Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting to know my arch-enemy

I used to hate the New York Yankees. Perhaps I should correct myself: I still hate the New York Yankees. However, my hatred of the Bronx Bombers seemed more acute growing up as a young "seam-head" when the Yanks and the Indians were in the same division. Now, I snicker whenever they and their $200 million payroll fall short of the playoffs. I find, though, that my hatred is much more focused on that which has torn my career apart at the seams, so to speak. I'm referring to acid-reflux.

I visited a new doctor last month. During April and May, I had been experiencing a severe amount of burning in my mouth and throat. After seeing my regular E-N-T, he (again) prescribed a rugged prescription of diet modification. Really, though, his prescription amounted to a mandate to cut out beer for 3-4 months. I had been fairly religious about eliminating the other sins of the digestive tract, such as coffee (relegated to the Sunday morning paper), salsa (can't remember the last Mexican restaurant I'd been to), red wine (oh, how I miss an oak-y cabernet sauvignon!), chocolate (ok, there's an occasional piece of Heggy's from time to time!), and citrus. But my E-N-T is convinced that my comsumption of the occasional malted barley libation is the culprit. However, I was unconvinced. In fact, after almost 2 months of a beer-free lifestyle, I was about ready to head to the bluffs north of St. Louis and jump into the Mississippi. And, to be honest, I was a bit worried that something else might be lurking between both ends of my esophageal sphincters. So, that anxiety precipitated my contacting this new doctor of gastroenterology.

I watch a good deal of those Sunday morning political programs and it always amazes me that George Stephanopoulos can toss the same question at both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham and get two of the most divergent responses imaginable. Going to multiple health practitioners can sometimes yield the same feeling. Dr. Dahm is absolutely hard-core when it comes to diet modification. And this fundamentalist approach confused me, since I still drop 80 mgs. of Zegerid daily and still have this burning in my throat. I'm equally mystified by the fact my reflux is really more "non-acid-relfux"-related, so there shouldn't be any "burning", per se. So I was anxious to see Dr. Greenspan.

Turns out, he's a big beer fan! And after reeling off (quite proudly I might add) all of the things that I had eliminated from my diet, he says to me, "We have to tell patients not to have coffee and chocolate and all that other stuff, but I don't think it helps with LPR at all. You should sleep with the head of your bed elevated, and take 4 of these(Reglan) per day and see me in a month. Oh, have you had that Belgian beer Piraat?" No, I'm thinking to myself, your health practitioner-colleage ordered me not to have any beer. Are you kidding?

So, I see him tomorrow. The burning is gone. And so is my abstention from beer. He told me to have an occasional bottle. Of course, everyone has their own definition of "occasional". But, like Schumer and Graham, who has the right answer? What are the long-term affects of LPR? And what are the long-term effects of all of these prescriptions? Nobody seems to know. It seems like everyone is popping something for reflux, and the same with depresssion. I'm much more concerned about the short-term, and my arch-enemy's effect on me doing my job. How many thousands of times will I clear my throat today, and if I have this one Weyerbacher 12 Anniversary Ale, will it start a chain-reaction of volcanic proportions inside my esophageal tract?

Schumer vs Graham. Dahm vs. Greenspan. Geez, who knows. I do know that I still hate the Yankees. Now, give me my Zegerid, and where's my bottle opener?


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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

126 Miles to Terre Haute

The journey along I-70 is a lonely one. And a boring one. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Geez, Matt, what do you want, enemy planes swooping down on you as you outrun terrorist forces? Scantily-clad vixens welcoming you at rest stops?" Uh, no. I can live without the enemy planes. But the route that traverses our country's mid-section won't win any "Scenic Drive" awards. Heck, I'd settle for the occasional dilapidated barn with "Mail Pouch. Treat Yourself to the Best" painted on the side.

We've made this drive twice in less than a month. Last week we did it for a second time in order to have the memorial service for Donna's mother. It turned out to be a fitting tribute to her, and one she would have wanted, which is something depicting the opposite of your traditional funeral. Her sisters and relatives came over from Pennsylvania. My family came up from Canton. And we all gathered at Waterworks Park in Lakemore, Ohio to remember her, let the kids set off balloons into the air in honor of her, and to sit around, talk, and eat.

We also stayed at her house. I think we did that for a multitude of reasons. Sure, it eliminated the cost of a hotel room, but since we've decided to buy her house from the estate we wanted to...get a feel for it to see how comfortable we would be. It's difficult to do that, I suppose, when all you have is a couple of chairs, a radio, a small refrigerator for the beer, and an air-mattress. However, all in all, we both came to the conclusion that we would continue the journey towards moving our life back to the edifice at 2254 Scotland Drive.

Both on the drive out and back, I had a good deal of time to ponder, reflect, worry, and, in a sense, basque in the loneliness that is I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. Donna claims to be a good traveling companion in the car, and she is....if you enjoy a passenger who is semi-comatose and continually interrupts your Mozart compilation CD with symphonic snoring even before you're south of Mansfield. But once the clarity of 610 WTVN crumbles into static hesitancy outside of Dayton, the drive, aside from brief civilized contact in Indianapolis, becomes a blur of forgotten soybean fields and mammoth fireworks-for-sale billboards.

Moving back to Akron presents an astonishing array of possibilities. I know the thought of "moving back to Akron" for some would be akin to....well, to driving on I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. But as the miles ticked by and the rest stops piled up, I really tried to wrap my head around a return home. What were once thoughts comprised of watching Vanderbilt play on a Saturday afternoon and time spent thinking of what I'd say to Martina McBride if I spotted her in a restaurant were now replaced with thoughts of nephews' football games and casually wandering over to my twin brother's house for a cold one on a Sunday afternoon. I thought of the prospects of a lower house payment. I thought of not having to buy the MLB Package to watch the Indians. I thought of being able to run down to Canton on my scooter and take my mother to lunch. (whether or not she'd get on the scooter is another story.) I pondered getting involved with a parish again. I planned brewery stops. And I smiled at the thought of being able to visit a couple of my favorite haunts in nearby Pittsburgh again.

So as my companion nodded off into semi-unconsciousness and I turned up the volume on my CD, I tried to think about the positive aspects of moving back home. The whole process of "what's good" versus "what's not-so-good"...and surprisingly, the "good" had some unique advantages. And that felt good. As Donna arrived from her slumbers, only to return after mumbling, "Where are we at now?", I also made a mental note to perhaps give this solitary drive on I-70 another chance. I vowed to drive past Wright-Patterson Air Force base outside of Dayton. I pledged to stop again and visit our client-station in Richmond, Indiana. I planned to check out the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the Candle Outlet store, and the J & J Winery. I told myself that Terre Haute HAD to offer more than just a Marathon gas station or a Starbucks drive-thru and I vowed to see what the downtown actually looked like. And I made a promise to myself that I would stop to take a photograph of the huge crucifix that sits at the I-57 turn-off in Effingham. After all, sometimes the things that go past in a blur are sometimes the things that need closer inspection.

Now if I can just remember to record my next conversation with I can be able to play it back in the car on our next journey on that long black ribbon known as I-70. It gets lonely out here.


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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back to Libya Hill

In You Can't Go Home Again, George Webber apparently ticked off his fellow towns-folk to such an extent that he would never be able to go back to Libya Hill ever again. This, I suppose, is what happens when you expose the inner core of a city's underbelly and expect to get away with it. Luckily, I've yet to write similar things about Akron, Ohio, so I'm hoping that the former "Rubber Capital of the World" will extend upward it's economically-down-turned arms and welcome us back. No offense to Thomas Wiolfe, but even if it doesn't, it looks like we're headed there, nonetheless.

We were bound for "Music City", Nashville, Tennessee. We did our research, told our relatives, and informed our friends; heck, we even hired a realtor and walked through 11 or 12 houses. I put the orange "Power-T" decal back on the car window. I fomented plans with my buddy Jeff to initate the start of our planned brewpub down in Franklin. I even looked into a small ticket-package for the Nashville Predators. We practically had "Volunteer State" written across our drivers licenses. Then, Donna's mom passed away. And that event seemed to change everything.

After going through her house over on the far east side of Akron organizing things and trying to figure out how to dispose of 40 years of collected belongings, we started to think about the prospects of moving in to her house. Well, actually, Donna started thinking about it and then began asking me how I would feel about it. I immediately rejected the idea. "No", I thought. "This house is tiny in comparison to what we have and what we want. It's not in the greatest neighborhood in the world. Interesting idea." Shoot, a year from now Jeff and I will be making beer in middle Tennessee's hottest brewpub establishment. We're just...about a million dollars short of what we need. No big deal.

But the more I thought about it, the more agreeable I began to be about it. And truth be told, in the deep recesses of my mind, I think I've always wanted to, in one way or another, go home. We were already averaging a-trip-home-every-three-months-or-so anyway. The cost of plane fare, hotel stays, and car rentals were already adding up. The last time we were home, we seriously talked about the economic ramifications of moving in to her house. We talked about the enormous amount of work it would take to update a home that, cosmetically, hadn't been touched in quite a while.

I also began to tell people that were thinking about a return to Ohio. I stressed the "economic advantages" of going back home. The house, although lacking in "style points", had good "guts", with a new furnace and hot-water-heater. Although it's nearby neighbors on one side are duplexes and a massive apartment complex, the other side of the neighborhood consists of middle-class, typical Akronites who have been there for a good while. It sits on a corner and on a hill. It also has great highway access, is close to a park, and, if you really strain, you can catch a glimpse of the Goodyear Blimp Airdock on a clear day. But, it's much smaller than what we have and would be, for all intents and purposes (and no disrespect meant to Kay), a step down from what we have.

But as I "bounced it off" various people, including a few clients, I found myself explaining our return to the Buckeye State in "economic" terms. In reality, though, my secret, persistent "itch" to go home is really driven more by family. I thought of the time I have left to visit on a regular basis with my own parents. I pondered the fact that there are nieces and nephews whose lives are flying by at a rapid rate...and I don't really know them. They see "Uncle Matt" and "Aunt Donna" at functions, and only know me as "my uncle who lives in fill in the blank". I thought of the Cleveland teams that we follow and all the money we spend to do so via long-distance, keeping Charter Communications afloat with our purchases of the MLB Package and the NHL Center Ice subscription and more. So weighing all of the variables, I finally said to Donna, "Ok, let's do it."

I'm not sure how it will work out. I'm not sure if we'll sell our house here. I'm not sure if the far east side of Akron will be a safe neighborhood. I'm not sure if I'll eventually need to try to find a job there, a bit easier chore in Nashville, I think. I'm not sure if the Indians will start playing better if they know we live in the county just south of them. What I am sure about is that I feel the need to be closer to my family, so I guess that outweighs the dream of owning a brewpub with Jeff. Or nicer weather. Or a less-depressing economy. Or super-model-type women in cowboy hats on every corner. Or......uh, wait a minute. I'd better stop while the Ryder truck is still pointed north.


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