Friday, June 23, 2006

It's a dry bleat

The heat is on in the Bay Area and I hate it. Forget any idea we might have had about moving to Davis, where housing is cheaper but it's 100 like this all summer. I hate air-conditioning, too. For a few years I lived in Florida and hated that, too. It was a wet heat, a wet heat that came with bugs, snakes and gators, and it's much worse than our dry heat, as folk wisdom confirms.
But here's what's wrong with a dry heat, at least in the Bay Area. Unlike other dry heat places in America, like Phoenix, we don't have universal, car-to-home-to-mall airco. And unlike places like Phoenix, or Florida, the populace in the San Francisco area is never prepared for heat. Folks here don't even know enough to get in the shade. When the temperature hits the upper 90s they mutter about global warming and oil companies but continue to drive around in their convertibles.
Then, a day into the heat wave, the wildfires start and everybody acts as if there's something unnatural about them. When the smoke rises, the first question always is "Who started it?" Somehow no one ever understands that fire is part of the ecology, and the kid with the bottle rocket is too. Fires are nature's way of ridding itself of the brush that grew in the rainy season and the McMansions that grew in the money season.
Say this for the Bay Area, though. Unlike Phoenix and Florida, people are meant to live here. There's water, unlike Phoenix, but not so much that it makes the place a swamp, unlike Florida. It's just that the water only comes half the year. The other half is divided into days of heaven and days like this, days that make you cranky. And I'm Cranky.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A glass of Jack and a cup of Joe

I should take up drinking again, scientists say. Love those "scientists say" headlines. The latest is that scientists say coffee drinking counteracts liver damage caused by that other kind of drinking that's so popular in America. Man, I'm wasting all those cups of Joe using them only to wake up. I could be deducting $1.80 each morning, and sometimes $1.80 each afternoon, as a medical expense.
These scientists that newspapers love to quote are always saying something completely intuitive or completely counterintuitive, as in Woody Allen's famous future finding that deep-fried fatty foods are good for us. This coffee thing is completely intuitive.
In the movies, folks are always pouring coffee into drunks. At AA meetings, I'm told, reformed drunks never take a step, much less a twelfth step, without a Styrofoam cup of brew in their hands. Coffee and booze may be the same for Mormons, but in the rest of this culture they're matter and anti-matter.
We just never knew how much it mattered. It isn't a matter of sobering up anymore, which scientists told us coffee couldn't do anyway. It turns out it's a matter of life and death. Live it up on champagne at night, and in the morning liver it up at Starbucks.
Suddenly those ventes don't seem so expensive, do they?
The issue for corporate coffee chieftains isn't so clear, though. Right now in Seattle guys are wondering how to build a marketing plan around this latest scientific finding. If they sell coffee as a morning-after pill for binge drinking, will they be encouraging drunk driving, slurred pick up lines and the Duke lacrosse team? Can they sell coffee as pro-liver without seeming anti-life? No, and furthermore no one's going to order something called a Cirrhosiccino.
Meanwhile, here I sit drinking a cup of Earl Grey, and not just because Earl doesn't have to take on Jack, as in Daniels, anymore. Tea is good for you, too, in its precious way. The United Kingdom Tea Council, at the top of Google's "tea" listings, encourages people to have four cups of tea every day to fulfill their "daily fluid requirements" and provide certain unnamed benefits to heart and health. They're also encouraging English soccer fans to bring their own teabags to Germany for the World Cup because they claim the Germans only put half as much tea in their bags. Damn those Jerries.
Seems to me the average British soccer fan has other ways of fulfilling his daily fluid requirement, which is a lot more than other people's. His brain may be dead, mate, but his liver is crying out for coffee.
My liver's listening to Lightnin' Hopkins singing Coffee House Blues.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Eye, eye, sir

A couple of days ago I went for an eye exam. The first stage of the exam was as follows: I drove to an unfamiliar destination, the city of Davis, and realized I couldn't read the road signs. The second stage was making an appointment at LensCrafters and having an optometrist shine lights in my eyes and make me play video games with flashes of light and the alphabet.
Normally, I like eye exams because it never happens that the doc says, "Good news, your prescription hasn't changed." Thus I get to buy new glasses, which is like picking out a new identity. I never understood the appeal of contact lenses. If Clark Kent had contacts, what fun would that be for Lois or anyone else?
Unfortunately, this exam wasn't as much fun as usual. After making me zap a bunch of peripheral vision space invaders, the doc dilated my pupils and discovered two bad things. One was an incipient hint of a cataract in the right eye. However, he said it wasn't really so bad because it probably wouldn't grow very large until I'm in my seventies (which is only my next decade, but Al Gore says by then I'll be drowning in liquid ice cap, so what the hey.) The other thing the doc discovered is that there's a small hole in the retina of my left eye, which may or may not get worse, so he gave me a referral to an opthalmologist.
Funny the metaphors doctors use. This guy said the retina is "like wallpaper" and you never know when a small hole is going to turn into complete detachment with the wallpaper rolling right off the walls of my eyeball. You know, I've tried to remove some wallpaper in my time, and I don't remember it rolling off that easily. Still, I'll make that appointment with the opthalmologist.
In the meantime, I bought a new pair of glasses and refitted my old ones with new lenses. I plan to look good, and see well, until the day the wallpaper rolls up and the room goes dark.
I'm not depressed about this at all, strangely enough. My mother-in-law went through several eye procedures with great courage, despite the temporary loss of her astounding ability to paint. I don't have any visual talents to lose, except chick checking, couch potatoing and escaping into books, so I'm just going around soaking up the sights with my new prescription while I can.
And if worse comes to worst, and both eyes go blank, I'll look on the bright side and show great musical ability. Well, I won't be looking on the bright side exactly, but maybe I'll be swaying to my bright keyboard stylings. (Although I couldn't play before I went blind.)
At least I'll get to take my dog into restaurants. The world's first seeing-eye Maltese.
Yeah, I'm a hypochondriac.