RICKSTER IS THE COLUMNIST FOR THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION, "THE SOMERS RECORD"

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Friday, June 23, 2017

THE COLD SHOULDER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-16-17)

     My shoulder has been giving me problems lately. It's really just one problem, IT HURTS. It's not the sort of injury I would need a first responder for- a second or third responder could handle it. If you were an ambulance driver, and you were watching "Dateline," and they were investigating the wife's disappearance, and the husband was helping with the search and crying during the press conference, I would tell you my shoulder is not such an emergency that you couldn't wait until the police circle back to the husband, who probably did it for the insurance money.

     My question is, how did this shoulder get injured in the first place? I didn't fall, or try to break down a door or try to throw a block during a running play or anything. It's not my tennis-serving shoulder, I already had that one fixed. This particular shoulder sits around all day doing nothing, except to help me get up from a sitting position, or put on my jacket. When I tried to explain to my doctor that I might have hurt my shoulder putting on my jacket, he looked at me like he thought I might be talking about a straight jacket.

     The surgeon was a little more understanding. Surgeons know how fragile the human body can be, and it makes them slightly giddy. He looked at me from top to bottom, and it was obvious he could pick out five or six things to operate on right off the bat.

     He sent me over for an MRI, and the technician made take everything out of my pockets, like I was going to a Yankee game. He asked me if I was claustrophobic, and I assured him that I am not. He mentioned it a few more times, to make sure I don't have a fear of enclosed spaces. By the time I was inside that thing, I felt absolutely sure that I was claustrophobic. Luckily I was able to go right to sleep, because the loud banging noises reminded me a little bit of my old Datsun B-210, which I loved.

     Looking over the MRI films, the doctor said I have a bone spur that is digging into my rotator cuff, and that he was going to have to shave it down. I told him that I don't care if there's a little hair on it, maybe just give it a Brazilian wax and let's call it a day. I waxed my car last weekend and there's not a hair on the thing.

     This made him even more determined. He pulled out a model of the shoulder area, and showed me exactly what he was going to do. A couple pieces fell off and landed on the floor, and I hope he washes them off before he sticks them back in my body. He said if he didn't like the looks of my rotator cuff, he was going to snip it and re-attach it. I've had rotator cuff surgery before, and I didn't like it much, so I said no thanks to that. I told him if he gets bored he can open up my cerebral cortex and fix whatever the reason is that I suck at math. He didn't laugh at that, but he made a note for the billing department that I can't add very well.

     Down at the billing department I tried to get a straight answer about how much this little setback was going to set me back. The doctor's office referred me to the surgery center, which referred me to the anesthesiologist's office, which referred me back to the doctor's office. As I was trying to figure it all out I realized that the deductible on my car insurance was much less than on my health insurance. I wondered if maybe I could park my car on a small incline, put it in neutral, climb out and gently run over my shoulder. But I knowing me, I would sprain my knee jumping out of the car.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SEVENTY-FIVE DOWN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)
 
     In February of 1942, a scant couple months after Pearl Harbor, the world was a scary place, even scarier than it is now, if you can believe it. The New York Times was a serious newspaper covering serious stories, but people needed a diversion. It was time for the Times to publish what it had previously considered a "sinful waste" of time.

     Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword puzzle, and I have to say, completing the puzzle each week saved me. It saved me from cleaning the garage, it saved me from doing the dishes and it saved me from mowing the lawn. It also saved me from sudoku. I don't know if you would call sudoku a mathematical puzzle, but the damn thing is filled with nothing but numbers. It's the equivalent of water-boarding for someone who got a 425 on their math SAT, only much more addicting.

     I had always thought that crossword puzzles were silly, the way I think that everything I can't do is silly, like surfing or neurosurgery. But when my wife found out that I was filling in the wrong answers to her puzzles, we started completing them together so that she could keep an eye on me. As a team, my wife and I are a formidable puzzle-solving machine. She handles all the clues about geography, current events, art, culture, languages and literature. If a question comes up about "F Troop," that's when I spring into action. Picture if you will (I wouldn't if I were you), the symbiotic relationship between the sea anemone and the clownfish, where the clownfish knows a lot of commercial jingles and game shows from four decades ago.

     I convince myself that the puzzles are educational, and that I am warding off Alzheimer's disease with every answer I fill in. I have learned who Brian Eno is, why Mel Ott was so great, and a lot of names relating to rare birds. I now know what an ern is, and an ani and a nene. When I am 95 years old, muttering random three letter words etched into my memory, it isn't going to help convince people that I DON'T have Alzheimer's.

     Will Shortz has been the Times Crossword Puzzle editor for decades now, and I picture him sequestered in a dark, candle-lit room in the top floor of a castle, maliciously devising new ways to make me seem stupider than usual. Thursday and Sunday he embeds some sort of trick into the puzzle, as he laughs a sinister laugh: "MWA HAHAHAHAHA!"

     Whenever I feel like I don't have a clue, I open up the Times, and the crossword has dozens of them. What's a four-letter word for Will Shortz? Next time I see him I'll let him know. I actually have met Will Shortz, because he owns a ping pong club in Pleasantville. I only use the term "ping pong" because I know he would hate that I didn't call it "table tennis," and he has it coming to him. He's wasted more of my time than my personal trainer, who has never trained me to do anything but a bunch of dumb exercises. I'd like to say more bad things about Will Shortz, except that he was actually quite fun and friendly, and I couldn't think of a cross word for him.


 

Friday, June 9, 2017

THE DOG DAYS OF WINTER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-02-17)

     You may have been too wrapped up in the President's Day festivities to notice, but there was a dog show going on last weekend. A dog show is exactly like a car show or a boat show, if cars and boats could lick themselves. And don't laugh, because we already have self-driving cars.

     I'm going to flip all the cards and just tell you that the German Shepherd named Rumor won Best in Show this year. If a German Shepherd wants to win a trophy, and you happen to have one, just hand him the damn thing and get the hell out of there. When you compare an old English sheepdog to a German shepherd, you get the idea that German sheep are not nearly as polite as they look.

     The main event is the promenade in the ring during the Best in Show competition. The handler is looking for obedience and smooth execution. The judges are looking for distinctive characteristics of the breed. The dog is looking for anything that smells gross.

     The handler pirouettes around the floor in an unnatural prance, as if a swarm of hungry butterflies is chasing her. She holds the dog leash with her thumb and forefinger way up in the air, as if she was holding a teacup filled with gossip from the Hamptons. Smiling at the audience and drinking in the applause and attention, the handler fails to notice that the dog pulled off the track at a diner 15 minutes ago.This year three new breeds were admitted into the show: The pumi, the sloughi and the American hairless terrier. The pumi looks like a Brillo pad with a tail, the sloughi can hunt game as big as a gazelle (no one has a gazelle to test out this boast), and the American hairless is described as allergy-friendly, like myself. I have a close personal relationship with just about every allergy there is, and believe me, that's nothing to sneeze at.

     The dog show recently added an agility contest for those dogs who have "a great personality," and I think you know what I mean. I don't know if this qualifies as agility, but my dog Gidget can run around the dining room table 3,000 times in a row. If you happen to be having a dinner party, you have to time the seating just right or you could be seriously injured. She's also great with a tennis ball, and if I can teach her to play she will have two backhands, two forehands and an occiput.

     My dog is called a Eurasier, and it's a beautiful breed, look it up. It's not recognized by the AKC, but that's only because they don't have their glasses on. She's about 45 pounds. Anything smaller than that I consider to be a Yorkie. Every time I see a Yorkie I sneer imperiously, as if to impugn the owner's masculinity, especially if the owner is a woman.

     If for some reason the winner of the dog show is unable to fulfill its duties, Gidget is willing to step in. She is intelligent, clean and is a great watch dog. If a burglar broke into my house right now and stole all our belongings, Gidget would watch the whole thing. She loves people, and she would sit next to you and lick your hand for a length of time that is very uncomfortable for everyone, and eventually could result in a restraining order.