This One Is Mostly For Roy Kassinger


Really? So the zoo has these red-panda-head-shaped “Animal Friction Truck” toys in the gift shop? I mean, if you used the same idea but made it some kind of medical vehicle you could have … a wahmbulance.

Gift shop toy: an 'Animal Friction Truck', an inch-long miniature monster truck toy in which the front half of the 'truck' is shaped and painted like a red panda's head.
Mostly I wanted to set expectations for 2019 as my dumbest year ever. Here, have some actual content if you figure that will help.

What I Think Of Whatever It Was I Just Got


I don’t know why they want this sickness reviewed. What the heck. There’s a chance for a $250 Amazon gift certificate, right?

OK, so, this past week’s worth of sickness has been a real treat. The high point, by volume, has to be the bug I caught on Monday that we dubbed “stomach flu”. That’s a cute, friendly name, evoking as it does the 20th Century’s greatest killer, against stiff competition. But you know the kind of bug it is. You start out the day feeling fine. Then in midafternoon you realize how appealing it would be to sit still and disgorge a two-inch-thick layer of sweat. That done, the next task is to not move for eighteen hours. The alternative, moving, runs the risk of your body exploding like a paintball capsule only worse in every possible way. And of course the rotation of the Earth about its axis becomes too fast-paced and irregular to deal with.

The bug must be awarded style points for choosing to wait until I was visiting my love’s parents to take real effect. Not only could I be sick, and worry that I was making a horrible mess in someone else’s bathroom, but it carried just the hint that somehow I had got food poisoning from their pack of store-bought Dutch windmill cookies. (They weren’t actually Dutch windmill cookies, but I forget what we actually had. I think it might have been sugar cookies. But those are much less funny to get food poisoning from, if that’s even possible.) So the cure for this was to go throw up in my car, and sleep for 36 hours, without getting any less tired.

That all would have been hardly worth mentioning if it hadn’t piggybacked on the week’s other bodily complaint, though. That was some lower back pain. I run a little stoic, and even after a pretty lousy week I don’t want to make too much of it. But the ache started out last Friday morning, got so bad by Saturday that I even said something about it, and then started to fade again. Then this morning I was showering, and coughed, and it came back in full force. I don’t want to give up coughing in the future. I’ve had a nagging cough going on since 1998 and it’d be a shame to lose that. But if showering and coughing is going to give me this kind of backache I’m just going to have to give one of them up. I guess it’ll be coughing, since I don’t need to be less pleasant to be around than I already am.

To give some idea what it feels like, my lower back feels as if it’s been hit by a truck. I don’t mean that it feels like a truck ran into me in traffic. I mean it feels like a big 18-wheeler, the kind with a trailer and some sticker on the back promising that this trucking company gives no aid or comfort to the enemy, no way, noticed my distracted eye in a bar. And then the truck, a touch belligerent-drunk, stormed over to demand I explain myself. I’m never good in these sorts of situations. I answer something like “huh?” The truck overwhelmed the friends trying so hard to hold it back. Then it pushed me up against the change machine that doesn’t give change for $5 bills printed since 2008. It punched my spine just above the tailbone, twice. And then kicked it for good measure. The truck’s friends promised it’s normally not like this and offered to buy me a drink. But I only had a diet Coke that the bar refills for free anyway. The truck got in one more punch before it could be coaxed over to the other side of the bar and berate the karaoke machine. That is the kind of “hit by a truck” it feels like.

I’m not looking for sympathy, though you’ll notice I’m publishing this where anybody can see anyway. But the ache has been a chance for me to discover all sorts of things I can do while standing like someone who’s impersonating Groucho Marx without having ever seen Groucho Marx or any impersonator of Groucho Marx. It turns out this is nothing. Or if I do have to bend the slightest non-Groucho-Marx bit, how much I can get done by groaning about the pain oh the pain oh dear lord why are there steps in this house.

To sum up: truly effective sequence of ailments. Would not buy again. Would not recommend except to some people I’m feuding with. I’m not going to win the gift certificate either, I bet.

That Moving Spirit


I had something remarkable happen. A friend asked me to help him move. I see this as a big deal. It’s not like I even own a truck. I’d never own a truck. If you own a truck you have to deal with a never-ending string of people asking for help moving. They’re not even people you know in the slightest. Travel sometime to a place where strangers gather, so far as anybody gathers anymore. A mall food court, or a town hall meeting, or a stunt organized by the radio station. You’ll encounter folks going up to strangers and saying, “Do you own a truck you could help me move with?”

But as a truck-less person the question has a different connotation. Someone would ask me to help them move just because they think I might be a tall guy who can probably hoist stuff. And they’re right. Even for a tall guy I’m pretty good at hoisting stuff and lugging it around. This is because I used to be a tall, fat guy, and I had to build up some serious hoisting and lugging muscles just to stand up and waddle over to lunch. I’ve lost most of that weight. You’d be surprised what you can throw in the dumpster behind a Shop-Rite before they catch you. But I’ve kept most of my hoisting and lugging muscles.

Really I kind of hope for chances to show off my hoisting and lugging prowess. But it’s awkward just asking people, “Can I help you move this weekend?” It has connotations of your hoping to get rid of them. They’ll let you ask once or twice, and then decide they’re never going to move, just to spite you. And just walking down the street, holding a cardboard banker’s box full of books is no way to go, because a cardboard banker’s box full of books weighs two and a half times what Mars’s moon Phobos does, and the cardboard will tear and they’ll all drop on your foot, denting some of the books. You have to just wait for an offer to lug stuff around.

Yes, this does sound like the kind of thing standard-issue guys would do. And yes, it’s a good rule of thumb that “stuff guys do should never be done by decent people”. Granted. But I’m not talking about lugging stuff around until somebody weeps. I’m just talking about, you know, here are some masses of things, and they could be somewhere else, and I am the kind of guy who can make that happen.

So I was glad to be asked, and to be able to say yes. But the really thrilling thing is that the question came from a friend of my love’s. He and I had gotten to be friendly, yes, but what we mostly had in common was knowing my love. We had some things to talk about, like how he beats me handily every time we play pool, and how I could beat him handily when we play pinball yet somehow do not, but we didn’t have any serious connection. And now we do.

Asking someone to help you move when there’s not truck ownership involved shows you think the friendship has reached a higher level. It marks the falling-away of a certain guardedness and reserve. Someone who’s asked you to help them move is saying, “I trust you to not freak out when you see how I arrange stuff in the moving van all the wrong way. It’s like, do we even recognize the same principles of spatial reasoning? No we do not but I believe you are a person who can accept that and not turn this into a quarrel, unlike some people we could name but won’t, like D----.” This is meaningful stuff.

This is also important to me because it signifies my forming a new real friendship. Most of my social circle is made of Internet friends. Internet friends are much like real friends, except that your Internet friends have a built-in excuse for not being able to help you move, and you’ll eventually break up with your Internet friends in a shockingly bitter fight that starts over which of you better exemplifies the ideals of the “Mane Six” characters on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I like my Internet friends, the ones who are left after I told them I don’t ever want to hear about any of the characters on My Little Pony. I feel a little dirty every time I encounter the phrase “Mane Six”. But getting to this fresh level of friendship with someone in real life is a wonder.

I hope the new place has an elevator.