Damaged Goods …

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Archive for December 2009

On the Subject of Cold Sores …

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I get cold sores. My wife doesn’t. She loves to make fun of me when I get one …

If you’re not susceptible to cold sore, then you’re probably not aware that they are caused by a viral infection. Likewise, you don’t know that this infection has no cure: Once you get it, you’ll carry it around in your bloodstream for the rest of your life. It won’t make you perpetually sick, but you’ll be subject to periodic outbreaks of painful and annoying blisters on a part of your body where the tissues are especially sensitive – your lips. If this sounds a lot like herpes, it’s because the two viruses are virtually identical. This aspect of the disease adds greatly to the mirth that my wife experiences during my episodic bouts with cold sores. Like it’s not funny enough that I have an enormous, open sore in the middle of my face, there’s the added hilarity of comparing my condition to a venereal disease! Ha!

Scientists aren’t exactly certain why cold sore outbreaks occur, but there are several well-known factors that can serve as triggers, such as acidic foods, or prolonged exposure to the sun. One of the most well-documented of these triggers is stress, and most sufferers can personally attest that cold sores are prone to occur when dramatic events are unfolding in their lives; in other words – at the most inopportune times. If there were a way to document such a thing, I’m sure it would be demonstrated that far more cold sore bearing people have been forced to attend their own weddings or important job interviews than can be explained by random chance.

Like I said before: If you suffer from cold sores, then nothing in this essay will come as news to you. However, if you’ve never experienced the pain, discomfort, and overall “oogy” feeling of having a giant blister on your lip (on your LIP for crying out loud!), then you just can’t imagine the length that victims will go to to obtain relief. The thing about any kind of skin blister is that the area is sensitive, and so you want to avoid touching it. And yet, when you have a blister on the sensitive tissue of your lip, there is a constant, unconscious compulsion to probe it with the tip of your tongue.

A couple of years ago, a pharmaceutical company came out with a topical medication that will decrease the duration of a cold sore outbreak, if not prevent it entirely. The caveat for use of this product is that you have to apply it at the first indication that a cold sore is imminent. If you wait until the blister actually begins to appear – usually only an hour or two after the first, telltale tingling sensation – then it will essentially be too late for the salve to have any effect. This means that you must carry the medicine on or near you at all times; or else you must be prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice – your Annual Performance Review, for example – in order to rush down to the Rite-Aid and purchase some Miracle Cold Sore Cure.

And speaking of buying this stuff: Be sure to take along your credit card, because it costs approximately as much as antimatter. To compensate for the high price of the medication, its manufacturers have attempted to package the substance in “single-use” apportionments. That is – one container of salve presumably contains enough medication to treat one cold sore outbreak. Although the salve comes packaged in a tube by necessity, the amount of material that the tube contains would be more appropriately handled in one of those microchip laboratories where all the products are manipulated in sealed chambers under electron microscopes. Consequently, there’s a very real possibility of vaporizing your entire dosage by applying slightly too much pressure to the pea-sized tube.

Getting back to the subject of my wife: What explains the transformation of this normally compassionate woman into a malicious fourth grader whenever I get a cold sore? I’ve given this some thought, and I believe that this is her version of “whistling past the graveyard”. The idea of having a festering wound on her lip is so abhorrent that she must utterly reject the mere possibility of such a thing. She accomplishes this in her own mind by ridiculing the object of her fear … me. In her defense, I would note that I’ve observed a similar reaction in many other women in response to another common, feminine fear:

Male pattern baldness.

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Written by mainecartoons

December 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

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An Open Letter to Bill Nemitz

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Dear Bill,

I’m writing with a suggestion for one of your columns in the PPH/MST. As long-time reader of those publications, I know that you are constantly on the lookout for stories about people who have seemingly been shafted by “the system”.

As you may be aware, last year President Obama and members of Congress enacted the Stimulus Bill, aimed at averting a fiscal crisis in the US banking system, and jump-starting the stalled economy. One provision of that bill was an $8000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

Although this tax credit didn’t exactly reinvigorate the housing market, it still proved to be enormously popular among real estate professionals and the lobbyists who serve them. Consequently, this law was expanded in November to include an additional $6500 tax credit for persons selling a home where they had resided during the previous five years.

Hearing this, you might ask yourself, “What kind of tax credit is available for long-time homeowners who bought a new house during the window between the initial bill and the November extension?”.

Answer: Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

As somebody who closed on a new construction home in May of this year, I was quite excited when I first heard about this extended tax credit. I naturally assumed that Congress would make this law retroactive so that people who bought a home during one of the most unstable financial periods in US history would be able to reap the benefit. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

If it sounds like I’m complaining just because this affects me personally – well – I am. The fact is, we had committed to the construction of this home before the bottom dropped out of the world economy. We are certainly not “well off” by any means: Right now – like a lot of Americans – our household income is down about 15% on the year, and we could really use this tax credit.

By the way, it’s worth noting that all four members of our congressional delegation voted in favor of this tax break. I sent a letter to each of them back in mid November requesting some clarification on their position: So far, none of them have bothered to reply. This response – or lack thereof – is especially surprising coming from the office of our newest House Member, Chellie Pingree. I distinctly recall a recent PPH letter from her Communications Director, former Maine radio host Willie Rich, in which he stated that Ms. Pingree’s staff responds to most communications within two weeks. As a freshman member of Congress, I’d think Chellie Pingree would be more concerned about the impression she’s leaving with her new constituents. Is it really that tough to crank out a form letter?

The next time Congress has some stimulus money to distribute, maybe they should just hold a lottery. The results would probably be more equitable.

Written by mainecartoons

December 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Where Have All the Heroes Gone … ?

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My mother has been having a bad week. No – it’s not that her rheumatoid arthritis has been acting up; nor is it related to the fact that my niece (her granddaughter) has decided to join the Marines. What’s really got my Mom upset is … Tiger Woods.

Even though she’d never admit it, the fact is, my Mom was just about the biggest Tiger Woods fans in the world prior to his recent fall from grace.

This preoccupation she has with Tiger has long been a source of amusement to me. You see, Mom’s not exactly a “jock”. In fact, her general sports knowledge could be summed up by a recent conversation we had in which she asked me whether “Big Papelbon” was still “making a lot of touchdowns”.

There are several reasons for my Mom’s uncharacteristic interest in golf, not least of which is that my Dad – prior to his death several years ago – was an avid golfer. When Dad wasn’t actually playing golf, he was apt to be watching professional golf on TV. When Dad was alive, this was a source of irritation to my Mom: But now that the old duffer has gone to that big clubhouse in the sky, Mom seems to take some comfort in keeping the TV tuned to The Golf Channel. As a result, she has absorbed a great deal of knowledge about the mechanics and stratagems of this subtle sport.

What is it that Mom finds so appealing about the game of golf? Although she’s never specified her reasons, I feel like I know her well enough to speculate about her motivations …

  • My Mom is a senior citizen. In my experience, the vast majority of senior citizens prefer warm weather over cold weather. Not coincidentally, professional golf is played in warm temperatures on sunny days approximately 95% of the time. That’s because they don’t generally build championship golf courses in places where there’s a potential for crappy weather. Ergo … golf makes you feel warm.
  • Golf is arguably the only sport in which it’s possible to be a better player at age 40 than at age 20. Not only that, but many players still earn considerable prize money at age 60. Did I mention that my Mom is a senior citizen …?
  • Golf is the only sport you can play without getting your clothes dirty.

To sum up: My mother liked Tiger Woods because she regarded him as the “classiest” player in an inherently classy sport.

Nice job, Tiger. As if it weren’t bad enough that you’re a serial philanderer, you’re also guilty of snuffing the joy out of the lives of a nation of lonely old golf widows.

Written by mainecartoons

December 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm