Park your Citroen and come on in! Jack's Man Cave has the full bar, the tufted leather couch, the lacquer backgammon table, and the psychedelic electric fireplace. There’s also a Foosball table and the groovy Hamm’s Beer motion signs lit up and shimmering. Gaze at the mounted surfboards and guitars and the LP record covers on the wall. Let’s crank up the Mott the Hoople vinyl record on the turntable, neck a few Lowenbrau’s, and party like we’re in the ski lodge after a perfect powder day.
The Man Cave
Jack's Man Cave (Click on the photo to enter the Cave)
"Family Intervenes to Make Man Stop Delaying Stool Sample Test"
Chula Vista Times
A wife's pain
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."
Swirl of emotions
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.
Sons smell desperation
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
Friends tapping toes, gnashing teeth
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."
Signs of softening
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.
How to Train for Your Eye Exam at Costco During the Pandemic
Ventriloquism, yoga breathing techniques, sign language, and flashcards
When I turned 50, my eyesight went flaccid
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.
So I called for an eye exam at Costco
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:
Arriving at the Costco appointment
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-busy
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.
Filling out the forms-tricky
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 officeroom.
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.
It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs!
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.
Glamour shots-kinda painful
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.
Time for the Jeopardy “Daily Double”
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.
I (can’t) see for miles, and miles, and miles
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.
There’s only you and me and we just disagree
“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.
Welcome to the machine
“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.
It’s getting hot in herre
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.
What am I complaining about?
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.
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.
Let’s go old school
“Tell you what, I’m going to do something different,” she said.
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.
The boy with kaleidoscope eyes
“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 eyes are the windows to the soul-scary
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.
I can see clearly now
“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.
My advice if you have an eye exam coming up
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.
I Can't Live Up To The Size XXL Shirt I Just Bought
I gotta lose weight
Antoine Da cunha on Unsplash
Romantic Getaway, COVID-19 style
My wife Tracy and I are getting ready for a short weekend getaway trip for our 16th Anniversary. We’re also visiting friends who are having a BBQ for their son, who is going away to college.
Because it is 2020, we’ll be wearing facemasks on the airplane, and we’re flying into an area that was decimated by wildfires. “Romantic Getaway” COVID-19 style!
The hotel gave us a significant discount just to thank us for coming, so we didn't even have to use our AAA benefits.
. . .
A new shirt for the trip
I’ve worn pretty much the same Dri-FIT exercise clothes every day since about mid-March. So when Tracy said she was going shopping and would I like her to pick me a new shirt for the trip, I said, “sure.”
Even though I wear elastic-waisted workout shorts every day, I haven’t actually had a chance to exercise since the pandemic began.
“What size are you now?” Tracy asked, somewhat witheringly, and really overemphasizing the word ‘now.”
Actually, it was a pretty good question. There were whole swaths of shirts in my closet that I’ve subconsciously avoided trying on in the last few weeks. I know they won’t fit, or they’ll fit tight.
“I’m an XL. You know that!” I said, jocularly.
Tracy did not laugh. She looked me up and down. Then she rolled her eyes and walked away.
That got me to thinking.
. . .
It took me a while just to get used to being an XL
I’ve often marveled at the fact that I am an XL shirt size. I don’t feel like an XL. I look around, and there seem to be so many bigger and chubbier guys than me stumbling around. What size do they wear, if I’m an XL? 8XL?
But I’ve temporarily had a potbelly the last few years which threw the whole sizing thing off. Tracy reminds me that I have skinny legs and no butt. But the belly throws the sizing thing askew, and that’s why I go XL on the shirts.
I say temporarily, because any day now, I am going to go back on the Atkins diet. Yes, long before there was Keto, Paleo, and all these other rip-off diets, there was the Atkins Diet. It seems like nobody gives Dr. Atkins the credit he is due anymore, except Rob Lowe.
. . .
I need to get back on the Atkins diet
I did the Atkins diet hardcore for two years in a row, about 15 years ago, and I really trimmed down. I got thrown off track, however, when Boston Market went into bankruptcy and closed down most of their locations. Up until then, I was eating Boston Market’s chicken (taking the skin off, sometimes) and creamed spinach two or three times a day.
I’d also go to Costco and eat the hot dogs without the bun, or drive through Jack-in-the-Box and eat the Supreme Bacon Cheeseburger, also without the bun.
“Dude, you’re diet is horrible,” my jealous friends told me.
“All I’m doing is eating all the same stuff I ate before without the bun. And I’ve lost 12 pounds,” I’d say, popping another Altoid. Your breath can get pretty intense eating all that protein.
The problem with the Atkins diet is if you slip and have just one french fry, potato chip, or piece of garlic bread, it’s over. That french fry becomes the best tasting french fry you ever had in your life. You immediately slip into a carb binge. You wake up two days later in a parking garage, surrounded by carbs.
. . .
Tracy texts and calls me from the clothing store
Tracy texted me two photos from the store.
“This one’s a Large, and this one is an XL,” said the text with photos of two shirts.
Tracy liked the patterns on these Hawaiian-style shirts. One had hot dogs on it, and the other had bananas.
“The one shirt shows what you eat every day, and the other shows what you drive me — bananas,” Tracy said.
Hardy har har, I thought. Tracy was not “getting the vibe” of the type of shirts I like. Nonetheless, I told her to bring them home, and I would try them on.
. . .
The “Grand Theft Auto look” I invented and everyone stole
A few years back, I went on a Hawaiian shirt kick. When it comes to fashion, I get an idea in my head, and I really beat it into the ground. I decided I wanted to dress like the characters in the videogame Grand Theft Auto (“GTA”).
It was back when there were GTA advertisements on T.V. The commercials showed car thief criminal characters running wild through a Los Angeles landscape. The characters wore white sneakers, jeans, and sleazy Hawaiian shirts. I don’t know why this look appealed to me so much. These fashion whims just sort of come to me sometimes, and I go with them. Before this GTA phase, it was safari shirts with epaulets.
I wore jeans, Adidas Stan Smiths, and the sleaziest Hawaiian shirts I could find. That became my uniform for the past few years. We were on the Disney Cruise one year, and the entertainment director called me out on my outfit while Tracy and I were performing on “The Dating Game” in the pub in front of all the parents who were relaxing away from their children.
“Look at the outfit on this one! Nobody dresses like this anymore,” said the British lady host, pointing at me and trying to get a laugh. “Who are you supposed to be, Magnum P.I.?” The crowd roared laughing.
The next day on the pool deck, I was looking at my phone and Dolce and Gabbana, and all the other fashion designers had stolen my idea and were using my GTA look in their shows.
Don’t worry. I got that British entertainment director back good. That’s a different story.
These hot dog and banana prints Tracy was picking out, however, were too cutesy, and not sleazy enough. But I humored Tracy and said bring them home, and I’ll try them on.
. . .
The fashion show at home
I tried on the XL shirt with the bananas print, and the shoulders fit and the length was good. But it looked like there was a watermelon pushing out from the middle of the shirt. And the bottom did sort of hang a little bit like a maternity dress.
I walked out to the garage where Tracy was working out in the home gym.
“Oh God, that’s horrible,” said Tracy, before I could get a word out. “How did the XL fit?” she asked.
“This is the XL,” I said.
“Oh, Jesus. Turn sideways,” said Tracy
I saw myself in the big home gym mirror. It did not look so good.
“I guess it’s not that bad. You might be able to wear that,” said Tracy. “Just don’t turn sideways when we’re at the BBQ.”
Back in the man cave, I tried on the L sized shirt- just for fun. I got my arms through the shoulders, but I could barely get it buttoned. I gave up and let it hang loosely unbuttoned.
I turned to the mirror above the tufted leather couch. I looked like Robert Plant at the height of Led Zeppelin, when he wore those little girlie half shirts. I looked like Robert Plant if he had a big pot belly.
. . .
Take these shirts back, please
Tracy took both the XL bananas shirt and the L hot dog shirt back to the store.
“Do you want me to see if they have any good XXL shirts?” Tracy asked.
“Sure. Send me a photo if there’s an XXL you think I’d like,” I said. As soon as I said it, the music in my head switched to the Baby Elephant song.
Tracy got to the store, and the texts started coming. The first was a photo of a really cool bright pink shirt. It was sobering to see the XXL on the label inside the shirt.
I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting for work. My face on the screen looked so pink and blotchy, I was playing with all the Zoom settings to see if there was something wrong with my computer camera.
Everybody else in the meeting’s face seemed normal complexion, except mine. My face seemed really, really red. In fact, I was already researching Rosacea on the Mayo Clinic site on my second computer screen. That’s when Tracy’s text of the pink shirt came in. The shirt was kinda sleazy and right up my alley, but . . .
The Author (XXL)
“I like it. But I don’t think that hot pink it will complement my complexion,” I texted back.
Tracy sent me a photo of a second shirt. This one was white, with wispy black palm fronds on it. It seemed pretty simple and elegant.
The Author (XXL)
“Sure, bring that one home.”
. . .
Graduating up to the XXL shirt
Tracy put the shopping bag down on the kitchen counter and pulled out the XXL shirt.
“Oh my God. It’s like a bedspread!” I chortled.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, ‘Chubs. Sometimes when I hold up your shirts in the laundry room, I feel like I’m folding duvet covers,” said Tracy.
I grabbed the shirt from her hand and took it back to the man cave. After some mental preparation, I put the XXL shirt on over the Dri-FIT I was wearing.
The XXL shirt fit like a glove. It was twice as comfortable as the XL. Oh my God. I’m an XXL.
I walked back to the kitchen and showed Tracy.
“It’ll probably shrink once you wash it I said,” twisting and posing side to side.
“I hope it doesn’t shrink too much,” said Tracy. “It fits perfectly right now.”
. . .
Getting used to my new XXL life
I had to go to the grocery store later that day. As I masked-up and walked to get the shopping cart, I looked around to see if there were any other XXL guys around.
Just then, as I was crossing to the front of the store, a lifted truck came barreling towards me, running over two speed bumps without slowing the slightest bit. I jumped back and let the truck go past.
I saw the big angry guy driving the truck, with his arm hanging out the window, and it was obvious he wears XXL or larger. He had Oakley Blades on, a baseball hat backwards, and a Fu Manchu mustache. He had a really big and burly wife or girlfriend in the front seat, and you could tell she was just as grumpy as he was. She was drinking a Big Gulp and had a bandanna on. She probably wore XXL too.
The driver “mad-dogged” me, staring at me the whole time as he tore past me. Then he was gone.
Man, if I’m going to be wearing XXL, maybe I need to start acting like that guy, I thought.
. . .
Trying to “fit” in
When I got home from the store, I went online, and I started shopping for things to fit my new XXL life. I went on Amazon and started looking for some of the items that I thought I might need.
I browsed for a leather knife holder that would fit on my belt. Then I shopped for obnoxious wrap-around blade sunglasses, the kind that guys with Mullet haircuts wear. I checked out the cowboy boots too. Expensive.
Maybe I should have a toothpick in my mouth all the time, I thought.
Then it dawned on me.
I’m not really cut out for this XXL thing. I can’t pull this off, nobody is going to believe it. For chrissakes, my dad drove a Jaguar XJS, and had a man purse. I myself leased two Miatas, and still wished I had one.
I went back to the grocery store and headed straight to the meat aisle. I bought a bunch of protein- hot dogs, chicken, and steak. I picked up some creamed spinach and walked right past the bread aisle without even stopping. At the register, I grabbed a tin of Altoids.
Back home I looked at myself in the home gym mirror.
The Epic Saga of the Biscuit with the Loose Trucks
It’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt
The skateboards looked so cool. Like surfing on the street!
One day I was scrolling through Facebook when an advertisement came up and magically transported me back to my youth. The ad was for some skateboards that looked like giant surfboards on wheels.
The ad showed skinny, blond-haired surfer kids using these skateboards to “land surf” all over the boardwalks, and parking lots at the beach. The kids were “hanging ten,” twirling around, and grabbing the rails of the boards and making deep carving turns like the way surfboards turn in the water.
There was even a video of a big chubby guy who kinda looked my same age (50), riding the tiniest version of the surfing skateboard, the model called “The Biscuit.”
If he can do it, I can do it, I thought.
. . .
I don’t get to the beach as much as I used to
These days, I only go “real” surfing during the summer, when the water gets warm. There was a time when I was going surfing every day after work. Three or four years ago, however, some sleaze shattered the back window of my car and stole my laptop bag with all my banking information in it while I was surfing.
As fun as it was working on the project of canceling all my credit cards, and re-doing all the paperwork for virtually every single aspect of my personal and business life, I found it hard to regain my surfing mojo after that. I don’t know why.
. . .
One of those skateboards would solve all my problems
I have to get one of those skateboards, I thought. Then I can just go outside my house in the cul de sac, and go “surfing.” I won’t have to park the car at the derelict beach ever again. I won’t have to wake up early in the morning and put on a cold wetsuit.
The videos showed some of the kids using these special poles to push themselves along on the longboard skateboards. The whole set up was meant to approximate paddleboarding on land.
I’ll get that pole too. After a few weeks of pushing myself along with that pole, I’ll have a six-pack of abs. Thank God I saw this ad for these skateboards today. This is going to be killing two birds with one stone. I won’t have to get sandy at the beach anymore, and I won’t have to go to the gym, because I’ll be so ripped from using that pole to push myself along in the cul de sac.
. . .
Hearts were popping out of my ears as I went straight to the website and bought the cheapest, smallest model of skateboard called “The Biscuit.” I ordered the purple one, called the “Deep Space” Biscuit.
I was kinda shocked to see that the “Sweeper” pole cost nearly $150.00.
What the hell? Why is this pole so expensive? Oh well, I’ll probably be canceling my monthly gym membership, and it’s cheaper than a Peloton.
I ordered the pole too.
. . .
The arrival in the mail
When the day of the Biscuit arrival came, I ran out to greet the UPS truck like a kid at Christmas. I ripped open the box and delighted at the psychedelic purple skateboard. It was short and fat and ready to go.
Wait a sec. Why are the trucks so loose? Is that what makes the board turn so loosely, like a surfboard in the water?
The “trucks” are the T-shaped metal axels which are bolted to the bottom of the board and have the wheels on the end of them. These were super duper trucks, much more substantial than regular skateboard trucks. But for some reason, these trucks were bolted onto the board very loosely, such that I could jiggle the whole truck far too easily it seemed to me.
Can this be right? Is that how that girl in the bikini was able to make such sharp turns?
I jiggled the trucks and filmed it with my phone. I sent the video to a few of my friends with whom I used to skateboard 35 years ago. Pardon the bad language on the video.
I got a return text.
“Cool. Crazy looking board.”
“ . . .”
“Don’t kill yourself.”
. . .
The maiden ride and the “stick”
The next day, the “Sweeper” pole arrived in the mail. It was made of graphite, and thus, it flexed and provided some thrust when I planted it on the ground and pushed off.
It was time to make the maiden ride on the Biscuit. In no time, I was pushing myself around like a pro. I was so proud, I even had my wife Tracy film me.
As you will hear, unfortunately, Tracy ruined the audio on the video when she made a bunch of smart-ass comments. She insisted on calling my Sweeper pole, “the stick.” Please try to ignore her comments if you watch the video link here:
“Oh my God, you’re going to kill yourself on that thing someday,” Tracy said off-camera.
. . .
The incident at the park
The next day Son #2 had soccer practice at the park near the beach.
What a perfect place to really stretch out and ride the Biscuit and use the pole, I thought.
When we got to the park, I began riding the Biscuit, first without the pole, because there were people around, and I was a little embarrassed to use it.
The Biscuit was enough of an attention-grabber as it was I guess because people were staring and pointing at me a lot.
It was a hot day because I got really sweaty after only 4 or 5 minutes of riding. Then involuntary thoughts flooded my mind, some of which seemed contradictory. I could not shoo the thoughts away:
Time to quit. You haven’t killed yourself yet, so that’s great. How long are you going to keep riding? Until you fall down and hurt yourself?... But you haven’t used the pole yet. You gotta try the pole. It cost so much money. Just a couple of rides with the pole, to get a jump start on that six-pack of abs.
I got the pole and rode back over to the open space around the bathrooms. Round and round I went, pumping and unweighting, and using the pole to push off whenever the board threatened to stop. More involuntary thoughts entered my head.
That’s good enough for today. You should wait until the helmet arrives, it’s coming in the mail soon. Let’s quit while we’re ahead . . . Let’s just go one time down behind the bleachers for one long run beside the baseball third baseline. Then we’ll come back and put everything away.
So I rolled down an incline and headed behind the bleachers along the third baseline. I pushed down on the pole a couple of times and got lots of speed.
That’s when the two front wheels hit the crack in the pavement, and the board came to a complete stop, while my body kept going, flying in mid-air.
. . .
The Wreck of the Biscuit with Loose Trucks
As my body transitioned from an upright surfer stance into a Pete Rose head-first slide into home plate, I put my arms out in front of me but neglected to drop the pole.
The pole now served as a sort of rolling pin. Like a giant rolling pin from the Spanish Inquisition, that they used to force confessions from people accused of being witches and heretics. As I landed upon the medieval rolling pin, it slowly and methodically cracked all of the ribs on my right side.
I sprawled out on the sidewalk twitching like a fly smashed with a fly swatter. A guy from the softball field ran over and asked through the chain-link fence.
“Dude, are you okay?! That was gnarly!” he asked, genuinely concerned.
I looked up at him, and for some odd reason, my first impulse was to say, “Thank you.” But there was no air in my diaphragm, lungs or mouth. There was no air in my bloodstream for that matter.
Any air that had been in my body when I slapped against the pavement was expelled from my body on a molecular level. This was more than just “having the wind knocked out.” This was something more serious like “the bends” that a deep-sea diver gets.
I stared into the guy’s eyes, and I made a wheezing sound like the cartoon dog Muttley when he laughs. Like a carny holding the lip of a balloon, letting the air out slowly. Both the guy’s eyes and mine got wide when we heard the sound I made.
As I walked, I could feel there was something wrong with my body. There was definitely something very, very wrong. It felt as though I might have exploded my kidney or something. It felt like my spleen, or some other organ was in the wrong place. I felt misshapen and cold.
I knew a kid in elementary school who exploded his kidney doing a jump on his BMX bike. He never grew after that. I was worried. Not that I am still growing or anything.
I went to the car, and put the driver’s seat back, turning it into a makeshift hospital bed, or dentist’s chair. I felt my chest, trying to assess whether I needed to drive to the hospital. I might have passed out. Son #2’s soccer practice came to an end, and he opened the back seat door.
“Dad, are you sleeping? What’s wrong, Dad?” Son #2 asked.
“I think I have internal bleeding son.”
God, is there any way I can avoid telling Tracy about this?
. . .
The pain, the excruciating pain
When we got home, I told Tracy about it.
“It’s not my fault. I’m telling you the trucks on that board are too loose! Ow. Ouch!” I buckled over in pain.
“I told you you’d get hurt. What kind of person takes up skateboarding at age 50? You really are a buffoon!” said Tracy, going back to cook the boys dinner.
“It wasn’t my fault!” I said, gripping my chest, because it hurt when I got excited.
I had to sit down. Sitting hurt too much, so I laid down on the couch in my man cave. The only position I could find that didn’t hurt was lying down, but not with my head propped too high. I had to lie like a corpse and stare straight up.
“There’s a delivery at the door!” Tracy yelled from the other room. We have a doorbell at our house that makes no noise, it only rings to Tracy’s cell phone. Nobody else can hear it. That’s a subject for another day.
I tried to sit up.
Oh my God. I can’t move. The pain in my chest felt like a butcher knife. I whelped in pain. This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.
I had to slide sideways off the couch. Like I was limbo dancing at a Sandals resort. Then I had to grab onto something, like a chair or an end table, and sort of do a corkscrew motion to get myself fully upright. Electric jolts of pain shot through my chest, into my brain.
I staggered into the man cave bathroom and threw two Advil liquid cap gels into my mouth. Then I was ready to go greet the UPS man. By the time I got out to the front gate, he was gone.
The box was left on the front step. It was my helmet. The manufacturer of the helmet is called Nutcase.
. . .
The letter in the mail
Somehow I went to work the next day, even though I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I got home and resumed lying like a corpse on the couch.
“Here, this is for you,” said Tracy, throwing an envelope on my desk in the man cave.
“What is it?” I asked, whimpering.
“I don’t know, but it’s from the skateboard company,” said Tracy.
I pretended like I did not really hear what she said. Of course, I wanted to jump up and get it and read it, but I did not want Tracy to see the process I had to go through to stand up. As soon as I was sure she was gone and occupied with something else, I got to work.
I ripped open the letter. Inside the envelope, there was a plastic baggie filled with some sort of nuts or bolts. I opened the plastic baggie and unfolded the letter inside it.
BISCUIT FIX FOR LOOSE TRUCK MOUNTS
We have had a few complaints that the truck mounts on our Biscuits were loose. If this happened with your Biscuit, we are sorry for this inconvenience. We think we’ve figured out the root cause and we’ve made corrections at the factory. For your board, we also have a fix. We have provided you with 8 split lock washers, one for each bolt that holds the trucks to the deck. If your board has loose truck mounts, please remove the lock nuts, install one split lock washer and then tighten down. You’ll need a Philips screwdriver and a #10 metric box wrench. Your board should be fine from there.
By way of explanation, when we built and assembled these boards, they were perfectly tight. We think that what happened was that, over time, the plywood glue cross-linked, and the natural wood moisture level dropped causing the plywood to shrink a little bit. When it’s hot, the bolts expand and “get longer.” We think that these tiny changes combined to cause the connection to loosen.
To be honest, we don’t have this happen all that often, but we hear about it on the Biscuit more than other boards. If you recently purchased a Biscuit and there was an extra set of silver bolts included, those bolt threads don’t match the locknuts. Please discard those silver bolts and use the split lock washers.
We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.
CHEERS — Donnie
. . .
My bottom lip trembled as I finished reading the letter. A tear fell from my eye onto the letter.
I knew it. I knew it wasn’t my fault that I crashed.
I was overcome with emotion. At first, I was happy. Happy that the accident was not my fault. Then I was mad. Mad that they almost killed me. Then I was astonished. How could they write such a dumb letter?
As a personal injury attorney myself, I know that this company must not have an attorney working for them. No attorney would have ever let the company mail this letter. This was a bald-faced admission that they had sent me a defective product and nearly killed me.
“Hey, Tracy! The trucks were loose. I told you the crash was not my fault!” I screamed.
“Hoo-ray,” said Tracy. Then I think I heard her say “You know it was still his fault right?”
“Yep,” I heard Son #1 say.
Then I heard some sarcastic slow hand-clapping too.
My email to the company
I climbed into my chair and opened the laptop. I wrote the skateboard company an email. I described the fall at length and told them I did not want to fix my “Biscuit,” I wanted a new one, free of charge. I was really proud of this paragraph:
I don’t want to sue or make any sort of claim against [Skateboard Company]
I am a personal injury attorney. That’s what I do for a living. I appreciate [Skateboard Company’s] laid back marketing and family-owned business culture. But I gotta tell ya, receiving an envelope in the mail with eight (8) washers in it made my jaw drop. I felt like I was living out an episode from the first couple seasons of Saturday Night Live, the ones where Dan Akyroyd played a crooked business owner that sold ridiculously dangerous defective products for kids.
One episode features him selling a “Bag o’ Glass” for kids to play with. I am not interested in suing or making an insurance claim against [Skateboard Company]. I can guarantee you if I was more seriously injured, I would do it, and I would win. That’s not what this is about.
. . .
The Skateboard Company’s response
The Skateboard Company responded quickly, saying they would give me a full refund, and send me a box to mail the “Biscuit” back to them and they would fix it.
I emailed them that it was okay, they did not need to fix my “Biscuit,” as I was permanently retiring it, and hanging it on the wall of my man cave.
Tracy’s brother, who is a contractor, and almost as handy as Tracy, fixed the “Biscuit” later. He sat in the man cave and used his drill to take the board apart, and then put the washers on in less than a minute. Then he held the “Biscuit” up and inspected it, with an amused look on his face.
“You actually tried to ride this thing, Jacky?” he said chuckling, as he put the “Biscuit” back up on the wall mount he had installed too.
“Next time you’re gonna ride it, can you give me a call, or film it? I don’t want to miss it!” he said.
. . .
Later I broke down and bought the “Logger” model, and it’s a beauty
The Logger model arrived, and I promptly hung it right on the wall. I didn’t actually ride the thing until months later. Only months after my ribs finally stopped aching, I finally took it out for a spin.
It took no less than 8 weeks for my ribs to finally heal and stop aching after the fall off the Biscuit.
I sneezed exactly seven times during those 8 weeks.