Several years ago, when I first considered starting a blog, I said to several of my students that it would not have personal stuff on it. "But then it won't be a blog!" they replied. Inasmuch as I am the student of my students in all things relating to contemporary culture [my sons are way too sophisticated to be reliable in this regard], I have from time to time attempted to include reports and reflections that do not rise to the level of political or philosophical commentary. Herewith a few more efforts in that direction.
I begin with the subject of pet cats. Susie and I have two cats: Murray, named after the dog on the old TV show MAD ABOUT YOU, starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, and Christmas Eve, so called because she was found as a stray kitten up a tree and turned over to us in a Whole Foods parking lot by a friend on Christmas Eve thirteen years ago. Christmas is in renal failure, and must receive twice a week subcutaneous infusions of a saline solution. She is underweight, and we are desperately trying to encourage her to eat. Murray, who is eleven, is in fine health, but seriously overweight [he gives new meaning to the expression "fat cat"], and we have put him on a diet at the suggestion of our Vet. Trying simultaneously to get one cat to eat more and the other to eat less is considerably more difficult than anything I had to do when I was the father of two small boys. Murray scarfs his food down and then stares longingly at Christmas while she slowly eats part of what she has been given. If one of us does not stand guard to snatch the bowl up the moment she wanders away, he is on it in a flash. He lies on the dinner table during meals staring longingly and fixedly at the food on our plates. He has indeed lost weight -- 12 ounces in a week, which, proportional to his size, is rather fast. But since the whole point of having pets is to spoil them rotten in all the ways one could not justificably spoil one's children, the strain on Susie and me is monumental. As for Murray, all I can say is that Michael Douglas' famous "greed is good" speech in the movie WALL STREET barely scratches the surface of the emotion that Murray is visibly consumed by.
And now to muscle pain. I do a four mile power walk each morning in an effort to retard the inevitable decay of age. I plow on up and down some significant hills along a path that takes me from Meadowmont Village, where I live, to the edge of the UNC campus, and back again. Despite the fact that I encounter many runners and joggers either passing me or coming the other way, I have for months not been tempted to break into a trot. Ever since I was a boy, running has been difficult for me -- not for any particular physical reason; it is simply antipathetic to who I am. Well, three days ago, in an effort to shave some minutes off my regular time for the walk, I started jogging down the half-mile long hill that constitutes the last portion of the outward half and the first portion of the return. There were two results. First, I managed to cut my time by three or four minutes; and second, my upper legs, from knee to hip, were in such pain that I could not sit down or stand up without using my arms to assist me. Tylenol in massive doses did not even touch it. Now, I used to have serious back trouble, for which I went to a chiropracter, Keith McCormack, who earlier in life had been an Olympic athlete. He explained to me that some substance [I think it is acetylcholine, but I am not sure] builds up on the muscle sheath, and causes the muscles to go into a permanent and very painful spasm. Deep, focused, and painful massage can literally strip the accumulated chemical from the muscle and slough it off, so that the muscle goes out of spasm. Last night, awakened by the pain, I lay in bed and, with my thumbs, dug deep into the large muscles of both upper legs, repeatedly stripping them, or so it seemed to me, of the accumulation. Believe it or not, it worked! I am still hurting, and I shall take a day off this morning, but the severe and crippling muscle ache is gone.
With the public option hanging by a thread, and Afghanistan in the balance, there is not the slightest chance that either of these mini-essays will be of the slightest interest to anyone, but I feel that I have fulfilled the injunction of my students. Now if I could only learn to instant message!