Guilty as charged, Your Honor. But, I would like to plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter, as my actions are not intentional. It is simply happening as I go about the simple act of trying to live my life.
You inherit a lot of your health issues from your parents. I did get some good stuff from my mom. Super-low and consistent blood pressure. And hair follicles that just don't know how to turn gray. But, on the downside, I apparently was gifted with her rotten sinuses. Because, over and over, I am reminded just how bad they are.
I can remember my mom really suffering with sinus headaches when I was a kid. She would ingest the popular medicine of the 60s, Allerest, like they were Skittles. And, then she would have to lay down and nap for an hour or two. Once, she made the grand mistake of taking a pill and downing it with a can of Coke. The combination of those two apparently render any human being virtually comatose, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that both may have been found on Heath Ledger's night stand. But, I digress...
I'm pretty sure Mom's lousy sinuses, later to be bestowed upon yours truly, were also aggravated by her life-long unrequited love affair with Kent Cigarettes. And, thanks to closed windows, I got to breathe in that crap myself. The end result was a child's nasal passageway that could have been manufactured by Edsel.
So, in the NY-located portion of my adulthood, I managed to mess up my sinuses simply by getting up in the morning. In college, I eschewed my mom's daily elixir of Allerest for virtually constant snorts of Afrin, which later prompted enough rebound to make Kobe Bryant envious. After kicking that habit, I had very little to my avail, and I simply waited for the quarterly sinus infection, which showed up as regularly as my bank statement. I would score an extra bonus infection or two during the winter when you would get to enjoy all that marvelous indoor radiated heat coming through air vents that hadn't been cleaned since Eleanor Roosevelt had straight teeth. And any soupcon of dust would send me into sinus distress. I'd walk into somebody's dusty house and start to shake like Don Knotts. And, if there was a cat in the vicinity, forget it. I once spent a holiday meal seated on somebody's cold front stoop because little Felix had left nary a sofa cushion unshed.
But then, I moved to Southern California. And I apparently forgot to pack my sinus issues, because, for the first several years, I was infection-free. It was as if I had traveled to Lourdes and I left my half-filled Ocean saline spray bottle alongside somebody's cane near the holy water. I no longer could instantly spell the name of the latest hot antibiotic. Oh, there were enough small breathing bumps that required me to begin a warm relationship with an ENT. But, here in sunny LA, we only had to date casually and no rings were exchanged. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Sinus pressure free. Of course, I did help this along a bit. A daily sinus rinse with warm salt water. Ocean Saline always handy. Every once in a while, a half dose of an Allegra pill. And a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks. I adopted a time-intensive regimen whenever I was required to fly. But, all in all, bacteria were no longer using my nasal airway as their winter condo.
Until two weeks ago. When I set up my sinuses as if they were traveling past the Dealey Plaza grassy knoll without the bubble top on the limousine. It all started very innocently. Several days before I was to fly to NY, I had to physically pack up my LA office area. While I would be gone, the building was going to paint and lay down new carpet. I had to open and empty every single file cabinet. I had to pull out dusty Pendaflex folders that contained papers dated 1990 something. Since I had just gotten over a cold developed last month while going up and down a 38,000 feet high elevator four times in one week, I guess I was still vulnerable. The dust particles began to wave at my lungs. I started to cough over the weekend.
My flight to Gotham City the following Monday went okay, but I started to feel the constriction of my throat as I walked through JFK's Hertz location. The temperature outside was in the 20s, but the heat inside was close to 90. My sinuses were being instantly freeze-dried. By the time I got to my Westchester apartment, which was also heated, my sinuses were going the way of the Writer's Guild. On strike. I slept overnight in the dry, heave-inducing heat and I developed a sinus pounding that, like Mike Douglas' co-host, would be with me all week.
Over the course of the next three days, my sinuses would undergo wildly temperature swings that would render them catatonic. The only time I would enjoy a mild respite was on Wednesday night, when I saw "Young Frankenstein." You might have read how well that turned out. All the while, my head felt like that episode of "I Love Lucy" where Little Ricky won't stop drumming. Ker-bang. Ker-bang. Ker-bang. I was in an eternal construction zone.
By Thursday, I needed some sort of relief, especially since I was facing another cross-country Petri dish on Friday. When I had lived in NY, there used to be a lot of those walk-in places where you could get instant relief from an ankle sprain or a jammed thumb. They no longer exist, as they have been all consumed by major hospital groups. Most of them went belly up, because certain folks in our population would use and abuse them like emergency rooms.
"My baby got the sniffles."
"Ma'am, your baby is 15."
Whatever the case, those urgent care facilities have, like my sinuses, completely dried up. I started to collect referrals of friends' doctors, none of whom could see me before President's Day. Finally, my good NY friend, the Bibster, hit on a brilliant idea. Why not call my West Coast internist and see if he could help? I've written about Doogie Howser previously, when he bailed my knee out of trauma with a cortisone shot. Sure enough, I did and he did. Got me loaded up with some antibiotics, over-the-counter recommendations, and a kickass cough syrup that could incite a three day nap.
The flight back to LA? Given I had just started on the medications, it was horrific. I felt a little like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did while he was having his portrait done just before he slumped over in 1945. Frankly, if some terrorist had stood up and stormed the cockpit, I probably would have held the door open for him. And bring him a coffee and a danish.
But, by Saturday morning, a rain-soaked Los Angeles was still most inviting. And the pressure is virtually all gone. But, it persists just enough to remind me. To kiss my housekeeper the next time I see her. To throw out manila folders that were first filed in the last century. To avoid NY during any months where furnaces are on.
And I could tell my mom to lose the Kents. In hindsight only.
Dinner last night: Turkey burger at Earth, Wind, and Flour.