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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“High” From Oregon , Oops, I Meant “Hi”

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Mar 282018

Whiplash is a “soft tissue injury” caused when your spine is suddenly, and without warning, slammed into the shape of a Wetzel’s Pretzel.  Usually when a car behind you decides to mate with your car.  Symptoms include throbbing pain, dizziness, and a sudden urge to call 1-800 Ambulance Chasing  I recently suffered a whiplash, but I wasn’t rear-ended.  It was because I live in Oregon.  Voters here recently decided to get their Bob Marley on.

Oregon went from a “Stop or we’ll shoot you” state to a “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” state, in the blink of an eye.  What was a felony is now a green thumb.  The photo above is the pot shop called Flowr Lyfe that opened around the corner from my office.  The same cops who would have Tasered, hogtied and thrown your behind into the hoosegow last year for growing marijuana, now protect both your ingress AND EGRESS as you travel openly to purchase your ganja.

A freeway billboard outside of town right now, in big, bold letters, asks:  “Got Weed?”

True story.  When I was in high school and lacked anything remotely suggesting marketable skills, I found a job washing dormitory windows at Oregon State University.  It was miserable, mind-numbing work.  The good news was that back then, states weren’t required to obey the federal minimum wage law.  So, not only was I slaving away day after day at this miserable task, I was enjoying the self-esteem building experience of earning a “sub-minimum” wage, as I recall, about $2.20 an hour.

In any event, one day when I was enduring another torturous shift in the gulag, I found a small plant growing wild on a rooftop outside one of the windows.  I smuggled it home.  My mother, who grew and regularly maintained just over one million potted plants, began watering it.  Yeah, my saintly mother, as law-abiding a person as you could ever find, was aiding and abetting a felony.  Frankly, I forget what happened to the plant.  I had no interest in its special powers, and neither did anyone else in my family.  I still don’t.

Perhaps my mother’s criminal past is why, when it came time to vote on whether to legalize marijuana, my 84-year-old mother unabashedly marked her ballot “Yes.”  So, I guess, when you get right down to it, it is my sweet mother who is actually the culprit responsible for my whiplash.

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.”

Jan 152017

By Jack Edwards

Last night the University of Oregon Ducks played the Oregon State University Beavers in a “Civil War” basketball game.  All of these civil war games are deeply meaningful to Oregonians.  This is because fans associated with each school feel strongly, to their very core, to the center of the marrow of their thigh bones, about one thing:  Their school’s players from California are better than the other school’s players from California.  And they are darn serious about it.  If you come across any of them discussing this topic, back away slowly.  If necessary, curl up on the ground and play dead, like wildlife experts tell you to do when confronting a grizzly bear.

I feel pride in the talent of these young men from California too, but sadly, each civil war puts a knot in my stomach.  I am a graduate of each school.  I am a beaver and a duck.  Some say that makes me a platypus.  This, of course, is absurd.  I will share with you this real quote from Yahoo! Answers on the subject of whether a platypus is the offspring of a duck and a beaver:

“There is no possible way a bird and a beaver could interbreed – one’s a bird and one’s mammal.  It’d be like you having a baby with a crow.”

Not so fast, Yahoo! Answer.  What is your Yahoo! Answer to, ‘How do you explain North Korea’s Kim Jong Un?’  Yeah.  I thought so.

The UO ducks refer to themselves as “The Fighting Ducks.”  The OSU beavers lack a formal adjective.  Some people refer to them as “Those Damn Beavers,” but these people are usually members of opposing teams.  As for OSU, they take a more international approach to self-aggrandizement.  They refer to themselves as “Beaver Nation.”  So, an Oregon civil war, in essence, is a contest between a band of warrior ducks and a nation-state of walking incisors.  It’s a real sight.  Nothing you want to miss, that’s for sure.  And I didn’t.

In the end, it was a freakish blowout.  The California Fighting Ducks lambasted the California Beaver Nation 85-43.  So now when I run into any of my duck friends who know I have torn loyalties, there is only one thing for me to do –

curl up on the ground and play dead.

Sep 172015

Bull FinalBy Jack Edwards

My kids occasionally ask me questions which cause me to reference my free-range childhood in the rural town of Alsea, Oregon.  This question for example, “Dad, when you were a kid, did you go to summer camp?” Me: “Yeah, it was called ‘Shovel the Manure Out of the Barn Camp.’”

My summers were exactly like going to camp, with slight variation. The Director of Cleaning the Barn Camp was my dad. If you needed him, you had to run out into the field and yell at him over the roar of the tracker which he was on 23 hours a day.

Going out into the field was not without risk. Joe the Bull lived in the field. Joe was the bovine equivalent of an overheated car crusher, except not quite as gentle. A popular “elective” activity at Cleaning the Barn Camp was called, “Narrowly Escaping Being Killed by Joe the Bull.”

Joe could sense fear, and he generally spotted me when I was merely standing by the fence weighing my odds of survival at sprinting across his territory to avoid the long walk around. The only person Joe gave a wide berth was my dad, who had once introduced Joe’s forehead to a two-by-four. This occurred on the one and only time Joe ever charged at my father, who not so coincidentally happened to be carrying a fresh length of two-by-four.

There was, of course, a physical fitness unit. It was called marching along next to the trailer “bucking” bales of hay twelve hours a day. The good news was that the hay bales only weighed twice our body weight. A special benefit was that it was all the free water we could drink. The Assistant Camp Director, my mom, would freeze gallon jugs of water which would melt throughout the day, thus improving our chances of survival.

Religious training was integral. We even wore special religious garments – long sleeve shirts, jeans, leather gloves and boots. I have rarely prayed as often or as fervently as I did during the mandatory camp activity called, “Clearing the Blackberry Bushes With Machetes While You Prayed You Didn’t Step on a Wasp Nest.” Luckily, each summer this activity only lasted an entire sweltering week. By the end of it, I was qualified to be ordained.

Camp Alsea. Fun and frolic with all the safety features of a Syrian mine field. And, of course, in addition to the frozen water jugs, it was all the Kool Aid we could drink. On the down side, the closest thing we ever got to a s’more was slipping on one of ole Joe’s cow pies.

I’d head back in a New York minute.

Rose Bowl Bound

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Jan 012015

Football Final

By Jack Edwards

I dream that one day technology will advance to the point where I will not be forced to travel long distances, expend thousands of dollars and trudge through throngs of intoxicated sports enthusiasts to enjoy watching a college bowl game. Call me a crazy optimist, but I believe that, one day, perhaps a day in the not too distance future, we will be able to view sporting events from the convenience and comfort of our own living rooms. Yes, this will likely mean that I will not get to experience the pleasure of marching with my fellow football fans toward the stadium’s entry as I tiptoe around fresh puddles of vomit left by the truly dedicated “students of the game.” Or spend quality time with that crack squad of security professionals as they rummage through my knapsack searching for dangerous contraband, like water bottles.

This year, during Oregon’s Civil War football game, I cheered enthusiastically for Oregon State, not because I cared deeply, but because my family members are rabid University of Oregon Duck fans, and I knew I was in great peril of being coerced to fund an all-inclusive trip to the Rose Bowl if the Ducks won. Alas, fate was not on my side. In pro wrestling terms, the Ducks pulled one of those moves where they jumped down into the crowd, picked up a folding chair, crawled up onto the ropes and then came down on the Oregon State Beavers like the Angel of Death.

The good news is that I managed to pay top dollar for marginal quality game tickets. Being an idiot, I ordered my tickets through the U of O’s athletic department. This assured me of paying the full face value. Meanwhile, apparently because scores of other boneheads did the same thing and then, realizing that if Oregon beat Florida State, it would play for the national championship in Texas twelve days later, and they couldn’t afford to attend both games, decided to flood the market with Rose Bowl tickets. The last I looked, Rose Bowl tickets were going for a buck ninety-five, and they were throwing in a voucher for a free medium drink and souvenir seat cushion.

Fortunately, this trip will allow me to do research for my next career. It turns out that the highest paid public employee in every state and the U.S. Territory of Guam is being a head college football coach. So I’ve been watching these guys with an eagle eye all season.

Here’s my resume:

1. I’m balding. No, I’m not sporting the classic three-quarter bald top with a spiffy comb-over, but I’m working on it. And if this turns out to be a deal breaker with the athletic director, I can always pick up a can of Nair.

2. I’m average height. (The height of every bank robber since the beginning of time.)

3. I have an innate ability to look indignant and stomp around when I get upset. (My wife will write me a character letter attesting to this quality.)


4. Most importantly, and perhaps making up for my lack of practical “on field” experience, I have a very noticeable “paunch.” Few men currently coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level can compete with me. I look like I’m entering my second trimester.

To those of you who won’t be able to enjoy spending half of your retirement savings attending the Rose Bowl this year, don’t worry, while we wait for the technology to advance to the point where you too can enjoy watching back home, I’ll take plenty of photographs to share with you when I return.

Crater Lake Crayfish Crisis

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Nov 272014

Crayfish final

By Jack Edwards

Loyal readers know that I nearly lost my life at Crater Lake National Park last summer hanging on by my butt cheeks as I traversed Rim Drive to brave my way to the Rim Village Gift Shop (AKA Future Garage Sale Item Warehouse). I have not been eager to return, but my help may now be needed to address the rapidly emerging Crayfish Crisis recently reported by journalist Lee Juillerat of the Klamath Fall’s Herald and News. It appears that a Rumble Down Under is in full swing. The lake’s crayfish are locked in an epic battle with the lake’s newts. So far, it’s a bit lopsided. It looks like a battle between Seal Team Six and the Cloistered Sisters of Perpetual Peace.

Crater Lake newts aren’t just any pedestrian newt. They are special Mazama Newts, only found in Crater Lake. They are darker than the common newt and “less toxic” (just ask any Crater Lake crayfish). No one knows how these newts got into the lake, but scientists believe they may have been there for thousands of years. The crayfish on the other hand are nothing but a bunch of crustacean carpetbaggers. They arrived in 1915 and have been swaggering around acting like they own the place ever since. “[Y]ou can hardly pick up a rock without finding one,” the article quotes Mark Buktenica, who worked as Crater Lake National Park’s aquatic biologist for 30 years. These crayfish are the pit bull of crustaceans. Juillerat’s article references a YouTube video that depicts crayfish as, “voracious, efficient killers” presenting a scene “reminiscent of a horror movie.”

Proof, the scientists say, that the crayfish are driving out the Mazama newt, is that the newts used to hang out near the lake shore sipping tiny umbrella drinks and mugging for park visitors, but now the only places you can find newts are the few places where the crayfish thugs have not yet arrived. While I am not a fully licensed crustacean biologist, I have my own theory. It’s called “Mazama newt flight.” I think the Mazama newts, with all their old money and traditional ways, are simply stuck-up and think they’re too good to live near the crayfish. The newts are packing up their tiny station wagons and moving deeper into the lake. Scientists have spotted them living 820 feet beneath the surface living in miniature three bedroom, two bath subdivisions.  (Okay, the article only mentions the newts found at 820 feet.  Mr. Juillerat was vague on their accommodations, leaving me draw logical inferences).

Park aquatic biologist, Scott Girdner is quoted in Juillerat’s article pondering the effectiveness of possible solutions, “We don’t know if anything would be successful. Will newts exist or be driven to extinction.” I think I speak for everyone who never heard of a Mazama newt before reading this article – I don’t want to even THINK of living in a world without Mazama newts.

Lucky for everybody, I visited New Orleans last year. The New Orleans City Code requires every resident to consume twice their body weight in crayfish each year. Crayfish are in every dish that comes out of the kitchen except chocolate cake – and I think I even had a piece of that with a crayfish that tripped and fell headlong into the batter. So here’s my plan. We import a team of crack, yet rotund, Cajun chefs from New Orleans and turn them loose in Crater Lake National Park. Trust me on this folks, crayfish are De-Lish. Within a month, the only surviving crayfish left in Crater Lake will be wearing Mazama newt disguises and tiptoeing lightly near the nether reaches of Wizard Island. I’m already suggesting they rename the place Gumbo Crater Lake National Park. Visitor numbers will shoot through the roof. And they can use the extra money to finally fix that deathtrap they call Rim Drive.

Jul 172014

Crater Lake Final

By Jack Edwards

My family recently hosted a visit from one of my daughter’s college friends. I’ll refer to her as “Whitney” because her name happens to be Whitney. My daughter wanted to take her friend to visit Crater Lake National Park, but this posed a problem – Crater Lake is about three hours from our home, and it is difficult to drive and sleep at the same time. In order to obtain proper rest prior to her arrival at the lake, my daughter ingeniously invited the rest of our family along. This allowed me to enjoy driving the 145 miles over winding mountainous roads while she fell into a coma in the back seat.

Crater Lake is to Oregon as the Statue of Liberty is to New York. State law strictly forbids any local resident to visit these attractions unaccompanied by an out-of-state visitor. Whitney is from Tulsa.  When we arrived at the entrance, we announced that we had an out-of-state visitor, and after the park ranger inspected her identification, he let us enter.

The most important thing to remember about any national park is that it is a safe haven for wildlife. Even for ferocious species such as mountain lions, black bears, wolverines and, of course, bees. I know this because at our first stop when we got out of the car to gaze across the serene vista of crystal blue water, all of a sudden, and completely without notice, Whitney began waving her arms in a helicopter fashion and running off in a zigzag pattern, which, of course, is the international signal for Bee Attack. It turned out that it wasn’t so much of an actual Bee Attack as it was an actual bee sighting. You nature lovers will be relieved to learn that this wild and majestic bee was not harmed in any way, and in fact, had only gotten within about 75 feet of Whitney when she sprung into the required defensive action.

It was following this first stop that we made a critical mistake. One that almost cost us our lives – we failed to turn around and leave immediately. Due to this err, we naively continued on. Not because we wanted to, but because eons of genetic human evolution required us to venture forward to the nucleus of this natural wonder. The technical term for this “nucleus” is The Gift Shop.

The problem with our not turning around and retreating from the lake, and following our gravitational instinct was that to get there, we had to travel along “Rim Drive.” Rim Drive leads to (and this is its real name) “Rim Village.”

Rim Drive consists of almost a full 1 ¾ traffic lanes. At numerous points, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that not only does the road lack any shoulder, it also lacks a guardrail to prevent your vehicle from plunging over a 1000 feet sheer vertical drop-off. And not only does the road lack a shoulder, at places, there is actually a “negative shoulder” (i.e. it lacks even a full fog line to mark the beginning of your final decent to certain death). I would prefer to run in a zigzag pattern from a mountain lion than face this ribbon of asphalt ever again.

But it was all worth it, because we arrived safely at Rim Village, where we immediately visited the Rim Gift Shop. While the vista across the lake was awe inspiring, it did not compare to the panorama inside the gift shop: Garage sale items as far as the eye could see.

Our next stop was Cheetwood Trail. This is a 1.1 mile hiking trail down to the edge of the lake. It contains approximately one million switch backs punctuated with signs that on first glance appeared to read: “Do not throw rocks onto hikers below.” I imagined that visitors, driven insane by navigating Rim Drive, lost their minds by the time they reached Cheetwood Trail and became homicidal. I don’t know. But the federal government took the time and my money to put these signs up, so the problem had to be real. Several times, when there were other hikers near me, I couldn’t resisted looking up and yelling out randomly, “Hey, stop throwing rocks down on me!” Here is the actual sign:

Crater Lake Sign

Luckily, our entire hiking party survived the harrowing vertical trek without ever being struck by a rock thrown from above, or giving in to our more base instincts and throwing one ourselves. Most importantly, my daughter arrived home from the trip satisfied of accomplishing her goal of showing Whitney Crater Lake, and most importantly, refreshed from her final three hour nap.


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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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