Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Sky Isn’t Falling – I Am

I scratched off another bucket list item recently: skydiving. I had heard that it was even better than sex, which piqued my interest because I was looking forward to an activity in which I didn’t have to pretend to be interested in someone’s inane stories about her honor roll children or her mother’s hysterectomy.

In the days leading up to this adventure I was not the least bit nervous because although I’d never jumped out of an airplane, I had gotten married 10 years earlier, so I already had experience regretting bad decisions.

When my girlfriend and I arrived at the skydiving place, we were immediately given a stack of papers to read, initial and sign. Evidently – and this is something you might want to keep in mind – skydiving carries certain risks to your health, with death being the main one. This is really no concern, though, since statistically you are more likely to be killed by O.J. Simpson.

These papers contained a lot of made-up words such as “absolution” and “exculpate”. Obviously they were written by a lawyer who got a thesaurus for Christmas. What I found odd was that the company that owned this place of business was called Uninsured United Parachute Technologies LLC. Wouldn’t it be great if all businesses were named so honestly?  For example, the Motor Vehicle Administration could be called “Slow, Apathetic Bureaucracy Inc.” So could Congress.

After signing away all rights for legal compensation, we paid them enough money to supply Lindsay Lohan with cocaine for a month. We then received special skydiving training. Since we were doing “tandem”, which is when you are strapped to an instructor who basically does all the work, our training consisted of a few deep knee bends, some hip thrusts, and making sure that we spoke English. This is very important because when you’re ready to jump and the instructor tells you to bend your knees, and you don’t understand him, he has to knock you unconscious with a tire iron, which makes you miss most of the fun.

We got harnessed up and, since we had selected the pictures-and-video option, which cost only an extra week’s salary, a couple of guys snapped photos and did interviews that went something like this:

“What are you doing with that skydiving harness on?”
“I’m going skydiving.”
“Are you excited?”
“I just peed a little.”

Before we knew it we were walking toward a plane that looked much like the one shown at the end of Casablanca, only not as modern. In order to start the engine they had to hook a bunch of car batteries to it. Apparently it is standard operating procedure for skydivers to bet their lives on a flying contraption that Amelia Earhart wouldn’t get in.

So, about 15 of us -- mostly instructors and camera guys -- took off into the wild blue yonder. As we ascended I felt, for the first time, butterflies in my stomach. Then I realized that it was actually that morning’s breakfast, or perhaps the previous night’s baked beans, snaking its way through me.

A few minutes later it was time for us to go. As my instructor and I stood up, with him strapped to me like a human backpack, I thought about making a prison joke, but decided against it inasmuch as he would be the only thing making sure I didn’t die while I screamed and possibly pooped.

My girlfriend and her instructor went before me, which made me realize that either 1) this was no big deal, since if a woman can do it, so can I; or 2) she is just as dense as I am, which would explain why she agreed to go out with me in the first place.

When I got to the death portal, or whatever they call that big opening where you jump out, the view was just as huge and ominous as I’d imagined. I was not very scared because I kept in mind that all these guys had done this hundreds of times, so I was in very good hands. Plus I’d already lived through a number of worse things, such as financial devastation, a severely broken heart, and Showgirls.

I bent my knees as I’d been instructed in my seven minutes of training, grabbed my harness straps, and wheeeeeeeeeee!

The feeling could be best described as freedom. Free falling with no feeling of gravity, obligations or worries. Just a beautiful view of the sky and ground.

I thrust my hips forward and arched my back as I’d been instructed. My videographer maneuvered his way over to film me, at one point grabbing my hands (his camera was attached to his helmet). A little while later my instructor pulled the cord to open the chute. It felt as though I were being lifted upward (in reality my descent was being greatly slowed). All of a sudden it was quiet. No wind rushing past. Just serenity. The view was still magnificent.

My instructor gave me the parachute controls and had me do some turns, which felt great except for the dizziness and nausea. I then enjoyed the rest of the descent. It was so beautiful, so peaceful. It was like a slice of heaven. None of the earthly problems and irritations that we endure. No traffic. No pollution. No crime. No schedules. No a-hole bosses. No jerks criticizing or taking advantage. I find it ironic that most people are afraid to skydive when there are so many unpleasant things that happen to us on the ground.

We came into the landing area at an angle. I slid on my heels and butt, and it was much easier than I had imagined. My instructor disconnected his harness from mine and I stood up. My videographer did one last interview before I headed back inside. Later he gave me a disc with lots of photos and a five-minute video.

This was one of those life experiences that I will never forget, at least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in. It felt wonderful to leap into the abyss, with no need to hold onto anything, and enjoy freedom and beauty unfettered by the problems of this world. I could really get hooked on skydiving.

But I still enjoy sex more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Moving Experience

On Wednesday I went through a rite of passage: my first colonoscopy. This is something that we are supposed to do every ten years starting at age 50. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to check for undesirable things that lurk in the dark recesses of our bowels, such as polyps, cancer, and Newt Gingrich. The medical community does this by inserting probes into our posteriors, which is completely normal when you consider that aliens have been doing it to rednecks for decades.

By the way, don’t fall for “alternative” colon treatments. For example, have you ever heard of colonics? Charlatans try to convince us that everyone has “deposits” in their colons and that a colonic is necessary in order to flush this material out. Years ago I tested their claim by actually going to a colonic “specialist”. I stopped eating and took castor oil 36 hours beforehand in order to make sure I eliminated everything that would eventually have come out on its own. I paid the $40 fee, got undressed, put on the hospital gown and sat back on the procedure table. There was a machine with a little window and a hose attached to it. The “specialist” lubricated the hose and, um, inserted it. Water was injected into my colon, making it expand and causing moderate discomfort. Then the water was sucked back out, with the contents passing by the machine’s window. Nothing but water. She repeated the process a few times, and each time all we saw was water. I said, “Looks like I don’t have any deposits.” She said, “Yes you do. Sometimes it takes several treatments to dislodge the material.” Obviously she was more full of poop than my colon was. But I wasn’t gonna tell her that. At least not while she still had that hose up my ass.

Anyway, before doctors can look inside you, the area in question needs to be cleaned out. This is accomplished via the ingestion of an intestinal scrubber called MoviPrep. It is done twice: the day before, and the morning of, the procedure. I took my first dose on Tuesday. I had heard that it tastes terrible, but it was actually not bad as long as you enjoy drinking salty lemonade. In retrospect I should have added tequila and made a margarita.

I went about my business. Within an hour the first runnings started to appear. And believe me, “runnings” is the correct word. Now, I didn’t care to see what came out, but in the interest of accurate journalism I forced myself to look. Let’s just say that BP and the Exxon Valdez had nothing on me. The liquid in my toilet bowl was so black that my bathroom actually darkened.

“Okay, that’s that,” I thought. I flushed, washed, left the bathroom and OH MY GOD ran right back in, sat down and exploded. Repeatedly. I swear that if I weighed just a few pounds less I would have wound up in my attic. I couldn’t believe so much “stuff” had been inside me. I looked down – again, for the sake of journalism – and what I saw could be best described as a fecal terrorist attack. It looked like a poop bomb had gone off. I couldn’t fathom how it was even possible for my body to spray at such impossible angles, but I was too busy unrolling toilet paper to think about it.

After what seemed like a week and a half of intestinal blasts akin to a sawed-off shotgun, I set about cleaning up. Let me give you some helpful advice, okay? If you ever drink MoviPrep, you will need to bring the following items into the bathroom with you:
  • an industrial vat of Formula 409
  • 8000 rolls of paper towels
  • a copy of War and Peace
I don’t think I need to explain the first two items. The third is to give you something to do because you sure as hell won’t be going anywhere for a while.

I finished cleaning just in time for the next ass-ault. It started with another Bouncing Betty but then changed over to Stream Mode. Now I know how women feel when they pee.

Eventually the agony ended and I got to clean up again. Then I soaked my hindquarters in a bucket of Clorox.

Here’s some more advice that I highly suggest you follow when using MoviPrep:
  1. Cancel all social plans.
  2. Notify next of kin.
  3. Resign yourself to the fact that you will poop out everything, including your spleen.
  4. Remove all clothing and dentures.
  5. Turn on the bathroom fan and do not turn it off until Halley’s Comet returns.
  6. When finished, shower. Twice.
I had to get up early Wednesday morning for another round of MoviPrep. This time what came out was yellow liquid. Not having learned from the previous day’s experience, I flushed, washed and left, only to make a hasty return to the perch. A while later the coast seemed clear, but this time I hadn’t even finished washing my hands when the urge to purge returned. The watery discharge was accompanied by an intestinal symphony that sounded like a sink backing up. I had never gone to the bathroom in C minor before.

Several hours later I had a friend drop me at the gastroenterologist. The secretary informed me that the doctor was running about an hour behind (har!) schedule. As I waited I noticed a sign that said, “If you have advanced directives, please see the receptionist.” At first I thought that “advanced directives” was an intestinal disorder. The secretary told me that it is instructions on what to do if you become incapacitated from the procedure and have to be put on life support. Which was encouraging.

Eventually they brought me into the prep area where they checked my pulse and blood pressure and inserted an IV line. Then they wheeled me into the operating room where they had me lie on my side and the anesthesiologist injected a milky white fluid into the IV line that made me feel...

Nothing. I was out for the entire procedure. The next thing I knew a nurse was pushing on my belly and making me toot. You see, in order to get a good view of your colon, they fill it with air. Well, that air has to come out. I hadn’t expelled so much intestinal gas since my last trip to Mexico.

Still tired from the anesthetic, I got dressed. My girlfriend had arrived while I was unconscious, and since I had not eaten solid food since Monday, she drove me to the nearest Chinese buffet.

So that’s it. That’s all there is to getting a colonoscopy: poop your brains out, go to sleep, and then fill your empty digestive system with shrimp.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my results were stellar. No polyps. No cancer. And no signs of Newt Gingrich. At least until the 2016 election.

Monday, June 04, 2012


So I was at my local wrestling club last Tuesday night, a week after my 50th birthday. Yeah, I know: why was someone my age spending his evening doing a young person’s sport? Shouldn’t I have been watching House while eating fattening food and clogging my arteries like a normal middle-aged American? Well, if there’s one thing you can say about me, it’s that I’m not normal. I have too much energy to spend my evening in front of the television. Meth addicts routinely tell me to calm down.

Anyway, I was getting a great workout and feeling as young as ever. I was holding my own against someone who’s quite a good wrestler, enjoying the fact that I was able to keep up with him despite the fact that I haven’t been his age since the Carter administration.

Then it hit me. His elbow, that is. Right smack into my left eyebrow. I knew right away that it had split me open because this sort of thing had happened more than once before. Well, that and the blood pouring onto the mat. It was only a flesh wound and I could have continued, but if I had, no one would have wanted to work out with me because I looked like the first member of the zombie apocalypse.

I drove to the Baltimore-Washington Medical Center’s emergency room and, as is always the case right after a holiday weekend, it was packed. Many of the patients had life-threatening ailments such as headaches and stomachaches, so I didn’t mind letting them go first.

I waited in line like I was depositing a check at a bank. I called my girlfriend to let her know where I was, because every woman likes to know that her man is in the ER. She said that she would be there soon, despite my protestations that it wasn’t necessary because I would surely be treated after the other 872 million patients had been given their Tylenol.

When I got to triage I asked how long it would be before I got treated. The guy asked, “Do you really want to know?” I said yes. He told me that I would be lucky to get out of there before the next election. I then started entertaining the thought that I really didn’t need stitches, that I could spend the rest of my life looking like I had a third eye, when he suggested that I go home and come back in the morning when the wait wouldn’t be nearly as long. I shot out of there like Lindsay Lohan out of rehab.

When I got home I looked at myself in the mirror and, when I was finished retching, took a photo of myself for later Facebook posting because, as we all know, Facebook users are so bored that they will even comment on people’s posts about what they had for lunch.

After a painful shower my girlfriend, whom I had called on the way home, butterflied my wound to keep it at least partially closed. While eating dinner she suggested that we go to Anne Arundel Medical Center, which might not be as busy as the other hospital. We drove down there and, wouldn’t you know it, there was no one in line. They took me right away. For 20 years I’d been waiting behind the entire population of Senegal for my emergency medical needs when all I had to do was come here to my own private hospital. I felt stupider than Dan Quayle at a spelling bee.

Before stitching me up the doctor injected me with lidocaine. She warned me that it would burn a little, which was like warning the Titanic passengers that they would get a little wet. I thought that she was cauterizing the wound with a soldering iron. My groans of agony caused my girlfriend to have a vasovagal episode wherein she couldn’t move and she sweated like Kirstie Alley at the beach.

The surgery itself was a breeze. The doctor fixed me up with 8 sutures in a matter of minutes. All in all I was in and out of the hospital in about an hour and a half, which is less than half the time it would have taken to even be seen at the other hospital. So when you need emergency medical care, come on down to Anne Arundel Medical Center. But don’t tell the Senegalians.