It’s that time of year when everyone considering buying me a Christmas gift asks, “What to give a guy who has everything?” It’s true; there are no more TV channels I don’t already get, I have the two perfect dogs and just bought a new (well, a ’97, but clean) truck.
I’ve got a comfortable couch, my health and, as of last month, a $943 Social Security check each month till I croak. I’ve got it ALL.
But I do have a few minor gift requests — one for the Powell Tribune that won’t even cost a penny. Alert and irrepressible Trib icon, Sandy “Bubbles” Thiel, planted the seed.
Sandy critiques my columns now and then, and a few weeks ago, lent an observation. She wrote, “When are you getting over here for a new photo? You look so much younger in your other one with short hair.” Ah Bubbles, you had me at “younger.” So if the Trib will get their photographer at the ready, it’s time we set the record straight: I’m no longer an aging hippy; I’m an extremely youthful senior citizen with at least 80 percent of my original teeth.
I’m sure my old friend Dave Beemer is in a quagmire about what to get me this year, especially since he’s never given me anything before. One word, Dave: “keratoconus.” As I’ve oft mentioned, Dave and I share a rare eye abnormality known as “keratoconus.” In short, the cornea morphs from its God-given, curved surface into a cone-like shape that blurs vision and destroys depth perception.
It’s odd enough that two close friends suffer from the same oddity, but something happened about 10 years ago that my eye doctor, James Bell, repeatedly calls “one in a million.” I had lost a lens the night before a tennis tournament, so called Dave on the minuscule chance one of his might suffice. Inexplicably, not only could I see, but I could see better!
Even though it was mid-July and I double-faulted the tennis match away, I considered it a Christmas miracle.
I’ve finally gone through all Dave’s spares, and weeks ago, when I lost yet another $152 lens, Dr. Bell said, “I like how your friend’s contacts fit your eye. As often as you lose them, he should get you a dozen for Christmas.” Well, how about it, Beemer? They’re a little pricier than the Rogaine I give you each year, but on your “double-dipping” teacher/coach/referee salary, it will barely cause a dent.
On an eerily similar, totally unrelated note, I launched yet another new career last week at the old Cody Theatre. My 21-year-old musician/songwriter friend, Garrett Randolph (who ironically had keratoconus surgery last year) had a “Kickstarter” event for he and his band’s first album, and asked if I’d perform a little standup.
I was reluctant, but being close with Garrett’s entire family, I relented. Sure enough, my worst fear was realized: everyone laughed at me. I guess that’s not so bad, but minutes into it, I was looking for a hole to crawl into. I had memorized my short routine, but just to be sure, jotted some reference highlights on my hand.
The blizzard prompted a 20-minute starting delay, so I spent an hour walking around with a cold drink in that hand. So I do my intro bit (“My name is Doug and I’m an alcoho … oh wait; wrong night,” among others), which had the crowd laughing and me basking in it. But soon basking turned to gasping and grasping when I suddenly went blank on my next bit. I glanced at my hand, but the lights were dim and the words were hopelessly smudged. I was mortified, now staring at the crowd and saying, “Um,” for what seemed like a week. At least the crickets sounded amused.
Then suddenly I allowed my mind to abandon the missing gag and I got on a roll with each laugh propelling me onward. When I was finished, I didn’t want to leave the stage — ad-libbing things like, “I see a Steelers jacket out there; don’t look now, but my nephew over there wants to steal it. Hey, big shout-out to our Steelers!”
I had to restrain myself before I would start yelling things like, “Hey, ladies and germs, did you ever hear the story about my circumcision? It was wild!” Begrudgingly walking off the stage, I spotted the set of drums awaiting the concert and changed course. Walking to them, I added, “I also play the drums, ya know.”
I had gone from total meltdown — from the flop to the top — in a matter of minutes. I don’t want to overstate it, but I’m calling it a Christmas miracle.