The Super Secret Solution to Battling Evil Grass Pollen

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Aug 102019

Another Oregon Willamette Valley hay fever season has passed.  And I have finally emerged from my HEPA air-filtered bunker in a low crouch and squinted up into the sunlight.  Over the past three months, as I sat in the air-conditioned darkness, I developed several thoughts I’d like to share. 

Here are the facts.  Ninety-nine percent of the world’s grass seed is grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  The valley’s winds typically blow from north to south.  The communist city I call home is Eugene, or more formally, “The People’s Republic of Eugene.”  Eugene sits at the very southern tip of the Willamette Valley.  The average pollen count that irritates most people (“Very high”) is 200+.  The pollen count in Eugene can AND DOES exceed 500+.  Using these numbers, we can utilize a well-accepted mathematical equation to find the numerical “misery index.” Thus, X = 200 divided by Y = 500, and the result is of this equation is: That I am an idiot.  I honestly can’t believe I live here.

On the bright side, the pollen season only lasts three months.  And they’re not the fun-filled soggy fall months or the keister-puckering winter months.  I am free to venture outside anytime during these periods.  It’s only when the sun has the temerity to show its face and the temperature breaches 70 degrees that I have to run for my life. 

Setting aside my personal trauma for a moment, I must note that hay fever has gotten a raw deal on the public relations front.  Wall-to-wall negative press.  The media never mentions hay fever’s positive attributes – The pleasure of an afternoon nap brought on by the dopey side effect of an antihistamine.  Or, the PERFECT excuse for not mowing the lawn.

Luckily for me I know a physician who specializes in allergies – an “Allergist.”  For the purposes of this column I will refer to him as “Jason,” because his name is Jason Friesen.  That’s Dr. Jason Friesen M.D. to commoners like you. 

Last year during a conversation (if you call my whining to him about my hay fever and him suffering through my rant a “conversation”), I mentioned the two medications I was going to take the next year to battle my affliction.  Jason mentioned that I should start taking one of them early, because it took awhile for it to build up in the system.  Of course, I was GLUED to his advice.  This was gold.  Nectar from the sky.  AND with no evil CO-PAY. 

Nine months later I’ve raided the Costco pharmacy, and I am fully stocked:  A bottle of Claritin the size of an oil drum and half a dozen bottles of Flonase nasal spray.

A full thirty days before pollen season, I started taking a Claritin pill every morning with my multivitamin.  I wasn’t just religious about it, I was Mother Theresa religious about it.

The next time I saw Jason, pollen season was about to hit.  I told him that I followed his advice, and I was WAY ahead of the game.  I’d been taking Claritin every day for a month.  This is when Jason told me that I was an idiot.  (But he didn’t say it like that.  He said it in the nice doctor way.)  He told me that he said to start the Flonase ahead of time.  The Claritin acts immediately.   

So what I’m trying to say is that I’m really, REALLY, ready for pollen season next year.  I’ll consider this last season, in football parlance, a “rebuilding year.” 

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Ken Kesey Owes Me $5.20

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Feb 262017

Yesterday, I accidentally ate a hamburger the size of a Greyhound Bus.  Only it didn’t go down so smooth.  This was all Ken Kesey’s fault.  Yeah, I know he’s dead, but that doesn’t make it right.

I live in Eugene, Oregon, where author and Grateful Dead groupie Ken Kesey is revered.  He’s like a white Buddha.  In fact, the city dropped a bronze statue of him reading to kids smack down in the middle of town.  The “disenfranchised” use it hang their clothes to dry and/or display their valuable home-crafted trinkets for sale.  Drop by to visit it sometime.  Go in a group.  Take a can of mace.

But I digress.

Kesey wrote a book called, Sometimes a Great Notion.  It’s supposed to be really good.  I haven’t read it, of course, but I saw the movie starring Paul Newman, which was filmed in Oregon.  It was really good, and I cried when Paul Newman’s character drowned.  Anyway, I’m certain that’s where the tragedy of this hamburger nightmare started.

The McDonald’s Worldwide Conglomeration of Death (because there’s something seriously wrong with that outfit), recently came up with their own “Great Notion.”  They named it the “Gran Mac.”  It’s like the classic Big Mac, only several stories taller, and the diameter of a sewage drain lid.

The saying goes that it’s not how many times you fall down that matters, it’s how many times you stand back up.  Well, I fell down yesterday.  I tripped and fell face first into a Gran Mac.  I didn’t want to do it.  But this beast was an artery-clogging siren calling me to her rocky shores.  Polishing off that monstrosity of a burger (if you can call this aircraft carrier-sized block of carbohydrates and fat a burger) was backbreaking, or I should say, jaw-breaking.  My mandibular muscles are still aching.  And the carcass of that thing is still rolling around down in my lower intestines.  It’s churning away like a muskrat caught in a whitewater river sinkhole.

The entire experience is my shame.  And before you ask, “no,” I haven’t gotten back up yet.

So, Mr. CEO of McDonald’s Worldwide Conglomeration of Death, I only have one comment for you: “Sometimes it’s NOT a Great Notion.”

Hostage Crisis Day 114

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Apr 032014

Final Coat

Note: My column this week takes on a serious subject.  The terror of hostage taking.  Grab a box of tissues and read further at your emotional risk. 

Hostage ordeals take a terrible toll on everyone involved.  The fear, the uncertainty, the mounting anxiety.  Each passing day a nightmare.  Don’t think for a moment that the terror is diminished because the victim is a winter coat.  True, no one’s life is actually in imminent danger.  But the fear of losing a fine article of clothing is no less traumatic.  We’re not talking about a mere windbreaker, or even a light sweater.  Let me emphasize, the offense here involves a fine, name brand wool garment.  And most importantly, and especially tragically, MY WOOL GARMENT.

Let me calm down and explain.

In December, I braved subzero temperatures to attend a formal function at the Valley River Inn, in Eugene, Oregon.  I wore the wonderful knee length wool overcoat my beautiful wife had given me as a gift.  After the function, I walked back to the coatrack to retrieve my garment, but it was gone.  A coat which looked similar remained hanging on the rack.  At first glance, I even thought it was my coat.  But it was slightly smaller, and had a scarf in the right pocket.  But my absolute faith in human nature gave me confidence that all was not lost.  I told my wife, who was suffering a heart attack and practically on the floor going into convulsions, that the crisis would soon subside.  I assured her that the person would quickly discover his mistake.  He would discover his scarf missing and my gloves in its place, and the light bulb would go off.  He would make haste in returning my coat.  I had the staff at the hotel secure one of my business cards to the coat he had left behind, to remind them to call me when he showed up to make the exchange.

In the meantime, I would stay busy remaining calm and telling myself not to obsess about it.  THAT WAS 114 DAYS AGO!  My faith in human nature is now, on a scale of 1-100, a negative one-thousand.  In fact, if the size of my faith in human nature were symbolized by a breed of dog, it would be a hairless, miniature Chihuahua, shivering naked in the snow.

In the interim, I have identified three possibilities for the delay:

  1. The coat-napper hasn’t realized the mistake yet.  Remember that the one he left behind is slightly smaller than mine.  People tend to get heavier not thinner.  Perhaps he thinks he’s lost weight?  Perhaps a placebo effect has put a jaunty spring in his step.  He’s feeling better about himself.
  2. The coat-napper has realized the mistake, but figures it’s an even swap.  His stinky Pierre Cardin with more than a few miles on it (I believe you can pick one up for a song at JCPenny’s), versus my freshly dry-cleaned Nautica.
  3. There were people at the event from both the United States and South Korea.  There is an even chance my coat is hanging in Seoul.  If North Korea smashes through the DMZ and overtakes Seoul, believe me, the first thing Kim Jong-un is going to “liberate” is my coat.

It is finally time for me to make my position clear.  To state it plainly and publicly.  I am willing to negotiate with terrorists.  Yes, I am fully aware that this puts the other garments in my wardrobe at risk, but I am out of options.  Dear coat-napper, send me your terms and I will meet them.  End this reign of terror.

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