Thursday, April 27, 2017

Can an old dog learn new tricks?

Last week, many of my readers responded very positively to my column concerning pain and pain management. It appears from feedback that severe pain is very common and a real problem to control and treatment and management can be very costly. Our politicians are making some pain drugs much more difficult to obtain for people who are sincerely dependent upon it to carry on a semi-normal life.

For a long time I've made the claim that anyone who challenges me to define what I believe is my friend. It is the easiest path to throw up your hands anytime you don't agree with something and say, "Sorry, but that's the way I see it and I'm not going to change my mind." I want to challenge you with this column and I want you to ruminate on what I am about to assert.

Steve Wold, better known as Seasick Steve wrote these insightful lyrics in the song, Can't teach an old dog new tricks:
"There must be something wrong with me
What it is I can't quite see
I can't seem to do nothing right.
Maybe I need to change my style
Been this way for a long long while
Maybe there's a few things I ought to fix.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?"

Before you judge me on what you are about to read watch this amazing video and then chew the cud.
In this video, a man with Parkinson's disease is shaking so badly, he couldn't take a drink of water to save himself. He is offered a marijuana solution and he puts ONE drop under the tongue. Within ONE minute, he begins to calm down. In FIVE he sits up with no shakes and comments that his voice is coming back and then sings. The transformation is incredible or miraculous and the man appears healthy.

If after watching what one drop of this plant's extract can do for just one single disease, you cannot see the need to open it up for expansive research, then Steve's got another set of lyrics for you to embrace.

"Maybe I should leave well enough alone
I might not be perfect but I'm me to the bone
I don't need to change my style
Been this way for a long long while
There ain't nothing that I got to fix
You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

At 65 I do not want to be this old dog that simply refuses to adjust my thinking to adjust to science's onward march, especially when the original information was flawed.  Reefer madness is one of the biggest lies ever pushed on the American public, except maybe the need for underarm deodorant. BO as an advertising term was invented by Odo-Ro-No in 1919 (wisely targeting women's critical self-consciousness) to buy deodorant when all they needed was to bath regularly and wear clean clothes. Offensive body odor is caused by a buildup of bacteria and it simply does not grow that fast. However, stinking is not a crime. Maybe it should be. To substantiate my claim, I haven't used deodorant since 1977.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the same category as heroin due to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. What idiot pushed this one past reasoning people? Heroin yes, cannabis, no. I can't substantiate my next statement with cold hard facts, but I am pretty danged sure no one has ever overdosed on marijuana alone. They may have laughed themselves to death, but overdose? Nope.
Now in the early 70's, I smoked this stuff like a chimney every single chance I got, so I am backing up my claims with personal experience. I quit because I turned my life over to Jesus and I felt like it was a bad witness. I haven't smoked it since. However, it is illegal and on top of that and I'll be honest with you here, even if it was legalized - I still will not smoke it again for recreational purposes.

The reason for this is twofold. One, pot or Mary Jane, etcetera, makes a person complacent or lazy, or content to the point that for many, including myself, I become unmotivated. Why go to the beach, when you can go to the beach in your head? Two, it gives you the munchies and that's all I need is to want to eat more than I already am.

But let's look at the hundreds of illnesses, aches and pains that engineered cannabis extracts can cure or remove. I ask those of us who have been led to believe that the medical use of opium derivatives is okay, but marijuana is not, to do a little research. Watch videos of people being given this plant and see for yourself that it is high time to declare medical marijuana legal and pursue it to the nth degree. Remember what I said in my column last week; when putting a gun to your head seems like a viable option to stop pain, you will take whatever you can get, to stop it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A real pain in the neck

I'm hesitant to write along these lines this week, but feel that many of my readers will relate. I like to write motivational, inspirational, and sometimes humorous or challenging columns that have a message or make us want to be a better person. Probably too often I pontificate while pointing out injustices or rude social behavior, but not this week.

A couple days ago, I drove my 85 year old mother to see her pain doctor. She has to go each month and sit anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in the waiting room to prove she is not abusing her pain drug, which now thanks to recent regulation changes, hydrocodone is being phased out. This highly effective drug has been the only reason she has lived a semi-normal life and she takes it on schedule.

What she gets now is a form of morphine that doesn't address her numerous joint pains, which she itemized with a chuckle. "My shoulder, neck, back, wrist... even my big toe!" Her doctor earlier had explained to her that she was concerned my mother would become dependent on the hydrocodone. My mother, who is in full control of her mental faculties looked at the doctor like they were out of touch with reality.

As she explained to me in my car, "I am 85 years old and I cannot live with pain. I am fully dependent on that medication to relieve it, regardless if the drug is addictive or not." It didn't matter to the doctor and my mother also had this little gem of inside information. "If they were in pain, they would understand."

This conversation took place last month when we went through three days of her running out of hydrocodone because none of the local pharmacies carried the new pain killer. It got very close to a panic situation for her. At the time she was explaining the issue of pain and meds, I was pain free and have been for years, but what she said sounded logical, although I couldn't really relate. People complaining about health issues falls on deaf ears to the healthy.

Sadly, I was soon to be educated why people choose to end their life rather than live in constant pain.

On March 21st, I awoke with a stiff neck. I drove to the NASA gym to instruct a spin class at 0830 and by the time I left, my right shoulder was numb and I couldn't turn my head.  By noon, I was climbing the walls. I have never felt pain that intense and it was one solid long line of agony. No matter what I did or what position I was in, nothing relieved it.

I doubled up on ALEVE and 2 days later I was at the VA emergency room. I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't think of anything else except the non-stop pain in my shoulder and bicep and at first I thought I was having a stroke, but ruled that out for a pinched or impinged nerve.

They set me up for an MRI in 5 days and gave me a small prescription for a weaker pain med named Tramadol.  I took one every 6 hours as directed and ran out Sunday morning, 3 days later. This was 2 days before my appointment. I am convinced the doctor didn't really bother to calculate how many tablets I needed because he couldn't relate. People living in pain are very aware of how many pills they have. The pain came back with a vengeance and by noon on Sunday I drove the 30 miles to the VA and went back into the emergency room.

Through a miracle, I got an MRI within an hour and a sympathetic doctor who prescribed my 5 meds. He asked me what the level of my pain was and I told him it was the one right below crying.

To make a long story short, I have about 8 inches of vertebra that over the years have sustained enough injury that now through a shrinking of the nerve channel it is impinged. My arm is numb to my finger tips and I've had to curtail not only my spin classes, but all gym time until we can resolve the issue.  Being the competitive individual that I am, this is very difficult for me, but the possibility that the pain will magnify past the place where it can be controlled is so scary that I just backed off.

This brings up another subject of medicinal marijuana for pain management. It has been found so effective, for so many people, only those who cannot relate to pain would object to legalizing it. When a person would take a bullet to the head to stop the pain, what in god's name would be wrong with using something that works?

I am one month into this and still numb to my fingertips on my right hand and close to starting a second 16 day blitz of Prednisone, where it feels like I am on fire internally. I have a pain consultation on the 27th to determine a course and it appears it will be acupuncture. I still remain hopeful about instructing spin class, but as I approach age 65 in June, I simply have to realize I am no longer the young buck that still lives inside of me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Take me home country roads!

Dandy Don Cunningham and Baytown Bert
The Germans call it Fahrvergnügen. The condition starts for most of us at age 15 and if we are one of the chosen ones, it never goes away. It is the love of driving cars, trucks, and anything from a riding mower to a moped. You would think that in this country we would have our own word, but we don’t that I am aware of.

Some of us are like Jay Leno and own far more cars than the legal limit. I say that tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but don’t be surprised when the US government starts fooling with what you can and cannot drive. They will enact some law(s) to gradually remove our ability to physically operate automobiles in the manual mode. Count on it. It will be for the good of the people.

Others fall in love with one or more vehicles and shine them up and pour a good portion of their life savings into them to share at car shows like the one on Texas Avenue last week. By the way, my three favorite cars were the Buick Grand National owned by our own parable sage, Dandy Don Cunningham. Second was the peachy-colored 1953 Mercury coupe who someone said the owner has had for 38 years. It was spotless and beautiful in the extreme.

The third was a black Studebaker that was hot-rodded out and looked like a WWII bomber. Wow! What a car! One of my brothers is a MOPAR man. He has built and raced two Chrysler cars and drives a Dodge Diesel truck that runs the quarter mile in under 12 seconds — maybe 11. Myself and my other two brothers are Jeep guys and baby brother’s is a fully restored 1944 Willys Jeep that saw service in France.

My pal Larry Houston drives an early 1960’s black Cadillac convertible that if I’m not mistaken(!) is 28 feet long. Another neighbor, Butch Hodges, has a black 1967 Chevelle that he drags all over tarnation winning awards left and right. He cranks it up every once in a while and a few minutes later the seismologists are driving around the neighborhood. 

Motor enthusiasts watch videos and want to hear the motors rumbling exhaust and turn their noses up when they get AC/DC or Pearl Jam for background music instead. When they pull up to a red light and there is a VW beetle in the lane next to them, they unroll the window to once again experience the nostalgic sound.

At a car show they’ll stand and talk to total strangers and grin and blab on about a 1969 GTO Judge they always wanted, or a 1955 Chevy Nomad, that of course had to be competition orange and have Cragar 08/61 wheels. They’ll explain why so few Roadrunners had the Hemi motor and the 383 CU instead (No one could afford the $400 extra dollars).

True auto enthusiasts like to change their own oil because, “They want it done right, dang it!” They can tell you horror stories about work that was done by incompetent mechanics and like to use the phrase, “Buy tools, not labor” when around their friends to impress them.

I haven’t owned a truck in 15 years and I recently bought a 2004 Ford. It’s my first Ford other than one we took over from my parents in law years ago. I immediately fell in love with it. It had about a thousand dollars worth of work that it needed, but I got it at a cut rate cost from a friend and immediately fixed these issues. Now I am driving (get it?) my bride crazy talking about it, looking out the front door every so often to adoret it, and coming up with reasons to crank up the powerful 5.4 liter motor. “Hey baby, have I told you how much fun I’m having with this new truck?” She yawns.

She is not a car person. She uses them to get from one place to another. Can you believe that? “What? You need five bags of bark mulch? OK, I’ll be right back!”

Thursday, April 06, 2017

All the craziness going on these days

When crazy becomes the norm, what can now be considered crazy?
I know it's not just me who sees the craziness going on all around Baytown, Texas, the USA, and the world. Maybe it's always been this way and possibly because of the Internet, we are more aware. Wait, did I just claim we are more aware? Scratch that immediately. We have more information available and for those of us that actually ponder such things, what is happening is universal stupidity, outright criminal or righteous ignorance. People no longer take time to analyze what comes out of their mouth, or so it appears. Even our newly elected commander is guilty.

For instance, during the past election, I heard numerous people say, "I don't discuss politics with my friends." Now this statement is curious, because it implies they only discuss politics with enemies, or strangers. When I pointed this out to them, they stubbornly stuck to that nonsense in a self-righteous defense strategy that honestly did not hold water.

Back on crazy behavior, does it not appear that a whole bunch of Third World countries are living in the old gunslinger days of the wild west? You have North Korea swinging fists in every direction because they have so many natural resources that the rest of the world desires? No, they have nothing anyone wants. They have a maniacal despot for a ruler who is bat-dip nuts. I figure their only friend China will step in and tell the little man to stifle himself.

We have crooked politicians like outspoken two-time former congressman from Houston Steve Stockman, who allegedly headed a complex criminal conspiracy. Boy, nothing has changed over thousands of years of civilization it seems. Our country has people dressing up in clown outfits and creeping around terrorizing citizens and don't even think you can go to Walmart without a camera, or you will miss something bizarre and socially ridiculous. Wait, did I just write socially ridiculous?  Scratch that immediately.

We have organized crime here in Baytown which differs very little from larger cities. They wait and watch and pounce, stealing everything from lowboy trailers to baby formula and justify it as Robin Hood stealing from the rich selling to the poor for personal profit. Talk about low overhead!

Ask anyone you know if they actually stop before taking a right on a red light and they will truly believe they do, but all evidence points to the opposite. Here's another conundrum for us to consider and maybe someone has an answer. How can a couple leave two infant sons in their truck in a parking lot and go into a store for forty minutes?

In all the years I've been driving, I've never once jumped the curb and ran over shrubs and small trees or rolled my vehicle, but evidence is everywhere that it is a common occurrence. I actually wonder what they tell their insurance company. Wait, did I just imply they were insured? Scratch that immediately.

I am just about at the point where I am going to wear racing gloves, Nomex coveralls, and a helmet before I venture out on the streets of Baytown and Houston. A retired Baytown police officer recently remarked on my forum that people beep at him all the time when he is the first car in line when the light turns green. The reason is he can't be sure a car won't come flying through the intersection and plow into him, like the texting driver in West Texas who killed 13 people the other day, including a jewel of our community, Mildred Rosamond.

I realize everyone in the world isn't crazy or distracted, but their numbers are climbing. People still tailgate at 70 miles per hour and swap lanes in maneuvers only NASCAR drivers have mastered and I guess only a rude awakening will help them realize not only how dangerous this is, but how inconsiderate and just plain rude. Wait, did I suggest a measure of consideration? Scratch that immediately.

Another aberrant felonious occupation has developed in recent years where criminally minded armed people rob small financially insignificant stores. You never know anymore if you will be a victim when you and the fam are eating a sub sandwich. One idiot robber only got what was in the tip jar. Talk about low expectations!

A friend of mine blatantly explained to me that this armed robbery method of making money is societies fault, because the guy or gal is a convicted felon and can't get work. I was speechless and muttered, "Are you serious?" He was. I told him the reason they couldn't get a job is because they chose criminal activity over working a legitimate job. Wait, did I say work? Scratch that immediately.


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