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MY LOUSY WORLD: Long-term memories

I hate being cut off, like last week in Bloedorn Lumber when a burly, elderly customer began telling me, Sean Johnson and a rival roofer a lengthy, tedious joke.

Seems a guy told his doctor he felt stupid, and the expensive prescription was “smart pills” to be taken daily. This went on for weeks, and blah, blah, blah, the patient says, “I can’t afford these pills anymore,” and Doc replies, “See? Now you’re getting smart.”

OK, dubious delivery of a pretty good joke; now it was my turn. Determined not to repeat the guy’s halting cadence, I began: “I told my psychiatrist I’m paranoid that everyone thinks I’m ugly, and he says …” At this point, Jokester No. 1 walked away, carrying his cans of paint. 

Mortified isn’t too strong a word to describe how I felt about my punch line (“My therapist said, ‘Nonsense. Now lie on the couch — face-down, please.’”) being wasted. After my joke nemesis returned, he explained the noticeable growth on his nose was diagnosed as skin cancer, but thankfully, benign. I saw my cue to launch into an amusing story about a pimple I had on my nose years ago that my girlfriend, in spite of my better judgment, popped. Next day, it had morphed into a festering, boil-like entity.

But midway through my delightful anecdote, the guy launched into another story of his own. I sighed in hopefully not-too-obvious frustration, but on my way out, I wanted to reel around and say, “You just made yourself a very powerful enemy, sir!”

How about those well-meaning ones who witness an embarrassing, painful accident and before you’ve even hit the ground, ask, “Are you OK?” Last weekend, I agreed to loan my Camaro to a friend for his new job. We jump-started the dead battery, but it stalled three times, forcing me to leave it near traffic.

An exhausting hour of Sunday battery-shopping later, I impatiently bent over to drop the new battery into place, and WHACK – my forehead connected violently with the sharp corner of my hood. Before the blood began trickling and I could even get a full curse word out, I hear: “Oooh, are you OK?”

I feel guilt for my spinning, glaring growl of, “Mm-hmm,” but shouldn’t there be a slight lapse between “Ouch!” and “You OK?” Sudden pain welcomes angry response.

It must be looming dementia when one recalls verbatim a well-meaning insult from decades ago, but can’t remember if they took their thyroid pill that day. I didn’t drink till I was 18, even though all my new Cody friends did, but when I “accidentally” got pickled on Boone’s Farm wine one night, it’s all I wanted to do.

I had a favorite saying I stole from worldly, sawmill coworker, Marv Nelson: “I’m gonna get drunk and be somebody.” My friends found it hilarious, but one day Dean Christie and I sat in his car at Bud’s Drive-in and I said, “We should get drunk and be somebody?” Dean got serious and said, “You should get some guts and be yourself.”

It stung because it was true. I was changing from a dedicated athlete into a depressed, problem drinker and Dean cared enough to call me on it. We still laugh about it when he visits Cody, but I secretly have never forgiven him.

Also troubling, I often forget where I left my ladder, but effortlessly recall my childhood phone number (814-629-9496). And my alarming, lifelong, TV addiction enables me to recall the day, time and channel “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” was on 47 years ago. (9 o’clock Monday night on NBC — WJAC-TV, Channel 6 in my EST turf).

“Bonanza”? Sunday night. “The Virginian”? Wednesday. “Hee Haw”? Saturday. Huntley and Brinkley? It seemed like every frickin’ night since my dad needed his precious, stupid news even though he’d fall asleep every time.

Ol’ Alf would be snoring in his recliner, blowing his newspaper upward with each breath, but the second I’d sneak up to change the channel, he’d wake up and snap, “Hey, turn the news back on!” More than once I muttered under my breath, “Ah, take a flying leap, ya wrinkled old goat!” (I mean, he musta been well into his 50s.)

Ah, memories. One needn’t be mentally lucid to have them.

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