More People Should Watch TV, or, Someone Is Trying To Make It Impossible For Me To Read Books

I have problems with books.

A bit of history: on three occasions in the last ten years, I have purchased books that were bound improperly in such a way that they were missing large portions of the text. That is, entire sections of up to 64 pages were simply missing from the book. How does this happen? Books are bound not by combining a whole bunch of small pages but by printing the pages on a giant sheet, folding it several times to make leaves, and then binding it in the cover and cutting open the folds. Generally speaking, your hardcover books are bound in octavos, meaning a sheet folded into eight leaves. That makes 32 pages. (Fold a piece of printer paper in half and you'll see how one leaf equals four pages.) For paperbacks, it's more likely to be quartos, or four leaves and 16 pages at a time.

So I can see how a book can come to be missing 32 pages, or even 64. That is, I can see how it could happen, but it was still rather annoying to open a book and find myself on page 33, without even a title page, copyright notice, or any of that junk, as was the case when I purchased "V." at Crown Books in 1994. (I later swapped it for a pristine copy at Barnes & Noble, with the help of my then-girlfriend, a B&N employee.) The second time it happened, I was able to return the book -- which, after the title page and all that, began in mid-sentence on page 65 -- to Super Crown and take my exact change across town to B&N, where another non-misprint was available for purchase. Anyone wonder why Crown went out of business? But there was to be no exchanging the third such ill-fated volume, a $1 Dover edition of Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise," which, upon reaching page 184, decided to jump back a bit and revisit pages 90 through 122 for a second go-round. (This makes sense if you consider the page numbered "1" was actually the ninth page, because the title page and etc. were not numbered.)

The book had been purchased some six years prior at the ASUCLA Store, as it was called then, and could not be returned, nor was it worth bothering for a buck. Instead, I turned to the reliable Los Angeles Public Library, checked out the exact same edition of the book, and finished reading it. (By the way, it sucked. Read something else.) By which one can infer that purchasing books is a mug's game, and the library is where it's at. This is a statement with which I largely agree, so long as one is willing to put up with all the inconveniences of the library. Don't get me wrong; I love the library, particularly Central, with its endless rows of books, its inspiring design, and its redolence of (recent) history, from the rebuilding after the 1986 fire to the municipal bribe years later that allowed for the construction of Library Tower across the street.

But the problem with the library is that upon returning home with my selections tucked complacently under my arm, I am frequently greeted with all the commentary I could ever want from someone who checked the book out before I did. This is maddening. Who does this? Who takes it upon themselves to write in a book -- a shibboleth of the educated classes if ever there was one -- that does not belong to them? I realize this is to be expected when purchasing used books. My copy of "Lolita" is stained with pink highlighting and idiotic notes transcribed by someone who apparently felt compelled, after underlining the words "aesthetic bliss," to write in the space beneath the line: "bliss." That particular crime can be forgiven; after all, at the time, this unknown person did own the book in question. As for the time my roommate's friend borrowed my Riverside Shakespeare, only to return it with a coffee stain and marginalia spread across "Richard II," "Henry V" and "Titus Andronicus," well, I guess she figured I'd never read it again. It's got my notes crammed between the lines of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as well, but it's my book.

Regardless, you never own a library book, which makes the vandalism I am constantly being met with that much more galling. Perhaps these stealth underliners and commentarists think they have something to share with future readers. I fail to follow their logic. Did the reader of V.S. Naipaul's "Guerillas" believe his or her frantic underlining would help me better understand the novel's themes? Did someone think their quasi-Satanic meanderings in the margins of Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem" would somehow influence others to abandon their chosen faiths? I can sympathize with the person who inscribed "Worst James Bond book ever" on the title page of John Gardner's "License Renewed," but I had already checked the book out by that time, and it was too late to turn back.

You have probably already figured out this rant was inspired by the damage done to a book recently borrowed by me. What enrages me the most about the underlining in this book is its extent (probably 300 of the 434 pages are affected) and its meaninglessness. The book is "Papillon," by Henri Charriere, a straightforward account in unvarnished prose of a prisoner in French Guiana in the 1930s and his various escape attempts. There is really nothing that warrants underlining in this book -- no hidden motifs, no abstruse metaphors, no ominous Latin phrases. And yet, for reasons I can't fathom, someone decided to underline about 10 percent of the text. Consider this passage, one of hundreds:

In the ward there were thirty beds -- most of them occupied -- on either side of an aisle twelve feet wide. It was lit by two gas lamps. Maturette said, "They're playing poker over there." I went over. There were four players.
"Can I make a fifth?"
"Sure, have a seat. The ante's a hundred francs. You have to triple the ante to play, in other words, three hundred francs. Here's three hundred francs' worth of chips."

Wow. When four people are playing cards, and another joins, he is the fifth. Yeah, that might be on the test. Better underline it. What was worse, and what I can't duplicate on this Web site, is that this person scribbled over several passages in the book as well. I don't know if they were trying to use their pencil as a highlighter or whiteout, but the effect was infuriating. Additionally, there were more passages that had the word "No" written on top of them. What that was supposed to mean is beyond my limited faculties. When one convict tells Papillon he'll come along on the escape, my antecedent reader wrote, "No." Were you there? Did that guy not really go along on the escape? Hmm, who should I believe?

I spent a half-hour of my life erasing marks in that book, which were almost all in pencil, and I only got about a quarter of them. If I'd tried to obliterate them all, my eyesight would be gone and I'd have carpal tunnel in my erasing hand. But the most bewildering library book event was yet to come. When books are bound, the giant printers' sheets have been folded into the pages, and then cut at the ends so that you can read them. Otherwise, they'd be folded shut. Some old books -- we're talking centuries here -- were not cut when they were bound, leaving the pages folded shut when purchased. I believe the idea was the person who buys the book gets to have the enjoyment of cutting open the leaves. Right, big fun.

Anyway, it happens that some books these days, which are all assembled by machines, manage to slip through the process with some leaves that are not cut open all the way. Maybe the blade slipped or something. It happens. Such is the case with the paperback copy of "Pale Fire" that I checked out a few weeks ago and just got around to reading on Thursday. Now, this is not a brand-new library book. It's not old and beat-up, but it's clearly been around. The corners are dog-eared, the spine is dirty, the cover has a slight crease. But somehow, in the years that this book has been in circulation, pages 226 and 227 have never been read by anyone who checked it out, because the leaf was not cut, and the pages were torn apart only by me.

From all this evidence, it can only be concluded that among library patrons (and book-bindery employees) there lurk a significant number of people who really have no business whatsoever being there. It is my firm conviction that these people should leave the world of the book for those of us who respect the medium, and turn their attentions elsewhere. Do not go to Blockbuster, you jackals, because you have already scratched all the DVDs beyond recognition. Your instincts were correct, however, to lead you toward your TV sets. Allow me to suggest "Joey," Thursday nights on NBC, followed by "Will & Grace," "The Apprentice," and "ER." You will undoubtedly experience hours of entertainment. I hear it's all quite must-see.


Good-bye, Irvine Redwood

I was given sad news on Tuesday. It seems that the redwood tree in my parents' front yard will have to be removed.

Yes, there is a redwood tree in their front yard, and it has been there since some time in the late 1980s, when it was planted as a six-inch shoot flimsier than a McDonald's soft drink straw. Through some odd stroke of luck, this tiny twig grew to more than thirty feet in height, which I guess is not real big for a majestic redwood, but considering they can live for centuries, it seems like a pretty decent start. Unfortunately, it was planted less than four feet from the corner of the house, and its roots now threaten the foundation. Which means the tree's days are numbered.

You can imagine why this is disappointing to me. I've always liked the tree, not only because I am a wacky tree-hugger but also because I took a kind of solace in seeing it thrive in what can only be considered a less-than-hospitable environment: a SoCal suburb that averages less than 12 inches of rain each year. Watching that tree as it continued to defy common sense offered me a little hope, since, like many of my friends, I never felt like I really belonged in Irvine, either. Let's face it -- the place sucks, for a million reasons that we won't get into right now. At the very least, having a redwood tree in our front yard made it seem a little more interesting, if it was also tragic, since I knew that it couldn't last.

There were two obstacles to the tree's continued existence, the first being nature. Even though redwoods have small roots for a tree that size -- if you've seen them toppled in the forest, you know what I'm talking about -- there was a good chance they would eventually run into the house or something like that. Similarly, once the tree grew past the edge of the roof, there would be no more shade for it to hide in. These aren't trees that grow in the middle of a field that gets sunlight all day. The tallest ones grow on the shady side of the mountain, shrouded in fog and low-lying clouds. It doesn't seem likely that our redwood would have continued to grow much more after it got out of the house's shadow.

The second obstacle is man. My parents live within the confines of one of the more rabid homeowners associations you can imagine, where there is a limited number of colors you can paint your house (I've seen the paint swatches) and where, as a child, I was told by association security personnel not to play in a green belt because it was classified a "grassy area," and I should take my games a block away to a designated "park." So, it was really only a matter of time before the association determined that the redwood tree was not in compliance with the foliage code or something like that. They probably would have noticed by the time it topped, say, 85 feet or so.

Because of this, my being a fan of the tree always felt like a game of chicken that I was destined to lose. I had thought about trying to find a way to protect the tree, by declaring it a historic monument or finding some state code that says you can't cut down a redwood (yeah, right. Try telling that to Pacific Lumber). The intention was not only to protect the tree that I had come to like, but to stick it to the homeowners association and whoever bought the house after my parents moved out. Of course, the little research I did into getting it historical preservation protection showed it would be a difficult task, since there was really no historical value to a house built in 1986 and no community involvement in trying to preserve the tree. If anything, there would have been vociferous community opposition, led by the property owners -- i.e., my parents, who wouldn't want the restrictions of a historical designation stuck on their house, since that typically dings the resale value by about 50 percent.

Thus, barring some sort of miracle or natural disaster, the redwood will fall within a few weeks. You can read this event as whatever kind of metaphor you like. Maybe it means you shouldn't put your roots down somewhere that you don't really belong. Maybe it means you can only live so long in the shadow of your parents' home. Or maybe it means that nothing of any great importance can truly thrive in the suburbs. Personally, I like to see the tree as a giant middle finger, staring at the cold, capricious elements that thrust it into an unwinnable position, and, steadfast for 16 years, unwavering in the face of certain defeat, delivered its message: "Fuck you."

I suppose that says something about my worldview.


the car accident

So, I've been told by several of you people in the real world that you read my blog and were somewhat jostled by the fact that there was all this writing about how I had to take the subway and borrow an SUV and all that after my car accident, but nothing about the car accident itself. I thought that the reason for this -- because I don't like to dwell on such unpleasantness -- was rather obvious. However, some of you apparently just aren't willing to leave well enough alone, and take what you're given, so now I have to halt my little reverie of random essay-style postings (eBay! Allergies! Ralph Nader!) and get back to what I learned in Blogging 101: Writing About The Mundane Details Of Your Dumb Life.

It was on Independence Day, if you can believe that. I was in a hurry to get to work, where I was on the weekend night writer/broadcast shift, which runs from 3:30p-11:30p. It was about 3:25p, and I was still about ten to fifteen minutes away, so you can see why I was in a hurry. Tooling along in the left lane on Sunset Boulevard, heading east past Hillhurst, I discover that the cars a few hundred yards in front of me are all stopped at Fountain, despite the light at the intersection being green. Instead of slowing down, I decided to just yank the wheel and whip into the right lane so as to speed by these three or four cars who are stuck behind some dipshit who hasn't awakened to the fact that the light is no longer red. But, I misjudged: I thought that by the time I had reached the car ahead of me, it would have moved forward a bit, because everyone knows that when the light is green, you go. That hadn't happened, and I clipped the guy, smashing up my front driver-side fender and headlight as I went past, screeching the brakes all the while. (I should note that all this "decided" and "discovered" took place within about a half-second.)

We both pulled over and exchanged information and all that. I was not hurt at all. The other driver was clearly not injured, and the damage to his car was minor. I say this knowing that a similarly minor accident a year ago yielded two claims against me seeking more than $30,000 from "injured" passengers. They ended up getting a fraction of that, which cost me nothing, except for increased insurance premiums. But this guy was walking, getting out of his car and back in again, not holding his back or neck or anything. He drove a mid-'80s Ford Thunderbird, I think, and the only thing that seemed to be wrong on the outside was that his bumper assembly had come loose. My car looked much worse, but I thought it was all superficial; that is, I figured the frame was fine because I had just smashed the corner of the fender. I was able to drive it home, but only with my hazard lights on, because the fender was bent against the front tire and it was making horrible noises if I went over 15 mph. After that I took the subway to work, took the car to the shop, and you know the rest.

The only interesting thing about this accident is the way time seemed to slow down right as the collision occurred. I swear that the instant I crunched into that other car, everything slowed to a crawl, and as I watched those teensy bits of plastic from my demolished headlight spray into the air like water droplets from a garden sprinkler, I had an epiphany that went something like, "Fuck, not again, my second accident in 11 months, my insurance will go up again, plus another $500 deductible, what the hell is my problem, I'm always late everywhere I go, I'm always driving too fast, on surface streets, late to work again, for a temp job, I don't even have a real job anyway, my whole life is just this useless, immature exercise of running in place and failing to grow up, why can't I just get a goddamn job and a car with air conditioning and an apartment that won't collapse in the next earthquake and quit screwing around like a little kid who doesn't know how to act like a grown-up now that he's supposedly entered the real world ..."

Anyway, more about being a grown-up later, but suffice it to say that for now, at least, I try not to be late all the time, or drive so impatiently.


We Live Among Delusional People

This is from an LA Times article about how Michael Eisner took a trip to Florida to survey the damage from Hurricane Charley (not Charlie) and thank Disney World employees for pitching in to keep the park operating.

One worker described how she reported to work at 4:30 a.m., just hours after her previous shift, to help clean the park even though her own home was damaged.

On her way to Disney, she said, "I was stopped three times and told to go back home, and I said, 'No, Disney needs my help.' "

Thank God that woman was there to squeegee the walkway to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin rather than, say, helping her family or neighbors deal with the destruction of everything they owned. If only there were more big-hearted people like her. I can imagine Eisner's speech thanking all the Disney employees:

"I want to thank each and every one of you for all the work you've done as we cope with difficult times as a result of Hurricane Charley and its aftermath. You are the strong, the proud, the brave who, when informed of the scope and range of the destruction caused by this hurricane, said to yourselves, 'What about Disney?'

"You are the ones who selflessly left behind your homes and families in order to help a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate get back on its feet. You knew that our mission of increasing shareholder income by gouging Middle America at our crowded, unsafe amusement parks and with our overpriced, crummy merchandise was a mission that could not be left to rot in standing water like so many homes and schools undoubtedly will be in the coming weeks.

"You realized immediately that while Disney is one of the world's largest corporations, our marketing professionals, Florida tax breaks, subcontracted sweatshops, slave-wage 3D animators, underpaid recording artists, and fat attorneys would not carry us through this disaster. Though our Orlando theme parks were largely spared Charley's wrath, you came out anyway, you abused park employees, who bend to our Stalinist policies on personal appearance and limited break time. You are to be applauded for this, and I appreciate your willingness to work unpaid overtime for the sake of the Disney 'family.'

"Because of you, our mission goes on. Worthless movies will continue to be foisted upon the public. Lobbyists will continue their efforts to keep our parks free of any frustrating safety inspections. Impressionable children will once again be subjected to our focus-group-tested characters, and their blinkered parents be made to purchase all manner of gewgaws bearing the likenesses of these imaginary superstars: Nemo, Simba, Ariel, Cinderella, Bambi, Snow White. And dalmatians -- don't forget all those crazy dalmatians.

"But there is still work to be done. Many, many residents of Florida are facing difficult times as a result of the hurricane's devastation, and it's important that we help them through these dark days by reminding them that nothing chases the blues away like a long vacation at Disney's Orlando theme parks. Right now, a four-day Park Hopper(tm) Pass can be purchased for as little as $202. There are also many other conveniently priced options for the visitor who wants the flexibility to also visit our Animal Kingdom and our two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. I think they'll see that wind-driven water can be a friend, as well as a destroyer of homes and dreams.

"So, let me say one more time, before I board this helicopter and return to my Park Avenue penthouse, thank you. Thanks to all of you, the American Dream will go on -- at least in the world of this mouse-eared media giant."

UPDATE This just in: The charity arm of the Walt Disney Co. has donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross and United Way to help out hurricane victims. Wow. I'm not suggesting Disney should feel responsible for cleaning up all of Florida, but how about putting up some real money? A hundred grand buys one meal for each homeowner whose house was destroyed. Of course, their kids can't share that meal, and there's no money to deliver that food, but the important thing is that they care. Thanks, Mickey!


West Nile Hype

"Not since the paranoia over so-called 'killer bees' in the 1980s has a public health alarm been raised at levels so out of proportion to the actual threat."

That's just a taste of my article on West Nile virus and the overblown pimping it's receiving from our media and, shamefully, from our elected officials. This article netted me a whopping $100. Want to read more? I could give you a link, but the story didn't make the paper's website. Perhaps they figured only print readers deserve to know they are being misled. Anyway, pick up a copy today!

Well, okay, here are a few more tidbits. (But really, you have to pick up the paper yourself.)

-- You can *only* contract the virus from a mosquito bite. Being around sick people or handling a dead bird won't give it to you.
-- Vector control officials are fogging places with lots of mosquitoes and putting larvicide in some ponds and lakes. Guess what? They do that every year.
-- The LA County Board of Supervisors has ordered its health department to deliver monthly updates on the impact of West Nile virus. This is for a sickness that has, to date, infected less than .0002 percent of the county's population.
-- Fully 80 percent of those infected with the virus show no symptoms whatever. Only about one in 150 will develop a potentially fatal condition such as encephalitis.



Here's a toast and a rant for all my fellow allergy sufferers. I know they'll appreciate it, because everyone else reading this will simply say, "What? Allergy sufferers? Isn't that like suffering from a hangnail or a bad hair day?" and write us off as whiny little girls. Which is based on a misconception that we put up with every day.

Your typical allergy sufferer (by which I mean me) faces a situation that can be described thusly: You get up in the morning, take a shower, etc., and everything is swell. Then you notice a tiny discomfort either in your nose or your eyes, sometimes both. If you're a veteran allergy sufferer, you know it's too early to tell what kind of harbinger this is. It could mean you've got one or two sneezes coming, or it could mean you're facing an epic, daylong conflict waged on the battlefield of used Kleenex tissue and empty Claritin boxes. Either way, you're in line for a good amount of discomfort.

This is where the misunderstanding begins. "Discomfort? Boo-hoo. Go back to Irvine, sissy-boy." Yes, thank you, we who have allergies are all wimps. Compared to, say, the mighty migraine, the little tickle in my nose is nothing, you say. Do I have to lie down when afflicted? Do I need repeated MRIs to find a cause for the symptoms? Do I seek out witch doctors who suggest treatments ranging from gingko biloba to botox injections? No to all these. All I have to do is blow my nose and get on with life. Maybe quit my bitching, too.

My friends, it is not that simple. The discomfort of an allergy attack is not the discomfort of something minor, like a mosquito bite. The allergy is unpredictable and far-reaching. You blow your nose to clear out the mucus that your body has secreted in response to the localized stimulus, but that only clears out the fluid that built up as a symptom. The initial catalyst, the itch in your nose, is still there. If anything, things are worse now, because all that blowing and snorting has inflamed your sinuses and nostrils, and the pressure has taken shape as a pounding sinus headache, which is largely immune to the muscle-relaxing powers of your typical Advil. Before long, all that friction from constant tissue-wiping will wear down the skin on the outside of your nostrils and between your nose and upper lip. Your body will cause your eyes to water and itch, but this is another incorrect reaction by your confused immune system, because there is nothing tangibly wrong with your eyes. Your overactive histamines have been set free, and they are going nuts. You might even develop a rash somewhere -- but we won't dwell on this particular detail. Yes, it's like a mosquito bite, but a more correct comparison would be to the mosquito itself: it's like a mosquito buzzing around in the cavity between your eyeballs and your brain.

(None of this is to be confused with food allergies, or with being allergic to bee stings. For these people, the reaction is more serious and unrelated to what I'm talking about. For these people, allergies can mean your throat swells up or you go into anaphylactic shock -- i.e., you are about to die.)

Now then. What the hell is going on? What makes me and a few million others react this way when normal people around us are sitting there, free of mosquito-in-the-brain symptoms, placidly going about their regular business? Turns out there's something in the air. Nothing really bad, but just something. It could be anything: cigarette smoke, pollen, pet dander, paper dust (my personal favorite), regular dust, diesel exhaust, perfume, John Tesh. For the allergy sufferer, these are all dangerous weapons, and one or two of them are like silver bullets. Something in our fucked-up physiologies has made us hypersensitive to one or more of these seemingly innocuous substances, and we react to their presence like feral cats. The person who sits next to you at work wears a little too much Aqua Velva, and the next thing you know there's a pile of snot-drenched tissues on the floor of your cubicle.

And how are we treated, we sufferers, by our fellow man? What reaction does our sad predicament warrant? Why, little more than contempt and ridicule, of course. I spent all of cold and flu season telling wary co-workers that I was not contagious, that my Old Faithful-like nasal eruptions were indicative of a lifelong struggle rather than a short-term infection. They were unbelieving. "You shouldn't come to work if you're sick." "I'm afraid to come over there, you've been sneezing up a storm." Yes, well, I am as my Creator made me, if you believe in such stuff.

But, but. Can't you take something for that? What of Claritin, of Alavert, of Benadryl and Sudafed? Whither Flonase, why not Zyrtek? Oh, ye who watch too much TV and look at too many advertisements in the pages of your Newsweek and your Time magazines. You have been fooled by the pharmaceutical industry into believing that taking a single pill (after asking your doctor "if it's right for you") will transform life into a sun-drenched meadow, where beautiful people romp free of symptoms. What those symptoms may be are never explained in the commercials, which may be why some folks, on occasion, unknowingly recommend that I look into certain drugs which were designed for entirely unrelated conditions. Thanks, but Prilosec is not right for me. And besides, these drugs are not magic pills, which, once ingested, alleviate any and all discomfort through some sort of black-box operation. They're drugs, and as such, come with a host of issues of their own.

The chief culprit is Benadryl, the old stand-by, and its generic counterparts, whose active ingredient is diphenhydramine hydrochloride and whose chief side effect is narcolepsy. That is to say, it makes me fall asleep in the middle of the day. Or if I don't fall asleep, I wander around in a dazed stupor, unable to focus long enough to read the clock and see that I'm hours past deadline. The other symptom is thirst, or, as the commercials put it, "dry mouth." Yeah, my mouth is dry because I'm fucking thirsty. After I guzzle a couple bottles of Dasani and the initial sleepiness wears off, this treatment is effective at blocking those histamines, for a few hours anyway. You just have to be willing to pay the price. I personally use these pink bad boys as a sleeping agent rather than an allergy pill these days, because many sleeping pills have the same active ingredient.

I once told another City Hall reporter that there weren't any allergy pills other than the kind that make you drowsy, and he said, "Sure there are! There's the kind the makes you all hepped up!" (My Webster's euphemistically defines hepped up as "enthusiastic.") By which he was referring to Sudafed, or pseudoephedrine. This particular medicine -- which, along with its edgier brother, ephedrine, is on the Olympics' banned substances list -- is not an allergy treatment per se, but is intended to decongest the sinuses, and can therefore alleviate some but not all allergy-related symptoms. Which typically means it makes your mucus flow a little more freely and your hands feel a little more twitchy. Put it this way: it's a great pill if you're hocking up thick green stuff.

Claritin's active ingredient is loratadine, which you also find in Alavert and other generics. (There is also Claritin-D, which has the added kick of a 12-hour Sudafed attached.) A big plus for this substance is that it lasts 24 hours, while other allergy pills typically last four to six hours. In fact, I sometimes experience a Claritin afterglow of about two or three days with no symptoms. However, the main drawback is that it doesn't always work. I can't really describe it, but sometimes I take a Claritin, and a half-hour later it feels like I'm in the middle of an allergy-free day. On other days, I swallow a pill and spend the next six hours sneezing like a banshee. In case you didn't know, banshees sneeze frequently. Loratadine also costs a lot, relatively speaking. Depending on whether it's on Ralphs Club or not, Claritin will run you anywhere from 85 cents to $1.20 a pill. Which isn't much, but look at it this way: I could take a Claritin every time I felt an allergy attack coming on, or I could pay half the cost of a DSL connection. If I had a roommate, we'd split the cost, right? In the end, I don't take Claritin every time, and I don't have a roommate or DSL, so make of that what you will.

Any other drugs, such as Flonase or other prescription pills, I can't comment on, not having tried any of them. To protect myself from any libel claims, I should note that the described side effects of various drugs are unique to me, and may not be present for other users. Try a new drug today!

Allergy shots? Unknown side effects, and no health plan. I'll update you if this ever changes.

"Again, so what? Why are you still whining about this?" That right there is what led me to compose this rambling treatise in the first place. People don't seem to understand that an allergy attack, non-life-threatening though it may be, is much worse than mere discomfort or inconvenience. Back to the mosquito analogy. Say you had a choice in life, and you could choose one of the following ailments to strike you. Your choices are A) to be shot once, in the stomach, some time after the age of 40; B) five times a month, someone walks up to you and pimp-slaps you really hard; or C) fifteen to twenty times a month, a mosquito will buzz around your head all day.

Okay. Choice A is like cancer or heart disease or something like that. B is migraines or some other chronic suffering, though for some people, it could be more like 10 or 15 times a month. C is obviously your allergy sufferer. Probably no one is going to choose A, unless you think you're enough of a badass to tough out a gut shot, in which case I wish you good luck. B sounds pretty bad too, so C is the logical choice. Right? Possibly, but let me remind you: that mosquito is buzzing around you all day, every other day at least, and often more than that. It could be there eight or nine days in a row. We've all had bugs buzz around us, if we've gone camping, or had backyard barbecues at dusk, or attended outdoor weddings in New England, or spent too much time at Tim K's apartment. (Tim, this is a reminder: take out the trash.) It's been my experience that most people can tolerate a bug buzzing their head for about three or four seconds before they react, by swatting the air or slapping their necks or just giving up and going back inside. So, do you really want that goddamn skeeter buzzing around you all day?

No? Well, take a Claritin. That's all I can offer.