Monday, July 11, 2011



While watching, like radar, the little antennae in my head rose up when the detectives made a point to go to the library for information, to help investigate their case.

Something didn't set right with me. Being a member of the, "JUNIOR SHERLOCK HOLMES CLUB," to satisfy my need to know, I pressed the red, candy-like "SELECT/OK," button on my remote. In a split second, I discovered that the show was produced in 1994. 1994? Wasn't that yesterday? Are you kidding me, New York City detectives didn't have access to the Internet in 1994...astounding!

When you consider the advancements available today, I hate to admit it but I'm still technologically challenged...and intimidated. Why, just last night, the fragments of my poker buddies were hanging out. Somebody mentioned a funny segment from an old TV show I never heard of. While he struggled to put the routine's exact wording together, someone else quietly pulled out their Android. In seconds, we all saw this bit, on his phone. Baffling and amazing...isn't it.

I'm baffled and amazed because in my generation (TV offered channels 2-13 only and the concept of movie rentals was as ridiculous as having Big Foot as a next door neighbor). That meant, if you missed something on TV, your chance to see it when it was still relevant to you, was nearly impossible.

I remember something like that happening to me as a teenager. SLW and some other friends were telling me about the 1939 movie, "THE ROARING TWENTIES." I was jealous how they laughed when quoting Cagney and Bogart. Due to the technology limitations of the time, I felt left out and wouldn't see that classic for years.

The theme of the movie, set against the Prohibition-era of the 1920's, is that life has its ups and downs. This stark point is made clear by Cagney's character, (the former good, bad guy who is now down on his luck). On Christmas Eve, after killing the bad, bad guy (Bogart), he is chased by an insignificant henchman and gunned-down, on a snowy street. At a church, with his last bit of strength, he struggles up a few cement steps. Halfway up, he stumbles down a few steps, collapses and dies.

His unrequited girlfriend and the beat-cop get to the body simultaneously. She says, "He's dead." The cop asks, "Well, who is this guy?" She says, "This is Eddie Bartlett." He says, "Well, how're you hooked up with him?" She says, "I could never figure that out." The cop says, "What was his business?" And the girl says, "He used to be a big shot."

When I look back at my own tumultuous twenties, I see some parallels. Without a care in the world, I graduated Brooklyn College but found no work. In the movie, WWI ended and the heroic main characters returned from the war to find themselves unemployed.

In my mid-twenties, I spent five years in Vegas and tip-toed around all forms of temptation on the road to beating the odds and doing well. In the movie, Cagney and his friends become "Boot-Leggers."

As my twenties were ending, while at the top, with my horizons widening, I gambled by coming back east. I re-united with my family, got married and started a business. In 1929, the stock market crash signaled the beginning of the Great Depression.

I felt immortal. My life was going quite swimmingly throughout my thirties. To paraphrase Billy Crystal; It isn't important how you feel, it's how you look...and I looked marvelous. I didn't have a line in my face, I had no gray hair, high blood pressure happened to other people and I didn't need glasses.

Then as if turning off a light switch, when I hit forty, everything changed. This harsh reality became apparent when my wife, infant son and I were on vacation in San Diego, (December 1995). While in paradise, I noticed my complexion become severely dry. The skin on the bottom of my feet cracked and my itchy arms and legs were suddenly hairless. I rationalized the problem stemming from the foreign environment. It was an easy choice to ignore my difficulties because all the little aches and pains I always had in the past, seemed to go-away on their own.

Unfortunately, the home field advantage didn't help. My problems worsened and I developed new, more acute symptoms. I could no longer remain in denial. I didn't research my suffering because I didn't have fingertip access to the information superhighway. So by the time March (1996) rolled around, I realized I was no longer a big shot. In fact, with my father's passing a year earlier, I quietly convinced myself that I too was dying.

At that point, I was living here in New Jersey about twelve years and never had a reason to visit a doctor. So on the recommendation of a coworker, I made an appointment on the blind. This gentleman must have been a good doctor because his waiting room was crammed with men, women and children.

An hour later, I was permitted by the receptionist to rise up out of the waiting room and into the inner sanctum.  When I finally reached Oz, the doctor listened as I told him about my dry skin and hair loss. Then I added that I was too weak to shampoo my hair, brush my teeth or write a check without taking a rest. When I said my speech was affected by large pimples on my tongue, he cut me off. Like a clairvoyant, he rattled off, "Are you experiencing muscle spasms in your fingers, arms and legs? Are you extremely itchy? Are you unusually cold? Then as if if I was responding to faith-healer, I said, "Yes doctor, yes, yes..." He said, "Are you feeling depressed? Are you gaining weight?" "Yes, yes doctor!"

His snap (correct) diagnosis was an under-active thyroid. He painted a rosy picture, that with the proper medication, I could lead a perfectly normal life with my hypothyroidism. His course of action began with a low dosage prescription. It would be followed by bi-weekly blood tests and adjustments in my medication until the right dose was found.

My ensuing visits typically included an hour in the waiting room. Once I was brought in to the examining room, a nurse would take a blood sample and I'd have a brief consultation with the doctor...five minutes, tops!

The doctor and his support staff couldn't have been friendlier, more supportive or knowledgeable. The problem was the wait time. On my third visit, on the way out, I voiced my concern about the wait time to the receptionist. She said, "On Tuesday and Thursday, the doctor sees patients at night. If you're the first appointment at 7:00PM, you should be in and out."

When my Thursday night appointment rolled around, I was faced with postponing because my wife had an emergency away from home. Rather than put it off, I decided to take my twenty-two month old son Andrew with me. He was an unusually calm little guy and I figured I could keep him occupied for a few minutes.

To further assure that I'd be taken right away, I purposely arrived at the doctor's office five minutes early. To my chagrin, there were seven patients ahead of me. To make matters worse, at night I didn't recognize any of the staff's faces. I got a harsh glare from the receptionist when I said, "I have the first appointment." She said, "So does everyone else."

I brought an arsenal of activities to distract my boy. I read his favorite book, sang silly songs and helped him play with his toys. After ten minutes, he started losing interest. He started toddling through the oblong waiting room. Most of the waiters smiled pleasantly but after fifteen more minutes, Andrew became more curious and vocal. We still had three folks ahead of me and people were losing their patience.

When a woman complained, a nurse who was a combination of Nurse Ratched and the Wicked Witch of the West whispered me the riot act. Before I could counter by saying I was a victim of circumstance or that I was told there would be no wait, the bitch put her finger to her lips and and said, "Shush." One of my symptoms was a shorter temper. But due to the situation, I was able to avoid going off on her.

It was forty minutes before that same nurse led Andrew and I into the examining room. I was getting into the blood sample seat when she said in a huffy tone, "What is the nature of this visit?" I was angry but with my son there I didn't lash out; you got my frickin' chart in front of you. Instead I said, "I'm here to give a blood sample." With a spiteful smirk she said, "We don't take blood at night."

I lost it. She screamed. I yelled back and in seconds the doctor came in to finally see well as every member of the staff and several patients. The doctor said, "I'm sorry, but this behavior..." I cut him off, "Don't worry, you'll never see me again!" On our way out, I started to call the nurse some more unkind things when the doctor interrupted. That's when I interjected, "And you, don't know how to run an office!"

I went to another doctor and got straightened out. Sixteen years later, I still take my meds on time and my thyroid is an invisible factor in my life. Yeah, I got lines in my face, my hair is all gray, my blood pressure goes through the roof without my pills and I could never type this without my glasses. But I still look (and feel) marvelous. Maybe I'll get them to etch into my grave stone; HE WAS STILL A BIG SHOT TILL THE END.

More importantly, you don't have to be a brainiac or well-versed in this automated age to know that; life has its ups and downs. That's why when you have a chance to, "go for it," without hurting anyone, you should. Because you never know if you'll have that opportunity again.

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