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Tell’m You Do Karate
from Courtney J.

Hey Dewke! How are ya? Last time I heard from you, you weren't doing so hot. Something about psoriasis? Go figure! (I just can't refer to it as P — it just makes it seem too damn important). Anyway, I really do hope you are doing better.

Unfortunately, I do not have any words of wisdom for you. My whole defense strategy for this is to try to ignore it the best that I can. Ha ha! That's a good one, right? No, no magical cures, no Major Life Change, no vitamins, no dietary advice (eat what I can, when I can?), just some random bitchin’ and moanin’. All the Optimists and Healthy People do make me feel just a little guilty. Yes! I am drinking coffee right now! The caffeinated kind, too! Yes! I probably do deserve this, I probably deserve a lot more than this, actually.

I do have a partially-non-related-to-psoriasis-though-often-in-debate question for ya. I know, you're probably thinking, don't I answer enough questions?  It's just that you're the only person I know who has actually quit the habit for good.  I've been smoking those damn butts for about ten years now.  Some months back I quit, for two months!  But only I didn't feel better! I felt worse! Needless to say, I started up again (and I was so, so proud, too; I'm the one in 50 billion people who actually succeeded in quitting ... almost ... doesn't count huh?) Any advice...?

I was gonna ask you a psoriasis-related question having to do with translating the side effects of corticosteroids. You know how doctors speak a foreign language? Well, it doesn't sound like something I'd want, I mean, it's awful hard to pronounce ... and you know it's gotta be something so simple, too. Do they not speak our language so it makes them sound smarter? Anyway, I decided I'm gonna ask my dermatologist tomorrow, make him work for his money, you know ... I don't even really know why I have to go. It's like we just have to say hi! every two months.

You know what he said to me last time? "Isn't the skin fun?!" I think maybe he was being sarcastic. See, we got into this argument about whether or not my hand problem was actually psoriasis. "It looks eczemous to me," he says. What the f@!k am I?! The poster child for skin disease?! When people ask me what I have the only for-sure answer is Really f@!ked up skin. Two people at my job have asked me if I punched somebody. What kind of question is that? Do I really seem like the type of person who goes around punching people? My favorite was the stranger who asked me if I take karate. "Yeah, my hands looked like that from slammin’m against the boards." Maybe I should start telling people I do karate. It just sounds so much cooler than, "No, they're just diseased."

Last time I went for a visit to my dermatologist he asked me, "What bothers you the most about this?" It seemed like such an odd question, and strangely I found myself at a loss for words. Maybe it's the itch, maybe it's that no matter how well I can ignore it the reality for everyone else is that it is something very nasty. Or maybe it is that it is still spreading. It's always spreading, slowly.

Anyway, I really just wanted to chat. I know your time really is probably very valuable to you and I certainly don't have any special words of wisdom to offer, it's just that I can't really bitch about this to normal people, because strangely enough it seems only to evoke a response of pity. Poor, poor nasty thing. Or worse yet, You've got a what?! a skin problem?! I'll tell you about problems... Or, no, this has got to be the worst. You know, the person who has Got The Cure. They tell you why you have it and they've got the solution. (My favorite is, "Looks like you just need to put a little lotion on that," though the complex explanations are really a lot of fun too, you know, the people who Know All About It). Anyway, I'll leave you alone now. Oh, Dewke, just humor me. I'll tell you what. From now on you can just skip through my message and reply, "Thanks for sharing! I really learned a lot!"

And you really don't have to post this, either. I'm afraid people might think I'm crazy. It's not me, though, it's everybody else, right? (Oddly enough, I'm not so much worried about you ... you did write a book about it, after all ... entitled Flake.) (Just Kidding!) (Kind of!)

Anyway, seriously, I've got a cat’s litterbox that’s full, a pile of laundry, and a bunch of dirty dishes. Yes, there is life aside from psoriasis... See ya, buddy. Hang in there! -Courtney J.

*****

Ed’s Response:  Not post this?  What an oversight that would be!  I always enjoy your emails, Courtney, and I know most (perhaps not all) FlakeHQ readers do, too.

Your email address has changed.  At least, that’s true if you are Courtney J.  If you aren’t that Courtney, please email and I’ll correct all this.  But I’m betting money you are the Courtney I enjoy to read so much!  (Readers:  Search on “Courtney J.” on the home page for past correspondence.)

Re: quitting smoking.  About twenty years ago I worked with an older man (now deceased) who had quit smoking in his forties (as I did). At the time I was in my early thirties and smoking with no particular urge to quit.  When I learned this gentleman had quit I asked him why and how and if he ever felt the urge to start up again.  What I remember about his response is this:  

When you’ve smoked for as many years as I have, I don’t believe you really quit.  You just pause for awhile and maybe the pause will last until you die.  If I had one cigarette today, I’d have two packs tomorrow.

My health wasn’t enough to compel me to quit for good.  I had a “heart incident” (something less than a heart attack, but something significant enough to land me in cardiac intensive care over night) in 1986 and thereafter I stopped smoking for five years.  I resumed again and smoked until acquiring my family (via marriage).  Shortly after that a combination of health and other concerns compelled me to stop again.  The health issue was the onset of Type 1 diabetes.  The principal other concern was my desire not to be an example of “smoking-is-okay” to my children and grandchildren.  I do believe the cliché that intones one must WANT to stop smoking to do so.

Your story about hands badly messed up from P being confused with skin trauma caused by Karate practice has definitely caught MY interest.  While I hope my hands never flare so badly again, if and when they do, I will use this line.  Would you believe this comes from karate practice?  Cinderblocks, bricks and bones  — not wood.  I’ve rehearsed it three times in front of a mirror to achieve believability.  It’s a good line to have in reserve.  Thanks, Courtney!

Oh by the way — You can only become the Poster Child for Skin Diseases when I agree to cede the position. <wink>

Keep those emails coming, Courtney!  -Ed

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