Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Derm

My cultural heritage is somewhat of a mixed blessing. While the Italian from my mother's side has given me thick brown lustrous hair, the Irish German from my father's side has given me pale and somewhat, well, delicate skin.

Having such a precarious epidermis, I must make regular trips to the Dermatologist. Unlike some other doctors, you can’t get away with keeping some of your clothes on during the examination. The Dermatologist needs to look at all of your skin. And I don’t know about you folks but I have skin everywhere.

This poses an interesting challenge for me, in that I am someone who likes to project a vibe of strength and confidence. Yet, I struggle to do so while standing around in my underwear in a room full of strangers.

I didn’t go to the dermatologist for the first time until I was in college. I had heard of the Dermatologist and was aware of their contributions to society, but on my first visit I had no idea what to expect.

The first thing I didn’t expect is what a rock star the dermatologist was! I can usually get a doctors appointment anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks out. But for the Dermatologist, we had to make an appointment a year in advance.

A year? I’ve planned international vacations in less time. Who were all these people going to the Derm? What group of humans was so intent on seeing the Derm that they were filling up every single appointment for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 50 weeks a year? When I arrived for my first appointment I got my answer: old people. They were everywhere.

I was in a small space packed with old people. Apparently the more wrinkles your skin has, the more that can wrong with it. What kind of life style am I leading that the only people I spend my free time with are the people collecting social security that is taken out of MY taxes. I felt like walking up to them and saying;

"Ya know you are only here because I’m paying for it."

I was called in for my appointment by one of the assistants who said to me;

“Strip down to your underwear, take off everything except for your socks.”

This wouldn’t have been so embarrassing had my dad not been in the room with me for our joint appointment.

The Dermatologist is so busy that I couldn’t get my own appointment. I had to be seen with a family member and we weren’t even getting a discount.

So now my father and I were standing there like a pair of potato famine thieves at the end of a strip search, waiting for a strange man we’d never met to come into our room and inspect our Irish German abnormalities.

As the assistant left the room she pointed to something on the chair and said;

“You may put on a gown if you like.”

A gown? Maybe hanging out with my dad in our underwear wouldn’t be so bad after all? My regular doctor had never given me a gown before. This place was classy!

I grabbed the "gown" from the chair, excited to put on my royal robe. But after unfolding it I realized this was no gown. This was a large sleeveless napkin complete with some kind of plastic twist tie cinching string that didn't even make it around my whole waist.

Gown?! Yea right. I put it on and was suddenly aware of the fact that I was wearing a big paper mumu. What other "clothing" did they have? Toilet paper scarves? Newspaper pashminas?

So there we we, my father and I both standing there, like we were at a Fruit of the Loom testing facility. And I realized nobody looks cool standing around in their underwear. And that is what I struggle with.

I just want to look cool, or at least normal, when the Dermatologist walks in. I want to appear confident like I know what is going on in my life, but that becomes increasingly more difficult once the examination starts.

You are just hanging out in that sterile little room with that Lay Z Boy from hell. It’s a lot like laying in the dentist’s chair… except you have no clothes on… and the dentist is using his tools to poke you... all over your body.

So I use this time to ask all the questions about the spots on my body that make me nervous.

What’s this?
That’s a mole.
What about this?
That’s a blister.
And this?
That’s your belly button.

It’s all too much to handle. So since I have become an adult I have started going to the Dermatologist by myself. And on my last visit I made a commitment to myself. I am going to appear confident if it kills me!

I will not just wait in that room with nothing to my do. I will bring my book I will sit in the chair, gownless, and project an aura of sophistication and nobility.

When I was called into the tiny experiment room. I stripped down and refused the emperors new gown. I sat there, in my underwear awaiting the Derm.

But just sitting there I didn’t look confident, I still felt uncomfortable. What do people do when they are wearing clothes and feeling comfortable? So after a brief moment of thought, I went British dandy.

That’s right. I crossed my legs in the effeminate knee over knee fashion, with my book held out in front of me as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Like I just happened to be doing a Shakespearean reading in my underwear, and what’s this, a Dermatologist has walked in? Well welcome to the reading!

Did it work you ask? I don't really think so. I think my new Dermatologist thought I was slightly confused and possibly damaged in the head. In fact the look on her face was pretty much, "Oh Jesus." But hey I tried!

And besides, it could have been worse. My dad could have been there.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Ever since I committed myself to becoming a professional body builder, I have been paying a lot closer attention to the food I eat. I don’t just mean I stare at it really hard. I mean I have been reading the labels, looking at the ingredients, and trying to understand exactly what it is I am consuming.

And it’s terrifying. The ingredient list in most of the food we eat is damn near impossible to comprehend. But if you read enough labels, not only do you get really paranoid, you will probably will start noticing some buzz words.

For a moment lets ignore the ingredients we can’t pronounce, because I don’t know what the hell they are. They might be putting nuclear waste in my granola bar, but as long as it disguised as a word with 5 syllables I’ll never know.

But the first buzz word that is flying all around is “Organic.” I am a fan of organic; I want all of my things to be organic.

If I had my druthers, I would sleep in bamboo sheets sustainably harvested from a combine in Vietnam and wear clothes made of hemp that were woven by a bunch of tree hugging hippies living in the San Fernando valley, all the while eating eggs laid by cage free chickens that spend their days lightly jogging around the 500 square miles of roaming meadows deep in the Canadian countryside.

But the organic craze has gone too far. I recently went to an art show where the free promotional beverage being served was “Organic Water.”

Now I know that I got like... a C- in chemistry, but I am pretty sure that all water is organic. I don’t recall anybody inventing water. The cave men weren’t drinking from flowing rivers of Sunny Delight.

The funny thing about this organic water was the fact that it had 16 GRAMS OF SUGAR!

Are you kidding me? That’s not water, that’s what you add to rum to make a mojito!

I was having a major thirst not too long ago so I ran into a supermarket to grab an impulse beverage from near the cash register. I picked one that looked like one of those flavored water types. It was orange, and that is my favorite color so I thought good things.

I took a swig and BLEAH. It tasted like… well I didn’t really know. So I took a look at the ingredients to see.

Organic extracts of orange peels and flowers.

Ok, not really my first choice for a beverage. I have never said in times of thirst, “Somebody bring me a frosty beverage that tastes of fruit rinds and plants.” But I let it be; I moved on to the next ingredient and found the culprit.

Organic Extracts of cinnamon bark.

Mmmm bark. Just like mom used to make.

Cinnamon bark? Are you kidding me? BARK?! What brain genius came up with the idea to make a drink out of the piece of the fruit we don’t eat, flowers which nobody eats, and bark? Bring him to me so I can force feed him his own putrid devil nectar

I recently watched a non-vegan friend of mine take one bite of a vegan brownie. One. She did not take another bite because she could not bring herself to punish herself like that.

Now according to the dictionary vegan is defined as a strict vegetarian; someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all. And if that’s you, bless you my child. Good for you. I am not opposed to that lifestyle by any means.

However the vegans who made this brownie cheated. I wondered what would make my friend retch in such a way after eating one bite of the brownie. Looking at the ingredients I realized why. One of them was;

Vegan Chocolate Chips

Chocolate, as I understand it, is cocoa powder, sugar and MILK. So if there is no MILK, then something has been substituted. But the marketing department for this brownie probably had a conversation like this,

Gary: Oh crap I don’t know what’s in these chocolate chips
Louis: Well then we can’t write anything on the ingredient list
Gary: No we will just call them… umm.. Vegan Chocolate Chips.
Louis: Good idea because by the time they realize it will be too late.
Gary: Muahahaha we are so evil and smart.
Louis: Let’s go kick a puppy.

So wizards Gary and Louis have essentially created a product and informed us of it by explaining what is NOT in it. These chocolate chips have no milk.

Ok great, so what the hell is in them? By their rationale I could create a candy bar with an ingredient list that looks like this.

Does not include, uranium, zebras, or pieces of Mike Tyson’s face.

But I realized it’s all marketing. It doesn’t have anything to do with the actual product any more. It is only about what you think the product is. Nothing is not twisted.

Like the package of Moth Balls I recently saw. The front of it said:

Old Fashioned moth balls.

Forgive my ignorance, but have there been any major developments in moth balls since... ever? Did I miss the advent of the moth ball that came with cable television and an automatic transmission?

Is the word old fashioned really necessary? Or is this company just trying to appeal to the customer who seeks the kind of reminiscence that brings back fond memories of a plastic covered couch and Brylcream.

These words, Vegan, Organic, Old Fashioned, these are all words meant to make us feel something about a product regardless of what it actually is. But if you think about how you feel while you real those words, you'll lose your damn mind.

And that is why I refuse to read any more labels. I will go back to my life of ignorance. and continue eating nuclear waste granola bars. In fact, if you need me, I’ll be over here eating a Mike Tyson free brownie.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Airports Part 2 - Depression

My favorite thing about visiting my parents at “the resort” is the fact that I have an entire wardrobe and nearly all my necessary toiletries down there, so I don’t need to pack much to go. I just grab a backpack and I’m off.

I though this would simplify the entire process thereby eliminating things that could go wrong during travel.


My 6 am flight from Savannah was due to arrive in New York at 8 am. But due to inclement weather we were forced into a holding pattern.

After 30 minutes of essentially flying in circles the pilot came on the speaker and basically said, “We’re about to run out of fuel so we’re going to go ahead and land in Baltimore.”

This began my 12 hour delay.

On this particular flight there was an especially annoying individual wearing a Bluetooth headset the whole time. I will refer to this gentleman as a WMD or Weapon of Mega Dooshdum.

I’m almost sure he would have been sitting in first class had our plane been larger than a hot pocket.

After we landed in Baltimore, everyone was worried about whether or not would be taking off in this plane again or getting on a new plane. This is when the WMD spoke up and said, “I just got off the phone with the platinum desk, this plane isn’t going anywhere.”

Ooo you got off the phone with the platinum desk? Everyone come and listen, Ezekiel is back with tales from the Platinum desk!

What else did the platinum desk tell you? How to solve the sub prime lending crisis? The name of the next American Idol? When Jesus would return?

I would have continued to focus my hate on him but of course, the woman sitting behind me was screaming in Spanish into her phone. The plane was completely still, no engine noise, there was no crisis and no need for yelling. But she apparently felt her speaking voice Spanish was not appropriate and instead was using her tornado warning Spanish.

I then realized what I don’t like about flying.

It’s the people. They are everywhere. Being weird. Being abnormal. Being creepy. I would not be bothered by flying as much if I got to do it, say, in my own plane, by myself.

I hung out in the airport for a couple of hours while angry passengers yelled at unsuspecting gate agents who were doing their damndest to help them. One woman was yelling at this particular gate agent about how this was the 3rd time this happened to her and blah blah blah.

She kept yapping until I said;


Well not quite but I did tell her to leave the poor gate agent alone. I am so very brave.

If you take a look around an airport you realize this is no longer the golden age of travel. People don’t travel in suits and elegant leisurewear. They travel in whatever they found on the floor when they woke up that morning. I saw a man in a purple t-shirt whose belly was so big I thought he was wearing a prosthetic.

Perhaps he had some sort of silicone belly implant? There was no way one belly could stick out so far. It was only for the fact that his shirt stuck out so far I could see his bare flesh exposed underneath it that I realized this was no prosthetic. It was like a belly penthouse.


I found out I had 7 hours until my new flight to New York, so I decided to take a shuttle bus to a train into D.C. to go see the Cherry Blossoms. I figured this would get me away from the crazies and the hideousity.


In the fully packed Amtrak waiting room I came across another prized individual.

This gentleman sat across from me (also with a belly penthouse), directly in front of a brightly lit vending machine. He sat there cross eyed and absolutely transfixed by the colorful offerings available inside that magical glass box. I thought he was going to try and make a withdrawal from one of the many shelves when he made another decision.

You know how sometimes you cough up a little bit of phlegm, but you just deal with it because you are not in a place where you can get rid of it?

The gentleman sitting not 4 feet across from me in the Amtrak station waiting room did not think this was one of those places. So I watched him, cough, gag, and then let loose a horrific dribble of phlegm that fell like an autumn leaf and landed between his feet on the floor.


He didn’t even try to hide it. His basic philosophy appeared to be, “I’m gross, everybody watch.”
So I took the train into Union Station in D.C. and in an effort to save money (I’m becoming cheaper by the day) I walked 45 minutes to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, and the sun came out and it was beautiful. I sat strolled and took pictures such as this one.

And then it started to pour on me. I didn’t have an umbrella. So I walked the 45 minutes back to Union Station where I bought an Amtrak ticket back to Baltimore, which I then immediately dropped on the floor and didn’t realize until I heard over the loud speaker;

“Would Mr…. Bo-em-key please pick up his ticket at the information desk.”

Damn it.

Back on the train to the shuttle bus to the airport where I checked in for my 6 o’clock flight, and went through security. I sat down in the waiting area for a while, and was walking to my gate when a woman ran up to me and said, “Sir! You dropped this!”

It was my plane ticket.

Double damn it.

I was starting to think maybe someone or something was trying to stop me from going home. But 14 hours later I made it. Which means it took me an hour LONGER to fly home than it would have to drive.

Forget airplanes. Forget travel. Next time I’m just going to stay home and grow a belly penthouse.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Airports Part 1 - Regression

Flying is getting progressively more horrendous. It never ceases to amaze me how normal, seemingly rational adults, turn into lying, rule breaking, little 7 year olds, when making the decision to travel by airplane.

Case and point: I traveled down to South Carolina this past weekend to visit my parents at, what I like to refer to as, “The Resort.” (They actually live in a normal house, but they pick me up from the airport, feed me, take me to do fun activities, and I don’t have to pay for any of it, so yea it’s pretty much a resort.)

First of all, this flight was chock a block with old people. You know those planes that go to places like Cancun or Miami during spring break that are packed with hot co-eds?

This was not one of those planes. My flight looked like a field trip to the Del Boca Vista Phase II retirement community. This was an elderly plane. The process does not move quickly with a gaggle of fogies.

In addition to this gaggle, there was a man on my flight with a foot cast. But instead of getting around on crutches like most people would, this guy had his knee propped up on a 3 wheeled push scooter complete with handlebars called the TLC; Turning Leg Caddy.

He was a lot like the kid in school who bumped his elbow on a desk but came into school the next day with his arm in a sling. Everyone knows it’s a sympathy ploy, but all the teachers go out of their way to accommodate him anyway.

Hey needy guy, instead of pissing off every one on the airplane, why not get yourself a pair of crutches and give your scooter to a 10 year old girl who actually needs it.

Boarding the airplane is a lot like getting ready to go outside for recess. When the attendant announces that “We are now boarding,” people start circling the gate like vultures.

And even though everyone has a ticket, and will get on the plane, people still push and shove towards the gate entrance like they are trying to buy the last mango in Pakistan.

Then the teacher has to get angry and say that only the good students who wait in the line can get through.

My particular flight I was flying direct from New York to Savannah (yes I know that’s in Georgia hot shot). The great/awful thing about this direct flight is that the plane is always pretty small so there is no first class.

Now I don’t really give a crap about first class because I can’t afford it. I can barely afford coach. In fact, the next time I visit my parents I’m pretty sure I’m just going to ship myself down there in a UPS box addressed to “Mommy.”

But the fact that there is no first class means that all of the upper crust of our society, the social elite, the captains of industry… have to sit with my sorry butt in a tiny ass plane that looks like an Airstream trailer with wings.

We are all equals now. Everyone is equally pathetic. Nobody is getting any special treatment. We are all in detention. Welcome to Air Detention.

Once the airline finally lets everybody on the plane it becomes a series of minor rule infractions, people trying desperately to hide their insubordination from the flight attendants.

But people really get indignant when they are told to turn off their cell phones.

“What? Me? Turn off my cellphone? You must be mad! I am awaiting a very important call from Prince Ali of Akrabah!”

I understand important calls need to be made, business transactions must occur, information must be exchanged. But just because you are in the middle of writing a text, that does not make you special.

On the trip down, the flight attendant made the announcement to turn off all electronic devices and then proceeded to walk down the aisle to make sure all of the students were abiding by the rules.

I then watched the man sitting next to me, the man with a wife and 2 kids at home with the flu (I was reading his texts) hide his cellphone under his leg mid-text as the attendant passed by, and then pull it back out to finish his message.

Really middle aged guy? You are an adult! You are not hiding Pixy Stix and Pez from the Nuns. You are a grown up. Act like it. You are texting about how your wife is pissed at you.

The only acceptable text would have been;


Texting during takeoff does not make you a rebel. You are not Cool Hand Luke. Put your cell phone away and mindlessly page through the Sky Mall magazine like the rest of us.

Eventually the plane landed and the dismissal bell rang causing everyone to flood the aisle and push and shove to get off the very plane they pushed and shoved to get onto.

And as I’d find out on my return trip, I should have shipped myself home UPS.

To be continued…