Nostalgic Reflections & A Fall Treat for Prime Members
Recently I have been afflicted with nostalgia, which sounds like a nerve disease but is not. The dictionary would have us believe that nostalgia is “a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place and time in one’s life.” These days, there are very few sources of “information” in America that any of us can believe with confidence. I am suspicious of every definition in the dictionary from “aardvark” to “zymurgy.” In fact, I do not believe “zymurgy,” is even a word, as they claim with a wink and a smirk. I have never actually seen an aardvark, nor has anyone I know, except in nature videos that I suspect of being deep fakes crafted with the sinister assistance of AI. Nevertheless, for the purpose of writing this newsletter, I am prepared to accept their definition of “nostalgia,” at least until they are caught sneaking phony words into the N pages, which I expect to be by 4:00 this afternoon.
Anyway, the other day, I remembered a golden moment when I was five years old, and I was overcome by nostalgia (or whatever the real word for that condition might be). At that tender age, I had an abdominal hernia. I cannot explain how this happened. At the time, I was neither employed to lay railroad tracks by driving long spikes with a sledgehammer nor engaged in doing handsprings on the back of a running horse (which I very much enjoy these days). Back then, the only way to anesthetize patients for surgery was to press a mask over the face and force the inhalation of air heavily laced with ether. Ah, the feeling of being smothered by so-called “medical personnel,” the desperate struggle to breathe. There is nothing quite like it. I clawed the nurse’s hands and intimidated the surgeon to such an extent that they had to immobilize me by strapping me to the operating table; as I screamed, they applied the ether mask a second time. Many year later, I heard that there are adult men who pay good money for similar treatment, though not by nurses.
That leads me to the recollection of another unforgettable experience when I was eight and was conveyed to the same hospital with an acute case of “appendicitis,” which sounds like an order to appear in a courtroom, but is something else altogether. This time, the same surgeon and nurse were lying in wait for me. Before I quite knew what was happening, I was strapped to a wheeled table before being taken into surgery. The next time you’re near a dictionary, look up the word “treachery.” The experience inspired what we are encouraged to believe is called “nostalgia,” only because my reward for being nearly smothered was any flavor of ice cream I wanted for the rest of that week.
Because this is October, you might expect that this trip down Memory Lane must surely lead to Halloween, and you are to be congratulated for your perspicacity, which sounds like a medical condition in which the patient suffers from excess sweating in a body cavity more embarrassing than armpits, but is something else altogether.
When I was fourteen, I sent away for a full-head rubber mask of the Frankenstein monster. Dressed in black, wearing the full-head mask, my hands painted pale green, I entered my hometown’s Halloween parade competition. To give me greater height and seem scarier, I nailed four-inch blocks of wood to an old pair of shoes. Being incompetent with all tools, I did not nail the shoes to the wood, but the wood to the shoes. Part way along the endless parade route, the points of the nails worked all the way through the soles and heels of my shoes and began to pierce my feet. The full-head mask inspired rivers of sweat, and the smell of rubber was nearly suffocating, so that I wheezed throughout the parade rather than growling like Boris Karloff.
If you think there was no glory in that night, no reason to yearn to return to that time and place, you would be wrong. For one thing, though my socks were soaked with blood, I did not get tetanus. For another thing, I won third place in the Costumed Individual category. The prize was a ten-dollar gift certificate to Dairy Queen. Even all these years later, I become emotional when I recall that my reward for submitting to an appendectomy was the same as my prize for taking third place in the Costumed Individual category. I do not believe that is a coincidence. I believe that it is proof of “predestination,” which sounds as if it means “the place at which you arrive immediately before the place at which you want to arrive,” though it means something else altogether.
By the way, my new novel, The Bad Weather Friend, to be published on January 23rd, is available for preorder. Just sayin’.