Archive for December, 2013

Shrimp & Grits

Bonnie Raitt is singing Rainy Day Man, I’m sipping on an ice-cold bottle of water (I hate to tamper with the image, but it’s true) and I have a mind, body, and spirit that are full of holiday cheer. I could listen to some Christmas tunes, and I probably will before I turn off the lights, but Ms. Raitt and my iTunes mix will do perfectly for the next hour or so.

I’m gonna make this short and sweet. You have to go to Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill NC sometime in your life. You simply must. You guys read my stories; you know that I know a lot of stuff – I’m like way experienced. I have done it all, I have been everywhere, and I have seen everything, and of all the things I have done, seen, and been to…even the stuff that I’ve lied about, nothing in this world is better than a plate of shrimp & grits at Crook’s Corner.

Nothing… I would eat this meal if they called it ‘Puppies & Grits’.

Crook’s Corner has a rich history that you can read about and appreciate on their website, they also have a beautiful bartender named Susie that you cannot appreciate from the website…you must go to the restaurant site, in person, and feel the embrace of her smile, and be cast under the spell of her eyes. My only regret about this evening’s visit is that I just shook her hand; I didn’t talk her into a hug. I’m more of a hugger than a handshaker, and I think a hug with a girl like her would stay with you for a while. Susie has an energy, or maybe an aura, that my humble writing skills won’t even attempt to capture; in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if she was even real…she might be some kind of spirit or something.

The restaurant is an artsy looking building (with a big pig on top) that stands at its original location on the corner of West Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road. This is the western end of Chapel Hill where it borders with the town of Carrboro. You have no excuse now; I’ve told you exactly where it is. You should be looking at your calendar or at Expedia, right now, planning your trip.

The inside of the restaurant is decorated with lots of original art – I think most of it is from local artists, and I think most of it is for sale. (None of it matches the art that is Susie) Tonight, I dined with a slightly older crowd (my age) for a college town, but then again, I guess professors have to eat too. Crook’s is a foodie’s place – it’s not a ‘wings and beer’ place. They have an impressive wine list, and while the food prices are not budget breakers, it’s not a cheap place to eat.  

My first visit to Crook’s was in 2003, I was traveling with an idiot boss, and while we were on an eastbound Delta flight, he told me to “…budget enough time to get some shrimp and grits at Crook’s Corner for dinner one night while we’re in Chapel Hill.”

“I don’t like shrimp, or grits”, was my less than passionate reply.

“Trust me. You’ll like this place, and it’s not really an option” He was passionate.

I couldn’t “trust” him because I don’t trust idiots, but I would honor his directive because he was my boss, and it really wasn’t that big of a deal to me, I can always find something on a menu that works.

I didn’t give it much more thought, until about four minutes later, while thumbing through the Delta Sky inflight magazine, there is a feature in the ‘destinations’ section on North Carolina, and Crook’s Corner! The restaurant got a page and a half on its history, and how every President since Gerald Ford or so, has been to the place, and had eaten shrimp and grits. While I was amused by the coincidence, I felt the same way you’re feeling right now… I wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t really care.

And then we went. I had a nice beer – nothing memorable. I wanted to order a steak, but my boss insisted that I step outside my comfort zone. I did. It was delicious, fantastic, awesome, betterthansexexceptnotreallybecausethatisalwaysastupidanalogy, but…it was really, really, tasty. I loved it!

Then something terrible happened, the customer who had an office in Chapel Hill moved. They moved to friggin Canton OH. So now I can only stop when I’m passing through, and not in a rush…these conditions are extremely rare in my world. Fortunately, this evening, I wasn’t in a rush, and I just happened to be passing through. A Christmas miracle!

SHRIMP & GRITS – shrimp sautéed w/ bacon, mushrooms & scallions & served over cheese grits…

…this is exactly how it’s presented on the menu. But they can’t be telling us everything; it has to be more than this. Each bite is a multi-layered flavor explosion. That is the worst description of anything I’ve ever written, but it’s all I can think of. If I could properly describe it, it would make it ordinary.

What I love about my craft & micro-brewed beers is the depth and layers of flavor with the good ones. A good I.P.A. will have a citrus or pine nose just after you pour a glass, then a stronger citrus with some malt on the front end of that first sip, this comes from the hops in the beer, and then it will finish with a spice or a floral note. You taste three things in one sip. It’s similar to what you experience when you kiss my wife. Ask anyone.

The Shrimp & Grits entre` from Crook’s Corner has eight ingredients, and each bite gives you thirty-six flavors, about fifteen textures, and multiple foodgasms. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, renounce your faith for just one day, and go to Chapel Hill. Now that I’ve had it, I would eat this meal if they made it with lizards.

I had mine with beer tonight, because I roll like that, but the meal would be better matched with an appropriate white wine. I would ask Susie what she thinks next time I go there, and then I might ask her for a hug.

Okay…some Christmas tunes now.

Thank you so much for reading, and for another year of giving me a place to shout. As I hit this publish button, I’m doing my absolute best to resist ranting about freedom of speech, thoughts, beliefs, and the right to be wrong, or different…or stupid.  John F. Kennedy said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs”…this makes sense to me.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays…may you all have a Happy, Safe, & Prosperous New Year. Big Love!

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Part One: Topsoil, Puppies, & Spineless Douche Bags

Some stories are difficult to tell. Sometimes, as you sit alone with your thoughts in the quiet void of a lonely hotel room, the particulars of a life experience can make you afraid of your memories. However, I have to tell this story.

The series of events I endured in June of 2004 were unfortunate and painful. Over the course of 4 days; an illness threatened my life, and an injury took my pride. In almost all situations, I will gladly trade my life for pride. Life is short, pride lasts….umm…like a lifetime. Please trust that it all happened, and it happened exactly the way I’m telling you.


June was turning into a busy month, but a great month. I was a regional salesman working for a manufacturing outfit in Kansas City. The job required a lot of out of town, interstate travel, but this month I had clients coming to town to visit our facility for a change, and it was a nice change. I still had late meetings, customer dinners and events, but when the work day was over, instead of the sterile greetings from the overworked and underpaid staff at another hotel, I got to come home to the yipping voice of my Border Terrier, the tiny hugs and butterfly kisses from my 2 children, and the warm embrace of my loving wife. This was satisfying.

Coolest of all, my one trip away from home was a short 3 hour drive north to Omaha to spend a few days with a customer who would be better described as a good friend. I was excited about this particular trip because we were going to attend a game or 2 of the College World Series. The CWS is always hosted by the City of Omaha, and it’s a pretty tough ticket to get.  My buddy held event passes for the entire series, and he very generously invited me to join him for a day. Great perk for a not so great job.

Actually, not a great job at all. It’s a sad day when you come to the realization that your vocation has become something less than satisfying. The epiphany came to me earlier that spring as I sat, delayed 3 hours, on a runway at Reagan National Airport in DC. It was the second leg of my trip home, and I was feeling sorry for myself because the delay was going to cause me to miss an Easter celebration event at my daughter’s preschool. As I sat on the runway thinking about the spineless, talentless, sack full of douche bags that were currently in charge of my financial future, it occurred to me that if I stayed at this job, I would likely become one of them. This notion was unsatisfying. I could look at myself in the mirror and I could live with talentless. Talentless is not a deal breaker – not everybody can be talented, and I had gone far in my sales career without much talent. A douche bag isn’t anything I aspire to be, in fact, I’m not even 100% sure I really know what a douche bag is, but in the figurative sense of the term, and what I understand it to mean, I’ve on occasion been a douche bag, and up to that point in my life I never really hated myself. But spineless was a label that I knew I couldn’t live with, a metaphorical yoke that I would be forced to shed. I usually have a backbone. I’ve never backed down from a position that I believed to be right…if it was important. I never said yes, when I knew that no was fair and just. I’ve been wrong, but not spineless.

I sat on that plane, thought about my daughter singing and doing the bunny hop dance in her little bunny hop costume, and I asked myself why I wasn’t home to see it. I didn’t like my answers, so I decided to change.

A little web research earned me an interview with a Large industrial supply company based in my hometown. A little charm and my BS (not the degree) earned a second interview. They wanted to see me right away for the second chat, but they understood my travel schedule, so they agreed to see me in about a week, on the Friday after I returned from my Omaha trip. This opportunity smelled as sweet as a barbeque pit in a brewery.

So on the Friday before my busy & eventful week, I pondered my upcoming schedule: Visitors in town on the coming Monday & Tuesday, drive to Omaha Tuesday night, watch college baseball at Rosenblatt Stadium on Wednesday, drive home Thursday, and nail the interview on Friday and hopefully, resign – with extreme prejudice, on Monday. What a schedule!

Confucius says the man who seeks revenge must always remember to dig two graves.

I decide on this same preceding Friday that some yard work would be in order for the next day, it was going to be a beautiful weekend, and we had some erosion on the north side of my house that needed tending.  I was going to build a multi-terraced retaining wall, with each terrace being a little garden.

My young and spirited daughter loved to travel with me just about anywhere; so on Saturday morning when I asked her if she want to go to Home Depot, she gave me a loud and excited “Ruff!” She decided she was going to be a puppy today. She was almost always a puppy or a horse, she was just 5-years old, and it was so fucking adorable when she would communicate with animal noises. It didn’t agitate us at all when she would answer your questions with a bark, or a neigh, sometimes the bleat of a goat, or the bah of a sheep. The quacking duck was especially endearing. Waitresses, coaches, teachers and our adult neighbors found it as charming as her mother and I did.

So I strap my little “puppy” into the child seat of my pick-up, and we head to our hardware super store for some landscaping blocks, and 1,600lbs of top soil served up in 40lb bags. My little angel barked at every passer-by we encountered, they looked at her and smiled, and looked at me with a grimace…”What the heck is wrong with your kid, dude”. I smiled back; it was a “go fuck yourself” smile, but only because I was humiliated.

We made our transaction, pulled our overloaded F-150 out of the parking lot, and made our very short drive home. That was the last good moment of my week.

I was wearing a pair of Topsiders, because I roll like that. I should have put on more sensible work shoes, but I didn’t. I know that Topsiders are for the top side of a boat, not the top side of eroded earth. They don’t have the proper tread characteristics to give a person appropriate traction on a grassy hillside interspersed with loose soil and erosion crevices. I don’t always make good choices.

I began unloading the 40 bags of topsoil, and the going was slow, and I was quite fit at the time, so I started unloading my cargo two bags at a time. I heaved a bag onto each shoulder, and walked them down the very short and very steep hill…in Topsiders. On about my third double-bag trip, my foot slipped from a grassy area into a crevice, because the crevice bottomed out in a sort of “V”, my right foot became wedged in the earth…perhaps it was grabbed and held by the hand of Satan himself…held rigid and in place while my left foot could find no purchase on the grassy terrain. With 80 pounds of Missouri River brand, double screened landscaping topsoil perched on my shoulders, I did the splits…quickly, and widely, cheerleader style. This was unsatisfying.

As my upper body fell to the ground, I twisted into something of a hurdler’s position, and then,  I screamed the scream of a thousand warriors at their first sight of battle, I roared like a mighty lion trapped against his will. I felt the tendons twist, and I heard the ligaments give way to the strain of my body weight – plus 80lbs.  POP, POP, SNAP! One adjective short of the famous rice based cereal. I knew I was injured, I just didn’t know how badly.

I laid there with the full weight of the bags of topsoil now resting on my chest; I was finding it hard to breathe. Just as I was about to panic, I heard my daughter rustling about at the top of the hill. Thank goodness, and all that is Holy…my rescue was at hand.

I called out, “Alex! Honey, daddy needs help.”

“Ruff?” Her bark kind of tailed up at the end, as if it were a question.

“Honey, I’m not playing. We need to be serious right now. Daddy’s hurt (deep gasp), you need to go get Mommy” I said as the stress sweats started pouring out of my body.

“Ruff! RUFF! Mmmmm….Mmmmmm (like a whimpering puppy) was her next reply.

“ALEX! DAMNIT! Stop! I need Mom now!” I cried out.

She barked one more time, and then started the whimpering sound again as she crawled down the hill to me…and started licking my ear and the side of my face. I was in too much pain to react quickly, and I couldn’t really get my hands free, you know, to choke her, and I guess that’s what saved her. Upon reflection, I’m happy for that…I’m really …pretty sure I’m happy for that.

I had to make a strategy change, so I reluctantly played along, “Hey little puppy” then three quick smooching sounds “…little pup, if you go get Mommy, I’ll give you a treat!”

“Ruff!” Now her tongue is out, and she’s panting rapidly, and she’s shaking her butt back and forth like she’s wagging her tail, and she starts off to the other side of the house – of course, she wasn’t walking, because that would have been helpful, and faster. No, she crawled…hands and knees, still wiggling her butt as she turned the corner of the house and I watched her leave my sight.

It was a good 10 minutes before help arrived. About 7 minutes in, I was really freaking out: I had two ballgames to attend, a customer dinner event, and a job interview over the next few days, and I wouldn’t be able to walk. I was in something of a stupor as the realities tumbled around in my head, but I snapped back into the living world when my wife appeared and asked, “Did you hear a woman scream?”

In the interests maintaining an R rating for this tale, I won’t repeat my immediate response. I was upset, I was in pain, I only felt ashamed of my response later that afternoon when my little puppy asked me if we were going to move any more of the “fucking topsoil”, and “What does it mean to be put to sleep?” Don’t judge me…you weren’t there.

I guess my little puppy dog did rescue me; it took ten minutes for my help to arrive because my wife was on the opposite side of our house…my daughter crawled the whole way, and then just barked at her for 5 minutes. My wife didn’t really come to help me; she just wanted to get away from our annoying, barking, panting kid – she didn’t know I was hurt until she got there.

As bad as this may seem, the bad stuff hasn’t really happened yet.

Part Two: The Exploding Scrotum

So I lay there, perfectly still, and I explained to Mrs. Large Man what happened, and somewhere between her subtle chuckles and the deep breaths she took to prevent hysterical laughter, I sensed some real empathy on her part. I suggested that our daughter was not likely to ever contribute anything of value to society, and that since she (my wife) was the primary caregiver and the person with the most influence on our spawn, that she had failed as a parent and as a human.

She suggested that I could have worn a more suitable pair of shoes and maybe we could have avoided the entire incident. So, stalemate.

About that time, my daughter came back around the corner and my wife said, “BAD DOG!” as she wagged a scolding finger in her direction. When I heard the whimpering puppy sounds again I almost escaped the bondage of my earthly body. My wife wisely gathered up our little bitch, (which is linguistically appropriate, because she is a girl and she was a puppy), and took her inside for her afternoon nap. It was only 10:30, but still a sound decision.

…except of course for the fact that I was still lying in the hurdler’s position, soaked with sweat, and Heaven knows what other bodily fluids, going into shock, wearing a shitty pair of Topsiders, with 80lbs of topsoil resting on my chest.

Mrs. Large Man realized that I was still outside, in the injured position, when she was about 3 minutes into her gazillionth pre-slumber reading of Goodnight Moon.

She came back out, laughing, “Honey, I’m so sorry. We forgot to pick you up.”

“No, you forgot to pick me up” I barked.

“Hey, Angry Man…” she snapped, (I wasn’t The Large Man yet) “…I’m the only one who can help you right now, so if I were you I’d mind my manners!”

She made a good point, and I’m glad that she made it when she did, as I was about to share several of my thoughts regarding some of her flaws as a human being. This is something that I have a tendency to do when I’m under stress, and I’m very good at it. If I had spoken, I could very well still be there.

“Why didn’t you just drop the bags of dirt as you started to fall?” She asked. “That extra weight had to contribute to all this.”

 “It’s not dirt! It’s double screened Missouri River bed topsoil! I was protecting our investment!” was my first try. I realized halfway through my comment that this excuse was as ridiculous as my current predicament. “I guess it’s the same reason I chose to do this job in Topsiders; I didn’t really think it through,” was my conclusion. She looked at me with disdain, shook her pretty head, and helped me up.

I needed medical attention. I knew what torn ligaments felt like, as I had been through five knee surgeries before this tragic gardening incident.  By noon, I was on the table at my family doctor’s office, luckily, they had Saturday hours.

Doctor Mathews was a petite, good-looking woman, about my age, with graying hair and nice wire rimmed glasses that she looked over as she spoke to me. I liked her, and I trusted her. She told me that I would need an M.R.I., A.S.A.P., and that I could go to this new open M.R.I. place that was close by, and I could get right in.

“You don’t have any metal in your body, besides fillings in your teeth, do you?” she asked.

“I had a screw in my knee a few years ago, but it came out, so no.” I replied. But for some reason something was tickling the deep areas of my sub-conscience. Not even enough for me to notice it while we talked – but a whisper of something.

“OK, good. This machine is like a giant magnet, so any metal inside of you would fly out of you like a bullet. I don’t think you would like that.” She said with a wink and smile. “I’ll have Jackie (her nurse) come in and help you with the paperwork, and I’ll see you first thing Monday morning. Bring me a donut.”

One of the many things that I loved about her was her sense of humor. A year earlier I had that special man procedure that would keep me from producing anymore “puppies”. This surgery was performed by another doctor in her practice, but Dr. Mathews still popped her head into the procedure room a couple of times: “Is he screaming yet?” and “Remember, Dr. Arnold, it’s not a sex change operation… Oh no, too late!” She was hilarious.

So I hobble out to my truck, there was very little swelling, just pain. I could stand on it, I just couldn’t bend it as I walked. I drove about 5 miles west on highway 152, and the folks at Northland Diagnostics & Radiology greeted me with a wheelchair, and in less than 15 minutes I was prepped, and on the table.

The open MRI machine was a giant round slab that you laid on, and then they put an equally giant round hood, over top of you. The room was dark, and cold. Before this procedure, I lied about the frequency of my alcohol and tobacco use, but answered honestly about my address, phone number, which leg was injured, and the metal in my body. The tech explained the process and safety measures;  he told me that it would be loud when the machine started and that once we started he wouldn’t be able to hear me, and that I would need to keep perfectly still for about 8 minutes. I agreed to these terms, and just before he closed the door to the room he asked me if I needed anything else.

“No thanks. We’re good”, was my last statement before he closed the door to his control room.

The machine started up, it had this slow, grinding, circular sound that became louder as it powered up – kind of like a siren at a fire station. I was as still as a statue, thinking about the day, my daughter licking my face, my wife trying not to laugh as I voiced my frustration, the kindness of my family physician…Dr. Mathews, so funny. The hijinks from the day of my “man procedure” was classic. But it was also a calculated action to help me relax as they did their snip snip and clip clip.

Something was tugging at me as she asked about metal in my body. What was it?

Clip…clip. Clip…CLIP? What was it they said about the procedure? They snipped the tubes, and THEN THEY CLAMPED THEM TOGETHER WITH THESE LITTLE CLIPS…THESE LITTLE METAL CLIPS…IN MY ..??


The M.R.I thingy became louder with every rotation. Also, with every rotation (about one per second now) I’m realizing that I actually DO have metal in my body, AND IT’S IN MY …MY FRICKING SCROTUM!…and I’m too late. The metal clips that seal off my ability to create life, will ultimately take my life…the life that is actually passing before my eyes. Surely, I’m going to bleed out as these metal clips fly through this most sensitive of areas.

I want all the gentlemen reading this (all 4 of you) to take a moment to consider what I was going through. I want you to think about fear, and the times in your adult life when you have been the most afraid, and as you went through that fear, I want you to think about the tingling sensation that you experienced. Just where on your anatomy did it tingle? So, NOW I want you to think about what it might have been like to be afraid for that particular region being the reason for your fear. At any moment, two metal clips were going to shoot through my man pouch, and stick to the giant magnet over my head. It was gonna be like a Kung Fu master reaching into my abdomen, and pulling out my heart and showing it to me before I died.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt the tingling in that area, my heart was pounding, but I did nothing. I did nothing because my accommodating, rule following personality, made me stay there, perfectly still – exactly as I was instructed to do. The tech guy told me there was a “panic button” that I could press at any time, but that would have been an inconvenience for someone. I guess at that point in my life I would watch my balls fly out of my body rather than be a trouble. So I did what I did just 4 hours earlier…I laid there, and perspired – soaked that table and my hospital gown and a couple of sheets sopping wet, in a 60 degree room. I would be dead any minute now, and all I could think about was my obituary, and how my wife and the people at the newspaper would be breathless with laughter as they figured out all the funny ways to describe “cause of death”.

Nothing flew out of me. Turns out the steel clips in my naughty parts were made of stainless steel and therefore not magnetic. When the tech asked why I was so wet, I told him what I was thinking, and he cracked up laughing. He said, “I told you about the panic button. You should have just pressed it. It’s no big deal.”

That’s when I told him to go fuck himself, but only because I was humiliated.

On Monday morning, Dr. Mathews, who I held in such high regard, had to excuse herself from the exam room because she was laughing so hard as I told the story. When she came back, she wiped away tears with her right hand, and she held the film in her left, tossed the file on the table and she gave me the diagnosis of a torn M.C.L. But on the bright side, she told me that I shouldn’t let it bother me, because the rest of the knee was so screwed up that it didn’t really matter, and that my left knee was a wreck as well, “…and that as bad as that is, to have metal clips fly through your scrotum would be worse anyway!” she said through her laughter.

“Ice, ibuprofen, rest; if it doesn’t get better, we’ll see about a specialist. You don’t need to come back for at least 4 weeks. Give me a hug”, were her final instructions.

As it turned out, I would see her again just 2 days.

Part Three: So…

So… ice, ibuprofen, and rest, for up to 4 weeks – this was the treatment plan. In June of 2004, that’s all that modern medicine had to offer for the torn medial collateral ligament in the right knee of a large, bald, salesman, with stainless steel metal clips in his onion sack. Modern medicine didn’t care that in about 4 hours my largest customer needed to be picked up at the airport, and about 3 hours after that we were going to Kaufman Stadium to sit in Club Level seats to watch the Kansas City Royals lose 1 of the 104 games they were going to drop that year. Modern medicine could offer nothing more than frozen water and aspirin. I could have received the same treatment in 400 BC.

So I did what I needed to do, because I’m a trooper, and because I didn’t want any of my talentless superiors shepherding this important client around (in case I didn’t get the new job), but mostly because even while injured, club level attendance at a ball game on someone else’s nickel is still pretty cool. To ease the burden of walking about, I acquired a shillelagh in the senior section at our local super store. Then I filled my pockets with Motrin, and I powered through it.

So now…on a Monday evening, just 2 days after the tragic gardening incident, that led to the exploding scrotum scare, and one day before I had to drive to Omaha; I limped into the ballpark, enduring the “gimp” comments from my customer. We (thankfully) took elevators to the club level of the ball park where a gourmet feast of smoked chicken, beef, and ribs, grilled hot dogs, and burgers, and freshly sliced crudité, were all set up buffet style.  We found our seats in the ‘privileged’ section, I washed down some anti-inflammatories with Boulevard Pale Ale, my guest dined on beef and ribs, but I had the smoked chicken. This fact is important to the telling of this tale because the smoked chicken was, of course, contaminated with the salmonella bacteria.

So, we watch the game, we over imbibe, but because we were responsible Americans we catch a cab back to our respective sleeping quarters. We reconnect in the AM over breakfast, where we pledged moderation to each other for all future ballgames and evening type activities…then we both chuckle about the lie we just told. We conduct our business, my little missus takes us to the airport, where my customer catches a plane that will take him to Ohio, and I pick up a 2004 Ford Taurus rental car that will take me to Omaha and the College World Series. I have to laugh a little as I recreate this…I specifically remember thinking, as I got into that car, that I was feeling better.

So now, flash forward to Wednesday morning…my buddy Tom picked me up at my hotel, and we met his family in the concourse, and made our way to some very nice seats in a very crowded Rosenblatt Stadium.  Because I didn’t know that I was infected with bacteria that kills about 30 Americans every year, and causes horrible misery for thousands more, I had a few beers (moderation) a large polish sausage, some popcorn, and some Dippin Dots, and – I’m sure, other forms of ball park junk food that I just don’t remember. My friend’s wife and daughter were absolutely charming, the weather was delightful, the two games we watched were competitive, and the vibe was quite different than any sporting event I had ever experienced. The college kids were enthusiastic, the college girls were tan and beautiful, and there were some celebrity sightings that added a cool factor.

So despite my limited mobility, and the pain, I really enjoyed my first trip to the College World Series. My friends took me back to my hotel, where I was looking forward to putting my feet up, the day had been a long one, and I wasn’t sure why, but I was feeling a little feverish.

So it takes 1 to 3 days after exposure to the bacteria for the symptoms of salmonella poisoning to show up. My fever started almost exactly 48 hours after contact…right in the middle of ‘the average’ reaction time. I may be cursed, but I pride myself on being average.

So at 8:00 PM on Wednesday night, 47 and a half hours after my buffet meal, I became ill…frighteningly so.  I had a body temperature that registered 105 degrees, and I was 189 miles from my home. The fever spiked and broke, several times during the night, so for THE THIRD FRIGGIN TIME THAT WEEK…I soaked my clothes, and/or some sheets, with perspiration. Initially it was just the fever; I had never been through anything like it before. I didn’t sleep for more than a half hour stretch at any point during that night.

So…obviously, at 5:00 AM on Thursday morning, (just 29 hours before the latest most important job interview of my life) I decided that I should try to drive home. It’s a 3 hour drive that rarely has any traffic to speak of…it took me 5. There were several puke stops along the way; I did see a bald eagle during one of my stops though, so…

So now here’s where this tale gets funny…

So I call my wife to tell her how sick I was feeling and that she needed to pick me up at the rental car place. “…I think you’re cursed, and I’m not sure I want you in our home”, she said. “You probably just drank too much…again.” She denies this today, and I was under the duress of a high fever, so I may have imagined some of her apathy towards my dire and declining health situation – but I don’t think so. For the record, I still have the same wife.

So because I’m a salesman, and a skilled communicator, I was able to connect with her on a ‘human’ level, I convinced her to pick me up. Upon her arrival, I crawled into our minivan, and as soon as I was secure in my passenger seat, she looked at me and said, “Oh my gracious God! You need to call Dr. Mathews right now.”

So I did.

So as I’m on hold with the doctor’s office, my wife starts driving. From the Kansas City International Airport, there were 3 major highways that would take us home, all good routes, all about the same distance; all take about the same amount of time. My wife began a route that she always used, but it wasn’t the route that I normally used, and because I’m a man, and an idiot, I said loudly, “NO, NOT THIS WAY, take 435!” And, because she didn’t believe that fighting with me would be an appropriate ‘last memory’ of our time together, because I looked like I might be dead in an hour or 2, she complied…and pulled our minivan across 3 lanes of traffic, and 1 very deep pot hole…just to make me happy.

So the pothole rips a giant hunk of rubber out of our front passenger side tire. When I get out to investigate the situation, I observe that most of the tire had been removed from its wheel. This was unsatisfying.

So, it’s just over 100 degrees outside. It was the first really hot day of what had been a fairly mild spring.

So I had to change a tire on a minivan, on top of asphalt, in the sun, on a 100 degree day, with a 105 degree fever, on an empty stomach. The good news was that nobody noticed my crying, because I was too dehydrated to generate tears.

So I spent the rest of the afternoon back and forth between my doc’s office and the hospital as they tried to figure out what was wrong. Because it was so close to the tragic gardening incident, there was concern that maybe a fracture went unnoticed and created a bone infection, so I had x-rays. Negative. Then I had to drink 30 ounces of that barium cocktail for a CT scan. Negative. I had more needles, pins, IV pokes, and probes than someone who’s been abducted by space aliens. One final test determined the salmonella poisoning. I received an antibiotic shot in my right butt cheek. I was so miserable I didn’t even care as all the nurses argued over who got to give me the shot. I have a phenomenal ass.

So in Missouri, salmonella cases must be reported to the health department. My latest adventure of the week became case number 36227 for the Clay County Health Department – I got interviewed by a caseworker and everything. I guess you could say I was a bit of a celebrity.

So now…I have needle tracks in both arms, and one in my neck, I have skinned up knuckles from changing a tire in extreme conditions, my eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep, high fever, and the strain of vomiting, and they’re sort of sunken in too, because I’ve lost 16lbs in 4 days. I’m severely dehydrated, I have almost no voice and I can’t walk. I’m confident that I’m going to make an impression on my job interview.

So I tried to postpone the meeting until Monday, partially explaining my condition – I didn’t think they would be interested in the MRI scare. No dice – I had to be there by 10:00 on Friday. My prospective employer has flown in a few key clients, board members, execs, and some of the operational people I’ll be working with. The HR lady who I had met on my first interview pleas with me over the phone at 8:00 on Friday morning, “We want these key people to meet with you, so we can pull the trigger. We’re prepared to make a decision today, and all our energy right now is moving towards giving you the thumbs up, and sending you an offer next week. But you need to be here today to make it happen. Can you suck it up and come on in?”

So what was I supposed to say? Can you suck it up and come on in?

So I said, “Of course”

So I got there on time, there was a group of people waiting to greet me in the lobby of their building. The waited a while, because I couldn’t really walk…and I was dehydrated…and I had lost a lot of weight…and I was sick.

So they asked me what happened, so I told them. The little girl acting like a puppy cracked them up, my wife forgetting me while I was on my back – hilarious. Changing the tire with the fever; they’re slapping the arms of the chairs in the boardroom, and wiping the tears from their eyes, almost choking on their laughter. The exploding scrotum scare in the middle of the MRI…dead silence. You could hear crickets.

“So, I just made it weird, didn’t I?” I asked as they all shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

So I left, and they said they would “be in touch”… we all know what that means. But in this case, it didn’t mean what you would assume. They called my mobile phone before I made it home and said they wanted to make me a part of their team – cursed life and all. I said yes.

So when I get home, my family greets me with hugs, and “…so, how did it go?” I gave them two thumbs up and a great big smile! My little 3-year-old boy squealed with delight, although he had no idea what it was about. My little missus flashed me her million dollar smile and threw her arms around me. My little girl barked and howled like a blood hound. And we all lived happily ever after.

So… that’s what happened. Thanks for reading.

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