Yes It's Me, I'm The Pride of Cucamonga, I Can See Golden Forests In The Sun

The Second City is the famous improvisational theater in Chicago.

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When The Second City opened in Chicago in 1959, Chicago was our nation’s second largest city. Today, our second city is Los Angeles.

I live in a second city – Spokane, second to Seattle in Washington state.

I’ve lived both in Spokane and in Seattle, as have my parents, and as have my children. Both Spokane and Seattle have positive qualities.

Seattle is one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful urban areas. In Spokane, it is easier to park. Seattle hosts an economic engine of brain power and creativity. Spokane has a four-season climate. Seattle has world-renown, locally-sourced cuisine. In Spokane, straws are legal.

Most eighth graders can identify the largest city in each state. (Delaware? New Hampshire? Montana?) More assuredly, most residents of the second largest city in any state know they reside in their state’s second largest city. Second city pride.

Second cities evolve. Notable second cities have been replaced. Dallas is no longer a second city, despite the hats and hairdos. San Francisco is no longer a second city, despite the long gloves and hypodermic needles. Santa Fe is no longer a second city, despite the art galleries and Texans. Reno is no longer a second city, despite being the biggest little city in the world.

Second cities are feisty. Spokane and Seattle have a rivalry. Although, if you ask Seattle, Seattle will tell you its rival is Portland. St. Louis and Kansas City are rivals. Salt Lake and Ogden are rivals. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are rivals. 

Do you know all the second cities? Most population nerds cannot accurately tell you the second city in each state.

Unless your population nerd is a Paraguayan professor.

I am at an international conference of academics. Today is committee meetings with a luncheon buffet.

I drop my briefcase at an empty table and get lunch. As I sit, “Hello my friend. I am Eduardo, and I am new to this Committee.” Eduardo sets his plate across from me at the round table for eight.

We exchange pleasantries. Eduardo is a partner in a Paraguay law firm and an adjunct professor at a Paraguay law school. He hands me two different business cards, each featuring his photo. The photos differ, but in each Eduardo is wearing the same shirt, coat and tie. Sure enough, today Eduardo is wearing the same shirt, coat and tie. I slide him my card.

“Spokane,” Eduardo says. “Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state, is that not the case?”

“Yes, that is the case, Eduardo. I know of Asuncion, but I am afraid I am not aware of Paraguay’s second city.”

“Ciudad del Este,” he says proudly, as if I am having lunch with Antonio Banderas. “Ciudad del Este, Christopher. This is where I am from. Ciudad del Este – the second city of Paraguay.”

From opposite sides of the equator, Eduardo and I have commonality. We’re second city people.

Second city people see themselves as first city people who are making a choice.

“I could live in Denver, but I choose Colorado Springs for easier access to the Incline Trail.” 

“I could live in Phoenix, but I prefer the climate in Tucson.” 

“Fort Wayne has just as many amenities as Indianapolis, as far as I remember.”

First city people see themselves as never living in the second city under any circumstances.

“Buffalo? Don’t be fatuous.”

“My therapist’s receptionist has to live in San Diego. My esthetician’s receptionist also has to live in San Diego. It sounds fine, but I don’t know.”

“Juneau? Too isolated.”

As Eduardo discusses Ciudad del Este, I realize this Paraguayan bon vivant is eating like the Tasmanian devil. Arms akimbo, fireworks of crumbs, multiple plates. Relatively quiet, though – like a silent forest masticator.

I am impolite to publicize another’s table manners. Starched hanky for certain. I've changed his name, but Ciudad del Este is only a second city – people could figure it out. If you dropped some of my characteristics to a few Spokane denizens, you’d hit on my name pretty quickly.

Eduardo is eating from both hands. A knife in his right hand stabs and downs slices of beef the size of playing cards. Simultaneously, Eduardo maintains the continental left-handed fork technique for his potatoes.

Eduardo discusses similarities of Paraguay’s Parana River and the Columbia River – “These are both the second most important navigable rivers on our continents.” Before I could offer that maybe the St. Lawrence River is North America’s second most important river, Eduardo politely excuses himself, loads another plate, and reverts to full-tilt Tasmanian devil.

It seemed wrong to watch, so I kept my head down. But the conversation remained fascinating.

I have not been to Paraguay, but I have been to Uruguay, where politicians are advertised by number, not name. Latin American corruption, Swiss bank account style.

I ask Eduardo the political differences of Paraguay and Uruguay. Food bits orbit his head like electrons. Eduardo reacts with his rich, landlocked voice. “Well, you see, Christopher, Uruguay and Paraguay both have free and regular presidential elections. In both countries, our elected leaders are educated and well informed. You have been to Uruguay, and it has wealth and magnificent beaches. Paraguay is uncomfortably hot and humid.”

I could see light reflecting from Eduardo’s plate. Round three must be coming. Eduardo rises and takes his plate. His zone has a circle of virgin white, surrounded by a two-layered rainbow of debris - organic, like a weed whacker has attacked a box of gerbils and baguettes.

I walk with him for the dessert. Eduardo sets his plate on the hallway cart and faces me, “Buen amigo, adios”, and he is gone without a sound. Rubber soled shoes. Real Paraguayan gum, I assume.

I return to the be-crumbed table with my lonely dessert. As the meetings began, none of the other academics sit with me – first city people for certain. That's fine. I’ve got a second city friend in Ciudad del Este.

 


Maybe You Had Too Much Too Fast (Maybe You Had Too Much Too Fast)

Remember when you first saw an ad on TV for drugs?

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“Ask you doctor about Spazapram.”

Drug advertising seems wrong. Drug companies persuade us to ask our doctors to sell us the drugs that the drug companies cannot otherwise legally sell us. Perverse, really.

The drug companies also want us asking our veterinarians about drugs.

Canine pharmaceutical ads have arrived.  Drugs for dogs.

“Ask your veterinarian about Rovercil.”

Saw the ad last week on cable.

“Is Fido depressed, feeling blue, out of sorts?’

“Do you yearn for younger days when Scout bounded through meadows and jumped into ponds?”

“Is Max no longer interested in licking peanut butter off your skin?”

“Rovercil rejuvenates your dog’s youth and demeanor, leaving him feeling less enslaved.”

And, like any pharmaceutical ad, the Rovercil ad includes the side effects.

“Rovercil may cause shortness of breath, panting, slobbering, gruff noises, and incontinence. Do not dig for rodents while on Rovercil. Stop taking Rovercil and see your veterinarian if you spend four continuous hours chewing one squeaking toy.”

Reminds me when my broke former brother-in-law tried to borrow $1000 for surgery on his cat. Some of that $1000 must go toward Felinebarbitol or some other cat drug.

I told him: “Don’t be an idiot. New cats are free.” I don’t own a pet, and he, borrowing the money, scoffed: “You don’t understand, man.” Indeed, I did not understand.

If you’re buying Rovercil for your depressed dog, what is the real problem?

Drugs can be miraculous, but drug advertising seems wrong.

Consider Morgan Spurlock, famous for Supersize Me.

Supersize Me is a wet-your-pants-funny documentary where Spurlock only consumed McDonald's for 30 days. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Every item on the menu at least once.

Supersize Me shows Spurlock eating the McDonald's, planning for the McDonald's, working, and seeing the doctor. At every doctor visit, Spurlok gains weight, his vitals decline, and his look deteriorates, like he has been fully glazed by the insides of french fry bags. At every visit, the doctor insists Spurlock quit his McDonald’s challenge. But quitting does not a documentary make.

Spurlock has never had another hit as big as Supersize Me, but McDonald's did stop using the term “supersize” after his movie.

Spurlock had a TV show where he tried other grand stunts, like spending 30 days with the camera crew in jail. He passed on the challenge idea I sent him.

My wife watches the network news, among her myriad news sources. The network news seems antiquated, but the announcer voices remain reassuring.

Perhaps given the demographic, nearly every network news commercial is for a pharmaceutical. “Ask your doctor about Heavamine.”

My wife’s special muting skills spare her the side effects, but I cannot stop listening. I’m worried I need the drug, with all my doctor appointment-skipping. My weak quips are cries of denial: “Pullzac helps you ice skate with your grandkids” or “Kringlopomed helps you pick out sweaters and throw bread at birds.

Drug side effects have evolved. Olestra’s “loose stools” side effect was once the champion. But now, with Yafganitrol, there’s risk of eye socket bleeding, fingernail discoloration, and sudden death. I thought sudden death was a golf thing.

The side effect recital includes warnings not to take the drug if you are taking other drugs. I know people who take multiple drugs. Warning people who take multiple drugs not to take multiple drugs is not effective to get those people not to take multiple drugs.

My idea for Spurlock was to take each of the network news advertised drugs each night for 30 nights. Then cut to him live at the end of the news. Lots of people would tune-in to see how it all goes down for Morgan, taking all of the network news drugs, and then being presented with fun challenges.

You can imagine the promos:

“It’s Day 3: Check in on Morgan Spurlock as he experiences Abilify, Humira, Lyrica, and a Fentanyl Patch while alone in a corn maze….”

“It’s Day 17: Morgan Spurlock starts in a padded room hopped-up on a combination of Xarelto, Oxycodone, Slidenafil, and Robitussin, and then is set loose, unarmed, into a paintball field….”

“Tonight, on the finale of ‘Heart Assault’, Morgan Spurlock gulps a mixed bowl of Adderall, Valparate and Zostavax; drinks a smoothie of Ritalin, Fingolimo, and Andro Gel; mainlines Testosterone and Lidocaine; has his eyeballs doused in liquified Omalizumab, and is encouraged to climb the tram line at Jackson Hole….”

My dad was in insurance, so I know why Morgan Spurlock is no longer on television. It’s a shame, because Spurlock's teaching style is excellent. Re-watch Supersize Me. Why isn’t Morgan Spurlock a national hero?

The point of Supersize Me is the societal effect of McDonald's taking full advantage of addiction in driving the business model. The pharmaceutical ads are the same: taking full advantage of addiction in driving the business model.

I am physician phobic (but in no means an anti-vaxxer). The entire doctor experience is unpleasant. I dislike making the appointment, the waiting and unveiling room dances, the scale, the blood pressure cuff, sitting on paper. Even the receptionist clipboard is no fun, and I love tests.

So, if given a chance, I’ll skip the doctor. Couldn’t find the vein the first time? I’m out of here. Ruptured quad muscle? It will get better. Start telling me to come back for a dye injection, and I’ll be gone before you get to what happens next.

But, given my personality type, I’m probably lucky I have physician phobia. The physician is the gateway to the pharmaceuticals. My reluctance to see a doctor is likely responsible for me not being a pill popper – at least not yet.

Alas, once you get to a certain stage, they just feed you the drugs, whether you saw them on TV and asked for them or not. By then, a pet will likely be a part of my life. When the drug pushers come, hopefully, Oscar will just say no.