Sunday, April 24, 2005

Jimmy crack cornea and I don't care

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Given the seemingly limitless boundaries of humankind's technological capability, why hasn’t anybody invented dog glasses yet?

I don't mean drink-ware. That would be silly. No, I mean eyeglasses for dogs.

Confound it all, people -- when are we going to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that dogs need glasses! I can't say it any more simply! This is basic knowledge! We have brainiacs spending billions of dollars combing Mars for microbes when they should be inventing glasses for dogs, damn it all! How many dogs -- how many, I say! -- must suffer before we as a people stand up for common sense and cry, "Enough!"

OK.

I just went onto the Internet and found dog glasses. They were ... um, right on the first screen there. So, good then. Ahem. Let's pretend those first few paragraphs never happened, shall we?

They're little goggles that are strapped onto your dog's head. They're called Doggles. Funny -- that's what I would have called them, too.

I may get a pair for my pooch. I don't care if it makes her a four-eyes -- I'm obsessed with canine eye safety lately, and my dog has eye issues. She asked not to be revealed by name publicly. I'll call her "Jerry Lewis."

It started when my wife noticed something on Jerry Lewis' face. We were about to eat lunch with my parents at the time.

We're sitting at the dinner table and Jerry Lewis comes sniffing around for scraps. My wife suddenly pats Jerry's head and says, "What's that?"

I look. Jerry Lewis has what looks like a white speck on her left eye. Then she turns her head, and I see that it's sort of sticking out of her eyeball -- like a pimple.

"Ug," I say, and a wave of nausea crashes over me. I should probably mention that I'm terribly phobic about anything to do with eyes.

My wife tries looking at it and turns pale. She's even more phobic about eyes than I am. "We have to get her to the vet."

"I'm sure it's nothing serious," Mom suggests.

"You're probably right," I say.

Soon afterward, my wife and I and Jerry Lewis are careening toward Warren Animal Hospital at 90 mph. Jerry Lewis is taking a nap in the back seat while I chew off my fingernails and spit them into Swansea.

We get her into an exam room. My wife and I are petting Jerry Lewis and looking at the ceiling. I catch another glimpse of her eye -- and there it is, on her left eyeball, a bulging white blotch like a miniature Mount Fuji. It moves grotesquely whenever she glances around. Jerry doesn't seem to care.

"Ug," I say.

"I can't look at it," my wife says.

The vet comes in. He notices it right away.

"Got a little flaw there," he says. Then he pulls out a test strip kind of thing from his pocket, holds Jerry Lewis by the head, and sticks it right to her eyeball like tape.

"GAAAAH!" my wife and I say.

"Hmf," the vet says. "See that dye?"

We look through our fingers. Jerry Lewis' left eye is now bright neon green, and it's weeping this fluid like lime-flavored Kool-Aid, dripping down the side of her snout.

"GAAAAH!"

"She's got a scratch on her cornea. Nothing too deep. She probably walked into a bush or a table or something. It should heal pretty soon."

I'm relieved -- but then I start thinking: Bushes? Tables? How many tables do we have at her eyeball level? Too many. They'll have to go. They'll all have to go. Don't even get me started on bushes.

"We need one of those Toro brush and twig chippers," I say to my wife. She's not sure what I mean by this.

We both look down to see the vet squirting a tube of goop onto Jerry Lewis' eyeball.

"GAAAAH!"

"You'll need to see how this is done," the vet says. "She needs two ointments twice a day."

My wife covers her eyes with one hand and smacks my arm with the other. "Watch how he does it," she says.

Before I can protest, I have been assigned to Eyeball Ointment Duty.

"See?" the vet says. "You roll her eyelid down, expose the underside of the eyeball, then you apply it here, in this pocket." He demonstrates.

"Pocket," I say. "Ug."

A week has gone by, and I've managed to give Jerry Lewis her ointments. She doesn't seem to notice. I develop a system where I sit her down and give her cookies and say, "Aw, what a good girl. You're the bestest puppy-wuppy in the whole wide -- GAAAAH! It's LOOKING at me! Gimme the goop -- QUICK!"

We go back for a follow-up visit. A different vet checks on us.

"You know that bulge on her eye?" my wife says. "It doesn't look like it's much smaller."

"It's scarring over," he says. "She's got a lot of what is known medically as something-something-vascularization."

Except he uses the real word.

I taste the word in my mouth, and my lip quivers. Something-something-vascularization. Yes. Something-something-vascularization has another unwitting victim in its cruel clutches. I promise myself never to forget that diagnosis, so I'll know exactly what to tell people when they ask how the poor kid died.

"That's a good thing," the vet adds.

Oh. Scarring on your eye is good, as it turns out.

"Hey, can she see OK with that disgusting thing on her eyeball?" I ask.

"She does have another eye," he says. "It's fine."

At home, we take Jerry Lewis for a stroll in the park, where she promptly walks into a tree. Then she gives us a dopey, happy look, and runs off into a pricker-bush.

When we pry her out, we hug her and tell her to be more careful. Jerry looks up at me with her big, brown, ghastly, repulsive eye, and smiles.

"If only there were doggie glasses," my wife says.

"I know. So we don't have to see that revolting cornea scratch anymore," I say. "My God, it's hideous."

"I was going to say, to protect her poor eyes."

I reach down to pet Jerry's head without looking. "Also that."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

This Bud's for you, because it's revolting and I don't want it

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I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer...

We have classic rock group The Doors to thank for that pleasant little image. And now, we have Budweiser to thank for making a beer that's perky enough for a morning pick-me-up.

Friends, Bud Extra has hit the market.

This new brew from Anheuser-Busch Inc. is touted as "Beer With Something Extra." It's a delightfully vague promise, almost a challenge if you think about it. It reminds me of my youth, when my older sister would take all the old stuff fermenting away in the back of the refrigerator, put it on crackers, and say, "Eat this -- I call it Snack Surprise."

Look more closely at the can and you see the full story: "Beer with caffeine, ginseng and guarana extract and natural flavors." That’s right -- it's the liquid depressant of alcohol mixed with the liquid stimulant of caffeine. The result? The beverage equivalent of being stuck in an elevator.

I picked up a few cans the other day and gave them a test drive. Yes, my wife and I sat down with a couple of beers and took notes. These are the sacrifices I make for you people.

First, let's do a walkaround. The can looks more or less like a beer, except thinner. But it's not obviously thinner, leading to a slight sense of disorientation -- appropriate, considering the source. You hold the can and stare at it, wondering if the can is too little, or maybe your hands have gotten too big. Then you notice that it holds only 10 ounces of brew, not the regular 12. To keep the can in a foam cozy, you may require an adapter, sold separately.

When you open the can, it sounds like a beer, too, with a familiar crack. It even squirts out a little bit if it's jostled -- as it did on my wife's hand when she opened hers.

Then comes the puzzling news.

She licked her hand and said, "It's sweet."

She's right -- it is. Which is not what I expected at all. It's about as thin as a Bud Light, but the sugary taste is pure Mountain Dew. In short, Bud Extra tastes like it might once have been a beer before Willy Wonka got hold of it. Or, like drinking a Bud Light around a mouthful of candy corn. Or, like my older sister took a beer, mixed some old honey in it, and said, "Drink this -- I call it Beer Surprise."

Other taste-testers I found online have been equally unable to nail down Bud Extra's sticky-sweet flavor. One Web site said it tasted like "something akin to a beer with a Flintstone's vitamin ground up in it." A writer on the Web site AdFreak.com wrote, "Feels like beer; tastes like Sucrets." Don't all run out to the liquor store at once! Seattle Weekly wrote my favorite description: "It tastes like drinking Red Bull from an unrinsed glass that just had Bud in it."

Let's talk aftertaste. Hmm -- how to put this delicately. You know Twizzlers? You know Near Beer? It's like those, but if you threw them up.

I ended up drinking it, though, because it's beer. Sadly, after finishing mine and my wife's ("Drink this," she said), I no ill effects to report. No beer buzz. No slurred speech. I didn't even burp once -- none of the pleasant effects you hope for in a brewski.

As for caffeine, I'm not sure I felt any. Ginseng is an herb that's supposed to increase mental sharpness. Beer, on the other hand, is supposed to murder your brain cells. That's its whole charm.

And about this "guarana"? I had to look that one up online. It's apparently some kind of Brazilian berry -- with something extra.

I guess I'm old school. I figure if you're going to drink a beer, it should taste like a beer, not like some Juicy Fruit-flavored end-of-the-keg backwash.

Not everybody's like me, though, and some people will find Bud Extra highly potable. For instance, morons. I found one such person online at BevNet, an Internet discussion board for soft drinks. Yes, this is real.

"Only wish they had a Bud Extra Light or low-carb version in the works," one person wrote. In other words, he wants a beer that's even less like a beer than this travesty. The easy solution? Drink anything except an actual beer.

Bud Extra's official Web site, www.BudExtra.com, has no information to explain their motives behind this bizarre beverage, except a cartoon of a can with what look like little atoms zipping around it, or perhaps they’re moths.

But it's not hard to figure out why Budweiser would make beer with pep.

Caffeinated alcohol is all the rage with younger drinkers who aspire one day to be hyperactive alcoholics. Also, liquor has been known to make college kids, nursed as they have been on Slurpees and Dr. Pepper, very sleepy even before Conan O'Brien comes on TV. So, most common among wusses who can't hold their booze is the energy drink Red Bull mixed with vodka -- or a "Bullshot." I call it ... um, something similar.

Bud Extra, then, is a transparent ploy to horn in on the alcoholic energy drink market.

Will it work?

After two Bud Extras, I'd say we're looking at the new New Coke.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lambert vs. Romney: The crooner and the coif

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I sort of like the mayor. I mean -- I don't like him like him. Quote unquote. I just like him.

And before you spread rumors that I'm in his pocket, I'll have you know that I've never met Edward M. Lambert Jr. -- never mind his pockets.

I saw him driving around once last year, back when he was giving people $100 if he spotted you cleaning your sidewalk. I stood on the porch all day with a broom, and he drove right past. He looked just like in the pictures. Maybe shorter, but it was a big car.

No, I only know Ed the same way most of you know Ed -- by reading about him in the newspaper. Based on that, he seems kindly. He builds us new schools, for instance. Technically, several burly men do the actual building part, but he's nice enough to handle the paperwork. Also, now that summer's coming, he'll be planting new trees in the city. Technically, some granola-type people will actually put the shrubs in the ground, but he gets to name them.

Ed seems sincere, good-humored. He seems affable. Yes, that's the word: affable. He's got a lot of aff.

But as it turns out, he's not just a mellow guy -- he can also be a powderkeg of white-hot flaming rage. I like that in a mayor.

Take this week. In a story published in my newspaper, Ed vented a torrent of bile at Gov. Mitt Romney. Mitt put the kibosh on a proposed public law school in Dartmouth, or so Ed fumed. Also, Mitt has consistently ignored or stalled projects for this area.

"I think it's time to say we will not be treated that way," he said.

I agree. Again, I only know Romney from reading the newspaper, but he seems like a sleazeball (note to lawyers: I wrote "seems like"). Mitt couldn't find his way to Fall River with a labeled map and an Azorean guide. Meanwhile, that 6-foot hairdo has no problem hosting political fund-raisers in the South and badmouthing his own state on the way to a 2008 presidential bid.


So, since Mitt doesn't pay attention unless you threaten him or give him donations, Ed said he's going to shed his nice-guy image and "barge into the governor's office to make a case for southeastern Massachusetts." Good for Ed. If there's anything that the Statehouse needs from middle-class people in Fall River, it's a good old-fashioned barging.

I just wish I could have a videotape of that encounter. If it turns into a hair-pulling match, one of them will have a distinct disadvantage. I'll have to be content with my own imagination...

--

SCENE: The governor's corner office in the Statehouse. Mitt Romney is examining a plan to plaster over the corners in his office and make it more oval-shaped. His intercom buzzes!

INTERCOM. Buzz.

SECRETARY. Mr. Romney, the mayor of Fall River is here to see you.

MITT. Mayor of whatchasaynow?

SECRETARY. He's furious, sir! No! He's headed right for me! Back, you fiend! Help! Gaaaah!

VOICE. No appointment!

(We hear garbled screams, and the line goes dead.)

MITT. (shrugs, talks into a different intercom) Secretary 2, get me another secretary.

SECRETARY 2. Right away, sir.

(We hear a resounding crack, and wood flies into splinters -- the door bursts off its hinges in a miasma of smoke. Emerging from the wreckage is an enraged Ed Lambert, his jacket sleeves torn off revealing biceps athrob; his glasses are askew, his tie badly mis-Windsored.)

ED. (emitting what can only be described as a subhuman growl) You ... disgust me!

MITT. Are you with the Statehouse tour?

ED. You listen and you listen good, fancypants. I've had enough of your crap to choke the Taunton River! You know where that is, don'tcha?

MITT. I know you. You're from that city with the spicy breakfast sausage. I didn't like it.

ED. You're damn right it's spicy -- and it's going to get a lot spicier, my friend! You're gonna do what I say, see? And your phony baloney blueblood shtick -- you know where you can shtick it!

MITT. I'll have my press agent contact your press agent.

ED. No more games -- I've had it up to here with your non-presidential non-campaign and your shiny teeth! Understand, Jack? Up to here!

MITT. (towering over him) That's not so bad.

ED. Then up to your head, Sally! (pulls a well-worn list from his pocket) Either we get a commuter rail station, a public law school, a waterfront park, a courthouse, and a city hall that doesn't look like a Dresden bomb shelter -- or else!

MITT. I don't have to take this from you. I saved the Olympics that one time.

ED. Pfft! Describe how in five words or less!

MITT. (thinks for a moment) "I fired some people." That's four. Now scram -- I've got to write more Massachusetts jokes that'll knock 'em dead in Ohio.

ED. (gritting his teeth) Time to take out the trash...

(Suddenly, Ed leaps over the desk and starts mussing Mitt's hair. Mitt shrieks like a 4-year-old girl who's seen a spider.)

MITT. Uncle! UNCLE!

ED. (wiping his fingers on his pants -- they're covered in mousse residue) Broke you like a set of cheap dishes, eh, chump? Maybe now you'll deal.

MITT. (searching frantically for a comb) What's your price, you monster? What can I give your pathetic metropolis to be rid of you?

ED. (shriveling) Anything at all would be nice, please. Ahem. Sir.
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