How I am Killing Myself
There’s no reason contemplating a grim end can’t be funny.
I have dangerous practices in my life, and they go beyond prying with a screwdriver in a 70 year old main electrical service while dripping with rain, and my special application of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle* to the practice of tree falling.
No, I love fat, salt, and carbohydrates in almost any combination. In fact, my very favorite meal consists of coffee thick enough to skate a nickel, a round loaf of sourdough bread, a bowl of olive oil and a salametti. I have the firm belief that the Lord created the pig and the plate in the same stroke.
I smoked cigarettes for a number of years, and that is predicted to get me eventually, in part because of the high content of radioactive particles in tobacco, which when smoked lay in the lung for life. But, I have to admit it’s fat that most likely will kill me.
Knowing this does not change anything, except to rob me of the pleasure of my food. I know people who can sit down to a plate of steamed brown rice and limp vegetables and rise stuffed. That same plate placed before me will cause me to wonder aloud if the pig made a break and got away. Whole grain rice tastes like chicken feathers to me, and veggies in general warn me away. Nearly all healthy green veggies have a bitterness to me I can only tolerate when smothered in melted cheddar or hot bacon fat. Broccoli is obviously poisonous; would you drink water from a spring that smelled like that? The first human who ate broccoli was obviously starving and in the company of a friend too big to overpower. When they ate broccoli and didn’t die, their resulting effluvia must have convinced their fellow tribe members that death was imminent, working from the inside out.
Healthy food in general leaves me unsatisfied, bloated, and preoccupied with my innards. Is this living? I can push back from a plate of richly marbled pork butt crowned with fried spuds satisfied, happy, and content in the knowledge I won’t have to think of my bowels for days. That simply isn’t possible after a light salad of mixed European lettuces crowned by low fat cheese and vegetarian bacon bits.
I can read, I know the statistics, and I can quote my own increasingly alarming "numbers". I’ve spent a little time trying to write an equation which would determine about when my various ailments will conspire to bring me down, and how much, if any, time would be bought by a daily dose of Brussels sprouts and the elimination of pork sausage. (The elimination of pork sausage is a common problem.)
Strokes and heart attacks are a bummer. That isn’t the kind of near death experience I generally enjoy. My own poor mother drifts in the narrow world of Alzheimer’s. I have a friend who is only a few years younger than she is who has no pity. "If you won’t drink whisky and smoke cigarettes, a long and unpleasant end is almost certain. I don’t have patience with people who won’t look after themselves."
I’ve been a person who did physical work my whole life. I looked on people who had to jog, or go the gym, as lazy bastards who should quit their desk jobs and go to work. I would run if I heard someone shout "he’s got a gun" or from the angry grunts of a poor poker player with a tire iron, but not to simply get around a park quicker. It’s hard for me to picture myself with a terry sweat band around my balding noggin’ and jogging pants bagging from my manly "lower chest" to my triple E width "running shoes." I’ve tried jogging in my Levis and steel toe boots, and I think if more people did that they’d have to make fewer trips around the park. Either way, running without the presence of fear simply isn’t in my nature.
Maggie Kuhn said that "old age isn’t for sissies." Years ago I knew a lovely older woman whose hands were gnarled like roots from arthritis and who suffered from terminal forgetfulness. She would occasionally say "living forever sounds like such a good idea when you’re 20." The consequence of not dying, eventually, becomes waiting for death. Mark Twain is credited with this joke: A man goes to his doctor and says, "Doc, how can I live forever?" The doctor says, "give up strong drink, cigars, and loose women." The man says "And if I do I’ll live forever?" The doctor says, "no, but it will damn sure seem like it."
You have to learn how to look at things. A wise and funny local person likes to order his burger with cheese, and I’ve heard him say cheerfully "no point wasting that Lipitor!" I paid a visit to my doctor recently, who showed me my lab results and talked about how each one would contribute to my probably untimely and almost certainly unsavory death. Afterwards I visited a local friend who should have died several times in his life, and moaned that the doc had cursed me an early end from bad lifestyle. "Oh, F--- him," my friend said, "he don’t know when the hell you’re going to die. You could be killed on the way home for all he knows." See? Attitude.
So much of our society is about prevention, and about the numbers. My doctor scarcely looks at me and almost never touches me. He spends our time together typing into his computer, murmuring over the test results, glancing with increasing alarm at my spare tire. He’s skinny, fit, and he and his 88 year old father get regular exercise together. There is nothing he can tell me beyond "avoid fat and carbs, exercise, lose weight." For him, that life obviously works. What I need is a fat, sweaty doctor with half a bag of Kettle chips on his desk and the wrapping of a deli sandwich peaking from a drawer. A doctor like that would understand my life, and might be able to give me advice I could use, like "put silicone on your boot laces so you’ll have to bend over to tie them all the time. If you forget to tie them, getting up off the ground is good exercise, too." or "got a dog? You and the dog share your plate, put it on the ground and give him an even chance. You only get what you can drag from his slavering jaws."
Until then, I’m spending a little more time thinking about how I want to go. Do I want a superbike, or an ultralight airplane? I figure to just keep having fun, and let the law of averages sort it out.
*There are always readers who know too much. Yes, yes, Werner Heisenberg’s UP merely states that the more you know about the energy/velocity of a particle, the less you can know about its momentary position, and vice versa. However, lofty and philosophical thinkers with nothing better to do have insisted that this reveals some mystery of the universe. It is that mystery, that ability to know where the tree might fall but not when, or knowing when the tree will fall but not being sure if it will hit the pickup, that is the effect of the UP I refer to.