Archive for February, 2013

  • Blog
  • February 19th, 2013

The Thong Is Ended……


By Joel M. Vance

   “Virus” is a word invented by the medical profession so doctors won’t have to say, “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you but stop and leave your insurance information with the girl out front.”  Instead they say, “You have a virus.   Nasty things—lot of them going around.”

                I say this as someone still drooping from what the doctor called “an upper respiratory virus.”  It, she told me, mimics the flu and should ultimately just go away.  I suspect had I been able to see behind her, I would have seen her fingers crossed.

                A virus walks into a bar and the bartender says, “We don’t serve viruses in here,” and the virus replaces him and says, “Now you do.”  Give me a rim shot and we’ll do some vintage Rodney Dangerfield (when I was born the doctor slapped my mother).  Some notable viruses are no joke—think ebola or hantavirus.  But even nasty little nameless  entities like my visitor can make you feel as if God took a day off from running the Universe just to stomp on you.

                Whatever I had/have, it’s a nasty little invisible horror that at various times beleaguered me with chills, vomiting, fever and the feeling that I was the Enron of people—a bankrupt energy company.  At one time just getting on my feet was like summiting K-2 and once I did I walked like a six-vodka night.  I had dreams that came right out of Freddie Krueger’s playbook, including one where I was a teenage girl trying to sneak into a rock concert, and another where I was a river guide looking forward to the whitewater part of the trip but swallowed a needle instead.

                What further makes me think a virus is the medical profession’s attempt to deflect my attention from the fact that it is practicing sophisticated voodooism is that viruses don’t respond to antibiotics.  You don’t take medicines for viruses—you stick pins in dolls.  The old joke is that an African explorer falls ill and visits the local witch doctor who hands him a leather thong and says, “Chew one third of this a week for three weeks and you’ll be cured.

                Three weeks later (I have two to go) the guy is still sick, goes back, and complains.  “I can’t understand it,” the witch doctor says, “the thong is ended but the malady lingers on.”  He then added, “You must have a virus.”

                I’m from the old school where a doctor said, “Take two of these and check back in the morning,” handed you two pills of whatever sample the salesman had left that day,” and after you left started checking his old college textbooks for symptom listed under “Feels like shit.”  Once I had a tick bite on a hunting trip and  had no antibiotics except for a prescription for one of the dogs.  I took some of the pills and felt fine (except that I had a compulsion to turn around three times before lying down).

                Sometimes it worked, like Russian Roulette, and you felt just fine.  But drinking plenty of water and waiting is anathema to us Old School types who prefer beer and getting’ it on.  I want a shot of the latest pharmaceutical miracle.  After all if we can’t keep the drug companies in business, what is America all about? There’s always the concern that the virus you have, while probably not fatal, just could be some African high flyer that will become the next AIDs (after all, it’s caused by a virus).   So I wanted a miracle cure, knowing that all the antibiotics in the doctor’s arsenal weren’t going to make me feel one iota better.

                Doctors feel like they have to do something, to justify that next Caribbean vacation that you’re paying for, so my doctor poked here and there, laid a stethoscope here and there and found whatever she was looking for, checked under my chin to see if I had glands hanging halfway to my belly button like a bloodhound’s jowls, and finally sent her nurse in for the coup de grace.   One thing was guaranteed—after the nurse did what she came to do, I’d be out of there as if pursued by demons and would not be back, leaving behind only the contents of my bank account.           

The doctor left hastily, I suspect because she knew what was coming and didn’t want to be either a witness or blamed for it.  The nurse appeared with a forced smile as if we both were going to undergo the same “procedure.”  She was armed with what appeared to be a bamboo shoot about a foot long.   You know, the kind of sliver that shows up in “How to Torture For Maximum Results.”

                “This will only hurt for a moment,” said.  “But it will hurt.”  This splinter was suitable for roasting marshmallows or probing your central cortex.  “Now this will hurt for a moment,” she said, approaching my nose with the splinter poised.  She had the same look as a matador poised to plunge the killing rapier into the bull’s spine.

                Before I had a chance to deck her and run screaming from the clinic, she shoved that ice pick clear into my brain, pulled it free and fled for wherever they gather to exchange stories about who generated the loudest scream of the morning.  Mine registered on the seismograph at St. Louis University which is set up to forewarn us about the next New Madrid earthquake.

                After a period of time during which structural engineers made sure that my scream hadn’t shifted the load-bearing walls, the doctor returned and said, “You have a virus, but not the flu.  Go home, drink plenty of liquids [hear that, Budweiser?], get plenty of rest and it’ll go away in about five days.”

                Well, ha-ha, doc.  It took six days, so there!


Read More
  • Blog
  • February 2nd, 2013

A Man for the Ages


By Joel M. Vance

In 10 years working as a small town daily sports editor I had a chance to hang out with some celebrities, most sports figures, some not.  Two meetings stand out, one involving a sports legend and a personal hero, the other involving a strange person who allegedly died as she lived—killed by a car while walking across the United States.  But at least she solved the problem of world hunger because she claimed she didn’t need to eat, just absorb sunlight.

                When Stan Musial died recently at 92 it was as if a huge chunk of my life was wrenched away.  I met Stan the Man at halftime of a University of Missouri football game.  He was to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, along with the late Cal Hubbard, who still is the only person elected to both the professional Football and Baseball Halls of Fame, and also the College Football Hall of Fame. 

                Hubbard hailed from Keytesville, where I went to high school, and though I didn’t know him, my friend George Hughes did.  Cal got George a sideline pass for the game and I already had a press pass.  Hubbard was a bear of a man, with a growly voice.  He had been a lineman first with the New York Giants, then with the Green Bay Packers (where he helped them win three straight NFL championships, 1929-31).  He was a member of the first All-Pro team in 1931 and repeated the next two years.

                In those days players went both ways (in football, not sex) and Cal was a crushing blocker on offense as well as a feared lineman/linebacker on defense.  He was about 6-5 and 250 pounds—size that would compare favorably with today’s monster players.  Hubbard started baseball umpiring in 1934 and went fulltime with the American League in 1936 and in 1958 he became the supervisor of American league umpires. 

                So, this bear of a man was prowling along the sidelines and George introduced me to him.  Stan Musial was standing maybe 30 feet away chatting with someone and it was like being in the crowd when Jesus was reciting a Beatitude.  “Do you suppose,” I said, “we could meet Stan Musial?”

                “Why, shore!” Hubbard boomed.  “Just go start talkin’ to him.”

                “We’re scared to, “George said.

                Hubbard looked at George and shook his head.  “Hell, boy, he ain’t nothin’ but a man, puts his pants on one leg at a time.”  Then, raising his voice so half the stadium could hear him, he shouted, “Hey, Stan!  Come over here, you old sumbitch!  Got a couple uh guys wanta meet yuh!”

                And so we met our hero, who was quiet, unassuming and happy to put up with tongue-tied kids.  He never, in his long life, did anything to tarnish that nice-guy reputation and is regarded in St. Louis and in Joel Vance’s memories as the quintessential Sports Star.  Many years later I watched The Man inducted into the Missouri Hall of Fame at the Capitol and he entertained the crowd as he had done for ages by playing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on his harmonica.  Stan was a man of many talents.

                Rest in peace, Mr. Musial.  You’ve earned it.

                My favorite Mexico Ledger interview was with Dr. Barbara Moore.  Dr. Moore was walking across the United States in 1960 when fellow reporter Muff Yeargain and I caught up with her south of Mexico.  Actually I wasn’t sure at the time if she was any kind of doctor, academic or medical, but apparently she actually was a medical doc.  How’d you like to have her treat you for anexoria considering she didn’t believe in food?  Many aspects of her story have the faint scent of fiction.  But she was a good story.

                Dr. Moore had convinced herself that she did not need food to survive and called her philosophy “Breatharianism.”  Breatharianism is as nutty as its diet, which largely is nuts or nothing at all.  It operates on the theory that the body really doesn’t need food, that the pineal and pituitary glands transmute light energy (known to the Breatharians as Prana) into usable energy.  She is quoted as saying, “There is much more in sunlight and air than can be seen by the naked eye or with scientific instruments. The secret is to find the way to absorb that extra – that cosmic radiation – and turn it into food.”

                Thus, normal food was superfluous to Dr. Moore who had begun a few years before we met her to cut back on the type and amount of food she ate.  She had evolved (or devolved) to chickweed, grass, clover, dandelions and fruit juice—a human Weed Eater. “My body cells and blood have changed considerably in composition. I’m impervious to heat or hunger or fatigue,” she said.  She also was impervious to ridicule because she got plenty of that.

                She was nearly 60 years old when we caught up with her, striding purposefully along Highway 40.  “I won’t stop,” she said.  “You can interview me as we walk.”  We trotted along, skipping to keep up, and breathing hard (both of us smoked then).  Dr. Moore showed no signs of breathlessness. 

                We reported later (because she told us) that she was the wife of famed English sculptor Henry Moore.  That probably would have been a surprise to the sculptor, since his wife was named Irina and was not a walker of note.  I seem to remember that Dr. Moore paused to nibble on a dandelion, but if she stopped at all I was bent over trying to catch my breath and didn’t see her do it.  I have wondered for nearly 50 years whether she occasionally sneaked off the highway for a quick Twinkie.

                I also wonder about the health benefits of chomping on road verge weeds that reek of exhaust fumes and as weeds go are about as healthy as snacking on ground glass.  And in case anyone is tempted to take up Breatharianism, some followers have died of starvation, kidney failure or other complications from going without food and water.  Others have backslid and pigged out at Kentucky Fried.               

                We stuck with Dr. Moore for a mile or so, mindful that we were getting farther from the car, then we watched her march resolutely westward, followed by a coterie of devoted fans—possibly some Breatharians, though I wonder if they could have made it past a McDonald’s come lunch time.               

                One story has it that she was hit and killed by a car on her cross country trek, which would have been an ironic end to the woman who expected to live 150 years.  But other reports say she did finish her 3,207-mile hike on July 6, 1960, after which she fades into obscurity, at least as far as the news media is concerned.

                According to Wikipedia she died in 1977 which would have made her life span half what she predicted.  Well,Herbert Hoover thought the stock market wouldn’t collapse either.

                Actually I shouldn’t dismiss Breatharianism as crazy any more than I would dismiss as crazy the development of an auto engine that runs on water.  I just haven’t seen any water engines or people who live on sunlight.  Perhaps Dr. Moore did train her body to suck up solar energy, but given a choice of the two, I’d rather live (and eat) like Stan Musial who lived 92 years without benefit of Prana.


Read More