Monday, November 30, 2015

insatiable an appetite, wanna try?

I have very fond memories of Thanksgiving. I remember my mom waking up early on Thanksgiving morning to prepare a giant turkey with her homemade stuffing. After putting the turkey into the oven for a good, long roasting, she'd pop a foil tray of frozen candied sweet potatoes in to keep the turkey company. Then, she'd line up an array of canned vegetables and, one by one, run them under the electric can opener and dump their contents into one of a number of saucepans on the stove. 

Soon, our regular guests would arrive — my aunt and my grandmother. My aunt would hover around the kitchen, offering help to my mother. My mother, of course, had the meal preparation down to a science and politely declined assistance. She made the same meal every year and, at this point, could make it with her eyes closed. My grandmother knew better than to enter my mother's kitchen. Instead, my grandmother would park herself on the sofa opposite my father and complain. About everything. My father would nod and feign interest, devoting more attention to his cigarettes and the televised football game than to his mother's incessant bellyaching.

After what seemed like forever, dinner was finally served. My dad sliced up the golden-brown bird. Side dishes were passed around and plates were filled to overflowing. Then, before a single bite was take, my father would ask me his traditional question.

"Do you want cranberry sauce?," he'd ask, a big, purple, cylindrical blob quivering on the serving plate poised in his hand.

I would frown and shudder at the sight of that unnatural jellied mass. As a youngster, I would merely shake my head. As a teenager with a developing sardonic personality, I would reply accordingly.

That's it 
right next to the flowers.
"Have you ever seen me eat cranberry sauce?," I said one year. Another year, I replied, "I'm trying to keep my 'no cranberry sauce' streak going for another consecutive year." In later years, when I grew tired of acerbic retorts, I would just respond with an annoyed "no." My father, however, never got the message. He still continued to ask the question every year.

Life events — marriage, the deaths of my mother and father, expanding families — altered my Thanksgiving arrangements. After many years of bouncing from relatives' and friends' homes, this year, for the very first time, Thanksgiving dinner was an intimate gathering of three — my wife, my son and me. Just the Pincuses. Mrs. P, outnumbered by vegetarians 2 to 1, graciously conceded to forgo turkey and make a Tofurky® for our holiday dinner. She filled the roasting pan with fresh potatoes, carrots, celery and herbs, creating a base for that softball-sized hunk of faux poultry. With the soy "bird" safely browning in the oven, Mrs. P made her own cranberry sauce. Nope, not that weird "slide out of the can" stuff. She made the real deal, just like the Pilgrims presented to the Native Americans before the post-meal slaughter. 

The table looked beautiful. In addition to the fake turkey (delicious fake turkey, I might add!), it was laden with vegetables, hot-from-the-oven-rolls, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce.  And this year, I decided that my nonsense had gone on too long. I was an adult. I was going to try cranberry sauce. In a scenario reminiscent of my "baked beans" episode, and much to my wife's surprise, I bravely placed a heaping dollop of cranberry sauce on my plate alongside a gravy-covered slice of Tofurky®. At least it looked like food and not a giant, glistening eraser. I scooped up a forkful and raised it to my mouth. Then, I shoveled it home.

It was good. Really good.

I finished my initial small portion and took more. My wife smiled — pleased that I liked her cranberry sauce and pleased that I was finally eating cranberry sauce.

"Your father would be proud.," she said.

Yeah, but he'd probably question me about something else.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

baby, don't you cry, gonna bake a pie

A few evenings ago, Mrs. P and I went shopping as soon as I came home from work. When we returned home after an hour or so, we found this hand-written note (pictured above) lying on the cement step just inside our screen door. On a single sheet of lined notebook paper, torn from its spiral binding, the note was written in the unsteady hand of a teenager. It read:

Hello. My name is

Jin Yu  for from Cheltenham High School
The day before thanksgiving I
I am dropping off yourpies
you ordered on Wed Nov 25
(day before Thanksgiving
Please give me a call
to let me know what time
I should drop the pies off
215 - (phone number)

Thank you &
Happy Thanksgiving

The author was kind enough to offer a pronunciation of his name — Jin You — in parenthesis below the actual spelling of his name.

It took a few reads until we figured out that "yourpies" was actually "your pies." I asked my wife, a phenomenal and proud baker, if she had ordered pies from someone in the neighborhood. Every year, for the past 31, she single-handedly bakes and serves up a huge assortment of goodies from the oven to a houseful of freeloaders guests on the evening before Thanksgiving. So, I already knew the answer before the question left my lips. However, Mrs. P has been known to be charitable and it really wouldn't have surprised me if she ordered a pie from some forlorn young student as a goodwill gesture. Something I would never do in a million years.

Well, we came to the conclusion that she didn't order any pies and we knew that I certainly didn't order any pies. At this point, I would have dropped the issue, but not Mrs. P. She began to contact some surrounding neighbors via text message and Facebook. (Again, something I would never do in a million years.) Within minutes, she received negative replies from all. The mystery had come to a standstill.

The night before Thanksgiving is one day away. Did poor Jin Yu take pie orders from people in a house that looks like mine? Did he forget from whom he took orders? Will Jin Yu possibly be delivering pies to me that I did not order? Or has he figured out his error by now?

Hmm.... I wonder what kind of pies they are and I wonder if Jin Yu will have a happy Thanksgiving. If he gets stuck with those pies, I suppose he will.

We have our own pies, thank you very much.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

our love's in jeopardy

I have been watching Jeopardy! for years. I started watching with my mom in the 60s, when it was hosted by the late Art Fleming. In its original incarnation, the highest dollar amount in the first round was $50. Later, when the show was brought back in the 80s, now hosted by Alex Trebek, the question values increased, but the questions themselves remained just as difficult. I used to make sure I got to watch Jeopardy! every evening, but as time moved on and other things in my life took a greater priority, watching Jeopardy! became a "Oh,  guess I'll just watch Jeopardy!" thing.

Last week, Jeopardy! featured its annual, two-week, ratings hog Tournament of Champions, during which the regular daily game is interrupted for a "March Madness"-like playoff that pits the previous season's top winners against each other for a final competition. The winner receives $250,000 and all the glory that lasts for a day or two. I managed to watch a few episodes of the quarter finals of this year's contest and I even recognized a few of the contestants. The games whittled the participants down to three who would return for a two-day, cumulative scoring round at the end of Week Two. The first was Kerry, a woman I do not remember seeing when she appeared in her regular run of games. Kerry had the nondescript looks of any number of Jeopardy! contestants over the years. She had a quiet demeanor, contrary to most multi-day champions, but she was just as awkward. Then, there was Matt, another awkward, though aggressive, young man who refused to let Alex Trebek finish a sentence before demanding his next question. He also spoke way too loud into the microphone. In the middle position was Alex, an intensely focused fellow, who took this game very, very seriously. He strategically wagered large amounts of his cash and rarely cracked a smile. Often during the games, you could see that Alex was in the zone.

I watched the first evening of the Tournament of Champions finals. During the show, I took to Twitter, as it has become the current, fun way to watch television. It's like watching TV with hundreds (even thousands of your "friends") across the country. Just as the first round began, I tweeted this, in typically smart-ass fashion:
And I continued to watch, as the three contestants mashed their buzzers and rattled off answers to questions that I would not be able to answer with a gun pointed to my head. I consider myself a pretty good student of trivia, but some of these questions were like a graduate school final exam. The "Double Jeopardy!" round was just as difficult and ended with Alex in prime position. He won the game and was poised to take it all on Day Two.

The next morning, I was notified that my snarky little tweet got a few "likes." One of them was from one @whoisalexjacob — Alex himself — the current leader in the Tournament of Champions.
I am always amused when I get a "like" like this. And, obviously,  Alex has a sense of humor about the whole experience, so I replied with this, which Alex "liked," as well:
I really was rooting for him. I found Matt's rambunctious nature to be annoying and I thought that Kerry didn't really stand a chance. Unfortunately, I had a haircut appointment that evening and I would be unable to see the final deciding showdown of the Tournament of Champions. When I got home, a quick Google search revealed the outcome of the tournament. As expected, Alex came through victorious, raking in a quarter of a million dollars for his effort. I offered up this tweet to Alex and the whole Jeopardy! watching world:
As he basked in the brief glory his championship has brought him, Alex gave that tweet a "like," too. Maybe he even smiled.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

is this burning an eternal flame

How many times has something like this happened to you?

A couple of weeks ago, we had friends come over for dinner. My wife asked me to light the dozen or so pillar candles that we have arranged on a really cool, multi-tiered, cast-iron holder in our fireplace. I picked up the extended grill lighter that we keep next to the hearth and gave the trigger a few flicks. It sputtered and sputtered again, producing only a brief, weak spark and a wisp of smoke. A few more clicks and I was convinced that this thing had served us well, but that it had lit its last candle. I scrambled through some drawers, found a forgotten pack of matches and I was back in business. I made a mental note to buy a new lighter, although I soon forgot.

My wife and I were in Home Depot to purchase a piece of plywood to repair the seat of a chair that my wife picked up for almost next to nothing. As we finished checking out, I noticed a small display of grill lighters sitting alongside a huge, point-of-purchase unit filled with more batteries than I or anyone have ever used in a lifetime. I pointed the lighters out to Mrs. P and she asked if I want to grab one, as long as we were here. "No," I said, dismissively, "I don't want to get back in line. I'll get one another time." Again, I made a mental note to buy a new lighter, but, again, I soon forgot.

On the afternoon of a lazy Sunday, I decided to make a quick trip to the supermarket to purchase some immediate "fill-in" items (half & half and cereal come to mind) of which I saw we were running low. I scribbled out a quick list, adding "lighter" at the end as a post-script to myself. I wandered the aisles of the market, referring to my list and filling my hand-held basket with the few items I needed. Next to the shelves of Cheerios (strangely enough) was a small rack stocked with carded blister-packs of grill lighters. Each card housed a pair of lighters and a tiny sticker identified the price as $3.99. I considered the price. This supermarket — one of many in close proximity to my house — was part of an independent co-op of markets not able to be competitive with the "big guys," so I figured this price may be high. I decided to pass and just stop at the much larger Target that shares the parking lot. I assumed (based on absolutely nothing) that Target would, undoubtedly, be cheaper. I left the lighter display as I had found it and made my way to the checkout. 

I drove over to find a closer parking space to the Target, although I probably could have walked. Once inside, I was quickly distracted by a bag of granola in bright yellow packaging. A red and white sign proclaimed a sale price of four bucks, so I grabbed a bag and set out to find.... um.... oh, right!... a grill lighter! I paraded up and down every logical aisle — housewares, automotive, even lighting — until I stumbled upon a shelf filled with Duraflame fireplace logs. Just behind the logs was a hook with packages of Bic brand lighters. These were packaged in pairs, as well, but the shelf tag read $5.19 for the pack. Now, I'm no math whiz, but even I can figure out in my head that $5.19 for 2 is more than $3.99 for 2. I stood there with that bag of granola dangling off my hand like extensions of my fingers, staring at the colorful-handled lighters and the inflated price. I dropped the granola on a nearby shelf and silently stormed out in disgust... and empty-handed.

I drove to the end of the parking lot and pulled up to the Home Depot — the same Home Depot at which this stupid quest began. I parked and stomped into the store, right up to the display that I had seen earlier in the week. This time, the brand was Scripto and the lighters (called "Aim 'n Flame") were offered in single unit packaging with a price tag of $2.97. Using my math skills once again, I concluded that this was the most expensive of all. I realized that, if I had just stuck with the "no name" brand from the supermarket, I wouldn't have had to make two additional stops, I would have had two lighters, I would have spent less money and I would probably have been home by now!

"Fuck it!," I muttered to myself and I lumbered angrily out of Home Depot. Once again, empty-handed.

I still have to pick up a grill lighter. But, I'm sure I'll forget about it as soon as I finish typing this.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

goin' up the country

My father-in-law needed a new computer, so my wife graciously offered to drive down to Delaware (just an hour south and the well-publicized "Home of Tax-Free Shopping") to pick one up. She swung by my office after work one weekday evening and we braved the I-95 rush hour traffic to get to a Best Buy in Newark, right near the sprawling Christiana Mall.

Within minutes, and with absolutely no help nor acknowledgment from a single member of the blue-shirted-and-khaki-pantsed sales team, we selected a spanking-new laptop and made our way up to the front of the store to check out. We actually passed several more salespeople who saw me carrying a large box and didn't offer assistance or a second glance. Remember ol' Circuit City when it comes time to permanently shutter the doors of another alliteratively-named electronics retailer.

At this time, in the post-Daylight Saving Time portion of the year, the sky had already darkened and the subject of "dinner" became the topic of discussion. Mrs. P and I went through the usual "well, where do you want to eat" conversational volley. We both scanned our smart phones for a nearby dinner option until we spotted the glowing red channel lettering of an Old Country Buffet just at the edge of the parking lot. 

"How about there?," Mrs. Pincus suggested.

Many years ago, Mrs P and I, with our young son in tow, would frequent an Old Country Buffet that opened a few miles from our home. It was far from fancy and exactly what one would expect from a family-oriented, serve-yourself restaurant that costs under ten bucks a person. They had a pretty good selection of entrees, side dishes and salads to satisfy our vegetarian appetites. It was definitely "no frills" and it didn't pretend to be otherwise. However, on one visit in particular (one that turned out to be our last), my wife observed an employee filling up the ice dispenser with the discarded ice from the self-serve soda fountain. That's right! The slightly melting, used cubes from the fill-my-cup-up-halfway-and-dump-it trough that serves as the drain for the dripping soda nozzles. A complaint to a manager accomplished nothing, so we placed ourselves on a self-imposed exile from Old Country Buffet.

I considered Mrs. P's suggestion. This year, it seems, has become the year of second chances for restaurants, so I agreed to give Old Country Buffet another shot.

The front door to the restaurant was opened for us by a manager outside on a smoke break and she smiled as we passed through her nicotine cloud. The long approach to the "pay-as-you-enter" cash register was being patrolled by a couple of flies, lazily circling just below the overhead lights. Flies in a restaurant is a turn-off for me. Flies in a restaurant in the second week of November - well, this wasn't a good second impression.

A disinterested young lady welcomed us with no shred of welcome. The total for the two of us was just shy of thirty bucks. Now, thirty dollars for dinner for two is not at all unreasonable. But, given that this was the Old Country Buffet, I was a little — oh, I don't know — shocked? surprised? annoyed? or a combination of the three. We selected a table in the cluttered dining area and converged on our dining options.

As a veteran of many buffets, I know a few things. By opting to be a vegetarian, I know that most buffet offerings are not for me. The inclusion of hand-carved roast beef, homemade fried chicken and slow-cooked barbecued ribs are deal-sealers for most people. For me, at least one fish entree (prepared any style), several vegetables and a salad is just fine as far as I'm concerned. I also know that a dinner plate becomes a mish-mash of food that would never be served together in any other restaurant on the face of the earth. Pizza rubs its golden crust against a lumpy dollop of mashed potatoes. Steamed broccoli and macaroni and cheese mingle freely with tacos and dinner rolls. And Jello fits awkwardly in there somewhere.
I started off with salad, a pretty safe bet. The salad bar was stocked with standard fare — shredded carrots, red cabbage, three kinds of mixed greens. I piled my glass plate high, anticipating meager choices in the main course section. I spotted a few unusual items among the staples, like something labeled "Strawberry Banana Salad." I could surmise what it was based on its two listed ingredients, but I was confused by its position next to the sliced beets and its inclusion in the salad area, not the dessert bar.

I sat down to eat. The salad was pretty average. It's tough to screw up salad. The jalapeño corn muffin I nabbed from the "Mexican Fiesta" section was seriously lacking in the jalapeño department.

I grabbed a plate and headed to the entree section. The place was teeming with one meat dish after another. There were plenty of vegetables — corn, broccoli, carrots, green beans — all floating in a cloudy-looking liquid, pale and limp from having the nutrients (and life) overcooked out of them. A fellow, standing guard over several unidentifiable cuts of meat, his hands clad in disposable sanitary gloves and his hair sequestered under a paper hat, asked if I'd like some ribs. I smiled and told him I was after the few thin fillets of bland-looking fish to fill out my plate. The looks of the fish were not at all deceiving. 

As my wife and I sat and ate, we tried to focus on each other, not allowing our eyes to stray from one side or the other, but we couldn't help ourselves. The clientele were a sad collection of families and single diners, all hunched over plates overflowing with beige food. It seems I was the only one partaking of any of the vegetables. Over here, one guy stared directly at me, as he slowly shoveled neon macaroni into his mouth. Behind me, two weather-beaten gentlemen in filthy coveralls munched on grilled cheese sandwiches (from the children's buffet) and picked wax from their grimy ears. And, since we chose "Family Night" for our first return visit in 25 years, the place was rampant with face-painted kiddies weaving in and out of the tables, screeching wildly with helium balloons bouncing in their wake.

After dinner, my wife reluctantly, but obligingly, walked up to take a glance at the dessert selections. Small plates of commercially-prepared cake slices and brownies surrounded a display of freshly-spun cotton candy.
The only other buffet I have seen offer cotton candy is the mile-long, sumptuous Spice Market at the Planet Hollywood Resort on The Strip in Las Vegas. There was no mistaking this buffet for that one. 

Old Country Buffet is the restaurant equivalent of Walmart. They know their audience, they know what they want and they accommodate them well — with no pretense or lofty expectations. 

But, you only get two chances to make a first impression.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

strumming my pain with her fingers

I was on the train for my commute home from work. The train was fairly crowded, but I managed to find a seat. I reached into my bag and located the book which I am currently struggling to finish. (In case you were wondering, it's Dancing Aztecs, a 1976 sprawling and disjointed comic-crime novel by the prolific author Donald Westlake. I have read — and enjoyed — several of Westlake's efforts in the past. This one, however, is trite and contrived and feels like a homework assignment.) The train made its first stop at Jefferson Station and more passengers filed on and filled in all of the remaining seats. The surplus were relegated to standing in the aisles. A woman, who just boarded, stood just inches from me chatting on her cellphone. Maybe it was the close proximity or maybe it was the fact that she was not using her "inside voice," but I could hear every word she was saying. And, boy!, what she was saying!

Obviously, she was in the same line of work as I — graphic design. She was viciously complaining about a particularly irritating series of events that she had experienced at her job. Events that eerily echoed incidents that I have experienced over the past thirty-plus years as a graphic designer.

"...and then she asked me to make the document a PDF, and it was already a PDF!"

"It was the worst designed logo I ever did. Took me five minutes and that's the one they picked!"

"Nope! She didn't know what I meant when I said 'URL'!"

"They keep interrupting me with little jobs that they can do themselves and it keeps me from doing my actual work!"

"They know I'm the designer! What do they know about design?"

I tried not to eavesdrop, but I had no choice. If someone is standing next to you and carrying on a conversation in a loud voice, is it technically eavesdropping? I also tried not to force myself into her conversation. I had to restrain myself from nodding in agreement and interjecting, "Oh, I feel your pain, sister. I feel your pain." Then, punctuate my sentiment with a fist-pump of solidarity. But, that's not me. I don't do stuff like that. I don't talk to people I don't know. So, I went back to my book and she continued her rant.

As the train approached my stop, I returned my book to my bag and fumbled in my jacket pocket for my house keys. The train began to slow as it came into the station. I stood. She turned towards the exit as well. She was getting off at my stop, Should I say something? Should I let her know that she is not alone? Should I offer a bit of artist camaraderie? I inched my way up the aisle just behind her. She descended the train steps to the platform just ahead of me. And...

I didn't say a word.

When I got home, I told my wife the whole tale of what transpired on the train. My wife has heard me complain for thirty-two years over the course of a dozen jobs. She also knows me and my personality quirks and traits better than anyone else. "You didn't say anything to her, did you?," Mrs P. asked. Then: "Of course you didn't.," she answered her own question.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

the cold never bothered me anyway

Who ever imagined that a lingering cold would land me in the hospital? Certainly not me. But, here's how it happened.....

My family and I had just returned home from a fun, whirlwind vacation in Walt Disney World. We were four adults, traveling in my tiny Toyota RAV4 packed with our luggage and in each other's close company for nearly 32 hours of actual "car time," as we opted to drive from Philadelphia to central Florida (and back) instead of taking the more modern method of flight. But, still we had a great time. That is, until we realized that our little caravan had turned into a rolling Petri dish during our return trip. My son, who makes his living as an on-air host at a local radio station, was the first to exhibit the scratchy throat and stuffy nose symptoms of an oncoming cold. His girlfriend, ever the trooper, fought off a few sniffles and I could feel that feeling in the back of my throat as well. By the time we got home, my son had to miss a few more days of work and I began to display the full-blown effects of an early Autumn cold. I waged the battle with over-the-counter remedies that really don't work. 

For three consecutive nights before bed, I downed a shot of Walgreen's version of NyQuil, not event the real stuff, just a store-branded equivalent. It wasn't doing a thing for my illness, yet I still continued to take it. 

Every morning, I wake for work and shuffle to the bathroom, where as part of my regular ritual, I take a 10 mg tablet of Amlodipine (for high blood pressure) and a 10 mg tablet of Lipitor for... gosh, I'm not even sure. On Tuesday, however, at 6:30 am, I shuffled into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, unscrewed the lid of the Amlodipine bottle and, suddenly, this was my view...
I could see my peripheral vision closing in like so many movie special effects simulating someone looking thorough a pair of binoculars. I knew I was about to pass out. I was totally aware of the fact that I was about to pass out. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my side on the bathroom floor, my knees curled up towards my chin. I could feel the bathmat bunched up underneath my prone body. "Wow!," I proudly thought to myself, "I knew I was about to pass out and I had the wherewithal to sit down of the floor." I lay on the floor for a few more seconds before slowly righting myself, still offering self-congratulation for my clear thinking in a potential moment of crisis. However, when I glanced around, my Amlodipine pills were scattered all over the bathroom floor, the empty bottle laying on its side under the radiator. "Oh," I silently reconsidered, "I guess I wasn't such a quick thinker." I began to search for and gather up the pills that littered the floor until I opened my eyes to find myself flat on the floor once again. Except this time, my hand was cocked and (luckily) cradling my head. But I could feel that the back of my head was wet. I grabbed a wad of toilet paper and held it to the back of my head. I also spotted a smear of blood on the tile floor near the bath tub. I slowly got to my feet with the aid of the solid tub as a support. I shuffled back to the bedroom and gently shook my still-sleeping wife.

"Susan," I whispered. She stirred lazily. "I just passed out in the bathroom," and just to panic her even more, I added: "Twice."

I shambled over to my side of the bed and literally plopped forward, my face burying into my pillow.

Mrs. P, now fully jarred awake, asked, "Do you want to go to the hospital?" I replied with the standard answer, as approved to maintain my membership in good standing in the Indestructible Male Member of Society Club. I, of course, answered, "No." And, in case the membership committee was lurking nearby, monitoring my responses to such masculinity-threatening questions, I sealed my stance with "I'll be alright." What an idiot!

Three hours later — that's right, I laid there for three hours, drifting in and out of consciousness while my wife applied bags of ice and wet towels to the wound on the back of my head. Finally, she said, "Y'know this cut on your head could probably use a stitch or two. You should probably go to the hospital." Still not giving in, I conceded under the pretense of "I'll go... if it will make you happy." Not me. This was all just to pacify my wife. 

I managed to pull on some clothes and she drove to the hospital. I sat in the passenger's seat with a paper towel clamped to the bleeding laceration on my head. Mrs. P and I explained our presence to the reception nurse in the emergency room and I was immediately admitted. Suddenly, a swarm of attentive medical personnel descended upon me like seagulls on a stray french fry on the beach. I was poked and prodded, questioned and researched. The nurse who seemed to be running things, a burly guy who resembled "Newman" from Seinfeld, pointedly asked "When did this happen?" and, when given the answer, frowned and scolded "You should have come in at 6:30!" I could feel every accusing eye in the room accusing me even more.

It was decided that I would stay in the hospital for 24-hour observation. Before I was placed in an actual room, I was subjected to a barrage of tests — a CAT scan, an EKG and others with equally-cryptic sounding acronyms. I was hooked up to a heart monitor whose leads were affixed to my hirsute torso with extremely sticky leads. There seemed to be a serious concern about the accuracy of the readings and proposal of shaving some of my chest hair was brought up several times. In the end, the leads were adjusted and my chest was spared.

After all the tests were completed, a friendly young intern entered the curtained ER area. He told me he was there to close up my wound. He asked me to roll over on my left side and he positioned himself behind me, completely out of my line of vision. Taking this into consideration, he happily narrated the entire procedure to me, as he irrigated, cleaned and ultimately stapled the four-inch gash closed with what sounded like the stapler I have on my desk at work. He admired the eleven staples he inserted into my scalp, even removing and replacing two that he just "didn't like the looks of," I helplessly obliged as he readjusted his handiwork. At last count, Mrs. Pincus was only off by nine.

I was given ample time to rest and then I was transported by wheelchair to the room that would be my home for the next day. I was hooked up to an electronically-monitored IV that would be my constant companion for the next 24-hour period. Then began the parade of more hospital workers, each with a different task all ending with me. I had my blood pressure taken every few hours and four different people, each claiming to be from "the lab" took blood from my left arm at regular intervals. I believe they were actually using their plasma harvest to paint a room nearby.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, with all tests concluded and determinations made, I was released from my hospital ordeal. It was decided that my syncope episode (that's hospital lingo for "fainting") was caused by a viral illness, i.e. a cold — although I have received plenty of contrary assessments from friends and relatives with no medical background whatsoever. I also have what looks like a zipper running up the back of my head and I still get a little light-headed when I stand up too quickly or change the position of my head. Oh, and I suffered a mild concussion, so that self-diagnosis of "sleeping it off" was probably not a good idea. According to a sign placed outside of my hospital room, I have been labeled a "fall risk." So, there's a burden I must carry with me for the rest of my life. Kind of like "smart ass."

And, I still have that damn cold.