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Holy moly, all right, already. Never a dull moment.
You’re probably wondering what happened to the December issue. Me too. I’ve been away:
Twas just days before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for one spouse, who was crouched on all fours at the porcelain throne, wishing he’d chosen dinner at home….
So a couple of weeks ago Hometown Buffet, an all-you-can-eat place here in Central Ohio, sent me a coupon good for one free meal on account of my birthday.
(Although I do not “age” as you humans do, I celebrate my arrival on your planet as my “birthday” out of solidarity with your plight. It also makes things way easier at the DMV.)
We chose the Friday before Christmas as the happy date, because Friday is Fish Night at HTB (as they call themselves), and Mrs. WD is fond of broiled salmon. The food at HTB is not, as you can imagine, exactly the reincarnation of Lutece, but if you exercise caution, much of it ain’t bad and the salmon is always fresh. Besides, this was all gonna be half-price.
I actually hate fish, and on such occasions usually go with the broiled chicken, mashed potatoes and pizza that represent my personal food pyramid. The vegetarian marinara sauce there is also actually quite good, and they don’t overcook the pasta. It really isn’t a dump, in other words.
So we march in and chow down, and on my second trip to the trough I notice that they have a big tray of fried clams, the only kind of seafood I actually like. So I eat a small pile. A big small pile. With tartar sauce that, admittedly, reminds me a bit of spackle. Then, after a few pieces of carrot cake (quite good), we toddle home. End of Act One.
That night I dreamed of Manderley. No, actually, I dreamed of Borneo, which is very odd. I almost never dream of Borneo. Never, in fact. But there I was, in a small village in Borneo, being pursued by giant stinging insects. It was an extremely vivid, cinematic sort of dream, which is also unusual for me.
I spent the next day in a weird sort of funk, and didn’t feel like eating much of anything. That night I had more B-movie nightmares, also very vivid. The only other time I remember having such baroque nightmares was when I took Percocet after a gall bladder operation years ago. In one dream, for instance, I was at a book fair in Atlanta, and they had given me a very fancy but completely blank name tag, which really upset me. I went on to dream that I was trapped in a dead city full of ghosts, but that name tag thing actually bothered me more. Hi, my name is nobody. Wanna talk about my invisible book?
The next day, Sunday, I really felt strange and sick, so strange that I went back to bed in the early afternoon. When I woke up at around 6 pm I felt dizzy and nauseated, so I headed for the bathroom. About halfway there I sort of collapsed on the floor. Even to me, up until then convinced that I merely had a bad case of indigestion, this was clearly a Bad Sign.
Next thing I know I’m downstairs in the living room, arguing with the EMTs that they should take me to Mt. Carmel East in Columbus rather than to the local Fairfield Medical Center (FMC). I won. Take my word for it, you don’t ever wanna go to FMC. I’d rather take my chances with the local veterinarian.
The ambulance ride was exciting, although I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t use the siren at all. The EMT in back with me whiled away the time by trying to get an IV into my hand, a seemingly simple task he abandoned after the third or fourth stab.
Once in the ER I was swarmed by what seemed like nineteen nurses, probably because they suspected I was having a heart attack. When, within about five minutes, it became apparent that my heart was just fine, most of them drifted away. It seemed like a good time to begin projectile vomiting, so I did.
I spent the next two hours doing essentially nothing, as far as I recall, but then again my short-term memory was fading in and out rather alarmingly. The torpid doctor who eventually appeared wasn’t even interested in using his stethoscope on me. He seemed to think food poisoning was a likely explanation and the clams a likely culprit. Since Doctor Shrug didn’t have any really constructive suggestions, we went home.
Then things got very weird. For the next three days I couldn’t really eat much of anything, spent most of my time in bed or in the bathroom, and had truly awful dreams, not all of them when I was, strictly speaking, asleep. I am told that much of what I said during this period made even less sense than it normally does. I also couldn’t breathe very well; something was affecting the muscles in my chest. My legs, feet and face were partially numb, but it was difficult to tell whether that was due to whatever had happened to me or to my multiple sclerosis.
Eventually, as I regained my alimentary and mental footing, I Googled my symptoms and came across several case studies that matched my experience precisely. I seem to have had neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, wherein my little bivalve pals had accumulated a bunch of nasty algae from a “red tide” and converted it into a neurotoxin that can’t be destroyed by cooking. There seems to be a rash of this contamination going on in US coastal waters at the moment. It wasn’t really HTB’s fault, but I don’t plan to go back there anytime soon.
So there you go — the clams ate my homework, and this is actually the December issue that never was. As usual, there are a few anachronisms buried in this batch because these columns were first published in newspapers (and sent to subscribers) last summer.
Subscribers, incidentally, have been receiving my columns by email throughout this ordeal, because I have a weird thing about deadlines and long ago learned to type whilst fully recumbent and hallucinating. I still haven’t received the bill from the hospital, which is likely to be hefty, since I am on Medicare (per Social Security Disability Insurance) and Ohio law prohibits people in my situation from buying supplemental insurance until we hit 65. (Apparently, the hope is that we’ll die of whatever ails us before we become a burden on poor little Aetna.) So if anyone out there has a few spare doubloons, I humbly beseech you to subscribe.
Lastly, my cranky rant about Facebook last month garnered some very sensible comments in defense of the Great Gray Time Sink, and I am duly chastened. Using it to keep in touch with your family and friends is entirely reasonable. But Facebook’s recent revision of its privacy policies is very disturbing, and I strongly suggest that you read up on what Facebook isn’t telling you.
And now, I see Ms. Freedle has finally managed to get our stage lights to work, so on with the show…