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Double Thrill
It was good to discover that I am not so jaded that I can’t feel the thrill, even after all these years. I’d say that only a minute or two went by during the experience, but time is really irrelevant. The thrill, it seems, lasts forever.

I was eight when I first rode the Giant Dipper, and I was blessed to have good old Uncle Martin riding with me. I say blessed because Big Uncs (as we called him) was tipping the scales at around 300 pounds at the time, and I was convinced that being wedged in next to him in the car was the only thing that kept me from being hurled from the train to a horrific death.

I needn’t have worried. There have only been three deaths out of the 65 million or so rides the Dipper has provided since it was built in 1924. All three were linked to over-exuberance by riders. Specifically, those people stood up when they should have remained seated. I won’t say that they had it coming, but when it did come, they were definitely trying to get its attention.

For everyone else, the end will come some other way. I suppose it might even come on another roller coaster, though these so-called amusements have a surprisingly good safety record. The newer models descend from dizzying heights at the most perilous angles, reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The world’s fastest, the Formula Rossa, is featured at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates, and it can hit a motor-assisted 150 m.p.h. — faster than freefall. The riders on such attractions are strapped in, tied down, and lashed in place in order to prevent any violent thrashing (or unauthorized standing). Even so, we lose 4.5 fun-seekers a year at our amusement parks. A pretty good average, really — though it’s kind of tough on that .5 of a rider. I don’t know, moreover, if these statistics include those poor devils who were scared to death.

The Giant Dipper tops out at only 55 m.p.h., but the only thing keeping you in (short of a stout uncle) is one not-that-snug metal bar. This loose fit is one of the reasons this rollercoaster is so exciting…that, and the creaky wooden frame of the coaster’s superstructure and its herky-jerky, old school ride.

And so it was, just last week, that I rode the Giant Dipper again. I can report that it was just as bone-jangling, teeth-rattling, and scream-worthy as it had ever been — and a total gas. With me were my twin eight-year-old nieces who were sampling the old coaster for the very fist time. I have managed to successfully watch my weight over the years, so I played no part in keeping them in the car. Fortunately, we all finished without a scratch.

I must say that they didn’t seem particularly frightened by the experience. In fact, I had to instruct them that screaming was not only permitted, but highly recommended for full enjoyment. Maybe they were simply playing their emotions close to the vest, just as I no doubt had on my first ride.

I am confident, though, that the experience made an impression on them, as it had on me. True or not, I got a vicarious thrill to go with my personal one. I’ll bet Uncle Martin got one, too.
The Joy of Socks
Shoes have always gotten a lot of attention, as they should. They work harder than any other item of clothing, right down there where the rubber meets the road. What’s more — like hats— they get plenty of fashion focus and their fair share of kinky obsession as well.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I confess that I’m right there with the obsessions, and I want to add that my infatuation is entirely guilt-free. Except for one nagging concern: socks. They take plenty of abuse, too, toiling away in the moist, thankless darkness inside your shoes, but they don’t get anything like the same respect as external footwear. And, unlike shoes and hats, they are not seen as expressions of identity, much less sexual totems.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that socks are not attractive or that they are not worthy of love. My point, in fact, is that hosiery is capable of beauty rivaling anything on Zappo’s. It’s just that the flashiness of shoes can sometimes blind the casual onlooker to the loveliness, even sensuality, of these under-appreciated underwear for the feet. And no, I am not talking about fishnet stockings. Just the humble, everyday sock is enough to transport me to my happy place.

Assuming it’s the right sock, that is. A sock you care about…deeply. Like the ones I’m wearing right now. They are my favorite pair of socks, perhaps ever, and I confess that they are the inspiration for this ode. What is even more poignant is that our time together will soon be coming to an end. How soon, I don’t know, but soon.

It has been a long good-bye already. Multiple mendings have left the thinning material lumpy in all the wrong places. Even so, I am not sure this will be our last day. Just now, when I saw them in the sock drawer, I felt that same old rush of affection. That feeling has been there from the very first time I pulled them on. So effortless, so soft, yet even now they cling gently to my leg! They stay up, they look great, they have kept their sockly integrity from the beginning. It won’t be easy ending this relationship.

I have trouble throwing shoes away, too, but that is a different matter. Them, I objectify. They can move on to Good Will and find happiness with someone else. Not so, my socks. And yet, when I next toss them in the washer, I know that their elasticity will be weakened ever so slightly. They may emerge with new holes that will call out for repair. Will I heed the call? Will I extend their loyal service for one more wearing?

Or would that to be too cruel? Should I show mercy…and throw them in the trash? Euthanize my hose?

My answer must be no. We are as one...solemates to the end.
Bilk
I was glad to see the word “bilk” enter our public discourse here recently. Our new provisional Attorney General, Matthew Whataker, Esq., has been accused of bilking disabled veterans, among others, out of their meager savings as part of his duties for World Patent Marketing. That was one of his last gigs before becoming Jeff Sessions’ chief deputy at the Department of Justice.

Besides being a good, organic example of Anglo-Saxon punchiness, bilk is a particularly appropriate word choice in this case. It carries a connotation of sleaziness which nicely matches the quality of this scam. “Defraud” or even “cheat” just don’t have that odor of lowlife we detect coming off bilk.

Some might argue that “hoodwink” could be a contending choice here. You’ve got to love the word hoodwink, but let’s remember that Mr. Whitaker’s involvement in this scam went far beyond mere theft. He was also called upon to menace customers with criminal action if they dared to complain about their mistreatment by WPM. Bilk, I think, offers a hint of muscle behind the con, of the domination of a weak victim by a powerful deceiver. To hoodwink seems more like simple duping. For instance, when Kim Jong Un tricked Trump by agreeing to denuclearize while secretly supernuclearizing, he was hoodwinking him.

Nor can we fairly call Mr. Whitaker a mere “chiseler.” That term should be reserved for the likes of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his relentless efforts to profit from his position of public trust. EPA chief Scott Pruitt set the benchmark for this field until his chiseling began to undermine the pedestal of Trump himself, and had to go. Whitaker’s crimes are less opportunistic and more meticulous in their planning.

“Weasel” doesn’t fully capture Whitakers identity, either, though there’s little doubt that he is one. Weaseling bespeaks the kind of unctuous, self-serving deception we expect from, say, Ted Cruz or Mike Pence. Lyndsey Graham is also a weasel, but it’s unclear why he’s suddenly gone all in with that role.

“Flimflam” and “bamboozle” certainly convey the spirit of Whitaker’s schemes, but perhaps not their corporate, white collar nature. Roger Stone and his fancy suits are closer the essence of this type of political grifter.

It is clear, however, that Whitaker “swindled” his clients. He also “fleeced” them and “rooked” them and “ripped them off” good and proper. It’s just that bilked feels like the perfect nomenclature for deceits perpetrated as a part of his training by the acting chief law enforcement officer of our nation.

Trump, of course, fits into all of these categories. For starters, he is the boss, and therefore responsible for every misdeed committed in his name. But all it takes is a cursory glance at his resume to find corroboration of almost every kind of corruption, from weaseling to swindling — including bilking. He is, in fact, the bilker-in-chief in this rogues’ gallery of miscreants. And if Robert Mueller has anything to say about it, we might be adding some other descriptors to that list, including “treason.”
A Real Pain
Used to be, the only drugs you saw advertised on TV were headache remedies. If I had a favorite among those ads, I guess it would be the old one for Anacin. It featured the silhouette of a human head with three windows inside it. Anacin’s claim to superiority was that it addressed three different kinds of pain, and each window represented one of the three.

The only one people really cared about, of course, was the middle window. It featured a steel hammer relentlessly pounding, pounding. A regular headache, in other words. The other two, as far as I could ever tell, were depictions of neuritis and neuralgia. Since we don't hear much about those afflictions anymore, I assume that it was Anacin that cured them once and for all.

I can’t say that I really liked those old commercials. They were about pain, after all, which is kind of a downer. But they were bearable, and the hokey imagery provided some amusement, at least for the first hundred or so repetitions. This is not the case here in the new age of drug advertising.

First of all, we’re way beyond mere headaches these days. The airwaves are now flooded with commercials for drugs that treat arthritis, depression, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, intransigent bladders, and a lot of other hellish ailments that people used to have the good grace to keep to themselves.

It is not the airing of private matters that I object to, though, or even to the non-stop hawking of prescription drugs. It is the flavor of the ads themselves that puts me off. The characters in them are excruciatingly bland and pleasant. They laugh at things that are not funny. They are irrepressibly active. They broadcast adorability every minute of their perfect days. I mean, these people are supposed to be sick, right? Why, then, are these geezers are out there playing music, hiking, sailing, bicycling, swimming, and boogying like there’s no tomorrow? And aren’t they just a little bit worried about that list of horrible side effects they are risking? Including death?

No, they are not. They may have life-threatening diseases, but these druggies remain deliriously happy. They are surrounded by other people who are the same way, and I don’t like them, either. They do not suffer, they do not inspire sympathy, they do not deserve the happiness they are faking. They are Stepford sickees.

I find the aging illness actor in the Eliquis ads to be particularly irksome. On top of his infuriating good nature, he is somehow able to draw things with his finger on the TV screen that are miraculously transformed into real objects. Each time he does this, he steps back from his work and beams with a knowing twinkle at what he has done. I’m not exactly sure why that gets to me, but it does. Meanwhile, he’s got blood clots and atrial fibrillation to worry about. And if he’s got any sense, he ought to be on guard for such side effects as excessive bleeding, inability to breathe, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds. But does he care? Of course not. Instead, he runs this carefree attitude that must be an insult to anyone who actually has blood clots.

At least the sick person in those old Anacin ads appeared to be suffering…even though she was a painting of a statue and not a real person at all. I could feel her pain because I could see and hear that pounding hammer inside her head. I would be more accepting of that guy in the Eliquis ad if he fell over clutching his chest once in a while or recoiled in horror at the sight of his blue urine. That might be a disturbing scene to witness, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

All I am saying is, if we are going to have prescription drug ads at all, they should be honest. I am not an advocate of human suffering, but I do believe in truth in advertising. Sick people should not be living lives that are more fulfilled and joyful than healthy peoples’. It’s just not fair. If the Anacin lady has to lead a life curtailed by a simple headache, then it is only fair that those with life-threatening diseases should be honestly depicted. Again, I don’t like agony, but I am willing to witness it in the interests of honesty and fair play.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon