Travelin’ Man: Secret Location

29 05 2008

Our family will be on a trip for a week, and I’m willing to give a gakrillion (fake) dollars to the first person who can figure out the exact city we will be visiting. The (fake) prize will be sent telepathically, and this blogger is not responsible for anyone who is unable to receive the transmission. Here are the clues about the state and city.


  • In the mid 1700s, many of the wealthiest people in what would later become the United States traded rice and indigo in this area.
  • The state we will visit suffered greatly from the boll weevil in the past.
  • The state has a college named in such a way that you might think it would not be safe to camp there (at least not in the 80s, and not if you want to avoid crazed, fictional killers).


  • This place was named after an English sea captain who “claimed” the area for Britain. It had previously been most often under Spanish control.
  • The first phone was installed here in 1960.
  • A portion of the movie, The Longest Yard (the original) was filmed here.

For more clues, visit my wife’s blog. Good luck. We’ll be back in a week or so!

A Swell(ing) Journey Part IX: Vanderbilt? Hello? Are You There?

15 05 2008

For whatever reason, the fine kidney doctor people at Vanderbilt have never called me or my local doctor back with an appointment time. I tried calling again yesterday and left a message. Those of you who have read these tedious posts about my freakish swelling/discoloring/general deterioration know that I was waiting for an appointment with a specialist there while also awaiting skin biopsy results.

The bad news: No appointment with Vanderbilt. Maybe they just don’t like me. I’ve never done anything to them – honest. (Sure, I pull for my Bengals whenever they play the Titans, but that’s it.) Maybe it’s for the best. They might be really mean there.

(DISCLAIMER): In no way does this photo represent the average doctor at Vanderbilt. Generally, they do not walk around in bloody garments nor do they drill holes in people unnecessarily. However, some staff at Vanderbilt (such as the people working in the gift shops) do tend to wear blood-soaked scarves.

The good news (and it’s pretty good!): The skin biopsy confirmed (or at least strongly indicated) that this problem is a reaction to some medication that I take/took and not a weird, undiscovered disease. In addition to that evidence, a kind reader of these blogs sent me some information that indicates a very few kidney transplant recipients have had this sort of reaction when they take Rapamune. (As indicated in a previous post, I stopped taking Rapamune about a month ago.) The information also indicates that it may take 3 to 6 months after stopping the Rapamune, as opposed to a couple of weeks, before it gets better. If I understand it correctly, something bad happens (for lack of a more medical-sounding phrase) to the lymphatic system, but most of the people did eventually get better. So, hopefully I am on the right track and will see some results in the next couple of months. Also, my doctor has given up on Vanderbilt and is sending me instead to a kidney specialist in St. Louis at Barnes Hospital. I now have an actual appointment, and it is in mid-June.

In the meantime, I’ve grown to love my big fat purple swollen parts. I’ve named my abdomen “Big Lenny” and my leg and foot “Jake and the Fatman.” I’m also keeping busy corrupting my toddler daughter in the following ways:

  • Teaching her to sing “The Boys Are Back in Town” – she insisted on listening to it three times in a row today on the way to daycare
  • Teaching her to put her hands in the air and say (with a terrible and probably offensive Italian accent), “It happens!” whenever something bad occurs, such as a drink spill. I look forward to hearing that she has done this at daycare at the appropriate time of spillage
  • Watching “Whammy!” on the Game Show Network whenever possible. I’m wondering if she’s the only two-year-old in the nation who says (in her best game show announcer voice), “It’s TOOOODDDDD NEWTON!”

Thanks again to family/friends/readers who have been so supportive. This is especially true of my wife, Allison, who continues to handle the stress of this situation like a trooper. I’ll keep you posted. Anyone who doubts that can just take a closer peek at my blog and the ridiculous fact that there are now NINE posts on this subject. Sheesh, when will it ever end?? Madness, I tell you. Finally, anyone who has been wondering what I look like as a purple, swollen version of my old self, here you go, but it’s not pretty:

This Blog May Cause Headaches, Irritability and Blurred Vision

11 05 2008

Side Effects. They can be a real player hater. We Americans love our medications. Let me amend that; we love what they can do for us. Personally, I wish I could pitch all of mine right now. At the same time, I am ever grateful to science for medications that protect my transplanted kidney from my space-invaders-like immune system just looking to blast that foreign organ. (Change Space Invaders to Halo 3 if you’re under 30.)

Most of us benefit from the medications we take. For some, they are a complete necessity and practically a miracle. However, I long for that single “wonder drug” out there, just waiting to be discovered in tree sap on some uninhabited island. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one that would fix problem hearts, lungs, brains, kidneys and halitosis without a single, nasty side effect.

It appears that I’m suffering one such side effect right now (crazy swelling). That piqued my curiosity and put me on a search for strange side effects that other poor saps are enduring. It’s like these medications are sneaky little monsters. “Psst, hey buddy, come here. You need help with your moods? Sure I’ll help you! Oh, by the way, I just might give you abdominal pain and vomiting too. Is it a deal?”

Here are some of my favorite possible side effects so far:

  • I always adore medications that have contradictory side effects, like the ones that say they could cause drowsiness AND insomnia. Awesome! Who doesn’t want to be exhausted, yet unable to sleep?
  • There is always the old standby, “may cause anal leakage” I guess that’s better than “may completely block anus.”
  • I noticed a medication that listed “foul-smelling feces” as a side effect. First off, I assume they are talking about a more than normal foul smell, or why else would they list it. If something is going to make poop smell worse than, well, poop, you’ve got a problem. It might as well say, “Co-workers will secretly start calling you ‘stinky’ behind your back. It would be best if you never use the restroom at work or within 100 feet of family members at home. In fact, you should get an outhouse.”
  • How about high blood pressure medication that lists “erectile dysfunction” as a potential side effect? If there is a guy out there who thinks this is a fair trade to have a little lower blood pressure, I’d like to meet him. Wait, no I wouldn’t.
  • On the other hand, Viagra and some other drugs like it list potential side effects that include nasal congestion and heartburn. I’m pretty sure most guys WOULD take this trade off. Let’s call it 99% and be done with it. Unless, of course they have one of those dreaded 4-hour erections mentioned in the t.v. ads.
  • One heavily prescribed medication states that it may cause “dark urine.” I’m thinking this would only be a big deal to the few people with weird fetishes out there. They may miss the golden hue they had before. Most of us, though, who do not show off our urine frequently, could live with this one. The same drug, however, also lists “yellow” skin. This might be more a problem. I’m no doctor, but it sounds like it takes the yellow right out of your pee and puts it in your skin. That’s doesn’t sound so good. Another drug lists potential, unwanted “changes in the amount of your urine.” What do you do if you’re in the middle of an important meeting. You’re boss isn’t going to believe you if you step out to use the bathroom and you’re gone for 35 minutes.
  • “Unusual skin growths” is another not-so-pleasant sounding side effect. What are we talking here? A small mole-like thing on the back? That would be tolerable. Something that looks like a third ear hanging off the side of the face might not be so swell.
  • Some drugs list behavioral side effects. “May cause hostility” I can hear that person’s friends talking about him. “Jim has really changed. He used to just have high cholesterol, now he’s a complete $%#&^%$

Why can’t we have some fun side effects? I’d like to see:

  • May cause your skin to smell like black cherry Kool-Aid.
  • May give you the ability to see through the clothing of attractive members of the opposite sex.
  • May make you crave only a healthy, balanced diet. “Wow, this artichoke tastes just like Doritos!”
  • May add crazy muscle tone to your body. Be prepared to become a model.
  • May add at least 50 points to your I.Q.
  • May give you an innate ability to tame wild animals, including tigers, alligators and Tasmanian devils.
  • May give you a slight skin tingle “warning” five minutes before a solicitor knocks on your door.

But, no, we’re stuck with anal leakage and vomiting. It’s just not right. You know what will happen next, don’t you? Someone will find the absolute treatment to cure all cancer. The problem? It “may” also cause arm and leg amputations, intolerable buzzing/screeching in your ear, head explosions, green gaseous skin emissions that are fatal to family members, and, as one last added bonus, constipation.

I guess we just have to face it. No matter how many prescriptions we take, we certainly aren’t meant to stay on this planet forever, and if trying to do so means living with a bunch of anal-leaking, massive peeing, foul-smelling, angry insomniacs with freaky skin growths and four-hour erections, then count me out.

Singular, Good – Plural, Bad

8 05 2008

Some would argue that it is a sin to do anything in excess. I don’t proclaim to know exactly where God stands on this particular issue, but it does seem clear to me that some things, while fine in moderation, become a very significant problem if overdone. All Most of us realize that eating this is a wonderful experience, while eating this could turn out very badly.

However, there are other excesses that seem to have been determined as “acceptable” by a certain percentage of our society. As much as I hate to be the party pooper, it’s time someone had the guts to write some guidelines in a blog that may be seen by as many as FIFTY, that’s right, FIFTY people. (I think that could be enough of a groundswell to literally change the world and bring some common sense to certain people.)

Everything in the following list should follow the rule: One is good, several are bad.

1. Wives. Recently, a polygamist ranch was in the news, and many children were removed from the group. Personally, I’m not sure what the sect members were thinking. I have found that having a good wife has been a great blessing in my life. She helps to keep me grounded and generally on track in my life. She has great ideas, beautiful eyes, and a sharp wit. That is all well and good. However, this does not mean a bunch of wives is even better. Huge mistake. First of all, I live in a home with no other males as it is. I have a female wife, a female daughter, and a female dog (insert your own biotch joke here). I can only imagine how little I would get to watch my beloved Cardinals if I had more than one wife wanting to watch reruns of Love Connection or discuss what Gwyneth named her baby. I also shake in my shoes when I think of what it would be like to have two (or, God forbid, three) arguments going on at once with more than one wife. One would scream, one would cry, and one would give the silent treatment (the worst!). Can’t we all just have one spouse at a time?

2. Video game systems for anyone over the age of 19. Spending hours getting arm cramps playing Space Invaders was bad enough when I was little. It worries me that so many adults (mostly guys) spend hours hunting down aliens or trying to evade the police after stealing a car. What’s scarier? One state of the art system is no longer enough. They need one for their sports games, one for their online war adventures, and one that comes with a better fake guitar. Will there be time for anyone to, oh, say, write a good novel or invent something to keep three wives happy at the same time? I worry about such things.

3. Parking/Speeding tickets. While having one of these shows that you’re not a sheep blindly following authority, having ten of these is a problem. This means you are either stupid, dangerous, a very slow learner, or all of the above. Just stop.

4. Cats. I admit it. I’m a cat person. A cat (notice no “s” on that word) can be a great and hilarious pet. However, the practice of having multiple cats, no matter how you try to defend it in a comment below, is bad…real bad. You’ll be thought of as just plain crazy, and I don’t want to hear how you figured out a good way to keep your house, landscaping, etc from stinking. Believe me, visitors can smell it. (Having exactly two cats is iffy. You might get away with this, but why take the chance?) Hey, I want all cats to have a good home as much as anyone else so let’s all get ONE, just ONE, all right?

5. Tattoos. I have none. I’m a wuss. However I acknowledge that a well-placed single tattoo CAN be attractive or tough-looking or whatever it is the person is striving for. However, when you’re talking multiple tattoos, you’re talking about giving off the wrong message to the rest of the world. No, you can’t justify it if you have “one” really big tattoo that covers like 10 square feet of your body.

6. Sports cars. Hey, if you’ve made a nice living for yourself, and you feel better about turning 50 when you have a shiny red sports car in the garage, more power to you. However, if you have one for each day of the week, get a life.

7. Baseballs/Footballs/Jerseys/other sports memorabilia displayed in your home. There is a direct correlation between the number of these items you have on the mantel and the awesomeness of your wife (or wives if you disregarded #1). The more of these “cool” items you have on display, the less likely it is you’ll get a really great wife. That woman out there you’re searching for is more likely to be impressed by a sense of humor and general kindness than a signed David Ortiz jersey hanging on your bedroom wall. (Exception: Brett Favre jerseys are considered “hot” by Wisconsin women.)

8. Playboy Magazines. If a girlfriend, parent, or coworker stumbles upon a single Playboy in your home or car, you’ve still got a shot at a plausible explanation. If they find a stash that would go for hundreds of dollars on ebay, you’ve got a problem. (This does not apply to Hustler…even one of those will kill your reputation.)

9. Squirt of perfume/cologne. One, I repeat one, let’s make this clear: One squirt of perfume or cologne can be very pleasant and sexy. Two, three, or fifteen squirts at a time makes you seem like a crazy old woman who really loves Avon or a creepy, desperate guy who hasn’t showered for a couple days.

10. Drunken college story. While one of these can be entertaining to friends and coworkers and makes you seem like a regular person, several of these stories just makes you seem a bit scary and unstable. They may still appear to be laughing at your tales, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear that it’s really frightened, pity laughter. You may have lots of these stories, but stick to just one publicly.

I leave you with this bit of wisdom from an old quotation: “I believe celibacy should be practiced in moderation.”

A Swell(ing) Journey: Part VIII No Resolution

1 05 2008

I had hoped to be posting a “resolution” by now. Sorry for the delay: 1. I’ve been in a waiting game to see if medication changes would help or even solve the swelling situation. 2. Unfortunately, there is no resolution to post because it’s not better.

Some of the swollen skin is turning more reddish colors than the azaleas that are blooming around here. The local doctor today stated: “This is the most unusual thing I’ve seen. We can’t let it go on like this.” He suggested I head to Nashville and Vanderbilt University to see a specialist. I whole-heartedly agreed. I won’t know for a day or so when that will be. I’m starting to think I need a tour bus. Then again, I don’t think ghastly swollen guys traveling around to see doctors would draw groupies like rock bands do.

In the meantime, Doc took a skin biopsy today, and the results will hopefully come Monday. That may at least give a hint as to what might be going on, and was an interesting little process. It was sort of like when lawn care guys aerate your yard by taking little plugs out of the yard/soil, except this time, it was a small circle of flesh being removed from my leg! It really didn’t hurt much and was quick, but the sucker sure took its sweet time before it stopped bleeding! There is still some hope that it could simply be some sort of weird medication reaction, but he mentioned the possibility of a few scarier things today. No need to speculate or go into those at this point.

On a positive note, he again spent a great deal of time with me and seemed optimistic about the people at Vanderbilt. He said they’ve pretty much seen every odd sort of ailment there is and very well could identify the problem. For those of you out West or East, Vanderbilt is kind of the “Harvard of the Midwest.” Also, he was adamant that he would send all the required documentation to the insurance company that runs my short-term disability policy (they had gotten a bit pickier, shall we say, about extending my benefit a while longer, but his documentation should solve that little stressor.)

Anyway, I wish I had some funny, upbeat, silly things to write regarding this situation. Basically, it’s getting really old, and I’m sure it is for anyone who reads this as well, but I thought it was time to post an update. I truly appreciate your thoughts, prayers, chants, candlelight vigils, voodoo rituals, tarot card readings, potato chips that look like presidents’ heads, and any magical jumping beans that might be able to predict the future. Hmm, I may have jumped the shark there. One thing’s for sure; about half my body has.