Friday, September 28


It's finally here! This evening at 8 o'clock our hometown South Florida Bulls will square off against the West Virginia Mountaineers in a nationally televised football game. In attendance at this sporting spectacle will be over 65,000 fans occupying every available seat in Raymond James Stadium, otherwise the home field for our pro football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The entire Tampa Bay area is a buzz with football fever in anticipation of this match up between these two Big East football teams. The Bulls are ranked 18th in the national pools and the Mountaineers come in ranked number 7. Last season we traveled to their home field and beat them soundly, knocking them out of a shot for the Big East title and a shot at a major end of season bowl game. This is a "revenge" game for them and they will be in a decidedly fowl mood. Bring it on!

I have become invested in the fate of USF as this is where my daughter attends college as a senior. She is solely responsible for creating a special 2007 "Back the Bulls" t-shirt that all of the students attending home football games are encouraged to wear to visually show their support and allegiance to the team. For her efforts the athletic department has hired her as a student intern with a promise to be placed on staff in a permanent position upon her graduation this coming May. Mama and Papa are very proud not only of her marketing skills, but the manner in which she has conducted herself and evolved as a student and a responsible young woman.

So...hopefully the stars will align themselves this evening and a victory for the "Bulls" will result. I certainly won't lose any sleep if the outcome should be otherwise, but it will be a more restful and contented repose if we can lodge a win in our column. The bottom line is that it is only a game played by young men in their late teens and early twenties. The fate of mankind certainly does not hang in the balance regardless of the outcome. But for a couple of hours it's just fun to get caught up in all of the hoopla and pageantry that accompanies a major college sporting event. Tomorrow will be soon enough for all of us to again place the weight of this crazy world on our shoulders. "GO BULLS!!"

Wednesday, September 26

"How May We Help You?"

I am coming up on an auspicious anniversary. In October of 2005 I was digging a ditch in the backyard of my daughter's home in Tampa as part of a self-imposed project to relocate a washer & dryer into a utility shed for her and her college roommates. The task was progressing nicely when I became aware of some unusual discomfort in my chest. Being an astute monitor of my personal health, I immediately evaluated the symptoms and declared, "What the hell is this all about?" The sharpness abated and I returned to the task of completing the ditch, dismissing (typical "male") the episode as nothing more than indigestion, scurvy, or an attack of gout. In the small recesses of my mind I was beating back the prospect that what I had just experienced could be symptomatic of something far more serious. The following day it got a lot more serious! Wednesday afternoon found me the star in my own E.R. episode, having been admitted with unrelenting chest pains. Bottom line...I had total blockage in my lower right ventricle, which was corrected with the surgical insertion of a metal stint. By Friday afternoon, I was well enough to go home and, with the watchful care of my cardiologist, I have been recovering nicely every since. "If you continue to follow my instructions, said my doctor, and take your prescribed medications, you should live a very long life." So far, so good.
As a vital and continuous part of my health care regiment, I am to take daily doses of four different types of medications in order to keep my cholesterol and blood pressure in normal bounds. I also am required to consume one aspirin daily, the side effects of which render me prone to the noticeable bruising of the skin. My blood is now so thin that if I sneeze I bruise, and shaving has developed into an adventure at self-mutilation. But I digress... Here's the rub. I am dependent upon my health insurance provider to fill my prescribed medications. This service is allegedly saving me copious amount of money. Thank goodness. Even with the "savings" I feel as though the cost to renew my prescriptions would otherwise put a sizable dent in the national debt. But one must do what one must do. After all, it is my longevity that is at stake.
What drives me up the wall of exasperation is when I must contact my insurance carrier to place a renewal order. One can't just call up these conglomerate companies and say, "I need more. Send now." No, that would be far too easy. No, one must navigate all manners of bureaucratic madness, not the least of which it an attempt to talk to a "real person" on the phone. One must converse with a computerized voice, who sounds very human, dripping with sincerity, but possessing a woeful hearing deficiency. I am convinced that the insurance companies adopted this method of communication from the fat food industry's major contribution to society; the drive-through. "May I take your order, please?" That's usually the last bit of intelligent conversation one may anticipate, hoping beyond reasonableness that what one has ordered will somehow be successfully translated by the time one makes it to the drive-up window. It is very similar to the dialogue one has with the computerized Mr. or Madam at the insurance company.
"Welcome to..." Name your insurance company de jour. "How may I help you?"
"I'd like to renew my..."
"Please speak or enter your 212 digit personal subscriber number."
"Okay, it's....."
"Thank you." Long pause...
"Is your 212 digit personal subscriber number...?"
"I did not understand your answer. Please say 'Yes' or 'No.'"
"Thank you." Another long pause...
"Do you or any member of your family have additional prescription medication insurance coverage?"
"I did not understand your answer. Please say 'Yes' or 'No.'"
"No! No!!" Another long pause...
"Thank you." Another long pause...
"Please speak or enter your 212 digit personal subscriber number?"
"What!?! I just did that!!" Still another long pause.
"Hello. How may we help you?"
"Hey!! Get with the program! I'm trying to refill my prescription..."
"Thank you for calling. Please call again when we may be of service for any of your health care prescription needs."
Hey! Hey!! I'm having a heart attack here!! Hello? Hello!?!"
Get my drift? Extractions of impacted wisdom teeth is far less painful and time consuming than this excruciating exercise in futility. Every three months I put myself through this torture. My most recent attempt to renew my medications was met with the revelation that the prescriptions had all expired...even though my records indicated I had one refill remaining. Silly me. Try explaining that to Mr. or Madam computerized voice. Bottom line? I had to personally go to my cardiologist's office and have them issue new prescriptions. Next I had to fill out and attach a special form (theirs makes the IRS income tax return look like instructions on how to open a box of cereal) for each of the medications, then mail the documents to their attention. It has now been over two weeks since I went through that exercise and not a word of confirmation have I heard from them. In the mean time I am rationing what little medicine I have left. Panic hasn't set in, but it's just around the corner! I would venture a phone call to them, but I would just as soon slam my thumb with a five pound hammer than put myself through another conversation with Mr. or Madam electronic voice.
So, if I don't blog again in the near future, there's a good chance that I have gone on to whatever reward awaits me upon departing this earth. Guess I'll just double up on my aspirin and hope I don't bump into any sharp objects.

Wednesday, September 19


"Celebrate! Celebrate!! Dance To The Music!!" With apologies to the group Three Dog Night (Boy, am I dating myself!) , let me do a little self-congratulatory celebrating myself!

While checking in on one of my favorite blogs last evening to see if a new post had been added, I noticed - SURPRISE! SURPRISE! - the author of the blog had now added a link to my blog! Do you have any idea what this means...what a momentous occasion this is!?! It means that I have to speak. I can only compare this event to a sport's analogy. It's like professional athletes being recognized by their fellow athletes as being worthy of special recognition...getting named to baseball's summer All Star Game or selected to play in the NFL's Pro Bowl!! The author apparently thinks highly enough of my writing skills and or style that she deems it worthy enough to recommend my blog to the readers of her personal blog. (Perhaps the monthly endorsement checks I have been sending her each month also played a small part in her selection decision. But I digress.) And let me assure you that her blog is no "Johnny Come Lately." At last count her blog has received over 100,000 "hits" by folks who have dropped by her prose place to check in on her latest musings. My blog, on the other hand, at last count had received 8 1/2 unique visitors. (The half was apparently a person who mistakenly stumbled upon my blog by accident and then instantly changed their mind.) But now with this endorsement, my numbers could soon possibly soar into double figures!!

How this lady manages to find the time to compose her own blog on a regular basis (she has three kids, a full-time husband, and a full-time job) and read the other 36 blogs she has linked as among her personal favorites, is beyond me. I have over a period of time visited most of the other blogs and found them to run the full gamete of human experiences. Hopefully, I can remain on her list and perhaps be picked up and recommended by other bloggers. Such is the composition of this loose-knit community, whose parameters are best defined as ordinary folks who dissect life in their own terms and report their observations to an audience as wide and as diverse as the Internet itself. Trails and tribulations are just as equally shared as are the joys and triumphs. Overall it is a fun experience and made even more so when those engaged in this non-profit enterprise receive the occasional comment of appreciation.

Now...if I could offer a suggestion. I think that being added to a fellow blogger's list of recognized blogs should be treated much like the AP and Coach's college team rankings. My hometown college football team, the University of south Florida "Bulls" (Tampa), has never heretofore been ranked nationally in any poll as being among the top 30 football teams in America. Last week they were initially recognized as being number 26. This week they have climbed in both polls to number 23. If thy keep winning, they then receive additional votes of recognition and are awarded a higher ranking. That's how blogs should be rated. If you keep turning out good stuff, you ought to move up on the list. I am proud to be number 37 on Norman's list of favorites, but I'd sure like to move up. Maybe an alphabetical listing would suffice. Just a thought.

Thanks Norman! I appreciate the recognition.

Tuesday, September 18

"Here's Lookin' Up Your Old Address!!"

On my wedding day, almost a quarter of a century ago, I tipped the scales at a whopping 135 pounds "soaking wet and carrying a pocket full of rocks." Gone are those days, having fled along with my once proud athletic prowess and my enviable full head of dark hair. Today my 29 inch waist slacks and my collection of size 39 pastel sports jackets hang forever abandoned in a dark closet, never to see the light of day again.

Since I turned forty my body weight has steadily increased with each passing year. On one previous occasion I weighted 22o pounds! I knew it was time to get serious about losing some of the excess bulk when my bathroom scales screamed out at me one morning, "For God's sakes man...get off!!" Through a diligently pursued diet, I managed to trim down to 176. Were not eating as easy as stuffing my face on a consistent basis I probably could have maintained that weight. But, alas, the call of mashed potatoes and Oreo cookies has overtaken and steadily defeated my resolve. Now I am just shade under 200 pounds. I am now in pursuit once again of a more reasonable weight.

To accomplish any worthy goal one must establish guidelines. One of the hardest to habitually adopt was to no longer frequent Burger King for lunch each day. I was so well known in one particular Burger King that seeing me come through the front door was the signal for the staff to spring into action and prepare my daily helping of a king-sized double cheese burger, replete with extra large fries and large soft-drink. Should business commitments preclude my making my daily visit for several days in a row, the store manager advised me that he had seriously considered sending out search dogs to determine my whereabouts. Now no longer do I make a daily pilgrimage to BK, but have opted instead to become an ardent adherent to the Subway Jarred Diet. Proudly I can now proclaim some small notoriety at Subway for, without fail, I always order a six inch tuna on wheat with lettuce, tomato and black olives. It seems to be working. I am losing weight steadily, and with my wife's adherence to the South Beach diet selections, my evening meals are also protein filled and fat free. I only ask my dear wife never to reveal to me what exactly she is substituting for what otherwise would be "real food." I had no idea how many other food items can be manipulated into disguising themselves as authentic mashed potatoes!

My goal...again? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 185 pounds. Fortunately I have never lost total sight of my feet, but the buldge around my middle continues to give me wife voiced concern. "Think we may need to add a hole in your belt there Butch?" One of her basic needs is to have an attractive spouse. She certainly is most attractive, and as long as Subway remains open I believe I can achieve her heart's desire. It isn't going to be easy, but I'm determined. However, when it comes to Oreo cookies, that's where I draw the line! A man's got to do what a man's got to do!

Thursday, September 13

Bra Or No Bra? Good Question...

As general rule I tend to shy away from subject matters that may be considered to be a bit too risque. But I have decided that since the self-proclaimed King of Conservatism, Rush Limbaugh, devoted an entire fifteen minute segment to this subject on one of his recent radio broadcast, the subject matter is fair game. The topic of his discourse was the recent study strongly suggesting that women who wear bras as a rule stand a much greater chance of contracting breast cancer then the segment of the populace that do not.

Please let me assure you that I do not take this observation lightly. Google any combination of the words bras and breast cancer and a veritable plethora of menu choices lay at your disposal for further in depth research. My personal "in depth research" on the matter leads me to accept the conclusion that the female mammaries are best left unencumbered. (Why do I hear a persistent voice in my head saying, "Here! Here!") As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, according to the published research the female breast were never intended to be encased in any type of restrictive garment, as such constraints drastically restrict normal and free lymphatic "movement." Women-kind evolved under conditions where there was by nature breast movement induced with every step they made walking or running. "Every bounce of the breasts while moving in any manner, gently massages the breast and increases lymphatic flow, thus cleanses the breasts of toxins and waste that arise from cellular metabolism." Makes perfectly good sense to me.

I don't know if it is women who adopt these rules of dress, or we men who have had a participatory role, or a combination of both. Probably the latter. Yet, I can't think of any reason why men would insist that women wear shoes that although fashionably flattering, nevertheless painfully restrict the foot. Why do that if the result is your feet hurt after wearing the latest shoe fashion for a mere ten minutes? To pinch, tuck, bundle, and pluck one's body in the name of conforming to some unwritten social norm seems counterproductive at best.

Having said the above, I am not suggesting that from this point forward that all women are to throw all caution to the wind and socially interact with their breast totally exposed to view. Indigenous African natives may have cultural license to do so, but such liberties in our polite society would, thankfully, dictate otherwise. Still one cannot, with the preponderance of scientific evidence accumulated on the subject, argue that modern-day women might seriously consider hanging up their braziers once and for all. (There's that voice in my head again!) It certainly would make for interesting Wednesday evening choir practices!

Maladies Run Amuck....

As though the content of the evening televised news broadcasts isn't depressing in and of themselves, the intervening commercials offer a poorly veiled message that we dedicated viewers as a general rule are literally falling apart at the seams. Madison Avenue has targeted a specific demographic to hawk their products and it ain't the same folks who get their daily dose of pop culture from such dubious outlets as MTV and E! News. The collective bulls eye has been painted squarely on the backs of we "baby boomers," products ourselves of our parent's amorous trysts between the years of 1945 and 1957. Estimated to number in the broad neighborhood of 76 million, this age group that comprises roughly 20% of our country's population is generally defined as any person who has obtained a chronological age between 44 and 62. At 59 I'm squarely in the middle of this inclusive definition and Madison Avenue, especially those of the pharmaceutical persuasion, have apparently got their eye on me.

If, as it has been widely touted in recent years (probably by those who have obtained that milestone), that "60 is the new 30," why is it that aside from the occasional automotive commercial all the other advertisements generally include the admonishment to "ask you doctor if you are a candidate" to include product x, y, or z in your daily assortment of prescriptions de jour? Within the span of the thirty-minute news broadcast, every conceivable malady known to mankind has a specific commercial aimed to address and remedy that particular physical deficiency. Gastric-intestinal afflictions seems to have a predominate role. There are those cartoon characters comprised of plumbing accouterments that walk up-right, suggesting that blockage of any type ain't a good thing. Draino comes to mind as a remedy, but I don't think that's what they have in mind. Are you belching up the remnants of last evening's sausage and onion sandwich? There's a pill for that. Can't sleep? Poor thing. Take two of these and sleep the sleep of the dead. Are you just sitting on your recliner minding your own business and suddenly notice that your legs are twitching like they have been connected to an electrical transformer? Take heart...amputation need not be necessary...take a half-dozen of these capsules and "you're good to go!" I am so thankful that my late Grandmother Brown isn't alive at this time to be exposed to all of these type of commercials. Her hypochondria heart would never have withstood the strain.

Ah, and then there is the granddaddy of all personal maladies, especially among the male population, ED. I remember when it wasn't even permissible to say the words "toilet paper" on television for fear that sensibilities would be adversely affected. Now one can't go fifteen minutes without hearing on the airwaves the phrase, "If you have an erection for more than four hours, consult your doctor." No kidding Sherlock! I would think so! And let's not discount the looming side effects that may result from consuming those little blue pills, always explained very quickly toward the end of the commercial in very hushed tones. Kind of like the fine print that appears at the bottom of a consumer product that in essence says that once you remove the purchased product from its packaging, "You're on your own." "The most common side effects? Headache, facial flushing, upset stomach, with the added joys of perhaps experiencing blurred vision, chest pains, nausea, and, if you are taking any type of heart medication, the old ticker could just say, "Turn out the lights, the party's over!" Thankfully I'm not at the stage in my life where I require any type of pharmaceutical boost to consummate marital bliss and thus run the risk of becoming an emergency room statistic. Were that not the case, I'm not sure that I wouldn't first give serious consideration to opt for a good book and glass of Chardonnay instead.

And I cannot end this observation without also commenting on the latest commercials hawking their particular brands of ED medications. There are several. Cialis has a man and woman reposing in two separate bathtubs perched on a high bluff or by the ocean, holding hands and staring off into the sunset. Is this suppose to depict the "before" or the "after? " One is left to wonder. "See Alice...I believe we have lift off! " Another has the couple cooing amorously at each other as they unlock the door to their home only to discover awaiting for them inside is a gaggle of house guests yelling, "Surprise!!" I'll let you add your own punch line to this unfortunate turn of events. And finally Viagra has a collection of presumably middle-aged minstrels sequestered in a backwoods cabin playing a variety of musical instruments and singing about how they can't wait to get home to their lady fairs. "Viva Viagra!" they sing with great gusto before hardily slapping each other on the back and go roaring off in and on their various modes of macho transportation. My mind is awash with all the possibilities of why these six guys were up there in the woods to begin with.

I guess it is a sign of the times, at least for we aging baby boomers. Madison Avenue is bent on convincing we members of this august age group that if indeed "60 is the new 30," it can only be so if we have an ample stock of medications on hand to placate our longing to stave off the steady advances of growing older. To date I have managed to avoid the lure of a better life through chemistry. Although these constant leg twitchings are really beginning to get on my nerves!

Wednesday, September 5

An Exercise In Futility...

I have always considered myself to be a pretty good athlete. Although at my current very late middle age status, my previous athletic abilities and prowess have admittedly eroded noticeably. Gone are the days when I could play tournament softball or competitive basketball for hours on end. Staying in shape for me now basically involves not becoming so rotund that I roll off the couch as I flip constantly through the various sports channels. Still, I cling to the fantasy that not all of my inbred athletic genes have opted for permanent retirement. Thus, I still chase the illusion that I can be a pretty good golfer. Based on my performance on the golf links this past Labor Day weekend, I do not seem to be narrowing the gap between illusion and reality. Bottom line...I suck at golf!

If I were among alien beings who happened to land their space craft on a municipal golf course, aside from the fact that they would be scratching their collective pointed heads trying to figure out what these humans were attempting to accomplish by smacking a little white spheroid around with a metal club, their combined intellect might conclude "How hard can it be?" Well, let them haul their frail little spindly bodies out of their space vehicles and give it whack! As for me I'm still trying to grasp why I find it ever increasingly difficult to place an immovable object on an elevated perch and still manage to consistently fail to smack the crap out of it with a very large, globe like mallet! It would be different if the ball was bouncing around like water pellets on a hot skillet. But it just sits there and I hack at it as though I am trying to kill a basketful of snakes! Frustrating doesn't come close to expressing my utter exasperation. Although taking a dull butter knife to my wrists comes close!

Someone once said that they named the game "golf" because all the other less flattering, descriptive and profane names were already spoken for. After this past weekend let me assure you that there were few if any remaining disparaging labels which I did not pronounce at the top of my lungs. On Friday I posted a score of 101. The course had set "par" at 72. I was obviously a whopping 29 strokes above that mark of acceptability. Displeased but undaunted I vowed to do better. The opportunity to do so arrived on Monday. I shot a 108, which slaps square in the molars the old adage, "Don't despair, things could get worse." The person who spoke those immortal words obviously has never had the misfortune to play a round of golf with me.

Ah, but hope springs forever eternal. I just got a phone call from one of my more fateful and adventurous golfing buddies. He wants me to play golf with him tomorrow! Dare I? Yes, I dare. It only takes one memorable shot mixed in among the myriad of awful attempts at perfection to lure one back to the hypnotic call of the game...and I did indeed have a couple of those. So, it's best I run out now to the local sporting goods store and stock up on another dozen or so golf balls. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to make use of them. I wonder what my friend meant when he said he was bringing his hard hat? Oh well... "Fore!!"