Something curious is happening to me. I hope it’s not anything to be too concerned about. I’m not napping as much as I used to. For most of my life, if I was on the couch watching a TV show, I’d nod off within five minutes. But a couple of weeks back, I made it through the entire Super Bowl wide awake. Not even Peyton Manning can say that.
This past month I did not take a single nap. Even the dog wondered what happened to our siesta. He kept following me around the house as if to say, “Hey, I’m 80 in dog years. It’s almost 2 p.m. Let’s stretch out and do this.”
Napping has never been a problem. When I was a high school teacher, I actually fell asleep in class while proctoring a statewide exam. The kids were very polite. “I hope we didn’t disturb you yesterday, Mr. Wolfsie,” said one of my students. “We tried to cheat as quietly as we could.”
Up until recently, I could take a quick snooze while having dinner with friends, at red lights, while waiting for my wife to put on makeup, as the dog was relieving himself, at fast food drive-up windows, in check-out lines. Anywhere.
As a result of grabbing the occasional 40 winks, I have missed a few events that in retrospect I probably should have stayed awake for. Here are the top three:
1. My sixty-fifth birthday party (I wish they had screamed “surprise!” louder)
3. The end of my interview with Governor Evan Bayh
Mary Ellen never quite understood the value of a nap. Personally, I think women are afraid they’re going to miss something. Like a sale, or a beautiful sunset, or the plot of a movie. Men don’t care about stuff like this. On the rare occasion that Mary Ellen has fallen asleep during the day, she would awaken with an apology and an explanation of her behavior. “I don’t know what happened. I must be coming down with something!” I always had a different attitude when awakening from a short slumber: “Man, that was a great. I’m getting better and better at this all the time.”
My inability to nap recently came up during my last annual physical, but there was some confusion in the conversation. “How are you sleeping?” asked Dr. Coss, a pretty standard inquiry by a primary care provider.
“It’s been rough,” I told him. “Sometimes I’m awake for 8-10 hours in a row.”
“TEN HOURS?” he gasped. “We need to do some testing. How long has this been going on?”
“Do you just toss and turn in bed?”
“Well, I’m not in bed. That’s the problem. I’m out driving the car, watching the news, cooking. Sometimes I’m in the garage operating heavy machinery.”
“This is very troubling, Dick. So you don’t sleep all night?
“No, I sleep great at night. It’s all day that I can’t sleep”
Dr. Coss was very helpful once I straightened out the misunderstanding. He said that I had to accept that men experience changes in their bodily rhythms as they mature. “I want you to go home this afternoon and really think about that,” he said. I told him I’d have to sleep on it. Which meant, of course, it would have to wait until that night.
The problem is that there are now three more hours each day where I need to find something to keep me busy. I think I have found the perfect online service to do just that. It must really work, or they couldn’t call it Napster.
For the longest time, I had a label on my cell phone displaying the devices mobile number so if I lost it, the person who found it could call me. I realized how incredibly dumb this was when I left it at Ace Hardware one day and when I finally went back and found it, I had 24 messages from people who wanted me to know that it was “right here” in Lawn and Garden by the Azaleas.
The other day, I went out to do a few errands and realized that I had forgotten my phone, but when I returned home, I couldn’t find it. I called it, of course, but that required dialing the number from my landline and then racing from room to room to hear the ring. I’m most proud of my sprint (no pun intended, there) from my third floor office to the basement in less than 4.6 seconds. But I heard nothing. Where was my cell phone?
First I called Kroger and talked to the manager at the service desk. “Where might you have left it, Sir?”
“I started out really health conscious so it could be between the asparagus and the broccoli, but then I got the munchies so I could have left it in the potato chip aisle. It’s not in the meat department. I’m trying to cut down on beef and pork because…
“Sir, this is Brad, the Kroger manager, not Dr. Oz. I’ll call you on your home phone if I find it.”
Then I remembered that I had stopped to pick up some prescription dog food. “Yes, good morning, I was at your clinic earlier and wondered if you found a Nokia there?”
“I know there is a Shih Tzu in the back that really needs a home. I don’t think we have any Nokias, but this is my first day working here.”
When I purchased my phone, I signed up for an extra feature, a way to track the location of your cell phone using a kind of GPS system. I logged into the website.
A map popped up and suddenly this little green dot started floating around a five-mile area where I had indicated I had spent the previous few hours. The dot continued to circle, searching for my lost phone. It passed over a street whose name I recognized, then moved to another location that also sounded familiar. Suddenly, it landed on the street where I live. Oh my, it was like that horror movie with Jodi Foster. IT’S IN MY HOUSE, IT’S IN MY HOUSE.
My eyes widened. The adrenalin was pumping. How did it get back in my home? Where was it hiding? Calling it was of no use because I had turned off the ringer the night before. I looked everywhere that I had ever lost my cell phone in the past: the bottom of the dog food container, the freezer, my briefcase, my wife’s pink nightgown. Please don’t ask me to explain that, it’s not what you think.
I called the 800 customer service number and was told that the phone, even if it was turned off, could play a tune that would help me locate it. “Do you have a favorite song, Sir?” I told him that I did. Suddenly, “Dancing on the Ceiling” was coming from the hall bathroom.
I’m still confused how my cell phone ended up in my medicine cabinet. Not to mention Lionel Richie.
BIG GOOD JOHN
Big John Gillis was as tall as a grizzly bear, but gentle as a teddy bear. The forty-year veteran of Indiana radio, who recently passed away, was an iconic figure. His loyal listeners looked up to him. “I guess being 6’ 4” was a big help,” he once told me.
So ingrained in Indianapolis was the persona of Big John that until his passing, people still thought he spent his mornings in a helicopter reporting for harried commuters making their way to work. Truth is, John hadn’t been in a WIBC chopper for almost 20 years. In a bow to the economy, he had transitioned to a fixed-wing plane and then a mobile unit for his reports. He ended his traffic career broadcasting from a studio where even the sound of barking dogs on the street outside did not convince his fans he was really earthbound.
John loved the sound of his own voice. I offer this as high praise, because you always felt that each word that tumbled effortlessly off his tongue was not only meticulously chosen, but was savored for still another nanosecond before he went on to the next. “His 60-second traffic reports,” said long-time associate Jeff Pigeon at John’s funeral, “lasted about eight minutes.”
Years ago in an interview at his home, after he left WIBC, John told me: “I have 20 seconds to do what I have to do, read a sponsor’s name, and then if I can figure out a way to twist a word or inject my personality into it, that’s it…I’m a disembodied voice, and every 10 minutes I stop what I am doing and talk to my imaginary friends.”
A disembodied voice? Perhaps. But it still embodied everything that was good about radio in those years. He wasn’t just a person you recognized on the street, he was a person you felt you knew personally. Everyone liked him, of course, but far more importantly, you knew instantly that he liked you, as well.
John loved radio. It was his best friend. He wanted to introduce you to his best friend. But “why radio?” I asked him during our visit in 2007. “Because everywhere you travel, it’s there; it takes you places immediately…it exercises your imagination.” If there was any sadness, any remorse in John, it was that media had changed. “We went to high tech and lost the high touch,” he told me. “Radio should be about content, character and personality.”
John should have thrown in loyalty, an ingredient he added to a recipe that brought him a taste of success, and also fulfilled him. There was no doubt, Big John had many opportunities to leave the market and pursue a more lucrative career elsewhere. That was not in John’s flight plan. His job was on the air and in the air, but his feet were on the ground. He loved Indianapolis; he was wedded to WIBC. Why break up a happy marriage?
“If I have 20 minutes to live and I spend the next 19 with you, having this conversation, I would die happy,” John said to me. “If in that 20 minutes, we come up with an idea and we have 20 years to make it happen, then God has blessed me far beyond my wildest dreams.”
John did not have those 20 years. But if you still hear his halting, yet mesmerizing, voice in your head, look to the heavens. No, he’s not in the helicopter, but he’s up there. Trust me.
Whenever I visit my doctor’s office, I have to fill out one form or another. Most of the time, the staff simply wants to confirm that my insurance hasn’t changed, which I think is just medical jargon for: “Has your coverage been dropped?” Before my last appointment, they asked me about my medications and about any side effects I am experiencing. I never have any side effects, but I usually write down headaches, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, decreased libido and heightened impulsivity. That way they’ll think I’m really taking all my pills.
Here is another question I had to answer: What is your nickname? I’d never been asked about this before and I really don’t have a nickname, but they hate it when you leave a blank space so I wrote down “Sparky.” I knew if somehow that ended up on my vial of blood, it would cause a lot of chatter at the lipid lab.
Next, the form wanted me to list any new drugs I’m taking. And then it asked: What is the frequency? I had my gout medicine with me, so I held it up to my ear, but I couldn’t hear a thing.
My alcohol consumption was also something they wanted to keep track of. How many cans of beer, how many glasses of wine and how many shots of liquor do I consume in a week? I called my wife to see if she had any idea. “I buy you a case of beer a week,” she said.
“Wait a second. I don’t drink that much beer.”
“Oh, you mean actually ‘drink’ it? You didn’t say that. I’d say you ingest five beers a week. The rest of the cans I find all over the house, either knocked over by the cat, or warm and three-quarters full in the corners of your office.
There were some questions about my family medical history, requesting info on relatives who had died and their cause of death, including all four of my grandparents. My maternal grandmother died suddenly at 94, her demise the result of large whiskey sours before breakfast and two packs of Camels a day. This should be a lesson to you. I’m just not sure what the lesson is.
The next line inquired about the deaths of my aunts and uncles. We were never a close-knit family, but I thought my brother who still lives in New York might remember some of the details. “Hello, Peter, it’s Dick.”
“Very funny. I have a question about Uncle Sid’s death.”
“Oh, how sad. I’m sorry to hear that. When did he die?”
This wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I simply scribbled in something to fill up the space—a cause of death that wouldn’t raise any red flags. It was likely that no one ever looked at those answers, anyway. But apparently, I’m now quite the topic of conversation in the medical records department. I was told that of all the 2,000 patients in this internal medicine practice, I’m the only one whose aunts and uncles were all run over by a bus.
I’m usually good at planning around big events. For example, I know not to schedule my once-every-five-year colonoscopy the week of the big neighborhood barbeque. I am careful not to sign up for blood tests if the fasting conflicts with the Thursday night meatloaf special at Cracker Barrel. And I’m smart enough to avoid being numbed-up for a filling on the same day I’m delivering a speech at Kiwanis.
But recently, as I made final preparations to attend my high school reunion in New York, I realized I had failed to properly coordinate my barbershop appointment with my trip back east to see my old friends. I looked at the calendar and my dilemma was obvious. I knew I needed to get a haircut about two weeks before the event. Any sooner, and I’d look disheveled in all the photos. Any later, and it would be clear to my buddies that I got the trim just for the party. More importantly, I never look good right after a haircut. The magic number of days after a visit to the barbershop for me is 10. At that point, my hair is not too short, not too long. Just right. Your number may vary.
I called Buddy, my barber. I figured he’d handled problems like this before. “As I look at my calendar, Dick, I think we can work this out so you’ll look good, but you’ll need to get in three haircuts before you leave town for your vacation. And you’ll need to have two appointments in the same week.”
“Hey, I’m a hairstylist, not a vacation planner. How about a little color for that gray?”
“If you touch up my hair right before I leave, everyone will notice. And if you don’t touch up my hair, it will look like I aged 50 years—which I did, of course. I just don’t want to make it that obvious.”
I hated to admit to my wife that I was so vain, but I wondered if she had ever thought about stuff like this, herself. She’s having a big get-together with her college friends sometime next year. “Mary Ellen, are you planning your hair salon visits so they time out right for your 40th reunion?”
“Of course. I started scheduling appointments way in advance to make sure I could see Jenna about six days before the dinner. Now she plans to get married the very week of my make-over. She returns from her honeymoon the day before I leave. Who goes to a reunion with a 24-hour-old haircut?”
Did any of my male friends think about stuff like this? I called Bob to see if he could relate to this situation.
“Why are you asking me about this, Dick?”
“Because, Bob, you have held many high-power executive positions, oftentimes addressing huge audiences—so you had to look your best on those days. Why wouldn’t I ask you?”
“Because I am completely bald, that’s why.”
I’ve decided not to worry about this anymore. Only a narcissistic person would think he had to get a haircut exactly 10 days before leaving for a trip. Not only that, but I’ll be busy that week getting botox injections.
I’m okay with artificial flowers. I don’t mind artificial turf. Who can argue with artificial intelligence? (Apparently, not even the people on Jeopardy.) Honestly, some of my friends are kind of artificial so it would be wrong for me to object to anything that had that label.
However, this headline did catch my attention: ARTIFICIAL MEAT IS SIX MONTHS AWAY. I almost choked on my reduced-fat Hebrew National Hot Dog. This announcement comes from research at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. The institution used to be called Rijksuniversiteit Limburg, but even the Dutch couldn’t pronounce that so now they’ve shortened it to UM. You hear a lot of students saying, “I’m going to UM, a really cool college.” Which is what every undergrad says when you, um, ask them where they are studying. By the way, Holland is an odd place for this kind of research. The Dutch make their shoes out of wood when they could have chosen leather. Is this who we want developing a tasty substitute for meat?
The article reports that scientists are growing synthetic sausages from “pig cells fed by horse serum,” and what a catchy phrase that will make on the package. It has a better ring to it than Johnsonville Fakes. This is obviously not an option for vegans or vegetarians. It’s for people who enjoy meat, but prefer that what they eat has spent its entire life in a test tube, not chewing its cud and emitting greenhouse gasses. I have been informed that these gasses come mostly from the cows burping. Somehow, I thought you’d be relieved to hear this.
Savvy marketers are gearing up for a media blitz to embarrass real carnivores into trying what they plan to call a Vitro Burger. The ad agency has already started spreading rumors that the most popular McDonald’s menu choice has dead cow in it. This approach was persuasive in focus groups, especially with people who still question the President’s birth certificate and the moon landing.
One scientist admits that right now the meat they are making is generic looking, but in his words, “I’m hopeful we can have an actual hamburger in less than a year,” which is also a commonly heard phrase from people in line at the Burger King drive-thru. Creating this first artificial burger will cost about $350,000, but that does include a soft drink and a small order of fries.
Apparently, the color of the “meat” is kind of a pasty white due to the lack of blood. The result is the product doesn’t look very appetizing. I could see where that might hinder sales. I totally lose my appetite when my food doesn’t look bloody.
The corporate chefs promoting this new creation are suggesting the faux burger be served on a gluten-free, low-carb, no-sodium bun. Is there any actual food in this sandwich? I’ll eat anything, but it does have to be something.
If my friends want to go to a restaurant that offers bogus beef, I’ll simply refuse to eat that artificial stuff. I’ll just have a Diet Coke, thank you.
My family has been attending a new place of worship on Sunday mornings, and we think we have found the perfect spot. The Unitarian minister is engaging. The congregation is warm and welcoming. Even the coffee is good after the service. In fact, I wouldn’t fix a thing.
More to the point, I can’t fix a thing, yet that’s exactly what they asked me to do. Last week, there was a sign-up sheet posted for some terrific social networking opportunities, like movie nights and a pitch-in-dinner. My wife and I wanted to be involved in several of these activities, but while jotting down our names on a sheet, I noticed a man in a beige sweater motioning me over to his table. He was inquiring about who had certain skills to assist in some projects to spiff up the church grounds.
“Say, Dick, can you help us replace some broken windows?”
“Sorry, I don’t have a clue how to do that.”
“Any experience with electricity?”
“Bulbs. I can change bulbs.”
“How about plumbing? Can you assist with that?”
“I don’t have a prayer.”
I had to be careful. I used to belong to a temple back in New York. Jewish people have a blessing for everything and I didn’t want to find out that I did have a prayer for plumbing.
“How about just cleaning?” he asked.
My wife was on my side with this one. “He doesn’t even know how to do that at home,” she volunteered. Mary Ellen loves to volunteer. What a trouper.
I know that the Lord works in mysterious ways. But why did he have to make repairing things such a mystery to me? Growing up, everyone in my family was more adept at this kind of stuff. My father, for example, could fix anything. He’d go downstairs to his workshop with the broken cuckoo clock or an electric can opener on the fritz and an hour later emerge from the basement to flaunt his success. How about some credit for me? Where would Dad have gotten his glory if I hadn’t busted this stuff to begin with?
My mother was also skillful at repairing things. After all, she fixed dinner every night for 30 years. I had a sleazy uncle who coached football and bet on his own games. He fixed most of them. My brother was always in some kind of a fix. And my sister? Well, she spent most of her free time fixing up her unattractive friends. Even our dogs were fixed. Fixing is in the Wolfsie blood. The problem is I don’t have the patience to address repair issues and then I get very down on myself. My blood must be Type A… and negative.
I used to have a great handyman. He installed our ceiling fan, rescreened the porch and patched up the leak in our roof. He charged $50.00 an hour “…unless you help me,” he’d say, “then it’s $65.00.” Now that he’s gone, my wife’s favorite expression is, “You need to call somebody.” So I call the plumber, the electrician, the roofer, the computer repairman. I can’t fix anything. That’s why I’m broke.
Mary Ellen casually mentioned to me the other night that I had a pathetic looking chest. While I suppose your better half is permitted to assess your upper half, I’d suggest not responding in kind. She thinks my body lacks definition, but I disagree. You can look it up in the dictionary under scrawny. Women are definitely more interested in men having muscles than a sense of humor. No female has never said: “I wish Matthew McConaughey would put his shirt back on and tell more jokes.”
I used to go to a gym to play racquetball, and I’d see men and women fine-tuning their physiques, yet I wasn’t inspired to fiddle with my own. Never really interested in the pure pursuit of brute strength, I would watch weightlifters during their routine. They’d pick up a heavy thing, then they’d put it down again. Such indecision.
After this stinging critique of my body, I read in Prevention magazine that when you reach 45 years of age, you begin losing one percent of your bone density and muscle mass every year. Old photos of me from high school show there was very little mass to start with, although some did roll in across my midsection in the early ’80s. Density? I asked Mary Ellen about that, but she said not to worry, that I’m as dense as I’ve ever been—and she’s not one to just toss out compliments.
I was embarrassed into starting a moderate body- building regimen. I don’t go to the gym to work out, however. I do everything at home, in the reclining position, while watching cable news in the evening. Why didn’t I think of this 15 years ago? I still wouldn’t like Sean Hannity, but at least I’d be buff enough to throw king-size pillows at the TV from a prone position. Some of my other favorite moves are curls, extensions and squats. There are two techniques I don’t perform: abductions and snatches. I don’t need any more legal trouble after getting caught walking out of Dick’s Sporting Goods with a set of free weights. Hey, that’s what the sign said.
I’m making progress. Thursday I ”bed-pressed” a hefty amount: 18,000 grams. It sounds impressive when counted the way the British do. I took one really heavy dumbbell and managed to hoist it over my head. When I put it down, the dog scooped it up in his mouth and buried it outside.
Mary Ellen, who regularly works out with a trainer, says my new resolution to lift things is a good sign. She’s hoping it will carry over to lifting a finger around the house to help. Or picking up the check when her brother and sister-in-law come to visit. As for me, this has all helped lift my spirits. I can now hold a six-pack out in front of me, arms parallel to the ground, for an entire TV commercial.
A few days ago, one of my macho neighbors helped me lug a huge barbell up to the second floor of our house. My hope was that after a few months working out with some of the lighter weights, I would one day be able to lift this new behemoth all by myself. Mary Ellen thought it looked ugly in our bedroom. So she took it down to the basement.
I hired a tutor to teach me about the intricacies of Facebook, blogging, and tweeting. The original plan was to take a class on all this, but I get very distracted in large groups and can’t concentrate. This is what happens to me in a movie, which is why I’m still not sure why Colin Firth was in drag at the end of Mamma Mia!
Christine, my able instructor, spent a great deal of time with me. She discussed privacy settings and asked if I was okay just having friends, or whether I wanted to have communication with people who were friends of friends. I went for broke and opted for friends of friends of friends because before computers, that’s the very method I used to select a doctor to do my first colonoscopy. Oh, and find a wife.
At one point, Christine asked me to publish something on my Facebook wall, just to give me an idea of how the process worked. For lack of anything prepared, I typed the following:
Thanks to Facebook, I have located three old high school girlfriends. Two of them don’t remember me.
Proudly, I hit the enter button and made my note visible to all 1,600 friends, few of whom I really know, but Christine assured me that this is just the kind of juicy tidbit that people who surf the Internet are looking for to liven up a dreary day.
Of course, there was no truth to what I had written on my wall. Trolling for old squeezes online would be frowned upon by Mary Ellen. So would my downloading questionable content from websites that she believes would have a detrimental effect on our marriage: do-it-yourself home improvement projects.
Within minutes, my Facebook page was abuzz with commentary about my post from former classmates. “Post,” by the way, is a new term I learned, and I’m trying to get the hang of using. Christine will be so proud.
So here are some of the posts that were posted in response to my post:
I was an old girlfriend. Can you find out how the others managed to forget you? God knows I’ve been trying for 45 years. Charlene
Try not using your maiden name. Ginny
I’m not 100% sure, but I think we went to the Senior Prom together. Does that make you feel better? Barbara
Your name rings a bell. Oh yeah, you used to copy my homework, steal my pen and call me chubby. Gee, thanks for reminding me. Andrea
We graduated in l965. We’re lucky we even remember high school. Carol
I remember you very well, but we never went out. Maybe it’s the dating part that makes you so forgettable. Sara
I was a little embarrassed about all these responses suggesting I didn’t make much of an impression on women, but I hadn’t progressed far enough in my instruction to know how to delete them, so I called my Facebook coach….
“Hi Christine, it’s Dick Wolfsie.”
There is a mouse living in the Wolfsie kitchen. At least one. The dog knows it; the cat knows it. And my wife knows it. We’re just trying to hide it from the neighbors.
We’ve had critter problems before, but there’s a big difference between having mice in your kitchen and having, let’s say, a woodchuck in your backyard. Having a woodchuck is something you can mention at a cocktail party and someday those very same people will flock to your backyard for a cube steak cookout or sit in your kitchen and gorge themselves on your homemade guacamole. The fact that you have woodchucks does not diminish your stature in the community one bit or call into question your worthiness or cleanliness as a neighbor. This is not true of mice.
In fact, when news gets out you have woodchucks, people will call to chat about it. Some will suggest you tolerate the chucking. I mean how much wood…never mind. A few folks may actually come over with beer to observe the woodchucks at work. What you thought was a real problem, will make you the talk of the neighborhood.
“Say, did you hear that Dick Wolfsie has woodchucks?”
“No, is that right? Well, leave it to an east-coaster like Dick, a man of the arts, to do something big and dramatic.”
This is not the same reaction you get when word leaks out you have mice.
“Have you heard that Dick Wolfsie has mice?”
“You’re surprised? He’s from New York. And he’s in television. Who knows what else is going on under his sink?”
Before I go any further, let me be honest and tell you that I’m not sure we have mice. I am sure we have one mouse, but despite my wife’s insistence that we are infested with the creatures, I believe it is the same mouse every time. Debating this point has become almost surreal…
“Dick, I think it’s several different mice. The first one seems nervous and shy. The other one is aggressive and dominant. And there’s this one under the kitchen sink that just seems lost.”
“Mary Ellen, please don’t do this. If you assign rodents a personality, it will make it that much more difficult to get rid of them.”
“What do you mean by ‘get rid of them’? Look, Dick, I want you to get rid of the mice, but I don’t want you to ever tell me you got rid of them. I do not want any information about this. I hope this is clear.”
“You don’t want any specifics on how they died?”
“Do NOT mention the word ‘die’ in this house. Go Google ‘mouse’ and see if there’s some catch and release program you can sign up for. Maybe there is a mice relocation project. I do not want to hear about how any mouse succumbed to some sick, barbaric trap that you bought at Home Depot. And you be nice to Seymour, especially.”
“Mary Ellen, please don’t give them names. This is just making it worse when I have to…well, you know…”
“Too much information! Too much information!”
So I took care of things. We no longer have any mice in our kitchen and I am pleased to say that Mary Ellen chooses to see me as benevolent and kind. She’s convinced—and rightfully so—that I was humane and civilized in my task.
But the cat hasn’t spoken to me in a week.