THE BASTION, THE TRUE STORY

THE BASTION, THE TRUE STORY           

 

Our city’s preoccupation with putting itself on the map to attract tourists isn’t new. It all started in 1855 with the Bastion, our nifty little Hudson’s Bay Company fort which was originally built to protect us from the natives, whose land we were stealing, and the occasional Spaniard swashbuckling his way through town.

            Three stories high, octagon in shape, and finished in “seagull poop white,” the little building stands out. Maybe not as much as a sportsplex, a convention center, a railroad to nowhere, or, I dunno, an Arnold Palmer designed sewage treatment plant, but it’s budget friendly and has a rich and glorious history, most of which we’ll make up. If that doesn’t attract tourists, we’ll bill it as the Jolly Green Giant’s saltshaker, either that or his porta potty. This may or may not be true, but in the rough and tumble world of roadside attraction anything goes.

 

            It was July 1855, and stinking hot, when six Indian war canoes paddled into Nanaimo Harbour. “Whew!” Said the chief, “What’s that smell?”

            “Never mind the smell”, said the paddle master who paddled professionally under the nickname Roostertail. “What’s that weird-shaped little building? The smell seems to be coming from there.”

            The chief turned to the canoe’s navigator, Newcastle Jimmy, the only crewmember who had made it as far as Math 12. “ What do you think Jim?” The chief asked.

            “It’s an octagon. First one I’ve ever seen. Let’s paddle over and take a look. Just make sure we approach from upwind. He shook his head in wonder. “They must have pissed off every seagull on the coast to get it that colour. Let’s go see what those goofy white guys are up to this time.”

            Much has been said about the relationship between the indigenous people and the early white settlers. The truth is they got along. The white guys were envious of the native’s laid- back West Coast life style. Hunting, fishing, pick a few berries, paddle here, paddle there, work on the tan, life was rough. Plus, thanks to all the exercise, the natives looked great. Bristling six packs, bulging biceps.

            Not that the settlers went unappreciated. They were valued for their entertainment value. As the chief put it, “It’s always something.”

            Eager to show off their new toy, which they called “the Bastion,” the settlers invited them in for an open house. Their pride in the new structure was obvious, “Cannon balls bounce off it,” they said excitedly. “Attack us, we’ll show you how it works.”

            “Whatever,” the chief replied trying to weasel out of it. “Ah come on,” the settlers pleaded. “Attack us. We spent a lot of money on this thing. We want to show you how it works.”

            “But we’re just here to pick up supplies, maybe a few women, although a shower is in order before that’s going to happen.”

            The natives were reluctant as they were very image savvy and didn’t want to be victimized by the media. The settlers always tried to label them as bloodthirsty savages, whereas the natives preferred to be regarded as a canoe club. Just a group of like-minded individuals out for a good paddle. They were quick however to offer the disclaimer that they weren’t responsible for what club members did on their own time.

            Finally the chief relented. This sent the settlers scurrying into their fort while the natives established their perimeter, ignoring the settlers inside who double-dared them to stand in front of the gun slits so they could get a clear shot at them. After one lap around, the chief shook his head in dismay. As he told Roostertail, “We used to paddle in, they’d run like hell into the bushes. We’d give pursuit, then drag them kicking and screaming back to the potlatch where, let’s just say they were shown some real West Coast hospitality.

            “Now we paddle in and they lock themselves in that stupid building. How do you fight someone who’s self-capturing? They’ve taken the sport right out of it.”

            Later that night the natives had a good laugh at the settler’s expense. While the settlers had been building their fort, the natives had invested in the latest bunker busting technology. “The mother of all bunker busters.” It was called the flaming arrow.

            “Man oh man.” The chief said. “Whoever designed their fort sure wasn’t up to date on modern weaponry. That place is one large campfire ready to happen. Did you see the shakes on the roof? They’ve even supplied the kindling.”

            But the natives had grown fond of the building, something about its goofy shape made them laugh. They also saw the potential of the fort as a tourist attraction, an outlet for their crafts. They envisioned a fully integrated operation with bus tours, post cards, key chains, the works. All marketed effectively by fit natives in skimpy loin clothes, jumping around like Cher’s backup dancers.

            So the building was spared but not before the settlers had been taught a lesson. During the open house, the natives had observed a major design flaw. No indoors plumbing. The settlers kept sneaking out the basement door and running over to the detached outhouse. What we’ll do,” the chief said, tears running down his face in mirth, “is lock them in the fort. We’ll leave a sign: Bathroom privileges denied until further notice”                                                                                                                                    Later that night, under cover of darkness, the chief and the assistant chief put padlocks on the doors. Where they got padlocks is still a mystery.

            When the settlers came down for breakfast and discovered the locks, they were not happy. “Not funny,” they said. As the mayor put it, “You guys just don’t play fair. Least you could have done after we spent all that money is to humour us by bouncing a few rocks off the building. But no, you’ve got to play stupid bathroom tricks.”

            The chief, not wanting to jeopardize his position in any future lease negotiations, and recognizing someone had to play the adult, apologized for not cooperating “Next time,” he promised. “Rocks. Plenty of rocks.”
           

REDEEMING YOURSELF

REDEEMING YOURSELF

 

Your wife has invited her very best friends over for what used to be called a girl’s night out. She has given you two things to do, “Pick up some nice wine and don’t use the guest bathroom until they’re gone.” You did as you were told and spent a pleasant evening in your shop with a six pack of Lucky and the family dog Stinky Bill who as it turns out, also drinks Lucky.

 

When the women left and you returned to the house, Stinky Bill a little unstable on his feet, your wife was in tears. Your choice of wine hadn’t gone over so well. As one woman put it, “An Icelandic chardonnay, how charming.”

 

In your defense, choosing a good wine isn’t easy, how can you tell until you’ve

tried it? A few things to watch out for:

 

            Fifty percent off does not always represent value.

            When you shake the bottle, clerks start ducking.

            Three words to avoid: contains organic rhubarb.

            Sales clerks dressed in Hazmat clothing.

 

All you know is one more wine slipup means you and stinky Bill will be room mates, his residence, not yours. My suggestion is this: Instead of studying the front label, check the back for the importer. Look for four words: A Christopher Stewart Selection. In a world where false prophets hand out 90 point scores like cheap candy being shoveled off the back of a May Day float, this is as good a guarantee as you’ll get that your wife and friends won’t be disappointed, and that Stinky Bill will get his bathroom back.

 

Pick yourself up a bottle of Bastide Miraflors 2013, which is not something you’d wear to a celebrity golf match, or the name of the new French Foreign Minister, but a tasty red from the south of France. $23.99, Order #457184. You might want to pick up some flowers too. And not a $5 bunch that glows in the dark.

 

 

 

THE LAMENT OF ELEGANCE

THE LAMENT OF ELEGANCE

 

I have a confession to make. For the last 45 years, I’ve been having an affair. It gets worse, there are two of them, identical twins. That’s right, a sister act. Is my wife concerned? Oh, a little I suppose. It’s the price you pay for marrying an eccentric. It helps that the sisters are a little older, 1925 vintage. Helps a lot more that they’re ships. Both lying on the bottom, one in Alaska, one in the Mediterranean where she was torpedoed running troops and supplies to Malta during WW2.

            The sisters I’m in love with are named the Princess Marquerite and the Princess Kathleen and were coastal CPR ferries that serviced local waters, primarily the triangle route between Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle with the occasional trip to Alaska.

            Back when the Marquerite and Kathleen were built, how a ship looked mattered. Responsibility for their design and creation was CPR’s ironman on the coast, Capt. James Troup whose attitude was succinctly expressed by this 1923 quote in the Times Colonist. “Our experience has been that traffic grows with the excellence of the ships. The better the steamers, the greater the travel. That’s our policy as well as our experience.”

            He could have gone down the block and had the ships built at Vancouver Tug and Barge at half the cost, but instead they were built on the banks of the Clyde at John Brown’s shipyard, later home of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. I can see the CPR’s board of directors upon getting the initial quotes. “Hey guys. News from the coast. Troup’s new ships are gonna cost… Arrrgh!” Assorted sounds of corporate projectile vomiting.

            But Troup was not to be bullied around. Any questions about his judgment received a stern missive, “If you do not have complete confidence in my abilities I shall quit immediately.” This invariably put the corporate lions back on their pedestals.

            Three hundred and fifty feet in length, with three slender funnels positioned just so, the vessels were absolutely stunning, inside and out, perhaps the best looking coastal liners ever built. Unlike today’s ferries, which are highly efficient ocean- going parkades, the sisters were pieces of nautical art.

            When building a modern ferry, the right angle reins supreme. Boxes are easier to build. With the two Princesses, the first thing the builders did was throw away their setsquares. There’s more curved metal in the Kathleen’s fantail stern than there is on an entire BC ferry.

            Esthetics on a ship is diametrically opposed to practicality. In order for a ship to look good, it demands a minimal superstructure, preferably one that terraces down at the stern. Efficiency demands the opposite, deck stacked on deck until the whole smoozle threatens to topple over. That’s why the two princesses looked like a pair of exquisite slippers, while modern ships look like the box they came in.

            After WW2 the Kathleen was given a total rebuild making her even more luxurious. I have this reoccurring fantasy where I’m in her varnished wheelhouse, one hand on the large spoked steering wheel, one resting on the engine room telegraph. We’re in Victoria harbour with me at the helm. After successfully backing away from the old terminal, which later became the wax museum, we pirouette around in the inner harbour and point our sharp bow towards Seattle. Quite an accomplishment considering I can’t back my car out of a grocery store parking lot without incident.

            We approach the breakwater, still throttled back to six knots, about as slow as the Kathleen will go, ditto for me in the grocery parking lot. Eager to uncork the 17,000 hp at hand, I turn towards the skipper. “Now?” I ask. He gives me the nod, I push the brass telegraph ahead full, bells clang, and the skipper shouts down the speaker tube saying to the chief engineer several decks below, “Take her up over 200 revolutions Scotty. Let’s give her a real test.“

            In the time it takes to say, “Sure glad someone else is paying for the fuel,” we’re up to 24 knots, towing the wake of a destroyer.

            Cowabunga!            

            Now maybe 24 knots doesn’t sound that fast. But at that speed you’re down in Seattle in less than three hours, which is almost the same time as Clipper Navigation’s catamarans, which are billed as a fast passenger service. Not bad for a ship that’s pushing 100.           

            Now I know what you’re thinking. Poor Delbert. This is no way to conduct an affair. There must be a better way than just staring longingly at boat pictures. I mean, what you really want is a ride on one, a drink in the bar, a bon voyage at the dock. Hard to do with both vessels sunk.

            And then the answer came to me. I was sitting there reading back issues of Popular Science, and in the 1948, August edition was the answer. Time travel. They had plans for a do-it-yourself time machine, which if you follow instructions carefully will take you back as far as 100 years. “Sleeps two, eats four, drinks six,” it said. “Well within the ability of the home handyman… build it at home with parts from your scrap heap.”

            So far construction is coming along fine. We’ve got the old seat from Ed’s lawn tractor fitted and two of the eighteen cup holders. She’ll be called the Queen of Ripple Rock, mainly because Queen of Fudge Ripple was too fattening.

            As far as BC Ferries is concerned, your efforts at providing me with economical transportation are appreciated, however I do have one request. The next time you’re building a ferry, don’t use the firm that designed the Gabriola ferry. Though their engineering was solid, having designed the pancake, and before that the road apple, their sense of esthetics wasn’t.

            Failure to comply with this request shall force me to adopt the sternest possible measures. I was thinking about hopping in the Queen of Ripple Rock, going back in time, picking Capt Troup up, and dropping him off at your headquarters. Try explaining to him that ugly is good.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

 

My plan to put Nanaimo on the map by burning $100 bills rather than spend $83 million on a Sportsplex raised a few eyebrows. “Boy, that Delbert is one smart cookie,” was heard more than once. True, there was some tittering that one time at the bar, but that could have been my mismatched socks.

 

The plan, in a nut shell, which is a good home for it, was to attract tourists from all four corners of the world, at least those corners where psychiatry is practiced, by lighting the fuse on our waterfront cannon with flaming $100 bills.

 

Crunching the numbers reveals the plan’s brilliance. At $100 a pop it would only cost us $36,500 to light the cannon for a whole year. With a budget of $83 million we could go for 2274 years before running out of money. By that time I should be able to come up with an even better idea.

 

Hockey games you can watch anywhere, even in your own living room if you can figure out what remote to use. (“Oh… It was the one I threw through the living room window. The one the dog’s chewing on, that remote.”) But where else can you watch a certifiable idiot in mismatched socks torch a freshly minted Robert Borden (a C note’s resident longhair) every day at noon?

 

It gets even better. If you do the due diligence, (which as far as I can determine is the warning someone gives before they do something really stupid.) the plan would be self- supporting. Here’s how it works: Maintaining an $83 million Sportsplex costs bucks, big bucks. By not building it we’ll be saving that maintenance cost, which would be much more than the measly $36,500 each year it would cost to light the cannon. At this juncture, I can’t see how we can afford not to do it. Not since Bernie Madoff came to town has economics made as much sense.

 

Even if we have to fudge a bit, cut back to $50 bills on the slow days, I’m sure none of the psychiatrists dispatched to investigate would mind. (The phenomenon is known in medical journals as Mayweather Syndrome after wealthy American boxer Floyd Mayweather pioneer of the flaming C note.)

 

But hey, I understand, not everyone is up to this level of economic sophistication. Many of you would prefer we stick with more time- honoured methods of attracting tourists. That means one thing. Roadside attractions. We all have fond memories of summer holidaying with the folks, you and your sister crammed in the back of a VW Beetle, parents up front chain smoking, windows closed because it’s 124F in the shade, you and the sis praying fervently that someone would hurry up and invent air conditioning, your dad 400 miles off course because someone told him just up ahead was the world’s largest fiberglass gall bladder, and even better, just down the road from that, the world’s largest corndog. After taking in those Route 13 marvels, it was up to Kelowna, where one could buy a hot dog on the beach from (still there) what at the time was the world’s third largest fiberglass orange.

Simply put, nothing beats the drawing power of a roadside attraction, especially one with a “World’s largest prefix. If my old man would drive 400 miles out of his way to see the World’s largest gall bladder, think of how far people would come to see something they could relate to, say a pink flamingo or a… sound the drums, release the balloons… the WORLD’S LARGEST, GUINESS SANCTIONED GARDEN GNOME.

 

And here’s the good news, I just happen to know where we can get our hands on one real cheap. It’s located in Nanoose down in a gulley next to an abandoned go cart track where you can’t see it. There it sits forlornly, weeds around the base, in need of paint, poorly lit. Believe me, this is no way to treat the acknowledged king of garden gnomes.

 

But whatever you do, don’t tell the mayor. He’ll just get excited, rush up there and cut them a cheque for $80 million or so. You see that’s the difference between the public sector and the private sector. The private sector tries to do things on the cheap, spending as little as possible; with the public sector the exact opposite is true, cost is no object.

 

For example, if the mayor wants a WHA team, he simply plunks down $83 million; the private sector would proceed much more cautiously. First by getting a feel for the market. Rather than building an expensive ice surface, we’d use existing resources. All you need for hockey is a large, flat surface and a little cold water. Make a deal with Costco to flood their parking lot after hours. They’ll bite, especially if you let them run the concession.

 

Then when it comes time to purchase the gnome, employ a little private sector ingenuity, also known as subterfuge. Hire a couple of actors; have them dress up as U.N. Garden Gnome inspectors. White lab coats, clipboards, and (most important) pocket protectors bristling with pens, pencils, slide rules and a shiny new rectal thermometer. Have the bogus inspectors brace the gnome’s owner. Get tough with him. Don’t be afraid to bring out the rectal thermometer. Tell him he’s being indicted with reckless endangerment of a garden gnome and unless he hands over the gnome peacefully, you’ll send in the B-52’s.

 

Now I know that’s a lot to ask of the actors, that’s why it’s important to hire the best available. Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep if you can get them. It’s only for a couple of hours, it can’t cost that much. As the saying goes. It takes money to make money.    

 

Once we have the gnome in our possession we paint him up then display him to best advantage. I say we plunk him down right in the middle of the busiest intersection in town, kind of like a traffic circle, right where everyone can see him and give thanks we’re finally on the map.

 

Three months later, a tourist couple driving through town:

 

Harold from Phoenix: Yikes! What was that damn statue doing on the road?

Harold from Phoenix’s wife: Isn’t this the town that burns $100 bills?

Harold: Ah.

 

 

 

 

JOURNALISTS MUST STICK TOGETHER

 

JOURNALISTS MUST STICK TOGETHER.

 

As anyone who witnessed Donald Trump’s first press conference will attest, the media is having problems dealing with the new president. It reminded me of the good old days of all star wrestling where smacking an opponent over the head with a folding chair was just another way of saying hello. You’ve got to give Trump credit, when it comes to impersonating a WWF wrestling villain he has few equals.

 

Appalled by Trump’s childlike behaviour and demeanor were two reporters from a prestigious German newspaper with a name that I couldn’t be bothered to spell. Their idea was that media outlets should band together in solidarity: To unite, share, and collaborate even though this goes against their grain.

 

Their specific tactic? “The next time Donald Trump tries to single out a reporter, or doesn’t answer a question, the next reporter who’s allowed to speak should repeat the question of the journalist Trump has snubbed.”

 

Well sorry fellas, nice try but that’s not gonna work. You might just as well be fighting Godzilla with a stick or bringing boxing gloves to a sword fight. In the old days, when the truth might have been bent, but not ignored entirely, this tactic might have worked; but not in the era of the alternate fact, a euphemism coined by Trump henchwoman Kellyanne Conway—that’s her in the I’D RATHER LIE THAN BREATHE tee shirt.

 

No, to win against Trump you can forget Robert’s Rules of Order, say goodbye to Marquis of Queensbury, and say hello to the roughest set of rules in town, those you find on playgrounds. Fortunately, having spent hours in the cul de sac supervising my eight and ten year old grandsons playing every game involving a ball and a stick, the favourite being whack a brother, I am familiar with and comfortable in this environment. When it comes to rigging the score, moving the goal posts, or just plain out and out cheating, Trump wouldn’t stand a chance against these two.

 

Not to take anything away from Donald, as far as cheating goes, he’s world class, but not compared to a six year old down 8 to 6 against a taunting older brother. So when Mom wasn’t looking, the three of us schlepped off to MacDonald’s to top up our fat cells and sodium levels. There, over McNuggets and milkshakes it became apparent that when it comes to clarity of thought, originality of expression, our young people are unbeatable. I mean what 69 year old would have though that a chocolate milk shake was the perfect condiment for French fries, a tasty dipping sauce for chicken?

 

I told them the situation, how Trump had been driving the media crazy with his child like antics and how it would be nice to turn things around on him. Remember, when it comes to driving adults crazy, there’s not much boys of this age don’t know. They warmed to the task. Quicker than you can say, “Hey that’s my French fry,” we had a plan.

 

Rather than get too tricky, it was decided to keep to the basic two strategies, the first being repetition. “Never underestimate the power of repetition,” Justin, the oldest said. “Nothing modifies an adult’s behavour quicker than hearing the same thing again and again.

 

“When Trump becomes abusive and starts calling reporters losers and stupid, fight back with I know you are, but what am I? I know you are but what am I? Keep saying this until Trump’s blood pressure reaches 9000 over 6000, maybe higher, which shouldn’t take long. When doing this a nice touch is to point your left index finger toward your intended victim and fan it, gunfighter style with your right index finger.

 

If Trump somehow survives your opening salvo without apoplexy setting in, change up a gear to “Liar, liar, pants on fire. As to what combustible trousers have to do with it, neither grandson could tell me.

 

The second prong of attack, and arguably the sharpest arrow in the quiver, which both boys said works fantastic is the uncomplimentary nickname. Always shoot for the weak spot, they said. And when it comes to weak spots, no one has a bigger one than Donald. That’s why when Donald’s misbehaving, it’s important for all reporters to direct their questions to President Short Fingers.

 

As far as his two evil henchmen are concerned, press secretary Sean Spicer becomes Spice Boy, or if he gains weight, Spice Hut. And for that other disseminator of falsehood, old Alternate Facts herself, chief henchwoman and the brains of the outfit, Kellyanne Conway who for some reason always reminds me of a villain from a Batman flick, let’s call her Ratwoman. Not only does she have the face and figure for the part, but she lies magnificently and who else has a jaw that sharp?

 

About this time some of you might be saying, “I don’t know why we’re bothering to read this article. Let’s face it Delbert, in the world of published political opinion you’re a nobody. No Pulitzer prize, no corner office in downtown Manhattan. Hell, you’re even lucky if you can get a corner table at Tim Horton’s.

 

Well sorry to disappoint you, but you’re wrong. Being born in Nanaimo gives me impeccable credentials as far as politics is concerned. Nanaimo is not only the Hub City when it comes to bathtub racing, we’re also home base for the most effective political insult known to man. A weapon to which there is no known defense.

 

I’m talking about “Bite Me,” a made in Nanaimo response that certain councilmen use to address the mayor when they’re tired of arguing with him, not as if that happens very often. When Shortfingers gets hit with bite me, he’ll literally blow apart, spreading internal parts over a four block area, which at the funeral Spiceboy and Ratwomen will assure the electorate was at least triple that, despite the contradicting photos.

 

“Bite me,” I say. “Bite me.”

 

 

PAIRING FOOD AND WINE

 

 

 

 

PAIRING FOOD AND WINE

 

Oenophiles (Not a transmittable disease) chatter incessantly about matching food and wine. Pairing, they call it, (oh, wouldn’t they make a nice couple.) Practitioners of tough love, they’re always trying to get some wimpy cabernet to stand up to that bully pepper steak. The idea being with the right matchup both food and wine will show better. This process where two plus two equals seven is called synergy, and according to your old math teacher, if it happens a lot, seek help.

 

Oh, miracles do occur. I once found a twenty dollar bill, on another occasion I squeaked through biology, but expecting Aunt Betty’s’ bean casserole, to improve the $4 East European merlot you so generously brought is a lot to ask for.

 

Personally, in 45 years of wine tasting, synergy has been a rare occurrence. (Fifty-five if you count the incident in the sacristy of St. Peters ’s church where as an altar boy I was left unattended with the sacrificial wine.) So far my best match up was peanut butter cheesecake and tawny port, which shows you what kind of a diet I’m on.

 

These days, what with advancing age and shaky hands, it’s more important I match the wine with the outfit. Red wine, red shirt; white wine, white shirt.

 

For what it’s worth, and it’s fun to try, here are some simple rules for matching food and wine: Light food, light wine. Sweet food, sweet wine. Hot food, no wine, but if you must, make it white with some residual sugar.

 

Occasionally at a tasting, you’ll hear the keener tasters say “needs food,” sage nods all around. This is oenophile-speak for, ”Help! I have swallowed a toxic substance, possibly fire ants.” What the wine usually needs is not food, but less acid, less tannin, ripe grapes, and possibly a new winemaker.

 

A delicious Amarone style Italian red that doesn’t need food (no fire ants) is Gran Passione, $17 at Lucky’s liquor store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIP REPLACEMENT, PAIN KILLERS, AND THE JOY OF MANUAL IMPACTION

HIP REPLACMENT, PAIN KILLERS, AND THE JOY OF MANUAL IMPACTION

 

I used to run competitively, which probably explains why this article is about hip replacement rather than something more hip friendly, taxidermy let’s say. Running taught me a lot about pain. Mainly that I didn’t like it, which is why, after my operation, I felt no qualms about taking the pain medication offered in the hospital, the so called prescription pain killers much prized by Hollywood stars who use them whenever they feel the need to crash their Mercedes into a liquor store.

 

Though excited about my chance to live like a celebrity, I found these drugs failed to deliver. Not one urge to drive recklessly, or window shop naked. Frankly, for excitement you’d be better off watching Toyota commercials: Hi, my name is Betty, I’m boring and I drive a Toyota. Have a nice day.

 

Personally, I think these drugs are all hype. Take the term painkiller for example. This is a vast overstatement of their capabilities. You’re better off with Sambuca shooters. Not that the drugs were without effect. They were excellent at producing hallucinations. Which explained why the smoke detector was crawling across the hospital ceiling like a giant cockroach. I immediately reported the incident to Nurse Gary who reassured me he’d keep his eye on it. As to what the smoke detector was doing there in the first place was another matter. It’s not as if hospital food is spicy enough to set any bedpans on fire.

 

My advice is, if you find yourself in a hospital being cooed over by a nurse named Gary, stick with Sambuca, or if you can talk your Doctor into it, a couple stiff Gin and

Tonics. That’s because the prescription pain killer crowd aren’t exactly forthcoming in regards to side effects. Oh sure, they mention the main ones: May cause excessive partying; can lead to shop lifting, but they fail to put a flag next to the biggy, MAY ALSO RESULT IN CONSTIPATION, ESPECIALLY IN DELBERT’S CASE. On that matter, I wish to testify.

 

That’s because I found out the hard way that those innocent looking pills have the same effect on fecal matter as cement powder on water, sand, and gravel. I’d been home four days when I discovered a week’s worth of fecal matter had packed together into a blockage about the size and density of a prize- winning eggplant and had taken up residence on the wrong side of my sphincter. If you’ve ever passed Australia through the Panama Canal, you’ll know the situation I was in.

 

What are you going to do? Who you going to call? Google that’s who. From them I learned that my problem wasn’t unique, that the medical community was aware of it and had a solution. The same solution they had for most ailments a guy my age gets. They proposed donning the old latex glove and sticking a finger up my bum. Re-enactment of average old guy’s doctor’s visit:

 

            Doctor: What’s the nature of your problem?

            Old Guy: Tired blood.

            Doctor: Take two aspirins, drink plenty of water, and while you’re here I’d             better stick my finger up your bum.

 

According to Google, the solution to my problem was to have someone pick away at what by this time had firmed up from eggplant status into a large round of stinky cheese, but not one you would put on a cracker. They even had a name for the procedure, manual impaction.

 

At first I thought it was a prank, like that first day at the mill as summer relief. Call it a gullibility test where the millwright tells the new guy to go to the millwright’s shop and ask for a skyhook. You don’t have a clue what a skyhook is, but you do as you’re told. At the shop another straight-faced individual tells you that all the skyhooks are over at the welders. From there you’re sent to the head rig. This goes on until the foreman, who loves idiots as much as the next guy feels sorry for you and puts a stop to it.

 

And pranked is what I thought was going on. Either that or I’d landed on the wrong web site, The Ozark College of Physician’s and Surgeons maybe. Twelve years of post secondary education and this is all we get? Even the world’s dumbest plumber wouldn’t attempt to remove a sewage blockage by greasing his wrist and reaching up the pipe to grab it. (Hell no, they’d use a sky hook.) yet manual impaction is okay by the medical community?

 

My thoughts turned toward my family physician, old Stiff Finger himself. How I’d like to pay him back for all his rectal probing. Say to him as he’s putting the glove on, “While you’re up there, would you mind…” But, typical family doctor, the one time you really need his finger, he’s in Africa with a bunch of other docs, Rectal Probers without Borders, I think they’re called.

 

That left my wife. I had her dead to rights under the marriage contract: In sickness or in health, for better or for worse. But I was fairly certain even a poor lawyer could argue the case that worse is one thing, manual impaction is entirely another matter.

I can see a young couple in front of a priest now.

 

            Priest: Do you, Silvia, agree to pick pooh out of this man’s bottom, with your             index finger, until death do you part?

            Groom: Hey, where did she go? I didn’t know he could run that fast.

 

No, I’d just have to suck it up and perform what Google calls, Self Administered Manual Impaction. As the shirt says, “When the going gets tough, the tough shove a finger up their butt.” Or at least that’s what my shirt was telling me, not that you should always take instruction from your shirt.

 

But it wasn’t going to be easy; my arms were too short, my elbows too few. What I really needed was one of those robots that assemble cars. If you know of one for rent, give me a call. Make sure it comes with a rectal impactor, right hand thread.

 

Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say things worked out. Let’s also say that I haven’t had as much fun since my cousin Tom ran over my foot with his1956 Buick. What did I learn? No more pills for me. I’ll leave them for the Hollywood starlets, and I’ll stick with painkillers made in the British Isles, gin and tonics by day, and a wee dram of single malt by night. Sure, this might mean bumping the Honda’s snout into the occasional liquor store, but that’s a lot more fun and far easier on your personal dignity than having Nurse Gary hovering over your backside with a fire hose, a melon baller, and an evil grin on his face.