Monday, September 29, 2014


This is basically what you may be facing if you visit an E.R. at a teaching hospital in the upcoming months. Stay healthy!

I'm putting everyone here on notice. In the immediate future, my colleagues and I are taking a few hours' worth of workshops on vital signs, after which they (the ubiquitous superpower THEY, never to be identified) are sending my colleagues and me into the emergency room of a hospital somewhere in the northern half of California. The same thing is probably happening in teaching hospitals all over the nation. If you know what is good for you, I would advise you to stay the hell away from teaching hospitals in general and mine in particular if you're feeling not quite up to par and think you may be in need of medical treatment at an emergency room. 

I'm not quite so much worried about myself.  I've watched enough House, MD episodes that I could basically diagnose anyone. I've been doing it for years (much to my father's chagrin) with remarkable accuracy. ( Rule #1: It's NOT lupus.) It's my less-enlightened colleagues for whom I fear. Most of them could not differentiate a case of full-term labor from the measles. 

We won't be actually responsible for your treatment, although our beady eyes will be on you the entire time you receive said treatment.  We will process your intake. If we really screw up a blood pressure or pulse reading, the odds  are that someone will catch it.  Sometimes things don't happen in the manner that is statistically probable, though. Perhaps you will be the one in ten who will NOT be caught by someone smarter and more capable than we are.

Again, it is not I about whom  you really need to be worried. I've been able to take a blood pressure reading with a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope (I even know how to spell them correctly and have known how since elementary school, unlike more than half of my colleagues) since I was nine years old. I won't kill you off before you even see a real doctor.  I cannot, however, make the same guarantee in regard to many if not most of my peers. 

Just to be on the safe side, if you fail to heed my admonition and do find yourself in a northern California E.R. in the next month or two, and you find that your intake is being processed by a medical student who looks greener than Ireland in the month of June, ask for Alexis. It may not be my hospital, and even if it is, I may not be on duty, but it's probably still in your best interests to at least ask. Maybe they'll page me.

P.S. In a real pinch, ask for Matthew. I know that you must be reluctant to do so after some of the stories that I've shared about him, but he does at least know how to take an accurate blood pressure and pulse. I know this because I taught him personally.

P.S.S. I'm praying for the continued good health of readers everywhere, but particularly for those of you who wander through the northern half of California. From what I hear of southern California's medical students, they're even stupider as a group than we are, so you might want to be very careful if you're spending any time there.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Great Stupidifier - Medical School

For anyone out there with masochistic tendencies who really wants to feel stupid, I recommend medical school.  It's not that my peers, classmates, competitors -- or whatever I would call them -- are doing much or any better than I am. It's just that there's nothing like meeting up with subject matter not available at any of my previous stations in academia or in life.  It highlights just how much I don't know when I study for twelve hours and feel as though I've barely made a dent in the material I  must commit to memory forever or at least for the duration of my professional career.

With academic work I've done in the past, I've known that much of it was not tremendously pertinent to my life. I could learn what I needed to learn to ace a course, and then choose to remember it if it was in anyway useful or interesting, or to forget it if it wasn't. It may be that someday I'll decide that in the grand scheme of things,  something that I'm learning right now really doesn't have much to do with my field of medicine or is otherwise cluttering my brain, and will have the freedom to forget it.

Somehow I doubt that such will be the case. I think the professors are probably speaking the truth when they tell us that learning about how cells form tissues and learning the early principles of molecular biology  and med school anatomy (not to be confused with the most advanced undergrad anatomy course available anywhere, which everyone in the class has taken) lay the foundations for everything we'll ever learn about the scientific aspects of healing.  I think what I'm learning now will have to remain in my brain for the foreseeable future, at least in some dormant form.

Very soon, I will undergo a few hours of clinical instruction regarding the basics of vital signs of the human body. This will enable me to process the basic intake of E.R. patients for just a very small amount of time each week.  It used to be, back in the dinosaur days when my dad went to medical school, that a med school students wouldn't get within shouting distance of a patient until Year # 3 of medical school. All that has changed. I'm not sure precisely why, as it seemed like a pretty good system to me. Perhaps it's because anyone willing to put in the time and effort can learn what's in a book, but for me and for most of the opposition (I don't love to think of those who are studying with me as such, but that's the way it is now if I'm to be honest), what will allow us to succeed or cause us to fail miserably in the field of medicine will be the ability [or inability] to synthesize what we've learned and somehow make sense of it and make use of it in the real world.

I can't speak for the experience of anyone else in the program, but for me, it's like building a bridge. Right now, I'm on one side of a body of water and building out across the water to another piece of land. I've built my bridge maybe a total of three feet into the roughly 10 miles of water I'll need to build it across in order to reach land again. In roughly two weeks, I'm going to take a helicopter or row a little boat or somehow get all the way across to that other section of land and start building the bridge from that side. I'll build on that side for maybe five minutes, then fly or row back to the other side to build again from the original side. I know what's on the very beginning of this side, and I'll know what's on the very start of the bridge on the other side very soon, but my two ends of the bridge are in no way even remotely close to being connected, and I have no clue just what it is that will one day connect them. I don't really know for certain that the ends of the bridge will ever connect.

I'm taking it on faith that all the people who have ever done this before me are not co-conspirators in some ginormously perpetrated hoax and that this is not some bizarre hazing ritual designed to cull the weak, ignorant, and insufficiently dedicated among us.  The anatomy part I get. Yes, a doctor has to know the bones and everything there is to know about each and every one of them.  Most of us knew all the bones before we ever set foot on campus for medical school interviews. Now we get the fun of actually finding them on a real [used-to-be] live human body. (Yes, I did throw up in my first anatomy lab, but I wasn't the only one to do so.)  It's the more abstract learning of cellular and molecular biology that is perplexing me. How what I'm learning in classrooms could ever have anything to do with removing someone's appendix, ridding someone's body of a kidney stone, or even stitching up some child's boo boo, is still very much a mystery to me.

I could take the easy way out.  I could do the job I plan ultimately to do with a mere PhD in biochemistry or even microbiology.  I chose this more difficult path, and now I'm really wondering into what sort of quagmire I've gotten myself.  And, at the end of the day when my head is just short of imploding and they let us out until morning, now I don't even have Judge Alex episodes with which to distract myself. (Curse you, Fox! And you have the audacity to call yourself a real network!)

If it sounds as though I'm treading water and just barely keeping my head above the surface, that's probably not a wholly inaccurate description of my current state.  The only thing really keeping me sane and here is that, while some are better at faking it than I, they're in every bit as much trouble as I am.  The ones who are the least stressed are the few who don't really belong here with the rest of us and haven't yet figured it out. Some of them believe that pass/fail grading means basically everyone passes. Everyone doesn't pass.

I will pass. It seems grim now, but I'll get through it. And I'll do the pre-clerkship portion of medical school in two years, not the three years that the administration is so heavily pushing us to extend it to. I know if it's difficult for me, it's even more difficult for some others.  I can see it in their eyes even if they pretend to be having the time of their lives.  Nobody here is both having fun and passing. It's interesting, but it's not fun. Any one of us who thinks he or she is having fun is going to be out of here after December.

It's accurate except for "What my family thinks." Too many people in my family have been to med school for anyone to believe this.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Laie Ward X Primary Program Somettime in the 1980's


Note: Jared's dad, Kent, told me the story of my Uncle Scott and the Laie Ward X Primary Program when Scott was three years old and a Sunbeam for Jesus. I decided to share it while I'm still working on my "Judge Alex" eulogy. To the best of my knowledge, this is really the way it happened on that Sunday in the tiny windward/northshore (the Laie chapel sits almost precisely on the spot in Laie where Oahu's terrain turns from windward to North Shore, as evidenced by vegetation) village.
The Primary leaders in the Laie Ward X of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had all the children seated on the dais (the "stand" in LDS terminology) for the program that they would present in place of a sermon. Adults were seated among the children, but not as many as there ideally should have been, and not in strategic places. The three-year-olds, otherwise known as Sunbeams, were largely monitoring themselves and each other, as they had no adult sitting in particularly close proximity. Their teacher was having a baby that morning and no one had bothered to sit with her class.

Communion (or "The Sacrament" as Mormons like to call it) comes before the sermon or sermons in Mormon churches. Twelve-and thirteen-year-old boys who have been ordained to the priesthood level of "deacon" distribute The Sacrament to the congregation in little plastic trays. (Note: Mormons, unlike Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches, do not believe the bread and wine or water to be the literal body and blood of Christ, but rather to be symbolic representations, which is probably how they justify letting 12-year-olds distribute it. If the sort of occurrence which I will soon recount were to go down in a Catholic or in an Orthodox church, hell would be paid.) A prayer is said, and the deacons pass out the bread. Another prayer is said and the deacons distribute the water, which they use in place of wine or grape juice.

One time I told a Mormon kid at school that a lot of churches use grape juice instead of water in their communion or sacramental rite. The girl at first didn't believe me. When she found out I was telling the truth, she went home after school crying, "It's not fair!" to her mother. The girl's mother, with whom I occasionally come into contact because she and her husband bought a house next door to the home of one of my best friends' parents, still hates me nine years or so after the fact. So much for anything Jesus ever said about forgiving someone not just seven times, but seventy times seven and then some, even when the person who wronged you was a mere ten years old and did so by outing your church for being such cheapskates that they wouldn't come up with a measly ounce of grape juice per communicant. That, however, is a subject for another day's blog.
Usually when it's not a front row, the deacons hand the bread or water tray to the first person in a row or pew, who then passes it on to the next person and so forth, until everyone has partaken of it [Mormon lingo again]. When it's the front row of either the dais or the congregational seating area, the deacons themselves stand before each person, themselves holding the tray.

This particular deacon didn't get the memo about holding onto the tray for the front row. He handed the lightweight plastic bread tray [containing more bread than it would usually hold because of the increased attendance at the day's meeting because of the Primary Program] to the first Sunbeam in the pew and let that kid pass it on to the next. I believe that's about as far down the row as the tray actually made it before it was inevitably dropped, spilling its contents of white Wonder Bread [which some people still actually believe builds strong bodies in twelve ways] all over the floor directly in front of the three-year-olds. The three-year-old Sunbeams all dropped from their seats in the pew to the floor and began grabbing the bread off the carpet and stuffing it into their mouths. Scott was on the floor with all the other Sunbeams, trying to get his fair share of the unexpected bounty, though only three-year-olds or perhaps the underfed dogs perpetually roaming Laie would have considered white Wonder Bread broken into barely bite-sized pieces and scattered all over a floor to be much of a treat.
A little girl who shall be called Cameron [because that's close to but not her actual name, as I do not wish to risk a defamation suit] slapped Scott's hand because he took a particularly large piece of bread she was eyeing for herself. Scott grabbed her braided ponytails and held onto them tightly in one hand, then punched her in the nose with the other. Scott was dexterous even as a three-year-old. The slap and retaliatory punch turned into a knock-down-drag-out wrestling match. All Cameron's siblings jumped out of their seats and were cheering her on, while all Scott's siblings (except for his oldest brother Kent, who was a deacon and was too old to be in the program) sprang from their seats and cheered Scott on. There's supposed to be dead silence during this time when The Sacrament is being passed. There isn't, of course, dead silence in ANY part of a Mormon church service because of all the cranky babies and bored toddlers forced to be there on a given Sunday, but still, it's considered the most sacred time of the meeting, and the World Wrestling Federation Championship for Three-Year-Olds, complete with a shouting audience for each competitor, was going on right in the middle of it.

Scott's mom and dad were not seated anywhere near the front because Scott's dad had been dealing with an issue in the student ward of which he was the bishop. The issue involved girls, so Scott's mom went with him to try to help him mediate the quarrel. The family nanny, a BYU-Hawaii student whose services were being paid for by Scott's mother's inheritance, as one could never afford the services of a nanny on a BYU-Hawaii professor's salary [even if he was on loan from the mother ship BYU-Provo campus and hence receiving a slightly higher salary than that being paid to most of his peers] had driven the children to church in the family's van. On a normal Sunday in an LDS church, the back pews fill up first and those who arrive late get stuck sitting in the front, but on Primary Program Sunday, parents and relatives try to arrive early to get prime seating so that they can see their children and grandchildren as they sing annoying songs slightly off-key and recite with no emotion whatsoever (or, more likely, read not terribly smoothly and in equally monotone voices off tiny slips of paper because they haven't bothered themselves with the memorization) inane lines beamed down to them directly from Primary headquarters in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.

The LDS primary organization has a leadership structure, with a president and her two counselors, and teachers for each age group. They were seated somewhat among the children that day, but not very strategically. The Primary Presidency sat in the very back row of seating on the dais, with The President in the middle, her First Counselor to her right, and her Second Counselor to her left (standard Mormon leadership seating formation), slightly removed from the bulk of children. Their seating position was essentially a statement to the ward that they were not mere teachers or other personnel but were, indeed, The Presidency. As was stated earlier, the three-year-old Sunbeams were essentially unsupervised because their teacher was in labor and therefore not at church (the nerve of that woman to go into labor on the morning of The Primary Program!), and it hadn't occurred to anyone else looking upon the unchaperoned three-year-olds that it might be a good idea to place an adult somewhere in their midst. The Primary Presidency was, in the delicate words of Scott's brother Kent, who did have a front-row view because he was one of ther deacons passing the trays that day (but, he would want me to point out, he was NOT the deacon who handed the tray of bread to the three-year-olds to pass to each other until one of them finally dropped and spilled the bread) "sitting with their thumbs up their asses, doing absolutely nothing about it," Kent described in uncharacteristically colorful language for him.

The nanny, even though she wasn't technically a member of that ward because she belonged to a student ward, was filling in for the Primary pianist, who had recently had a baby. On Primary program day in that particular ward, it was traditional for the Primary personnel to be responsible for all the music for worship service that day. The Primary pianist played the organ for the hymns, the Primary chorister [in normal American English dialect, chorister means choir member, but in LDS lingo, the person who leads a group in singing, unless the group is a choir, is called the chorister; don't try to find any logic in it, because it isn't there to be found), conducts the hymns for the congregation, and so forth. The nanny was seated at the organ and couldn't see what was happening on the floor, but could see one of Scott's brothers and his three sisters out of their seats and hollering. Just as Scott's mother was prodding Scott's father to get up and make sure none of their kids were involved in whatever disturbance was occurring, the nanny slipped off the organ bench and down to the front to see for herself what was the problem. She quickly pulled Scott off the top of the little girl (he had her pinned to the floor by one shoulder and was using his free hand to grab any remaining pieces of bread within his reach) and picked him up and held him under one arm. Since Scott was immobilized by his nanny, Cameron made a quick grab for the last of the bread, and then went after Scott, punching him hard in the stomach and hitting the nanny's arm in the process. Scott grabbed one of the Cameron's pigtails. The nanny grabbed Cameron with her other arm and practically threw her over two rows of children seated in pews to the lap of the Primary President. Leaning across two pews full of children to pry Scott's fingers off the Cameron's braided pigtail, the nanny hissed "Don't let her go," at the Primary president, who was probably twice her age and then some, and was married to the division chairman of the department from which the nanny sought to obtain a degree. 

With Scott under one arm, the nanny pointed at every sibling of each of the warriors one at a time with her free hand. "You, sit there!" she hissed at one. "You, over there," she directed another until all the siblings were seated far enough apart from one another to keep the family feud from re-erupting. She even pointed at Kent, he said, and admonished him in a loud whisper, "Don't you DARE even THINK about getting yourself involved in this!" ("I was just standing there holding my own little tray of bread and minding my own business," Kent whined many years after the fact.)

The nanny carried Scott back to her place at the organ bench, sat him in her lap, and ensured that the power source for the organ was turned off. The last thing the meeting needed at that point was an impromptu organ concert from three-year-old Scott. Satisfied that peace was restored, the nanny smiled at the congregation she faced as though it was just a normal day's work. She was all of eighteen years old.

"That's why we have a nanny, " Scott's dad whispered to his mom.

An older man, a humanities professor, seated in the row in front of Scott's mom and dad, turned and warned them in hushed tones, "You'd better be paying her well, because if you're not, the rest of them are going to pool their money and hire her out from under you."
"I hope no one minds if we skip the rest of the Sacrament and go straight to the children's program," the bishop announced from the pulpit. If anyone minded, they certainly didn't express their concerns. The program went off as has nearly every children's program in the history of Mormondom, to be remembered, if at all, only by its very epitomization of mediocrity. The real show that day was the program before the actual program.

how they're supposed to sit in church, but not necessarily the way they really sit

Friday, September 12, 2014

Preface to the Tribute to Judge Alex

This is merely the backstory. I'm saving ther best things I have to say about him until tomorow, or, at the very latest, before I head off to medical school on the 23rd.

Under ordinary circumstances, I'm  the absolute antithesis of  a procrastinator.  Whether it's dishes in the sink, material to be reviewed for a test, a composition that's due in four weeks, or piano accompaniment for a soloist that needs to be played through at least once prior to performance, it  goes against everything in my nature to save the job to be done until later. I'd wash the dishes before they'd even been used if doing so would accomplish anything. I  once went so far as to write an essay before the topic was assigned, making my best guess as to what the assigned topic might be, just in case I might be right and have a jump on the assignment.

Yet I'm  guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of procrastination when it comes to writing my personal eulogy, for lack of a better word, to the TV program Judge Alex.  I thank God and anyone else responsible for his continued well-being that it's only the TV show Judge Alex and not the star of the show himself, Alex Ferrer, that I'm eulogizing. Though the name of the show and the person hosting it have become synonymous in the minds of many, while the show is dead and gone [may it rest in peace] the man in the black robe 
continues to turn up on my TV. This very night, in fact, I saw him discussing the Daniel Pistorius case with Megyn Kelly on Fox News Channel's The Kelly File.

It occurred to me today that one obstacle to starting this rather daunting project is the back story, which threatens to take up more space than the actual tribute to Judge Alex itself.  (Note the  italics, which indicate that I'm referring to the TV program as opposed to the person. I'm not calling Alex Ferrer himself an it. I'm rude, but not that rude. To the best of my knowledge, Judge Ferrer's gender has never been in question.) While how I came across Judge Alex, and, in perhaps a sense, to know the man Alex Ferrer himself, is a part of the story, I didn't want the prequel to overtake the main event.  Additionally, there's that ever-present elephant in the room: we all know of the tendency with anything I write -- even something seemingly so unrelated as a research paper focusing upon sexual equality among pygmies dwelling in the Ituri rainforest, to be consumed by the inherent sub-theme of all my writings and, for that matter, of my life, which is the  almost unfathomable weirdness of those to whom I am related. 

The best way to keep such from happening, I decided, was to offer a preface or an introduction to the Judge Alex tribute. Perhaps doing such will  allow me get through the whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys, and hows of my relationship (I thought calling it a relationship might be a bit of a stretch, though the judge himself acknowledged it as such) with Judge Ferrer in order to proceed to the central theme in a more timely manner than might otherwise have happened . . . 

I began watching Judge Alex as a fourteen-year-old high school junior.  The circumstance by which I stumbled across the channel airing the show was of a most flukish nature. 

It was winter vacation. Ninety-nine out of one hundred parents would have considered their fourteen-year-old twins to be old enough to be at home alone for the daytime while their parents worked, but my parents are of a different archetype than are most of their parenting peers. My mother, as an educator in our school district, should, theoretically have had the same days off that the students in the district had.  She was, however, working  through part of her vacation with two other administrators on writing a grant to fund our district's teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention program. The irony was not lost on her that simultaneously, as she was writing a document to prevent negative consequences associated with teen sex,   the behaviors she was writing a grant to prevent could be occurring in her own home even as she wrote. It was unlikely that Matthew or I would have had anything too hot and heavy going on with  members of the opposite sex (or, for that matter, with members of the same sex) since neither of us was anything resembling an early-bloomer, but had we each invited a few friends over, nature might have run its course, and God knows what the outcome might have been. For that matter, in my mother's paranoid version of events, one of us might have decided to throw a RAVE at 10:00 a.m on a Tuesday in our home, which, I'm sure, would have been terribly well-attended, and which would have negated the benefits of the anti-substance abuse education grant my mom planned to write during spring vacation. Regardless  of the specificity of concerns my parents (mostly my mother; my father mostly did as he was told when it came to my mother's concerns about our potential bad-acting) might have had concerning what Matthew and I might have chosen to do with our spare time had we been unsupervised, it wasn't going to happen. We had a babysitter, who happened to be my dad. He did what little of his work he could do at home. The remainder of his time, he just harassed us.

TV time, which while school was in session was heavily restricted, was monitored considerably more leniently during vacation. At some point one afternoon in the days before Christmas, I flipped on the TV to see Maury Povich materialize on the screen. It was a rather bizarre episode [I believe it was a repeated episode, though that's neither here nor there] featuring a stage full of morbidly obese babies and toddlers. Every race, color, and creed appeared to be represented on the stage. Something about the macabre nature of the episode prevented me from changing the channel. 

I recall there having been a child who was roughly two-and-one-half years old who was so overweight that she could neither sit up nor pull herself up. The only position she was capable of assuming was one of lying prone or supine on whatever surface upon she was placed unless she was propped. Her sole mode of locomotion was rolling from one place to another.

I also recall a baby who could not be lifted by his mother, a woman  of normal build who did not appear to suffer from particular weakness, nor was it expressed that she suffered from any sort of a debilitating condition. The child's father didn't lift him with great ease. They put the kid on a scale right there on the stage, and he, at the ripe old age of six months, weighed in at seventy-five pounds.

Then they spoke to the parent of one of the rotund babies. This child was right around the twelve month mark. I think he was a fifty-five pounder, which was almost thin by the standards of many of the babies on the stage that day. A panel including Maury, a pediatrician, and a registered dietician questioned the mother of the one-year-old about the child's breakfast on an ordinary day. I have to give the mother credit for honesty, as I would never have admitted it had that been my child's typical breakfast [nor could I have afforded it without resorting to a life of crime]. (Note: I'm quoting the mother. Her syntax is indicative of a particular ethnicity. I'm not trying to poke fun at how she expressed herself. I am somewhat inappropriately poking fun, sad as it is, at what she thought was appropriate to feed her baby. Regarding my depiction of her dialect, however, it's not intended to be funny. I'm just restating her words as she spoke them.)

"I fix him a dozen eggs for breakfast." (It reminded me vaguely of the song Gaston sings in Beauty and the Beast except that what Gaston sang about eating paled in comparison to what this baby was fed.) "He usually have a half a loaf of bread for toast, and I don't put no more than a cube of butter on all his toast, which ain't that much with that much toast. He like to have that white Karo syrup on his toast. He have a half a gallon of chocolate milk. I keep pouring it in his bottle until the half gallon is empty. They make them baby bottles too small. Even if he want more, he don't get no more unless he take regular milk with Nestle Quik in it. He have frosted flakes," she began.

"How much frosted flakes?" a member of the panel asked.

"Just a box," the mother answered. 

"One of those miniature boxes that comes in a variety pack?" the registered dietician asked hopefully, approximating the size of a miniature  box with her hands.

"No, a regular box," the mother answered, motioning with her hands to indicated a box about a foot high. "And he have Hostess doughnuts -- the white powdered sugar ones."

"How many?" the pediatrician asked, sounding  almost afraid to hear the answer.

"Just one," answered the mother.

"Just one doughnut?" queried the pediatrician.

"No," clarified the mother. "Just one box. And sometimes he eat cinnamon rolls too. Those Pillsbury Dough boy kind. If I don't have time to cook 'em for him, he eat 'em raw out of the can."

By this time my brother Matthew had wandered into the family room and was mesmerized by what he was seeing and hearing. Matthew himself was known for an ability to consume huge quantities of food without any evidence ever appearing on his body. "Jeez!" he said. "You all say I'm a pig, and it would take me a week to eat what this baby eats in a day!"

"That's just his breakfast,  Matthew," I explained.

"Holy Mother of God!" he exclaimed. (Mom wasn't home, so such language wasn't an issue.)

The mother continued. "And he like to drink a jug or two of that Sunny Delight drink. I think it's just real orange juice, but he won't drink real orange juice. I don't know why." She had a puzzled look on her face.

"Probably because  real orange juice is missing the  30% or whatever of  high fructose corn syrup that's in Sunny Delight," the registered dietician commented, shaking her head.

The pediatrician spoke up. "Ma'am, do you realize what you're doing to your child's health by feeding him in this way?"

The mother became defensive. "If my baby want to eat," she said in clipped syllables and in a hostile tone, "my baby can eat."  She punctuated her statement by folding her arms.

Meanwhile, Matthew scooped  a large bowl of ice cream and covered it with so much chocolate syrup that  a person who hadn't seen the concoction under construction could not have discerned that there was ice cream under the chocolate syrup. "Didn't you just have ice cream about an hour ago, Matthew?" my dad asked.

"Forty-five minutes, " Matthew corrected him as he shoved a spoonful of the ice cream / chocolate syrup  mix into his mouth.

"It's like an hour until dinnertime," my dad complained.

"If your baby want to eat, " I told my dad, "your baby can eat."

My dad groaned.

"Alexis, either change the channel or turn the TV off," my dad ordered.

"Why?" Matthew and I responded in unison.

"It's just getting to the good part," Matthew added.

"Because just listening to it is making me sick," my dad answered. "You heard me. Turn it off or change the channel. Those are your two options."

I reached for the remote control and clicked up one channel, which landed me onto Judge Judy. "Great," my dad groaned again. "The lady with the shrill Brooklyn accent. I'll have a headache in five minutes."

"We'll turn it back to Maury," Matthew offfered.

"We wouldn't want you to get a headache," I added.

"No, I'll take the shrill Brooklyn lady over the morbidly obese babies who drink Sunny Delight by the jug," he conceded, thoroughly disappointing both of us.

I don't even remember the specifics of the case Judge Judy was adjudicating except that it involved an engagement ring. One party or the other brought the ring to court, and Judge Judy was examining it, twirling it around in her fingers and looking at it in the light. She looked pointedly at the young  man who must have been the prospective groom. "It's not exactly the Hope Diamond, is it?" she asked in a most snarky tone. I felt bad for the young man, who had bought the ring he could afford. What did Judge Judy expect him to do? Go out and rob a bank so he could purchase a diamond that would have been considered minimally acceptable by her standards? Get someone to co-sign for him so he could access credit to buy a larger diamond, and then promise to pay the person back with his tax refund?

"Did you hear that?" I asked my dad. I thought of the diamond my own mom wore on her left hand. It wasn't very large, particularly by Judge Judy's standards.  It was all my dad could afford at the time he proposed to her, while he was still in medical school. She now wears a much larger diamond on her right hand, but the small one on her left ring finger is the one that has the greater sentimental value if only a fraction of the extrinsic value of the one on her right ring finger.

"Pretty hard not to hear it at the volume she speaks," my dad answered.

"That wasn't very nice of her," I expressed my opinion.

"No, it wasn't," my dad answered. "I'm glad you caught that.
I'm not saying the shrill Brooklyn accent [I'm sure he knew her name, or at least the "Judge Judy" portion of it, but he refused to admit to it or to use it]  is a bad person, but I don't think she has any clue as to how at least 90% of the world's population lives. Not everyone had a dentist father to pay her college and law school tuition. Either that, or she knows better but is playing a role she's being paid to play." he paused. "Either way it doesn't speak well for her." He paused again. "Alexis, you don't have to watch this show, either. If you have to watch TV, why don't you see what else is on."

I scrolled up the channels until I came across I man I hadn't seen before, a robe-clad man seated at a bench with a gavel in his right hand. Another TV court show, I thought to myself. It seemed that there were getting to be quite a few of the genre available for the public's viewing pleasure, particularly if one had cable, Direct TV, or satellite.  The man's rather large face seemed to take up most of the TV screen, or perhaps it was just the camera angle. He did have flawless skin, though -- skin that even TV cosmetics couldn't make to appear THAT good. He had lovely pearly-white teeth as well -- the kind my aunt had paid five thousand dollars in endeavor to procure but still hadn't quite managed to obtain. (I know how much the procedure cost her because she "borrowed" the money from my dad eight years ago and had yet to repay a cent. My dad's philosophy on lending money to relatives, particularly to ones of which he is less than fond, is often to go ahead and let them have the money they ask for. Then they avoid you like the plague. It's a small price to pay, he says, not to have to deal with them.) The judge's flawless skin was slightly olive-toned, and his hair, depending upon the way the light shone upon it, was either very dark brown or black. The man  looked oddly familiar, though I couldn't hazard a guess as to why.

"Dad, look at this guy. Have you seen him before?" I thought maybe he'd been on a TV series or perhaps had been a newscaster. 

My dad looked up from his work at the kitchen counter and stared at the TV for a moent. "He looks a lot like Uncle Jerry. He's probably Cuban-American, too." Once my dad mentioned it, I could see the resemblance.

My Uncle Jerry is not my uncle either by  biology or marriage but has been my dad's best friend since seventh grade, and I have always considered him my uncle. He was the obstetrician of record at my c-section delivery who signed my birth certificate, though my dad, also an MD, was the one who actually removed me from my mother's womb. Uncle Jerry took my brother Matthew out immediately afterward -- a fact I've never let my brother forget.  My brother may be bigger and everyone who doesn't know us may assume he's at least three years older than I, but birth certificates don't usually lie (unless you're one of those birther people  who refuse to believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii) and I am the older twin.

I started to scroll up to another channel. My dad stopped me. "Wait a minute" he requested. "Let's watch this for a sec."

I don't even remember that much about the case. I think it might have had something to do with whether or not a boy had permission to use his girlfriend's parents' ATV, and whose fault it was that it was wrecked when he was riding it. I can't even remember if the judge ruled in favor of the boy or the girl's parents, who were suing him for damages. What I remember was that the judge had a quick sense of humor and wasn't above taking an occasional verbal shot at a litigant who really opened himself or herself up to it, but, in general, tended to be  self-deprecating in his humor and to far more often make jokes at his own expense than at anyone else's. He had an easy ongoing banter with his bailiff, who was at that time a Houston police officer named Victor. The show was at the time filmed in Houston because the judge, who lived in Miami, had children and didn't want to give up an entire day of being with them each direction on flights from Miami to the shooting location.

My dad had wanted to watch because he was trying to identify the judge's regional accent. (The judge has no foreign accent.) After a few moments, my dad had accomplished his goal of identifying the judge's place of origin, or at least where he had grown up. "He's from Miami or at least south Florida. You can change the channel now if you want, but not either to Maury Povich or to the shrill Brooklyn lady."

"That's OK," I said. "I'll watch this."  I didn't realize it, but it was the very beginning of a nearly seven-year obsession.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

an edited repost for OzDoc, Jaci, Knotty, Becca, Donna, Marianne, various anons, and for anyone else who reads senseless drivel on occasion; this one's still not for the judge, as I'm still working on his

This is a rather avante garde picture someone came up with of former St. Lous Carnials' pitcher Joaquin Andujar.

Note: This is a reprint  to kill time as I'm working on my dad's family's genalogy. I did really well with the sibs, their spouses, and their children. It's the next generation that is throwing me for a bit of a loop. i'm having trouble locating all the children's names.  I'm not sure where they dreamed up some of their kids' names, unless they used the Scrabble letter method, whereby they plucked out x number of Scrabble tiles without peeeking and forced themselves to combine the letters in the best way they could to form a name.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my  brother was in a hip hop group whose number one local hit was "People Who Throw Glass Houses Shouldn't Get Stoned." I didn't mention the name of the group, They called themselves Feverish Pitch and the Useless Dominican Infield.  (None were actually of Dominican descent, which is unfortunate. A bit of Dominican blood might possibly have added a bit of rhythm and musicality to a group otherwise largely devoid of both.)  

The band, and I use the term band loosely in this case,  wore various part of baseball uniforms as their band costumes. One guy just wore a  jersey with sliding pants under it. One guy wore  a specially made "Shoeless Joe Jackson" uniform. My brother wore baseball pants but was shirtless, with cleats tied together and hanging around his neck.  Another guy wore an over-sized jersey with the neck buttoned  around his waist and a "wife-beater" type T-shirt. I hope he was wearing at least boxers under the jersey, but I could not say for certain that such was the case.The last  guy wore a custom- made "Joaquin Andujar" uniform.

The sad thing was that their name and their uniforms were the best thing about them as a band. My brother's not a bad singer , and he has some guitar skills as well, but he couldn't play and sing everyone else's part at the same time as his own. Shoeless Joe Jackson played a recorder when he wasn't singing, but he was not terribly talented at either. The bass player (the sliding pants guy) played only in the key of A, which made things a bit dissonant when the song was in a different key. (Matthew said it was their "trademark sound." I would've looked for a new trademark had it been up to me.) The keyboard player --the guy who wore wife-beaters, played keyboards decently, but could not have sung on key had his very life depended on it. This did not stop him from singing -- quite loudly and into the microphone. "Joaquin Andujar" banged irrhythmically on a drum set as he loudly blurted out near-obscenities (he couldn't use bona fide obscenities because school events were their primary venues) in what sounded like  an exceedingly poor stereotypical imitation of a person with Tourette syndrome.

These guys made quite a lot of money playing for various school-related dances primarily because they were cute. Had they not had such an odd name, however -- Feverish Pitch and the Useless Dominican Infield -- no one would have remembered them when the time came for the hiring of a band. They were all baseball players. My brother was the starting rotation pitcher who played shortstop when he wasn't pitching. The rest were infielders. My brother supposedly once pitched a complete game with a 103-degree fever.  That's where the "Feverish Pitch" came from. I think I actually coined the"Useless Dominican Infield" part of the name, though I haven't a clue as to what I was thinking of when I called them that. They were too stupid to know when they were being insulted, and voila!; a name for their "band" was born.

I heard that Feverish Pitch and the Useless Dominican Infield is planning a reuinion gig for sometime during Christmas vacation of this year. I plan to have other plans for whenever this reunion gig is scheduled, and I highly recommend that any readers with any sense of musical discernment whatsoever do the same. I've recommended to my brother than he hold this reunion concert nowhere near our medical school. It doesn't say anywhere in the handbook both of us were given that a student can be thrown out of medical school for being a member of a really pathetic band, but if I were he, I would not take the risk.

Speaking of family and rather odd names, you may remember that my Aunt Cristelle, my father's youngest sister, and her her husband Mendel had a baby last year, whom they named Blitzen Manx. My dad just calls the child Mutt.  One of the more memorable things about the whole fiasco was that Cristelle had planned to give birth in an ash grove on a bed of rose petals. My dad said it was not happening if he had to fly himself (he has no pilot training) in a twin-engine Cessna to the Isle of Man to drop-kick Cristelle's butt in the direction of the nearest maternity ward on the Isle of Man, where they lived and still live. My Uncle Michael, who grew up more closely with Cristelle because they were only a year and change apart in age, said not to worry, because he knew all about Cristelle's tolerance, or lack thereof, for pain. He said that the "bed of roses" delivery would last about as long as the first real contraction, at which time Cristelle would be screaming for an epidural or a Caesarean or whatever it took to put her out of her misery. Uncle Michael was absolutely right. Blitzen Manx was born by Caesarean delivery after short and epidural-controlled labor. He was, after all, born on a bed of roses, as my mom had purchased a bedsheet printed with roses. She had it sterilized and sealed, and sent it Special Delivery to the Isle of Man in time for Blitzen Manx's birth.

Yesterday Cristelle, with Mendel by her side, gave birth to their second child -- this one a girl. She was born by planned Caesarean delivery on a similar "bed of roses" sheet that my mom had purchased, and had  sterilized, essentially hermetically sealed, and sent via express delivery to the Isle of Man. My new little cousin weighed in at eight pounds, twelve ounces and measured twenty-one-and-one-half inches in length, though I tend to agree with my mom that a baby's precise  length is pretty arbitrary and that it all depends upon just how far a nurse feels like stretching a baby on a given day. Still, that's a decent-sized baby that didn't have a donkey's chances in the Kentucky Derby  of being delivered vaginally. Rousseau woman tend to have babies with rather large heads. My mom is not a Rousseau, so Matthew and I had normal-sized heads.

Anyway, what you have been waiting for with bated breath is this baby's name. How does a set of parents go about topping Blitzen Manx as a name?  They'd clearly set the bar precariously high for themselves this time, though I think they cleared it with inches to spare. This baby is named Antarctica Meringue.  They have no explanation as to the significance of the name or how they arrived at it. My dad said such is typical, as there's seldom any logic to anything they do.  My dad refuses to call this baby by either of her given names. He was going to call her Cindy, Jan,or Marcia, he said, because of the hours the baby's mom used to sit in front of a TV  watching The Brady Bunch reruns, until I reminded him of the "Cindy" character's doll's name --  Kitty Carry-all. He said that's the baby's new name as far as he's concerned.

Both mother and baby, in addition to father and eighteen-month-old  brother, who must be treated with care to avoid having his pushed nose severely out of joint, are so far thriving. My Uncle Michael's wife, Aunt Joanne, has a little time off, and has caught a plane over to London and then on to the Isle of Man to help with the chores and logistical realities of caring for two babies at once after the mother has just undergone major surgery.  She'll be there for about three weeks, after which my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather will show up for a week. Following that, my  parents will arrive for another ten days or so. By that time, Cristelle and Mendel will be so sick of relatives that they will be thrilled to be on their own even if it means both babies scream their heads off non-stop.

I wish I could  visit the babies.

Post-script: Cristelle hears her own drummer, and she doesn't even march all that steadily to the beat her personal drummer pounds out. BYU wasn't right for her, so she moved in with an aunt and uncle in Massachusetts and enrolled in a college there, where she became a practicing Wiccan.  She met Mendel through her college's Wiccan society. They married about ten years ago and have been happily living the non-Mormon life since then.

Short-term Paternal Genealogy of Alexis

/Borrowing lines from a Mormon children's song, I have a family tree with branches by the almost-dozens, My dad's family's tree has eleven branches with the requisite uncles, aunts, and cousins.

1. Grandpa
2. Grandma
         1. John Pierre (married Erin)
               1. Alexis        Note: Alexis and Matthew are twins. Alexis was removed first, but Matthew followed within less
               2  Matthew    than a minute, so the birth times of record are the same for both twins

        2. Marthalene (married Mahonri)
               1. Marthalette
               2. Rilene
               3. Bradford
               4. Moriancumer
               5. Reed
               6  Lyman
               7, Hyrum
               8. Boyd
               9. Kinnard
              13. Joseph
       3. Angelie (married to James)
                1. Joshua
                2. Todd
                3 . Laura
                4.  Dianne
                5.  Caleb
                6. Abraham
                7. Spencer
                8. Nathan
                9. Chelsea
              10. Gregory.
       4. Elyse  (married to Lee)
                1. Franklin
                2. Bryce
                3. Gina
                4. Natalie
                5. Emma
                6. Scott
                7  Hannah
                8. Damon (note: Damon and Dallin are fraternal twins)
                9. Dallin
        5. Celine (married to Elon)
                1. Penny
                2. Christine
                3. David
                4, Randall
                5. Nicolle
                6. Elizabeth
                7. William
                8. Kensington
        6. Marie-Therese (married to Virl)
                1, Dilene
                2  Deanna
                3  Dennis
                4  Douglas
                5. Denise
                6. Dawnae
                7  Devin
                8. Daniel
                9  Dixie
               12 TBA
        7. Claudine (married to Corbin)
                1. Alexander
                2. Russell
                3. Clark
                4. Trent
                5. Rhett
                6. Blake
                7. Leticia
                8. Brock
        8. Francoise (twin to Marie-Therese; died at 3 months of age)
         9, Steven (married to Heather)
                .1. John-Michael
                 2. Caroline
       10. Michael (married to Joanne)
                 1. Ryan
                 2. Ariel
       11. Cristelle (married to Mendel)
                 1. Blitzen Manx  (My dad's nickname for him is "Mutt," It's probably no worse than his given name.)
                 2. Antarctica Meringue   (otherwise known, courtesy of my dad, as Kitty Carry-all)


More Family Dirt

This is NOT Mahonri, though the resemblance is uncanny. I believe this guy purchases his own household goods, for the record.

Now that it's time for me to do what I must do and no longer procrastinate,  I have a slew of topics  to address -- I have a request about to write more about my looney Mormon relatives,  someone in  the Duggar family is always doing stupid,  one of the extended Kardashain/faux Kardashians  has dropped the last name of Jenner in favor of no last name at all, and Joan Rivers is in grave condition but possibly improving,  I'll address the other topics at a later date. but tonight I will talk about family since there is actual family news.

My cousin Marthalette, daughter of Mahonri the kleptomaniac/common thief, and dad's sister Marthalene, known more for her general idiocy and singing voice that sounds more like a garbage truck when it's compressing the trash than like an actual singing voice, is pregnant with what I believe is her seventh child. It's tough to keep track, as she has at least two sets of twins, and furthermore, all Mahonri's and Marthalene's children and grandchildren look so freakingly similar that it's a virtual impossibility to know which Mahonri/Marthalene  spawn from which any of them sprung.  Their offspring all have big faces, humongous teeth, and dark hair, which is unusual in my dad's family, where dishwater blonde to dusty brown is the reigning shade for anyone (myself in this group, I readily admit; my lighter shade of blondeness is courtesy of chemicals)  who doesn't rely on Lady Clairol or her counterparts to brighten things up  a bit.

As I said once before about Mahonri, and it pertains to his entire clan, including his wife (?!?!?!?), they all look amazingly like Osmonds, except like the least attractive Osmonds imaginable. Take maybe a young Jimmy Osmond, darken his hair, uglify him by a few hundred degrees, and you have a member of the Mahonnri/Marthalene clan.

The look seems if anything to be getting stronger into the next generation. I don't really want to live forever, but if I did, the reason would be to see just how strong is what I refer to as the Mahonrilene gene that produces their trademark look.  I'd love to see how many generations it might continue if allowed to follow its natural course, or I'd even like to practice a bit of eugenics, as in perhaps mating a few Mahonrilenes with actual Osmond decendants to see what the outcome might be. Alas, I'm not going to live forever, but if I record it in my will, perhaps my descendants and their descendants will follow the familial line so someone will be kept apprised in the interest of science.

One of the objects that most frequently disappears from relatives' homes when Mahonri visits is toothpaste. I'd never given this matter much thought except to hide my personal stash of toothpaste after every single tube in the house was once stolen and I was forced to brush my teeth with baking soda the next morning because my dad refused to make an emergency trip to a store just for toothpaste. Now that I think of it, though, it makes sense. The collective family has roughly four times the tooth surface per person to cover as compared to the average person in the average family. The money to pay for the extra toothpaste, were the toothpaste to be obtained in the manner most of us procure our toothpaste, which is to purchase it in a store, would make a serious dent in the family budget. Mahonri works for the Church Educational System, which would indicate to anyone who knows such things that, unless he's in the upper echelons of leadership, which he decidedly is not, he's no Bill Gates.. Hell, he's lucky to even have his job teaching high school seminary after he was caught stealing a crate of disposable douches behind a big box store somewhere in either Sandy or Draper -- I always get those two cities confused.  I think the church used mental illness as a justification for not giving Mahonri the axe. They weren't far off on the mental illness diagnosis, though the verdict is not yet in as to whether his stealing is related to said mental illness or to a disinclination either to use effective birth control  or to find a second job or a higher-paying first job.

Marthalette believes two things about birth control of which I'm aware. Number one --and I'm not sure if she clings to this belief any longer -- is that douching oneself with Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, not Shasta, not store-brand soda, not RC cola, which is still sold, oddly enough, in some parts of Utah. (I suspect Royal Crown, Inc. just took the stock that was bottled in 1983 and didn't sell elsewhere and brough it to central and rural Utah to pawn off on the indiscriminating population) but Coca-Cola immediately after the wild thing has been done. There are certain details to which I was not privy; I don't know whether Marthalette took her douche bag with her on her date, either pre-filled with Coca cola, or  filled it with a freshly opened can immediately after coitus, or if she simply riushed home after her date to take care of business. Either way, her earliest stabs at the Coke douche method of birth control were unsuccessful. She conceived child number one around her sixteenth birthday, long before any wedding vows or even marriage proposals were exchanged.

I'm not sure marriage proposals were ever exchanged. I think it was more of a matter of  Mahonri kidnapping the prospective father at shotgunpoint at six a.m. the day after the home pregnancy test came out screaming positive. You know how those things usually tell you to wait either two or three to five minutes before checking the indicator? (I know none of this from personal experience, but I always kept my ears open when classmates were discussing their pregnancy scares in the minutes before the professors showed up.) The very second a drop of  fluid hit the dipstick, a plus sign appeared. Marthalette was probably out of her first trimester by the time it occurred to her that her clothing was getting a bit tight, that she hadn't been paid any recent visits by the hemoglobin fairy, and that  her method of birth control perhaps needed, at the very least, a little tweaking. And, as I was saying before I digressed, the closest thing to a proposal was when Delbert chose not to  jump out of Mahonri's 4-door pickup as it traveled 70 mph down the highway to the courthouse to pick up the marriage license, and then on to the bishop's living room for the 9:15 a.m wedding. I'm told the ceremony was quaint to say the least.

Mahonri boldly walked in and emptied the little dishes of after-dinner mints from the counter by the register of every Golden Corral and Chuck-a-Rama in the county  to serve at the reception that evening, along with the wedding cake Aunt Elyse threw together using borrowed cake mixes and cans of frosting from everyone on her block. It gave a whole new meaning to the term "dump cake."

The invitations were xeroxed "Come as you are. No gift registration. Please bring cash as your gift. Bills only" on duplicator paper stolen from the church. My younger male cousins ran all over their little town and the groom's equally un-gated community of residence ringing doors and handing the flyers out to the unsuspecting residents.

To make a too long story not too much longer (sorry Jaci; even when I think I have a short topic, it burgeons out of control if it pertains to the family), six babies later, Marthalette is once again enceinte.(I love dragging obscure words from the cobwebs of my mind.)  For all we know, it could be twins again. For that matter, triplets is far from an impossibility.

I've already purchased my shower gift. I wouldn't be invited if the Mahonrilenes thought there was the slightest chance I might show up, but they know I can't travel to Utah in October. For that matter, why would one hold a baby shower in October for an expectant mother due in February? My guess is that they'll hope we all forget about the October shower, and they'll throw another one in January and expect us all to spring for another truckload of gifts. But back to the shower gift I've already purchased.  I went to Costco and got a carton with ten tubes of toothpaste. The kid  or kids probably will not be born with teeth, though  I wouldn't bet the mortgage on it, but the teeth'll come in with a vengeance before we know it. (Did I mention that the Mahonrilenes were also the biggest biters in the family?) I also got a thirty-two pack of toilet paper, not because the baby needs it, but because  it's  gift for a member of his immediate family of another item Mahonri could just as easily steal, and it will make him angry. Making Mahonri angry makes my day, week, month, and year. . perhaps even decade.

Disposable douches were on sale. I seriously considered buying a bulk package, but anyway one views it, a box of disposable douches is a rude gift - wedding shower, baby shower, Christmas, birthday, Groundhog Day, or otherwise. Few things are beneath my dignity, but giving someone a gift of disposable douches is where i draw the line. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Drinks, Alcoholic and Otherwise

You may be able to rid your first aid kit of Syrup of Ipecac if you keep Mountain Dew on hand.

I realized last night as I was writing about drinking Grape Crush from the stash that my mom bought in mass quantity that I'm giving others the opinion that I drink sugary drinks the way my dog drinks water.  I don't. No one in my family does. We tend to have large quantitites of the stuff oin hand, particularly in the summer, for entertainment purposes, but I don't drink it on a regular basis. I drink water when I'm thirsty. I drink real lemonade for a few extra calories and also because it's good for slowing kidney stone formation. I drink soda when I go out for a meal if I don't feel like having water. I drink seven up or ginger ale sometimes if my stomach is upset. I otherwise drink maybe one or two sodas a week at home.

When my brother and I were really little, we only got soda when we went out to dinner or when we had road trips, and it could not be caffeinated soda. Once in awhile my parents would mistakenly buy fruit-flavored soda that had caffeine in it, but such such screw-ups were rare. They didn't worry about what we ate or drank at birthday parties or in general at other people's  homes, but if they happened to find out that any friend's parent offered unlimited access to sugar, we rarely got to go to that friend's house.

Once we turned twelve, they ceased to worry about whether or not the soda that we ordered had caffeine in it. Once we got into high school, they  actually bought soda that was kept at our house, which we were allowed to have on Saturday nights as long as we had milk for dinner. By the time we were fifteen or so, we were allowed to offer soda to our friends and have some ourselves when we were entertaining.

Now, if a person looked inside our garage, that person would conclude that we probably brush our teeth with carbonated beverages, possibly bathe or shower with the stuff, pour it in the dog's water dish, use it as an all-purpose cleaner, and possibly even pour it in our swimming pool. Last night when my uncle was here, I counted 214 bottles of the various Crushes, root beer, Coke,  Pepsi, and Mountain Dew, about which I will say more momentarily. That didn't take into account the six-packs of regular-sized and mini-sized cans of Seven-up, Pepsi,  Coke, Dr, Pepper, and a few miscellaneous diet drinks. My uncle says we're good Mormons in one regard: we have at least a two-year supply of carbonated soft drinks for our family. (There's even more in the refigerators and the bar.)  Mormons are supposed to maintain a two-year-supply of food, water, other drinks, and any necessary supplies. We're compliant on the soft drink front even though we're not  Mormons. We have that covered.

We have a little more of everything than we did in northern California, both because our house is bigger and we have more storage space and because we are, as far as anyone knows, a little closer to the worst of earthquake country, so it's not a bad idea to have a couple months of life's basic necessities on hand. We don't have a  two year supply  of anything other than sodas and maybe toothpaste, which we seem to accumulate at a ridiculous rate.  Otherwise, we could probably eat for a few months on what we have in the house. We wouldn't necessarily be eating all that well, but we could sustain ourselves for two to three months.

Regarding Mountain Dew, I don't quite know where to begin.  My mom saw a large stack of bottles of Mountain Dew in the grocery store being sold for a rather inexpensive price. There's a reeason for that. If  a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.Neither Matthew nor I had ever tasted Mountain Dew, so we put a few bottles in the fridge and had some one Saturday night. (Old traditions die hard.) Matthew ran to the sink and spit his mouthful of Mountain Dew out. I'm not quite so crass; I swallowed mine, but it gave me a headache for the rest of the night because it was so vile.  My mother started to complain because no one was drinking the Mountain Dew. My dad reminded her that no one in the family had asked for it, but that didn't shut her up. I tried bringing a couple of bottles in at a time, opening them, and pouring them down the kitchen  drain, but once I did not exercise sufficient caution.  Just as I was rinsing the second bottle, I noticed my mom standing inside the pantry watching my every move. She went ballistic.

I eventually learned that while my friends didn't actually like the stuff, Meredith, Jared, and Alyssa could be bribed to drink it at a rate of $1 per bottle. That was probably the single saddest thing about my breakup with Jared. He's still around occasionally, but for awhile he was at our house every day, and he was good for two bottles of the stuff a day at a bare minimum. He's  6'6" and not necessarily finished growing, and has to find calories anywhere he can in order to avoid looking like a skeleton. Anyway, the vile fluid that my mom got at such a bargain rate has ended up costing me six bucks per six-pack in order  to make it disappear. Great deal you got there, Mom. I think we're down to about three six-packs. I cannot  for the life of  me figure out how the company stays in business by producing a beverage that tastes like . . . I will not even say what it tastes like. Ask my brother. He'll gladly tell you.

No one in my house drinks diet sodas because we're mostly a little thinner than we'd like to be. If weight isn't an issue, the stuff put into diet sodas is probably worse for a person than the high fructose corn syrup, although that can exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, both of which I have, . Most of the Pepsi that I drink has real sugar as its sweetening ingredient. I tend to drink that when I'm not drinking Grape Crush.  If  I heard from a reliable source that Grape Criush was sweetened with heroin, I'd probably drink it anyway. Besides, my mom bought the last five known six-packs of it in the county. We consumed almost two six-packs yesterday. We sent an additional six-pack with my delightful Uncle Lee. I counted fourteen bottles of it tonight.

I took two of the fourteen bottles to hide in the refrigerator in my room. I'll probably try to save them and take them with me to medical school. If I ever have a truly rough day there, a bottle of Grape Crush might make things better. If I were more like most people my age, I'd squirrel away some alcohol for such days, but I don't honestly like the stuff.  I'm sure Matthew will take enough booze to make it look like both of us are bona fide alcoholics, but he's not necessarily a problem drinker, either. He likes to get a good buzz once in awhile, but he never gets behind the wheel of a car after consuming even one drink, because the legal limit is .0000 for anyone under twenty-one.

I will take Guinness, because I still consume two half-bottles a week for weight gain or at least maintenance purposes. . I was mildly concerned about the local authorities busting our house and arresting me for possession of Guinness and Matthew for possession of the entire liquor store's worth of alcoholic beverages that Matthew will probably have. My dad said that as long as our condo doesn't become the party headquarters of the region for underage drinkers, and as long as neighbors have no reason to complain to authorities, my Guinness should fly under the radar easily enough. Almost everyone in medical school will be over twenty-one, so there will be no incentive to hang out with a couple of nineteen-year-olds just to gain access to our booze when nearly everyone else can walk into a store and buy whatever they want to drink.

Furthermore, he said, he and my mom are the legal owners of the condo. They have a right to keep alcohol there. If Matthew starts to show up for classes and labs hung over every morning, someone might have reason to complain, but otherwise no one should  care. We're surrounded by mostly young families and married or cohabitating couples who don't care what we do as long as we don't bother them.

We're not exactly going to be the "in crowd"' in our medical school class. I can't speak for Matthew, but I'll be happy even to be ignored by the others as long as I'm not picked on or excluded for study groups. I have no intention of using alcohol to be popular. That wasn't even done when I attended university; that was a high school sort of thing to do, except I wasn't given that much freedom in high school.

Right now I'm going on and on about soda and booze for no good reason except that I'm procrastinating because I don't want to blog about the end of "Judge Alex" the TV show. Judge Alex the person still lives and thrives..