 3:30 P.M. Costco eye exam finally arrived. I took a shower, the first in quite a while. I thought about what to wear to the exam. This was my first eye exam. Finally, I just decided to wear what I would to a haircut. I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard. I also wore my more staid, dark blue Addidas Samoas rather than my new Snakeskin Addidas Stan Smiths.
Arriving at Costco, it was packed with people like it always is. It seems like it's even more crowded now. Like everyone is thinking, “if I’m gonna get a dread disease grocery shopping, at least let me be getting snow crab legs at Costco.” That’s what I’m thinking anyway.
I did not relish spending time in a warehouse full of people who had time to shop at 3:30 P.M. on a Tuesday. These days, you have to assume that everywhere you go, somebody there has COVID. Looking around the parking lot, to me, some of these people definitely looked like they already had the disease.
Showing my Costco membership card to the lady at the front entrance, I walked into the warehouse, holding my breath under my disposable blue mask. I kept six feet away from everyone in the electronics section looking at the big screen T.V.s and wireless waterproof boom boxes.
I know the layout of Costco like the back of my hand. Costco is one of my favorite places on Earth when there’s not a pandemic going on. I knew that to get to the desk in the front of the store where they sell the glasses, I had to run the gauntlet through the hundreds of people standing in long lines waiting to go through the checkout stands.
I held my breath again and speed-walked like I was on hot coals. When I felt like my head was going to explode, I picked up the pace and jogged through an unused check stand. I almost made it clean, but then I connected eyes with an employee who seemed to be looking at me disappointed. I slowed to a walk and felt a tinge of guilt. There’s just so much ambiguity. I wish they would post a sign about whether you’re allowed to go through the empty check stand or not. How else are you supposed to get to the front of the store?
The eyeglasses desk was as busy as the floor of the stock exchange. There were packs of customers waving their arms up and down at a flustered team of employees behind the desk. They had one of those old-school red dispensers from which you pull a number out of it to get a place in line for service.
I approached the dispenser, and as I pulled the ticket, I thought, Damn, I wish I was at the deli pulling a ticket in the bakery section to get a Black and White cookie. That’s the only other place I could think of that still uses the ‘ole tickee tickee system.
An employee evidently saw me pull the ticket because he broke from the melee at the desk and spoke to me.
“What do you want?” said the employee, who looked like Steve Jobs. Young Steve Jobs. He had a real attitude, this guy.
I was back on my heels for a second because he really asked me just like that. It was kind of abrupt. I guess I would be pissed off too if I worked in this super spreader warehouse all day too.
“I’m here for an eye exam,” I said.
“You gotta go over there,” said the aggressive employee.
I followed his arm, down his hand to his finger, pointing to a tiny “medical office” where there looked to be about 8 to 10 people all crammed together behind a sliding glass door.
The optometry office looked like it had been set up as an experiment by the government to see how quickly a person could get COVID. Like a test for time, not distance.
I approached the optometry office and pressed my face against the glass to look inside at the guinea pigs. A woman in full medical scrubs, with a plastic shield over her face and double face masks over her mouth, poked her head out of the gerbil tank.
“May I help you?” she asked, her voice muffled under all the layers of protection.
“I’m here for an eye exam at 3:30 P.M.,” I said.
“Have a seat there,” she said, pointing at a plastic chair, which was outside of the terrarium, thank God.
She came back out of the contagion room and handed me a clipboard with a few forms to fill out.
Most of the questions on the form were easy to answer. The form asked me about my medical background.
Operations?- I wrote “No” even though I’ve had broken bones where they had to put me under.
Eye surgeries?- “No”
Serious medical conditions?-
Wait. Should I tell them I got exposed to TB by the host family I lived with during my Junior year of college in Spain in 1989?
That’s probably not necessary, I decided. “No,” I wrote.
Then there were questions that asked:
1) Why are you here? _____ Glasses _____ Contacts _____ Both _____Other _____
2) Have you had an eye exam before? ______Yes _______No
For the second question, I checked “No,” I had not had an eye exam before. But the first question caused me to pause. I checked the box “Glasses,” but then I had to think about “Other.”
I debated whether to write down that I have been experiencing tunnel vision. Over the last five years, I’ve experienced symptoms where my eyes sort of go hay-wire and succumb to kaleidoscopic fireworks show that lasts for a few minutes. When it first started happening, it was scary, but then I sort of got used to it. It only happened once every six months.
During the last year, however, and especially over the last 6 weeks, the kaleidoscope over my eyes was occurring much more frequently and staying for as long as 15 to 20 minutes. I became concerned and started researching things on the internet like “Macular degeneration,” “Pre-Diabetic Retinopathy,” and other exotic eye conditions.
I held the pen to the paper and ran through a parade of horribles in my mind.
If I write down that I have tunnel vision, will this one day be used against me? Like, to take my driver’s license away from me? What if I want to travel in space? Will this form come back to bite me in the ass me during the Space-X interview? Or what if they ask me to be on the Supreme Court? Will this come out during the confirmation hearing?
I decided to write down, “I’ve been having tunnel vision-like symptoms.” Better to give a qualified full disclosure to the doctors, so we don’t miss an important diagnosis.
A minute later, I thought about what a dummy I was. I could have just told the doctor about my “tunnel vision” without writing it down. Should I cross it out? Won’t that look worse? That’s my problem. I’m always too honest.
The lady in the Hazmat suit came back for the clipboard and the forms. She shot my forehead with a thermometer gun. My temperature was normal because she moved on to the next steps.
“Have you had COVID, or any symptoms like fever, or chills . . .” she asked.
“No, not really,” I said.
“Okay, come in here now,” said the woman, directing me into the E.T. The Extraterrestrial optometry office room.
Inside the small office, there were two other examination rooms. So counting the two (2) optometrists in those rooms, who were meeting with two (2) patients, combined with the employees working at desks(4–5)and other patients like me waiting to be seen in the outside area (2–3), there were about twelve (12)of us now in a space as big as one of those Subway Sandwiches they have inside gas stations sometimes.
The nice female employee in the Chernobyl outfit gave me a series of tests, all of which were kinda fun, except one.
First, she had me look into a device that looked like the futuristic binoculars Luke Skywalker used to search for R2-D2 and C-3PO in the first Star Wars movie.
Inside these space-binoculars was a psychedelic desert landscape scene, where a stretch of road with broken yellow lines went off into the distance. At the end of the road was a hot air balloon lifting off. Sometimes the balloon was blurry. Other times it was sharp and crisp, depending on how the lady manipulated the buttons on her side of the binoculars. The whole exercise was so surreal that the Star Wars Disco song by Meco started playing in my head, and I couldn’t make it stop.
I should have asked her specifically what the binocular test was for because now I could explain it to you. I also regret not making a “These aren’t the Droids you’re looking for” joke. I bet she’s never heard that before, and I would have gotten a big laugh.
The Hazmat Lady next had me press my face against a big white piece of equipment where I had to put my eye up to a peephole and “look for the ‘X.’ I felt like I was pushing my head against a toilet bowl tank.
At first, I couldn’t see anything. It felt like I was staring into one of those science exhibits at the Rueben H. Fleet Space Museum, where you strain to see a fuzzy hologram of the planet Jupiter. You know, the museum where you have to go with your kids when they’re too small to take any place really fun.
“You have to put your chin on that groove, and your forehead on that pad,” said the Hazmat Lady.
I guess I have a misshapen head because it took me a lot of adjusting to finally see the “X” in the peephole. I felt like I was kissing the Blarney Stone.
I knew I’d got it right when the ‘X’ turned from red to green. It gave me a real sense of accomplishment when the light turned green, and I got really good at it. Little did I know the lady was setting me up for what came next.
“Okay, good. Now when the light turns green, there will be a bright flash because I’m taking a photo of your eye,” said the lady.
I made the “X” turn green, then suddenly a bright flash exploded into my eye so bright that I could see all the blood vessels and floaters in my eyeball. Although I would not call it painful, it was not a pleasant sensation. I’ve definitely felt better at other times in my life. The lady took about five photos of my right eye, then the left. It was my least favorite part of the exam so far.
The Chernobyl Lady moved me to a new machine.
“Now we’re going to test your peripheral vision,” she said.
She handed me a clicker device connected to the machine with a wire.
“Look into the scope, and use this clicker to click the button whenever you see a white dot. No matter where the white dot appears, click when you see it. Sometimes it will be straight ahead. Sometimes it’s off to the side,” she explained.
White dots started popping up all around the field of vision, up top, down below, to the left, to the right. I started clicking like mad. Then a vision of the Saturday Night Live comedian playing Sean Connery on Jeopard popped into my head, and I lost focus.
“Your Motha, Trebek,” I muttered under my breath as I clicked away on the clicker.
“Okay, you’re done. Good job,” said the lady.
The examination room door opened.
“Are you, John,” said the new optometrist lady.
She was Asian, very petite, and equipped with all the same protective gear as Chernobyl Lady.
“Yes, yes I am,” I said.
“Well, come inside here. I’ve sanitized the chair,” she said.
I looked into the small room and saw a big Optometrist chair. This was my first time, and I was only used to dentist chairs.
“Have a seat,” she said, ushering me into the chair.
I sat down.
“Now it says here you are here for eyeglasses. Have you ever had glasses before?”
“No, this is my first eye examination.”
“Oh, okay. So what I’m going to do is have you look at the eye chart up there on the wall,” she said.
It was a digital eye chart on a small computer screen. It was not like the old eye charts I remember from the DMV and the Bugs Bunny cartoons of my youth.
“Can you read the bottom line?” she asked.
The bottom line was tiny. The only letter out of the five that I could really make out was “H.”
“D, K, H, L or B, K,” I said.
“Okay, not bad,” she said.
“Did I get ’em right? I was guessing on a few,” I said.
She did not tell me which ones I missed or got right.
“What I want to do next is have you look into this machine,” she said, pulling the machine in front of my face.
“You have astigmatism in your right eye that affects your ability to see long distance,” the optometrist said.
“Okay,” I said.
“But you’re really interested in being able to read up close, right?” she asked.
“And be able to use a computer, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “How did you know?”
“Just a guess,” she said. “How far away is your computer screen from your face?” she said, holding her hand out like it was my computer screen. Her hand seemed way too close to me.
“Um, it’s farther away than that,” I said.
“Like this?” she said.
She moved her hand farther away. But the way she said it made it seem like I was an idiot. Like there was no way the screen could be that far away from my face. Now I doubted myself.
What she did not know is that I use a laptop as my “home computer,” and I use a wireless keyboard. The screen is actually quite far away from my face. I tried to explain it to her.
“Well, is it like this ?” she said, moving her hand farther away.
“Like this,” I said, showing her with my own hand and indicating slightly closer to my face.
“Like that?!” she said, again emphasizing the words, such that I felt like an idiot and that I had to be wrong.
“Like this,” I said, slightly adjusting where my hand was, to a little bit farther away.
“I thought you said it was like this?” she said, putting her hand where my hand had been before.
Now I was totally confused and demoralized. Really, when I thought about it, the screen seemed much farther away from where either my hand or hers was.
“Like this?” she said, holding her hand flat, like a computer screen.
“Yes, yes. Like that,” I said, discouraged and resigned. I don’t think we had the distance right. But I wanted to move on.
“Look at the eye chart again. Can you read the bottom line?” she said, with a tiny tinge of frustration in her voice.
The line of letters was really small. Again the only letter I could be certain of was the ‘H.’ I guessed the rest of the letters.
“Okay. Now we’re going to use the machine,” said the optometrist.
She swung the eye machine in front of me. The thing that looks like the binocular contraption you put coins in to look at the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty.
“I’m going to try different lenses, and I want you to tell me which ones you like better, okay?” she said.
She began sliding all these lenses over my eyes.
“Do you like 1 . . . or 3?” she asked.
“1,” I said.
“2, . . . . or 4?” she asked.
“4,” I answered.
“6, . . . . or 8? . . . 3, or 7? . . . 5, or 9?” she asked, more insistently.
It went on and on and on.
“Wait a second. Is the machine fogging up?” she asked.
Both eye holes were filled with fog from my breath, coming up from the two masks over my mouth.
“Oh Boy, it is all fogged up!” she said, grabbing a wipe and reaching in to wipe the fog off the lenses.
“Have you just been calling out the number when the lens was less foggy?!” she asked.
“Yes. Yes, I think that’s what I was doing,” I answered, shamefully.
“Because none of your responses are making any sense,” she said.
“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time for that, har-har,” I joked.
She did not laugh.
“Is there any way you can pinch the metal clip on your mask to prevent the machine from fogging up?”
I pinched the metal part of the mask, but the machine kept fogging up whenever I breathed. So I tried to hold my breath.
“I gotta tell you. I’m the kind of person who gives off a lot of heat. Like when I get in a car, I fog my side of the car right up,” I explained.
I guess it would have been easier to just say I was overweight.
She started asking me which number I liked best again. I was holding my breath, so I had to answer her like a ventriloquist, barely opening my mouth.
“2,” I said through my clenched teeth.
I started to get a headache after a minute or two.
That’s when I noticed that it looked like the optometrist only had one hand.
I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed earlier that the optometrist only had one hand. To be honest, she was covered in so much gear, I’m still not sure if she really did have just one hand. But just like the Star War Disco song in my head, I was distracted again.
With the flu mask fogging the lenses, the Star Wars song, and this one hand thing, I was a mess. It was impossible for me to focus on the questions she was asking me about my vision. This is at least as tough as a dental appointment, where he talks to you and expects you to talk back.
She resumed calling out the numbers of the lenses.
“2, . . . or 6?” she asked.
I wonder if she lost her hand in a traumatic accident or whether it was congenital.
“2,” I said, not really knowing if the 2 was better than the 6.
Like Austin Powers, when he can’t stop saying “mole” to the fellow with the mole on his face.
What am I even here complaining about? My vision is not that bad. This lady lost her hand. Or never had one.
She was asking me more questions.
I had to slap myself and get back into the examination.
She brought out a fancy device that looked like some futuristic steampunk set of eyeglasses.
“Let’s use the old-fashioned device,” she said.
This was the device they used when Abe Lincoln was getting glasses.
She told me to cover my left eye. I did.
“2, or 4?” she asked.
“5, or 8?”
I fogged up this new eyeglass device too, but I didn’t tell her because I did not want to make her mad. I really was trying my hardest not to screw up the prescription she was going to give me for glasses.
Damn Coronavirus and these masks! I’m definitely going to get the wrong prescription glasses.
My sunglasses always fog up. Like I told her, I’m famous for fogging up cars too. If I get in your car on a cold morning, all bundled up in a jacket or raincoat, my side of the car will fog up in no time.
“I see here on the form you wrote that you’re experiencing ‘tunnel vision,’” she said.
“Yes, but I was thinking about taking that back if I could,” I said.
“Well, why don’t you explain what caused you to write that?” she said.
I explained it.
“Is it like a kaleidoscope sort of effect?” she asked.
“Yes, exactly!” I said, astonished. “Is it serious? Am I going to die?”
“Well, do you have diabetes?” she asked.
“No. Not yet. But look at me. I’m like the walking definition of pre-diabetes,” I admitted.
“Well, if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes yet, what you have is called ocular migraines. Do you get migraine headaches? she asked.
“No. I mean, Tracy and the kids drive me nuts, but no migraine headaches,” I said, wanting to be as truthful as possible.
“Yes, well, what you have is called ‘ocular migraines.’ You’re very lucky not to have the headaches that usually come with these,” she said.
So I don’t have tunnel vision. I have a kaleidoscopic vision. Interesting.
“What do I do to make my little eye headaches go away?” I asked.
“See if any food or activities set them off and avoid those. Like too much caffeine. Otherwise, you just have to sit back and enjoy them until they pass.”
Guess I’ll have to stop drinking 6 cups of coffee every morning. Sorry, Juan Valdez.
The optometrist lady showed me the photos of my eyeballs. They were huge. It looked like this:
She pointed to all these blotches on the films and explained what it all meant. I nodded and pretended I saw what she was saying, just like when Tracy showed me ultrasounds of the boys.
“You have no macular degeneration, no diabetic retinopathy, you just have astigmatism in your right eye where hard to see long-distance and age-related difficulty reading,” said the optometrist.
Whew. That sounds alright.
“How about that?! Sounds like my eyes are the healthiest part of my body,” I said.
Again, no laughs.
“I’m going to give you two prescriptions. This one is for a set of glasses you could walk around wearing, to see better far away and to read better up close. And this second prescription would just be for glasses to wear while using your computer. Any questions?” she asked.
Jesus. I’m gonna have to walk around like a harmonica player with suspenders holding all my glasses.
“Can I screw up my eyes up even more by just wearing off-the-rack reading glasses?” I asked her.
“The short answer is . . . no,” she said.
Good, I don’t have time to get the prescriptions filled now. I got more important things to do anyway.
I got up to leave. I reached out to shake her hand but pulled my hand back quick enough for her not to see.
I did not get the prescriptions for the glasses filled out right there at Costco. I didn’t want to deal with that MacIntosh era Steve Jobs dude. Plus, I was on a tight schedule.
Instead, I went and got a huge rotisserie chicken, a lasagna and the jumbo Caeser salad they sell at Costco.
I wanted to race home and eat the chicken before I had to pick up Son #1 and shuttle him over to one of his friend’s houses for a COVID “drive-by birthday party”- the ones where you honk your horns and piss off all the neighbors.
I went home with just enough time to devour half of the chicken like a circus geek. Good thing I got the food instead of the glasses because they made us wait half an hour around the corner from the kid’s house before they told us to drive by and honk. I would have been twice as pissed off if I wasn’t completely stuffed and satisfied while we sat.
When I finally got back to my desk in the Man Cave, I realized that the optometrist and I got all it all wrong, and the computer screen is much farther away than we estimated in her office.
Before you got to Costco for an eye exam in this time of COVID, you better practice the following skills to get your prescription lenses right and avoid fogging up the optometrist’s machine:
-Measure how far away you sit from the computer you use the most
-Practice holding your breath for like, two or three minutes at a time;
-Take ventriloquist lessons; or
-Learn sign language; or
Make flashcards with the numbers 1–20 on them that you can hold up when she asks you which lens is best.
© Jack Clune 2020
1. Get regular sleep and turn your phone off one hour before bed (I don’t)2. Drink lots of water (if your pee is too yellow you haven’t drunk enough)3. Be kind to people, but learn how to have boundaries and say no (don't be a doormat)4. Look people in the eye and have a firm handshake (Actually, I’d be fine if the handshake goes away forever after this Pandemic- let’s just shaka or do deep bows to one another)5. When talking to people, listen to what they say, rather than simply wait to say the next thing.6. Brush and floss your teeth (Don’t be a yuck mouth).7. Don't smoke or drink alcohol.8. Meditate for 10 minutes a day.9. Exercise (Use the Japanese Kaizen method- one push-up first day, two the second day, three the third day. Imagine where you’ll be in a year). Or use this method. Or this one.10. Eat healthily.11. Communicate really well with your spouse, kids, parents and friends.12. Wear nice clean clothes.13. Travel, but not too much (wherever you go, there you are).14. After a reasonable time, ask for a raise and if they don't give it to you, change jobs or be your own boss.15. Envision where you want to be five years from now and do something small every day to try to make it happen.16. Save money. Don't save it in a bank, invest it somewhere where it will grow (I don’t. I think the stock market is a roulette wheel for normal people like me, and a rigged carnival booth for the people with insider trading information. Look at all the politicians with insider information who sold off before the public announcement of the Pandemic. The stock market obviously has no relationship to the real world. How can the market be through the roof the last few months when the world is a dumpster fire? And the people who made the most money EVER in the stock market betted against us the normal people, that we would default on our mortgages and Countrywide would collapse. The banks sold us our mortgages and turned around and sold the insider bettors the tickets that we would default. Then when the bets came due the banks had no money to pay them, the banks collapsed, and none of the bankers went to jail. In fact they took our bailout money and paid themselves bonuses. Great system). But go ahead and invest in boring Index Funds- that's not the day trading lottery ticket investing that everyone talks about all day long at the water cooler and on the dumb "Mad Money" T.V. shows.17. Buy real estate (With all that extra money you have laying around).18. Make a Will (Living Trust better).19. Believe in God, or if you don't, hedge your bets (watch on double speed) and act spiritual and be kind just in case there's a Hell. Or don't.20. Read Primal Screams from Jack Clune's Man Cave.
Let me tell you, the feeling of not having to wonder "what if I [wrote, started a Vlog, made a movie] . . .?" is worth it to just give it a try.
Figure out what you are really good at, that people will pay you a lot of money to do.
A) You have to stop yourself from just "drifting along"; andB) You will encounter constant resistance in your effort to stop drifting
"The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying." -Steven Pressfield
|Almost the Author (And I'm not fat-shaming this fine fellow. Or woman. I'm just illustrating a point about myself)|
The whole time I remind myself, "This is the resistance. All of this is meant to make you never come back to the beach."
|Fighting the resistance!|
"What if I would have just tried . . . ?"
|Susan Boyle- not drifting, fighting the resistance|
The other day I was lying on the couch in the Man Cave, feeling sorry for myself because the San Diego Padres just lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL2020 playoffs.
My thoughts turned to some of the things I regret in my life, the missed opportunities, and the terrible decisions I made.
If only I could go back in time to fix things.
Suddenly, the comedian George Carlin appeared in the bar stool chair.
"George Carlin, what the hell ...?" I asked.
"The powers that be sent me here to give you a chance to travel back in time to fix one of those regrets you're always stewing on," said George Carlin, rolling his eyes upward to indicate who the "powers that be" was.
"Are you serious?" I asked.
"Serious as November 4th," said George. Then he said:
"Let's have it. To when and where are you going back in time?"
George was dressed the same way as he was in the movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," a movie I've never seen. He wore a trench coat, his hair was slicked back, and he wore dark wraparound glasses.
"Mr. Carlin . . ."
"Call me George," he said.
"George, I have a million questions," I said.
"Look, don't belabor this, buddy. Let's get to the fun part of the story," said George.
"I know, I know. But let me ask you a few questions."
"I've never seen 'Bill and Ted,' . . .are you like an Archangel, or are you, God?' I asked.
"I'm sort of like an angel today. I'm an anthropomorphic representation of your own psyche. They said I'm as good a representation of how screwed up, cynical, and sarcastic you are, except I'm way more funny and talented, and I did a lot more drugs. They were thinking about sending Anna Nicole Smith, or Chris Farley, but they were both working on other projects."
"Is this another one of my funny life stories that Hollywood has already stolen? Like all my tales that I tell down here in San Diego that somehow seep up there to that cesspool and get watered down and put into movie scripts," I asked.
"Yeah, that's it. That's exactly right," says George sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "Jesus, you really are a buffoon. You think the whole world revolves around you? Are you really that bitter about the Dodgers? The Padres just need better pitching."
"If I go back and change events, does it change the whole course and trajectory of future events?" I asked.
"No. This is just a vanity project for you. You're gonna go back to see what would have happened if you had done the right thing and not F'd up as royally as you did the first time. But the fact you screwed up royally in real life will remain unchanged when you come back here to the couch."
"Oh my God. Is that supposed to somehow make me feel better? I already know I F'd up?"
"Look, Sunshine, the clock is ticking. If I just snap my fingers, I'll be out of this weird bric-a-brac "Fortress of Solitude" Man Cave thing you got going here."
"Can I have a day to think about where I want to go back in time?" I asked
"No. You gotta decide now. Chop-chop," said George Carlin.
"I have so many regrets. Which one should I choose?" I asked George Carlin.
"Choose the regret that causes you the most pain. Get it out of your system," said George.
"Should I go back to the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Mexico to fix . . ."
"No! Not that one. Let sleeping dogs lie!" said George.
"How about Vegas? That time I wore the Elvis costume, and I got in those two car accidents on the same night?"
"No. That one actually panned out in the end if you look at the big picture. Wasn't there a lawsuit after that one, where you got some money? The money to pay for your wedding ring?"
"Yeah, I did," I admitted.
"That's a net gain," said George.
"Can I take someone with me on the trip? There's someone who needs to go back with me for this one. This is the biggest regret in his life too." I asked.
"No. But you'll see him there."
"Will Tracy know which regret I went back to fix?
"Only if you tell her," said George.
"Because she'll be pissed if she finds out I didn't go back to fix one of the stupid things I did . . . during our time together," I said.
"Better keep your mouth shut then. Let's go, you gotta decide now!" said George.
"You know what I'm gonna go back and do, don't you?"
"I've got a pretty good idea. Statistically, there's one thing you dwell on all the time. In fact, it shocked me to see how much you fixate on such a stupid and trivial . . " George caught himself, "I mean, really important event in your life."
"Okay. I'm ready. Take me back to 1986!"
In an instant, I'm standing outside the San Diego State Open Air Amphitheater on a warm dusky summer evening. A big crowd of high school and college-aged kids are milling around, excited for a concert about to begin inside.
"Luis! Holy crap, look at how young you are!" I yell at my friend Luis standing by my side.
"What are you talking about?" asks Luis, looking baffled.
I run over to a car window to get a look at myself. I see my reflection in the Honda CRX.
"Oh, man! To be this young again! You Handsome Devil!" I yell at myself in the reflection.
"Hey, Fabio! Get over here!" says a familiar voice.
I look over, and it's George Carlin, standing under a canopy, behind a plastic table, working the T-shirt booth. When I run over to him, George says:
"Look, here comes your boy now. I can't believe it. You almost F'd it up again. Get over there and buy the tickets!"
"Okay, okay!" I say, running to gather up Luis. "Lu, follow me!"
Luis and I come face to face with a college kid, who looks like Robert Downey, Jr. He's wearing a fedora hat, a T-shirt featuring the band who is about to play, jeans that are tapered and rolled up at the bottom, with white socks and black wing-tipped brogue shoes.
"Dude, you're about to come offer me and my friend two tickets to this concert aren't you?" I say to Robert Downey.
"How much?" asks Luis.
"$20.00 each. I paid $17.50 face value."
"We'll take them!" I shout as I hug the repulsed scalper.
"Wait a minute Jack. That's too much. I just came here to stand outside the concert to listen to a few songs," says Luis.
Time comes to a halt. I see George Carlin, who is selling some kid a band poster. George and I make eye contact, and in slow motion, he slaps his hand to his forehead.
Classical music is booming out of the P.A. system inside the amphitheater, which only heightens my anxiety that Luis is about to blow this moment A SECOND TIME.
Snapping out of my fugue state, I turn to Luis and say
"Lu, this is one of the most important moments of our lives. If we don't buy these two concert tickets, no matter what the price, we are going to live to regret it for the rest of time- do you understand me?!"
Lu and the Robert Downey Jr. scalper's eyes widen.
"In less than twenty-four hours, Lu, for some reason we never understand, you will become the biggest most obsessed fan of this band in the United States. You start to dress like the lead singer. You buy every single T-shirt, poster, cassette, and vinyl record the band ever produces," I say.
Lu and the scalper stare at me like I'm a mental patient.
"You buy unlistenable bootleg vinyl discs, recorded under raincoats at concerts. You correspond, PRE-INTERNET, with people in Denmark, New Zealand, and across the globe, trading band memorabilia, by writing hand-written letters and using stamps. You wait weeks for the British versions of the records you already have the American versions of to arrive in the mail. You know all of the secret messages carved into the run-off grooves of the vinyl discs."
"Lu, you will wear eyeglasses and a hearing aid that you don't need, simply because you saw the lead singer doing that in a music magazine. The lead singer wore that rig for a concert or two, to was pay homage to that deaf singer from the 1950s who Dexy's Midnight Runners sang about, named Johnny Ray. You, on the other hand, will wear the glasses and fake hearing aid for the first two years of college every single day. People point and stare at you."
I'm starting to get through to Luis now. He's such an obsessive basket case, none of this seems that far-fetched to him.
"Most annoyingly, you will take on the very persona of Morrissey. You will critique everything that normal people enjoy, and you go around quoting Oscar Wilde all the time. " I tell Luis.
"Finally, you will pretend you're 'consciously abstaining from sex,' when in fact, you and I both have so little game that we couldn't get laid in a Nevada brothel even if we had a ton of Bitcoin."
"What's Bitcoin?" asks the scalper.
"San Diego, we are 'The Smiths!'" says Morrissey as he takes the stage.
My knees buckle. I almost faint.
The band launches into the song "Panic" then "I Want the One I Can't Have" then into "There is a Light that Never Goes Out."
"Jesus Christ!" I say to Luis, putting a fist up to my eye, embarrassed.
"Johnny Marr is the greatest guitar player in the history of the world," says Luis,
Lu is right. Johnny is a virtuoso, and every note he plays makes me wanna scream and faint like one of those girls in a Beatlemania documentary.
I see in Lu's eyes he's become radicalized. He's started his journey into The Smiths psychosis. It's gonna be about eight years til he gets deprogrammed and we see him on the other side. I can almost sympathize with his plight from this perspective.
"These seats suck," I said to Luis, squinting my eyes to see the stage from the second-to-last row that we're seated in.
"We gotta get closer to the stage. If Tracy were here, she'd walk us right to the front. Shit, she'd get us backstage!" I yelled at Luis over the music.
"Who's Tracy?!" yelled Luis.
Just then, George Carlin appeared at the end of the row, wearing a yellow security windbreaker. He beckoned us with his finger to come with him. We did.
"Whattya gonna stay up here the whole time?" said George.
I looked at him meekly.
"You gotta at least try to get close to the stage. You'll regret it the rest of your life!" shouted George.
We followed George Carlin down the long flight of amphitheater stairs, right up close to the stage. When the Smiths start playing "How Soon Is Now?" the place erupts. The fans go batshit crazy.
George Carlin grabbed Luis and me by the scruff of our necks and pushed us to the front row, right at the foot of the stage yelling,
We tumbled right into a real douchebag-looking guy, surrounded by a bunch of bimbos. He looked like Donald Trump, but he was the local 80's San Diego version.
"We're getting close to the stage. We love The Smiths," said Luis.
"No you're not! Where's security?" said S.D. Donald, looking around over the crowd.
Damn, S.D. Donald is really tall, I thought to myself. Really tall. What the hell is a douchebag businessman like him doing at a Smiths concert anyway?
"Security! Security!" shouted the Donald, pointing down at me and Luis.
The Donald is dressed in a big 80's double-breasted business suit. His tie is tied way too long, hiding his fat belly. Donnie whips out an enormous 80's style mobile phone, and, squinting, he starts dialing a number.
"You know how much I paid for these tickets you assholes? One-hundred, twenty-five bucks each! Beat it!" said the S.D. Donald.
"Hold on! Hold on, Sir!" I shouted. I had an idea.
The music was absolutely pulsing from the stage. The whole crowd was hugging and singing the words to "How Soon Is Now?"
I reached in my pocket to pull out my iPhone.
"Excuse me while I whip this out!" I yelled at the Donald, with my phone illuminating his and my faces.
"Oh, No! The kid's got some kind of a gun!" screamed one of S.D. Donald's dumb girlfriends.
The crowd around us went into a panic and started scrambling to get away from me.
S.D. Donnie didn't move an inch. He just stood there scowling at me.
"It's a phone! It's only a phone!" I shouted. "Look, check it out!" I took a "selfie" with me and S.D. Donald, then I showed him our picture on the screen.
"Where the hell did you get that thing, kid?!" shouted the Donald.
"I'm from the future! The year 2020. You invest in the stock market?" I shouted over the music.
"I sure do. OK great. What's the name of the company?"
"What is it?!" shouted the Donald, bending, and cupping his ear.
"Palm Pilot! Invest every penny you got!" I shout.
That's when the music stopped, and I felt the big arm around my neck.
Five or six security guards tackled Luis and me to the ground, putting us in chokeholds. I shoved the phone back into the deep pocket of my B.U.M Equipment pants.
The lights of the amphitheater came up.
"Stop! Relent! Stand down Philistines! You brutes!" shouted Morrissey into the microphone.
The security guards looked up, confused and disgusted at Morrissey on the stage.
"Unhand those gentle supplicants! Bring the buggards to the stage!" said Morrissey.
George Carlin appeared in his security windbreaker again.
"You heard Morrissey- get these two buffoons backstage now. Otherwise, we'll have a riot on our hands. Chop-chop!"
The Donald was on his huge 80's mobile phone. The bimbo girlfriends stood next to him, flirting with the security guards.
"I want 500,000 shares of Palm Pilot tomorrow morning, you hear me? 'A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING' it's a good thing. Just do it."
Steve West, the British D.J. from the New Wave radio station 91X, came up to the microphone.
"Alrighty! Now, now! It's been a right proper cock-up hasn't it?! A real wobbly!
We're gonna take a short break so you mingers can get your heads together. Hunky-Dory, - eh?! That's right, Lads- ta!
The Smiths will be back soon. 'How Soon Is Now?' I can't tell you." Steve West chuckled at his own terrible joke.
"Listen, there'll be no more kerfuffles, or the boys are going home- do you understand?! Cheers- ta!"
The audience looked at him, totally confused.
I wasn't sure what he meant either with those crazy British slang words.
But everyone grunted, "Yes."
The security guards pushed us to the side entrance of the stage. The kids in the audience shot daggers with their eyes at Lu and me. We had ruined the song, and now we were going backstage.
The pungent smell of marijuana filled the air. At the last minute, I saw the face of the handsome scalper who sold us those shitty seats. I met his eyes, but he was so stoned, I don't even think he remembered who I was.
"Bring 'em up here, boys!" said George Carlin, who was holding the backstage door open. George was now wearing a dungaree jeans outfit, with a crocheted Rastafarian tam on his head. He had transformed into a backstage roadie.
Luis and I stumbled as the security guards pushed us hard through the backstage door. Then George and two other roadies dragged us to a hallway, where, in all their staggering genius stood The Smiths. Johnny Marr's guitar parts from the records were so complex now, they needed two guitarists on stage, so they brought Craig Gannon from the band Aztec Camera. That's like being invited to join The Beatles.
I got so nervous, I nearly pissed my pants. Morrissey said:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom . . . Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you two tossers, because you're here somehow"
Now that's some cool Samuel L. Jackson "Pulp Fiction" shit right there, I thought to myself.
The silence was painful.
"Luis loves you, Morrissey. And I do too," I said, regretting the words instantly.
"Call me Steven," said Morrissey.
Luis and Morrissey walked away and sat in two metal folding chairs in the corner, talking quietly face to face. The rest of the group broke off too.
George Carlin leaned against a rigging cabinet smoking a joint with Andy Rourke, the bassist, and Mike Joyce, the drummer.
I run after Johnny Marr who's gone off to find his wife, Angie. Johnny grabs a beer, lights up a cigarette, and then we all three sat down. I started telling Johnny about my guitar playing, and I gave him some tips and tricks that I'd picked up along the way.
"Johnny, can you explain to me how you get your tone on "Some Girls are Bigger Than Others," that's one I've kind of struggled with," I asked Johnny, pretending like it was even remotely possible for me to play.
"Sure, why not?" said Johnny picking up his Fender Jaguar.
Then Johnny explained his tone settings and showed me the riff. Everything was going really good, and I was saying "Yeah, yeah," you can hear me on the video. I was nodding my head while he talked, but when we got to (1:11) suddenly I got light-headed, the room spun, and I was out cold. [The nice video player does not show up on the mobile version of the story sometimes- so please click the underlined link, thanks].
Next thing I remember, I was coming to on the floor staring at the ceiling, with George Carlin, Johnny, and Angie, fanning me with towels.
"That's so beautiful Johnny. How can you be so talented when you're only in your twenties?" I asked him.
"Lot's of hours sitting alone in me room there, Jack-O," said Johnny. "Right Angie baby?"
"Don't I know it," said Angie.
"So, Jackie, what's the story here? Why did you cack up our concert here in sunny San Diego? What's all the fighting about?" asked Johnny.
"Johnny, I'm here from the future. From the year 2020. George Carlin is an angel who visited me to let me come back in time to fix one of the biggest regrets of my life."
"See, in real life, I blew it and passed up the opportunity to buy a ticket for this show. My friend Luis screwed up even worse. Within like 24 hours of this concert, for some unexplainable reason, he becomes the biggest Smiths fan in the world, and we had to stop him from committing suicide whenever he thought about missing this show."
Johnny and Angie stared at me. Then they both burst out laughing and clapping their hands.
"Oh, Jack-Man! What did you smoke tonight, Son?" said Johnny, looking at Angie grinning.
"Check this out," I said as I whipped out my iPhone.
"Oh wow!" said Angie as the phone lit up.
I did the selfie-trick with Johnny and Angie.
"Top gear!" Brilliant! You must be joking!" said Johnny. "Real Star Trek stuff, that!"
"Can I see it?" Angie said.
"Yeah, flip through all the screens," I said.
"So wait a sec. You're from the future? You know everything that's gonna happen from now to 2020?" asked Johnny.
"Yep," I said.
"And if you tell us, will that affect the future?' asked Johnny. "I love science fiction! I've read all them science fiction books y'know!"
"No. George Carlin says even if I tell you everything that happens tonight, you won't remember any of it when my little trip back in time is over."
Johnny looked at Angie and then back at me.
"Tell us everything!" they both said.
I told Johnny and Angie everything that happened between 1986 and 2020.
"And the election is on November 3rd, in like three weeks, and they don't have a cure for the Coronavirus, and Keith Richards is still alive," I said, exhausted.
"I can't believe Manchester City wins the Premier League," said Angie. Johnny shook his head in astonishment too.
"And I can't believe the Bruce Jenner thing," said Johnny.
Outside, the crowd was going berserk for The Smiths return to the stage.
"Jack, everything you told us was so amazing, but you didn't tell us what happens to The Smiths," said Johnny.
"Oh, yeah. Well, Johnny, you stop drinking and smoking. And you become vegetarian, and run lots of marathons," I said.
"Really? Cheers, Jack, cheers," Johnny said, clinking his beer with mine.
"Yeah, and you and Angie stay married the whole time- real high school sweethearts!" I said, trying to avoid saying more.
They looked at each other and cuddled.
"What about me and Morrissey, Jack?" asked Johnny sheepishly.
"Johnny, before I tell you that . . . can I play "Please Please Please Let Me Get I Want" on guitar for you and Angie?" I asked. "It's a short song, and one of the only Smiths songs I can play."
"You play guitar do ya, you chancer? Yeah sure, here play this one," said Johnny.
"Johnny, do you have a left-handed guitar I could play?" I asked, embarrassed.
"Jack, nobody plays left-handed guitar," said Johnny
George Carlin presented me with a left-handed guitar.
"Thanks, George," I said.
Sadly, I can only show you the end of my performance as the video (my talent) is too big for the blog website to handle. You'll just have to use your imagination how good the rest of it was [Please click on the link if the video player does not appear:
"Johnny, that song really meant a lot to me and Luis when we were in high school. Y'know like when we had a lot of disappointments, like crushes, and missing this concert and stuff."
"Cool, man. That's cool. Thanks for sharing that, Jack," said Johnny.
Luis and I walked with The Smiths to the stage and stood by before the curtain opened. That's when Johnny couldn't hold back anymore. Johnny got up in Morrissey's face.
"You fuckin' prat! Do you realize you become a right-wing fascist in your fat old age?!" shouted Johnny.
Poor Morrissey was in shock, having no idea what Johnny was talking about.
"What are you on about?" said Morrissey. "You don't actually believe a word he says, do you?" pointing at me.
"Did you hear the barmy story he's got about Bruce Jenner?!' shouted Morrissey at Johnny.
Luis and I watched the rest of the show right from the side of the stage. When the band played their final song, Luis and I ran out and joined the other crazy fans who made it past security up onto the stage. We picked up and played a tambourine and maracas.
When the show was over, we said goodbye to the band, and they zoomed off in the limo-bus. I took a bunch of photos with my iPhone, but it was sad to think the photos would probably disappear later.
"Alright 'Gulliver's Travels,' it's time to say your goodbyes," said George Carlin, who was now back in his "Bill and Ted" outfit.
"Okay, man. I'll say goodbye to Luis."
I walked over to Luis, who was standing where the bus had left.
"Hey Lu, was this the best night ever or what?" I asked him.
"Yeah. I'm so glad we bought tickets. We would've regretted it for the rest of our lives," said Luis.
"You know what dude? If we missed this concert, we'd have gotten through it together. We'd have spent hundreds of hours listening to The Smiths, imagining we saw them at this concert. And that wouldn't have been so bad would it?" I asked.
"Dude, are you kidding me, tonight was epic," said Luis.
"I know. You're right. I played guitar for Johnny Marr and his wife, and they clapped politely. Who's ever gonna believe that?"
"Morrissey told me I should be celibate for a few years, and wear fake eyeglasses and a hearing aid in my ear," said Luis.
"Why did he say to do that?" I asked.
"I don't know. But I think I'm actually gonna do it," said Luis.
I know you are, buddy, I thought to myself. Even at school.
"Hey Lu, it was really great seeing ya here tonight. I wish I could just stay here and do everything we did in high school and college all over again. Most things I wouldn't change at all, really," I said.
Luis gave me a curious look. Then he said:
"Oh yeah. Morrissey told me something else too. He said he couldn't believe that of all the things in the world, you chose this concert. He said it made him proud for what The Smiths achieved with their music and the connection they made with their fans- with us."
"Really? He said that? Geez, Morrissey is such a difficult bastard, it's hard to imagine him giving us a sort of compliment like that," I said.
Luis and I took it all in for a moment.
"Hey Lu, you never even asked me how I knew how to play guitar," I said.
"Yeah, what the hell? You learn how to play guitar in the future?" asked Luis.
"Yeah. Actually, you play guitar first, and I get jealous, then I learn how to play," I said.
"Hmm." Luis thought about it. "Do we form a band?"
"No. You're too difficult to work with - like Morrissey. You lose interest anyway, and you start exercising, just as obsessively as you followed The Smiths. You become like a super fit Ironman." I explained.
"That's rad," said Luis.
"Hey, Lu. You just go ahead and drive your Volkswagen Fox home, I'll get a ride home with our new friend George Carlin here, okay?" I said.
"Later dude," said Luis, and we did our soul brother handshake that we always did, cupping our hands to make a real loud "pop" sound when our hands clasped.
With a whoosh, I was back in the Man Cave, lying on my couch. George Carlin was on the barstool.
"Well? You feel like you got it out of your system? No more regrets?" asked George.
"Yeah man, that was a blast," I said. "Thanks for all your help George."
"Whattaya think the lesson is, 'Sunshine?'" said George Carlin.
I thought for a few seconds.
"That anytime I need to, I can go back in time in my imagination, and rewrite my life any way I want."
"That's a start," said George. "Kinda shallow and narcissistic, but a start."
"And if I hurt someone, and that's my regret, whether they are dead or alive, I can write them a letter, and as long as I'm sincere and honest, I can probably make things better," I said.
"You know, sometimes a well-timed, sincere letter can do just the trick," said George.
"Here, someone asked me to give you this," said George, standing up from the bar chair.
He threw me a piece of paper folded into a square. Then George snapped his fingers and disappeared.
I unfolded the paper. A guitar pick with the initials "JM" fell out on my lap.
On the paper, were the lyrics, written in Morrissey's handwriting, to "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"
Beneath the song it said:
"Luis and Jack . . .
signed Morrissey and Johnny Marr-SDSU 1986.
© Copyright Jack Clune 2020
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