Flossing & the Magical Days of 2020

(appeared in today’s PattersonIrrigator.com)

When there are things that we don’t do often, sometimes these activities can take on a shiny, magical image in our minds. This happens when you do something only rarely. It becomes idealized in your head. Like what happens when you think of going on vacation, buying a new car, or flossing your teeth when your dentist isn’t around to see you do it.

It’s the rarity of these activities that makes them special. The scarcity. It’s the fact that you don’t do them every day. Every four years, there are several of these rare events. Lucky for us, 2020 is one of these special years.

For starters, at the end of July, the summer Olympics will begin in Tokyo, Japan. Hopefully. Well, provided that the entire eastern half of the world hasn’t died of the coronavirus and human beings are still allowed to assemble in large groups. But I’m sure the Japanese will figure out something. I mean, they invented a toilet that can heat, clean and dry your butt, so tackling the coronavirus should be a piece of cake.

I love the Olympics. So, this is an exciting time for me, and for all people that don’t really watch sports. Yes, we actually exist. And, no we don’t all own six cats. Some of us only own five.

The great thing about the Olympics is that it’s the ideal sporting event for people that don’t watch sports. Why? You don’t have to worry about deflating footballs, coaches stealing baseball pitching signs, or whether a driver might die when a NASCAR explodes into the air at 200 miles an hour. By the way, the fact that Ryan Newman isn’t dead after last week’s Daytona crash makes me wonder if something weird is going on. Did Newman make a deal with God, Jesus, or Charlton Heston? Because, thankfully, it seriously looks like that.

Anyway, 2020 is an action-packed year. We also have a presidential election in November, but I don’t think I need to remind anyone of that. There’s really not much to say about the election, anyway. Well, other than that one super-billionaire and 29 senators are running to defeat an incumbent president that really likes to spray tan. Oh, and I should also note that when the leading Democratic candidate talks, his right fist moves around in the air like it isn’t even attached to his body. Like a Muppet.

But, every four years, something else happens. Something miraculous. Out of the ether comes an entire extra day. This Saturday is that day. Leap Day, February 29, appears like an apparition. Magic. Suddenly, you have another day to do whatever you want. You could do something that you’ve always wished to do, like plan a vacation, or floss. Or you could do absolutely nothing at all— like the U.S. Senate.

So, I hope you enjoy this Leap Day. Do something special. If not for yourself, then for someone else. Savor every minute— because a day like this won’t come for another four years.

P.S. Don’t forget to floss, though.


2018: The Year in Review


The year 2018 was a year of contrasts— both here at home, and the world over. Amazing heights of joy and emotion were seen— followed by lows of discord and weirdness. You don’t have to look far to see these contrasts in action. For example, after much international pressure, in June, Saudi Arabia finally granted women the right to drive a car. Unfortunately, any ‘brownie points’ this move earned the Saudi government were quickly squashed four months later when they murdered a Washington Post journalist. While the Saudis have denied this, everyone knows that they are lying. Just like everyone knows that the one person that denies farting at the dinner table is always the one that did it.

Here in Patterson, we are not immune to the odd dichotomy seen in 2018, either. Both our amazing PHS varsity and junior varsity softball teams won conference titles with undefeated regular seasons. This is badass. Unfortunately, it was also announced this year that we are getting yet another pizza establishment in Patterson— to go along with the 95 places that we already have. So, while the girls’ championships bring much joy to our hearts, the advent of more refined carbohydrates isn’t good news for our colons.

In the international sphere, though, 2018 was a very successful year for dictatorships. Kim Jong-un burst onto the stage with meetings with Donald Trump and also by crossing the border into South Korea— where he quickly discovered that Dennis Rodman is far less famous than he thought.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, strengthened his control over the nation by getting term limits abolished so that he can serve as “President for Life”— a position that comes with a really good dental plan. Forbes Magazine ranked Xi Jinping as 2018’s most powerful person in the world, a position previous held by Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Putin, in March, he was reelected to a fourth term as Tsar— err, I mean President of Russia. In this hotly contested race, his only competitor was a Muppet.

In the world of sports, 2018 saw the Winter Olympics held in the mountains of PyeongChang, South Korea. It featured many dangerous and icy sports that no one understands. Norway won all the metals because most of their athletes descend from the Abominable Snowman. Meanwhile, back in the United States, disgruntled NFL football fans decided that ‘having principles’ meant they would set their own shoes on fire.

In further national news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, often used as a measure of the strength of the US economy, bounced around this year, from awesome highs, to terrible lows as 2018 drew to a close. This pattern oddly matched the demand for romaine lettuce and the popularity of Rosanne Barr. I don’t think these things are related, though.

Finally, in digital news, the most popular video game of the year was Fortnite. I suppose it’s better than the Pokémon Go craze of a few years ago. At least no one’s falling off cliffs or getting hit by cars while playing the game. But, Fortnite still has its shortcomings. Thousands of addicted kids are secretly gaming in the classroom on smartphones that they aren’t even supposed to have in school. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also teaching an entire generation how to incorrectly spell the word ‘fortnight.’ This might be the most upsetting problem of all.

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the word ‘fortnight’ is actually what you call a two-week period of time. Let’s say your child gets in trouble at school for punching a teacher in the face that’s trying to take away their smartphone. An apt punishment for this behavior would be deactivating their Fortnite account for at least a fortnight.

Lastly, I dearly hope that 2019 brings a little more stability for all of us— and a little less uncertainty. And if we’ve got to eat so much pizza in Patterson, for the sake of our colons, I sure hope we can have some romaine lettuce to go along with it.

After all, 2019 is less than a fortnight away…


A Cure for Cold Feet


It’s been a little over a month since my 5th injection (first maintenance dose) of Spinraza. As I was getting over a respiratory virus at the time of the injection, it took a little longer to feel the effects of this latest dose. But, about 10 days ago, I felt a little zing… the burst of feeling when my three SMN2 genes decide to be mini versions of The Hulk— turning from nerdy Mark Ruffalo into a green, CGI shirtless monster.

The muscles in my arms and torso were more responsive and almost… tingly. I often feel the same way if I drink too much red wine— only this time I didn’t have a purple-stained mouth as a memento.

I noticed new abilities. In the winter months, my feet and legs are always cold. So, when I get into bed at night, I have to use a heating pad to warm them up. To stop a person from scalding themselves or setting their bed on fire, my particular heating pad as an “auto-off” feature that activates after about 45 minutes. This is exceedingly annoying. While I’m appreciative of the consideration for my safety, it takes me longer than 45 minutes to warm up. So, I have to press the button on the cord to turn the heating pad back on again.

The past few years, I’ve had a hard time reaching the cord and pressing the button. But, last week, I noticed that I was able to grab the cord more easily, and to press the button more firmly. My icy toes were super stoked by this development.

I also grew hungry again — similar to what I felt at the beginning of my Spinraza journey. I wanted to eat. And I specifically wanted protein. Meat, beans, yogurt, eggs— and oh-so-much peanut butter. I would have slathered peanut butter on a steak if my inner foodie hadn’t cried out in horror, “You aren’t a kookie pregnant sidekick in a romantic comedy! No one wants to see you put Skippy on a filet mignon!

This burst of energy coincided with the arrival of the Winter Olympics. If you know me at all, you’d know that I’m a die-hard fan of the Olympics. It doesn’t matter if it’s the summer or the winter games, I love it all. I watch it ALL DAY. And this isn’t hyperbole. From dawn until dusk, that’s what I do. My life practically stops. I’m like Donald Trump with his Twitter account. Nothing else of any importance happens in my life.

So, this week, I’ve been glued to the TV. I’m not sure if it’s because of the endless hours staring at the LCD screen while listening to the Olympic music, or all the extra protein grams floating around in my body, but I’ve started having delusional thoughts.

What is wrong with that figure skater? Landing a quad jump can’t be that hard.

Every Norwegian baby comes out of their mother’s uterus wearing tiny skis.

I bet with just two or three more years of Spinraza, I could totally do Olympic Curling.

Now, this doesn’t make any sense. And it has no basis in reality. But, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t think it.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the Olympics only come around every couple of years. These delusions aren’t good for me. Frankly, if they continue much longer, I might become convinced of something truly crazy. You know, like that North Korea is a magical place where a man named Kim Jong Un gives hot fudge sundaes to everyone that comes to visit.

Unfortunately (but, secretly, amazingly!), my friend Joahn sent me this Olympic scarf two days ago in the mail— which has only fueled my obsession. I wear it around the house while I watch the Olympics and eat hummus. If you look close enough, you might see crumbs on it.

I think I’m a lost cause.


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Winter Olympics (Flashback Edition)


(This originally appeared in The Patterson Irrigator in February 2006 at the outset of the Torino Games. Even though 12 years have passed, I still feel the same excitement! ―E.)

Do you hear it? Here it comes- the grand trumpet crescendo that could only mean one thing? The Winter Olympics! You know the song I’m talking about. The one that invokes the desire to pump your fist in the air, stand up and cheer for athletes from obscure countries you have never heard of. The song that makes 250-pound hockey players dissolve into a blubbering pool of incoherence.

I love the Olympics. Everything about it. When, the Olympics are imminent, I get the Olympic Television Viewing Guide and schedule my life around it. Every sport suddenly becomes intriguing and engaging-even when I have no idea what is going on. For the Olympics, pushing a stone on ice isn’t merely playground fun in Saskatchewan, but an actual sport called Curling. Someone flinging their body head-first down an ice-chute at 80 miles an hour with only a small piece of cozy steel separating them from certain death, is aptly named “Skeleton” because the odds are that by the time they reach the finish line a skeleton is all that would be left.

And if that isn’t worth watching, I don’t know what is.

During those 16 days, I don’t miss a second of the coverage – and not just the athletic events. A favorite of mine is the inevitable story that chronicles that one underdog athlete whose struggles tug at the world’s heartstrings. Like a young cross-country skier from rural Moldova, son of a poor farmer tragically struck by lightning whilst tending his goats. During this television segment they introduce you to this young man and show footage of him peddling for change in front of a Budapest branch of McDonald’s to pay his own way to the Games because his own country is so corrupt that they do not have the resources to support him. By the end of the segment, he is crying and you are crying, too. You then find yourself getting up at 5 AM to watch him on a subordinate cable network in the preliminaries of his event, only to see him finish 31st, but with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. And that is what the Olympics are all about.

So, I suggest you tune in during these Torino Games. Whether you are a sports fan, or not, it is a shining example of the beauty of the human spirit. Oh, and a lot of the guys are really cute, too.

The Surreality of 2016


As I sit at my keyboard, I try to think of a word to encapsulate the year 2016. I do my best thinking while consuming coffee or sugary dairy products, so I had decided to combine the two and make a homemade eggnog latte.

Before I continue, I’m fully aware that eggnog can be controversial. It’s something that people either love or really, really hate. Much like Hillary Clinton. There’s no middle ground. But I’m one of those people that adores eggnog. I don’t care if my cholesterol takes a 15-point hike during the holidays, I’m still gonna drink it.

Sipping my beverage, I find out that dictionary tycoon Merriam-Webster already announced its Word of the Year – “surreal.” An adjective, it describes something “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” From happenings in politics, sports and culture, to local news around Patterson, it seems like an apt summation of 2016.

In national politics, we began the year with roughly 14 presidential candidates from the two major parties – among them former governors, U.S. senators and even a brain surgeon. Yet, of all those candidates, the eventual winner was a wealthy former reality television star with a questionable haircut.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games were the sport highlights of 2016. When the world descended upon Rio de Janeiro, we were treated to many feats of athletic prowess. Our local Paralympic hero Danielle Hansen earned a silver, while superstar Michael Phelps brought home 6 medals – including 5 golds. We haven’t seen that much gold pillaged out of South America since the 16th century.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, we also got to witness four-time Olympian Ryan Lochte’s performance as a drunken and idiotic man-boy destroying a Rio public bathroom. Good times.

Anyway, in terms of pop culture, I would like to discuss the dominance of superhero movies and why the hell we need so many television shows featuring zombies. I’m sorry to break it to you, but superheroes and zombies are fictional. There’s more of a chance of me leaping out of my wheelchair and dancing the Macarena than there is of anyone getting attacked by a zombie. I don’t care what you read on the internet.

Speaking of fictional things, this year we also had folks roaming around looking for cartoon Pokemon on their smartphones. While the popularity of the game has waned, the surreality of it has not.

Finally, in less time than it takes to find Pikachu, the new Flying J truck stop on Sperry Avenue was completed. I’m not sure what kind of super-fast wizard built that structure, but they were clearly in Slytherin House. That’s some dark magic happening right there. I wasn’t aware that something could be constructed that quickly. I think someone should refer those folks to Caltrans.

While 2016 may have been surreal, here’s hoping your new year is not. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017!

Sport Fatigue


After weeks of ingesting countless hours of Olympic and Paralympic (yay, Danielle Hansen!) coverage, I can easily say that I am worn out. Between events on television and those streamed online, it was nonstop action. As evidenced by my last column, I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. During these weeks, I show more devotion to watching sports than Donald Trump has to his assorted wives.

But, this kind of dedication was exhausting. I became a hermit, an anti-social, a puffy-faced recluse that ate too many Cheez-Its. Frankly, it was like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un had taken up residence in my house. When I wasn’t worried about the USA team dropping the baton in a track relay or vandalizing a Rio gas station, I was watching badminton birdies fly across my television screen like hypersonic gnats. It was all too much.

This led me to a startling conclusion. Being a sport fan is not good for my health. Maybe there’s a reason I don’t care for professional sports— it’s too damn stressful and time-consuming. Honestly, I don’t know how sport fans do it week-by-week and year-after-year. And I probably shouldn’t even mention the Chicago Cubs. Those poor fans have been waiting for a World Series for so long that they probably order Xanax by the truckload.

So, given my post-Olympic fatigue, I decided to do what most people do when they are experiencing distressing symptoms or ailments. I looked them up online. I discovered that the anxiety felt by a die-hard sport fan is a real thing.

Whether a favorite sport team wins, or not, is out of our control. Yet our brains are psychologically wired to think that we can still influence and impact the things that we care about. So when we can’t, we may feel helpless, anxious, angry or upset.

Unlike most other real-life relationships and friendships, the connection that a fan has to their team is not truly reciprocal. A fan may love and idolize their team— they can purchase game tickets, t-shirts and watch them every season. But, the team itself is not really reciprocating that adoration. How can they? They don’t know you personally. Yet, a true, healthy connection can happen— when a fan spends time with other fans in a meaningful way— and that’s great, and much more fulfilling.

Learning this made me feel better. Hope it helps you, too. Just remember, you truly can’t control whether or not your team’s quarterback scores a touchdown, fumbles the ball or refuses to stand during the National Anthem. But, you can control whether or not you are bothered by it.

Sports? You can have it. I’ll just stick to Cheez-Its.

Olympic drama


At long last, the Summer Olympic Games have arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a self-proclaimed Olympic junkie, I’m quite excited. I look forward to the Olympics in the same way that some people anticipate other life milestones.

For example, you may get a bright zing of happiness when you meet your grandchild for the first time. I get that same feeling when I see Michael Phelps swim the anchor leg of the 4×100-meter relay. While this might have something to do with the tiny Speedo he wears, I really can’t be certain.

Given the recent world tragedies and the deteriorating political tone here at home, I think we all need a hefty dose of the Olympic spirit. I’m tired of listening to politicians that sound like schoolyard bullies. I’d much rather watch athletes hurl pointy javelins across a field than endure presidential candidates slinging insults on Twitter.

In 1896, the modern Olympics were founded on the principles of international cooperation and sportsmanship. Since that time, athletes from around the world have gathered together every four years to compete.

Despite the best intentions of the Olympic movement, it has occasionally fallen prey to world events over the years. In 1916, 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were canceled because of two messy and unfortunate World Wars. It’s hard to gather together in peace and cooperation when much of the world is too busy trying to kill one another.

Even geopolitical disagreements have left their mark on the Games. In 1980 and 1984, respectively, the Americans and Soviets decided to boycott each other’s Olympic Games. Like sulky teenagers refusing to attend a birthday party, the two superpowers decided that not attending the Olympics in their rival’s country was better than attending.

This doesn’t make sense to me. If you don’t go to the birthday party, everyone else is going to eat all the cake. And Olympic cake is the best. It’s shiny and comes in three flavors – gold, silver and bronze. Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that? Silly, silly people.

The Olympics can be a powerful economic and political tool, as well. In 1936, a dude named Adolf Hitler hosted the Games in Berlin. He recognized that it was the perfect time to convince Germans, and the world, that reclaiming their nationalistic identity led to success. By getting back to their pure Aryan roots, they’d be more powerful than ever and the world would bow at their feet.

Unfortunately for Adolf, an African-American man named Jesse Owens was a hiccup in this Olympic vision. Mr. Owens’s four gold medals made him the hero of the Games – a fact that made Chancellor Hitler’s little, ugly mustache burn most annoyingly. Gotta love the Olympics.

No offense to fans of the NFL, NBA and MLB, but you just don’t get this same kind of drama and excitement.

Four years is definitely worth the wait.