Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last Call (The Day the Beer Stood Still)

"It's just not fair." It's a phrase I've mumbled on more than one occasion. For instance, I intone this whenever I hear the final tally on Tiger Woods' endorsement deals every year. Or A-Rod's salary. Or a Ned Spindle promo. Or watching The Weather Channel and finding out what the temperature is in January. Recently, though, I've muttered this at least 3,438 times since Wednesday, February 11th. It's the day I stopped drinking beer.

Like many, I suffer from acid reflux. In fact, my reflux has been so bad over the past 10 years that in 2006 I was forced to get the Nissin Fundoplication surgery, a procedure I referenced in an earlier blog entry. However, I really never felt completely healed. Something never felt quite right. The "burning" generally associated with typical acid relux had been pretty much laid to rest, but something was awry. I always feel "clogged up", with an incessant amount of throat-clearing. It's always been an annoyance, but I felt like it was starting to affect my work. So, last week, I visited yet another ENT. After performing a "videostrobe" (a ghastly little procedure whereby a metal rod with a camera on the end is inserted on top of your voice box, immediatly thrusting you into "gag-reflex mode") which I've had done a half-dozen times, the ENT came back in to the room, shut the door, and sat down. Hey, I've watched House, so this couldn't be good.

He turns on the video of my voice-box and points to several densely-reddened areas. "See that? This is reflux damage, but it's not acid-reflux. It's non-acid reflux, sometimes called 'silent reflux', and it's taking its toll." I stared at the video, and then finally mumbled, "Uh, but isn't this why I had the Nissin surgery, so I wouldn't have to deal with stuff like this?" He then went on to explain that this condition, called laryngopharyngeal reflux, or "LPR", is really much more dangerous than regular acid-reflux, and much more difficult to treat. Sure, you can take the "purple pill" a couple of times a day. But, the only way to really eliminate this bile-like substance from jumping up in to one's esophagus and lubricating the voice-box is to instigate some basic lifestyle changes. And these changes, invariably, have everything to do what we drink and what we eat.

So, I said to him, "Well, I know all this. See, the last ENT I saw showed me the same film, a re-run of my densely-reddened vocal folds, and he told me I had to give up salsa and all my favorite tomato-based products. So I did. And he told me I had to give up citrus, so I did that, too. And I gave up chocolate, and mint, and spicy Mexican foods, which I dearly love." He seemed impressed. "And," I said, "I gave up coffee, too." Now he was really impressed. "10 days of sheer caffeine-withdrawal misery, Doc. So why do my vocal folds still look like tenderloin?" He proceeded to hand me a series of LPR brochures and asked, "What about carbonated beverages?" I paused, and said, "Yeah, sure, I haven't had a Diet Coke in ages." He sat back down. "What about alcohol?"

Damn. "Well, I know red wine is a no-no, as is single-malt scotch, so I haven't had those in months." He nodded. "What about beer?"

Is this what it's all come down to? My nightly pleasure of a couple of well-crafted ales turns out to be the LPR culprit that prevents me from healing my seared vocal cords? "Ok, you can't be serious. I've given up ALL of these things. Are you saying that a couple of beers is causing me all this grief?" He handed me my new Nexium prescription and replied, "That's exactly what I'm saying. In order for the true healing process to begin, you have to be rigid and vigilant in doing these dietary changes. Sure, once the healing has occurred, you might be able to start re-introducing some of these things on a limited basis. But even then, it's no guarantee. We just don't know enough about this LPR to be sure. But you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can do in order to facilitate the healing. The stakes are higher for you"

So, I've been in mourning since February 11th. I've silently driven past Randall's Liquors on my way home, a place I'd usually pop into a couple of times a week just to see if any of the items I've read about in Beer Advocate had made their way on to the shelves. I've been eating earlier in the evening, in order to obey the "no-food-at-least-three-hours-before-bedtime" LPR mantra. And, I must admit, on my way upstairs from the studio, I have opened my beer refrigerator occasionally just to stare at the bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA that my wife bought for me. Who knows...should sufficient healing take place, perhaps that will be my "welcome back" reward.

Until then, hoist one for me, lads. The 'fridge at the Matt-man's pub may be closed for some time.

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at

Monday, February 2, 2009

This "Facebook" phenomenon

Social networking. I'm still trying to figure out its usefulness and practicality within the construct of my relatively unexciting and almost-boring existence. MySpace never took off with me. And the more I heard and read about Facebook, the more disinterested I was in amassing "friends". But as I watched my wife dedicate a good portion of her evenings to sitting on the sofa next to me with a laptop writing on her "wall", I thought that perhaps I ought to look ino it. So I did. And did the "friends" start to come out of the wood-work!

So, as more real-life friends and friends-of-friends start to inquire about my interest in becoming their Facebook "friends", I've become more and more engrossed in this Facebook phenomenon. Why, the other day I was "tagged" and urged to write a "25 things about me" note and then "tag" others with it. Whatever. Fine. I had some trouble initially, but the more I wrote, the more intrigued I became at trying to discover just what it is that I want others to "know" about me.

So, without further adieu, here is a reprint, courtesy of my Facebook page. "Tag, you're it".

25 Randon Things About Me

1. I have an incomprehensible obsession with quality beer. I will travel to great lengths in order to find and retrieve an array of hop-infused libations.

2. I once studied to be a Roman Catholic priest and received my degree from a seminary college in Columbus, Ohio.

3. I taught for 7 years in proprietary business colleges in Ohio. I met my wife, a fellow instructor, at one of these schools.

4. My wife could possibly be THE most talented individual I know. She is a painter, a floral designer, a landscaping expert, an awesome cook, and will try, with much vigor, to fix ANYTHING that is broken.

5. Some of my favorite musical acts are Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Mark Knopfler, Alex Bugnon, Bob Marley, 3 Doors Down, Wilco, and Neil Young. My all-time favorite band is The Who.

6. We own a scooter and I recently secured my motorcycle license. I hope to be able to purchase at least a 250cc this year.

7. My wife and I were married on a baseball field prior to a minor league game in Canton, Ohio in August of 1999.

8. I am a twin. ("fraternal" for my brother's sake, thankfully...)

9. I am a dog lover. We currently have a black mix/mutt/something-or-othe
r named Maggie (a.k.a "Maggie-Moo", a.k.a. "Maggie Mae", a.k.a. "Moo-Moo"), who we retrieved from a no-kill shelter. Maggie is 7 and loves to herd the cat (Ruby Tuesday)as well as several inanimate objects in the living room.

10. Although I enjoy all sports, baseball is my passion...and in particular, the Cleveland Indians. From my time living in Knoxville, Tennessee, college football would be a close "second". I really enjoy the pageantry, rivalries, and traditions of everything surrounding college football. ("Wake Up the Echoes!" and "Go Vols"!)

11. My wife and I have visited major league stadiums in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Kansas City, New York, and Oakland.

12. I love golf but I have a terrible "slice".

13. I have been chubby most of my times bordering on "fat" and other times approaching "svelte".

14. One of my favorite on-air jobs was that of Overnight Host at rock station WONE-FM in Akron, Ohio. I really feel like I discovered my "voice" there.

15. I really enjoy being the "voice" of a station where clever, well-written copy is the norm. I don't have the greatest voice, but I feel like I can utilize what I've been given best when I'm free to interpret a fun script and occasionally ad-lib.

16. My favorite city in the world (so far!) is a place where we lived from 2001 through 2002: Annapolis, Maryland.

17. I've always had a deep interest in eastern spirituality. I enjoy reading about Zen Buddhism, and I wish I were more adept (and more rigid) at sitting zazen. My favorite television show growing up was "Kung Fu".

18. One of my goals before death is to publish a book. I've been published in several newspapers and periodicals, but I would like to be a published book author.

19. I adore accents,"regionalisms", and linguistic patterns of speech. Some of the most interesting to me are the British accents of northern England, the southern accents of eastern Tennessee/western North Carolina/northeast Georgia. and "Pittsburgh-ese".

20. One of my favorite vacations was that of a trip through Arizona. I still marvel at the thought of how much the topography changed going from Flagstaff...and then to Kingman. Amazing!

21. A perfect day: an Autumn afternoon with leaves in full color, blue sky, Saturday, outside at a table on the City Dock of Annapolis, a slight breeze which requires a thin fleece jacket, people-watching and enjoying the first gulp of either a Marzen from Fordham Brewing or a "Loose Cannon" from Clipper City Brewing Company.

22. My favorite comfort foods are pizza, macaroni and cheese, and cookies. My wife's gooey, sticky macaroni cheese should be offered in 4-Star restaurants. The finest pizza that exists is made in Canton, Ohio at any of the more than a dozen locations of "The Pizza Oven". I'll eat cookies anywhere, anytime.

23. I'm musically-inclined, and just finished several introductory adult piano classes. I own several acoustic and electric guitars (including a beautiful black Strat) but I don't play nearly as much as I should or would like to.

24. I prefer the femininity and sexuality of women from the 1940's, including actresses like Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Olivia de Havilland, Donna Reed, Susan Hayward, Rhonda Fleming, and Ann Miller.

25. I still think one of the most beautiful sights in the world, aside from spotting my wife in the baggage-claim area of the airport after she's been on an extended trip, is that red beacon on top of the radio tower, repeatedly flashing on-and-off.


* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at